Context effects in the L2: Evidence for compensatory mechanisms

Tal Norman, Tamar Degani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims and objectives: We examined how context is used to facilitate reading in the second language (L2) compared with the first language (L1), and how L2 availability and age modulate these context effects. Methodology: Using self-paced reading, participants read high- and low-constraint Hebrew sentences. In Experiment 1, L1 (n = 45) and L2 (n = 48) Hebrew readers were compared, whereas in Experiment 2, only L2 readers (n = 131) were examined, testing modulations by L2 availability and age. Data and analysis: Reading times of target, post target, and sentence final words were analyzed using linear-mixed-effects models. Findings: In Experiment 1, L2 readers differed from L1 readers in contextual processing, as evident in the significant interaction between context type and language background on the final word measure. In Experiment 2, L2 readers with lower L2 availability scores differed from those with higher scores, and younger readers differed from older ones, in the way high- and low-constraining context affected their reading behavior in the target word and in the final word of the sentence. These differences were indicated by significant interactions between context type and L2 availability as well as between context type and age group. These findings are best understood under a compensatory processing account. Originality: By complementing L1–L2 group comparisons with in-depth examination of the L2 profile, the current study reveals a continuous effect of L2 availability, such that a lower L2 availability is associated with a greater reliance on context. Furthermore, the inclusion of older and younger adults provides converging evidence to the use of contextual support as a compensatory mechanism when lexical processing is more effortful.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • Context effects
  • L2 reading
  • compensatory mechanism
  • older adults
  • predictability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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