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World knowledge and novel information integration during L2 speech comprehension*



In this study we explore whether world knowledge (WK) processing differs between individuals listening to their native (L1) or their non-native (L2) language. We recorded event-related brain potentials in L1 and L2 speakers of Spanish while they listened to sentences uttered by native speakers of Spanish. Sentences were either congruent or incongruent with participants’ WK. In addition, participants also listened to sentences in which upcoming words could not be anticipated on the basis of WK. WK violations elicited a late negativity of greater magnitude and duration in the L2 than the L1 group. However, sentences in which WK was not helpful regarding word anticipation elicited similar N400 modulations in both groups. These results suggest that WK processing requires a deeper lexical search in L2 comprehension than in L1 comprehension.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Carlos Romero-Rivas, Center for Brain and Cognition, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Carrer de Tànger, 122, 08018 Barcelona, Spain


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This research was approved by the ethics committee of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Finance, which funded this study. We thank Silvia Blanch and Xavier Mayoral for their technical support, and Meritxell Ayguasanosa for assistance in testing participants. This research was funded by an FPI grant (BES-2012-056668) and two project grants (PSI2011-23033 and Consolider INGENIO CSD2007-00012) awarded by the Spanish Government; by one grant from the Catalan Government (SGR 2009-1521); and by one grant from the European Research Council under the European Community's Seventh Framework (FP7/2007-2013 Cooperation grant agreement 613465-AThEME). C.D.M. is supported by the IKERBASQUE institution and the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language. A.C. is supported by the ICREA institution and the Center for Brain and Cognition.



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