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Processing of regular and irregular past tense morphology in highly proficient second language learners of English: A self-paced reading study


Dual-system models suggest that English past tense morphology involves two processing routes: rule application for regular verbs and memory retrieval for irregular verbs. In second language (L2) processing research, Ullman suggested that both verb types are retrieved from memory, but more recently Clahsen and Felser and Ullman argued that past tense rule application can be automatized with experience by L2 learners. To address this controversy, we tested highly proficient Greek–English learners with naturalistic or classroom L2 exposure compared to native English speakers in a self-paced reading task involving past tense forms embedded in plausible sentences. Our results suggest that, irrespective to the type of exposure, proficient L2 learners of extended L2 exposure apply rule-based processing.

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ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Theodoros Marinis, Department of Clinical Language Studies, University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire RG6 6AL, UK. E-mail:
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Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
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