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Syntactic Processing in Second Language Production Susanna Flett Holly Branigan, Martin Pickering, & Antonella Sorace School of Philosophy, Psychology.

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Presentation on theme: "Syntactic Processing in Second Language Production Susanna Flett Holly Branigan, Martin Pickering, & Antonella Sorace School of Philosophy, Psychology."— Presentation transcript:

1 Syntactic Processing in Second Language Production Susanna Flett Holly Branigan, Martin Pickering, & Antonella Sorace School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences University of Edinburgh

2 L2 sentence level production: Research focuses on L2 lexical level What about phrasal/sentence level? What ? –Which structures available –How to form them When ? –Frequency of L2 structure –Semantic or pragmatic constraints on usage

3 Models of L1 production ( Roelofs, 1992, 1993; Pickering & Branigan, 1998) Syntactic knowledge in lexicon Combinatorial information: Phrasal in nature Linked to specific lexical items Shared between different lexical items Same architecture in L2? – (de Bot, 1992; Truscott & Sharwood Smith, 2004) Based on on-line behavioural evidence  syntactic priming Tendency to re-used previously processed structure

4 Typical priming study Hear or read a sentence (prime) Syntactic structure varies: –Active: “ One of the fans punched the referee” –Passive: “ The referee was punched by one of the fans” Then describe unrelated picture (target) Priming Effect: Passive target more likely after passive prime

5 Syntactic priming Found with a variety of structures (e.g., active/passive; dative PO/DO; word order; ‘that’ complementiser...) Not due to lexical, semantic or rhythmic overlap (Bock, 1989; Bock & Loebell, 1990) Indicates abstract syntactic representations Stronger effect if lexical overlap (e.g., Pickering & Branigan, 1998; Cleland & Pickering, 2003) Tool to study sentence level production Well established in L1 speakers

6 L2 syntactic processing Do L2 speakers acquire: –Abstract syntactic representations? –Syntactic processing similar to L1? –L2 structural preferences? L2 Priming? Stronger than in L1? Change with proficiency? Change with experimental context?

7 Experiments L1 and L2 Spanish (English L1) 1) Actives/Passives – dialogue 2) Actives/Passives – computerised 3) SV/VS – unergative verbs 4) SV/VS – unaccusative verbs

8 Experiments 1 & 2 English and Spanish have actives and passives –John built the house –The house was built by John –Juan construyó la casa –La casa fue construida por Juan Spanish passive grammatical but uncommon Active/Passive Same/Different verb (Branigan et al., 2000; Pickering & Branigan, 1998)

9 Picture description game Dialogue with native Spanish confederate (e.g., Branigan, Pickering & Cleland, 2000) Sit opposite each other Confederate follows script Spoken primes Experiment 1

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11 Participant hears: “El autobús persigue el tren” OR “El tren es perseguido por el autobús” Different verb in prime and target:

12 Then see: Decide if previous sentence matches picture or not

13 Different verb in prime and target: Then see: Describe picture out loud…

14 Participant hears: “La guitarra destruye el televisor” OR “El televisor es destruido por la guitarra” Same verb in prime and target:

15 Then see: Decide if previous sentence matches picture or not

16 Same verb in prime and target: Then see: Describe picture out loud…

17 Experiment 1 Participants: –L1 Spanish (n=12) –Intermediate (n=12) and advanced (n=12) L2 Spanish (L1 English) Scoring: Actives, Passive or Other produced in each condition

18 Experiment 1: Percentage of passive targets Prime Type Group % Passives

19 Experiment 2 Social influence – pressure to conform to native speaker interlocuter? Experiment 2: –Monologue –Primes and pictures on computer –Visual primes Identical pattern of results, attenuated L2 priming

20 Implications L2 abstract representation Linked to specific verbs  lexical boost Shared in comprehension and production L2 more susceptible to priming than L1 Passives exist in English and Spanish Shared across languages (e.g., Hartsuiker, Pickering and Veltkamp, 2004) Prime a new structure?

21 Experiments 3 & 4: word order Spanish allows SV and VS order Juan llegó‘Juan arrived’ Llegó Juan‘*Arrived Juan’ Preference determined by: –lexical verb class –discourse structure Difficult for L2 learners to use appropriately

22 Intransitives Two intransitive verb groups –(e.g., Perlmutter, 1978) –Unaccusatives: Arrive; enter; leave; fall (argument is theme or patient, base-generated in object position) –Unergatives: Shout; dance; speak; laugh (argument is an agent, generated in subject position) Semantic differences, syntactically represented –(e.g., Levin and Rappaport Hovav, 1995)

23 Lexical preferences in neutral context: Unergatives take SV order Mi hermana gritó (‘my sister shouted’) Unaccusatives prefer VS order Llegó mi hermana (‘arrived my sister’) Early L2 (English L1) use only SV Increasing sensitivity to preferences Then over-generalise VS (Hertel, 2003; Lozano, 2004)

24 Experiments 3 & 4: Word order is primable –(e.g., Hartsuiker & Westenberg, 2000; Hartsuiker, Kolk & Huiskamp, 1999) How will priming and lexical preferences interact in L1 and L2 speakers?

25 Method: Primes presented on computer –SV or VS order –Same or different verb Expt 3: Unergatives (shout-type) Expt 4: Unaccusatives (arrive-type) L1 Spanish (n=20) L2 Spanish (L1 English; n=24)

26 Participant reads: “El pingüino baila” OR “Baila el pingüino” Different verb in prime and target:

27 Then see: Decide if previous sentence matches picture or not

28 Different verb in prime and target: Then see: Describe picture out loud…

29 Experiment 3 (unergatives): proportion of VS Prime Type Group % VS order

30 Experiment 4 (unaccusatives): proportion of VS Prime Type Group % VS order

31 Comparing Expts: 3 and 4 % VS order

32 Summary of findings Word order priming in L1 and L2 Spanish Stronger when verbal repetition Lexical preferences affect L1 priming L2 priming same for both verb groups L2 speakers more willing to use less frequent structures (passives, VS) L2 > L1 priming only when structure dispreferred in L1

33 Structural preferences in L1 and L2 Priming stronger for lower-frequency structures (Bock, 1986; Hartsuiker & Kolk, 1998; Hartsuiker & Westermann, 2000; Scheepers, 2003) But dispreference of structures? –L1 dispreference  resist priming (e.g., Pickering, Branigan & McClean, 2002, no heavy NP shift priming in English ; Hartsuiker & Kolk, 1998, passives in Dutch) –L2 speakers: find passive and unerg-VS more acceptable

34 Conclusions Syntactic representation and processing similar in L1 and L2 (á la de Bot, 1992) –Syntactic priming –Lexical overlap boost L2 speakers not sensitive to preferences – can prime dispreferred structure L1 speakers floor effect can’t be overcome

35 Future Research? How would effects vary for: –Proficiency: beginner and near-native L2? –L1 and L2 speakers based in Spanish environment? –Structures equally acceptable in both languages?

36 Thank you for listening susanna.flett@ed.ac.uk


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