Sensitivity to second language argument structure : an experimental study with Norwegian learners of English
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The aim of this master’s thesis is to show what level of sensitivity Norwegian speakers of English display to the argument structure of English verbs. Quantitative experimental research was carried out in a group of 25 Norwegian upper secondary school pupils at the age of 16. An eye tracking experiment was conducted with English stimuli sentences and images on a screen either corresponding to the object of the sentence, a phonological competitor, or distractors. By processing native speaker data, the verbs of the stimuli sentences were grouped by different levels of constraint. The results showed that verbs with the highest level of constraint attracted higher gaze proportions for their corresponding object image than verbs of lower levels of constraint. This pattern was contingent on high scoring results in a grammar test occurring before the eye tracking experiment, indicating that the sensitivity develops at a rather high level of second language grammar aptitude. In an experimental condition where the target images were absent on the screen, the phonological competitor attracted higher gaze proportions, but the constraint of the verb did not influence gaze proportions.