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Academic Paper

Title: Processing empty categories in a second language: When naturalistic exposure fills the (intermediate) gap
Author: Christos Pliatsikas
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Institution: University of Reading
Author: Theodoros Marinis
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Institution: University of Reading
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition
Abstract: An ongoing debate on second language (L2) processing revolves around whether or not L2 learners process syntactic information similarly to monolinguals (L1), and what factors lead to a native-like processing. According to the Shallow Structure Hypothesis (Clahsen & Felser, ), L2 learners’ processing does not include abstract syntactic features, such as intermediate gaps of wh-movement, but relies more on lexical/semantic information. Other researchers have suggested that naturalistic L2 exposure can lead to native-like processing (Dussias, 2003). This study investigates the effect of naturalistic exposure in processing wh-dependencies. Twenty-six advanced Greek learners of L2 English with an average nine years of naturalistic exposure, 30 with classroom exposure, and 30 native speakers of English completed a self-paced reading task with sentences involving intermediate gaps. L2 learners with naturalistic exposure showed evidence of native-like processing of the intermediate gaps, suggesting that linguistic immersion can lead to native-like abstract syntactic processing in the L2.


This article appears IN Bilingualism: Language and Cognition Vol. 16, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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