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Auteur: Cécile DECAT

Co-Auteur(s): Ekaterini KLEPOUSNIOTOU, U. Leeds, United Kingdom

Lingering Transfer effects in highly proficient L2 speakers: behavioural and psycholinguistic evidence

Abstract/Résumé: To what extent can lingering difficulties in very advanced learners be attributed to L1 transfer? Our study contrasts two core-grammar phenomena: Noun-Noun compounds (NNCs: 1a) and Split Verb Particle structures (SVPs: 3a). Both involve word-order syntax (but no dedicated inflectional morphology); the former also involves phrasal semantics (a core grammatical component). L1 effects are not predicted to linger in such cases (Slabakova 2008; Sorace 2011). Participants were 2x10 very advanced learners of English (with German/Spanish L1) +10 controls; henceforth GS, SS, controls. They performed two timed judgement tasks: 1. NNCs: Mastering NNCs requires acquiring DP-internal word-order and productive compounding. German and English feature productive compounding and head-last word order in DP. The reverse is true in Spanish. Participants evaluated the grammaticality of 120 irreversible English NNCs (featuring 4 types of semantic relation), and presented in 2 Word-Orders (grammatical: 1a vs.ungrammatical: 1b). 2. SPVs: Acquisition of SVPs requires distinguishing prepositions from particles and acquiring the syntax of particles. Participants evaluated the grammaticality of sentences superficially like (2): 30 (grammatical) particle structures (3a) and 30 (ungrammatical) preposition structures (3b). RESULTS: (All differences below significant unless otherwise stated) Analysis was by ANOVAs and mixed-effect modelling. Proficiency was a significant predictor in all analyses except for NNC accuracy. -NNC Accuracy: L2ers made more errors than controls. All groups over-accepted the ungrammatical order; SS significantly more than GS. Relation: no main effect. -Processing: controls processed NNCs faster than L2ers, and GS faster than SS. The grammatical word-order was processed faster by all groups. Relation: no main effect. -SVP Accuracy: controls performed better than GS/SS (with no significant difference between GS/SS, and no significant difference between prepositions and particles). -Processing: processing was faster in controls than L2ers in both conditions (with no significant difference between GS/SS). CONCLUSIONS: These data show lingering L1-transfer word-order effects in the comprehension of a core-grammar phenomenon involving phrasal semantics but not in a ‘purely’ syntactic phenomenon. Such effects manifest themselves in accuracy and speed. We hypothesise they are due to increased processing cost where inhibition of the L1 structure is required. 1 a. concert ticket b. *knife bread 2. [det] [noun] [verb] [det] [noun] [prep./part.] 3 a. The magician took his hat off. b. The monkey fell the wall off.