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Second Language Sentence Processing: Is it fundamentally different?

Rodríguez, Guillermo A. (2009) Second Language Sentence Processing: Is it fundamentally different? Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In this dissertation, the main assumptions in the Shallow Structure Hypothesis, developed by Clahsen & Felser (2006), are evaluated to determine whether the performance of second language (L2) learners when parsing sentences in the target language is fundamentally different. First, the claim that L2 learners do not employ phrase structure heuristics is assessed with stimuli made up of transitively- and intransitively-biased verbs followed by a noun phrase (Traxler, 2005). The second claim evaluated is that L2 learners do not use structurally defined gaps. This hypothesis is tested by comparing the learners' reading performance of intermediate gaps, stimuli with garden path effects and genitive nominalizations. The third assumption tested involves the use of configurational (binding) principles (Chomsky, 1981) in the parsing of cataphoric reference. The performance of L2 learners of English from Spanish and Chinese backgrounds is compared to that of native English speakers using the moving window paradigm. The relative influence of WM on the processing of these structures was also measured. Results show that both native and non-native speakers present similar parsing profiles and do make use of parsing heuristics. At the same time, both native speakers and L2 learners present difficulties accessing other kinds of structural information and resort instead to other clues that may render 'good-enough' representations (Ferreira et al., 2002). A pervasive finding as regards the WM capacity in L2 learners is the relationship found between the ability to store words and grammatical proficiency in a version of the reading span task (Daneman & Carpenter, 1980).


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Rodríguez, Guillermo
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJuffs, Alanjuffs@pitt.eduJUFFS
Committee MemberMortensen, Daviddrm31@pitt.eduDRM31
Committee MemberWarren, Tessatessa@pitt.eduTESSA
Committee MemberShirai, Yasuhiroyshirai@pitt.eduYSHIRAI
Date: 29 January 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 25 August 2008
Approval Date: 29 January 2009
Submission Date: 24 November 2008
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: parsing; processing; second language acquisition; working memory
Other ID:, etd-11242008-163721
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:06
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:52


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