L1 and L2 transfer to L3 in L3 and L2 learners of Standard Arabic

Abdulkafi Albirini, Eman Saadah, Mohammad T. Alhawary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines the influence of previously acquired languages - namely, Colloquial Arabic (CA) and English - on the acquisition of Standard Arabic (SA) by L3 and L2 learners. It reports on the role of typological and structural proximity in language transfer and whether transfer patterns change over time. The study involved 105 participants: 41 CA-L1, English-L2 learners of SA, 47 English-L1 learners of SA, and 17 Arabic-L1 speakers. The participants completed three written tasks focusing on: definite article use, verb subcategorization rules, and sentential negation. The results indicate that CA plays a positive role in L3 learners' acquisition of SA, mainly in forms where SA and CA converge, whereas English seems to play more of a negative role for both L3 and L2 learners. Thus, structural proximity seems to play a positive role in transfer to the L3. Negative transfer, irrespective of proximity/distance, diminishes as learners advance in their study of SA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)745-774
Number of pages30
JournalLinguistic Approaches to Bilingualism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 4 2020


  • Arabic heritage speakers
  • L3 acquisition
  • Language transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'L1 and L2 transfer to L3 in L3 and L2 learners of Standard Arabic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this