Relative Clause Processing in L2 Speakers of Mandarin and English

Jerome L Packard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents the results of experiments that compared relative clause processing in L2 speakers of Mandarin and English. Using a self-paced reading task, the processing of sentences containing subject-gap and object-gap relative clauses was examined. The results found that both L2 groups experienced theoretically-predicted relative clause gap site effects, namely, the L2 Mandarin group processed subject-gap relative clauses more slowly, and the L2 English group processed object-gap relative clauses more slowly. Detailed analysis revealed that the processing slowdown for subject-gap clauses in the Mandarin L2 group occurred at the relative clause verb, argu­ment and head, and that in the English L2 group, processing slowdown for the object-gap clauses occurred at the relative clause verb. These results are explained as being due to the high processing cost of integrating a filler and gap, and by assuming that L2 speakers have particular difficulty keeping an antecedent active in memory when processing a long-distance dependency.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-146
JournalJournal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008


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