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A Category-Based Prediction in Low-Intermediate Learners of English

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 June 2016

Laurent Dekydtspotter
Indiana University
Hyun-Kyoung Seo
Indiana University
E-mail address:


We document weak garden paths after intransitive verbs, modulated by intransitivity type, in the treatment of DP1 Vintransitive DP2 V2 sequences as in As the journalist arrived the editor postponed the meeting in first language (L1) and second language (L2) sentence processing. In a noncumulative moving-window experiment, 25 English native speakers and 22 low-intermediate Korean learners of English with no naturalistic exposure read critical items in which a subordinate clause was either headed by an intransitive verb (unaccusative vs. unergative) or by a copular predicate. A linear mixed model revealed greater processing loads evidenced in longer reading times on V2 after intransitive verbs than after copular predicates. This finding echoes post hoc observations in Juffs (2004). These asymmetries were driven by significantly greater loads after unaccusative verbs than after copular predicates and unergative verbs. These asymmetries, found in both L1 and L2, are unexpected on the basis of valence information only, as one-place predicates should rule out a second argument. However, we argue that they receive an explanation if parsing involves the interaction of lexically encoded intransitivity information with a transitivity prediction.

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We would like to thank Rex Sprouse and David Stringer for their advice during the development of this work. We benefited from comments offered by audiences at the Second Language Studies Colloquium at Indiana University and at Second Language Research Forum at Iowa State. We are very grateful to the Indiana Statistical Consulting Center for its expert assistance and to the students from Soonchunhyang University and Indiana University who generously participated in the study. Last but not least, we thank our colleagues at Studies in Second Language Acquisition, both the anonymous reviewers, who helped us improve our argumentation and clarify our language, and the editorial staff for their expert guidance.


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