Syntactic processing in L2 depends on perceived reliability of the input: Evidence from P600 responses to correct input
SourceJournal of Experimental Psychology : Learning, Memory and Cognition, 46, 10, (2020), pp. 1948-1965
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC PL
PI Group Neurobiology of Language
Journal of Experimental Psychology : Learning, Memory and Cognition
In 3 ERP experiments, we investigated how experienced L2 speakers process natural and correct syntactic input that deviates from their own, sometimes incorrect, syntactic representations. Our previous study (Lemhöfer, Schriefers, & Indefrey, 2014) had shown that L2 speakers do engage in native-like syntactic processing of gender agreement but base this processing on their own idiosyncratic (and sometimes incorrect) grammars. However, as in other standard ERP studies, but different from realistic L2 input, the materials in that study contained a large proportion of incorrect sentences. In the present study, German speakers of Dutch read exclusively objectively correct Dutch sentences that did or did not contain subjective determiner "errors" (e.g., de boot "the boat," which conflicts with the intuition of many German speakers that the correct phrase should be het boot). During reading for comprehension (Experiment 1), no syntax-related ERP responses for subjectively incorrect compared to correct phrases were observed. The same was true even when participants explicitly attended to and learned from the determiners in the sentences (Experiment 2). Only when participants judged the correctness of determiners in each sentence (Experiment 3) did a clear P600 appear. These results suggest that the full and native-like use of subjective grammars, as reflected in the P600 to subjective violations, occurs only when speakers have reason to mistrust the grammaticality of the input, either because of the nature of the task (grammaticality judgments) or because of the salient presence of incorrect sentences.
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