Transfer and interdependence in multilingual writing from a usage-based perspective

Thematic Section: Transfer and interdependence in bi- and multilingual migrant students: Investigating the factors associated with multilingual writing skills

multiliteracy, heritage languages, transfer, interdependence, multicompetence

Nikolas Koch, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

The paper argues in favor of applying a usage-based perspective (Goldberg 2006) to discuss the relation between interdependence and transfer from L1 to L2 and vice versa. In this context, we collected a corpus of narrative and argumentative texts in L1 and L2 written by bilingual adolescents in Germany and a bilingual language awareness test. The data encompass 174 bilingual 9th and 10th graders with Italian, Greek or Turkish as L1 and German as an (early) L2. In a first step, we will define global assessment scores for written texts where we focus on routine-based macrostructural features (textual procedures according to Feilke 2014, 2020). These scores are correlated according to text genre, language (L1 or L2) and language awareness. The results indicate a significant correlation between textual competences in both languages. Moreover, we identified a high correlation between text level scores and scores of the language awareness test.
To find out whether these results are an indicator for interdependence or transfer processes from one language to the other, we conducted a qualitative analysis with regard to the realization of textual procedures. We start from the assumption that textual procedures are rendered by a specific repertoire of constructions in a particular language grammar. If these lexico-grammatical patterns are not entrenched in a specific language (due to the lack of usage, cf. Schmid 2020) the other language constructions are copied into the language system.
We can show that writers who have acquired the respective action schema to indicate a particular textual function in one language are able to apply this knowledge to all language systems of their repertoire. We argue that the knowledge about textual procedures is an interdependent proficiency while the constructions rendering it on the linguistic surface are language specific and as such subject to transfer.