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Poster C60, Friday, August 17, 10:30 am – 12:15 pm, Room 2000AB

The Electrophysiological Effects of L2 Negation Processing

Gabrielle Manning1, Laura Sabourin1, Sara Farshchi2;1University of Ottawa, 2Lund University

The processing of negation in a speaker’s first language (L1) has been found to occur in one of two ways: either following a two-step account or a pragmatic account. The two-step account states that speakers incur a processing cost when interpreting a negated sentence (Kaup et al., 2006; Kaup et al., 2007). The negation of a sentence is processed at a later stage of comprehension, following the interpretation of the affirmative form. Therefore, negation is said to be more difficult to process than the affirmative counterpart of a sentence. In contrast, through the use of Event Related Potential (ERP) research, Nieuwland and Kuperberg (2008) found that speaker’s process negated sentences effortlessly, using their pragmatic and real-world knowledge, resulting in the pragmatic account of negation. When the beginning of a sentence provides predictive information for a negated element at the end of a sentence, negation does not cause difficulty in processing. This is evidenced by the lack of an N400 (semantic violation) for the negated element in pragmatically true sentences and the presence of an N400 in pragmatically untrue sentences. The lack of an N400 in true sentences indicates that negation is processed effortlessly when it is within a pragmatically acceptable context. These negation processes have not yet been investigated in second language (L2) speakers in regard to how speakers process negative elements in their L2. In the current study, we investigated the electrophysiological response to negation in L2 English speakers. Functional English monolingual data and French-English simultaneous data is currently being analyzed as control groups to further investigate this process. During the experiment, all participants read 64 English affirmative and negated sentences using the rapid serial visual presentation technique while their neural activity was measured. The conditions of the target adjective varied in both affirmative and negated sentences in relation to the adjective at the beginning of the sentence. These adjectives either matched (true: The jury found him innocent because the fire was recognized as not intentional in court) or mismatched (false: The jury found him guilty because the fire was recognized as not intentional in court). L2 speakers show a late negativity to the negated predicate in the true sentence context between 500-700ms. Preliminary analyses revealed significant effects of sentence type (affirmative vs. negated: p=.048), as well as an interaction between sentence type and laterality (p=.032). This negativity may be an indication of a late N400 effect to negation, due to participants being L2 speakers and taking longer than native speakers to fully process the elements of the sentence. The current results indicate that L2 speakers appear to have a processing cost associated with negation, as an effect is present not only in pragmatically true sentences, but also at a later processing stage. As this study investigates how an element is processed in a speaker’s L2, the results provide further insight on the underlying mechanisms in use for processing in non-native speakers.

Topic Area: Multilingualism