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Title: The role of discourse-level expectations in non-native speakers' referential choices

Expectation is a powerful mechanism in native-language processing. Less is known about its role in non-native language processing, especially for expectations at the discourse level. This study presents evidence from a story-continuation task, adapted from previous work with native speakers (Rohde et al., 2006), probing next-mention and coherence expectations among Japanese- and Korean-speaking learners of English. As in previous work, verbal aspect (perfective/imperfective) in a context sentence describing a transfer-of-possession event (e.g., Ron gave/was giving a towel to Patrick) modulated participants’ choices of next referents in their continuations. However, this effect was diminished in the non-native compared to the native-speaker group, despite comparable performance on an independent task assessing knowledge of verbal aspect in English, and previous evidence for significant effects of aspect on referential patterns in native Japanese and Korean processing (Ueno & Kehler, 2010; Kim et al., 2013). The two groups of speakers were equally sensitive to a cue that does not require predictive processing – the referential form of the story-continuation prompt – in that both groups were significantly more likely to establish reference to the discourse topic/Source of the transfer event for pronoun-initial continuations than for name-initial ones. Moreover, recency played a stronger role in non-native more » speakers’ referential choices than in those of native speakers. These results suggest that while native speakers engage in proactive discourse processing, non-native speakers are less able to do so, being sufficiently burdened by reactive processes required for information integration that they have only Reduced Ability to Generate Expectations (RAGE). « less
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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the annual Boston University Conference on Language Development
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation