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Review of  Cross-linguistic Influence in Third Language Acquisition

Reviewer: Matthew Finkbeiner
Book Title: Cross-linguistic Influence in Third Language Acquisition
Book Author: Jasone Cenoz Ulrike Jessner Britta Hufeisen
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Book Announcement: 13.780

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Cenoz, Jasone, Britta Hufeisen, and Ulrike Jessner, ed.
(2001) Cross-linguistic Influence in Third Language
Acquisition: Psycholinguistic Perspectives. Multilingual
Matters, v+197pp, hardback ISBN 1-85359-549-7, GBP 29.95,
USD 44.95, Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 31

Matthew Finkbeiner, University of Arizona

The study of "Cross-linguistic influence" (i.e.
"transfer" or "interference") has a long tradition in
the second language acquisition (SLA) and bilingual
processing literatures. Relatively little, though,
has been written on how already-established L1 and L2
systems interact with and affect third language
acquisition. This book presents for the first time a
collection of papers focusing on the psycholinguistic
aspects of cross-linguistic influence (CLI) in third
language acquisition (TLA). This book (_CLI in TLA_)
addresses a very interesting and important topic and
will certainly be of interest to those who are doing
research in bilingual processing and/or the
psycholinguistic aspects of SLA.

The research in _CLI in TLA_ addresses factors
previously found to contribute to CLI in SLA and
uniquely investigates those factors in a third
language acquisition context. Some of these factors
are: perceived typological distances between
languages ("psychotypology"), L2 status, recency,
proficiency, and age. Each of the 10 chapters in _CLI
in TLA_ addresses at least one of these factors in
their investigations of CLI. Given the recency of
this area of investigation, it is not surprising that
the research reported in many of the chapters is
preliminary in nature. It is also not surprising that
much of the discussion in this volume is descriptive
in nature. It is just too early for there to be any
explanatory models upon which one may base their
research. Nevertheless, the volume as a whole serves
well to stimulate discussion and further research in
this new and exciting area of psycholinguistic

OVERVIEW: Each chapter presents at least one study
written up in a clear "Methods -- Results -- Discussion"
format. The introduction of the book states that the
research presented in each chapter is original, but it
appears that a few of the chapters are
reformulations of previous work. Due to the edited-
volume format, many of the chapters are too condensed
to address the topic specific to that chapter
adequately, but the discussions and "upshots" are
clear in each chapter. The book has both a subject-
and author-index, and each chapter has its own
reference section.

CHAPTER 1: The effect of linguistic distance, L2
status and age on cross-linguistic influence in third
language acquisition

In this chapter, Jasone Cenoz reports a study of 90
elementary students, whose first language was either
Basque, Spanish or Basque and Spanish. She had
participants tell a story depicted in pictures in
their L3 (English), and instances of transfer were
recorded. The following set of questions served to
motivate the study:

1) Is cross-linguistic influence in English as L3
affected by age?
2) Which is the source language of transfer in English
oral production?
3) Does cross-linguistic influence affect content and
function words?
4) How is cross-linguistic influence related to the
subjects' first language?
5) How are terms taken from Basque and Spanish adapted
into English?

This is too much to address adequately in just 10
pages of text, and the chapter suffers from a lack of
sufficient treatment for the topics at hand.
Nevertheless, the chapter does present a set of
findings that square well with what others have found
in this newly developing literature. For example,
Cenoz reports that participants favored to transfer L2
items more than L1 items during L3 production unless
this strategy was in conflict with participants'
proclivity to make use of Spanish as the source of
their transfers. In line with previous work, Cenoz
argues that this is because Spanish is typologically
closer to English than Basque is and that the
influence of linguistic distance is stronger in CLI
effects than is L2 status.

CHAPTER 2: Roles of L1 and L2 in L3 production and

In Chapter 2, Bjorn Hammarberg presents a case study
based upon a longitudinal study that he has done with
Sarah Williams. The focus of Hammarberg's study is on
the types of switches that Sarah, a polyglot learning
Swedish as an L3, made during their conversations. He
identifies seven different types of switches: EDIT,
(Without Identified Pragmatic Purpose). The first six
of these categories comprise those switches that have
pragmatic purpose, whereas switches belonging to the
last category (WIPP) occur simply as part of the
utterance formulation in L3. Interestingly, the
source language for Sarah's switches belonging to the
first six categories tended to be English (L1), while
the source language for the WIPP switches tended to be
German (L2). Hammarberg argues that these data
support the notion that L1 and L2 occupy different
roles in L3 production. L1 occupies the "instrumental
role," which dominates in pragmatically functional
language shifts designed to support communicative
interaction or vocabulary acquisition. L2, on the
other hand, occupies the "supplier role," which is
dominant in the learner's construction of new L3 words
and articulatory patterns. Hammarberg appeals to
various different language production models (e.g.
Levelt (1989) and De Bot (1992)) in his formulation of
a possible explanation for these findings.

CHAPTER 3: Interlanguage transfer and competing
linguistic systems in the multilingual mind

Chapter 3 presents a study by Gessica De Angelis and
Larry Selinker of two subjects with Italian as their
L3. One subject was interviewed and another presented
prepared reports. The authors found that their
subjects exhibited cross-linguistic interference in
the form of lexical and morphological transfer, and
that this was limited to transfer of formal
properties, not meaning. Additionally, they found
that "interlanguage" (or L2) items were the source of
the transfers instead of the native language. The
authors argue that this is because multilinguals form
an association between foreign words and that this
association does not include L1 words. They argue
that it is reasonable to assume that, "in normal
circumstances learners do not want to sound as if they
are speaking their native language [and that] the use
of an interlanguage, perceived by the speaker as
'foreign', may well be preferred over the use of the
native language because it 'sounds' more foreign than
the native language does" (p. 56). The authors use
this rationale to motivate their proposal for a
"cognitive mode" called "talk foreign," which "eases
the path of interlanguage transfer" (p. 56).

CHAPTER 4: Lexical transfer in L3 production

In Chapter 4, Hakan Ringbom discusses his 1987 study
of 577 native Finnish speakers and 577 native Swedish
speakers who were learning English as an L3. Ringbom
analyzed the errors that participants made on a
written translation task. An interesting pattern of
results emerged from his analysis. Ringbom found that
participants' L2 tended to serve as the source for
form-based errors, and that participants' L1 tended to
serve as the source for meaning-based errors. Ringbom
takes these findings to mean that learners have not
integrated the meanings of L2 lexical items into their
lexicon as well as they have the meanings of L1
lexical items.

CHAPTER 5: Activation or inhibition? The interaction
of L1, L2 and L3 on the language mode continuum

In this chapter, Jean-Marc Dewaele presents a study of
25 Dutch-French-English trilinguals. Subjects were
recorded in both formal and informal settings.
Dewaele found that the formality of the situation
affected subjects' position on the "language mode
continuum -- that is, subjects tended to produce fewer
mixed utterances in the more formal situation, and
more mixed utterances in the less formal situation.
Dewaele took the fact that subjects appear able to
adjust their position along a language mode continuum
depending on the formality of the situation as support
for Grosjean's (2001) model of language mode. The
author does admit, though, that other competing models
of bilingual language production could account for the
data too.

CHAPTER 6: Lexical retrieval in a third language:
Evidence from errors and tip-of-the-tongue states

In this chapter, Peter Ecke makes use of the tip-of-
the-tongue phenomenon to investigate lexical retrieval
strategies of L3 learners. He investigated 24 new
learners of German (L3) who had Spanish as their L1
and English as their L2. Ecke found two different
patterns in his data with respect to CLI effects in L3
production. When subjects persisted in a +TOT state
(know the correct word, but can't produce it), he
found that there was minimal L1 or L2 influence. That
is, when subjects were not able to retrieve the
appropriate L3 item, they were still able to suppress
L1 and L2 items as possible candidates. When subjects
made errors, though, the source language tended to be
L2 rather than L1. The author interprets these
findings to mean that learners have less control over
their L2 and, thus, are less able to suppress it when
doing a lexical search in L3.

CHAPTER 7: Plurilingual lexical organisation:
Evidence from lexical processing in L1-L2-L3-L4

Chapter 7 presents a study done by Anna Herwig with
four multilingual university students. Herwig had her
participants write a story, which they were then asked
to translate. Herwig's translation task is certainly
unique in this literature. She had participants think
aloud as they translated from one language to a second
one and then finally to a third one. Herwig claims
that this methodology provides "solid evidence of the
validity of the concept of spreading-activation at
different cognitive levels" (p. 125) and, how the
plurilingual lexicon is organized. Herwig argues that
the associative chains that participants articulated
during this task revealed that lexical selection
involves both automatic and deliberate consultation of
several languages at several different cognitive
levels. Herwig draws upon both psycholinguistic and
neurolinguistic perspectives on lexical organization
to explain her findings, as well as to propose a
unifying model that "comprehensively explain[s]
language processing in plurilingual individuals" (p.

CHAPTER 8: Learners of German as an L3 and their
production of German prepositional verbs

This chapter presents a study of 64 participants by
Martha Gibson, Britta Hufeisen and Gary Libben.
Participants were asked to provide the appropriate
preposition for each of 33 verbs (e.g. "to" for
"Listen ______"). The authors found that participants
with German as an L2 did just as well as those with
German as an L3. They also found that participants
whose L1 had verb-preposition constructions similar to
German did no better than those participants whose L1
did not have similar verb-preposition constructions.
Other comparisons of interest did not reach
statistical significance do to the small N problem
that plagues many of the studies reported in this
volume. The "upshot" of this chapter was that (1)
learners of German with an already-established L2 did
not outperform those who were learning German as their
first L2, (2) having an L1 similar to German made no
difference in learners' performance, and (3) the
similarity of German to English did not benefit those
with English as an L2. It was not clear from this
study which linguistic system (L1 or L2) served as the
source of the most CLI in L3 performance.

CHAPTER 9: Too close for comfort? Sociolinguistic
transfer from Japanese into Korean as an L3

Here, Robert Fouser presents an introspective study of
2 learners of Korean as an L3 and L5 respectively.
Fouser's research questions were as follows:

1) Given the syntactic, morphological, lexical and
sociolinguistic similarities between the Japanese and
Korean, how did the learners' experience of having
acquired Japanese affect subsequent acquisition of

2) Did the learners' acquisition of Korean and
comparatively long residence in Korea affect their
competence in Japanese?

3) What subjective states did the learners bring to
their language learning, and how do they define
language learning as an activity?

Again, the small N in this study makes it impossible
to generalize the findings. Fouser does argue,
though, that his findings provide answers to his
research questions. He claims that his participants
drew upon their knowledge of Japanese to achieve basic
proficiency in Korean. His participants indicated
that their knowledge of Japanese "helped more than
[it] hindered their acquisition of Korean" (p. 167).
Fouser reports that his participants' knowledge of
Korean did not affect their use of Japanese. And
finally, both participants "showed keen awareness of
their language learning processes [which] helped them
to be selective in drawing on their Japanese in using
Korean..." (p.167).

CHAPTER 10: New uses for old language: Cross-
linguistic and cross-gestural influence in the
narratives of non-native speakers

In this concluding chapter, Eric Kellerman suggests a
new area that research in SLA and TLA could pursue --
narratives. Kellerman argues that the narrative
provides researchers with the opportunity to
investigate the interface between language and
cognition. Kellerman suggests three areas that
research on narratives could pursue: (1)
investigation of how the lexicalization patterns of
motion events in one language might affect
lexicalization patterns in another; (2) investigation
of the transferability of gestural patterns between
language contexts; and (3) the use of metaphor(s) in
the expression of emotion.

_CLI in TLA_ presents for the first time a collection
of articles dedicated to psycholinguistic
investigations of CLI in third language acquisition.
This area of research is very new, and _CLI in TLA_
shows very nicely that there is still much to be
learned about the similarities and differences between
SLA and TLA. Presumably due to the newness of this
field, researchers have not yet developed a cohesive
set of questions to address or methodologies to
employ. Most of the studies reported in _CLI in TLA_
made use of a wide variety of language production
tasks to investigate a wide range of questions. As a
result, it is difficult to draw any general
conclusions from the present volume. Nevertheless,
researchers working in this area will certainly
benefit from reading this volume as it provides the
groundwork for future research.

Matthew Finkbeiner is a doctoral candidate in the
second language acquisition and cognitive science
programs at the University of Arizona. His research
has focused on bilingual lexical processing.


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