This study investigated how previous linguistic experience and universal strategies guide the acquisition of phonology in the classroom. More specifically, it focused on the possible advantages that bilingual children have over monolingual children. Thirty-four children completed a picture-naming task: 9 Spanish native speakers, 19 English native speakers acquiring Spanish as L2 and 6 Korean-English bilinguals acquiring Spanish as L3. Results indicated that in general the children rapidly acquired native-like pronunciation of the Spanish rhotics, but the Korean-English bilinguals outperformed the English-speaking children. We propose that although previous linguistic knowledge plays a role in L2 and L3 acquisition, children are able to overcome transfer errors because they are guided by universal developmental strategies from the initial stages of acquisition. We suggest that if L3 learners have an advantage over L2 learners, this may be due to their complex linguistic knowledge and higher metalinguistic competence.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-266
JournalJournal of Second Language Pronunciation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 4 2017


  • child language acquisition
  • Spanish
  • rhotics
  • third language
  • second language


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