Asymmetric transfer and development of temporal-aspectual sentence-final particles in English-Cantonese bilinguals’ L3 Mandarin grammars
Aiming to shed new light on the discussion on transfer at initial stages of third language (L3) acquisition and development at later stages, this article reports on an empirical study of L3 acquisition of Mandarin temporal-aspectual sentence-final particles (SFPs) le, ne and láizhe by English speaking and English-Cantonese bilingual learners, at both low and high proficiency levels. Cantonese is typologically and structurally closer to Mandarin than English is. Our findings show obvious facilitative effects on le by its Cantonese counterpart in English-Cantonese bilingual learners’ L3 Mandarin, which supports the L3 models that advocate the deterministic role of structural similarity in the transfer source selection. A transfer asymmetry is observed between the cases of le and láizhe. No transfer effects are found in the L3 Mandarin data of láizhe, even though it has an equivalent SFP in Cantonese. This discrepancy is argued to be attributable to input factors and misleading forms. Moreover, patterns observed over different proficiency levels indicate that the quality and quantity of input and the register property of a particular SFP can greatly affect initial transfer and later development of L3 acquisition.
Keywords: L3 transfer, L3 development, Mandarin, sentence-final particles
Published online: 26 November 2021
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