Linguistics and English Language

Bilingualism reading group

Speaker: Qingyuan Gardner (University of Edinburgh)

Title: Reversing L2 production: the detection of L2 temporal grammatical violations during comprehension in L1 Mandarin speakers of English

Abstract: A continuing debate in second language (L2) research is whether L2 inflectional errors are caused by representational or processing problems, especially when the speaker’s L1 does not use inflectional morphology (Hawkins & Chan, 1997; Prevost & White, 2000). Previous production studies found L2 speakers of English were able to process L2 temporal cues and produce appropriate L2 inflectional morphology. They were more likely to make an inflectional error if the inflectional marking was featurally more complex, i.e. 3rd person singular -s (3SG -s) (Chondrogianni & Marinis, 2012; Gardner, Branigan & Chondrogianni, 2018).

This study addressed this debate within a Leveltian framework by examining the detection of inflectional omissions in L2 comprehension for Mandarin speakers of English. We used self-paced listening and reading tasks to investigate whether L1 Mandarin speakers of English could detect L2 English grammatical violations (past -ed and 3SG -s omissions) if there was a mismatch between temporal adverbial and inflectional morphology. L1 Mandarin and L1 English participants comprehended 36 singular subject sentences in 2 distinct temporal contexts (Present Habitual, Past) with both grammatical and ungrammatical combinations, omitting either a 3SG -s or a past -ed inflection.

E.g. Every Monday the man wait(s) for a flight at the airport. (Present Habitual)

Last Monday the man wait(ed) for a flight at the airport (Past)

Our results from the self-paced listening task indicated that: unlike L1 English speakers who showed significant RT discrepancy between grammatical and ungrammatical trials at the critical verb segment for both types of inflections, L1 Mandarin speakers of English only showed significant slow-down in RT for 3SG -s at the critical verb segment. This was surprising as we expected 3SG -s inflections to be more difficult to process for L1 Mandarin speakers. Interestingly, results from the self-paced reading task also showed L1 Mandarin participants only exhibited significant slow-down for 3SG -s but not for past -ed in the spill- over region (object segment) of the sentence, whereas L1 English participants showed significant RT discrepancy for both inflections at the critical verb segment.

Our data supported previous production evidence for L2 temporal and subject number representation and processing at the lemma level in L1 Mandarin speakers of English. Our data also indicated comprehension modality affected the speed, but not the pattern of L2 grammatical processing. Additionally, we evaluate the current methodology and explore alternative explanations concerning the differences between the processing of 3SG -s and Past -ed inflectional endings.


Please contact Lihua Xia or Martha Robinson to find out specific dates for this semester and/or to be added on the mailing list.

Lihua Xia

Martha Robinson

Feb 25 2019 -

Bilingualism reading group

2019-02-25: Reversing L2 production: the detection of L2 temporal grammatical violations during comprehension in L1 Mandarin speakers of English

Room S38, Psychology Building, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ