Prosodic processing in sentences with ‘only’ in L1 and L2 English

Rachida Ganga, Haoyan Ge, Marijn E. Struiksma, Virginia Yip, Aoju Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


It has been proposed that second language (L2) learners differ from native speakers in processing due to either influence from their native language or an inability to integrate information from multiple linguistic domains in a second language. To shed new light on the underlying mechanism of L2 processing, we used an event-related potentials (ERP) paradigm to examine the processing of sentences with only in English by native speakers of English and advanced Dutch learners of English. Successful processing of sentences with only requires rapid integration of prosodic information with semantic and syntactic information. We found that L2 listeners showed native-like processing of the acoustics of contrastive pitch accents when adjacent to only. However, they needed more cues than L1 listeners to perform native-like in forming expectations for focus placement. Our results thus provide first ERP-based evidence for difficulty in the integration of information for focus expectation in difficult L2 constructs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-503
Number of pages26
JournalStudies in Second Language Acquisition
Issue number2
Early online date14 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


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