Testing the Developmentally Moderated Transfer Hypothesis
The initial state and the role of the L2 in L3 acquisition*
This paper focuses on one specific aspect of the Developmentally Moderated Transfer Hypothesis (Pienemann et al. 2005), namely the role of the L2 in L3 acquisition. The research presented in this paper was prompted by the L2 transfer hypothesis put forward by Bohnacker (2006) and Bardel and Falk (2007). According to this hypothesis, learners transfer features from the L2 to the L3, but not from the L1 to the L3. This proposal is partly in conflict with the Developmentally Moderated Transfer Hypothesis which predicts that learners transfer features from the L1 or the L2 to the new language when they are developmentally ready to acquire the features to be transferred, but not before.The articles by Bohnacker (2006) and Bardel and Falk (2007) are attempted rebuttals of Håkansson, et al.’s (2002) work on L1 transfer and aspects of the underlying theory: Processability Theory (Pienemann 1998). The article by Håkansson, et al. presented empirical evidence showing that Swedish learners of L2 German do not transfer V2 at the initial state although both are V2 languages. Bohnacker (2006) and Bardel and Falk (2007) claim that the non-transfer of V2 is due to the influence of the L2. They further claim to have shown in their own study that the initial L3 word order is determined by the L2, irrespective of the structure of the L1 and independently from constraints on processability.In their response to Bohnacker (2006), Pienemann and Håkansson (2007) demonstrated that Bohnacker’s informants had reached an advanced level of acquisition and that this set of data was not suitable to test hypotheses about transfer in the initial state.In this paper we review the study by Bardel and Falk (2007) and present the gist of an extensive replication of this study. We show that Bardel and Falk’s study is based on a very limited database and on theoretical concepts that lack validity, in particular the notion of a “strongest L2” which is crucial to Bardel and Falk’s approach.Our replication study shows that the initial L3 word order and the initial position of negation is neither determined by the L1 nor by the L2 and that it can be predicted on the basis of processability.
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