Effects of L1 Proficiency on L2 Self-Embedded Complex Sentence Processing

  • Ren Hulin
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering book series (LNEE, volume 154)


This study is twofold: (i) whether there is a significant difference between Chinese learners’ first language (L1) proficiency and second language (L2) performance in comprehension of certain multiply self-embedded complex English sentences such as (1) Tom knows that the fact that taking good care of himself is necessary surprises the boy; (ii) whether there is a relationship between Chinese learners’ L1 proficiency and L2 processing strategies in the use of syntactic and/or semantic information in the comprehension performance. Two groups of advanced Chinese learners of English differing in Chinese proficiency (i.e. fifteen high Chinese proficiency (HCP) and fifteen low Chinese proficiency (LCP) learners of English) and one control group participated in the off-line experiment to answer questions to English sentences based on comprehension accuracy. The results show that there are no significant accuracy differences between HCP learners and LCP learners in the complex English sentence comprehension, suggesting that L1 proficiency play no significant role in Chinese learners’ complex English sentence comprehension. When doing a complex-rating task where participants rated complexity of the self-embedded complex English sentences based on a five-point scale, the results show that the LCP Chinese learners of English, like the control native English speakers, were able to use both syntactic and semantic information. However, the HCP Chinese learners of English relied more on semantic information than syntactic cues, indicating that L1 proficiency may influence Chinese learners’ processing strategy in comprehension of the complex English sentences.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The School of Foreign LanguagesNorth China Electric Power UniversityBeijingChina

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