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Degree of Bilingualism and Other Factors Influencing L3 Development

Sun, March 25, 9:10 to 10:40am, Sheraton Grand Chicago, River Exhibit B

Session Submission Type: Poster


This study looks at the influence of early and late bilingualism in L1 and L2 on L3 development in three closely related languages from sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic and developmental perspectives. Results show that degree of bilingualism is not the main predictor of successful L3 development but language exposure and motivation are.


Earlier studies have found bilinguals have an advantage acquiring English as an L3 compared to monolinguals (Lasagabaster, 1997; Cenoz, 1991) and that typology plays a role in successful L3 development (Cenoz, 2003). The main question of this study is whether degree of bilingualism influences third language development in three closely related West-Germanic languages: Frisian, Dutch and English. Early Frisian-Dutch and late Dutch-Frisian bilingual young adolescents (N=77) took part in a series of experiments to study the influence of degree of bilingualism on English development. The influence of bilingualism on L3 development is mostly studied from one perspective; the differentiation between monolinguals and bilinguals measured at one time point. This study looks at several factors that play a role in L3 development from sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic and developmental perspectives. Background questionnaires were used to see whether early and late bilinguals differ in the amount of language contact and in language learning attitudes and motivation. Speaking tasks in the three languages were used to describe possible differences in oral language proficiency. A lexical decision task and a naming task were used to study participants’ lexical access in word recognition. Results were analysed using a mixed model with crossed random effects. Contrary to previous results this study’s results showed that a higher degree of bilingualism in Frisian and Dutch was not the best predictor of successful L3 development. The two participants groups had similar reaction times on the experiments and the speaking tasks’ results showed that late bilinguals had a higher proficiency in English. Hence, other factors such as language background, motivation and language exposure, which were higher amongst the late bilinguals, played a more important role.