This study investigated lexical organization in trilingual by attempting to determine a) whether lexical items in the dominant language (L1) are stored separately from those of the L2 and the L3; and b) whether lexical items in the L2 and the L3 are stored together, in a "foreign language store", or separately. As well, potential differences between the lexical organization of bilinguals and trilingual were examined. Previous research has revealed that language dominance and proficiency play a crucial role in intra- and interlanguage interference. Typically, interlingual interference originates from the dominant language (L1) ; however, as proficiency in the non-dominant languages (L2, L3) increases, interference from the dominant language diminishes. These findings lend support to the developmental hypothesis, which argues that greater proficiency in a foreign language lessens inter-lingual interference , while languages for which proficiency is lower tend to develop and maintain strong ties with the L1. Twenty-four subjects, 12 bilinguals (Ll: Arabic, L2: English) and 12 trilingual (L1: Arabic, L2: French, L3: English), were tested on a lexical decision task. All the subjects were enrolled in an intensive English-language program at the time of the experiment. The subjects were presented with same-language and mixed-language lexical pairs and were required to determine whether the two words in the pair had the same or different meanings. Reaction-times for each pair were measured. The findings indicate that there is no significant difference in the performance of bilinguals and trilingual. Also, results tend to indicate that, for both groups, strong ties exist between translation equivalents in Arabic (L1) and English (L2 for bilinguals, L3 for trilingual); however, these findings cannot be interpreted as supporting the developmental hypothesis, since different-meaning pairs in the Arabic/English condition are not processed faster than other types of pairs, suggesting that the associations between the two languages are limited to translation equivalents. Given the absence of a significant reaction time effect for French/English (L2/L3) pairs in trilingual, the findings do not support the existence of a foreign language store.


School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Date of Award


Online Submission Date


First Advisor

Fred L. Perry

Committee Member 1

Fred L. Perry

Committee Member 2

Paul B. Stevens

Committee Member 3

Yehia A. El Ezabi

Document Type



ix, 94 leaves

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Language and languages


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Call Number

Thesis 1997/47