Cross linguistic influence in adult L2/L3 learners: The case of French on English Morphosyntax

King Tat Daniel Fung, Victoria A. Murphy


Abstract—The potential ways in which learning a second or third language can influence other languages in the mind of the (emergent) bilingual is an increasingly important issue given the international importance of foreign language learning.  This study explored whether learning French as a foreign language influences knowledge of English morphosyntax in learners of L2 French with L1 English (n=21) and learners of L3 French with L2 English (n=9).  Comparing these two groups allowed us to identify whether and to what extent backwards cross linguistic influence (CLI) are different depending on whether French is L2 or L3, and whether English is L1 or L2.  Accuracy on tense-aspects of English morphosyntax was measured through two tasks (Grammaticality Judgement and Proofreading). Results indicated no inhibitive influence from L2 French to L1 English, with potential enhancement of explicit knowledge when compared to a control group of English-speaking participants with no French. In contrast, influence leading to inaccuracy was observed from L3 French to L2 English in that the L3 French learners made more errors in past simple and present perfect in the GJT. Results are discussed in the context of better understanding the nature of developing grammatical systems, together with implications for future work.


cross-linguistic influence, language transfer, backward transfer, multi-competence, multilingualism, second language acquisition, third language acquisition, implicit knowledge, explicit knowledge

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