Second language sensitivity to agreement errors: Evidence from eye movements during comprehension and translation

Jung Hyun Lim, Kiel Christianson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study addresses the questions of (a) whether Korean learners of English show sensitivity to subject-verb agreement violations in an eye-tracking paradigm, and (b) how reading goals (reading for comprehension vs. translation) and second language (L2) proficiency modulate depth of morphological agreement processing. Thirty-six Korean speakers of L2 English and 32 native English speakers read 40 stimulus sentences, half of which contained subject-verb agreement violations in English. The factors were whether a head and a local intervening noun matched in number and whether a sentence was grammatical or not. In linear mixed models analyses, both agreement violations and noun phrase match/mismatch were found to be disruptive in processing for native speakers at the critical regions (verb and following word), and locally distracting number-marked nouns yielded an asymmetric pattern depending on grammaticality. When L2 speakers were asked to produce offline oral translations of the English sentences into Korean, they became more sensitive to agreement violations. In addition, higher L2 proficiency predicted greater sensitivity to morphological violations. The results indicate that L2 speakers are not necessarily insensitive to morphological violations and that L2 proficiency and task modulate the depth of L2 morphological processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1283-1315
Number of pages33
JournalApplied Psycholinguistics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 14 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • General Psychology


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