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Review of  The Effects of the Second Language on the First

Reviewer: Hang Du
Book Title: The Effects of the Second Language on the First
Book Author: Vivian James Cook
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 14.1604

Discuss this Review
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Date: Thu, 5 Jun 2003 09:17:24 -0700
From: Hang Du
Subject: Effects of the Second Language on the First

Vivian Cook, ed. (2003) Effects of the Second Language on the First,
Multilingual Matters, Second Language Acquisition Series.

Hang Du, University of Arizona


This book consists of 13 chapters. Each chapter is an independent paper
by different authors. Most of these papers were given at the
International Workshop on Effects of the Second Language on the First
Language, organized by Vivian Cook, held in Wivenhoe House, Colchester,
University of Essex, UK, in 2001. The book is intended for researchers
in second language acquisition and bilingualism, as well as teachers
and students around the world.


Chapter 1. The Changing L1 in the L2 User's Mind, by Vivian Cook. In
this introductory chapter, Cook gives an overview of the book. He
introduces the overarching framework of the book, his
"multi-competence" concept, which refers to "knowledge of two or more
languages in one mind" (e.g. Cook, 1991). In this "multi-competence"
system, bilingual and multilingual speakers' languages are not isolated
from each other. On the contrary, they are constantly interacting with
each other. He also questions the use of the native speaker as the
yardstick against which to measure the achievement of an L2 learner. He
argues that crosslinguistically, knowing more than one language is the
norm, not the exception. He prefers the word "L2 user" rather than "L2
learner" because the objective of learning a second language is to
become an effective L2 user, and "SLA research has to do justice to its
constituency -- people who know two languages -- not to subordinate them
to people who know only one language" (p. 4). He suggests that the
relationship between the L1 and L2 in the bilingual's mind is an
"integration continuum" (p. 6), and the effects that the L2 can have on
the L1 could be positive, negative or neutral. Finally he discusses
some methodological issues related to the research on the L2 to L1

Chapter 2. The Influence of L2 on L1 Collocational Knowledge and on L1
Lexical Diversity in Free Written Expression, by Batia Laufer. This
chapter reports two studies about Hebrew's influence on the Russian
vocabulary of Russian immigrants in Israel. The first study was a
grammaticality judgment test of some collocations in Russian, which
showed clear influence of Hebrew. The second study was free composition
in Russian. The author found that the subjects' judgment of
collocations of Russian showed influence of Hebrew. The longer the
subjects were in the L2 environment, the more ready they were to accept
Russian collocations with Hebrew influence. The author calls this
direct influence of the L2. The subjects' lexical diversity and
variation in their free composition in Russian also declined after a
long period of residence in Israel, as well as the overall length of
their essays. The author calls this indirect influence of the L2. The
author intentionally avoids the term "attrition" because the subjects
were using Russian as much as Hebrew in their daily lives. The
interaction between the L1 and L2 is viewed more positively, as
acquiring multi-competence (Cook, 1991, 1992).

Chapter 3. 'I Feel Clumsy Speaking Russian': L2 Influence on L1 in
Narratives of Russian L2 Users of English, by Aneta Pavlenko. The
author made four 3-minute silent films with sound track but no dialogue
and asked the subjects to describe what happened in the films. The
focus of this study was a group of late Russian/English bilinguals,
Russian immigrants who moved to the US between 10 and 27. They used
both Russian and English on a daily basis and were determined to
maintain their Russian. Production patterns from this group were
compared to those from two other groups: a group of Russian/English
bilinguals growing up in the US, and a group of American University
students who were learning Russian as a second language. The influence
of English on the late bilinguals' Russian was found in the lexicon and
semantics, morphosyntax and linguistic framing. For example, the late
bilinguals showed violations of Russian case marking rules due to the
influence of English. Along these lines, the author points at promising
directions for further research. She also argues that the interaction
between L1 and L2 should be interpreted in a positive way, from Cook's
(1991, 1992) multi-competence perspective.

Chapter 4. The Intercultural Style Hypothesis: L1 and L2 Interaction in
Requesting Behavior, by Jasone Cenoz. This study was about pragmatics
between a group of Spanish speakers who were also fluent in English and
a group of Spanish speakers who were not fluent in English. The main
instrument was a discourse completion test (DCT) using four request
situations. The "fluent in English" group took the test in both English
and Spanish. The 'non-fluent in English' group took it only in Spanish.
The subjects' use of five elements in the test, alerters, request
strategies, syntactic downgraders, lexical and phrasal downgraders, and
mitigating supportives were calculated and analyzed. The author found
that there was no difference between the "fluent in English" group's
performance in the two languages. But there were differences between
the "fluent in English" and "non-fluent in English" groups' performance
in Spanish. The subjects who were fluent in English use "their
interlocutor's first names more often, use more indirect strategies and
have a wider range of syntactic downgraders, lexical downgraders and
mitigating supportives" (P. 77) in their Spanish requests. Based on the
findings of this study, the author suggests that multilingual
competence should not be assumed as the sum of the different
competences in the individual languages involved.

Chapter 5. Probing the Effects of the L2 on the L1: A Case Study, by
Scott Jarvis. This study was about a Finnish immigrant living in the
US. The subject's first language, Finnish, had fully developed before
she moved to the US as an adult. She had been living in the US for 11
years at the time of the study. She used English about half of the
time, and Finnish the other half in her daily life. The author designed
four tasks to test the influence of English on her Finnish. The first
was recording her natural use of Finnish. He identified 15 of her
patterns in Finnish that were not considered conventional use by
monolingual Finnish speakers. They were categorized into Grammar,
Lexicosemantics and Idiom. Based on these patterns, he made some silent
films for the subject to describe. But she did not use any of the
patterns found in her natural speech. The author also asked her to
judge the grammaticality of some sentences, including the 15 target
patterns. She accepted 9 of them. Finally the author interviewed her
about the 15 patterns. She identified 12 of them as deviant for Finnish
speakers, but accepted 7 of the 12 deviant patterns herself. The author
discusses these results in the light of his three research questions.
He concludes that instead of being interpreted as evidence of the
subject's L1 attrition, the results show that the L2 has added more
ways to express the same concepts in the subject's language competence.

Chapter 6. English from a Distance: Code-mixing and Blending in the L1
Output of Long-Term Resident Overseas EFL Teachers, by Graeme Porte.
This study was a follow-up based on a nationwide survey of 52 native EFL
teachers living in Spain, who had expressed concerns about their own
attrition in English after long-term residence in Spain. The
conversation data of three native EFL teachers who had been living in
Spain for 15-24 years were analyzed for deviant patterns in their
English due to the influence of Spanish, a language they were also
fluent in. Results showed that the subjects' average number of deviant
expressions in English was 2 out of 100 words. Most of these errors
were examples of code-mixing, inserting Spanish words into English
sentences. Most of these Spanish words were specific to the topics that
the subjects were talking about (school-related issues). No evidence
was found that these subjects' grammar in English had undergone
significant attrition after so many years' residence abroad.

Chapter 7. Productivity and Lexical Diversity in Native and Non-Native
Speech: A Study of Cross-cultural Effects, by Jean-Marc Dewaele and
Aneta Pavlenko. The task was story-retelling based on the four films
used in Chapter 3. The target was productivity and lexical diversity.
Two hundred and fifty-eight subjects (half males and half females)
participated in the study. They were in five groups: a group of
monolingual Russian speakers; a group of monolingual English speakers;
a group of Russian speakers living in the US who were interviewed in
English; another group of similar Russian speakers in the US who were
interviewed in Russian; a group of EFL learners in Russia. The
monolingual speakers were interviewed in their native languages. The
EFL learners were interviewed in English, their L2. The authors found
no influence of English on the bilingual/bicultural Russian speakers'
productivity and lexical diversity in their Russian.

Chapter 8. L2 Influence on L1 Linguistic Representations, by Victoria
A. Murphy and Karen J. Pine. This study made use of two
psychological/psycholinguistic models, Karmiloff-Smith's (1992) RR
model (Representational Redescription), and Bialystok's (1991, 2001)
A/C model (Analysis/Control). The authors conducted three experiments.
The first one was a WUG-like test (Prasada & Pinker, 1993), comparing
the performance of one group of bilingual 6-7 year-olds, and three
groups of monolingual children (aged 5, 7, 9). The second experiment
compared the same group of bilingual children and another three groups
of monolingual children (aged 5, 7, 9) in a lexical decision task. In
the third experiment, a group of monolingual and a group of bilingual
(English as an L2) college students were taught some Old English nouns
and their plural forms in two conditions ("salient" and "non-salient).
Later they took a grammaticality judgment test involving these words.
Results of the first two experiments showed that the bilingual children
performed similarly to older monolingual children. But they were slower
than the monolingual children in the lexical decision test, suggesting
that their representations of language were more explicit than their
monolingual peers. Results from Experiment 3 suggested that the
"non-salient" bilingual group performed similarly to the "salient"
monolingual group, suggesting that "bilinguals naturally focus their
attentional skills on linguistic structure during learning (and not
just in task performance)" (p, 164).

Chapter 9. Cross-linguistic Influence of L2 English on Middle
Constructions in L1 French, by Patricia Balcom. The theoretical
framework was some generative models of lexical semantics (Jackendoff,
1987, 1990; Levin & Pappaport, 1995). The author identified five
differences in the middle construction between English and French, and
tested two groups of native speakers of French at l'Université de
Moncton, a Francophone university in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.
One group was proficient in English (the bilinguals), and the other
group had very low proficiency in English (the monolinguals). The task
was grammaticality judgment, but the subjects were also asked to
correct the ungrammatical sentences. Twenty-eight French sentences with
middle constructions, of the five categories mentioned above, were
used. Four of these five categories were grammatical in French but not
grammatical in English. The other category was ungrammatical in French
but grammatical in English. Results showed that overall, the
monolinguals were significantly more likely to judge the sentences as
grammatical. As for the four categories that were grammatical in French
but ungrammatical in English, the monolinguals judged three of them as
more grammatical than the bilinguals. In the correction of
ungrammatical sentences, the bilinguals used more passives than the
monolinguals, which the author argued, was due to the English
influence. The author concludes that even though there appear to be
interactions between the two languages in a bilingual's mind, his/her
"mentally represented grammars are different, but they are not
deficient" (p. 188).

Chapter 10. Effects of the L2 on the Syntactic Processing of the L1, by
Vivian Cook, Elisabet Iarossi, Nektarios Stellakis and Yuki Tokumaru.
The authors used a standard experiment in the Competition Model
paradigm (Bates & MacWhinney, 1981). It involved asking the
participants to tell which noun in the sentence was the subject.
According to this model, speakers of different languages rely on
different cues such as Word Order, Animacy, Case and Agreement in the
languages to determine subjecthood. The hypothesis was that bilinguals
performed such tasks differently in their first language than
monolinguals due to the influence of the additional language. Two
groups of L1 speakers of three languages, Spanish, Japanese and Greek
participated in the experiments. One of the two groups in each language
was also learning English at the university (the bilinguals). The other
group was monolingual ("minimal bilinguals"). Sentences systematically
varied in the five cues were presented to the participants in their L1
for them to tell the subject of the sentence. Results showed that while
no clear influence of English was found in these bilinguals' processing
of their L1, two tendencies were found: "weakening of cues", and
"adoption of novel cues" (p. 212). The authors argue that this shows
that L2 users process sentences in their L1 differently from their
monolingual counterparts.

Chapter 11. Economy of Interpretation: Patterns of Pronoun Selection in
Transitional Bilinguals, by Teresa Satterfield. Couched in the
Minimalist Program (Chomsky, 1995, 1998, 2000), the author offers
explanations for some English-dominant Spanish speakers'
("transitionals") usage of null and overt pronouns. Lipski's (1996)
pilot study of three groups of native Spanish speakers (monolinguals,
"balanced bilinguals" and transitional bilinguals) revealed that the
distributions of overt pronouns and pro in the transitionals' speech
were different from those in monolingual Spanish speakers' speech. In
particular, the transitionals tended to use overt pronouns in
non-contrastive situations, where monolingual Spanish speakers
preferred to use pro. Based on a Minimalist framework, the author
suggests that such differences should be explained at the level of the
computational system, which involves transformational operations such
as Merge, Agree and Move. After detailed discussions of the operations
involved in the interpretations of overt pronouns and pro, the author
concludes that for such transitionals, non-focus overt subjects
"require less computations than either [+referential] pro or a
contrastive subject" (p 230).

Chapter 12. A Dynamic Approach to Language Attrition in Multilingual
Systems, by Ulrike Jessner. This chapter is not about an empirical
study. Instead, the author proposes a psycholinguistic model about
language acquisition and loss by multilingual speakers, called a
"dynamic model of multilingualism" (DMM) (p. 235). According to this
model, contrary to traditional language acquisition research, language
acquisition is not viewed as linear. The multilingual speaker's
languages are constantly changing, and have to maintain a balance with
each other. The interactions between a multilingual speaker's languages
render it harder to maintain these languages than only one language.
According to DDM, language acquisition and attrition should not be
studied independent of each other. Instead, they should be seen "as an
integrated part of an evolving dynamic system" (p. 242). Along these
lines, the author also points out directions for further research.

Chapter 13. How to Demonstrate the Conceptual Effect of L2 on L1?
Methods and Techniques, by Istvan Kecskes and Tunde Papp. This chapter
discusses the effect of L2 on the L1 in a foreign language environment,
where the L2 is mainly acquired in the classroom. According to the
authors, in such cases, the L2 proficiency has to reach a hypothetical
threshold before it can show any effect on the L1, and this effect is
more conceptual than linguistic. In the first part of the chapter, the
authors discuss two interacting factors that play crucial roles in the
L2 to L1 influence in such an environment: 1. "Level of proficiency and
the development of a Common Underlying Conceptual Base" (CUCB); 2.
"nature of transfer" (p. 252). In the second part of the chapter, the
authors offered detailed techniques and procedures to measure the L2 to
L1 effects in three categories: 1. "structural well-formedness:
sentence building and manipulation"; 2. "lexical quality"; 3.
"cognitive functioning" (p. 253).


As several authors have pointed out in this volume, this is probably the
first collection of research papers on the effect of the L2 on the L1,
which makes the book very exciting. As Cook points out in the
introduction, because the monolingual native speaker has been regarded
as the target for second language learners in the Second Language
Acquisition (SLA) field over the years, only one direction of
influence, from L1 to L2, has been extensively studied in the forms of
Contrastive Analysis, transfer studies, etc. I think Cook's
"multi-competence" framework is the right direction to go in SLA
research, because the interactions between the L1 and L2 should be
studied in both directions. Most past research on the effect of the L2
on the L1 was in the study of language attrition and loss (e.g.
Weltens, et al, 1986; Seliger and Vago, 1991), but as Jarvis points out
in Chapter 5, the exact process how attrition and loss happen need a
lot of research.

The book's coverage of languages, theoretical frameworks, methods and
linguistic areas is impressive. The L2 to L1 language pairs studied in
different articles include Hebrew to Russian; English to Russian,
English to Spanish, English to Finnish, Spanish to English, English to
French, English to Japanese, English to Greek. Theoretical frameworks
used include cognitive learning models, lexical semantics, the
Minimalist Program, etc. The research methods also range from
experimental to naturalistic, from group study to case study, from
qualitative to quantitative analyses of data. The linguistic areas
studied range from the lexicon, semantics, morpho-syntax, to
pragmatics, etc.

After several decades' development in the field of SLA, it is a good
time to study the "transfer" in the other direction. Because of the
extensive research on Contrastive Analysis and later criticisms of it,
researchers today are better equipped to study the effect of the L2 on
the L1 without the pitfalls of the Contrastive Analysis (see
Larsen-Freeman and Long, 1991 for a critical review of the relevant
literature). The issue that I am most interesting in is, at which level
does the influence of the L2 on the L1 occur? Is it at the level of
performance or competence? Methodologically, using a combination of
different kinds of tasks/tests has the potential to shed light on this
issue, as Jarvis did in his study, reported in Chapter 5. Some of the
studies reported in this book were pilot studies, so the sample sizes
were small. But overall, this book has laid down a solid foundation for
future research in this exciting "new" area in the field of SLA.

This book is in general free of typographic errors. The most noticeable
ones are in Tables 4.3 to 4.6 (p. 68-69), where the means of the
Spanish scores are 100 times bigger than what they should be.


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Bialystok, E. (1991). Metalinguistic dimensions of bilingual language
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Bialystok, E. (2001). Bilingualism in Development: Language, Literacy
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Lipski, J. (1996). Patterns of pronominal evolution in Cuban-American
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ABOUT THE REVIEWER Hang Du is finishing her dissertation on the acquisition of the Chinese ba-construction by English speakers in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) at the University of Arizona. Her research interests include bilingualism, the acquisition of Chinese syntactic structures by English speakers, and the acquisition of English syntactic structures by Chinese speakers.