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Linguistics Colloquium Series: Jennifer Cabrelli - The role of a learner’s background languages in the acquisition of a third language

When: Friday, November 13, 2020
3:30 PM - 5:30 PM Central

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Talant Abdykairov   (847) 467-3384

Group: Linguistics Department

Category: Academic


The recent growth of research on third language (L3) acquisition is due in great part to an increase in recognition of how this line of research can inform theories of multilingualism more generally. The primary focus has been on the mechanisms that drive the transfer of one existing language system over another when the learner has multiple systems (i.e., the first language (L1) and second language (L2) available). However, initial transfer is just one phenomenon that we can investigate to better understand a) the dynamic nature of multilingualism and b) implications for the acquisition of an L3/Ln. 

In this talk, I will address L3 transfer as a bidirectional developmental phenomenon via the cross-sectional investigation of three profiles of English/Spanish bilinguals that are learners of L3 Brazilian Portuguese. The data show that these L3 learners initially transfer the more similar language (i.e., Spanish) regardless of whether Spanish is a first, second, or heritage language. While these three bilingual types pattern similarly at the beginning of L3 Portuguese acquisition, however, the data also reveal that their developmental path differs in a) rate of acquisition and b) stability of the existing Spanish system depending on age of acquisition of Spanish. I discuss these differences as a function of relative input in Spanish over the lifespan and then turn to a case study of an L1 English/L2 Spanish/L3 BP learner that complements the cross-sectional data and highlights the need for longitudinal L3 research going forward. 

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