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The impact of first and second language exposure on learning second language constructions*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2015

Tilburg Center for Cognition and Communication (TiCC), Tilburg University, the Netherlands
Tilburg Center for Cognition and Communication (TiCC), Tilburg University, the Netherlands
Tilburg University, the Netherlands
Address for correspondence: Yevgen Matusevych, Tilburg University, Room D 334, PO Box 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, The


We study how the learning of argument structure constructions in a second language (L2) is affected by two basic input properties often discussed in literature – the amount of input and the time of L2 onset. To isolate the impact of the two factors on learning, we use a computational model that simulates bilingual construction learning. In the first two experiments we manipulate the sheer amount of L2 exposure, both in absolute and in relative terms (that is, in relation to the amount of L1 exposure). The results show that higher cumulative amount of L2 exposure leads to higher performance. In the third experiment we manipulate the prior amount of L1 input before the L2 onset (that is, the time of L2 onset). Given equal exposure, we find no negative effect of the later onset on learners’ performance. This has implications for theories of order of acquisition and bilingual construction learning.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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We thank Robert DeKeyser, Marc Brysbaert, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the earlier drafts of this article.


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