Can L2 sentence processing strategies be native-like? Evidence from English speakers’ L2 processing of Chinese base-generated-topic sentences

17 Jul 2017

This article reports on an empirical study examining English speakers’ L2 processing of Chinese base-generated-topic (BGT) sentences. Forty-four highly proficient English-speaking L2 learners of Chinese and 23 native Chinese speakers were involved in the study. Results of a self-paced reading task reveal that both native Chinese speakers’ and L2 Chinese learners’ processing of Chinese BGT sentences is syntactically induced in a top-down manner. English speakers are sensitive to and are able to make use of syntactic cues as well as semantic information in their processing of Chinese BGT sentences. The study provides disconfirming evidence against the Shallow Structure Hypothesis (Clahsen and Felser, 2006a,b), which predicts that unlike native speakers, L2 learners do not rely on structure-based processing strategies when solving ambiguities in L2 sentence processing.