Wednesday Seminar: Processing of novel grammatical features during real-time second language production and comprehension

Qingyuan Gardner (Postdoctoral Fellow, MultiLing) will discuss how L2 language learners process and comprehend novel grammatical features.

Please note this is a closed event only for MultiLing members.


Second language (L2) learners often have difficulties acquiring elements of grammar which do not exist in their first language (L1). The primary aim of my thesis was to examine the why L2 learners make grammatical errors during L2 speech and to scrutinise them with theoretical outlines of human speech production, specifically whether there are consistent error patterns which reveal the source(s) of error in speech or in writing. The second aim was to examine L2 learners’ comprehension of L2 grammatical features, specifically whether they could acquire the ability to consistently apply grammatical knowledge in real-time. The third aim was to examine whether L2 learners have fundamental perceptual biases with regard to L2 phonological features as a result of first language experience, and whether this would affect L2 learners’ ability to perceive specific grammatical features in the L2.         

I addressed these questions by examining the production and comprehension of inflectional morphology (3rd person singular -s and past -ed) among L1 Mandarin speakers of L2 English. During production tasks, the complexity of information marked by L2 grammatical features and modality (spoken or written) were found to affect production accuracy in L1 Mandarin speakers, supporting the idea of processing errors to be the main cause of L2 production errors. During comprehension tasks, auditory cues were found to facilitate the detection of inflectional omissions and increased L2 sensitivity more than visual cues. In exploring potential phonological factors in sensitivity to L2 inflectional omissions, phonological discrimination tasks showed that L2 learners did not perceive L2 phonological features significantly differently relative to native speakers, and that L2 learners do not have consistent perceptual biases towards L1 phonological features which affects inflectional sensitivity in L2 comprehension.

Taking these findings as whole, the results favoured processing errors over representational errors in producing and understanding L2 grammatical features, whilst recognising the role of phonological constraints in both processes. Importantly, these conclusions are drawn from multiple aspects of language processing, recognising the role of conceptual distinctions, grammatical representations, lexical forms, and phonological factors in second language production and comprehension. Additionally, this thesis recognises the value of both psycholinguistic models of language processing and linguistic theories of second language processing.




I obtained my Doctor of Philosophy degree in Psychology at the University of Edinburgh in 2020. My primary research interests are related to how learners acquire mechanisms to process finer elements of grammar, especially those which don't exist in one's native language. My work on inflectional production among native Mandarin learners of English has been published in the Journal of Memory and Language (link). Currently, I am a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan (MultiLing) at the University of Oslo, primarily as a member of the Machine Learning Aphasia project. The project examines predictors of morphosyntactic production (e.g. inflectional morphology) in individuals with post-stroke agrammatic aphasia across different languages.



Published Oct. 7, 2021 9:55 AM - Last modified Oct. 7, 2021 2:59 PM