An eye tracking experiment examined how exposure to a second language (L2) influences sentence parsing in the first language. Forty-four monolingual Spanish speakers, 24 proficient Spanish–English bilinguals with limited immersion experience in the L2 environment and 20 proficient Spanish–English bilinguals with extensive L2 immersion experience read temporarily ambiguous constructions. The ambiguity concerned whether a relative clause (RC) that appeared after a complex noun phrase (NP) was interpreted as modifying the first or the second noun in the complex NP (El policía arrestó a la hermana del criado que estaba enferma desde hacía tiempo). The results showed that whereas the Spanish monolingual speakers and the Spanish–English bilinguals with limited exposure reliably attached the relative clause to the first noun, the Spanish–English bilingual with extensive exposure attached the relative to the second noun. Results are discussed in terms of models of sentence parsing most consistent with the findings.
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