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Morphosyntactic processing in late second-language learners

Dowens, Margaret Gillon; Vergara, Marta; Barber, Horacio A.; Carreiras, Manuel


Margaret Gillon Dowens

Marta Vergara

Horacio A. Barber

Manuel Carreiras


The goal of the present study was to investigate the electro- physiological correlates of second-language (L2) morphosyn- tactic processing in highly proficient late learners of an L2 with long exposure to the L2 environment. ERPs were col- lected from 22 English–Spanish late learners while they read sentences in which morphosyntactic features of the L2 present or not present in the first language (number and gender agree- ment, respectively) were manipulated at two different sentence positions—within and across phrases. The results for a control group of age-matched native-speaker Spanish participants in- cluded an ERP pattern of LAN-type early negativity followed by P600 effect in response to both agreement violations and for both sentence positions. The late L2 learner results included a similar pattern, consisting of early negativity followed by P600, in the first sentence position (within-phrase agreement viola- tions) but only P600 effects in the second sentence position (across-phrase agreement violation), as well as significant am- plitude and onset latency differences between the gender and the number violation effects in both sentence positions. These results reveal that highly proficient learners can show electro- physiological correlates during L2 processing that are qualita- tively similar to those of native speakers, but the results also indicate the contribution of factors such as age of acquisition and transfer processes from first language to L2


Dowens, M. G., Vergara, M., Barber, H. A., & Carreiras, M. (2010). Morphosyntactic processing in late second-language learners. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22(8),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 31, 2009
Online Publication Date Apr 30, 2010
Publication Date Aug 30, 2010
Deposit Date Mar 13, 2018
Publicly Available Date Mar 13, 2018
Journal Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Print ISSN 0898-929X
Electronic ISSN 0898-929X
Publisher Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 22
Issue 8
Keywords Second-language; Morphosyntactic Processing
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information ©2009 Massachusetts Institute of Technology


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