Cross-linguistic Influence in Multilingual Acquisition (CLIMA)

Cross-linguistic Influence in Multilingual Acquisition (CLIMA)

CLIMA  student of languages
Foto: Thor Nielsen/NTNU

Acquiring multiple languages is extremely common. CLIMA addresses resesarch gaps in multilingualism concerning the role of cross-linguistic influence (CLI) and learner-internal factors in third language acquisition (L3A). An ongoing debate concerns the question of how previously learned languages affect acquisition of the grammar of an L3, and of the source and nature of CLI on morphosyntactic structures in L3A.

We investigate L3A of word order, specifically placement of finite verbs, which is central to language competence. Verb placement has been studied previously in L3A research, but different studies have found contradictory evidence with respect to CLI over the course of acquisition.

Our participants have different combinations of three out of five languages (Norwegian, English, German, French, and Spanish) which differ systematically with regard to verb placement. We investigate the influence of these linguistic differences, as well as of learner-internal factors. We furthermore ask whether the previous inconclusive results may in part be due to methodological differences.

CLIMA is unique in three ways:

  1. It is a large-scale study of participants for whom the combinations of first, second, and third language differ systematically, and whose languages are combined in one project for the first time.
  2. It has a stronger focus on the properties of prior language knowledge than previous studies, both in terms of second-language proficiency and use, and of metalinguistic knowledge.
  3. It has a particular focus on methodology and triangulates experimental methods to avoid an unwanted association between methods and outcomes.

CLIMA has implications for our understanding of the human language learning capacity in general and of multilingualism in particular, as well as for additional language learning and teaching.