LINGUIST List 23.1506

Mon Mar 26 2012

Review: Applied Ling.; Lang. Acquisition: De Angelis & Dewaele (2011)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 26-Mar-2012
From: Alicia Pousada <>
Subject: New Trends in Crosslinguistic Influence and Multilingualism Research
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EDITORS: De Angelis, Gessica & Dewaele, Jean-MarcTITLE: New Trends in Crosslinguistic Influence and Multilingualism ResearchSERIES TITLE: Second Language AcquisitionPUBLISHER: Multilingual MattersYEAR: 2011

Alicia Pousada, English Department, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras

SUMMARYThis volume serves as an introduction to the growing field of CLI(cross-linguistic influence), a term first utilized in Sharwood Smith 1983 anddeveloped in Sharwood Smith & Kellerman 1986. While the articles presentempirical studies of the acquisition of additional languages among bilinguals,they also review the literature, terminology, and current theoretical debates inthis area. Research in CLI goes beyond positive and negative "interference" fromL1 to L2 and looks at the role of L2 in the acquisition of additional languagesand the varying influences of those languages upon each other and upon L1. Theevidence presented comes from English, German, French, Spanish, Finnish,Swedish, Polish, Chinese, and Catalán and pertains to phonology, morphology,lexicon, syntax, and pragmatics in both spoken and written discourse.

The Introduction by Gessica De Angelis and Jean-Marc Dewaele (pp. vii-xv)outlines the history of CLI and indicates probable directions of futureresearch. It also shows how the articles actively engage current theoreticaldebates regarding the metalinguistic awareness produced by language learning,psychotypological categorization of languages by speakers, foreign vs. secondlanguage status of given languages, and organization of the multilingual lexicon.

Ch. 1: Awareness and Affordances: Multilinguals versus Bilinguals and theirPerceptions of Cognates by Agnieszka Otwinowsky-Kastelanic (pp. 1-18)The concept of affordances, derived from work in perceptual psychology (Gibson,1977), refers to perceived opportunities provided by one's environment. Languageoffers certain affordances to users, and speakers vary in their sensitivity tothese and in their ability to take advantage of them in learning new languages.Otwinosky-Kastelanci studied three groups of Polish-English young adultbilinguals who varied by English proficiency level (elementary, intermediate,and advanced) and another group of young adult multilinguals (none of whom knewLatin or Greek) in Warsaw. She hypothesized that the English proficiency levelof the 512 individuals was linked to their awareness of cognate lexical items.Study participants were asked to respond to a questionnaire in which they gavetheir perception of the typological distance between Polish and English,expressed their beliefs concerning cognates, and enumerated five cognates. Theyalso commented on similarities among the European languages they knew.

Quantitative results indicated that the lower the speakers' English proficiency,the more simple (as opposed to sophisticated) cognates they enumerated. Overhalf of the elementary group had low cognate awareness in comparison to themultilingual group, 70% of whom had medium or high awareness, outdoing even theadvanced bilingual group. Qualitative results revealed that almost all of themultilinguals saw searching for crosslinguistic similarities as a usefulstrategy, and 65% pinpointed vocabulary as the area that most benefited fromthis approach.

Otwinosky-Kastelanci concluded that the multilingual group had a wider range ofaffordances at their disposal. They were fully aware and made ample use ofcognates in their learning process, while most bilingual learners underestimatedthe number of cognates that existed between Polish and English. She recommendedthat syllabus designers introduce Latin and Greek roots early on and thatteachers be trained to show students how to recognize and use crosslinguisticlexical similarities to their advantage.

Ch. 2: Perceived Redundancy or Crosslinguistic Influence? What L3 Learners'Material Can Tell us About the Causes of Errors by Håkan Ringbom (pp. 19-24)Ringbom examined English errors made by Finnish students who had Finnish L1,English L2, and Swedish L3. She utilized the concept of "redundancy" to refer tolanguage elements viewed by learners as unnecessary or not present in the nativelanguage and thus disposable within a strategy of language learning"efficiency". For example, Finnish learners of English regularly omitprepositions and articles because these don't exist in their L1 and are seen as"redundant" in English. Similarly, English learners of Finnish leave off manyendings from the 14 cases, and English learners of Swedish often leaveadjectives uninflected for number and gender.

In L3 learning, there are two prior systems that can be relied on. However, thelearner's perception of similarities among systems (psycho-typology) is crucial.Ringbom's learners saw English and Swedish as similar and English and Finnish asdissimilar, primarily based on the number of markers required (e.g. case,number, second person pronouns). She concluded that learners assumed that the TLshould be like the L1 and discarded any superfluous or redundant systemicdifferences to reduce their workload.

Ch. 3: Crosslinguistic Interaction and Metalinguistic Awareness in ThirdLanguage Acquisition by Mariana Bono (pp. 25-52)Bono focused on the roles played by native and non-native languages in TLA(third or additional language acquisition) and the impact of metalinguisticawareness upon learning. She examined 42 bilingual university students learningSpanish exclusively in classrooms in France (18 beginners, 24 intermediates). L1was French for all but two, and L2 for most was English. Sixteen had alsolearned German. Thus Spanish was L3, L4, or L5. Forty-eight small-groupconversational sessions were recorded under the assumption that less controlledtasks would lead to more code switching and that peer interaction would supportshared and contextualized multilingual strategies and joint construction of meaning.

Bono analyzed 1,371 code switches, functionally categorized as pragmatic,metalinguistic, and lexical inserts (explicit, implicit, and non-elicited). Theresults indicated that most switches during Spanish (L3) production wereimplicit lexical inserts (i.e., use of non-target language words with risingintonation), probably to keep the conversation flowing. The majority of switchescame from beginners, probably due to limited L3 vocabulary. Interestinglyenough, all pragmatic and metalinguistic switches were in French (L1); however,63% of non-elicited lexical inserts were in L2 (usually English). Bonoattributed this to the role of English as the European lingua franca for youngconsumers of music, film, and the Internet. Even though L1 (French) and L3(Spanish) were typologically closer, familiarity with English overrode geneticproximity.

Bono concluded that L3 learners could use their L2 to analyze and monitor L3production and recommended that learners be encouraged to reflect uponsimilarities and differences among languages to draw on shared resources intheir language repertoires.

Ch. 4: Transfer from L3 German to L2 English in the Domain of Tense/ Aspect byAnna S.C. Cheung, Stephen Matthews and Wai Lan Tsang (pp. 53-73)Cheung, Matthews and Tsang studied native Cantonese-speaking students withEnglish L2 who were learning German L3. They focused on the influence of L3 onverb forms referring to past actions in L2 (i.e., backward transfer). SinceGerman (L3) uses both preterite and perfect verb forms to refer to past actionswith or without present relevance, this was a perfect test of its influence uponEnglish (L2), which clearly distinguishes simple past from present perfectforms. Cantonese (L1), which does not mark tense, utilizes an aspectual markerto distinguish perfective from imperfective events. This marker [gwo3] indicatescompletion, like the present perfect in English, but is also used for eventswithout present relevance, contrasting with the English present perfect. It washypothesized that learning L3 German would exercise a negative influence uponthe production of the present perfect/past contrast in L2 English. In otherwords, students taking German would be more likely to use English presentperfect to refer to past events than those with no knowledge of German.

Thirty-seven university students in Hong Kong participated in the study. Anexperimental group of 26 students taking intermediate German was compared to acontrol group of 11 students learning English as L2 with no knowledge of anyother European languages. They were all given a writing task in English thatrequired recounting past events. The experimental group also carried out thesame task in German. A second task involved making acceptability judgments of 26English sentences in which past tense events were discussed. Written verbphrases were coded in terms of non-target structures produced (i.e., presentperfect used for past, present perfect progressive used for past [both evidenceof possible German influence], simple present used for past, and past perfectused for past [both indicative of possible Cantonese influence]. Speaker ratingsof five sentences containing non-target uses of the present perfect werestatistically analyzed.

Results indicated that four of the twelve English essays written by the L3German- learning experimental group had non-target verbs (16 instances), whilethe control group had no non-target verbs (i.e., none showed any influence ofCantonese on English present perfect usage). Half of the control group rejectedthe ungrammatical English present perfect in the acceptability task, in contrastto only a third of the experimental group. This difference was statisticallysignificant and provided strong evidence for the influence of L3 German on L2English among the experimental students.

The researchers concluded that since German and English are genetically related,as well as having overlapping functions and structures, learners perceived themas similar. Backward transfer occurred from L3 to L2 in one specific aspect ofthe grammar. The authors suggested that English teachers be made aware of thispossibility in order to raise student awareness of overlaps among their languages.

Ch. 5: Perception of Preposition Errors in Semantically Correct versus ErroneousContexts by Multilingual Advanced English as a Foreign Language Learners:Measuring Metalinguistic Awareness by Martha Gibson and Britta Hufeisen (pp. 74-85)The major goal of this article was to test if bilingual learners had superiormetalinguistic skills, particularly with regard to control of attention andanalysis of structure. Gibson & Hufeisen examined 47 advanced EFL universitystudents in Germany with German L1 and 2-5 foreign languages. Participantscarried out two tasks. The first was to locate, correct, and determine theimpact of 11 prepositional errors in a mini-mystery story. The second was to dothe same with prepositions embedded in semantically nonsensical noun and verbphrases, a task requiring attention to grammar while ignoring meaning. Theexpectation was that all participants would perform better on Task 1 than onTask 2 and that participants with more foreign languages would be moresuccessful with Task 2 than those with fewer foreign languages.

Preliminary analysis revealed that "of" was problematic for all participantsbecause of semantic overlap with German "von" (from), so it was eliminated fromfurther analysis. Errors with the remaining 10 prepositions were detected inTask 1 by 76% of the participants and in Task 2 by 69%. There was nostatistically significant difference in overall accuracy in performing the twotasks. The semantic anomalies did not negatively influence participants' abilityto attend to grammatical errors.

There was a statistically significant relationship between having high FLexperience and downgrading the seriousness of preposition errors. No experiencedspeakers judged any errors to be "most serious," while 41% of the lessexperienced speakers considered that some were so serious. The reason for thisdifference needs to be researched further but may be linked to more efficiencyin language processing at the grammatical level among experienced learners. Theauthors cautioned against generalizing from this study, given that the highlyexperienced FL participants may not be typical of adult FL learners.

Ch. 6: 'Luisa and Pedrito's Dog will the Breakfast Eat': Interlanguage Transferand the Role of the Second Language Factor by Laura Sánchez (pp. 86-104)Sánchez examined data from a large-scale study on the effects of age andlanguage input on FL learning in Spain. She focused on the influence of L3German on L4 English acquisition by Spanish/Catalán bilinguals, hypothesizingthat the syntactic similarities of Spanish, Catalán, and English (all SVOlanguages) might prevent activation of German SOV patterns during Englishproduction. Participants were 154 simultaneous bilingual children learningGerman as L3 in a partial immersion program and English as L4 through formalinstruction only. Data were elicited from stories written in English in responseto picture stimuli. Occurrences of transfers from German were quantified andanalyzed statistically.

Results revealed that German syntax was highly activated during English writing(e.g., "The dog have the picnic ating." "They want a picknik mek." "Janet andPedro must the breakfast doing.") 56% of the children had German word order intheir English. These 86 participants were then analyzed separately, and all hadtransfer in 92.6% of the relevant contexts, indicating a strong effect anddisproving the authors' initial hypothesis.

The authors concluded that L3 could be activated more than L1, regardless oftypology, and this activation may be out of the learners' control. More researchis needed on this issue, especially with different language combinations and agegroups. Results of such research would be useful in determining the best age atwhich to introduce an L4 in the school curriculum.

Ch. 7: Crosslinguistic Influence in Multilingual Language Acquisition: Phonologyin third or Additional Language Acquisition by Eva-Maria Wunder (pp. 105-128)The final chapter of the volume considers acquisition of phonology amongmultilinguals. Factors involved in phonological CLI include: proficiency,recency, foreign language effect (categorization of language as non-native), andtask relatedness. Phonological CLI is most frequent in initial acquisitionstages and with most recently acquired languages.

Wunder examined the aspiration of stressed, syllable-initial, voiceless stops/p, t, k/ produced by eight native German speakers with English L2 who werebeginning to learn Spanish. Presence or absence of aspiration is one aspect of"accented" speech. Aspiration was measured by voice onset time (VOT), voiced bynegative VOT value, while voiceless, unaspirated sounds have a VOT of 0; andvoiceless, and aspirated sounds have a positive VOT value.

Participants were recorded during two read-on-your-own tasks, first a story inboth English and Spanish and then a short English nonsense text designed toelicit /p, t, k/. Wunder compared their output to that of native speakers ofGerman, British English, and Castilian Spanish. Participants showed mainlyGerman L1 influence upon their Spanish phonology. None revealed CLI only fromtheir L2, English. This contradicted earlier findings.

Wunder concluded that there was no clear evidence of L2 English influence on L3Spanish aspiration patterns, possibly due to the limited number of speakers ortheir stage of linguistic development. She recommended that learners be taughtto be more aware of CLI. Teachers should help students channel prior linguisticknowledge to facilitate the acquisition of new phonology.

EVALUATIONThis slim volume contributes meaningfully to the field of CLI. In accordancewith the goals set by the editor in the first chapter, the articles containedform a cohesive group, all strongly rooted in the historical and current debateswithin the field. There is some overlap among the chapters, which is to beexpected in an edited volume, but each piece offers something new to the reader,while simultaneously reinforcing the statements made in the other chapters.Perhaps the greatest strength of the volume is the coverage of many distinctlanguage combinations, both European and non-European. Another strength is theway in which all results are considered in terms of their implications forlanguage teaching and curriculum development.

The book is most appropriate for readers with a strong background in secondlanguage acquisition, although newcomers can also draw insight from theexcellent reviews of literature. All procedures and results are clearlydocumented with tables and graphs, which makes them good models for graduatestudents seeking to replicate existing studies.

The volume would make a good addition to a graduate linguistics library,particularly for a program that focuses on bilingualism, language acquisition,or applied linguistics. It could serve ably as a supplementary reader for acourse or as a primary source for thesis / dissertation research.

REFERENCESGibson, J.J. (1977). The theory of affordances. In R.E. Shaw & J. Bransford(Eds.). Perceiving, acting, and knowing. Hilllsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Sharwood Smith, M. (1983). Crosslinguistic aspects of second languageacquisition. Applied Linguistics, 4, 192-199.

Sharwood Smith, M. and Kellerman, E. 1986. Crosslinguistic influence in secondlanguage: an introduction. In E. Kellerman & M. Sharwood Smith (Eds).Crosslinguistic influence in second language acquisition (pp. 1-9). Oxford:Pergamon.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERAlicia Pousada received her Ph.D. in Educational Linguistics from theUniversity of Pennsylvania. Since 1987, she has taught linguistics at theundergraduate and graduate levels in the English Department of the Collegeof Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. Herpublications and presentations focus on language policy and planning,multilingualism, and teaching of English as an Auxiliary Language world-wide.

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