Lexical interference in non-native resolution of possessives?


  • Cathrine Fabricius-Hansen
  • Anneliese Pitz
  • Henrik Torgersen




Research on non-native pronoun resolution has predominantly been concerned with (i) ‘ordinary’ 3rd person pronouns/anaphors like En. "he", "she", "they" or "himself", "herself", "themselves", (ii) language pairs involving English as the native (L1) or the foreign (L2) language, and (iii) the role that binding constraints and syntactic structure in general play in L2 versus L1 processing. The present paper – a follow-up study to Pitz et al. (2017) – deviates from this trend in all three respects: We investigate how L1-Norwegian learners of L2-German interpret the two German possessive pronouns/determiners "sein" (≈ his) and "ihr" (≈ her or their), arguing that lexical divergence between the possessive systems, and in particular the formal similarity between binding-neutral L2-German "sein" and the L1-Norwegian reflexive possessive "sin", may enhance or interfere with L2 comprehension, depending on the structural conditions. In Section 2 we briefly present the two possessive systems. Section 3 summarizes relevant research on pronoun resolution, with a special view to possessives. Sections 4–6 present a pilot study on L1-Norwegian learners’ grammaticality judgments of "sein" and "ihr" in simple sentences (Sect. 5) and a forced-choice resolution experiment involving a group of L1-Norwegian learners with a background two or three years’ teaching of L2-German at high-school level and a control group of native speakers of German (Sect. 6). The final Section 7 provides a summary and concluding discussion of our findings.