The effects of language typology on L2 lexical availability and spelling accuracy

María Martínez-Adrián, Francisco Gallardo-del-Puerto


This paper explores whether language typology plays any role in lexical availability and spelling accuracy in L2 English. Two groups of adult speakers were compared: a group of native speakers of a language typologically distant from English with a logographic writing system (Chinese; n=13) vs. a group of native speakers of a language typologically closer to English with an alphabetic system (Spanish; n=14). All participants performed a lexical availability task (Carcedo González, 1998a) which was later on analyzed in terms of the ‘total number of words’ and the ‘total number of words containing spelling mistakes’ per each of the 15 semantic categories included. Spanish speakers displayed larger available lexica and fewer spelling mistakes than Chinese speakers, an outcome which would confirm the positive influence of L1-L2 proximity on L2 lexical availability and the deleterious effect of having a non-alphabetic L1 writing system on L2 spelling accuracy. 


lexical availability; spelling; cross-linguistic influence; typology

Full Text:



Agustín Llach, M. P. (2012). Does L1 make a difference? Evidence from the receptive vocabulary size of Spanish and German EFL primary school learners. The Language Learning Journal, 10, 1–22.

Agustín Llach, M. P. & Fernández Fontecha, A. (2014). Lexical variation in learners’ responses to cue words: The effect of gender. In R. M. Jiménez Catalán (Ed.), Lexical availability in English and Spanish as a second language (pp. 69–81). New York, NY: Springer.

Akamatsu, N. (2003). The effects of first language orthographic features on second language reading in text. Language Learning, 53, 207–231.

Alba, O. (1998). Variable léxica y dialectología hispánica. La Torre. Revista de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 7–8, 299–316.

Allan, D. (1992). Oxford Placement Test. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bebout, L. (1985). An error analysis of misspellings made by learners of English as a first and a second language. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 14, 569–593.

Campbell, J. (1982). The Anglo-Saxons. Oxford: Phaidon.

Carcedo González, A. (1998a). Sobre las pruebas de disponibilidad léxica para estudiantes de español/LE. RILCE, 14(2), 205–224.

Carcedo González, A. (1998b). Tradición y novedad en las aportaciones hispánicas en los estudios de disponibilidad léxica. Lingüística, 10, 5–68.

Celaya, M. L. & Torras, M. R. (2001). L1 influence and EFL vocabulary: do children rely more on L1 than adult learners? In M. Falces Sierra, M. M. Díaz Dueñas & M. Pérez Hernández (Eds.), Proceedings of the 25th AEDEAN Meeting (pp. 1–14). Granada: Universidad de Granada.

Cenoz, J. (2001). The effect of linguistic distance, L2 status and age on crosslinguistic influence in third language acquisition. In J. Cenoz, B. Hufeisen & U. Jessner (Eds.), Cross-linguistic influence in third language acquisition: Psycholinguistic perspectives (pp. 8–20). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Chow, B. W.-Y., McBride-Chang, C., Cheung, H. & Chow, C. S.-L. (2008). Dialogic reading and morphology training in Chinese children: Effects on language and literacy. Developmental Psychology, 44(1), 233–244.

Cook, V. (2010). Key topics in second language acquisition. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Dewaele, J. M. (1998). Lexical inventions: French interlanguage as L2 versus L3. Applied Linguistics, 19, 471–490.

Durgunoglu, A., Nagy, W. & Hancin-Bhatt, B. (1993). Cross-language transfer of phonological awareness. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(3), 453–465.

Ellis, R. (2008). The study of second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Etxebarría Arostegui, M. (1996). Disponibilidad léxica en escolares del País Vasco: variación sociolingüística y modelos de enseñanza bilingüe. Revista Española de Lingüística, 26(2), 301–325.

Gallardo-del-Puerto, F. & Martínez-Adrián, M. (2014). The incidence of previous foreign language contact in a lexical availability task: A study of senior learners. In R. M. Jiménez Catalán (Ed.), Lexical availability in English and Spanish as a second language (pp. 53–68). New York, NY: Springer.

Germany, P. & Cartes, N. (2000). Léxico disponible en inglés como segunda lengua en instrucción personalizada. Estudios Pedagógicos, 26, 39–50.

Grabe, W. (2009). Reading in a second language: Moving from theory to practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hamada, M. & Koda, K. (2010). The role of phonological decoding in second language word-meaning inference. Applied Linguistics, 31(4), 513–531.

Harding, E. (2000). Spelling errors in non-native speakers. Unpublished departmental M.A. Thesis, Department of Linguistics, Ohio University, USA.

Holm, A. & Dodd, B. (1996). The effect of first written language on the acquisition of English literacy. Cognition, 59, 119–147.

Hu, Z.-L., Brown, D. & Brown, L. B. (1982). Some linguistic differences in the written English of Chinese and Australian students. Language Learning and Communication, 1(1), 39–49.

Jarvis, S. (2000). Methodological rigor in the study of transfer: Identifying L1 influence in the interlanguage lexicon. Language Learning, 50(2), 245–309.

Jarvis, S. & Pavlenko, A. (2008). Crosslinguistic influence in language and cognition. New York, NY / London: Routledge.

Jiménez Catalán, R. M. (2014). Lexical availability in English and Spanish as a second language. New York, NY: Springer.

Jiménez Catalán, R. M., Agustín Llach, M. P., Fernández Fontecha, A. & Canga Alonso, A. (2014). The effect of age on EFL learners’ lexical availability: Word responses to the cue words ‘town’ and ‘countryside’. In R. M. Jiménez Catalán (Ed.), Lexical availability in English and Spanish as a second language (pp. 37–51). New York, NY: Springer.

Jiménez Catalán, R. M. & Ojeda Alba, J. (2009). Girls’ and boys’ lexical availability in EFL. ITL, International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 158, 57–76.

Jiménez Catalán, R. M. & Ojeda Alba, J. (2010). Disponibilidad léxica en inglés como lengua extranjera. Lenguaje y Textos, 30, 167–176.

Kellerman, E. (1986). An eye for an eye: Crosslinguistic constraints on the development of the L2 lexicon. In E. Kellerman & M. Sharwood-Smith (Eds.), Crosslinguistic influence in second language acquisition (pp. 35–48). Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Li, H. & Suen, H. K. (2015). How do Chinese ESL learners recognize English words during a Reading test? A comparison with Romance-language-speaking ESL learners. International Multilingual Research Journal, 9(2), 93–107.

López González, A. M. (2014). The effect of instruction on Polish Spanish learners’ lexical availability. In R. M. Jiménez Catalán (Ed.), Lexical availability in English and Spanish as a second language (pp. 139–168). New York, NY: Springer.

López Morales, H. (1999). Léxico disponible de Puerto Rico. Madrid: Arco Libros.

López Morales, H. (2014). Lexical availability studies. In R. M. Jiménez Catalán (Ed.), Lexical availability in English and Spanish as a second language (pp. 1–11). New York, NY: Springer.

López Rivero, E. (2008). Estudio de disponibilidad léxica en 43 estudiantes de ELE. Memoria del Máster de Enseñanza del Español como Lengua Extranjera, Universidad Antonio de Nebrija, Spain. Retrieved November 10, 2016 from

Martínez-Adrián, M. & Gallardo-del-Puerto, F. (2010). L2 English receptive and productive vocabulary in senior learners. ITL, International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 160, 112–131.

Odlin, T. (2005). Cross-linguistic influence. In C. J. Doughty & M. H. Long (Eds.), The handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 436–486). Malden: Blackwell.

Odlin, T. (2010). Language transfer and cross-linguistic studies: Relativism, universalism, and the native language. In R. Kaplan (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of applied linguistics (pp. 307–317). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Okada, T. (2005). A corpus-based study of spelling errors of Japanese EFL writers with reference to errors occurring in word-initial and word-final positions. In V. Cook & B. Basetti (Eds.), Second language writing systems (pp. 164–183). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Perfetti, C. A. & Dunlap, S. (2008). Learning to read: General principles and writing system variations. In K. Koda & A. Zehler (Eds.), Learning to read across languages (pp. 13–38). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Riches, C. & Genesee, F. (2006). Literacy: Crosslinguistic and crossmodal issues. In F. Genesee, K. Lindholm-Leary, W. Saunders & D. Christian (Eds.), Educating English language learners (pp. 64–108). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Ringbom, H. (2007). Cross-linguistic similarity in foreign language learning. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Roman, A. A., Kirby, J. R., Parrila, R. K., Wade-Woolley, L. & Deacon, S. H. (2009). Toward a comprehensive view of the skills involved in word reading in grades 4, 6, and 8. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 102(1), 96–113.

Rothman, J. (2011). L3 syntactic transfer selectivity and typological determinacy: the typological primacy model. Second Language Research, 27(1), 107–217. Retrieved November 10, 2016 from

Samper Hernández, M. (2000). Disponibilidad léxica en alumnos de ELE. Salamanca: Universidad de Salamanca.

Samper Hernández, M. (2002). Disponibilidad léxica en alumnos de español como lengua extranjera. Málaga: ASELE.

Samper Hernández, M. (2014). The relationship of language proficiency to the lexical availability of learners of Spanish. In R. M. Jiménez Catalán (Ed.), Lexical availability in English and Spanish as a second language (pp. 103–124). New York, NY: Springer.

Seeff-Gabriel, B. (2003). Phonological processing: A platform for assisting second-language learners with English spelling. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 19, 291–310.

Šifrar Kalan, M. (2009). Disponibilidad léxica en español como lengua extranjera: El cotejo de las investigaciones en Eslovenia, Salamanca y Finlandia. Verba Hispánica, 17, 165–182.

Šifrar Kalan, M. (2012). Análisis comparativo de la disponibilidad léxica en español como lengua extranjera (ELE) y lengua materna (ELM). Macroele: Revista de didáctica ELE, 15, 1–19.

Šifrar Kalan, M. (2014). Slovene students’ lexical availability in English. In R. M. Jiménez Catalán (Ed.), Lexical availability in English and Spanish as a second language (pp. 125–138). New York, NY: Springer.

Urzúa, P., Sáez, K. & Echeverría, M. S. (2006). Disponibilidad léxica matemática. Análisis cuantitativo y cualitativo. RLA. Revista de lingüística teórica y aplicada, 44(2), 59–76.

VanParys, J., Zimmer, C., Li, X. & Kelly, P. (1997). Some salient and persistent difficulties encountered by Chinese and Francophone students in the learning of English vocabulary. ITL, International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 115–116, 137–164.

Wang, M. & Geva, E. (2003). Spelling performance of Chinese children using English as a second language: Lexical and visual-orthographic processes. Applied Psycholinguistics, 24, 1–25.

Wang, M. & Koda, K. (2005). Commonalities and differences in word identification skills among learners of English as a second language. Language Learning, 55, 71–98.

Yu, L. (1996). The role of L1 in the acquisition of motion verbs in English by Chinese and Japanese learners. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 53(1), 191–218.



  • There are currently no refbacks.