Different effects of syntactic knowledge, associative memory and working memory in L2 processing of filler-gap dependencies

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In the present contribution we tested how syntactic knowledge, associativelexical memory (AM) and working memory (WM) contribute to the processing of filler-gap dependencies (FGD) in 27 lower-intermediate L1 Chinese learners of L2 Italian. To test learners’ structural knowledge, pictures of a cross-modal picture priming task were presented either at structurally defined gap position or at post-gap control position. To test memory resources, we factorized separately AM and WM scores. No antecedent reactivation (structural) effect was found at gap position in reaction time analysis. Instead, a semantic-priming effect was found for high WM scores learners. Efficient L2 processing of FGD seems to correlate only with learners’ capacity of keeping the fronted element on hold as the sentence unfolds. Moreover, while AM scores correlated with our learners’ proficiency scores, WM scores did not.


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