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The Integration of Linguistic and Non-Linguistic Information in Second Language Sentence Processing.

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Title:The Integration of Linguistic and Non-Linguistic Information in Second Language Sentence Processing.
Authors:Ahn, Hyunah
Contributors:Second Language Studies (department)
Keywords:L2 psycholinguistics
information integration
English articles
real-world knowledge
Date Issued:May 2017
Publisher:University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Abstract:This dissertation investigates the integration of linguistic and non-linguistic information
in the course of second language (L2) sentence processing. Having to process multiple sources of
information simultaneously has been claimed to pose the greatest challenges in L2 learning
(Clahsen & Felser, 2006; Sorace, 2011; Sorace & Filliaci, 2006), and research on the issue has
the potential to shed light on the nature of learning in different populations, which, in turn, could
contribute to a better understanding of the role of processing in language acquisition (O’Grady,
2015; Phillips & Ehrenhofer, 2015).
The two sources of information, linguistic and non-linguistic knowledge, were
operationalized by the definiteness distinction of English articles and real-world knowledge,
respectively. To compare how different sources of information are integrated by L1 and L2
speakers, it was first necessary to determine whether both types of information were shared by
native (L1) and second language (L2) speakers.
The first experiment, implemented via a self-paced reading task, examined whether L1
and L2 speakers are sensitive to the mapping between definite noun phrases (NPs) and unique
referents. It was shown that both populations exhibit this pattern of mapping, but that L2
speakers’ sensitivity to the relationship appeared one region later compared to L1 speakers.
The second experiment, via a referent prediction task, shows that both L1 and advanced
L2 speakers predict a unique referent at the cue of a definite article. What is noteworthy in this
experiment is the behavior of intermediate L2 speakers, who predict a unique referent in
response to an indefinite article numerically more often than to a definite article.
The third experiment was an online norming survey to confirm that both L1 and L2
speakers have the same real-world knowledge. The types of world knowledge studied consisted
of associations between two referents—for example, a doctor and a stethoscope, or a basketball
player and a basketball. L1 speakers and L2 speakers of all proficiency levels were found to
share the same real-world knowledge.
The final experiment tested how the two sources of information were integrated
incrementally online. A referent identification task measured the reaction time to stimuli when
linguistic and non-linguistic information pointed to either the same referent or different referents.
The results showed that L1 speakers integrate both linguistic and non-linguistic information
incrementally and use both types of information to predict referents yet to be mentioned, but that
L2 speakers did not use linguistic information in a native-like manner when non-linguistic
information alone was sufficient to predict upcoming linguistic material.
The findings suggest that non-linguistic information, operationalized as real-world
knowledge in the current research, could be the key to accounting for certain differences between
L1 and L2 development. Such findings have important implications for issues in both
psycholinguistics and language acquisition research. In particular, L2 speakers’ reliance on realworld
knowledge could be interpreted as an effort to minimize processing cost. By focusing their
limited cognitive resources on an information source (world knowledge) that is acquired earlier
than the relevant components of L2 grammar, is more familiar, and is thus easier-to-process, L2
speakers can maximize their processing efficiency. In contrast, it would not be as efficient to
divide attentional resources over multiple sources of information. The dissertation concludes
with suggestions for future research that compares adult L2 speakers and L1 children in terms of
information integration to better understand what sets L2 acquisition apart from L1 acquisition.
Description:Ph.D. Thesis. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 2017.
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/10125/62777
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - Second Language Studies


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