Cross-Language Structural Priming: Long-Term Effects of Exposure to English Structures on Dutch Comprehension of Ambiguous Structures by Dutch-English Bilinguals.

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Present study investigated the influence of L2 syntactic priming on bilinguals’ L1 sentence comprehension of ambiguous relative clause (RC) structures. Additionally, the sustainability of L2 to L1 priming was studied, as well as the interaction between the priming effect and L2 proficiency. A group of Dutch-English bilinguals (N = 45) participated in a picture selection task in which they were presented with ambiguous Dutch RC structures. Unambiguous English RC primes with object RC interpretation were used to elicit a corresponding interpretation for the ambiguous Dutch RC structures. Changes in interpretation preferences were investigated through analysing the differences between responses given in the priming phase and responses given in the pre-test and post-test phase, during which no primes were presented. The results suggested that the L2 primes influenced L1 sentence comprehension, as there was a significant increase in object RC interpretations during and after the priming phase. No interaction was found between the priming effect and the participants’ L2 proficiency. The priming effect may be indicative of cross-language interactions and, potentially, even shared syntactic representations used in language comprehension. The sustained nature of the effect needs to be studied more elaborately before drawing definitive conclusions, but may be an indication of how L2 priming could potentially elicit implicit learning in the L1.
Faculteit der Letteren