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The impact of degree of bilingualism on L3 development

English language development in early and later bilinguals in the Frisian context
PhD ceremony:dr. M.T. Günther-van der Meij
When:May 14, 2018
Supervisors:prof. dr. W.M. (Wander) Lowie, prof. C.L.J. de Bot
Co-supervisor:dr. E.L. Klinkenberg
Where:Martinikerk Franeker

Earlier studies have found that bilinguals have an advantage acquiring English as a third language (L3) compared to monolinguals (Lasagabaster, 1997; Cenoz, 1991) and that typology plays a role in successful L3 development (Cenoz, 2003). The main question of this study is whether these claims also hold for bilingual speakers of three closely related West-Germanic languages: Frisian, Dutch and English. Early Frisian-Dutch (EB, N=34) and later Dutch-Frisian (LB, N=43) bilingual young adolescents took part in a series of experiments to study the impact of degree of bilingualism on L3 English development. This was done by looking at three focus points that play a role in L3 development: socio-psychological factors, oral language proficiency and lexical access. These were all measured at three time points in one school year. Background questionnaires were used to see whether EB and LB differ in the amount of language contact and in language learning attitudes and motivation. Picture story tasks were used to describe possible differences in oral language proficiency in the three languages. Two reaction time experiments were used to study participants’ lexical access in word recognition. Results were analysed using a multilevel regression model. Contrary to previous studies, this study’s results show that a higher degree of bilingualism in Frisian and Dutch is not the best predictor of successful L3 development. Other factors such as language background, motivation and language exposure play a more important role. LB turn out to be better English language learners whilst EB turn out to be faster English language learners.