Jun 22 – 24, 2017
SISSA Main Campus
Europe/Rome timezone

Does working memory have an impact on second language processing of inflection: The case of English past tense morphology

Jun 22, 2017, 3:20 PM
2h 10m
Lecture Hall Paolo Budinich (SISSA Main Campus)

Lecture Hall Paolo Budinich

SISSA Main Campus

via Bonomea 265, 34136, Trieste
Poster Freely Contributed Paper Poster 1


Filiz Rızaoğlu (Pamukkale University)


In this study, proficient second language (L2) speakers’ processing of past tense morphology was investigated in order to understand whether their processing routes (i.e., decomposition, storage or a dual-route) were comparable with native (L1) speakers of English. By means of a masked priming task (MPT), the reaction times (RT) for regular and irregular verbs were measured. The study also sought to explore whether working memory (WM), as measured by the Automated Reading Span Task (ARSPAN) and Operation Span Tasks (AOSPAN) has any relationship with L2 morphological processing. A total of 66 L2 learners with L1-Turkish were tested in comparison to 66 native speakers of English. The MPT findings revealed that L2 speakers had slower RTs than native speakers. In addition, the regular verbs were responded to more slowly than irregular verbs in both groups. Further analyses revealed a partial priming pattern (i.e., reduced decomposition) for regular verbs and full priming pattern (i.e., decomposition) for the irregular verbs in both groups. The correlation analyses did not point to any relationship between WM and MPT results in either group. Furthermore, the extreme-groups analysis (comparison of higher and lower WM subgroups) did not result in between-group differences. Comparable processing patterns in native and nonnative groups obtained in the present study oppose to earlier views that L2 learners are less sensitive to the morphological structure of the target language compared to native speakers. It seems that proficient L2 English speakers can employ the decompositional route in accessing inflected forms in the L2. Our findings suggest that real-time processing of morphologically complex words can ultimately be native-like. Only quantitative differences were found in the form of slower RTs in the L2 English group. Nevertheless, these RT differences cannot reliably be accounted for by WM capacity.

Primary author

Filiz Rızaoğlu (Pamukkale University)


Ayşe Gürel (Boğaziçi University)

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