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Volume 16 Number 1, Spring 2019, Pages 1-447   

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The Role of L3 in the Interpretation of Articles with Definite Plurals in L2 English

    Hee-Don Ahn & Haejin Jang

Recent developments in the acquisition of third languages (L3A) have only placed an emphasis on the influence of L1 or L2 on L3A (forward transfer). However, this study investigated the role of L1 or L3 in L2A (backward transfer), by focusing on cross-linguistic variations in generic interpretation on plural NPs. We examined how multilingual (L2 and L3) learners interpret nominals in generic contexts. Two experiments (an acceptability judgement task and a truth value judgement task) are conducted to investigate the influence of L1 and L3 on L2A (English) by third language (L3) learners. We looked at whether these learners exhibit backward transfer in the acquisition of generic NPs in English. The results of the two experiments suggest that the influence of L3 is more significant in L2A of English than that of L1. Therefore, in terms of backward transfer, the results are more supportive of the Foreign Language Effect which implies that cognitive similarities play an important role in L2A for L3 learners. In conclusion, for those multilinguals, it is important to factor the L3 (high foreignness) influence when acquiring L2 (high foreignness) because L3 transfer is more important than L1 (non-foreign) transfer.

Keywords: L2/L3 acquisition, forward/backward transfer, generic plural NPs