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Title: Exploring the role of previously acquired languages in third language (L3) acquisition : a feature-based approach
Author: Clements, Maria
ISNI:       0000 0004 6422 6885
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis explores the role of previously acquired languages in third language (L3) acquisition, providing evidence that L3 transfer is determined by the underlying structural similarities and differences between previously acquired languages and the target L3. The analysis proposes a ‘feature-based’ approach to L3 transfer studies, highlighting the importance of linguistic features and the way in which they are assembled in different languages. I examine the acquisition of null and overt arguments by L1 English-L2 Spanish-L3 Chinese earners [+SP], conducting a comparative analysis with a group of L1 English-L2 non-null subject language-L3 Chinese learners [-SP]. The three languages of the [+SP] participants are not typologically related, but the L1 and L2 have similarities related to subject pronouns in the L3. Null subjects are allowed in Spanish and Chinese (although there are syntactic differences) and overt subjects behave in a similar way in English and Chinese. Therefore, transfer can occur from the L1 or L2. A Written Production Task (WPT) and a Pronoun Interpretation Task (PIT) test the use and interpretation of arguments, and a Language Relations Questionnaire (LRQ) explores the learners’ perceptions of the relatedness between languages. The results show transfer from L1 English (overt pronouns) and L2 Spanish (null subjects), indicating that L3 transfer can occur from either the L1/L2, depending on the property being acquired (i.e. it is selective). Furthermore, the data shows that the [+SP] group outperform the [-SP] group with null subjects, indicating that reassembling features associated with null subjects is straightforward despite syntactic differences between the languages. In addition, learners’ perceptions of language relatedness do not play an important role for typologically unrelated languages. Therefore, the study concludes that future L3 transfer studies can make more specific predictions regarding the source of transfer if linguistic features are taken into account.
Supervisor: Dominguez, Laura ; Slabakova, Roumyana ; Hicks, Glyn Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available