1 May, 2022

Sensitivity to Individual Grammars in Multilingual Language Processing: Armenian-Russian-English Trilinguals

Tehmine Hakobyan: Armenian-Russian and Russian-Armenian translator. MA (equivalent) in Biology, native speaker of Armenian, Armenian-Russian bilingual.


Ruzanna Avetisyan: Language consultant. Professional BA. Native speakers of Armenian, L2 speaker of Russian.

Granush Azizyan: Linguist consultant. MA (equivalent) in German and English philology. Native speaker of Armenian, Armenian-Russian bilingual.

Main findings of the study

(see Research > Selected Presentations for detail)

L3 speakers operate both, structural and non-structural information, in each of their languages in the course of sentence processing

In all three languages, lexical semantic information slows down the participants’ processing at the places where parsing decisions need to be made. However, if lexical prompts are incongruent the parsing prompted by a structural cue, syntactic information takes the upper hand. In each of their three languages, the participants tend to prefer RC parsing typical for a given language or prompted by a perception verb even if it leads to the least feasible RC interpretation from the point of view of lexical-semantic information.

In all three languages, a perception verb in the matrix clause triggers a structural anticipation for an eventive complement.

In all three languages, the eventive complement becomes the first parsing hypothesis.

In all three languages, the eventive complement is a clause complement of the matrix verb, whereas, an RC is an adjunct to the complex head DP.

Different in three languages:

  • The eventive complement and the RC do not have identical word orders in Russian or English. However, in Armenian they do.
  • In English or Russian, the parser knows that it should not continue with the eventive complement analysis when it runs into an unexpected word. For example, the RC compelementizer in English or case marking on the head noun in Russian.
  • In Armenian, the parser receives no signal that the eventive complement is an erroneous parse till the end of the sentence. It needs to switch to the RC analysis only after the comprehension question is asked.
  • Processing effects of a perception verb show at different parts of the sentence and at different stages of sentence processing in Armenian, Russian and English.

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