Forum on 15: Jennifer Cabrelli – The role of background languages in the acquisition of a third language

Date / Time

October 15, 2019 - October 15, 2019

4:00 pm - 5:00 pm


While third language (L3) acquisition has historically been viewed as an extension of second language (L2) acquisition, a growing body of research shows that L3 learners have superior metalinguistic knowledge and access to more linguistic options compared with L2 learners. Much of L3 research has sought to uncover which variable(s) determine how learners use their existing language systems at the onset of L3 acquisition. In this talk, I will present data from different profiles of English/Spanish bilinguals acquiring Portuguese as an L3. The data show that these L3 learners initially transfer the more similar language (i.e., Spanish) regardless of whether Spanish is a first, second, or heritage language. While these bilinguals pattern similarly at the beginning of Portuguese acquisition; however, the data also reveal that their developmental path differs in a) rate of acquisition and b) stability of the existing Spanish system depending on age of acquisition of Spanish. Jennifer Cabrelli will discuss the implications of these findings for classroom learners of a third language, specifically how best to leverage (and maintain) previous linguistic knowledge when learning a third (or more) language.

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