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First language transfer and target language proficiency: An analysis of the L2 Russian of English base-language adult learners

Posted on:2004-03-20Degree:Ph.DType:Dissertation
University:Bryn Mawr CollegeCandidate:Hayes, NataliaFull Text:PDF
The role of first language (L1) in second language (L2) learning is an important issue in Second Language Acquisition (SLA), applied linguistics, and language teaching. Language transfer is normally understood as influence of linguistic features of one language upon another. Transfer can be positive if the features in L1 correspond to those in L2 and negative if there is no close correspondence between L1 and L2 features.; This dissertation examines new evidence of negative transfer for English base-language learners of Russian by identifying and classifying learners' errors attributable to negative transfer. Research data consist of 124 oral proficiency interviews (OPIs) of learners of Russian at six proficiency levels (from Novice to Advanced) analyzed for instances of negative transfer. The study produced an extensive classification of transfer errors in the areas of syntax and lexicon which were subjected to qualitative and quantitative analyses. These analyses of types and numbers of transfer errors at different proficiency levels resulted in several key findings: (1) Transfer shapes learners' language, or interlanguage, at every level of L2 proficiency examined: at most levels transfer errors account for most of syntactic and lexical errors identified. (2) The relationship between transfer and levels of L2 proficiency is not simple: different types of transfer errors form different relationships with proficiency levels. Thus, lexical transfer decreases as proficiency increases, whereas the pattern of syntactic transfer resembles a bell-shaped curve, increasing at Intermediate levels of L2 proficiency and decreasing at Advanced levels. There is a negative correlation between the ratio of transfer errors to the total number of words spoken and L2 proficiency level. (3) The relationship of transfer errors and L2 proficiency is not consistent across L2 proficiency levels. Dominant transfer types vary significantly across L2, proficiency levels. (4) The difference in ratios of transfer errors to words spoken between Novice and Intermediate Low levels, Intermediate Mid, and Intermediate High levels, and between Advanced and Advanced Plus levels was insignificant, indicating level-specific “clustering”, rather than linear progression.; This research demonstrates that L1 English influence in L2 Russian is broad and its relationship with Russian language proficiency is complex.
Keywords/Search Tags:Language, Proficiency, Transfer, Russian, English, Levels
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