A Comparative Study on Syntactic Transfer in L2 and L3 school-aged English learners in Sweden : The acquisition of the English existential expletive subject

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Engelska institutionen


Various studies have indicated during the past decade that language transfer in L3 may not only stem from L1 but from L2 as well, and that it might sometimes even be stronger from L2, depending on certain factors that facilitate or inhibit transfer. This phenomenon of L2 as the main transfer source in L3 has often been referred to as the ”L2 status factor” (Hammarberg, 2001). The L2 status factor hypothesis expects that the priorly acquired language which scores the highest in several transfer factors will adopt the role of ”external supplier language” (Hammarberg, 2001), i.e. it will be the main source of transfer providing L3 with linguistic features. Namely, the factors that have hitherto been proposed to condition transfer are: typology, psychotypology, proficiency, and psychoaffective factors. The aim of this investigation is to compare the transfer that two groups might exhibit with regard to the English existential expletive pronoun (there), in order to account to whether transfer in L3 might be stronger from L2 than from L1 in this syntactic context. One group consists of subjects with different L1s, L2 Swedish and L3 English; the other is formed by L1 Swedish and L2 English speakers. The informants are aged 13-14, speak the L1s and Swedish (nearly) fluently and English at a basic/intermediate level. Basing the study on the L2 status factor hypothesis, and taking several transfer factors into consideration when analyzing the collected written data, the results are discussed both from a general perspective (from aggregate group scores) and from a micro-perspective (by tracing individual differences). The results obtained suggest that transfer in L3 appears to be stronger from L2 than from L1 when evaluating the aggregate group scores, but only in some cases (and not in most) when examining the individuals separately.

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