Fernandez, L. B., Scheepers, C., & Allen, S. E. M. (2021). Cross-linguistic differences in parafoveal semantic and orthographic processing. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, early online publication.
Abstract In this study we investigated parafoveal processing by L1 and late L2 speakers of English (L1 German) while reading in English. We hypothesized that L2ers would make use of semantic and orthographic information parafoveally. Using the gaze contingent boundary paradigm, we manipulated six parafoveal masks in a sentence (Mark found th*e wood for the fire; * indicates the invisible boundary): identical word mask (wood), English orthographic mask (wook), English string mask (zwwl), German mask (holz), German orthographic mask (holn), and German string mask (kxfs). We found an orthographic benefit for L1ers and L2ers when the mask was orthographically related to the target word (wood vs. wook) in line with previous L1 research. English L2ers did not derive a benefit (rather an interference) when a non-cognate translation mask from their L1 was used (wood vs. holz), but did derive a benefit from a German orthographic mask (wood vs. holn). While unexpected, it may be that L2ers incur a switching cost when the complete German word is presented parafoveally, and derive a benefit by keeping both lexicons active when a partial German word is presented parafoveally (narrowing down lexical candidates). To the authors’ knowledge there is no mention of parafoveal processing in any model of L2 processing/reading, and the current study provides the first evidence for a parafoveal non-cognate orthographic benefit (but only with partial orthographic overlap) in sentence reading for L2ers. We discuss how these findings fit into the framework of bilingual word recognition theories.