Object drop in L3 acquisition

International Journal of Bilingualism

The topic of cross-linguistic differences regarding the overt or null expression of arguments has been considered both in first (L1) and second language (L2) acquisition. There is abundant literature on both subject and object drop with different language pairings but the issue has not been considered in third language (L3) acquisition. The main goal of this article is to analyze the L3 interlanguage of Basque-Spanish bilinguals regarding the possibility and interpretation of null objects. The three languages involved in the study display different semantic requirements for the target structure, with Basque allowing for a null object option across-the-board, Spanish only under certain semantic conditions, and English disallowing it in the standard variety. Two trilingual, one bilingual and a control group (n = 119) rated experimental items embedded in context, presented in a written and aural format on a computer screen. Findings point to the successful acquisition of the target structure, as well as a clear influence of Spanish in the three experimental groups.