Source Language of Lexical Transfer in Multilingual Learners : A Mixed Methods Approach

Abstract: The study reported in this thesis investigates the source language of lexical transfer in multilingual learners using a mixed methods approach. Previous research has shown that the source language of crosslinguistic influence can be related to factors such as proficiency, recency/exposure, psychotypology, the L2 status, and item-specific transferability. The present study employed a mixed methods approach in order to best serve the particularities of each of the five factors under investigation. Multinomial logistic regression was emloyed to test the predictive power of the first four factors, thereby addressing the issue of confounding variables found in previous studies. A more exploratory qualitative analysis was used to investigate item-specific transferability due to the lack of prior empirical studies focusing on this aspect. Both oral and written data were collected, offering an analysis of modal differences in direct comparison. The results show a significant effect of proficiency and exposure, but inconsistent patterns for psychotypology. Most importantly, in this study of lexical transfer, a significant L1 status effect was found, rather than an L2 status effect. In addition, the statistical model predicted the source language of transfer better in the spoken than in the written mode. Finally, learners were found to assess, as well as actively improve, an item’s transferability in relation to target language norms and constraints. All of these findings contribute to our understanding of lexical organization, activation, and access in the multilingual mind. 

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