Access to verb bias and plausibility information during syntactic processing in adult Spanish–English bilinguals


In two experiments, we examine how proficient second language speakers integrate verb bias and plausibility information during online sentence comprehension. Spanish–English speakers and native English speakers read sentences in English in which a post-verbal noun phrase (NP) could be interpreted as a direct object or a sentential subject. To examine the role of verb bias, the post-verbal NP was preceded by a verb that is preferentially followed by a direct object (DO-bias verbs) or a sentential complement (SC-bias verbs). To assess the role of plausibility, the semantic fit between the verb and the post-verbal NP was either congruent or incongruent with the direct object interpretation. The results show that both second language speakers and native speakers used verb bias information to assign a grammatical role to the post-verbal ambiguous NP with small differences. Syntactic revision of an initially incorrect DO interpretation was facilitated by the presence of an implausible NP.

Keywords: ambiguity resolution, DO/SC ambiguity, ERPs, event-related potentials, plausibility, second language processing, sentence comprehension, Spanish-English bilinguals, verb bias