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Third language acquisition at the initial stages: An event-related potential study probing for transfer

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Giulia Bovolenta.

In this talk, we first offer a brief introduction to the formal linguistic study of morphosyntactic transfer in third language (L3) acquisition. To this end, we will offer a research synthesis of 64 studies attempting to understand which theories explain the data best as a whole and which research practices seem to correlate with particular outcomes in available studies (Puig-Mayenco, González Alonso & Rothman, submitted). The study of transfer at the initial stages of L3 acquisition is important as it contributes to a more fine-grained understanding of (i) how the mind-brain represents language and (ii) how cognitive economy is a deterministic variable in acquisition processes more generally, yet to date L3 studies have used only a limited set of behavioural experimental testing metjods. The second part of this talk aims to demonstrate how L3 transfer studies can benefit from a neuro/psycholinguistic methodological approach, particularly concerning event-related potential (ERP) experiments (see Rothman, Alemán Bañón & González Alonso, 2015). In this vein, we will introduce a collaborative, on-going L3 ERP project that makes use of a set of artificial mini-grammars to examine L3 acquisition of grammatical (gender) agreement at the very initial stages of transfer, comparing and contrasting L1 Romance-L2 English and L1 English-L2 Romance speakers. We argue that such a methodology, especially when combined with the behavioural literature, can adjudicate between current articulations of the central proposals of L3 acquisition to date, namely the L2 Status Factor (Bardel & Falk, 2007; Bardel & Sánchez, 2017), the Cumulative Enhancement Model (Flynn, et al. 2004; Bérkes & Flynn, 2012), and the Typological Primacy Model (Rothman, 2011;2015) in a way that behavioral methodologies alone have not been able to do.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Linguistic Society (LingSoc) series.

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