The missing-VP effect in readers of English as a second language

S.L. Frank, Patty Ernst, Robin Thompson, Rein Cozijn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


English sentences with double center-embedded clauses are read faster when they are made ungrammatical by removing one of the required verb phrases.This phenomenon is known as the missing-VP effect. German and Dutch speakers do not experience the missing-VP effect when reading their native language, but they do when reading English as a second language (L2). We investigate whether the missing-VP effect when reading L2 English occurs in native Dutch speakers because their knowledge of English is similar to that of native English speakers, or because of the difficulty of L2 reading. In an eye-tracking study, we compare the size of the missing-VP effect between native Dutch and native English participants, and across native Dutch participants with varying L2 English proficiency and exposure. Results provide evidence for both accounts, suggesting that both native-like knowledge of English andL2 reading difficulty play a role.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1204-1219
Number of pages16
JournalMemory & Cognition
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Sentence processing
  • Eye Movements
  • relative clauses
  • second language reading
  • grammaticality


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