Cross-linguistic influence in third Language (L3) and fourth Language (L4) acquisition of the syntactic licensing of subject pronouns and object verb property: A case study

2014 IJRSLL – Volume 3 Issue 7


Tavakol, Mahboobeh
Department of English language, Yazd Science & Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Yazd, Iran (

Jabbari, Aliakbar*
Department of English language, Yazd Science & Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Yazd, Iran (


This study reports the results obtained through a stride to explore the type and extent of syntactic transfer in the early stages of adult L3 and L4 acquisition. Null-subject parameter (NSP) is a well-known and highly studied syntactic feature in generative studies on third language (L3) acquisition. Following a principles and parameters framework, the underlying principle of language is that languages have pronouns and the parametric variation is that Persian and Italian allow the pronouns to be dropped when in subject position. OV property of embedded clauses has also set itself as the basis of some formal studies on the realm of learning multiple languages. Whereas, the former set the languages with values of [+null-subject] and [-null-subject], the latter creates the language pairings as OV and non-OV languages. The syntactic licensing of null L3 and overt L4 pronominal subjects in declarative main clauses and the OV property in relative clauses were investigated to provide us with new insights on the true architecture of incipient multilingualism and, as such, to clarify the situation of a polyglot. The present instrumental case study was set to challenge the role of transfer during the acquisition of syntax in the initial state of adult L3 and L4. To quantify the cases of correct/incorrect suppliance of the features under investigation, the spontaneous, audio-recorded, productions of a Persian (L1)-speaking learner of L3 Italian and L4 German with advance L2 English proficiency were analyzed using obligatory occasion analysis and target like use analysis formulas. Based on the accuracy percentages generated via the formulas, the L2 status factor was consistently identified to play a significant role in the acquisition of L3 Italian and L4 German initial grammar.

Keywords: Third language acquisition; Fourth language acquisition; CLI; Transfer; L2 status factor; cumulative enhancement model



*Corresponding Author