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date: 17 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides an overview of the first few event-related potential (ERP) studies on L1 attrition, discussing their results and future directions. After briefly introducing the technique of ERPs in psycholinguistics, it shows that ERP studies are particularly suited to advance attrition research due to their power to track even subtle changes in cognitive processing in considerable detail. The ERP data available provide initial physiological evidence that L1 attrition in migrants’ brains occurs at lexical and morpho-syntactic levels of processing, modulated by the degree of exposure to the two languages. In extreme cases, L2-dominant attriters may perceive a grammatical sentence in their L1 as ungrammatical, if it violates the L2 grammar. Where ERP data patterns seem inconsistent across studies from different labs, the potential underlying reasons are discussed, briefly touching upon how L1 attrition may positively influence one’s L2, due to greater L1 inhibition and therefore less interference.

Keywords: event-related potentials (ERP), L1 attrition, morpho-syntactic processing, lexical-semantic processing, N400/P600/LAN, cross-linguistic influence, number agreement violations, Italian relative clauses, L2 proficiency effects, L1 inhibition

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