Learning and processing of orthography-to-phonology mappings in a third language

James Bartolotti*, Viorica Marian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Bilinguals’ two languages are both active in parallel, and controlling co-activation is one of bilinguals’ principle challenges. Trilingualism multiplies this challenge. To investigate how third language (L3) learners manage interference between languages, Spanish-English bilinguals were taught an artificial language that conflicted with English and Spanish letter-sound mappings. Interference from existing languages was higher for L3 words that were similar to L1 or L2 words, but this interference decreased over time. After mastering the L3, learners continued to experience competition from their other languages. Notably, spoken L3 words activated orthography in all three languages, causing participants to experience cross-linguistic orthographic competition in the absence of phonological overlap. Results indicate that L3 learners are able to control between-language interference from the L1 and L2. We conclude that while the transition from two languages to three presents additional challenges, bilinguals are able to successfully manage competition between languages in this new context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-397
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Multilingualism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2019


  • Multilingualism
  • bilingualism
  • eye-tracking
  • language learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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