Anaphora Resolution in Spanish-English L2 Learners An Analysis of Different Discourse Context

Ohood Omar H Asiri, University of Texas at El Paso


While in null subject languages, overt pronouns refer to non-salient antecedents and mark a topic-shift, in non-null subject languages, overt pronouns indicate reference maintenance to the current discourse topic. It has been shown that learners of a null subject language whose L1 is a non-null subject language show some optionality in the interpretation of null and over subjects in the L2. To account for these results, the Interface Hypothesis (e.g., Sorace, 2011) proposed that interface structures between syntax and pragmatics (as in the case of anaphoric expressions) require an increase use of cognitive resources and are therefore less likely to be successfully acquired by bilinguals in comparison to structures without this interface. So far, research on learners of non-null subject languages has shown conflicting results. Some studies have demonstrated no differences between learners of English and monolingual native-English speakers, even at the intermediate/advanced levels of proficiency (Cunnings et al., 2016). Other studies have found reliance on L1 strategies on the interpretation of pronominal forms in the L2 (Roberts et al., 2008) or more reliance on discourse-level cues in the L2 than the native speakers (Schimke & Colonna, 2016). Here we test the interpretation of pronominal forms in learners of English (non-null subject) whose L1 is Spanish (null subject language). With two experiments, I aim at shedding light on which discourse contexts are easy or difficult for the learners to interpret and why. The results of the two experiments show that L2 speakers do not have increased difficulty compared to native speakers in integrating multiple information sources to resolve ambiguous pronouns in anaphora conditions, contra the Interface Hypothesis (e.g., Sorace, 2011). Additionally, the discourse structure has an impact on L2 interpretation of ambiguous pronouns.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Foreign language education

Recommended Citation

Asiri, Ohood Omar H, "Anaphora Resolution in Spanish-English L2 Learners An Analysis of Different Discourse Context" (2018). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10816195.