According to the Linguistic Proximity Model (Westergaard et al., 2017), linguistic structure is the chief factor which conditions transfer on a property-by-property basis in L3 acquisition. The present study examined the predictions of this model in the L2 and L3 acquisition of Italian by Spanish- and English-speaking L2 and L3 learners. The structures of interest were dative experiencer psych verbs and animate specific direct objects. Crucially, dative experiencer psych verbs from the piacere/gustar “like” class are similar in Italian and Spanish in that they cannot be passivized; these same verbs have nominative experiencers and can be passivized in English. Italian and English both lack Differential Object Marking (DOM), which is instantiated in Spanish, meaning that objects which are both animate and specific are morphologically marked. In this way, the language selected for transfer could be precisely identified. Results, overall, from a written acceptability judgment task found that the L3 groups transferred from distinct previously acquired languages, either their L1 or L2 (English and Spanish), to different extents for the two main properties tested, supporting the validity of the Linguistic Proximity Model and property-by-property transfer as a post initial state theoretical model of L3 interlanguage development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationL3 Development After the Initial State
EditorsMegan M Brown-Bousfield, Suzanne Flynn, Éva Fernández-Berkes
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages36
ISBN (Electronic)9789027249258
ISBN (Print)9789027214362
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NameStudies in Bilingualism
ISSN (Print)0928-1533


  • differential object marking
  • English
  • Italian
  • L2 acquisition
  • L3 acquisition
  • passives
  • psych verbs
  • Spanish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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