Ju-Young Lee

Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics



First Advisor

Jeffrey D Witzel


This study examines whether highly proficient comprehenders of English with different language learning profiles -- English native speakers (NSs, N=40), late (Korean-English) learners (LLs, N=32), and early bilinguals (EBs, N=28) -- make comparable use of plausibility information in the online processing of structurally complex sentences. Two sentence types involving temporarily ambiguous structural configurations, subordinate-clause (SC) ambiguity sentences and split/non-split phrasal verb (PV) constructions, were tested using self-paced reading. In SC ambiguity sentences, the pattern of reading times indicated that all three groups were able to use plausibility information to recover from initial structural misanalysis. NSs and EBs were also able to use this information to facilitate syntactic and semantic reanalysis in sentences involving split PVs. LLs, however, showed persistent processing difficulty for these PV sentences, regardless of the plausibility of the initial analysis. These results indicate that highly proficient comprehenders of English -- whether NSs, LLs, or EBs -- are able to use plausibility to facilitate structural processing, even in sentences that require major syntactic reanalysis (contra Roberts & Felser, 2011). The only clear limit on LLs’ ability to use this information related to lexico-syntactic/semantic processing difficulty, in that they appeared to be unable to use this information to recover from misanalysis associated with the idiosyncratic structural properties of English PVs. Finally, in both sentence types, EBs appeared to make particularly efficient use of plausibility information for structural reanalysis, which might be attributed to a bilingual cognitive advantage.


Plausibility information, Structural processing, Subordinate-clause ambiguity, Phrasal verbs, Syntactic ambiguity resolution, Bilingual language processing, Bilingual cognitive advantages, L2 sentence processing, Online sentence comprehension


Linguistics | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

Included in

Linguistics Commons