Cross-linguistic influence in third language production among Kiswahili learners
Masengo, Innocent Jacodah
MetadataShow full item record
This study focuses on generative third language, L3) production of thirty five Makerere University “Advanced” Kiswahili learners aged between 19 and 24 who previously acquired L1 Runyankore and L2 English and are currently acquiring L3 Kiswahili. The study specifically examines cross-linguistic influence from L1 Runyankore and L2 English on L3 Kiswahili production of nasal sounds. I test the role of proficiency, typology and the “alleged’ status of the second language, L2 (in this case English) in transfer to L3 speech. Data were collected using a biographical questionnaire, placement tests, and speech recordings. Data from the questionnaire led to the selection a homogenous group of participants from among 159 Kiswahili learners from 24 different ethnolinguistic backgrounds. Placement tests enabled us to determine the proficiency levels of learners and categorize them according to the set proficiency thresholds guided by the Linguistic Threshold Model in the sense of Lasagabaster (1998). The speech recordings were acoustically measured to determine nasals syllabicity or lack thereof, and such production phenomena were compared to the proficiency scores to determine the influence of proficiency in L1 Runyankore, L2 English and L3 Kiswahili on L3 Kiswahili speech. I interpreted our findings using the Ontogeny and Phylogeny Model (Major, 2001). Results indicate that the L1-Runyankore is the main source of transfer in L3 Kiswahili speech. L1 Runyankore influence of L3 Kiswahili is both negative and positive. Negative influence stemmed from low proficiency in the L1 and the L3 while positive influence is facilitated by intermediate to high proficiency in all the three languages, mediated by L1-L3 typology proximity. The most notable observation from this study is the negative effect of subtractive bilingualism on third language, L3 phonological production, which has both theoretical and didactic implications. Theoretically, although our findings partly support the L1 Status, L2 Status and typology proximity models, they depart in their realization in a subtractive bilingual context. Didactically, findings support the focus on multilingualism approach to L3 acquisition in the sense of Cenoz (2011). This suggests that the replacement of the L1 with the L2 (often the first foreign language) in the school system negatively affects the language acquisition process of additional languages as it denies learners the opportunity to benefit from the positive effects of additive bilingualism on cognition and learning.