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Rethinking Transfer Effects: Evidence from Ambiguity Resolution in Mandarin
Yun Yao
44-53 (complete paper or proceedings contents)

Abstract

The Chinese construction 'Verb NP1 de NP2' is temporarily ambiguous between a relative clause (RC) analysis and a verb object (VO) analysis. Although previous studies suggest that the default analysis for Mandarin native speakers is the RC analysis, it remains unknown whether and to what extent native speakers' L2 competence influences the way they resolve ambiguity in the L1. It is also unclear how L2 learners interpret the construction and whether their parsing decisions are affected by their L1s. 24 native speakers and 25 nonnative speakers of Mandarin completed an offline questionnaire, in which ambiguous 'Verb NP1 de NP2' constructions were presented with competing interpretations. The results showed that the native speakers' default interpretation was the RC analysis, which was consistent with the previous findings. In addition, the native speakers' L2 competence significantly influenced the way they processed L1 input. As for the L2 learners, their default analysis was different from that of the native speakers and no L1 transfer effects were observed. These findings were consistent with the predications of the Shallow Structure Hypothesis (Clahsen & Felser, 2006) that adult L2 learners' non-target-like parsing decisions are not attributable to L1 transfer effects, but rather to their difficulty in using structure-based processing strategies and their shallower representation of the syntactic structures.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 2011 Second Language Research Forum: Converging Theory and Practice
edited by Erik Voss, Shu-Ju Diana Tai, and Zhi Li
Table of contents
Printed edition: $280.00