The impact of uninformative parafoveal masks on L1 and late L2 speakers

  • Leigh Breakell Fernandez
  • Christoph Scheepers
  • Shanley E.M. Allen
Keywords: eye-movement, eye tracking, parafoveal processing, individual differences, N 1 effect, bilingualism, sub-lexical orthographic information, cross-linguistic influence


Much reading research has found that informative parafoveal masks lead to a reading benefit for native speakers (see, Schotter et al., 2012). However, little reading research has tested the impact of uninformative parafoveal masks during reading. Additionally, parafoveal processing research is primarily restricted to native speakers. In the current study we manipulated the type of uninformative preview using a gaze contingent boundary paradigm with a group of L1 English speakers and a group of late L2 English speakers (L1 German). We were interested in how different types of uninformative masks impact on parafoveal processing, whether L1 and L2 speakers are similarly impacted, and whether they are sensitive to parafoveally viewed language-specific sub-lexical orthographic information. We manipulated six types of uninformative masks to test these objectives: an Identical, English pseudo-word, German pseudo-word, illegal string of letters, series of X’s, and a blank mask. We found that X masks affect reading the most with slight graded differences across the other masks, L1 and L2 speakers are impacted similarly, and neither group is sensitive to sub-lexical orthographic information. Overall these data show that not all previews are equal, and research should be aware of the way uninformative masks affect reading behavior. Additionally, we hope that future research starts to approach models of eye-movement behavior during reading from not only a monolingual but also from a multilingual perspective.

How to Cite
Fernandez, L. B., Scheepers, C., & Allen, S. E. (2020). The impact of uninformative parafoveal masks on L1 and late L2 speakers. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 13(6).

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