Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Agreement attraction in native and nonnative speakers of German

  • SOL LAGO (a1) and CLAUDIA FELSER (a1)

Abstract

Second language speakers often struggle to apply grammatical constraints such as subject–verb agreement. One hypothesis for this difficulty is that it results from problems suppressing syntactically unlicensed constituents in working memory. We investigated which properties of these constituents make them more likely to elicit errors: their grammatical distance to the subject head or their linear distance to the verb. We used double modifier constructions (e.g., the smell of the stables of the farmers), where the errors of native speakers are modulated by the linguistic relationships between the nouns in the subject phrase: second plural nouns, which are syntactically and semantically closer to the subject head, elicit more errors than third plural nouns, which are linearly closer to the verb (2nd-3rd-noun asymmetry). In order to dissociate between grammatical and linear distance, we compared embedded and coordinated modifiers, which were linearly identical but differed in grammatical distance. Using an attraction paradigm, we showed that German native speakers and proficient Russian speakers of German exhibited similar attraction rates and that their errors displayed a 2nd-3rd-noun asymmetry, which was more pronounced in embedded than in coordinated constructions. We suggest that both native and second language learners prioritize linguistic structure over linear distance in their agreement computations.

Copyright

Corresponding author

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Sol Lago, Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism, University of Potsdam, Campus Golm, Haus 2, Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 24-25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany. E-mail: marlago@uni-potsdam.de

References

Hide All
Aho, A. V., & Ullman, J. D. (1972). The theory of parsing, translation and compiling: Vol. 1. Parsing. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Baayen, R. H., Davidson, D. J., & Bates, D. M. (2008). Mixed-effects modeling with crossed random effects for subjects and items. Journal of Memory and Language, 59, 390412.
Badecker, W., & Kuminiak, F. (2007). Morphology, agreement, and working memory retrieval in sentence production: Evidence from gender and case in Slovak. Journal of Memory and Language, 56, 6585.
Barr, D. J., Levy, R., Scheepers, C., & Tily, H. (2013). Random-effects structure for confirmatory hypothesis testing: Keep it maximal. Journal of Memory and Language, 68, 255278.
Bock, J. K., & Cutting, J. C. (1992). Regulating mental energy: Performance units in language production. Journal of Memory and Language, 31, 99127.
Bock, J. K., & Miller, C. A. (1991). Broken agreement. Cognitive Psychology, 23, 4593.
Box, G. E. P., & Cox, D. R. (1964). An analysis of transformations. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series B (Methodological), 26, 211252.
Camacho, J. A. (1997). The syntax of NP coordination (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles).
Chemla, E., Cummins, C., & Singh, R. (2016). Training and timing local scalar enrichments under global pragmatic pressures. Journal of Semantics, 34, 107126.
Chen, L., Shu, H., Liu, Y., Zhao, J., & Li, P. (2007). ERP signatures of subject-verb agreement in L2 learning. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 10, 161174.
Clahsen, H., & Felser, C. (2006a). Grammatical processing in language learners. Applied Psycholinguistics, 27, 342.
Clahsen, H., & Felser, C. (2006b). Continuity and shallow structures in language processing. Applied Psycholinguistics, 27, 107126.
Coughlin, C. E., & Tremblay, A. (2013). Proficiency and working-memory-based explanations for non-native speakers' sensitivity to agreement in sentence processing. Applied Psycholinguistics, 34, 615646.
Cunnings, I. (2016). Parsing and working memory in bilingual sentence processing. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. Advance online publication. doi:10.1017/S1366728916000675
Dallas, A. C., & Kaan, E., (2008). Second language processing of filler-gap dependencies by late learners. Language and Linguistics Compass, 2, 3, 372388.
Dillon, B., Clifton, C. Jr., & Frazier, L. (2014). Pushed aside: Parentheticals and processing. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 29, 483498.
Eberhard, K. M., Cutting, J. C., & Bock, K. (2005). Making syntax of sense: Number agreement in sentence production. Psychological Review, 112, 531559.
Enochson, K., & Culbertson, J. (2015). Collecting psycholinguistic response time data using Amazon Mechanical Turk. PLOS ONE, 10. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0116946
Felser, C. L., Roberts, T. M., Marinis, T., & Gross, R. (2003). The processing of ambiguous sentences by first and second language learners of English. Applied Psycholinguistics, 24, 453489.
Foote, R. (2010). Age of acquisition and proficiency as factors in language production: Agreement in bilinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 13, 99118.
Foote, R. (2011). Integrated knowledge of agreement in early and late English–Spanish bilinguals. Applied Psycholinguistics, 32, 187220.
Foote, R., & Bock, J. K. (2012). The role of morphology in subject-verb number agreement: A comparison of Mexican and Dominican Spanish. Language and Cognitive Processes, 27, 429461.
Francis, W. N. (1986). Proximity concord in English. Journal of English Linguistics, 19, 309317.
Franck, J., Vigliocco, G., & Nicol, J. (2002). Attraction in sentence production: The role of syntactic structure. Language and Cognitive Processes, 17, 371404.
Gazdar, G., Pullum, G. K., Sag, I. A., & Wasow, T. (1982). Coordination and transformational grammar. Linguistic Inquiry, 13, 663676.
Gibson, E., Piantadosi, S., & Fedorenko, K. (2011). Using Mechanical Turk to obtain and analyze English acceptability judgments. Language and Linguistic Compass, 5, 509524.
Gillespie, M., & Pearlmutter, N. J. (2011). Hierarchy and scope of planning in subject–verb agreement production. Cognition, 118, 377397.
Gillespie, M., & Pearlmutter, N. J. (2013). Against structural constraints in subject–verb agreement production. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 39, 515528.
Grüter, T., Lew-Williams, C., & Fernald, A. (2012). Grammatical gender in L2: A production or a real-time processing problem? Second Language Research, 28, 191215.
Haznedar, B., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Are there optional infinitives in child L2 acquisition? In Hughes, E., Hughes, M., & Greenhill, A. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 21st Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD), (pp. 293306). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
Hopp, H. (2015a). Semantics and morphosyntax in L2 predictive sentence processing. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 53, 277306.
Hopp, H. (2015b). Differential learning of prediction. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 5, 476481.
Hopp, H. (2016). The timing of lexical and syntactic processes in L2 sentence comprehension. Applied Psycholinguistics, 37, 12531280.
Hoshino, N., Dussias, P. E., & Kroll, J. F. (2010). Processing subject-verb agreement in a second language depends on proficiency. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 13, 8798.
Ingria, R. (1990). The limits of unification. Proceedings of the 28th annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (pp. 194204). Stroudsburg, PA: Association for Computational Linguistics.
Jackendoff, R. (1977). X' Syntax. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Jacob, G., Lago, S., & Patterson, C. (2016). L2 processing and memory retrieval: Some empirical and conceptual challenges. Commentary on Ian Cunnings’ keynote article entitled “Parsing and working memory in bilingual sentence processing.” Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. Advance online publication. doi:10.1017/S1366728916000948
Jaeger, T. F. (2008). Categorical data analysis: Away from ANOVAs (transformation or not) and towards logit mixed models. Journal of Memory and Language, 59, 434446.
Jegerski, J. (2016). Number attraction effects in near-native Spanish sentence comprehension. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 1, 533.
Jiang, N. (2004). Morphological insensitivity in second language processing. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25, 603634.
Johannessen, J. B. (1998). Coordination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Juffs, A. (1998). Main verb vs. reduced relative clause ambiguity resolution in L2 sentence processing. Language Learning, 48, 107147.
Juffs, A., & Harrington, M. (1996). Garden-path sentences and error data in second language processing research. Language Learning, 46, 286324.
Keating, G. (2009). Sensitivity to violations of gender agreement in native and nonnative Spanish: An eye-movement investigation. Language Learning, 59, 503535.
Keating, G. (2010). The effects of linear distance and working memory on the processing of gender agreement in Spanish. In VanPatten, B. & Jegerski, J. (Eds.), Research in second language processing and parsing (pp. 113134). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Konopka, A., & Forest, T. A. (2016). Linguistic experience (L1 vs. L2) shapes sentence formulation. Talk at the 29th annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, Gainesville, FL, March 3−5.
Kuznetsova, A., Bruun Brockhoff, P., & Haubo Bojesen Christensen, R. (2014). lmerTest: Tests for random and fixed effects for linear mixed effect models (lmer objects of lme4 package). R package version 2.0–11. Retrieved from http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=lmerTest
Lewis, R., & Vasishth, S. (2005). An activation-based model of sentence processing as skilled memory retrieval. Cognitive Science, 29, 375419.
Lim, H. L., & Christianson, K. (2015). Second language sensitivity to agreement errors: Evidence from eye movements during comprehension and translation. Applied Psycholinguistics, 36, 12831315. doi:10.1017/S0142716414000290
Lorimor, H., Jackson, C. N., & Foote, R. (2015). How gender affects number: Cue-based retrieval in agreement production. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 30, 947954.
McDonald, J. (2006). Beyond the critical period: Processing-based explanations for poor grammaticality judgment performance by late second language learners. Journal of Memory and Language, 55, 381401.
Munn, A. (1987). Coordinate structure and X-bar theory. McGill Working Papers in Linguistics, 4, 121140.
Munn, A. (1993). Topics in the syntax and semantics of coordinate structures (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland).
Nicenboim, B., & Vasishth, S. (2017). Models of retrieval in sentence comprehension: A computational evaluation using Bayesian hierarchical modeling. Journal of Memory and Language. Advance online publication.
Nicol, J., & Greth, D. (2003). Production of subject–verb agreement in Spanish as a second language. Experimental Psychology, 50, 196203.
Nicol, J., Teller, M., & Greth, D. (2001). The production of verb agreement in monolingual, bilingual, and second language speakers. In Nicol, J. L. (Ed.), One mind, two languages: Bilingual language processing (pp. 117133). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Pan, H.-Y., & Felser, C. (2011). Referential context effects in L2 ambiguity resolution: Evidence from self-paced reading. Lingua, 121, 221236.
Pan, H.-Y., Schimke, S., & Felser, C. (2015). Referential context effects in non-native relative clause ambiguity resolution. International Journal of Bilingualism, 19, 298313.
Papadopoulou, D., & Clahsen, H. (2003). Parsing strategies in L1 and L2 sentence processing: A study of relative clause attachment in Greek. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 25, 501528.
Powell, M. J. D. (2009). The BOBYQA algorithm for bound constrained optimization without derivatives. Report No. DAMTP 2009/NA06. Cambridge: University of Cambridge, Centre for Mathematical Sciences.
Prévost, P., & White, L. (2000). Missing surface inflection or impairment in second language acquisition? Evidence from tense and agreement. Second Language Research, 16, 103133.
Progovac, L. (1998a). “Structure for Coordination, Part 1” State-of-the-Articles. Glot International, 3, 36.
Progovac, L. (1998b). “Structure for Coordination, Part 2” State-of-the-Articles. Glot International, 3, 69.
Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G., & Svartvik, J. (1985). A comprehensive grammar of the English language. New York: Longman.
R Development Core Team (2017). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Retrieved from http://www.R-project.org
Roberts, L. (2013). Sentence processing in bilinguals. In van Gompel, R. P. G. (ed.), Sentence processing. Hove: Psychology Press, p. 221246 26 p. (Current Issues in the Psychology of Language).
Ross, J. R. (1967). Infinite syntax. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Sagarra, N., & Herschensohn, J. (2013). Processing of gender and number agreement in late Spanish bilinguals. International Journal of Bilingualism, 17, 607627.
Sato, M., & Felser, C. (2010). Sensitivity to morphosyntactic violations in English as a second language. Second Language, 9, 101118.
Shibuya, M., & Wakabayashi, S. (2008). Why are L2 learners not always sensitive to subject-verb agreement? EUROSLA Yearbook, 8, 235258.
Solomon, E., & Pearlmutter, N. (2004). Semantic integration and syntactic planning in language production. Cognitive Psychology, 49, 146.
Sorace, A. (2004). Native language attrition and developmental instability at the syntax-discourse interface: Data, interpretation and methods. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 7, 143146.
Sprouse, J. (2011). A validation of Amazon Mechanical Turk for the collection of acceptability judgments in linguistic theory. Behavioral Research Methods, 43, 155167.
Staub, A. (2009). On the interpretation of the number attraction effect: Response time evidence. Journal of Memory and Language, 60, 308327.
Staub, A. (2010). Response time distributional evidence for distinct varieties of number attraction. Cognition, 114, 447454.
Tanner, D. (2011). Agreement mechanisms in native and nonnative language processing: Electrophysiological correlates of complexity and interference (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Washington).
Tokowicz, N. (2015). Lexical processing and second language acquisition. New York: Routledge.
VanPatten, B., Keating, G. D., & Leeser, M. J. (2012). Missing verbal inflections as a representational problem. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 2, 109140.
Vasishth, S., & Lewis, R. L. (2006). Argument-head distance and processing complexity: Explaining both locality and anti-locality effects. Language, 82, 767794.
Vigliocco, G., & Nicol, J. (1998). Separating hierarchical relations and word order in language production. Is proximity concord syntactic or linear? Cognition, 68, 329.
Wagers, M., Lau, E., & Phillips, C. (2009). Agreement attraction in comprehension: Representations and processes. Journal of Memory and Language, 61, 206237.
Wagers, M. W., & Phillips, C. (2014). Going the distance: Memory and control processes in active dependency construction. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 67, 12741304.
Wakabayashi, S. (1997). The acquisition of functional categories by learners of English (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Cambridge).
Zoerner, E. (1995). Coordination: The syntax of &P. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Irvine.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
  • URL: /core/journals/applied-psycholinguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed