Metaphoric anaphora resolution by L2 learners of Spanish: evidence from eye tracking

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Given that metaphor is pervasive in everyday language and conceptual systems differ culturally and hence linguistically, L2 learners tend to lack conceptual fluency (Danesi 1993). This low level of awareness of metaphoric concepts of the target language has been associated with difficulty to appropriately produce and comprehend metaphors in their L2 (Danesi 1993, 2008; Kecskes & Cuenca 2005; Kecskes & Papp 2000; Littlemore 2001; Littlemore & Low 2006a; Littlemore & Low 2006b; Zibin 2016; Zibin & Hamdan 2014), which is often the source of miscommunication. While a significant body of research on receptive metaphoric competence has focused on metaphor comprehension at word- or sentence-level (among others, Cooper 1999; Littlemore 2003; Littlemore et al. 2011), little attention has been paid to learners’ ability to retrieve the meaning of metaphor at discourse level (Heredia & Cieslicka 2016; Heredia & Muñoz 2015). In our research, the interest is shifted to the very understudied phenomenon of metaphoric anaphora to investigate a number of factors that may influence L2 learners’ ability to trace the metaphoric anaphor back to its antecedent. Using the online methodology of text-based eye-tracking, possibly in combination with complementary offline techniques, we aim to tackle the following research questions: what are the effects of Spanish L2 learners’ proficiency levels and their linguistic-cultural background (L1 Dutch) on their accuracy scores and cognitive effort involved in anaphora resolution? To which extent do the distance between the human antecedent and anaphor as well as the number of competitors constitute the factors responsible for the need of additional processing effort and extra inferential processes? Which elements of the text do learners regress to? Preliminary results from a pilot study are expected to give a first insight into the role that these linguistic, cultural, and conceptual parameters may play in L2 learners’ metaphor processing at discourse level.


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Period21 Sep 202224 Sep 2022
Event title15th Researching and Applying Metaphor Conference: The Social Impact of Metaphor
Event typeConference
Conference number15
LocationBialystok, Poland
Degree of RecognitionInternational