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  • 1.
    Alemán Bañón, José
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.
    Fiorentino, Robert
    Gabriele, Alison
    Using event-related potentials to track morphosyntactic development in second language learners: The processing of number and gender agreement in Spanish2018In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, E-ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 13, no 7, article id e0200791Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    We used event-related potentials to investigate morphosyntactic development in 78 adult English-speaking learners of Spanish as a second language (L2) across the proficiency spectrum. We examined how development is modulated by the similarity between the native language (L1) and the L2, by comparing number (a feature present in English) and gender agreement (novel feature). We also investigated how development is impacted by structural distance, manipulating the distance between the agreeing elements by probing both within-phrase (fruta muy jugosafruit(-FEM-SG) very juicy(-FEM-SG)) and across-phrase agreement (fresa es acida strawberry(-FEM-SG) is tart(-FEM-SG)). Regression analyses revealed that the learners' overall proficiency, as measured by a standardized test, predicted their accuracy with the target properties in the grammaticality judgment task (GJT), but did not predict P600 magnitude to the violations. However, a relationship emerged between immersion in Spanish-speaking countries and P600 magnitude for gender. Our results also revealed a correlation between accuracy in the GJT and P600 magnitude, suggesting that behavioral sensitivity to the target property predicts neurophysiological sensitivity. Subsequent group analyses revealed that the highest-proficiency learners showed equally robust P600 effects for number and gender. This group also elicited more positive waveforms for within- than across-phrase agreement overall, similar to the native controls. The lowest-proficiency learners showed a P600 for number overall, but no effects for gender. Unlike the highest-proficiency learners, they also showed no sensitivity to structural distance, suggesting that sensitivity to such linguistic factors develops over time. Overall, these results suggest an important role for proficiency in morphosyntactic development, although differences emerged between behavioral and electrophysiological measures. While L2 proficiency predicted behavioral sensitivity to agreement, development with respect to the neurocognitive mechanisms recruited in processing only emerged when comparing the two extremes of the proficiency spectrum. Importantly, while both L1-L2 similarity and hierarchical structure impact development, they do not constrain it.

  • 2.
    Alemán Bañón, José
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.
    Martin, Clara
    Anticipating information structure: An event-related potentials study of focus assignment via the it-cleft2019In: Neuropsychologia, ISSN 0028-3932, E-ISSN 1873-3514, Vol. 134, article id 107203Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The present study uses event-related potentials to investigate the role of prediction in the processing of information structure, a domain of language that belongs to the level of the discourse. Twenty-three native speakers of English read short contexts including three Noun Phrases (NPs) (e.g., Either an adviser or an agent can be helpful to a banker), followed by a wh-question that established the discourse role of each referent (In your opinion, which of the two should a banker hire?). The NP that the question was about (banker) was the Topic, and the two NPs that could fill the slot opened by the wh-question (adviser, agent) were the Focus NPs. The participants’ brain activity was recorded with EEG while they read the responses to the wh-questions, which differed along two dimensions: (1) the availability of the it-cleft construction (In my opinion, [it is] an agent…), a Focus-devoted device that makes Focus assignment predictable in the response; and (2) the discourse role of the target noun (Focus, Topic), which corresponds to the first referent in the response (In my opinion, [it is] an agent/a banker…). Crucially, we manipulated the phonological properties of the Focus and Topic nouns such that, if the Topic noun began with a consonant (e.g., a banker), both nouns that could fill the slot opened by the wh-question began with a vowel (e.g., an agent, an adviser) (counterbalanced in the overall design). This allowed us to measure effects of prediction at the prenominal article, before the integration of semantic and discourse information took place. The analyses on prenominal articles revealed an N400 effect for articles that were unexpected based on the phonological properties of the Focus nouns, but only in the conditions with the it-cleft. This effect emerged between 250 and 400 ms, with a frontal bias. The analyses on the noun revealed that violations of information structure (i.e., cases where the it-cleft was followed by the Topic noun) yielded a broadly distributed P600 effect, relative to appropriately clefted (i.e., focused) nouns. A similar (but numerically less robust) effect emerged for Topic relative to Focus NPs in the conditions without the it-cleft, suggesting that, in the absence of a constraining cue, comprehenders still assigned Focus to the first referent in the response. Overall, these results suggest that, when reading answers to wh-questions, comprehenders use information structure constraints (i.e., prior context + the it-cleft) to anticipate the form that the response should take (i.e., how information should be packaged).

  • 3.
    Alemán Bañón, José
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism.
    Martin, Clara
    Anticipating information structure: An event-related potentials study of focus assignment via the it-cleft2019In: Neuropsychologia, ISSN 0028-3932, E-ISSN 1873-3514, Vol. 134, article id 107203Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The present study uses event-related potentials to investigate the role of prediction in the processing of information structure, a domain of language that belongs to the level of the discourse. Twenty-three native speakers of English read short contexts including three Noun Phrases (NPs) (e.g., Either an adviser or an agent can be helpful to a banker), followed by a wh-question that established the discourse role of each referent (In your opinion, which of the two should a banker hire?). The NP that the question was about (banker) was the Topic, and the two NPs that could fill the slot opened by the wh-question (adviser, agent) were the Focus NPs. The participants' brain activity was recorded with EEG while they read the responses to the wh-questions, which differed along two dimensions: (1) the availability of the it-cleft construction (In my opinion, lit is] an agent...), a Focus-devoted device that makes Focus assignment predictable in the response; and (2) the discourse role of the target noun (Focus, Topic), which corresponds to the first referent in the response (In my opinion, lit is] an agent/a banker...). Crucially, we manipulated the phonological properties of the Focus and Topic nouns such that, if the Topic noun began with a consonant (e.g., a banker), both nouns that could fill the slot opened by the wh-question began with a vowel (e.g., an agent, an adviser) (counterbalanced in the overall design). This allowed us to measure effects of prediction at the prenominal article, before the integration of semantic and discourse information took place. The analyses on prenominal articles revealed an N400 effect for articles that were unexpected based on the phonological properties of the Focus nouns, but only in the conditions with the it-cleft. This effect emerged between 250 and 400 ms, with a frontal bias. The analyses on the noun revealed that violations of information structure (i.e., cases where the it-cleft was followed by the Topic noun) yielded a broadly distributed P600 effect, relative to appropriately clefted (i.e., focused) nouns. A similar (but numerically less robust) effect emerged for Topic relative to Focus NPs in the conditions without the it-cleft, suggesting that, in the absence of a constraining cue, comprehenders still assigned Focus to the first referent in the response. Overall, these results suggest that, when reading answers to wh-questions, comprehenders use information structure constraints (i.e., prior context + the it-cleft) to anticipate the form that the response should take (i.e., how information should be packaged).

  • 4.
    Alemán Bañón, José
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.
    Miller, David
    Rothman, Jason
    Morphological variability in second language learners: An examination of electrophysiological and production data2017In: Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory and Cognition, ISSN 0278-7393, E-ISSN 1939-1285, Vol. 43, no 10, p. 1509-1536Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    We examined potential sources of morphological variability in adult L1‑English L2‑Spanish learners, with a focus on L1‑L2 similarity, morphological markedness, and knowledge type (receptive vs. expressive). Experiment 1 uses event‑related potentials to examine noun‑adjective number (present in L1) and gender agreement (absent in L1) in online sentence comprehension (receptive knowledge). For each feature, markedness was manipulated, such that half of the critical noun‑adjective combinations were feminine (marked) and the other half, masculine; half were used in the plural (marked) and the other half in the singular. With this set‑up, we examined learners’ potential overreliance on unmarked forms or “defaults” (singular/masculine). Experiment 2 examines similar dependencies in spoken sentence production (expressive knowledge). Results showed that learners (n=22) performed better with number than gender overall, but their brain responses to both features were qualitatively native‑like (i.e., P600), even though gender was probed with nouns that do not provide strong distributional cues to gender. In addition, variability with gender agreement was better accounted for by lexical (as opposed to syntactic) aspects. Learners showed no advantage for comprehension over production. They also showed no systematic evidence of reliance on morphological defaults, although their online processing was sensitive to markedness in a native‑like manner. Overall, these results suggest that there is facilitation for properties of the L2 that exist in the L1 and that markedness impacts L2 processing, but in a native‑like manner. These results also speak against proposals arguing that adult L2ers have deficits at the level of the morphology or the syntax.

  • 5.
    Alemán Bañón, José
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.
    Rothman, Jason
    Being a Participant Matters: Event-Related Potentials Show That Markedness Modulates Person Agreement in Spanish2019In: Frontiers in Psychology, ISSN 1664-1078, E-ISSN 1664-1078, Vol. 10, article id 746Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The present study uses event-related potentials to examine subject-verb person agreement in Spanish, with a focus on how markedness with respect to the speech participant status of the subject modulates processing. Morphological theory proposes a markedness distinction between first and second person, on the one hand, and third person on the other. The claim is that both the first and second persons are participants in the speech act, since they play the speaker and addressee roles, respectively. In contrast, third person refers to whomever is neither the speaker nor the addressee (i.e., it is unmarked for person). We manipulated speech participant by probing person agreement with both first-person singular subjects (e.g., yo...lloro *I...cry-1ST PERSON-SG") and third-person singular ones (e.g., la viuda...llora "the widow...cry-3RD PERSON-SG"). We also manipulated agreement by crossing first-person singular subjects with third-person singular verbs (e.g., yo...*llora "I...cry-(3RD PERSON-SG)") and vice versa (e.g., la viuda...*lloro "the widow...cry-1ST PERSON-SG"). Results from 28 native speakers of Spanish revealed robust positivities for both types of person violations, relative to their grammatical counterparts between 500 and 1000 ms, an effect that shows a central-posterior distribution, with a right hemisphere bias. This positivity is consistent with the P600, a component associated with a number of morphosyntactic operations (and reanalysis processes more generally). No negativities emerged before the P600 (between 250 and 450 ms), although both error types yielded an anterior negativity in the P600 time window, an effect that has been argued to reflect the memory costs associated with keeping the errors in working memory to provide a sentence-final judgment. Crucially, person violations with a marked subject (e.g., yo...*llora*I...cry-3RD PERSON SG") yielded a larger P600 than the opposite error type between 700 and 900 ms. This effect is consistent with the possibility that, upon encountering a subject with marked features, feature activation allows the parser to generate a stronger prediction regarding the upcoming verb. The larger P600 for person violations with a marked subject might index the reanalysis process that the parser initiates when there is a conflict between a highly expected verbal form (i.e., more so than in the conditions with an unmarked subject) and the form that is actually encountered.

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  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
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  • Other locale
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