Transfer and typological proximity in the context of L2 processing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In this article, the issue of cross-linguistic influence in second language acquisition is examined from a processing perspective. Applying Processability Theory as the theoretical framework we claim that second language (L2) learners can only produce forms they are able to process.We thus argue that the first language (L1) influence on the L2 is developmentally moderated. Data were collected from German L2 learners with Swedish as their L1. Twenty informants participated in the study, 10 in their first year of German (13 years of age) and 10 in their second year of German (14 years of age). Both languages involved are typologically very close but not mutually intelligible. The results show that Swedish learners of German do not transfer the verb-second structure from their L1 to the L2 even though this structure is identical in both languages.Instead they start out with canonical word order and subsequently produce an intermediate structure (adv NPsubj V X), which is ungrammatical in the L1 and the L2. These observations support the idea of a developmentally moderated transfer. The results clearly contradict the predictions from the 'full transfer/full access' hypothesis (Schwartz and Sprouse, 1994; 1996).


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-273
JournalSecond Language Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Linguistics and Phonetics (015010003)