Linguistics Colloquium: Alison Gabriele (University of Kansas)

NOV 08, 2018 | 4:15 PM TO 6:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




November 08, 2018: 4:15 PM-6:00 PM




Alison Gabriele (University of Kansas) presents,

Examining variability in native and second language processing

Abstract: Although it is uncontroversial to state that a hallmark of second language (L2) acquisition is variability in performance, the factors that have been proposed to account for that variability are numerous. While some theoretical proposals emphasize linguistic factors, such as a consideration of the linguistic properties instantiated in the native language (L1) and the L2, other theories emphasize the individual-level abilities of the learners themselves. In this talk, I’ll review our recent research which uses event-related potentials (ERPs) to examine the processing of agreement dependencies by low-proficiency learners, the results of which suggest that both linguistic factors and certain individual-level abilities, such as verbal aptitude and working memory, account for variability in L2 processing. I will also review some of our recent ERP studies exploring variability in the processing of referential ambiguity by native speakers which suggests that individuals with higher working memory are better able to engage in complex inferencing. Uniting these two bodies of work, I’ll outline the goals of our current research program on referential dependencies which examines whether we can potentially exploit the variability clearly evident in native processing to better explain L2 outcomes: this new project will examine the L1 and L2 ‘within-brain’ to investigate whether or not variability in the L1 is a predictor of successful language processing in the L2 and whether the skills underlying the processing of the L1 and L2 are qualitatively similar or different.