New JESLA article: Sileo, Cilibrasi, Heine, Tsimpli (2024)

Sileo, R. B., Cilibrasi, L., Heine, J., & Tsimpli, I. M. (2024). The role of aspect on anaphora resolution in English as a first and second language. Journal of the European Second Language Association, 8(1), 48–65. DOI:


This study investigates pronominal reference assignments across sentences that contain English verbs of transfer in monolingual English speakers and second-language (L2) learners having German as a first language and English as an L2. In a forced-choice task, participants were presented with sentences in perfective or imperfective aspect, like “Elizabeth took/was taking a meal to Mary” (adapted from Ferretti et al., 2009). They were then shown sentences that contained gender-matching pronouns, as in “She breathed in the smell of fresh basil”, and they were finally asked to choose who performed the relevant actions: “Who breathed in the smell of fresh basil? Elizabeth or Mary?”. We found that both groups preferred more often goal-oriented interpretations in the perfective condition, while in the imperfective condition only English monolingual speakers preferred more often source-oriented interpretations. The pattern observed in the perfective condition is consistent with previous studies and indicates that perfective aspect creates a strong bias towards end-states. For the imperfective condition, we argue that the different pattern observed in L2 learners may be due to some features of German, where an overall bias for end-states was previously observed. This indicates an effect of first-language strategies on L2 processing, consistent with previous research on different languages.