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Processing the L2 comprehension process: Testing Processability Theory’s predictions in an ERP study of adult learners of L2 Swedish


  • Ariane Senécal

Summary, in English

This small-scale experiment was a first attempt at testing the theoretical framework of Processability Theory (PT), a well-established theory of Second Language Acquisition (SLA), against data from online brain imaging technology (Electroencephalography – EEG). Event Related Potentials (ERPs) were extracted for 15 advanced beginners/intermediate-level learners of Swedish who were presented with grammatical and ungrammatical sentences, each containing one of two grammatical forms evaluated in PT as belonging to two different stages of acquisition (attributive number agreement vs. predicative number agreement). In accordance with PT predictions and earlier studies of more advanced L2 learners, the hypothesis was that an increased LAN and/or P600 might be observed in the attributive agreement conditions, while more weakly increased or no increased components might show in the predicative agreement conditions. Although the expected effects were not observed, results do indicate significant effects of processability level (agreement type) on ERP distribution among electrodes, indicating that this factor does have an effect on the comprehension/perception processing of even less-advanced L2 learners. The observation of an increased frontal positivity beginning at approximately 500 ms for both attributive agreement conditions could be indicating that some integration of this type of agreement is being accomplished online; as predicative agreement sentences do not elicit this response, results appear to support PT predictions regarding an order of acquisition based on increasing complexity of structures. Potential reasons for the fact the initial hypotheses were not confirmed as well as suggestions for further research, namely more ERP studies of SLA, are also discussed.







Examensarbete för masterexamen (Två år)


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Predicative Agreement
  • Attributive Agreement
  • Processability Theory
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Neurolinguistics
  • Event-Related Potentials
  • Swedish as a Second Language
  • Linguistics


  • Gisela Håkansson
  • Mikael Roll