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Age-Related Effects on Syntactic Ambiguity Resolution in First and Second Languages: Evidence from Korean-English Bilinguals
Jeeyoung Ahn Ha
111-123 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Recent work on monolingual and bilingual processing of relative clause (RC) attachment preferences (e.g., Someone shot the servant of the actress who was on the balcony) has revealed clear cross-linguistic variation as well as differences in parsing in bilinguals and monolinguals. In particular, bilingual processing studies have revealed the effect of learner variables on RC attachment preferences, although not all are in agreement about which variables are most strongly associated with such preferences. The present study compared first and second language processing in monolingual and bilingual speakers of Korean and English with bilinguals categorized into three different groups based upon age of arrival in the United States. Two off-line questionnaires on RC attachment ambiguity were used. Results indicate that English and Korean monolinguals prefer different attachment sites. Regardless of AOE, the bilinguals showed preferences similar to those of Korean monolinguals when processing Korean (L1). However, in processing English (L2), only the early bilinguals performed similarly to English monolinguals. The late and adult bilinguals used L1 parsing strategies when processing their L2. This suggests that, despite lengthy L2 exposure and/or advanced L2 proficiency, bilinguals who were exposed to their L2 after a certain age continue to use L1 parsing strategies, at least with respect to RC attachment. Such findings are most compatible with experience-based parsing models, which permit customization of the parser for different languages that in turn, in conjunction with age-based maturational effects, may result in different parsing routines.

Published in

Proceedings of the 7th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2004)
edited by Laurent Dekydtspotter, Rex A. Sprouse, and Audrey Liljestrand
Table of contents
Printed edition: $280.00