What Constrains the Acquisition of Agreement Relations? Some Evidence from the Acquisition of Gender in L2 French
143-157 (complete paper
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This study examines the processing of the gender feature in the referential, verbal, and nominal domains. Two hypotheses around the (un)availability in second-language grammar of the uninterpretable features not instantiated in the first-language grammar (see, e.g., Hawkins & Casillas, 2008; Lardiere, 2009) are investigated here. Four groups of participants -- second-semester, fourth-semester, and advanced English learners of French, and a French native control group -- completed a self-paced moving-window judgment task that included three conditions: matching of gender on co-reference of nouns and pronouns, overt agreement marking on past participles, and overt agreement marking on adjectives. Reading times (RTs) and acceptance rates were analyzed. Overall, learners exhibited RT asymmetries suggestive of the computation of the gender feature. This pattern appeared even before evidence of robust knowledge of morphophonological forms in acceptance rates, pointing to the universal parser as a central part of the learning mechanism.
Selected Proceedings of the 2010 Second Language Research Forum: Reconsidering SLA Research, Dimensions, and Directions
edited by Gisela Granena, Joel Koeth, Sunyoung Lee-Ellis, Anna Lukyanchenko, Goretti Prieto Botana, and Elizabeth Rhoades
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