Soutenance de thèse de Amélie Menut

scalab Manifestations scientifiques Soutenance de thèse
salle des colloques, Maison de la recherche, Université de Lille

The defence will be carried out in English.

"Cross-linguistic influence of L1 morphological knowledge in L2.The case of French-English late bilinguals". It is a joint PhD funded by the ISITE-ULNE foundation and conducted under the co-supervision of Pr. Séverine Casalis and Pr. Marc Brsybaert (Ghent University)

The Jury members to expertise the thesis will be:

  • Dr. Laura Anna Ciaccio - Free University of Berlin, Germany
  • Pr. Davide Crepaldi - Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati, Italy
  • Pr. Kathy Rastle - Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
  • Pr. Leah Roberts - University of York, United Kingdom
  • Pr. Durk Talsma - University of Ghent, Belgium


The mother tongue (L1) has shown to influence the second language (L2) at the level of phonology, the writing system, and semantics. One other parameter that may be considered in language transfer is morphology which refers to the smallest units bearing meaning in a language, morphemes. The evidence supporting the idea of cross-language transfer in inflectional studies (or morphosyntactic) is numerous and led to this elaboration of the morphological congruency effect (Jiang et al. 2011). Considering these results and the models presented on cross-language effect, we explored how derivational morphology could be transferred from the L1 to L2 in French-English late bilinguals.

The principal aim was to examine how L1 morphology could transfer to L2. We used different methodologies to explore the phenomenon: Morphological awareness, self-paced reading, and word learning tasks. Each study was designed to look at how the status of the suffix would influence the different processes of L2 morphology. The distinction was dichotomic: complex words studied were either composed with common suffixes of L1 and L2 (e.g., -able) or a L2-unique suffixes (e.g., -less). In the first study, the cross-language effect was evaluated in three morphological awareness stages: lexical semantic knowledge, syntactic knowledge, and distributive knowledge. In the second study, the effect of L1 suffixes were examined in sentence reading using a self-paced reading paradigm. Finally, the third study established a learning paradigm to see how L1 morphology would affect L2 learning.

The second aim of the research was to look how L2 morphology would evolve with the increase of English proficiency and especially of the status of the suffix (common vs. L2-unique) would interplay with proficiency. 

The expectation was that common L1 and L2 suffixes would facilitate L2 learning, processing and morphological awareness, but the results did not confirm this hypothesis. In the first study, late French-English bilinguals showed that as their proficiency increased, their performances in morphological awareness tasks increased as well. The same patterns were evidence in reading and learning with faster reading times in self-paced reading task and more words recalled in the learning task as proficiency increased. However the fact that suffixes were common between L1 and L2 did not make a strong difference as opposed to L2-unique suffixes. In all tasks, results were similar for both conditions. Further analysis even showed that the inconsistency in the mappings in common suffixes hindered the learning of new words. This however, was not the case in reading and morphological awareness. 

In conclusion the results of this dissertation brought further insight on the transfer of common morphological features between L1 and L2 in French-English late bilinguals. More specifically it suggested that common suffixes would be as facilitative as L2-unique suffixes. Also, the results of the learning paradigm seemed to suggest that inconsitent mappings between L1 and L2 (e.g. glissement/slippage as opposed to amazement/étonnement) would even hinder learning new words. This latest distinctions of the suffixes bring further perspectives and invite future studies to take into account more than a dichotomic distinction of the suffixes in L2. 

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