Testing for Proficiency Effects and Crosslinguistic Influence in L2 Processing: Filler-Gap Dependencies in L2 English by Jordanian-Arabic and Mandarin Speakers

Alaa Al-Maani, Shayne Sloggett, Nino Grillo, Heather Marsden

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This study expands on previous research into filler-gap dependency processing in second language (L2) English, by means of a replication of Canales’s (2012) self-paced reading study. Canales, among others, found that advanced L2-English speakers exhibited the same processing behaviour that Stowe (1986) found for native English processing: on encountering a filler, they posited gaps in licensed positions and avoided positing gaps in grammatically unlicensed island positions. However, the previous L2 studies focused on advanced-level L2 proficiency and did not test specifically for first language (L1) influence. The present study compares two groups of intermediate-level L2-English speakers with contrasting non-wh-movement L1s, Jordanian Arabic and Mandarin, to investigate the effects of L1 influence and individual differences in proficiency. Our results provide evidence that at intermediate level, too, L2 filler-gap processing adheres to grammatical constraints. L1 did not affect this behaviour, but proficiency effects emerged, with larger licensed filled-gap effects at higher proficiency.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in Second Language Acquisition
Early online date25 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Mar 2024

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