[Second language processing in Japanese scrambled sentences, Part IV. Subjects and objects]
This study used self-paced reading to examine the processing of Japanese ditransitive scrambling by both native speakers and by second language (L2) learners of Japanese. Because Japanese places the verb at the end of the clause, the impact of verb-based expectations should be less than it is in English (Trueswell, Tanenhaus & Kello, 1993). Instead of the verb-driven processing, Japanese processing relies on case markers, and decisions of structure-building are made locally without any delay (e.g., Miyamoto, 2002). If learners are able to utilize the information encoded by case markers, there should not be any extra processing load involved in scrambled sentences. Fifteen native speakers, 16 first language (L1) Korean intermediate-level learners, and 16 L1 English intermediate-level learners participated in the study. The conditions included canonical order, accusative scramble order, dative scramble order and dative-accusative scramble order. The results demonstrated that there are no significant differences in reading times among word-order types. These findings indicate that (1) Japanese native speakers make use of case-marked arguments as reliable cues for incremental processing, and (2) L2 learners can acquire this processing strategy at native-like levels, regardless of their L1 backgrounds.