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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton April 29, 2022

Rule-based or efficiency-driven processing of expletive there in English as a foreign language

  • Yu Tamura ORCID logo EMAIL logo , Junya Fukuta ORCID logo , Yoshito Nishimura ORCID logo and Daiki Kato


Although native speakers (NSs) of English make plural agreement in preverbal-subject sentences (e.g., A pen and eraser *is/are…), previous studies have demonstrated that they prefer singular – not plural – agreement between verbs and conjoined noun phrases (NPs) in expletive there constructions (e.g., there is/are a pen and an eraser…), showing efficiency-driven processing prioritization of agreement between nearest constituents. This paper assesses whether Japanese L2 learners of English (JLE) show this tendency. The results of two self-paced reading experiments together indicated that even though efficiency-driven processing was available to L2 learners, their use was unstable due to the repeated exposure to there are NPpl- and NPpl-type sentences during the task. It seems possible that repeated exposure triggered learners’ knowledge that conjoined NPs are always plural. Hence, it could conceivably be hypothesized that a learner’s specific knowledge intervenes the efficiency-driven processing strategy.

Corresponding author: Yu Tamura, Faculty of Foreign Language Studies, Kansai University, 3-3-35, Yamate-cho, 564-8680, Suita, Osaka, Japan, E-mail:

Award Identifier / Grant number: JP2013123


All the stimuli are available at the following URL:


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Supplementary Material

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (

Received: 2021-08-17
Accepted: 2022-03-31
Published Online: 2022-04-29
Published in Print: 2023-11-27

© 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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