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L1 and L2 role assignment in L3 learning. Is there a pattern?

Journal article
Authors Ylva Falk
Christina Lindqvist
Published in International Journal of Multilingualism
Volume 16
Issue 4
Pages 411-424
ISSN 1479-0718
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 411-424
Language en
Keywords Lexical transfer, L3 learning, language switches
Subject categories General Language Studies and Linguistics


This study investigates lexical transfer in four German learners’ oral production of L3 Swedish. They have already learned English as an L2. The point of departure is Williams and Hammarberg’s [1998. Language switches in L3 production: implications for a polyglot speaking model. Applied Linguistics, 19, 295–333] case study in which Swedish was also the L3, but the learner had English as an L1 and German as an L2. Williams and Hammarberg convincingly showed that the background languages played different roles in L3 oral production: L1 English had an instrumental role, while L2 German was assigned a supplier role. The determining factor for the assignment of supplier role was L2 status and of instrumental role common access and established practice. In the present study the model is tested on the same involved languages; but English is the L2 and German the L1. The model would predict that English L2 will be used in both the supplier and the instrumental role. However, the results indicate that this is not the case. Possible explanations are discussed.

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