a1 University of Essex
Using the eye-movement monitoring technique in two reading comprehension experiments, this study investigated the timing of constraints on wh-dependencies (so-called island constraints) in first- and second-language (L1 and L2) sentence processing. The results show that both L1 and L2 speakers of English are sensitive to extraction islands during processing, suggesting that memory storage limitations affect L1 and L2 comprehenders in essentially the same way. Furthermore, these results show that the timing of island effects in L1 compared to L2 sentence comprehension is affected differently by the type of cue (semantic fit versus filled gaps) signaling whether dependency formation is possible at a potential gap site. Even though L1 English speakers showed immediate sensitivity to filled gaps but not to lack of semantic fit, proficient German-speaking learners of English as a L2 showed the opposite sensitivity pattern. This indicates that initial wh-dependency formation in L2 processing is based on semantic feature matching rather than being structurally mediated as in L1 comprehension.
(Received October 20 2010)
c1 Address correspondence to Claudia Felser, Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 24-25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The authors gratefully acknowledge an Economic and Social Research Council grant (RES-000-22-2508) to the first author, which supported the research carried out for this study.