Interpretation and processing of pronouns in English and L2-acquisition
Well-established findings in first language (L1) acquisition research is that children are able to comprehend that a reflexive must take a local (i.e., clause-mate) antecedent in accordance with Principle A of the Binding Theory (Chomsky, 1981) by the age of three, but they remain less accurate with that a pronoun cannot take a local antecedent allowing a non-adultlike interpretation of the pronoun equivalent to the one with the reflexives (e.g., Chien & Wexler, 1990; Clackson et al., 2011; Grodzinsky & Reinhart, 1993; Thorton & Wexler, 1999). In contrast to the L1 acquisition research, studies exploring pronoun acquisition in second language (L2) are quite scarce, and moreover, those studies have shown contradictory findings. Some studies have revealed that late L2 learners have the same comprehension difficulty reported in L1 literature with the pronoun interpretation in L2 (Finer & Broselow, 1986; Lee & Schachter, 1997), while other studies have found that the pronoun binding is unproblematic in L2 acquisition (Patterson et al., 2014; White, 1998).
In this talk, I will examine this issue by testing how Korean-speaking L2 learners interpret and process English pronouns using both offline (e.g., Truth Value Judgment task) and online (e.g., eye-monitoring during reading) tasks. I will present data from a set of experiments that compare a) the time course with which native speakers and L2 learners of English identify an antecedent of a pronoun and b) their final interpretation of a pronoun. I will also discuss the role of grammatical constraints in real-time language comprehension, which can shed light on processing of anaphoric dependencies in L1 sentence processing, a topic that has received much attention in recent psycholinguistic research.