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Word Order Processing in a Second Language: From VO to OV

Abstract

Event-related potential studies on second language processing reveal that L1/L2 differences are due either to proficiency, age of acquisition or grammatical differences between L1 and L2 (Kotz in Brain Lang 109(2–3):68–74, 2009). However, the relative impact of these and other factors in second language processing is still not well understood. Here we present evidence from behavioral and ERP experiments on Basque sentence word order processing by L1Spanish–L2Basque early bilinguals (Age of Aquisition \(=\) 3 years) with very high proficiency in their L2. Results reveal that these L2 speakers have a preference towards canonical Subject–Object–Verb word order, which they processed faster and with greater ease than non-canonical Object–Subject–Verb. This result converges with the processing preferences shown by natives and reported in Erdocia et al. (Brain Lang 109(1):1–17, 2009). However, electrophysiological measures associated to canonical (SOV) and non-canonical (OSV) sentences revealed a different pattern in the non-natives, as compared to that reported previously for natives. The non-native group elicited a P600 component that native group did not show when comparing S and O at sentence’s second position. This pattern of results suggests that, despite high proficiency, non-native language processing recruits neural resources that are different from those employed in native languages.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (BRAINGLOT CSD2007-00012/CONSOLIDER-INGENIO 2010); the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (FFI2010-20472, FFI2012-31360); the Basque Government, Department of Education, Universities and Research (IT665-13); the University of the Basque Country (EHUA13/39); a Juan de la Cierva Fellowship (JCI-2010-07692) to Zawiszewski; and a Ramón y Cajal Fellowship (RYC-2010-06520) to Erdocia.

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Correspondence to Kepa Erdocia.

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Kepa Erdocia and Adam Zawiszewski have contributed equally to this work.

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Erdocia, K., Zawiszewski, A. & Laka, I. Word Order Processing in a Second Language: From VO to OV. J Psycholinguist Res 43, 815–837 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10936-013-9280-4

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Keywords

  • Word order processing
  • Bilingualism
  • VO–OV languages
  • Morphological processing
  • ERPs