Investigating the lack of ultimate native-like attainment in L2 acquisition is among the concerns of psycholinguistic research. Processing differences have been argued to be among the underlying factors influencing the lack of native-like attainment. This study is an attempt to investigate how Persian learners of English resolve ambiguity in processing sentences containing two noun phrases and a relative clause that can be attached either high to NP1or low to NP2.
To this end, 30 advanced Persian learners of English participated in two experiments, both on-line and off-line tasks. The results showed that L2 learners exhibit different attachment preferences compared to the native speakers of English. Moreover, the L2 learners do not exhibit L1-based preferences in L2 English in the on-line task, which indicates they are not directly influenced by attachment preferences from their L1. But transfer had an effect in the off-line task as the L2 learners may resort to some metacognitive knowledge. The results of the current study suggest that L2 learners integrate information relevant for parsing differently from native speakers, with the L2 learners relying more on lexical-semantic cues than native speakers and less on phrase-structure rules.