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The effect of increased processing demands on the L2 syntax-pragmatics interface: Evidence from English speakers’ L2 Chinese attitude-bearing wh-questions. Dr Boping Yuan

This project is an empirical study of the syntax-pragmatics interface by English- speaking learners of Chinese. The preliminary results of an acceptability judgment task show that learners demonstrated knowledge of the syntax of the Chinese daodi…wh-question and converged with native Chinese in judging the Chinese wh-question with just one attitude embedded in it. However, they failed to show target-like behaviours in the Chinese wh-question with two attitudes embedded in it. Second language (L2) learners were found to be able to make a distinction between Chinese daodi…wh-questions that violate the syntax-pragmatics interface constraints and those that don’t, but they were indeterminate in rejecting the former. Preliminary analyses suggest that it may not necessarily be the interface per se which causes the problem but the amount of computation load required in processing a sentence. This is likely to be a useful account for degrees of success and failure at L2 interfaces.