Edited by Boping Yuan and Yanyu Guo
[Journal of Second Language Studies 3:2] 2020
► pp. 261–289
This study investigates transfer effects and later development in English-Cantonese bilinguals’ L3 Mandarin grammar. Three types of Mandarin sentence-final particle clusters are involved as the target structures. The results show that L3 learners with the knowledge of Cantonese behave in a less native-like way than their English-speaking L2 counterparts on the illicit Mandarin cluster [*de le/* le de] that has a licit corresponding cluster in Cantonese, and outperform their L2 counterparts on the licit Mandarin cluster [le ne] that has a Cantonese equivalent. This is regarded as strong evidence of transfer effects from Cantonese, which is typologically and structurally more similar to Mandarin than English. We hence argue that L3 initial transfer is not determined by the order of the languages previously acquired but the structural similarity. More importantly, our study shows that transfer effects can be facilitative as well as detrimental. In addition, our data cross different proficiency levels show that factors such as the learning situation (learning or unlearning), word frequency and form-meaning relationship can influence the success of acquisition of a specific property in the L3.