Processing of discourse anaphors by L2 speakers of English


  • Derya Cokal Queen Mary University of London
  • Patrick Sturt University of Edinburgh
  • Fernanda Ferreira University of California, Davis



This study examines the cognitive information processes that Turkish advanced non-native speakers of English employ in assigning the referents of this and that in reading and production. We predicted that these speakers would assign referents in relation to the linear distance between discourse-linked anaphors and their referents in the discourse (i.e., based on spatial-temporal features of this and that), which means they would prefer this for a referent mentioned in the proximal chunk of text and that for a referent mentioned in the distal chunk. We also predicted that readers would not assign referents based on the focusing features of this and that. We tested our predictions in two eye- tracking reading experiments and one sentence-completion experiment. Turkish L2 learners’ on- line reference resolution in reading experiments was different from that of English native speakers that were tested in a previous study. In the eye-tracking experiments, Turkish L2 learners did not show evidence of using a recency strategy to resolve referential ambiguity and did not use spatial- temporal or focusing features of this and that to assign referents. On the other hand, in the sentence- completion experiment, the effect of prominence of discourse structure in the use of this and that was qualitatively similar to that of English native speakers, but their indexing of the degree of focus of this and that was different. Our results suggest that the difference between Turkish L2 learners and English native speakers is due to L1 interference.