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Linguistics Vanguard

A Multimodal Journal for the Language Sciences

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Effects of exposure and information structure in native and non-native pronoun resolution in French

Saveria Colonna / Sarah Schimke / Israel de la Fuente / Sascha Kuck / Barbara Hemforth
  • Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique – Laboratoire de Linguistique Formelle, Paris, Île-de-France, France
  • Other articles by this author:
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Published Online: 2018-03-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2016-0093


The present study investigated pronoun resolution strategies in French native speakers and in German-speaking learners of French. French and German differ in antecedent preferences in ambiguous constructions such as The postman hit the pirate before he went home: while French shows a N2-preference, German shows a N1-preference. This difference is explained by effects of exposure to an unambiguous alternative construction referring to N1 that exists in French, but not in German (Hemforth et al. 2010, Language specific preferences in anaphor resolution: Exposure or gricean maxims? In Steallan Ohlsson and Richard Catarambone (eds.), 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 2218–2223. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society). In questionnaires, we tested French active and passive sentences to investigate (a) whether the L2-learners would apply the same strategy as natives in the active condition (i.e. N2-preference), and (b) whether the explicit topicalization of a referent as a consequence of passivization influences interpretation preferences in both groups (resulting in more N1 choices). The results show that German learners prefer the N1 more often than the French natives in the active condition. Crucially, the number of N1 choices increased in both groups in the passive condition. These results suggest that L2-learners might have difficulties acquiring strategies based on the frequency and availability of alternative constructions in the L2, and provide further evidence for the importance of information-structure-based strategies in L1 and L2 pronoun resolution.

Keywords: pronoun resolution; L2 acquisition; information structure; usage-based preferences


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About the article

Received: 2016-11-09

Accepted: 2017-04-08

Published Online: 2018-03-09

Citation Information: Linguistics Vanguard, Volume 4, Issue s1, 20160093, ISSN (Online) 2199-174X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2016-0093.

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Sarah Schimke, Israel de la Fuente, Barbara Hemforth, and Saveria Colonna
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