Effects of Spanish pragmatic and lexical constraints in the interpretation of L2 English anaphora
This study examined the interpretation of English anaphora by native Spanish speakers and potential transfer of Spanish pragmatic and lexical requirements into English. It further evaluated whether appropriate contextual information might prime the preferred English interpretation of such constructions. Pragmatic and lexical rules governing co-indexation in Spanish and English anaphora constructions differ substantially and operate quite differently in the two languages. Spanish pragmatic rules require obligatory disjoint reference for subject pronominals in finite complement subjunctive clauses and pre-posed adjunct clauses. The lexical properties of verbs and anaphora in reflexive, reciprocal, and intransitive constructions in Spanish require obligatory retention of the anaphora element. English has no such pragmatic or lexical requirements. The study appraised the effects of the different pragmatic co-indexation requirements and different lexical requirements on the interpretation of English anaphora by native Spanish speakers. An act-out task, a corresponding written task, and a grammaticality judgement task in English were administered to adult native English speakers and adult native Spanish speakers categorized as intermediate and advanced learners of English. Subjects were instructed to match pronominals with appropriate referents in English subjunctives and pre-posed adjuncts. They were further required to judge the acceptability of sentences containing anaphora elements in English reflexives, reciprocals, and intransitives. Results indicated that subjects in general ignored pragmatic and lexical requirements of the first language in favour of the second language requirements governing anaphora. Less proficient subjects apparently encountered some processing difficulty when interpretation of sentences with anaphora was required within limited time constraints. The use of contextual information was also evident in the interpretation of some constructions.