The relationship between L3 transfer and structural similarity across development

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The present study examines three competing models of morphosyntactic transfer in third language (L3) acquisition, examining the particular domain of the feature configuration of embedded T in L3 Brazilian Portuguese (BP) at the initial stages and then through development. The methodology alternates Spanish and English as the L1 and L2 to tease apart the source of transfer to L3 BP. Results from a scalar grammaticality acceptability task show unequivocal transfer of Spanish irrespective of Spanish’s status as an L1 or L2. The data thus support the Typological Primacy Model (Rothman 2010, 2011, 2013a, 2013b), which proposes that multilingual transfer is selected by factors related to comparative structural similarity. Given that Spanish transfer at the L3 initial stages creates the need for feature reconfiguration to converge on the target BP grammar, the second part of this chapter examines the developmental consequences of what the TPM models in cases of non-facilitative initial transfer, that is, the developmental path of feature reconfiguration of embedded T in L3 BP by English/Spanish bilinguals. Given what these data reveal, we address the role of regressive transfer as a correlate of L3 proficiency gains.


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