Native and Non-Native Processing of the Spanish Subjunctive of Doubt: An Eye- Tracking Study
The present study examines the effect of Processing Instruction on nonnative Spanish speakers’ development of nativelike cognitive processing of the Spanish subjunctive of doubt, in addition to its durative effects. To analyze the effect of Processing Instruction on cognitive processing behaviors, 28 Spanish language learners enrolled in second- and third-semester Spanish courses and 8 native Spanish speakers (to provide a baseline measure) were recruited. The nonnative speakers were randomly assigned to two groups: a treatment group (processing instruction) and a control group (no instruction). All three participant groups took a pretest and posttest, and the nonnative speakers took a delayed posttest between four and eight weeks following the initial posttest. Through four eye-tracking measures on the area of interest (time to first fixation, first fixation duration, mean fixation duration, and number of fixations) plus measures of accuracy, native and nonnative speakers’ processing behaviors for both the indicative and subjunctive verb forms were captured in a multiple-choice sentence completion task. Results revealed that there was a significant effect of PI on nonnative speakers’ subjunctive item accuracy measures, but the scores did not reach a nativelike level. These gains were retained to some extent on the delayed posttest. Neither a significant effect nor nativelike level was observed for any of the eye-tracking measures across tests. However, the time to first fixation and mean duration fixation trend towards significance, and retention was also observed in these measures. These promising trends within the data support the effectiveness of PI and potential for development of nativelike processing behaviors.
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