Volume 17, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1871-1340
  • E-ISSN: 1871-1375



Language experience is essential for SLA. Yet, studies comparing the role of L2 proficiency and L2 use on L2 processing are scant, and there are no studies examining how these variables modulate learners’ ability to generalize grammatical associations to new instances. This study investigates whether L2 proficiency and L2 use affect L2 stress-tense suffix associations (a stressed syllable cuing a present suffix, and an unstressed syllable cuing a preterit suffix) using eye-tracking. Spanish monolinguals and English learners of Spanish varying in L2 proficiency and L2 use saw two verbs (e.g., ‘(s)he signs/signed’), heard a sentence containing one of the verbs, and chose the verb they had heard. Both groups looked at target verbs above chance before hearing the suffix, but the monolinguals did so more accurately and earlier than the learners. The learners recognized past verbs faster than present verbs, were faster with higher than lower L2 proficiency, and later with higher than lower L2 use. Finally, higher L2 proficiency yielded earlier morphological activation but higher L2 use produced later morphological activation, indicating that L2 proficiency and L2 use affect L2 word processing differently. We discuss the contribution of these findings to language acquisition and processing models, as well as models of general cognition.

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Keyword(s): language experience; lexical stress; morphology; proficiency; use
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