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Linguistics Fridays: Starr – L1/L2 Implicature processing
October 9, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
The Shallow Structure Hypothesis: L1 vs. L2 Processing of Scalar Implicatures
A considerable amount of research has emerged recently concerning second language (L2) learner sensitivity to various information types. From this, Clahsen and Felser proposed the Shallow Structure Hypothesis (SSH) to account for increased learner sensitivity to certain kinds of non-structural (e.g. contextual, discoursal, lexico-semantic, and pragmatic) versus more structural (e.g. syntactic, morphological) cues while parsing linguistic input (Clahsen and Felser, 2006, 2018). This study seeks to extend the purview of the SSH by testing L1-Mandarin Chinese L2-English learners’ sensitivity to morphological cues in auditory questions. These functional cues prime either a logical ‘some and possibly all’ meaning with the cue ‘any’ or a pragmatic ‘some but not all’ (i.e. scalar implicature) reading with the cue ‘all’ as they relate to subsequent responses downstream that contain the term ‘some’. The questions (e.g. ‘Are all/any of the squares red?’) are presented together with pictures depicting a series of zero of five, three of five, or five of five colored shapes. Participants are then asked to judge the acceptability of the subsequent response (e.g. ‘Some squares are red’) along a Likert scale (1 = unacceptable to 7 = acceptable) (see Figure 1 for example trial). Data collected from 20 native speakers of English and 25 L1-Chinese L2-English learners show that, unlike native speakers, L2 learners did not show any difference in the two target conditions with five of five colored shapes presented. Linear mixed-effects regression analysis on z-transformed ratings showed that native speakers differentiated between any and all (t = 4.39, p <.001) but L2 learners did not (t = 1.46, p =.15). Results here are in line with the SSH in that native and L2 speakers differ in the type of information they attend to during language comprehension.
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