Dr. Tania Leal, University of Nevada, Reno, will give a talk at Michigan State University sponsored by the Second Language Studies Eye-Tracking Lab, October 15, 2021 from 2-3pm EST

A234 Wells Hall or Zoom Meeting: https://msu.zoom.us/j/94888981051 (passcode: Leal)

While there is wide agreement in L2 studies regarding the existence of L1 transfer effects, there has been scant discussion about the role of the type of similarity among the languages in question, whether it be formal similarity (similarity in the featural composition between the functional or lexical items in the languages under study) or surface level similarity (similarity in how these forms sound and/or look). Our study aims to determine whether formal similarity between two languages (operationalized via the Feature Reassembly Hypothesis) allows adult L2 learners of French (Spanish L1 speakers) to straightforwardly acquire third-person singular accusative clitics in their L2. Additionally, we examined the role of surface similarity, since French and Spanish overlap and diverge in several ways. In terms of formal similarity, third-person accusative clitic pronouns in Spanish are almost perfect analogues of their French counterparts. In terms of surface similarity, however, while the feminine accusative pronouns are identical (“la” [la]), the masculine ones differ in Spanish (“lo” [lo]) and French (“le” [lǝ]). Participants included French L1 speakers (n = 26) and Spanish-speaking L2 French learners (n = 36). Results from an offline forced-choice picture selection task and an online self-paced reading task did not support the Feature Reassembly Hypothesis because learners showed considerable difficulty with the interpretation and processing of these pronouns, revealing that, unlike French NSs, their interpretations and processing are guided by the feature [±Human] and, to a lesser degree, by gender, which might be due to the surface-level similarity between feminine accusative clitic pronouns in both languages.

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