Comprehension of English articles by Korean learners of L2 English and L3 Spanish

International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching (IRAL)

This study aimed to compare the comprehension of second language (L2) English articles by native speakers of Korean, an article-less language, and by Korean learners of English as an L2 and Spanish as a third language (L3). The participants were 22 adult learners with advanced overall proficiency in L2 English and L3 Spanish. They completed two tasks, an online self-paced reading task and an offline acceptability rating task. The findings showed that both the trilingual and the bilingual groups relied on definiteness in distinguishing English articles as native speakers do. The findings related to the trilingual group were predicted by the morphological congruency hypothesis, but those related to the bilingual group were against the predictions of the fluctuation hypothesis. A comparison between the two non-native groups showed that the trilingual group had a higher sensitivity to distinguish English articles than the bilingual group, which provides evidence for positive backward transfer from the L3 to the L2 in article comprehension by learners of English whose L1 is article-less, such as Korean.