Skip to main content Accesibility Help

Prediction and integration in native and second-language processing of elliptical structures*


According to recent views of L2-sentence processing, L2-speakers do not predict upcoming information to the same extent as do native speakers. To investigate L2-speakers’ predictive use and integration of syntactic information across clauses, we recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) from advanced L2-learners and native speakers while they read sentences in which the syntactic context did or did not allow noun-ellipsis (Lau, E., Stroud, C., Plesch, S., & Phillips, C. (2006). The role of structural prediction in rapid syntactic analysis. Brain and Language, 98, 74–88.) Both native and L2-speakers were sensitive to the context when integrating words after the potential ellipsis-site. However, native, but not L2-speakers, anticipated the ellipsis, as suggested by an ERP difference between elliptical and non-elliptical contexts preceding the potential ellipsis-site. In addition, L2-learners displayed a late frontal negativity for ungrammaticalities, suggesting differences in repair strategies or resources compared with native speakers.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Edith Kaan Department of Linguistics University of Florida Box 115454 Gainesville, FL 32611
Hide All

The authors would like to thank Natalia Davidson, Chelsea Guerra, Kyriaki Neophytou and Marpessa Rietbergen for their help making materials and running participants, Ellen Lau for letting us use her stimuli, and Iris Mulders and Sjef Pieters for technical assistance at the Utrecht site. This research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF 0957178), and a visiting scholars grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO 040.11.367) awarded to the first author.

Hide All
Alemán Bañón, J., Fiorentino, R., & Gabriele, A. (2012). The processing of number and gender agreement in Spanish: An event-related potential investigation of the effects of structural distance. Brain Research, 1456, 4963.
Chambers, C. G., & Cooke, H. (2009). Lexical competition during second-language listening: Sentence context, but not proficiency, constrains interference from the native lexicon. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 35, 10291040.
Clahsen, H., & Felser, C. (2006). Grammatical processing in language learners. Applied Psycholinguistics, 27, 342.
Corver, N., & van Koppen, M. (2010). Ellipsis in Dutch possessive noun phrases: a micro-comparative approach. Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics, 13, 99140.
Coulson, S., King, J. W., & Kutas, M. (1998). Expect the unexpected: Event-related brain response to morphosyntactic violations. Language & Cognitive Processes, 13, 2158.
DeLong, K. A., Urbach, T. P., & Kutas, M. (2005). Probabilistic word pre-activation during language comprehension inferred from electrical brain activity. Nature Neuroscience, 8, 11171121.
Dikker, S., Rabagliati, H., Farmer, T. A., & Pylkkänen, L. (2010). Early occipital sensitivity to syntactic category is based on form typicality. Psychological Science, 21, 629634.
Dikker, S., Rabagliati, H., & Pylkkänen, L. (2009). Sensitivity to syntax in visual cortex. Cognition, 110, 293321.
Dimitrova, D. V. (2012). Neural correlates of prosody and information structure. Unpublished PhD, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Groningen.
Dussias, P. E., Valdés Kroff, J. R., Guzzardo Tamargo, R. E., & Gerfen, C. (2013). When gender and looking go hand in hand. Grammatical gender processing in L2 Spanish. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 35, 353387.
Foucart, A., Martin, C. D., Moreno, E. M., & Costa, A. (2014). Can bilinguals see it coming? Word anticipation in L2 sentence reading. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40, 14611469.
Friederici, A. D., & Frisch, S. (2000). Verb argument structure processing: The role of verb-specific and argument-specific information. Journal of Memory and Language, 43, 476507.
Friederici, A. D., Hahne, A., & Saddy, D. (2002). Distinct neurophysiological patterns reflecting aspects of syntactic complexity and syntactic repair. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 31, 4563.
Frisch, S., Hahne, A., & Friederici, A. D. (2004). Word category and verb-argument structure information in the dynamics of parsing. Cognition, 91, 191219.
Gillon Dowens, M., Vergara, M., Barber, H. A., & Carreiras, M. (2010). Morphosyntactic processing in late second-language learners. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22, 18701887.
Greenhouse, S. W., & Geisser, S. (1959). On methods in the analysis of profile data. Psychometrika, 24, 95112.
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.
Grüter, T., & Rohde, H. (2013). L2 processing is affected by RAGE: Evidence from reference resolution. Paper presented at the the 12th conference on Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition (GASLA)
Hahne, A., & Friederici, A. D. (2001). Processing a second language: late learners’ comprehension mechanisms as revealed by event-related brain potentials. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 4, 123141.
Hahne, A., & Friederici, A. D. (2002). Differential task effects on semantic and syntactic processes as revealed by ERPs. Cognitive Brain Research, 13, 339356.
Hopp, H. (2009). The syntax-discourse interface in near-native L2 acquisition: Off-line and on-line performance. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 12, 463483.
Hopp, H. (2013). Grammatical gender in adult L2 acquisition: Relations between lexical and syntactic variability. Second Language Research, 29, 3356.
Isel, F. (2007). Syntactic and referential processes in second-language learners: Event-related brain potential evidence. Neuroreport, 18, 18851889.
Kaan, E. (2014). Predictive sentence processing in L2 and L1: What is different? Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 4, 257282.
Kaan, E., Dallas, A. C., & Wijnen, F. (2010). Syntactic predictions in second-language sentence processing. In Zwart, J.-W. & de Vries, M. (eds.), Structure preserved. Festschrift in the honor of Jan Koster (pp. 207213). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Kaan, E., Harris, A., Gibson, E., & Holcomb, P. (2000). The P600 as an index of syntactic integration difficulty. Language and Cognitive Processes, 15, 159201.
Kaan, E., Overfelt, C., Tromp, D., & Wijnen, F. (2013). Processing gapped verbs. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 42, 307338.
Kaan, E., & Swaab, T. Y. (2003). Electrophysiological evidence for serial sentence processing: a comparison between non-preferred and ungrammatical continuations. Brain Research. Cognitive Brain Research, 17, 621635.
Keijzer, M. (2007). Last in, first out? An investigation of the regression hypothesis in Dutch emigrants in anglophone Canada. Unpublished Ph.D., Free University of Amsterdam.
Kutas, M., & Hillyard, S. A. (1980). Reading senseless sentences: Brain potentials reflect semantic incongruity. Science, 207, 203206.
Lau, E., Stroud, C., Plesch, S., & Phillips, C. (2006). The role of structural prediction in rapid syntactic analysis. Brain and Language, 98, 7488.
Lemhöfer, K., & Broersma, M. (2012). Introducing LexTALE: A quick and valid lexical test for advanced learners of English. Behavioral Research, 44, 325343.
Lew-Williams, C., & Fernald, A. (2010). Real-time processing of gender-marked articles by native and non-native Spanish speakers. Journal of Memory and Language, 63, 447464.
Marian, V., Blumenfield, H. K., & Kaushanskaya, M. (2007). The language experience and proficiency questionnaire (LEAP-Q): Assessing language profiles in bilinguals and multi-linguals. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 50, 940967.
Martin, C., Thierry, G., Kuipers, J.-R., Boutonnet, B., Foucart, A., & Costa, A. (2013). Bilinguals reading in their second language do not predict upcoming words as native readers do. Journal of Memory and Language, 69, 574588.
Morgan-Short, K., Steinhauer, K., Sanz, C., & Ullman, M. T. (2012). Explicit and implicit second language training differentially affect the achievement of native-like brain activation patterns. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 933947.
Oldfield, R. C. (1971). The assessment and analysis of handedness: The Edinburgh inventory. Neuropsychologia, 9, 97113.
Osterhout, L., Holcomb, P. J., & Swinney, D. A. (1994). Brain potentials elicited by garden-path sentences: Evidence of the application of verb information during parsing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20, 786803.
Phillips, C., & Parker, D. (2014). The psycholinguistics of ellipsis. Lingua, 151, 7895.
Ruchkin, D. S., Grafman, J., Cameron, K., & Berndt, R. S. (2003). Working memory retention systems: A state of activated long-term memory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 26, 709777.
Sabourin, L., & Stowe, L. (2004). Memory effects in syntactic ERP tasks. Brain and Cognition, 55, 392395.
Sabourin, L., & Stowe, L. A. (2008). Second language processing: when are first and second languages processed similarly? Second Language Research, 24, 397430.
Slevc, L. R., & Novick, J. M. (2013). Memory and cognitive control in an integrated theory of language processing. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36, 373374.
Sorace, A. (2011). Pinning down the concept of “interface” in bilingualism. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 1, 133.
Steinhauer, K., & Drury, J. E. (2012). On the early left-anterior negativity (ELAN) in syntax studies. Brain and Language, 120, 135162.
Streb, J., Henninghausen, E., & Rösler, F. (2004). Different anaphoric expressions are investigated by event-related brain potentials. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 33, 175201.
Stroop, J. R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18, 643662.
Tanner, D., Inoue, K., & Osterhout, L. (2014). Brain-based individual differences in online L2 grammatical comprehension. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 17, 277293.
Tanner, D., & Van Hell, J. G. (2014). ERPs reveal individual differences in morphosyntactic processing. Neuropsychologia, 56, 289301.
Van Berkum, J. J. A., Brown, C. M., Zwitserlood, P., Kooijman, V., & Hagoort, P. (2005). Anticipating upcoming words in discourse: Evidence from ERPs and reading times. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 31, 443467.
Van de Meerendonk, N., Indefrey, P., Chwilla, D. J., & Kolk, H. H. J. (2011). Monitoring in language perception: Electrophysiological and hemodynamic responses to spelling violations. NeuroImage, 54, 23502363.
Wechsler, D. (1987). Wechsler memory scale-revised (WMS-R) San Antonio: Psychological Corporation.
Wicha, N. Y. Y., Moreno, E. M., & Kutas, M. (2003). Expecting gender: An event related brain potential study on the role of grammatical gender in comprehending a line drawing within a written sentence in Spanish. Cortex, 39, 483508.
Wicha, N. Y. Y., Moreno, E. M., & Kutas, M. (2004). Anticipating words and their gender: An event-related brain potential study of semantic integration, gender expectancy, and gender agreement in spanish sentence reading. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 16, 12721288.
Recommend this journal

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

Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
  • URL: /core/journals/bilingualism-language-and-cognition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Kaan Supplementary Material
Supplementary Material

 PDF (328 KB)
328 KB


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