Cross-linguistic Influence

Category: Education

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Crosslinguistic influence (CLI) is a generic term for different ways in which different language systems in the mind interact and affect either the linguistic performance or the linguistic development (or both) of the individual concerned (Sharwood Smith 1983)



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Cross-linguistic Influence in SLA:

Ugur Ger International Burch University Cross-linguistic Influence in SLA

cross-linguistic influence:

cross-linguistic influence have several phrases to choose from in referring to the phenomenon, including the following: language transfer linguistic interference the role of the mother tongue native language influence language mixing cross-linguistic influence


“Transfer is the influence resulting from the similarities and differences between the target language and any other language that has been previously (and perhaps imperfectly) acquired” ( Odlin , 1989, p. 27) Transfer

Positive and negative transfer :

When the relevant unit or structure of both languages is the same, linguistic interference can result in correct language production called positive transfer — "correct" meaning in line with most native speakers' notions of acceptability. Negative transfer occurs when speakers and writers transfer items and structures that are not the same in both languages. Within the theory of contrastive analysis (the systematic study of a pair of languages with a view to identifying their structural differences and similarities), the greater the differences between the two languages, the more negative transfer can be expected. Positive and negative transfer

The contrastive analysis hypothesis (CAH) :

Deeply rooted in the behavioristic and structuralist approaches, the CAH claimed that the principal barrier to L2 is the interference of L1system with the 2 nd system. A scientific- structural analysis will develop a taxonomy of linguistic contrasts between them which will enable the linguist to predict the difficulties a learner would encounter. Clifford Prator (1967) captured the essence of the grammatical hierarchy ( Stockwell , Bowen, and Martin, 1965) in six categories of difficulty –it was applicable to both grammatical and phonological features of language. The contrastive analysis hypothesis (CAH)

The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis :

“Those elements that are similar to native language will be simple for him and those elements that are different will be difficult” (Robert Lado 1957) ( Banathy , Trager , and Waddle, 1966) (p.249 line 34) Clifford Prator (1967) captured the essence of the grammatical hierarchy in six categories of difficul ty. ( Stockwell , Bowen, and Martin, 1965 called it hierarchy of difficulty) The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis

Six categories of hierarchy of difficulty :

Level 0. No difference or contrast is present between the two languages. The learner can simply transfer a sound, structure, or lexical item from the native language to the target language. Level 1 – coalescence two items in the native language become coalesced into essentially one item in the target language. Example: English 3 rd p. possessives require gender distinction (his/her) and in Turkish they do not Level 2 Underdifferentiation –an item in the native language is absent in the target language. The learner must avoid that item. Example: (adjectives in Spanish require gender (alto/ alta ) Six categories of hierarchy of difficulty

Six categories of hierarchy of difficulty :

Level 3 Reinterpretation –an item that exists in the native language is given a new shape or distribution. Example: new phonemes require new distribution of speech articulators -/r/, etc. Level 4. Overdifferentiation –a new item entirely, bearing any similarity to the native language item, must be learned. Example: English speakers must learn the use of determiners in Spanish –man is mortal/El hombre es mortal. Level 5. Split –one item in the native language becomes two or more in the target language requiring the learner to make a new distinction. English speakers must learn the distinction between ( ser ) and ( estar ) Six categories of hierarchy of difficulty

cross-linguistic influence:

Cross-linguistic influence (often referred to as ‘transfer’) has been an important factor to consider in the study of foreign language acquisition in general In foreign language acquisition, the learner starts off with at least one fully acquired linguistic system. cross-linguistic influence

From the CAH to CLI (cross-linguistic influence) :

Predictions of difficulty by means of contrastive procedures had many shortcomings. The process could not account for all linguistic problems or situations not even with the 6 categories. Lastly, the predictions of difficulty level could not be verified with reliability. The attempt to predict difficulty by means of contrastive analysis was called the strong version of the CAH ( Wardaugh , 1970) –a version that he believed unrealistic and impractible . Wardaugh also recognized the weak version of the CAH –one in which the linguistic difficulties can be more profitably explained a posteriori by teachers and linguists. When language and errors appear, teachers can utilize their knowledge of the target language and native language to understand the sources of error. From the CAH to CLI (cross-linguistic influence)

Interlingual Identifications and Learner Perceptions :

Crucial Similarity Measure: Not only differences but even more often misleading similarities between L1-L2 are at the root of attested learning difficulties. Although Weinreich used the notion of the interlingual identification to focus on negative transfer, the notion also works well for understanding positive transfer in cases such as Finland: Swedish learners generally have the advantage of being able to look for cross-linguistic similarities that their native language affords them. Having such opportunities, however, does not guarantee that any particular learner will do the necessary looking or come to the right conclusion about just how congruent a cross-linguistic correspondence is. Interlingual Identifications and Learner Perceptions

Besides the L1 :

Besides the L1

First Language Influences vis-a-vis Development :

There is robust evidence that L1 transfer cannot radically alter the route of L2 acquisition but it can impact the rate of learners’ progress along their natural developmental paths. First Language Influences vis -a- vis Development

Markedness and L1 Transfer :

This is another important source universal element when learning human languages that is known to interact with L1 influences. markedness refers to the way words are changed or added to give a special meaning. The unmarked choice is just the normal meaning. For example, the present tense is unmarked for English verbs. If I just say "walk" that refers to the present tense. But if I add something to "walk" (marking it), such as adding ‘ ed ’ to the end, I can indicate the past: "walked". Markedness and L1 Transfer

Markedness and universal grammar :

Eckman (1977,1981) proposed a useful method for determining directionality of difficulty- markedness theory. It accounted for degrees of principles of universal grammar.Eckman showed that marked items in a language will be more difficult to acquire than unmarked, and that degree of markedness will correspond to degrees of difficulty . Markedness and universal grammar

Markedness :

Celse -Murcia and Hawkins (1985:66) sum up markedness theory: It distinguishes members of a pair of related forms or structures by assuming that the marked member of a pair contains at least one more feature than the unmarked one. In addition, the unmarked (neutral) member has a wider range of distribution than the marked one. In the English indefinite articles (a and an) an is the more complex or marked form. Verbs are the classic example for this pattern. Markedness

Learner language :

CAH stressed the interfering effects of L1 on L2 learning and claimed, in its strong form, that L2 learning is primarily a process of acquiring whatever items are different from the L1. This narrow view of interference ignored the intralingual effects of learning. Learners are consciously testing hypotheses about the target language from many possible sources of knowledge. 1. knowledge of the native language 2. limited knowledge of the target language itself 3. knowledge of communicative functions of language 4. knowledge about language in general 5. knowledge about life, human beings, and the universe. Learners act upon the environment and construct what to them is a legitimate system of language in its own right. Learner language

Learner language :

The most obvious approach to analyzing interlanguage is to study the speech and writing of learners – learner language ( Lightbown & Spada 1993) Production data is publicly observable and is presumably reflective of a learner’s underlying competence. It follows that the study of the speech and writing of learners is largely the study of the errors of learners. “Correct” production yields little information about the actual linguistic system of learners. Learner language

Transferability :


Transferability :


Avoidance :


Underuse or Overuse :

Underuse or Overuse

Positive L1 Influences on L2 Learning Rate :

Positive L1 Influences on L2 Learning Rate

The First Language Influence beneath the surface: The case of information structure :

The First Language Influence beneath the surface: The case of information structure

Error analysis :

Human learning is fundamentally a process that involves the making of mistakes. They form an important aspect of learning virtually any skill or acquiring information. Language learning is like any other human learning. L2 learning is a process that is clearly not unlike L1 learning in its trial-and-error nature. Inevitably, learners will make mistakes in the process of acquisition, and that process will be impeded if they do not commit errors and then benefit from various forms of feedback on those errors. Corder (1967) noted: “a learner’s errors are significant in that they provide to the researcher evidence of how language is learned or acquired, what strategies or procedures the learner is employing in the discovery of the language.” Error analysis

Mistakes and errors :

In order to analyze learner language in an appropriate perspective, it is crucial to make a distinction between mistakes and errors, technically two very different phenomena. Mistake –refers to a performance error that is either a random guess or a “slip”, in that is a failure to utilize a known system correctly. Native speakers make mistakes.When attention is called to them, they can be self-corrected. Error –a noticeable deviation from the adult grammar of a native speaker, reflects the competence of the learner (Does John can sing?) Mistakes and errors The fact that learners do make errors, and these errors can be analyzed, led to a surge of study of learners’ errors, called error analysis. Error analysis became distinguished from contrastive analysis by its examination of errors attributable to all possible sources, not just those resulting from negative transfer of the native language. Mistakes and errors

Errors in error analysis :

There is a danger in too much attention to learner’s errors. A classroom teacher can become so preoccupied with noticing errors that the correct utterances in L2 go unnoticed. While the diminishing of errors is an important criterion for increasing language proficiency, the ultimate goal of L2 learning is the attainment of communicative fluency. Errors in error analysis

Identifying and describing errors :

One of the most common difficulties in understanding the linguistic systems of both L1 and L2 is the fact that such systems cannot be directly observed –they must be inferred by means of analyzing production and comprehension data. The first step in the process of analysis is the identification and description of errors. Corder (1971) provided a model for identifying erroneous or idiosyncratic utterances in a second language. (chart 8.1) p. 221 A major distinction is made between overt and covert errors. a . overt –erroneous utterances ungrammatically at the sentence level b . covert –grammatically well-formed but not according to context of communication . Identifying and describing errors

Categories for description of errors :

Errors of addition, omission, substitution, and ordering (math) Phonology or orthography, lexicon, grammar, and discourse Global or local (a scissors) Domain and extent Interlingual and intralingual transfer Interlingual (L1 and L2) transfer is a significant source of error for all learners. It is now clear that intralingual transfer (within the target language itself) is a major factor in L2 learning. It is referred to as overgeneralization. (see examples on p. 225) Categories for description of errors

Contexts of learning :

A third major source of error, although it overlaps both types of transfer, is the context of learning. Context refers, for example, to the classroom with its teacher and its materials in the case of school learning or the social situation in the case of untutored second language learning. In a classroom context the teacher or the textbook can lead to the learner to make faulty hypotheses about the language. Richards (1971) called it “false concepts” Contexts of learning

Stages of learner language development :

Corder (1973) presents the progression of language learners in four stages based on observations of what the learner does in terms of errors alone. 1 st stage –random errors, called pre-systematic in which the learner is only vaguely aware that there is some systematic order to a particular class of items. 2 nd stage –(emergent) stage of learner language finds the learner growing in consistency in linguistic production. Learner has begun to discern a system and to internalize certain rules. Its characterized by ‘backsliding” –seems to grasp a a rule or principle and then regresses to previous stages. Stages of learner language development

Stages :

3. 3 rd stage –truly systematic stage in which the learner is now able to manifest more consistency in producing the second language. The most salient difference between the 2 nd and the 3 rd stages is the ability of learners to correct their errors when they are pointed out. 4. Final stage –stabilization stage; Corder (1973) called it postsystematic stage. Here the learner has relatively few errors and has mastered the system to the point that fluency and intended meanings are not problematic. This fourth stage is characterized by the learner’s ability to self-correct. Stages

Variability in learner language :

A great deal of attention has been given to the variability of interlanguage development. Just like native speakers hesitate with expressions in their own language, the same occurs in L2. Tarone (1988) focused her research on contextual variability, that is, the extent to which both linguistic and situational contexts may help to systematically describe what appear simply as unexplained variation. Tarone suggested four categories of variation: 1. according to linguistic context 2. according to psychological processing factors 3. according to social context 4. according to language function Variability in learner language

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