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Processing transfer: Language-specific processing strategies as a source of interlanguage variation

  • Michael Harrington (a1)

Abstract

A sentence interpretation experiment based on the functionalist Competition Model of speech processing (Bates & MacWhinney, 1982) was administered to three groups of university-age English L1, Japanese ESL, and Japanese L1 subjects (n = 12 per group) in an attempt to elicit evidence for (1) processing strategies characteristic of the Japanese and English L1 groups and, (2) transfer/influence of Japanese L1 strategies on the English sentence interpretations of the Japanese ESL group. Subjects selected the subject/actor of simple sentences incorporating word order, animacy, and stress cues in random converging and competing orders. The English L1 and ESL groups were tested on English sentences and the Japanese L1 group tested on Japanese sentences. The Japanese L1 interpretations were most heavily influenced by animacy cues, while the English L1 group showed a higher overall sensitivity to word order manipulations. The ESL group resembled the Japanese L1 group in reliance on animacy cues, with the exception of allowing inanimate nouns to act as subjects. While the ESL group showed greater sensitivity to word order effects than the Japanese L1 group, no “second-noun” strategy (i.e., systematically interpreting the NNV and VNN orders as left- and right-dislocated SOV and VOS orders) was evident.

Although the findings were generally consistent with previous research, the presence of contrasting response patterns in the English L1 group suggests caution in attempting to typify languages on the basis of processing strategies drawn from probablistic tendencies evident in grouped data, and leaves open the role of such processing strategy typologies as a potential source of variation in inter-language.

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Corresponding author

Michael Harrington, International University of Japan, Yamato-machi, Minami Uonuma-gun Niigata 949–72, Japan

References

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Processing transfer: Language-specific processing strategies as a source of interlanguage variation

  • Michael Harrington (a1)

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