[PS-2.88] When only natives get it (right): ERP evidence on case morphology processing in L1 and L2 speakers

Zawiszewski, A. & Laka, I.

University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)

Evidence suggests the way a nonnative language (L2) is processed is influenced by the native (L1) grammar. But which traits of the L1 grammar make the processing of L2 native-like and which don't is poorly understood. We investigated this issue by testing the impact of L1 case morphology in L2 processing. We examined by means of ERPs how natives and early (AoA = 3yrs) highly proficient (EHP) L1Spanish-L2Basque bilinguals (Exp.1 and 2) and L1 and EHP L1Basque-L2Spanish speakers process case-morphology contrasts in their L2 absent or present in their L1: ergative and dative morphology in Basque and accusative and dative morphology in Spanish, respectively. Results revealed significant differences between L1 and L2 speakers for the morphology manipulations absent in the bilingual?s L1: a larger P600 emerged in L1 than in L2 participants for the contrasts involving ergative and accusative morphology, while no differences were found in Basque for the dative condition. Also, L1 speakers of Spanish showed larger early positivity (300-500ms) as compared to L2 Spanish speakers in the dative condition, but this difference could be attributed to the use of a clitic pronoun signalling the presence of a dative construction, a structure present in Spanish, but absent in Basque.