Longitudinal Aspects of Naturalistic L3 Lexical Acquisition

Thematic Section: Going beyond the initial stages in L3/Ln acquisition research 

L3 acquisition, transfer, L3 development, phonology, syntax, lexicon

Lari-Valtteri Suhonen, Lund University

Interaction of lexical items in the multilingual mental lexicon depends on development. Overt effects dominate at early stages whereas meaning-based cross-linguistic influence (CLI) is more prevalent in advanced learners (Bardel, 2015; Ringbom, 2017). Mental lexicons are in a constant state of change through learning, forgetting, and consolidation throughout the lifespan (Sharwood Smith, 1989).
The present study followed eight adult learners of Swedish (L1 German; L2 English) from beginner to advanced CEFR C1 level. The primary focus was on the effect of the stage of acquisition, aptitude, and psychotypology on the direction and quantity of CLI. Since gradual changes in representation do not necessarily lead to overt, noticeable changes in production, the experiments were designed to tap into the learner’s unconscious representation and processing. Schmid and Köpke (2017) suggest that research should look at all directions of CLI in multilingual language acquisition. In the present study, all six potential directions of CLI (i.e., forward, lateral, and reverse) were tested throughout the learning process.
The primary dependent measure was a word-pair similarity perception task (modeled after Jiang, 2002) where the participants rated concrete noun pairs that vary in their level of relatedness across the speaker’s languages. Two measures were collected: response times (cost) and similarity ratings (Likert 1-7 on a button box). Focus was on the change of these over time. The participants acted as their own controls.
Preliminary results show fluctuation in both throughout learning. In L1 to L3 forward CLI, reduction in ratings came at the cost of processing time. For L2 to L3 lateral CLI, after initial increase, both processing cost and ratings reduced over time. In L3 to L2 lateral CLI, at the end state there is little inhibition attempt and an increase in ratings. For L3 to L1 reverse CLI, both cost and ratings increased over time.