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Academic Paper


Title: Processing Focus Structure in L1 and L2 French
Author: Robert V Reichle
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Northern Illinois University
Author: David Birdsong
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics; Morphology; Neurolinguistics; Pragmatics; Semantics; Syntax
Subject Language: French
Abstract: This study examined the event-related potentials (ERPs) elicited by focus processing among first language (L1) speakers and second language (L2) learners of French. Participants read wh-questions containing explicit focus marking, followed by responses instantiating contrastive and informational focus. We hypothesized that L2 proficiency would modulate nativelikeness in L2 processing. For the L1 and L2 groups, widespread word-long positive shifts reflected the processing of nouns receiving informational and contrastive focus. Nouns receiving contrastive focus showed an increased anterior negativity compared to informational focus for both groups. Second language proficiency modulated the amplitude of this negativity effect, and subgroup analyses of low- and high-proficiency L2 learners showed no significant effect of focus condition among low-proficiency learners. This modulatory relationship between L2 proficiency and nativelikeness of processing is consistent with the dynamic sequence of L2 ERPs observed for morphosyntactic processing and extends those findings to the syntax-pragmatics interface phenomenon of focus processing.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN Studies in Second Language Acquisition Vol. 36, Issue 3.

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