Language background affects word order processing in a second language online but not offline

Annika Andersson, Susan Sayehli, Marianne Gullberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines possible crosslinguistic influence on basic word order processing in a second language (L2). Targeting Swedish V2 word order we investigate adult German learners (+V2 in the L1) and English learners (-V2 in the L1) of Swedish who are matched for proficiency. We report results from two offline behavioural tasks (written production, metalinguistic judgements), and online processing as measured by event-related potentials (ERPs). All groups showed sensitivity to word order violations behaviourally and neurocognitively. Behaviourally, the learners differed from the native speakers only on judgements. Crucially, they did not differ from each other. Neurocognitively, all groups showed a similar increased centro-parietal P600 ERP-effect, but German learners (+V2) displayed more nativelike anterior ERP-effects than English learners (-V2). The results suggest crosslinguistic influence in that the presence of a similar word order in the L1 can facilitate online processing in an L2 – even if no offline behavioural effects are discerned.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)802-825
Number of pages24
JournalBilingualism: Language and Cognition
Issue number4
Early online date2018 Jul 6
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics

Free keywords

  • second language acquision
  • cross-linguistic influence
  • word order
  • ERP
  • German
  • English
  • Swedish


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