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Title: Behavioural and neurophysiological indices of morphosyntactic processing in native speakers of English and bilinguals
Author: Hanna, J. S.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2011
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The degree to which proficiency and age of second language onset (AO) determine the success of second language acquisition remains one of the more outstanding questions in linguistics and the cognitive sciences. This study used both behavioural and neuroimaging methods to record indices of verbal morphosyntactic processing by a group of Chinese-English bilinguals who began learning their L2 relatively late (just before or after puberty), and whose L1 does not contain the grammatical feature under examination. Results from two behavioural experiments – a time grammaticality judgement task, and a cued shadowing experiment – show that some non-native speakers can perform at a level comparable to native speakers, and that this performance cannot be reliably predicted by their AO. A MEG study on a subset of the participants using the syntactic mismatch negativity (Pulvermuller & Shtyrov, 2006) as an event-related field (ERF) showed that those non-native speakers with more nativelike performance in the behavioural tasks also produce more nativelike ERF patterns. Those non-native speakers with less nativelike performance in the behavioural tasks produce ERF patterns that suggest they may be compensating for their syntactic deficiency by using the lexical-semantic system instead. These results argue against a strong critical period for SLA, and also suggest that nativelike acquisition can occur without assistance from positive L1 transfer.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available