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Review of  Cross-Linguistic Influences in the Second Language Lexicon

Reviewer: Julie Bruch
Book Title: Cross-Linguistic Influences in the Second Language Lexicon
Book Author: Janusz Arabski
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Book Announcement: 17.2001

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EDITOR: Arabski, Janusz
TITLE: Cross-Linguistic Influences in the Second Language Lexicon
SERIES: Second Language Acquisition
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2006

Julie Bruch, Associate Professor of English and Linguistics at Mesa State


Cross-linguistic Influences in the Second Language Lexicon is a collection
of nineteen papers which focus on aspects of transfer in the acquisition of
lexicon. The collection includes both theoretical analyses and work based
on empirical observation. The notion of transfer in language acquisition
has traditionally been connected to studies of contrastive analysis (CA)
theory, interference, markedness, and error analysis which have a strong
theoretical foundation spanning more than three decades. The present
collection reviews the notion of language transfer and attempts to broaden
its scope from that of a fundamentally psycholinguistic term to include
sociolinguistic elements such as language contact and the effects of

The book is relevant to both SLA researchers and teachers of second
language. Part 1 opens with a discussion of the theoretical underpinnings
of transfer in second language acquisition and presents a corpus of data
with which to direct the discussion toward the key concept of lexical
competence in a second language. Part 2 examines the role of language
contact in building lexical competence. Parts 3 and 4 address the more
specific questions of how lexical transfer figures in language processing
and what specific strategies are employed by language acquirers as they
deal with both negative and positive aspects of transfer.


In the first paper, ''On the Ambiguity of the Notion 'Transfer','' Han
Dechert illustrates at a conceptual level how the processes employed in
transfer are inherently unpredictable and unbound. He begins by showing
how the notion of transfer is shared in ''mental space'' with the notions of
analogy and metaphor. He poses the question of whether such mental mapping
processes depend on the transfer of concrete, specific elements of a known
problem to a new problem or whether that transfer occurs at a more abstract
level by transferring an overall macrostructure. He further illustrates
the functioning of analogical transfer by showing how Roosevelt's 1937 use
of medical domain metaphors in relation to World War II were used by
Kennedy in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis to avoid all-out war. His
conclusion is that the use of transfer, analogy, and metaphor in
problem-solving tasks has the ambiguous potential to either exacerbate or
solve problems. The reader is left to extrapolate from this reasoning the
implications as they apply more specifically to language acquisition.
Inclusion of a concrete example from language learning would have made the
relevance of this paper to the collection more explicit, but in theoretical
terms, its implications are clear and significant.

The next paper, ''Language Transfer in Language Learning and Language
Contact,'' continues to explore the nature of transfer by drawing parallels
between language transfer, linguistic borrowing, and linguistic
accommodation. The author, Janusz Arabski, provides examples from Polish
speakers in contact with English and from British English speakers in
contact with American English of the similarities between language
learning, language borrowing, and dialect accommodation. The author
explains that in the situation of language learning, there are two complete
language systems in contact, which means that factors such as first
language (L1) and second language (L2) similarity, stage of language
learning, age, and type of language structures involved are important. In
the situation of language contact, two entire cultural systems become
involved, which means that language is simply one aspect of the transfer or
borrowing which occurs. In this case, issues of identity come into play in
addition to the factors already mentioned, and pragmatic transfer, such as
that of speech act style, may be common. When dialects come into contact,
integrative motivation is usually a determining factor as well. Therefore,
in addition to transfer and borrowing, converging and diverging
accommodation are common. Although the author provides clear examples of
L1 to L2 transfer, this reviewer would have liked to see a more explicit
distinction made among the concepts of transfer, borrowing, and
accommodation in order to more clearly understand their implied

Terence Odlin, in the chapter ''Could a Contrastive Analysis Ever be
Complete?'' explores how CA research can contribute to our understanding of
the effects of second language acquisition on learners' identities and
personalities. He explores why making predictions about transfer in
language is so problematic, including evidence from ''covert transfer'' such
as avoidance patterns in L2. He also discusses the fact that many of the
proposed constraints on transfer have been shown to not always work due to
great variation on the part of individual language users. He suggests that
CA research has a great deal to offer, both theoretically and practically,
but that the theory cannot be complete without first producing a workable
theory of transferability which includes an explanation of the intersection
of affective factors. He makes a convincing argument that affect as found
not only in the phonological, lexical, and pragmatic aspects of language,
but also in the grammatical structures is a crucial functional component of
transferability. The paper ends with a series of questions related to the
universality of affect that could profitably be explored to further this
line of study.

In ''The Importance of Different Types of Similarity in Transfer Studies,''
Hakan Ringbom points out that CA research has often focused on language
differences, but that the similarities across languages influence learners
even more significantly when it comes to transfer. The paper attempts to
provide objective qualifications of factors involved in cross-linguistic
similarity. Main factors mentioned include: degree of similarity
(one-to-one relationship, partial similarity, or zero similarity),
item-by-item similarities as opposed to system level similarities,
similarities used in comprehension of language as opposed to production,
and similarities in form versus those in function. A careful distinction
is made between perceived similarity and objective similarity, and the
non-uniform nature of similarities is also outlined (e.g., unrelated
languages may have certain similarities that related languages do not have).

The main thesis of Elzbieta Manczak-Wohlfeld in ''Language Contact vs.
Foreign and Second Language Acquisition'' is that there is a correlation
between language contact and SLA that can and should be used to advantage
when teaching language. She outlines in detail some of the features of
linguistic borrowing and goes on to summarize some practical proposals for
using extant loanwords in a language to help beginning language students
feel enabled to communicate at an early stage of their learning. The
context of this paper is Polish learners of English, and it is suggested
that since English loanwords are so common in Polish, there are no truly
beginning level students of English, at least in the aspect of lexicon.
Disadvantages of an overdependence on loanwords for developing a base in
English are both linguistic and psychological. First, loanwords mainly
constitute a set of nouns lying within a small range of semantic fields,
and second, learners may be led to believe that English lexicon is
comprised mostly of words they are familiar with. The practical
suggestions outlined in this article for how to introduce loanwords as part
of English study are very helpful, and since a majority of SLA taking place
around the world today occurs in a similarly rich surrounding of English
loans, the ideas are applicable to a variety of learners.

In ''Genre: Language Contact and Culture Transfer,'' Andrzej Lyda discusses
the significance of the role of genre acquisition in overall SLA. It is
suggested here that internal changes in a culture's language genres, due to
changes in political and economic systems, as well as borrowing of L2 genre
categories, due to increased contact with other cultures, are occurring
together with other types of linguistic change and borrowing. If we accept
the notion that genre is more than just a unit of the language system, that
indeed it occupies an important place in the thought patterns of a language
community, this paper implies that research in SLA should focus its
attention not only on individual language, but on genre forms extant in the
entire L2 speech community and how they relate to new genre forms being
created in the L1 community. The question of transferability here is taken
to the level higher of discourse, which is not typically found in the

In Chapter 7, Justyna Lesniewska presents findings from a large-scale study
that asks: ''Is Cross-linguistic Influence a Factor in Advanced EFL
Learners' Use of Collocations?'' The study found both quantitative and
qualitative differences between advanced students of English as a Foreign
Language (EFL) and native speakers in the area of ''collocational
competence,'' that is, in the use of word combinations that are processed as
a single chunk of meaning in discourse. However, contrary to previous
studies cited in the paper, there was no indication in the results of this
study that L1 played a major role in creating these differences. Rather,
it was suggested that developing pools of memory of language chunks may not
be as easily accessible to the mind of a non-native speaker when it comes
to producing native-like collocations.

In Chapter 8 ''International Terms and Profile Transfer: On 'Discussion'''
Krystyna Warchal introduces the reader to the relatively recent studies of
''international terms'' (defined as words used extensively in international
communication as rough translation equivalents, such as English
''discussion'' and Polish ''dyskusja''). The paper outlines a study in which
bilingual and monolingual dictionary entries were examined and compared
with translators' actual use of the two terms above in order to determine
whether the original denotations of the word in one language can influence
the denotations of the international equivalent term over time. (This
process is called ''profile transfer.'') The findings of the study suggest
that although there are slightly different meanings in the two terms in the
two languages, the English denotations are being used with increasing
predominance in academic writing in Polish as a result of the exposure of
Polish writers to academic writing in English. The hypothesis of the
author is that this transfer in usage will affect a change in the original
Polish lexeme itself over time, so that a truly international equivalent
will result.

In ''The Influence of English on Polish Drug-related Slang,'' Magdalena
Bartlomiejczyk provides numerous examples of Polish drug-related slang
which is based on linguistic borrowing from English. She emphasizes
through her examples the fact that these relatively recent borrowings
represent a variety of productive processes such as semantic shift,
calques, personifications, and borrowed metaphors, so that it is not a
monolithic process induced by bilingual speakers of Polish and English, but
rather a richly variegated set of processes effected through marketing
ploys in the underground drug scene as well as through the need of drug
addicts themselves to maintain a certain identity and secrecy. This paper
shows how cross-linguistic influences on lexicon are not limited to the
upper-crust, professionals or well-educated members of a society, but can
occur at all levels.

Chapter 10 ''Why Money Can't Buy You Anything in German'' by Marcus Callies
employs a functional-typological approach to explore how L1 influences
success of learners of L2 in acquiring competence in combining verbs with
their arguments within a sentence. Specifically, the paper investigates
how German and English assign semantic roles to various arguments and
adjuncts of verbs. It was suggested that English verbs found in sentences
such as, ''California grows the best oranges,'' which contain a non-agentive
inanimate subject (a marked verb), would prove problematic for learners of
English. This type of English construction is predicted to be more
vulnerable to negative transfer and be lower on the learnability scale.
The paper reports quantitative and qualitative results of a study in which
German university students were asked to perform three tasks: one of
acceptability judgments, error identification, and a translation task. The
results of the study confirm the predictions made and suggest that foreign
language teaching should attempt to incorporate more conscious practice of
such structures in order to achieve more idiomaticity in students' use of
the language. The study also suggests that descriptions from language
typology can serve as predictors of L2A difficulties.

Chapter 11 ''Lexical Transfer: Interlexical or Intralexical?'' by David
Singleton revisits the question of whether the L1 mental lexicon is
separate from or unified with the L2 mental lexicon. Although the author,
in previous work, had argued for the unitary model, this paper shows
evidence for the idea of differentiation of lexicon in acquisition and
processing of languages. Interesting arguments for the integrationist
view, the modularist view, and an integration continuum view are outlined,
and reports of five separate studies which support the modularists are
summarized. The studies reported here indicate that there is a strong
psychotypological factor (meaning a real or perceived distance between
languages) operating in cross-lexical processing; that is, at some level,
L2 learners make use of implicit knowledge of the degree of similarity or
difference in form and meanings between the L1 and other languages being
processed. For example, and English who knew Spanish, Latin, and Irish
made use of Spanish as a source of transfer when attempting to communicate
in newly acquired French. This shows that the speaker intuitively knew
that Spanish is typologically closer to French than English, and provides
evidence for differentiation of lexicon in cross-lingual processing.

Danuta Gabrys-Barker in ''The Interaction of Languages in the Lexical Search
of Multilingual Language Users,'' presents findings from a study of lexical
search processes used by multilinguals. In the study, two groups of
trilingual students were asked to do a translation task and provide
simultaneous introspective verbalizations as they completed the task. It
was hypothesized that the language of input would influence lexical
processing and types of transfer. One group was asked to translate from L1
into L3, and the other group was asked to translate from L2 into L3.
Important distinctions were found in the types of processing employed by
the two groups as well as the number and types of transfer errors made.
Overall, the results showed that those translating from L2 engaged in more
elaborate processing strategies, showed evidence of more metalinguistic
awareness, used a greater variety of strategies, and had fewer transfer
errors. Those translating directly from L1 relied more on implicit
awareness of language, which revealed that expertise in the input language
by itself did not facilitate performance in translating. The conclusion of
the author is that developing language awareness and strategic competence
in language learners would improve lexical processing abilities across

Chapter 13 ''Assessing L2Lexical Development in Early L2 Learning: A Case
Study'' by Anna Nizegorodcew presents a longitudinal case study of the
effectiveness of L2 instruction on early learners. The author summarizes
the results of low intensity instruction over a period of about two and a
half years to early learners. The subjects were two children who were
about three and a half years old and four years old respectively at the
time of the writing of the paper. Principal findings indicate that young
L2 learners may understand lexicon only globally from heavily
contextualized input rather than as discrete lexical items, and that
because of this, very young learners may be able to produce words in some
cases before comprehending them. Positive outcomes are reported in that
both motivation for L2A and metalinguistic awareness were very high for the
children. The author concludes that the greatest benefits of formal
instruction for early learners in a low exposure situation lie in the
affective and cognitive domains.

In Chapter 14 ''Code-mixing in Early L2 Lexical Acquisition'' Joanna Rokita
provides further information on early learners. Using case studies of four
children receiving formal instruction once a week and two others receiving
the same instruction, but who come from bilingual families, the author
finds that code-mixing does indeed occur for all children, but in
qualitatively distinct ways and for slightly different reasons. She
concludes that without providing more frequent exposure and more meaningful
types of interactions than occur in the formal instruction, early learners
really cannot be said to gain successive bilingualism in language, but
rather, they are simply gaining successive second language acquisition.

Chapter 15 ''Metaphorical Transferability'' by Rudiger Zimmermann reports the
findings of a cross-linguistic study of the extent to which metaphor source
and target domains are universal and/or transferable. Two speakers each
from a total of thirteen languages from around the world were interviewed
using a questionnaire related to metaphorical mapping in their native
language as compared to six metaphor domains from English (such as the
''problem as food'' metaphor, ''x is hard to digest''). Great variability was
found on how metaphors in various languages are mapped, which implies that
idiom and metaphor transfer cannot be assumed. The author indicates that
this is a preliminary study intended to be a methodological contribution
and that future work would need to triangulate this type of data with
dictionary comparisons and recognition tests, include additional metaphor
domains, languages, and greater numbers of subjects.

The paper ''On the Use of Translation in Studies of Language Contact'' by
Jolanta Latkowska, moves into the question of how translation tasks may
affect use of L1 lexicon, and at the same time, it explores the question of
whether translation tasks are indicative of transfer or simply indicative
of errors inherent in translation strategies. The study consisted of a
timed translation task of L2 sentences containing idioms, fixed
expressions, and various collocations, all of which existed but were
distinct in L1. The L2 to L1 translation study was replicated after a
period of six years but with the time limit reduced. Findings reported
here indicate that literal word for word translations, or calques, were
relatively rare, and that strategies of avoidance such as circumlocutions
were more frequently used. One interesting finding was that an obsolete L1
expression was revived as part of a translation, which suggests that a
restructuring of L1 may occur as part of bilingualism. The author hopes
that this study will help elucidate aspects of bilingual performance in

Chapter 17 ''On Building Castles on the Sand, or Exploring the Issue of
Transfer in the Interpretation and Production of L2 Fixed Expressions'' by
Anna Cieslicka investigates how the proximity of ''fixed expressions'' in L1
and L2 influence comprehension and production of same in L2. The study
involved a variety of comprehension and production tasks, such as discourse
completion and translation, and introspective reports by subjects on the
processes they employed to process the L2 fixed expressions. It was found
that facility in processing fixed expressions varied according to degree of
proximity of the L2 expressions to L1 expressions. Although expressions
which were semi-proximate were most prone to negative transfer in
production, they were very close to lexically equivalent expressions in
ease of comprehension. In the metacognition protocols, it was found that
guessing, analogizing, or imaging based on literal sense were the most
frequently employed processing strategies. Transfer of knowledge from L1
idioms was also a factor.

In Chapter 18 '''Don't Lose Your Head' or How Polish Learners of English
Cope with L2 Idiomatic Expressions'' by Liliana Piasecka, research goals
were similar to those in Chapter 17: to investigate how L2 idioms are
processed. Advanced learners were given the task of translating L1 idioms
into L2. Only idioms for which a lexical equivalent in L2 exists were
used. Although exact translations were among the results, a variety of
other strategies were used, including paraphrase, partial translations, and
alternative idioms. Also, results indicated that contextualized test
instruments render more success than discrete item instruments.

Finally, in ''Phrasal Verb Idioms and the Normative Concept of the
Interlanguage Hypothesis'' by Przemyslaw Olejniczak, the development of
idiomatic expressions in L2 is studied. Phrasal verb quizzes were
administered to both second year and fifth year university students to
investigate interlanguage. Findings indicate that more advanced learners
achieved higher scores on the more highly metaphorical verb phrases than
did the second year students.


This is an impressive collection of serious thought and critical analysis
ranging from broad issues and their implications to more specific problems.
The papers in this book explore the larger ideas of the influence of
changing world politics, emerging national identities, and speech
communities in contact on lexicon in both first and second languages. They
also delve into more local questions related to translation, early language
learning, and L2 instruction. The papers are firmly grounded in
significant previous research (e.g., Givon 1984, Kellerman 1977, Odlin
1989, Ringbom 1987, and Weinreich 1953/1968), and they present good
summaries of much recent work as well (e.g., Arabski 2002, Dijkstra 2003).
For those interested in doing research, a number of excellent research
models are suggested here as well as questions for further investigation.
I wondered if the preponderance of Polish authors represented in the book
would cause the collection to be rather limited in its perspective, but I
found the topics to be intriguing, the research to be rigorous and valuable
to the field, and the findings and analyses outlined in the papers as a
whole to represent a perspective that is relevant and useful. While I
thought the papers in Part 4, which deal exclusively with metaphor, were
somewhat redundant, the editor did a commendable job of collecting enough
diverse angles on the topic to be thought-provoking, while ensuring that
each paper had a sufficiently direct connection to merit inclusion. The
data-driven papers are in good balance with the papers of theoretical
inquiry. This is a significant contribution to the field of second
language acquisition studies.


Arabski, J. (ed.) 2002. Time for Words. Studies in Foreign Language
Vocabulary acquisition. Frankfurt am Main: Lang.

Dijkstra, T. 2003. Lexical processing in bilinguals and multilinguals. Pp.
11-26 in J. Cenoz, U. Jessner and B. Hufeisen (eds.) The Multilingual
Lexicon. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Givon, T. 1984. Syntax. A Funcitonal-Typlogical Introduction. Amsterdam:

Kellerman, E. 1977. Towards a characterization of the strategy of transfer
in second language learning. Interlanguage Studies Bulletin 2.58-145.

Odlin, T. 1989. Language Transfer. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

Ringbom, H. 1987. The Role of the First Language in Foreign Language
Learning. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Weinreich, U. 1953/1968. Languages in Contact. The Hague: Mouton.

Julie Bruch is Associate Professor of English and Linguistics at Mesa State
College in Colorado, U.S.A. Her research interests are second language
acquisition and cross-cultural comparisons of aspects of discourse.

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