Examining Language Variability and its Effects on Second Language Processing: An Event-Related Potentials Investigation of Referential Dependencies

The Dole building on a sunny summer day with blue sky and clouds.

This project uses event-related potentials (ERPs) to examine the hypothesis that there is a link between success in the processing of referential dependencies in a second language (L2) and the ability to track linguistic and discourse-relevant information in the native language (L1). The establishment of referential dependencies, which occur when two linguistic expressions are interpreted as referring to the same individual, is an area that has long been recognized as challenging for both native speakers and L2 learners, but the two bodies of research have proceeded independently.

The current project unites these bodies of research, examining the processing of overt pronouns in discourse in two groups of L2 learners, English-speaking learners of Spanish and Spanish-speaking learners of English, testing all participants in both their L1 and L2. All participants will take an extensive battery of individual difference measures which assess both linguistic and cognitive skills. Participants will be assigned to one of two studies. The goal is to develop a predictive model of the contexts and conditions under which native speakers and L2 learners are successful in discourse comprehension.

Project details

  • Primary Investigator: Alison Gabriele

  • Project start Date: 06/01/2018

  • Project finish Date: 11/30/2022



  • National Science Foundation

  • Award Number: ZPBT0030BCS-1749143