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How Do French–English Bilinguals Pull Verb Particle Constructions Off? Factors Influencing Second Language Processing of Unfamiliar Structures at the Syntax-Semantics Interface

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      Abstract

      An important challenge in bilingualism research is to understand the mechanisms underlying sentence processing in a second language and whether they are comparable to those underlying native processing. Here, we focus on verb-particle constructions (VPCs) that are among the most difficult elements to acquire in L2 English. The verb and the particle form a unit, which often has a non-compositional meaning (e.g., look up or chew out), making the combined structure semantically opaque. However, bilinguals with higher levels of English proficiency can develop a good knowledge of the semantic properties of VPCs ( Blais and Gonnerman, 2013). A second difficulty is that in a sentence context, the particle can be shifted after the direct object of the verb (e.g., The professor looked it up). The processing is more challenging when the object is long (e.g., The professor looked the student’s last name up). This shifted structure favors syntactic processing at the expense of VPC semantic processing. We sought to determine whether or not bilinguals’ reading time (RT) patterns would be similar to those observed for native monolinguals ( Gonnerman and Hayes, 2005) when reading VPCs in sentential contexts. French–English bilinguals were tested for English language proficiency, working memory and explicit VPC semantic knowledge. During a self-paced reading task, participants read 78 sentences with VPCs that varied according to parameters that influence native speakers’ reading dynamics: verb-particle transparency, particle adjacency and length of the object noun phrase (NP; 2, 3, or 5 words). RTs in a critical region that included verbs, NPs and particles were measured. Results revealed that RTs were modulated by participants’ English proficiency, with higher proficiency associated with shorter RTs. Examining participants’ explicit semantic knowledge of VPCs and working memory, only readers with more native-like knowledge of VPCs and a high working memory presented RT patterns that were similar to those of monolinguals. Therefore, given the necessary lexical and computational resources, bilingual processing of novel structures at the syntax-semantics interface follows the principles influencing native processing. The findings are in keeping with theories that postulate similar representations and processing in L1 and L2 modulated by processing difficulty.

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      Fitting Linear Mixed-Effects Models Usinglme4

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        Random effects structure for confirmatory hypothesis testing: Keep it maximal.

        Linear mixed-effects models (LMEMs) have become increasingly prominent in psycholinguistics and related areas. However, many researchers do not seem to appreciate how random effects structures affect the generalizability of an analysis. Here, we argue that researchers using LMEMs for confirmatory hypothesis testing should minimally adhere to the standards that have been in place for many decades. Through theoretical arguments and Monte Carlo simulation, we show that LMEMs generalize best when they include the maximal random effects structure justified by the design. The generalization performance of LMEMs including data-driven random effects structures strongly depends upon modeling criteria and sample size, yielding reasonable results on moderately-sized samples when conservative criteria are used, but with little or no power advantage over maximal models. Finally, random-intercepts-only LMEMs used on within-subjects and/or within-items data from populations where subjects and/or items vary in their sensitivity to experimental manipulations always generalize worse than separate F 1 and F 2 tests, and in many cases, even worse than F 1 alone. Maximal LMEMs should be the 'gold standard' for confirmatory hypothesis testing in psycholinguistics and beyond.
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          Individual differences in working memory and reading

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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            1School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University , Montreal, QC, Canada
            2Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music , Montreal, QC, Canada
            Author notes

            Edited by: Morten H. Christiansen, Cornell University, United States

            Reviewed by: Matthew Carlson, Pennsylvania State University, United States; Arturo Hernandez, University of Houston, United States

            *Correspondence: Alexandre C. Herbay, alexandre.herbay@ 123456mail.mcgill.ca

            This article was submitted to Language Sciences, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

            Contributors
            Journal
            Front Psychol
            Front Psychol
            Front. Psychol.
            Frontiers in Psychology
            Frontiers Media S.A.
            1664-1078
            17 October 2018
            2018
            : 9
            6202929
            10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01885
            Copyright © 2018 Herbay, Gonnerman and Baum.

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

            Counts
            Figures: 2, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 78, Pages: 16, Words: 0
            Funding
            Funded by: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada 10.13039/501100000038
            Award ID: 203053
            Funded by: Fonds de Recherche du Québec-Société et Culture 10.13039/100008240
            Award ID: SE-171276
            Categories
            Psychology
            Original Research

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