Second language acquisition (SLA) has been a dominant field in linguistics research over the past several decades. In this field, researchers have investigated what makes learning the grammar of a second language difficult and they have identified many factors that may contribute to this difficulty, including agreement processing. In linguistic terms, agreement refers to the necessary covariation of grammatical features between two of more syntactic constituents. In prior years of agreement processing research, some authors examined how native speakers process varying grammatical features (e.g. number and gender) in agreement relations. In recent years, however, they have turned towards L2 learners and have investigated whether learners can attain native-like levels of processing agreement in a second language.While some researchers have investigated differences between learners and native speakers, others have examined the effect of individual differences on agreement processing. Of particular interest to this thesis is working memory capacity (WMC) and its effect during the different processing stages of agreement. Lastly, features expressed through agreement may affect individuals' processing behavior. Different features (e.g. person, number, gender) are regularly expressed in agreement relations by different manifestations of exponence. Many authors have investigated the effect different features have on processing agreement when those features are expressed by separative exponence. Fewer have examined the effect of cumulative exponence on agreement processing.Eye tracking is a useful psycholinguistic tool to investigate these questions. Using eye tracking, I examine English learners of Spanish and their eye behavior as they processed Spanish verbal agreement and investigate whether they demonstrate sensitivity similar to native Spanish speakers while processing verbal agreement errors. I investigate if individuals demonstrate similar sensitivity when processing three different types of verbal agreement errors—number, person, and tense. Additionally, I examine whether individuals' sensitivity to agreement errors is affected by working memory capacity. Using a linear mixed effects model, I analyze the eye tracking data and share the results of the analyses and their implications for L2 research in agreement processing.



College and Department

Linguistics and English Language



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eye tracking, agreement processing, second language acquisition, working memory capacity, Spanish