Assessing and Processing English Calques by Native Speakers of Polish at Various Levels of English Proficiency: a Behavioural and ERP investigation

Thematic Section: Modulators of cross-language influences in learning and processing

cross-language influence, transfer, immersion, morpho-syntax, lexicon

Marta Marecka, Jagiellonian University
Agnieszka Otwinowska, University of Warsaw
Joanna Durlik, Jagiellonian University
Jakub Szewczyk, Jagiellonian University
Marcin Opacki, University of Warsaw
Zofia Wodniecka, Jagiellonian University

Collocations are fixed, non-idiomatic phrases, such as “take a picture”. As a result of Cross-Linguistic Influence (CLI), bilinguals who have intensive contact with the second language (L2) can transfer L2 collocational patterns to their L1. By frequently using such collocational borrowings (called calques), bilinguals can introduce them into their native language. For example, Polish speakers often use calques from English in their L1, even when they are incorrect from a prescriptive standpoint. Because Poles learn English as an L2 at schools, their L2 proficiency can influence the use and attitude towards English calques. To test this, we asked whether English collocational calques are acceptable to Polish speakers of varying English proficiency and whether they are processed similarly to Polish collocations by this group.
Thirty two native speakers of Polish with varied English proficiency judged the acceptability of sentences in Polish on a 5-point Likert scale via an online questionnaire. The sentences contained either 1) well-formed Polish verb + noun collocations (e.g. ma sens – *has sense), 2) collocations calqued from English, where the English verb was replaced by a Polish translation equivalent (e.g. *robi sens – makes sense), or 3) incongruous verb + noun expression, where the verb did not collocate with the noun (e.g. *zjada sens – *eats sense).
Then thirty other native speakers of Polish with varied English proficiency read these sentences presented on a computer screen word by word. We measured the N400 amplitude on centro-parietal electrodes in response to nouns in collocations, since the N400 is typically detected in response to novel, ill-formed, and metaphorical expressions.
Preliminary results indicate that while native speakers of Polish assess calques from English as less acceptable than well-formed Polish collocations, there is no difference in the online processing of these two types of expressions. Further analyses will indicate whether English proficiency moderates this effect.