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Second language learners' native-like grammatical processing: evidence from structural priming in Mandarin Chinese



There is an ongoing debate regarding whether adult second language learners (hereafter L2ers) can employ a native-like representation of syntax in grammatical processing. The current study investigated the exhibition of structural priming in comprehension-to-production and cumulative presentation contexts by Mandarin L2ers with intermediate to advanced proficiency from diverse L1 backgrounds using the Mandarin SVO-ba (SbaOV) alternation, with a latter construction that does not exist in Mandarin L2ers' L1s. The results indicate that Mandarin L2ers can exhibit structural priming in these contexts and that they exhibit cumulative structural priming for both constructions. In addition, an inverse-frequency effect on the ba-construction in the cumulative structural priming suggested that they also exhibit structural priming as a learning behavior. Evidence that they employ a representation of syntax that can adapt itself to changes in input supports the structural priming as learning account and indicates that Mandarin L2ers can employ a native-like representation of syntax in grammatical processing.

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