Eliane Lorenz

(University of Hamburg)

“One day a father and his son going fishing on the Lake.” – Traceable differences in the use of the progressive aspect in English of learners with differing heritage languages

Can one find contrasts in the acquisition and use of tense and aspect when looking at learners with different heritage languages? Do native Russian, Turkish, or Vietnamese speakers perform significantly different than bilingual speakers as opposed to German monolingual speakers when acquiring English? Is it an advantage or maybe even a disadvantage for studying foreign languages when a child grows up in a country where a language other than the heritage language is spoken, in comparison to a monolingual child? Or does the first language not have any influence and only the L2 transfers to the new foreign language? The current study tries to address these questions while focusing on the progressive aspect and aims to show that there are indeed differences between these groups and that the heritage language of the learners of English (among other variables) influences the performance in the new foreign language.

Being aware of the ongoing debate in the area of third language acquisition and the differing theories with regard to whether L1 or L2 or both influence the acquisition of an L3 (cf. De Angelis 2007; Siemund 2017), I certainly don’t want to devalue the influence of the L2; however, I want to argue against hard statements such as “in L3 acquisition, the L2 acts like a filter, making L1 inaccessible” (Bardel & Falk 2007: 480). Typically, many of these studies that come up with such remarks focus exclusively on one aspect of language, such as word order or vocabulary, and work with a limited number of participants only (cf. Bardel & Falk 2007). This is mainly due to practical reasons and the current paper also looks only into one feature and that is the progressive aspect. Yet, this merely allows one to draw a conclusion for that particular subfield and not for the entire acquisition process. With the help of a larger sample (n=206), it is the intention to provide evidence that not only the L2 but also the L1 can influence the performance in the L3: the learners of English can profit from their heritage language when using the progressive aspect in a written task.

De Angelis, Gessica (2007). Third or Additional Language Acquisition. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Bardel, Camilla and Ylva Falk (2007). “The role of the second language in third language acquisition: the case of Germanic syntax.” Second Language Research 23: 4. 459-484.

Siemund, Peter (2017). “Englisch als weitere Sprache im Kontext herkunftsbedingter Mehrsprachigkeit.“ In: Joana Duarte, Ingrid Gogolin, Thorsten Klinger, Birger Schnoor, and Marina Trebbels (eds.). Sprachentwicklung im Kontext von Mehrsprachigkeit – Hypothesen, Methoden, Forschungsperspektiven. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.