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Processes in Third Language Acquisition

Edited by Björn Hammarberg

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This volume brings together six case studies of an adult multilingual speaker who acquires a new language through social interaction. The book deals especially with the multilingual situation, the learner's acquisitional activities, and the involvement of background languages in the process of speaking. It offers a coherent study of various linguistic phenomena in one individual, including patterns and functions of language switching, word search in interaction, hypothetical construction of words, and articulatory settings in speaking. The main languages involved are English (L1), German (L2) and Swedish (L3). The activation of these languages in the learner's speech is examined in a cognitive perspective in relation to current models of the speaking process. A longitudinal corpus of NNS-NS conversations covering 21 months from the beginner stage provides the main data for these studies.

Key Features

  • Presents an example of an active and purposeful language acquirer
  • Explores cross-linguistic influence in a multilingual setting
  • Highlights the significance of prior L2 knowledge in L3 performance
  • Useful for students and researchers interested in second and third language acquisition, individual multilingualism and the human speaking process.


1. Introduction
2. A study of third language acquisition
3. Language switches in L3 production: implications for a polyglot speaking model
4. The learner's word acquisition attempts in conversation
5. Re-setting the basis of articulation in the acquisition of new languages
6. Roles of L1 and L2 in L3 production and acquisition
7. Activation of L1 and L2 in L3 production: a comparison of two case studies
8. The factor 'perceived crosslinguistic similarity' in third-language production.

About the Author

Björn Hammarberg is Professor Emeritus in General Linguistics at Stockholm University, Sweden. He has published widely in the area of second language acquisition focusing particularly on acquisitional and developmental processes and on properties of the languages involved.


Each of the chapters in this book has has been pivotal in the development of the study of third language acquisition and multilingualism at both the theoretical and methodological levels, which makes it essential reading in the field… This volume is of great value for those in the field of L3 acquisition and multilingualism, since it recapitulates the history of Hammarberg's central proposals at the methodological and conceptual levels. It also brings together a number of articles that may not be easy for the young academic to locate, and offers the research community the complete picture of a longitudinal study that has become a point of reference for new and experienced scholars.
- Patricia Bayona, University of Western Ontario, Canadian Journal of Linguistics
This volume is a valuable resource for the study of multilingual acquisition. It provides an insight into the different roles and effects of prior languages in L3 acquisition in a proactive multilingual adult learner, the use of language switches and hypothetical word construction as learning strategies, while underlining the significance of perceived crosslinguistic similarity. [...] Finally, the book succeeds in showing that any model of human speech production should proceed from a multilingual perspective, taking into account speakers’ different language modes.
- Ron Peek, Birkbeck, University of London., Birkbeck Studies in Applied Linguistics
An extremely engaging book… While I might take a different line with respect to the authors' interpretation of some of the findings, one of the principal virtues of the volume is precisely that it does put before us - contextualized with admirable clarity - a great wealth of findings, about which every reader can then come to his/her own conclusions. Another virtue is the range of areas which the volume visits - from accent to language switching, from help elicitation to attempts at lexical coinages. A third merit is the fact that the book assembles an impressive body of evidence and argumentation relating to one particular, highly fascinating, multilingual case study. For anyone with an interest in L3 acquisition and/or cross-linguistic influence, such a combination is, and deserves to be, an irresistible cocktail.
- David Singleton, Trinity College Dublin, Applied Linguistics