Animacy hierarchy effects on L2 processing of differential object marking

Nuria Sagarra, Aurora Bel, Liliana Sánchez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Studies on L2 processing of Differential Object Marking (DOM) are scant and mostly focus on the animacy of the object. We investigated the interaction of three understudied factors in L1 and L2 processing of DOM: type of animacy (human vs. non-human animal), gender and number of the object (masculine vs. feminine, plural vs. singular), and morphological salience of the DOM marker (e.g., al bound/less salient vs. a unbound/more salient). Forty-three Spanish monolinguals and 81 English learners of Spanish (39 intermediate, 42 advanced) completed a self-paced reading task with subject relative clauses (RCs) containing DPs with singular and plural human or animal direct object nouns. Results showed that L2 learners' sensitivity to animacy hierarchy differences is possible in cognitively easy conditions (unbound DOM, masculine gender). These findings inform current L2 representational and processing models, and stress the value of examining multiple factors to fully understand the complexity of DOM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Acquisition of Differential Object Marking
EditorsAlexandru Mardale, Silvina Montrul
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9789027261090
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NameTrends in Language Acquisition Research
ISSN (Print)1569-0644

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication


  • Animacy hierarchy
  • L2 learners
  • Proficiency
  • Relative clauses
  • Spanish DOM


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