Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Towards a description of trilingual competence

By C Hoffmann


Most studies involving trilingualism have been carried out within the theoretical framework of bilingualism research. No attempt has been made to delimit trilingualism as a concept in its own right, and often it has been assumed to be an extension of bilingualism. In young children, trilingual language acquisition largely follows the path of bilingual acquisition. With regard to language behavior there are again similarities, but certain differences can be observed. As an overview of studies of individual trilingualism, the present article aims to provide a framework for the discussion. Models of bilingual language competence serve as a starting point to an investigation of possible defining features of trilingual competence. Of particular interest are the pragmatic component of language competence; the trilingual's ability to make appropriate linguistic choices in monolingual/bilingual/ trilingual communication modes; and observed codeswitching. The question of how and when a trilingual's languages become activated or deactivated leads to a consideration of language processing and metalinguistic awareness. In the absence of research involving trilinguals, bilingual models are examined with a view to pointing out possible similarities and differences. It is suggested that these are both of a quantitative and qualitative kind, and therefore trilingual competence is distinct from bilingual competence

Topics: PB0001, P1, mem_text_and_place
Publisher: Kingston Press Ltd
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1998). 1 The author is aware that advances relevant to this article in the areas of bilingual processing and language activation have been made after this text was revised in
  2. (1998). A case study of multilingual education in Canada. In
  3. (1991). An Introduction to bilingualism.
  4. (1992). Another view of bilingualism.
  5. (1956). Bilingualism in the Americas.
  6. (1984). Bilingualism or not.
  7. (1982). Bilingualism: Basic principles,
  8. (1988). Bringing up children in English, French and Irish: two case studies.
  9. (1997). Code-switching, coining and interference in trilingual first language acquisition: as case study. Unpublished MSc dissertation,
  10. (1973). Das zweisprachige Individuum: ein Selbstzeugnis .
  11. (1996). English in primary school: teaching a third language to eight year olds in the Basque Country. Cuadernos de Filología Inglesa,
  12. (1992). Evidence for multi-competence.
  13. (1990). Fundamental considerations in language testing,
  14. (1992). La evaluación de la producción lingüística del niño bilingüe.
  15. (1985). Language acquisition in two trilingual children
  16. (1989). Language processing in the bilingual: evidence from language mixing. In
  17. (1990). Linguistic evaluation of Dutch as a third language. In
  18. (1991). Metalinguistic dimensions of language proficiency.
  19. (1989). Minority language students in a French immersion programme: their French proficiency.
  20. (1998). Multilingual education in the Basque Country. In
  21. (1983). Multilingualism and multiculturalism from the linguist’s point of view.
  22. (1977). On becoming trilingual.
  23. (1985). On the representation of languages in the brain (pp. 1-40)
  24. (1998). Pycholinguistic perspectives on multilingualism and multilingual education.
  25. (1987). Raising children bilingually: the pre-school years,
  26. (1995). Second versus third language acquisition: is there a difference?
  27. (1997). Some of the things trilinguals do.
  28. (1987). The assessment of bilingual aphasia.
  29. (1985). The bilingual as a competent but specific speaker-hearer.
  30. (1986). The Bilingual family: a handbook for parents. Cambridge:
  31. (1998). The language behaviour of trilingual children: developmental aspects. Paper presented at the EUROSLA VIII Conference,
  32. (1992). The role of bilingualism in foreign language acquisition. doi
  33. (1988). The role played by metalinguistic awareness in second and third language learning
  34. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing.
  35. (1997). Towards a dynamic view of multilingualism In:
  36. (1993). Wholistic multi-competence: jeu d’esprit or paradigm shift?

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.