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Query Details

Query Subject:   Influence of L2 on L1
Author:   Kirk Masden
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Query:   Dear Linguist List subscribers:

I am not a linguist by training but have become involved in research
that I think may have important linguistic implications. The research
is on the development, for comparative purposes, of Japanese social
survey questions about noise annoyance that are equivalent to similar
questions in English. I am currently in the process of interpreting
results of a survey of bilingual subjects about the intensity of
modifiers such as "a little," "very," "extremely," etc. in the two

One striking result is that familiarity with English seems to have had
a significant influence on how native speakers of Japanese interpre
the intensity of certain modifiers. For example, the average
intensity ratings (obtained by asking subjects to make a mark on a
line that extends from "not at all" to "highest degree imaginable")
for the Japanese word "sukoshi" (usually translated as "a little")
were significantly higher among a control group of monolingual
Japanese than among the bilingual Japanese subjects. Interestingly,
the intensity ratings for "sukoshi" among the bilingual subjects were
very close to ratings obtained from both monolingual and bilingual
native speakers of English for the phrase "a little." We suspect tha
the bilingual Japanese subjects' interpretations of the nuances of
certain words in Japanese have been influenced by their intimate
familiarity with English.

As a novice in the field of linguistics, it has been difficult for me
to locate other studies that would help to place these results in
context. The concepts of "linguistic interference" and/or "transfer"
seem relevant but thus far I have only be able to find references to a
few papers on the influence of the target language on the learner's
primary language. Here is what I have found on the Internet thus far:

> A study of L2 pragmatic influence on L1 among Americans
>living in Japan
> Elwood, Mary Katherine 2000
(citation on web site incomplete)
(Editor's note: URL continues on second line)

>Tetsuo Harada (Univ. of
> Oregon), "L2 influence on L1 speech in the production of
(This seems to be a paper delivered at the Pacific Second
Language Research Forum which was held at the
University of Hawaii from October 4-7, 2001.)

>First published in JAIMES, Vol 2, No 2, 1995, pp 101- 121,
>Deakin University, Australia.
>Influence of Second Language Acquisition on the Firs
>Language of Migrants
>Australian Arabs Case Study
>Ali Darwish

It would seem to me that there should be a great deal of research on
the extent and nature of the impact of second language learning on
one's mother tongue. Here in Japan, some people argue that children
should not be made to study English too early because it might have a
negative influence on their acquisition of basic skills in Japanese.
I would greatly appreciate it if I could be directed to importan
writings on the general topic of second language influence on firs
language usage.

In regard to change in entire languages, I have found some references
to the "superstrate" influence of one language on another. In one
Linguist List message Professor Larry Trask pointed to the influence
of French on English as an example:

>On the other hand, after the Norman Conquest, English-speakers took
>over thousands of Norman French words, like 'castle', 'money', 'army'
>and 'virgin', and they even took over word-initial /v/, previously
>absent from English, as in 'virgin', 'virtue' and 'very'. This
>represents the superstrate influence of Norman French on English.

Also, the following page, which is written in Japanese,
discusses similar influence of English on Japanese:

I imagine that there may be a connection between the influence on an
individual level of knowledge of another language and analogous
influence on an entire language. The notion of the influence of a
"superstrate" language is interesting to me because of the power
relations implied by the terminology. In fact, while Japanese
subjects in our experiment seemed to be very influenced by English,
the English speakers seemed to be less influenced by their knowledge
of Japanese. Perhaps perceptions of international power and prestige
associated with English have contributed to the result we observed.

I look forward to information discussion of these issues on the list.
Again, I am particularly interested in references to research tha
might be related to the phenomenon we observed.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best wishes,

Kirk Masden

LL Issue: 13.665
Date posted: 12-Mar-2002


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