Reading Shakespearean tropes in a foreign tongue: Age of L2 acquisition modulates neural responses to functional shifts


Functional shifts (FSs) – morphosyntactically marked words evoking coherent but novel meanings – are ubiquitous in English and, specially, in Shakespearean literature. While their neural signatures have been explored in native speakers, no study has targeted foreign-language users, let alone comparing early and late bilinguals. Here, we administered a validated FS paradigm to subjects from both populations and evaluated time-frequency modulations evoked by FS and control sentences. Early bilinguals exhibited greater sensitivity towards FSs, indexed by reduced fronto-posterior theta-band oscillations across semantic- and structural-integration windows. Such oscillatory modulations may represent a key marker of age-of-acquisition effects during foreign-language wordplay processing.