Volume 13, Issue 6
  • ISSN 1879-9264
  • E-ISSN: 1879-9272
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Proficient first-language (L1) readers of alphabetic languages that are read left-to-right typically have a perceptual span of 3–4 characters to the left and 14–15 characters to the right of the foveal fixation. Given that second-language (L2) processing requires more cognitive resources, we hypothesize that L2ers will have a smaller perceptual span than L1ers, and may rely on a compensatory risky reading strategy with a more symmetrical perceptual span similar to that seen in older L1 adults. Here, we test the size and symmetry of the perceptual span in German L1/English L2ers reading in English. We manipulate the amount of information available (3,6,9 characters-left/3,9,15 characters-right) during reading, and also account for the influence of English skills. Results show that L2ers benefit from an increase of window size from 3 to 6 characters to the left, and from 3 to 9 characters to the right, with higher-skilled L2ers further benefiting from an increase to 15 characters to the right. Contrary to our hypothesis, proficient L2ers exhibit an asymmetric perceptual span similar to college-aged L1ers and do not employ a compensatory risky reading strategy. This suggests that L1 and L2 language processing are not qualitatively different, but are rather modulated by individual differences.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): L2 reading; parafoveal processing; perceptual span; risky reading strategy
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