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Academic Paper


Title: Crosslinguistlic influence and conceptual transfer: what are the concepts?
Author: Terence Odlin
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Ohio State University
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics
Abstract: This chapter surveys recent work on language transfer and focuses on the intersection of second language acquisition (SLA) and linguistic relativity in what is often termed conceptual transfer. The two most famous exponents of relativity, Wilhelm von Humboldt and Benjamin Lee Whorf, developed their ideas largely from their study of Kawi and Hopi respectively, and both scholars viewed crosslinguistic influence as a manifestation of the "binding power" (to use Whorf's characterization) of language on thought. The views of von Humboldt and Whorf diverge in some ways, and the difference is relevant not only to issues in SLA such as ultimate attainment but also to theories of linguistic relativity. Indeed, some recent work on conceptual transfer indicates that even highly proficient learners may never free themselves entirely of the "binding power" of L1. The research reviewed also includes work with native speakers of different languages, suggesting real cognitive differences related to language in, for example, spatial concepts. The importance of distinguishing concepts from meanings is emphasized, as is the difference between meaning transfer and conceptual transfer. The chapter discusses in detail research on transfer involving spatial, temporal, and affective meanings, with some of the studies being interpreted as evidence of conceptual transfer.

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This article appears IN Annual Review of Applied Linguistics Vol. 25, Issue 1.

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