The current study employed an eye-movement technique with an attempt to explore the reading patterns for the two types of Chinese relative clauses, subject-extracted relative clauses (SRCs) and object-extracted relative clauses (ORCs), by native speakers (L1), and Japanese learners (L2) of Chinese. The data were analyzed in terms of gaze duration, regression path duration, and regression rate on the two critical regions, head noun, and embedded verb. The results indicated that both the L1 and L2 participants spent less time on the head nouns in ORCs than in SRCs. Also, the L2 participants spent less time on the embedded verbs in ORCs than in SRCs and their regression rate for embedded verbs was generally lower in ORCs than in SRC. The findings showed that the participants experienced less processing difficulty in ORCs than SRCs. These results suggest an ORC preference in L1 and L2 speakers of Chinese, which provides evidence in support of linear distance hypothesis and implies that the syntactic nature of Chinese is at play in the RC processing.
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