Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Review of New Trends in Crosslinguistic Influence and Multilingualism Research
EDITORS: De Angelis, Gessica & Dewaele, Jean-Marc TITLE: New Trends in Crosslinguistic Influence and Multilingualism Research SERIES TITLE: Second Language Acquisition PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters YEAR: 2011
Alicia Pousada, English Department, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras
SUMMARY This volume serves as an introduction to the growing field of CLI (cross-linguistic influence), a term first utilized in Sharwood Smith 1983 and developed in Sharwood Smith & Kellerman 1986. While the articles present empirical studies of the acquisition of additional languages among bilinguals, they also review the literature, terminology, and current theoretical debates in this area. Research in CLI goes beyond positive and negative “interference” from L1 to L2 and looks at the role of L2 in the acquisition of additional languages and the varying influences of those languages upon each other and upon L1. The evidence 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 future research. It also shows how the articles actively engage current theoretical debates regarding the metalinguistic awareness produced by language learning, psychotypological categorization of languages by speakers, foreign vs. second language status of given languages, and organization of the multilingual lexicon.
Ch. 1: Awareness and Affordances: Multilinguals versus Bilinguals and their Perceptions 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. Language offers certain affordances to users, and speakers vary in their sensitivity to these and in their ability to take advantage of them in learning new languages. Otwinosky-Kastelanci studied three groups of Polish-English young adult bilinguals who varied by English proficiency level (elementary, intermediate, and advanced) and another group of young adult multilinguals (none of whom knew Latin or Greek) in Warsaw. She hypothesized that the English proficiency level of the 512 individuals was linked to their awareness of cognate lexical items. Study participants were asked to respond to a questionnaire in which they gave their perception of the typological distance between Polish and English, expressed their beliefs concerning cognates, and enumerated five cognates. They also 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. Over half of the elementary group had low cognate awareness in comparison to the multilingual group, 70% of whom had medium or high awareness, outdoing even the advanced bilingual group. Qualitative results revealed that almost all of the multilinguals saw searching for crosslinguistic similarities as a useful strategy, and 65% pinpointed vocabulary as the area that most benefited from this approach.
Otwinosky-Kastelanci concluded that the multilingual group had a wider range of affordances at their disposal. They were fully aware and made ample use of cognates in their learning process, while most bilingual learners underestimated the number of cognates that existed between Polish and English. She recommended that syllabus designers introduce Latin and Greek roots early on and that teachers be trained to show students how to recognize and use crosslinguistic lexical 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 to language elements viewed by learners as unnecessary or not present in the native language and thus disposable within a strategy of language learning “efficiency”. For example, Finnish learners of English regularly omit prepositions and articles because these don’t exist in their L1 and are seen as “redundant” in English. Similarly, English learners of Finnish leave off many endings from the 14 cases, and English learners of Swedish often leave adjectives uninflected for number and gender.
In L3 learning, there are two prior systems that can be relied on. However, the learner’s perception of similarities among systems (psycho-typology) is crucial. Ringbom’s learners saw English and Swedish as similar and English and Finnish as dissimilar, primarily based on the number of markers required (e.g. case, number, second person pronouns). She concluded that learners assumed that the TL should be like the L1 and discarded any superfluous or redundant systemic differences to reduce their workload.
Ch. 3: Crosslinguistic Interaction and Metalinguistic Awareness in Third Language 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 metalinguistic awareness upon learning. She examined 42 bilingual university students learning Spanish exclusively in classrooms in France (18 beginners, 24 intermediates). L1 was French for all but two, and L2 for most was English. Sixteen had also learned German. Thus Spanish was L3, L4, or L5. Forty-eight small-group conversational sessions were recorded under the assumption that less controlled tasks would lead to more code switching and that peer interaction would support shared 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). The results indicated that most switches during Spanish (L3) production were implicit lexical inserts (i.e., use of non-target language words with rising intonation), probably to keep the conversation flowing. The majority of switches came from beginners, probably due to limited L3 vocabulary. Interestingly enough, all pragmatic and metalinguistic switches were in French (L1); however, 63% of non-elicited lexical inserts were in L2 (usually English). Bono attributed this to the role of English as the European lingua franca for young consumers of music, film, and the Internet. Even though L1 (French) and L3 (Spanish) were typologically closer, familiarity with English overrode genetic proximity.
Bono concluded that L3 learners could use their L2 to analyze and monitor L3 production and recommended that learners be encouraged to reflect upon similarities and differences among languages to draw on shared resources in their language repertoires.
Ch. 4: Transfer from L3 German to L2 English in the Domain of Tense/ Aspect by Anna S.C. Cheung, Stephen Matthews and Wai Lan Tsang (pp. 53-73) Cheung, Matthews and Tsang studied native Cantonese-speaking students with English L2 who were learning German L3. They focused on the influence of L3 on verb forms referring to past actions in L2 (i.e., backward transfer). Since German (L3) uses both preterite and perfect verb forms to refer to past actions with or without present relevance, this was a perfect test of its influence upon English (L2), which clearly distinguishes simple past from present perfect forms. Cantonese (L1), which does not mark tense, utilizes an aspectual marker to distinguish perfective from imperfective events. This marker [gwo3] indicates completion, like the present perfect in English, but is also used for events without present relevance, contrasting with the English present perfect. It was hypothesized that learning L3 German would exercise a negative influence upon the production of the present perfect/past contrast in L2 English. In other words, students taking German would be more likely to use English present perfect to refer to past events than those with no knowledge of German.
Thirty-seven university students in Hong Kong participated in the study. An experimental group of 26 students taking intermediate German was compared to a control group of 11 students learning English as L2 with no knowledge of any other European languages. They were all given a writing task in English that required recounting past events. The experimental group also carried out the same task in German. A second task involved making acceptability judgments of 26 English sentences in which past tense events were discussed. Written verb phrases were coded in terms of non-target structures produced (i.e., present perfect used for past, present perfect progressive used for past [both evidence of possible German influence], simple present used for past, and past perfect used for past [both indicative of possible Cantonese influence]. Speaker ratings of five sentences containing non-target uses of the present perfect were statistically analyzed.
Results indicated that four of the twelve English essays written by the L3 German- learning experimental group had non-target verbs (16 instances), while the control group had no non-target verbs (i.e., none showed any influence of Cantonese on English present perfect usage). Half of the control group rejected the ungrammatical English present perfect in the acceptability task, in contrast to only a third of the experimental group. This difference was statistically significant and provided strong evidence for the influence of L3 German on L2 English 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 them as similar. Backward transfer occurred from L3 to L2 in one specific aspect of the grammar. The authors suggested that English teachers be made aware of this possibility in order to raise student awareness of overlaps among their languages.
Ch. 5: Perception of Preposition Errors in Semantically Correct versus Erroneous Contexts 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 superior metalinguistic skills, particularly with regard to control of attention and analysis of structure. Gibson & Hufeisen examined 47 advanced EFL university students in Germany with German L1 and 2-5 foreign languages. Participants carried out two tasks. The first was to locate, correct, and determine the impact of 11 prepositional errors in a mini-mystery story. The second was to do the same with prepositions embedded in semantically nonsensical noun and verb phrases, a task requiring attention to grammar while ignoring meaning. The expectation was that all participants would perform better on Task 1 than on Task 2 and that participants with more foreign languages would be more successful with Task 2 than those with fewer foreign languages.
Preliminary analysis revealed that “of” was problematic for all participants because of semantic overlap with German “von” (from), so it was eliminated from further analysis. Errors with the remaining 10 prepositions were detected in Task 1 by 76% of the participants and in Task 2 by 69%. There was no statistically significant difference in overall accuracy in performing the two tasks. The semantic anomalies did not negatively influence participants’ ability to attend to grammatical errors.
There was a statistically significant relationship between having high FL experience and downgrading the seriousness of preposition errors. No experienced speakers judged any errors to be “most serious,” while 41% of the less experienced speakers considered that some were so serious. The reason for this difference needs to be researched further but may be linked to more efficiency in language processing at the grammatical level among experienced learners. The authors cautioned against generalizing from this study, given that the highly experienced FL participants may not be typical of adult FL learners.
Ch. 6: ‘Luisa and Pedrito’s Dog will the Breakfast Eat’: Interlanguage Transfer and 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 and language input on FL learning in Spain. She focused on the influence of L3 German on L4 English acquisition by Spanish/Catalán bilinguals, hypothesizing that the syntactic similarities of Spanish, Catalán, and English (all SVO languages) might prevent activation of German SOV patterns during English production. Participants were 154 simultaneous bilingual children learning German as L3 in a partial immersion program and English as L4 through formal instruction only. Data were elicited from stories written in English in response to picture stimuli. Occurrences of transfers from German were quantified and analyzed 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 and Pedro must the breakfast doing.”) 56% of the children had German word order in their English. These 86 participants were then analyzed separately, and all had transfer in 92.6% of the relevant contexts, indicating a strong effect and disproving the authors’ initial hypothesis.
The authors concluded that L3 could be activated more than L1, regardless of typology, and this activation may be out of the learners’ control. More research is needed on this issue, especially with different language combinations and age groups. Results of such research would be useful in determining the best age at which to introduce an L4 in the school curriculum.
Ch. 7: Crosslinguistic Influence in Multilingual Language Acquisition: Phonology in third or Additional Language Acquisition by Eva-Maria Wunder (pp. 105-128) The final chapter of the volume considers acquisition of phonology among multilinguals. Factors involved in phonological CLI include: proficiency, recency, foreign language effect (categorization of language as non-native), and task relatedness. Phonological CLI is most frequent in initial acquisition stages 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 were beginning to learn Spanish. Presence or absence of aspiration is one aspect of “accented” speech. Aspiration was measured by voice onset time (VOT), voiced by negative VOT value, while voiceless, unaspirated sounds have a VOT of 0; and voiceless, and aspirated sounds have a positive VOT value.
Participants were recorded during two read-on-your-own tasks, first a story in both English and Spanish and then a short English nonsense text designed to elicit /p, t, k/. Wunder compared their output to that of native speakers of German, British English, and Castilian Spanish. Participants showed mainly German L1 influence upon their Spanish phonology. None revealed CLI only from their L2, English. This contradicted earlier findings.
Wunder concluded that there was no clear evidence of L2 English influence on L3 Spanish aspiration patterns, possibly due to the limited number of speakers or their stage of linguistic development. She recommended that learners be taught to be more aware of CLI. Teachers should help students channel prior linguistic knowledge to facilitate the acquisition of new phonology.
EVALUATION This slim volume contributes meaningfully to the field of CLI. In accordance with the goals set by the editor in the first chapter, the articles contained form a cohesive group, all strongly rooted in the historical and current debates within the field. There is some overlap among the chapters, which is to be expected 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 distinct language combinations, both European and non-European. Another strength is the way in which all results are considered in terms of their implications for language teaching and curriculum development.
The book is most appropriate for readers with a strong background in second language acquisition, although newcomers can also draw insight from the excellent reviews of literature. All procedures and results are clearly documented with tables and graphs, which makes them good models for graduate students 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 a course or as a primary source for thesis / dissertation research.
REFERENCES Gibson, 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 language acquisition. Applied Linguistics, 4, 192-199.
Sharwood Smith, M. and Kellerman, E. 1986. Crosslinguistic influence in second language: an introduction. In E. Kellerman & M. Sharwood Smith (Eds). Crosslinguistic influence in second language acquisition (pp. 1-9). Oxford: Pergamon.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Alicia Pousada received her Ph.D. in Educational Linguistics from the
University of Pennsylvania. Since 1987, she has taught linguistics at the
undergraduate and graduate levels in the English Department of the College
of Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. Her
publications and presentations focus on language policy and planning,
multilingualism, and teaching of English as an Auxiliary Language world-wide.