Processing of novel grammatical features during real-time second language production and comprehension
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date30/11/2021
Gardner, Qingyuan Liu
Second language (L2) learners often have difficulties acquiring grammatical features which do not exist in their first language (e.g. inflectional morphology, number agreement etc.), and exhibit real-time production and comprehension errors when these features are involved. What are the causes behind such errors? Moreover, what do they tell us about second language processing in general? The primary aim of this thesis was to examine the nature of second language production errors and to scrutinise them with reference to each stage of accepted models of language production, specifically, whether there are consistent error patterns which reveal the source(s) of erroneous production in L2 learners. The second aim of this thesis was to examine the comprehension of novel grammatical features in the second language, more specifically, whether L2 learners could acquire the ability to consistently apply L2 grammatical knowledge relating to newly acquired grammatical features in real-time. The third aim of this thesis was to examine whether L2 learners have fundamental perceptual deficiencies or biases concerning selective L2 phonological features as a result of first language experience, and whether this would affect the perception of specific grammatical features in the L2. This thesis addressed these questions in seven experiments by examining the acquisition of inflectional morphology among L1 Mandarin speakers of L2 English. Experiments 1, 2 and 3 investigated spoken and written production of inflectional morphology via an elicited production paradigm. The results argued against representational accounts and supported activation processing accounts of erroneous second language production. Information complexity and production modality were also found to contribute to low production accuracy. Experiments 4 and 5 investigated L2 learners’ auditory and visual sensitivity to inflectional omissions using self-paced listening and self-paced reading paradigms, where auditory cues were found to facilitate the detection of inflectional omissions. Experiments 6 and 7 investigated perceptual sensitivity to phonologically variable inflectional morphemes in an auditory discrimination paradigm. Second language learners exhibited no perceptual deficiency to novel phonological features, and no consistent perceptual biases favouring L1 phonological features relative to native speakers. Taking these findings as whole, the results favoured a processing account of errors in language production and comprehension, whilst recognising the role of phonological constraints in both processes. Importantly, these conclusions are drawn from a broad analysis of multiple aspects of language processing, recognising the role of conceptual distinctions, grammatical representations, lexical forms, and phonological factors in second language production and comprehension. Additionally, this thesis recognises the value of both psycholinguistic models of language processing and linguistic theories of second language processing.