Constraints on L2 learners’ processing of wh-dependencies
Using the eye-movement monitoring technique, the present study examined whether <i>wh</i>-dependency formation is sensitive to island constraints in second language (L2) sentence comprehension, and whether the presence of an intervening relative clause island has any effects on learners’ ability to ultimately resolve long <i>wh</i>-dependencies. Participants included proficient learners of L2 English from typologically different language backgrounds (German, Chinese), as well as a group of native English-speaking controls. Our results indicate that both the learners and the native speakers were sensitive to relative clause islands during processing, irrespective of typological differences between the learners’ L1s, but that the learners had more difficulty than native speakers linking distant <i>wh</i>-fillers to their lexical subcategorizers during processing. We provide a unified processing-based account for our findings.