Cross-Linguistic Influence in Third Language Acquisition: The Role of L2 Proficiency and L2 Exposure Marie-Claude Tremblay University of Ottawa Abstract: The results of a study investigating the effect of L2 proficiency and L2 exposure on cross-linguistic influence from L1 English and L2 French on L3 German are reported in this paper. Rates of lexical inventions and language shifts were compared for three groups of L3 learners with different levels of L2 proficiency and amounts of exposure to L2. The results indicate that L2 has a greater influence on the L3 of learners who have had more exposure to their L2. The results also suggest that while L2 proficiency appears to have an impact on the frequency with which L2 intrudes during L3 communication, L2 exposure seems to influence learners’ ability to use their knowledge of L2 in order to overcome lexical difficulties in L3. It is also suggested that, unless a threshold level of L2 proficiency is achieved, cross-linguistic influence from L2 on L3 is very marginal. Keywords: cross-linguistic influence, third language acquisition, lexicon, first language, second language
1. Introduction Although research on cross-linguistic influence (CLI) in foreign language acquisition used to focus primarily on the influence of a native language (L1) on the acquisition of a second language (L2), there is now a growing interest in the way previously learned non-native languages influence the acquisition of an additional language. Studies have demonstrated that both the learner’s native and non-native languages can be sources of influence when acquiring a new language (Cenoz, 2001; Hammarberg, 2001; Möhle, 1989; Ringbom, 1987, 2001). Although a variety of factors have been identified which seem to determine the extent to which and the way in which the learner’s native and non-native languages influence the acquisition of an additional language, there is still no clear understanding of the importance each factor has in the acquisition process. While some researchers have identified L2 proficiency and L2 exposure as playing a role in determining how a non-native language influences third language (L3) acquisition (Hammarberg, 2001; Ringbom, 1987; Williams & Hammarberg, 1998), it appears that no study has specifically assessed the role these two factors play. The present study is therefore intended to investigate how CLO/OPL Janvier/January 2006, Vol. 34: 109-119
Marie-Claude Tremblay L2 proficiency and L2 exposure affect the way in which L1 and L2 influence the acquisition and production of words in an L3.
2. The Study The aim of the present study is to determine whether some differences can be observed in the way L1 English and L2 French influence the production of L3 German vocabulary when learners have achieved different levels of L2 proficiency and have been exposed to L2 to varying extents. The study is intended to find answers to the following questions: (1) Does L2 have a greater influence on the L3 lexicon of the learner who has achieved a higher level of L2 proficiency and who has had considerable exposure to it?; (2) Can CLI from L2 be observed in the L3 lexicon of the learner who has achieved a very low level of L2 proficiency and who has had little exposure to that language? It is hypothesized that the more proficient learners are in L2 and the more exposure they have had to it, the greater influence L2 will have on L3 vocabulary production. It is also hypothesised that L2 will have very little influence, if any, on the L3 vocabulary production of learners who have achieved a low level of L2 proficiency and have little exposure to it. 2.1 Participants
Thirteen native-speakers of English aged between 19 and 25 years participated in the study. All participants had learned French as an L2 in school and were enrolled in a second or third year university level course in German at the time of the study. The participants were carefully selected to ensure that they had learned...
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