Lexical Retrieval in Spanish as a Third Language: The Analysis of Errors and TOT States

Gilder Davila Alvarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch


A Tip-of-the-tongue state is a strong feeling that a target word, although currently unrecallable, is known and will be recalled (Schwartz, 2008). This phenomenon, while universal in occurrence, takes place not only among monolingual speakers but also among multilingual ones. In this paper, episodes of TOT are reported during a word retrieval experiment on Japanese speakers of Spanish L3 with English L2. A similar method from Ecker’s study (2001) was employed regarding the acquisition and processing of L3 words and their organisation and relation to other words (L1 and L2) in the mental lexicon. The study focused on learners’ salient attributes in lexical retrieval of Spanish words during a Tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) state. Considering the typological distance between the L1 and the L3 of the subjects, similar principles of integration, organisation and processing of L3 words found by Ecker’s study are reported in this study. A description of cross-linguistics influence (CLI) in L3 word retrieval during a +TOT is provided by considering aspects related to word form, meaning and syntactic class. The subjects were 17 Japanese speakers from a beginning level Spanish class. Initial word form and syntactic category, among others aspects, were found with considerable frequency during TOT states on L3 word retrieval. CLI from L2 and L3 represented the first and second higher source of influence in comparison with L1. The results showed how learners continue to rely on the languages more closely related to the target, irrespective of whether these are first or non-native languages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-61
JournalAPU Journal of Language Research
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


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