This study employs a self-paced reading task to examine whether adult second language (L2) learners can ultimately acquire and process morphosyntax absent in the native language (L1), specifically possible and impossible negation-aspect interactions in L2 Chinese on the part of L1 English speakers. The data show that advanced L2 learners, but not intermediate L2 learners, pattern like Chinese natives in their processing profile, indicating that L2 learners are able to acquire totally new morphosyntactic knowledge and use it in online sentence processing as proficiency rises. These results challenge deficit theories of L2 acquisition but are easily accommodated by L2 proposals that reject the idea that post-puberty L2 learners are confined to the grammatical features of their L1 in the acquisition of a nonnative language. In addition, this study demonstrates, contra deficit theories of L2 processing, that adult L2 learners are able to engage in fully-specified morphosyntactic processing, even when it involves nonlocal structural relations. These findings contribute to a better understanding of both L2 sentence processing and sentence processing in Chinese.
Selected Proceedings of the 5th Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA 2012)
edited by Chia-Ying Chu, Caitlin E. Coughlin, Beatriz Lopez Prego, Utako Minai, and Annie Tremblay
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