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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01733

Figuring out how verb-particle constructions are understood during L1 and L2 reading

 Mehrgol Tiv1*,  Laura Gonnerman2, Veronica Whitford3, Deanna Friesen4,  Debra Jared4 and  Debra Titone1
  • 1Department of Psychology, McGill University, Canada
  • 2School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University, Canada
  • 3The University of Texas at El Paso, United States
  • 4University of Western Ontario, Canada

The aim of this paper was to investigate first-language (L1) and second-language (L2) reading of verb particle constructions (VPCs) among English-French bilingual adults. VPCs, or phrasal verbs, are highly common collocations of a verb paired with a particle, such as eat up or chew out, that often convey a figurative meaning. VPCs vary in form (eat up the candy vs. eat the candy up) and in other factors, such as the semantic contribution of the constituent words to the overall meaning (semantic transparency) and form frequency. Much like classic forms of idioms, VPCs are difficult for L2 users. Here, we present two experiments that use eye-tracking to discover factors that influence the ease with which VPCs are processed by bilingual readers. In Experiment 1, we compared L1 reading of adjacent vs. split VPCs, and then explored whether the general pattern was driven by item-level factors. L1 readers did not generally find adjacent VPCs (eat up the candy) easier to process than split VPCs (eat the candy up); however, VPCs low in co-occurrence strength (i.e., low semantic transparency) and high in frequency were easiest to process in the adjacent form during first pass reading. In Experiment 2, we compared L2 reading of adjacent vs split VPCs, and then explored whether the general pattern varied with item-level or participant-level factors. L2 readers generally allotted more second pass reading time to split vs. adjacent forms, and there was some evidence that this pattern was greater for L2 English readers who had less English experience. In contrast with L1 reading, there was no influence of item differences on L2 reading behavior. These data suggest that L1 readers often have lexicalized VPC representations that are directly retrieved during comprehension, whereas L2 readers are more likely to compositionally process VPCs given their more general preference for adjacent particles, as demonstrated by longer second pass reading time for all split items.

Keywords: Verb particles, Phrasal verbs, reading, eye tracking, Bilingualism -

Received: 13 Dec 2018; Accepted: 12 Jul 2019.

Edited by:

Matthew W. Crocker, Saarland University, Germany

Reviewed by:

Katharina Spalek, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany
Clare Patterson, University of Cologne, Germany  

Copyright: © 2019 Tiv, Gonnerman, Whitford, Friesen, Jared and Titone. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Ms. Mehrgol Tiv, Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada,