Multidirectionality in the Mental Lexicon: A Case Study of Intensive L3 Acquisition

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper, not in proceedingpeer-review


Much of the current work on third language acquisition focuses on modeling the impact from the speaker’s previous language(s). The Typological Primacy Model (Rothman, 2015), which covers holistic forward transfer at the initial state, and the L2 Status Factor (Bardel and Falk, 2012), which proposes forward transfer from a chronologically true L2, only predict effects on subsequently acquired languages.

If we specifically focus on lexical knowledge, we should note that our mental lexicons are in a constant state of change through learning, forgetting, and consolidation throughout the lifespan. Hence, loss should be an integral part of acquisition studies (Sharwood Smith, 1989). To document these fluctuations across languages over time, we need to look beyond binary categorizations of lexical production as correct and incorrect in our analyses of cross- linguistic influence. For the early post-L1 acquisition processes, we could look at some of the subtle changes that take place in the mental lexicon, like implicit lexical associations.

This contribution will be based on a case study of a trilingual adult. She is a native speaker of German, who has relocated to Sweden and is intensively acquiring Swedish. She is relatively fluent in English and uses it extensively in her academic environment. Cross- linguistic influence in the meanings and relationshipss of lexical items in all her three languages were tested for a period of one year from the onset of learning, during which she progressed to CEFR C1 level in Swedish. In addition to testing implicit lexical associations, proficiency and data on global accent were also collected throughout the learning period.

The presentation highlights questions emerging from research on the multilingual mental lexicon and the importance of testing all directions of potential influence in an intensive learning process, including the subtle effects from the subsequent languages onto the conceptual representations of previously acquired languages.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sep 13
EventThe 11th International Conference on Multilingualism and Third Language Acquisition - University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 2018 Sep 132018 Sep 15
Conference number: 11


ConferenceThe 11th International Conference on Multilingualism and Third Language Acquisition
Abbreviated titleIAM L3
Internet address

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
  • Learning


  • Language acquisition
  • cross-linguistic influence


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