Studies in third language acquisition (L3) add an exciting dimension to the field of language acquisition and present many interesting lines of research. One issue unique to L3 acquisition is the effect of second language (L2) experience on L3 acquisition. Because L3 learners have already experienced the process of language acquisition, it seems likely that the experiences, knowledge, and skills they may have gained while learning an L2 would transfer to, and even enhance, their ability to acquire an L3. It also seems reasonable to believe that the type of language previously studied would have an effect on learners' abilities to acquire additional languages of a similar type. Many research studies have affirmed these theories showing that L3 learners have an advantage in language learning which is absent in L2 learners. Other studies have shown L2 typology, level of proficiency, and extent of L2 experience to be contributing factors in adult L3 learners who had studied French or Spanish as an L2 for varying lengths of time, and were studying French, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, or Russian as an L3. Participants' L2 experience, including length of study and language type, was compared to their scores on an L3 speaking assessment consisting of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and fluency ratings. A linear stepwise multiple regression analysis showed a modest trend in which length of L2 experience did have an effect on L3 acquisition. Although this trend did not achieve statistical significance, a hypothetical analysis showed that the trend became significant with the omission of three outliers. An analysis of variance demonstrated that type of language experience did not significantly affect L3 acquisition since participants from all five L3 groups received comparable scores on the speaking assessment. Another analysis of variance, however, showed language type to be a highly significant factor in the acquisition of L3 pronunciation. The results of the study suggest that length of L2 exposure does seem to affect L3 acquisition to some extent, although the trend found from the data was modest. The study also concluded that language typology was not a significant contributing factor in L3 acquisition, with the exception of its effect on the acquisition of L3 pronunciation.



College and Department

Humanities; Center for Language Studies



Date Submitted


Document Type





L3, Third Language, Typology, L2 Type, Second Language Type, L3 Type, Third Language Type, Length of L2, Length of Second Language, L3 Pronunciation, Third Language Pronunciation