Connections between processing, production and placement

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In this paper we examine parallel developments in the input processing and production of grammatical form among intermediate and advanced level second language learners. To do so, we analyze the results gathered from two experiments on the same participants using object pronouns in Spanish as the target structure. Object pronouns in Spanish include information on case, person and number, but vary on gender marking. Although they occur in several word order patterns, we investigate only OV, that is, the preverbal placement of the pronoun with a simple finite verb. The data consist of a study in which learners processed subject/object relations. The sentence set contained 36 target sentences with 4 examples of each of the following pronouns: first person singular and plural, third person singular and plural, second person singular, dative and accusative uses, and masculine and feminine third person accusative case forms. The sentences were constructed such that the target sentence was the second of two and was of the word order pattern OVS. These data are analysed for correctly identifying who performed the action of the verb, that is, for correct OVS processing. The production data consisted of an oral retelling of a silent film that had been designed specifically to elicit object pronouns. The production data contain all of the forms used in the processing data set except second person singular. These data were analysed for accurate production of form and accurate placement of the pronoun in OV contexts. Our results suggest that processing, production and placement develop in parallel ways, not independently. First, as accurate OVS processing increases so does accurate production and placement in OV contexts. Second, the same morphological factors that affect processing also affect production and placement. Third, both processing, production and placement of first person pronouns is more accurate than that of third person pronouns. Fourth, homophonous forms are more difficult to process, produce and place accurately than are non-homophonous forms. We argue that accurate placement, i.e. the syntax of object pronouns, may be the trigger to developing accurate forms. Learners first fully acquire OV placement while still showing morphological variability in production and processing.


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