A major issue in second language acquisition has been to explain how the second language learner’s acquisition of comprehension strategies is affected by the good-enough representation (namely, NVN strategy, the learner’s first language background, and second language input). This study involves two distinct types of informants: native speakers of Mandarin Chinese; and Spanish learners of Mandarin with elementary and intermediate-to-advanced proficiency. It investigates how they comprehend simple Mandarin NVN and NNV sentences with different animacy contrasts. This study has come up with the following conclusions. (1) When comprehending an NVN construction, three study groups of Mandarin users employ an NVN strategy; i.e. they treat the first NP as agent and the second NP as patient, regardless of the animacy contrast on the NPs. (2) But, while attempting to process the NNV construction (which does not exist in Spanish), native Mandarin speakers, as well as Mandarin learners with an intermediate-to-advanced proficiency level, employ a random strategy in trying to process; this indicates a compromise strategy between the NVN strategy and the animacy contrast. (3) And elementary Mandarin learners, on the other hand, tend to use an NVN strategy to comprehend the NNV construction, while paying less attention to the animacy contrast. These results lend support to a good-enough representation account.
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