Syntactic and Lexical Influences in Processing Complex Sentences in the L2

Principal Investigator: Nazik Dinçtopal Deniz

This study investigates processing of relative clause (RC) attachment ambiguities such as [NPhigh The father] of [NPlow the author] [RC who was killed last year] was famous by Turkish speakers of English. The ambiguity is due to two possible attachment sites for the RC: NPhigh or NPlow. Cross-linguistic evidence has shown that languages vary with respect to RC attachment ambiguity resolution (see Grillo & Costa, 2014 for a review). English has been reported to be among low-attaching languages. Previous research on Turkish (Kırkıcı, 2004; Dinçtopal-Deniz, 2010) showed that Turkish speakers also prefer to attach the RC to the low NP.

Dinçtopal-Deniz provided evidence that Turkish speakers of English have a low attachment preference  while processing in their L2 English but this preference can be influenced by the lexical properties (i.e., animacy) of the NPs although the syntactic parsing principle of Late Closure (low attachment) still prevails. This study investigates whether working memory (WM) capacity (Traxler et al., 2005) and its interaction with prosodic phrasing of the sentence (Swets et al., 2007) can explain the previously observed animacy effects in RC attachment resolution by Turkish speakers of L2 English.