Investigating the psychological reality of argument structure constructions and N1 of N2 constructions: A comparison between L1 and L2 speakers of English

Yingying Liu, Kevin McManus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined L1 and L2 English speakers' sensitivity to constructional meaning by investigating their categorization of Noun1 of Noun2 constructions (e.g., results of studies) and argument structure constructions (e.g., Tom cut the bread). Participants were 40 L1 English speakers and 44 intermediate proficiency Chinese-speaking learners of L2 English, who completed two online sorting experiments. In each experiment, participants were instructed to (i) sort the stimuli according to their overall meaning and (ii) provide explanations for their sorting decisions. Results showed that EFL users preferred construction-based sorting for the argument structure stimuli but not the Noun1 of Noun2 stimuli. However, L1 English speakers showed a preference toward word-based sorting for both construction types. Participants' self-reported explanations for their sorts nonetheless indicated sensitivity to the constructional meanings of argument structure constructions and Noun1 of Noun2 constructions. Additionally, language users were found more likely to produce construction-based sorts with more time spent on the task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-531
Number of pages29
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

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