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Chapter 8. Cross Linguistic Influence and Learner language. Chapter 8. (pp. 207-243) Brown, D. H. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching. (4 th ed.). White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.

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chapter 8 cross linguistic influence and learner language
Chapter 8. Cross Linguistic Influence and Learner language
  • Chapter 8. (pp. 207-243)Brown, D. H. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching. (4th ed.). White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.
  • Prepared by: Aníbal Muñoz ClaudioCourse: EDUC 8130Professor: Dr. María A. Irizarry Date: March 28, 2006
The contrastive analysis hypothesis ( CAH)

From the CAH to CLI (cross-linguistic influence)

Markedness and universal grammar

Learner language

Error analysis

Mistakes and errors

Errors in error analysis

Identifying and describing errors (chart)

Sources of errors

Interlingual and intralingual transfers

Context of learning

Stages of learner language development

Variability in learner language


Form-focused instruction

Error treatment

A model for error treatment (in the classroom)

the contrastive analysis hypothesis
The contrastive analysis hypothesis
  • Deeply rooted in the behavioristic and structuralist approaches, the CAH claimed that the principal barrier to L2 is the interference of L1system with the 2nd system.
  • A scientific- structural analysis will develop a taxonomy of linguistic contrasts between them which will enable the linguist to predict the difficulties a learner would encounter.
  • Clifford Prator (1967) captured the essence of the grammatical hierarchy (Stockwell, Bowen, and Martin, 1965) in six categories of difficulty –it was applicable to both grammatical and phonological features of language.
  • Most of the examples are taken from English and Spanish
six categories of hierarchy of difficulty a native english speaker learning spanish as l2
Level 0. No difference or contrast is present between the two languages. The learner can simply transfer a sound, structure, or lexical item from the native language to the target language.

Level 1 –coalescence two items in the native language become coalesced into essentially one item in the target language. Example: English 3rd p. possessives require gender distinction (his/her) and in Spanish they do not (su)

Level 2 Underdifferentiation –an item in the native language is absent in the target language. The learner must avoid that item. Example: (adjectives in Spanish require gender (alto/alta)

Level 3 Reinterpretation –an item that exists in the native language is given a new shape or distribution. Example: new phonemes require new distribution of speech articulators -/r/, etc.

Six categories of hierarchy of difficulty (a native English speaker learning Spanish as L2)
  • Level 4. Overdifferentiation –a new item entirely, bearing any similarity to the native language item, must be learned. Example: English speakers must learn the use of determiners in Spanish –man is mortal/El hombre es mortal.
  • Level 5. Split –one item in the native language becomes two or more in the target language requiring the learner to make a new distinction. English speakers must learn the distinction between (ser) and (estar)
from the cah to cli cross linguistic influence
From the CAH to CLI (cross-linguistic influence)
  • Predictions of difficulty by means of contrastive procedures had many shortcomings. The process could not account for all linguistic problems or situations not even with the 6 categories. Lastly, the predictions of difficulty level could not be verified with reliability.
  • The attempt to predict difficulty by means of contrastive analysis was called the strong version of the CAH (Wardaugh, 1970) –a version that he believed unrealistic and impractible.
  • Wardaugh also recognized the weak version of the CAH –one in which the linguistic difficulties can be more profitably explained a posteriori by teachers and linguists. When language and errors appear, teachers can utilize their knowledge of the target language and native language to understand the sources of error.
cah to cli
  • The so-called weak version of the CAH is what remains today under the label cross-linguistic influence (CLI) –suggesting that we all recognize the significant role that prior experience plays in any learning act, and the influence of the native language as prior experience must not be overlooked.
  • Syntactic , lexical, and semantic interference show far more variation among learners than psycho-motor-based pronunciation interference.
markedness and universal grammar
Markedness and universal grammar
  • Eckman (1977,1981) proposed a useful method for determining directionality of difficulty-markedness theory.
  • It accounted for degrees of principles of universal grammar.Eckman showed that marked items in a language will be more difficult to acquire than unmarked, and that degree of markedness will correspond to degrees of difficulty.
  • Celse-Murcia and Hawkins (1985:66) sum up markedness theory:

It distinguishes members of a pair of related forms or structures by assuming that the marked member of a pair contains at least one more feature than the unmarked one. In addition, the unmarked (neutral) member has a wider range of distribution than the marked one. In the English indefinite articles (a and an) an is the more complex or marked form. Verbs are the classic example for this pattern.

learner language
Learner language
  • CAH stressed the interfering effects of L1 on L2 learning and claimed, in its strong form, that L2 learning is primarily a process of acquiring whatever items are different from the L1.
  • This narrow view of interference ignored the intralingual effects of learning.
  • Learners are consciously testing hypotheses about the target language from many possible sources of knowledge.

1. knowledge of the native language

2. limited knowledge of the target language itself

3. knowledge of communicative functions of language

4. knowledge about language in general

5. knowledge about life, human beings, and the universe.

  • Learners act upon the environment and construct what to them is a legitimate system of language in its own right.
learner language11
Learner language
  • The most obvious approach to analyzing interlanguage is to study the speech and writing of learners –learner language (Lightbown & Spada 1993)
  • Production data is publicly observable and is presumably reflective of a learner’s underlying competence.
  • It follows that the study of the speech and writing of learners is largely the study of the errors of learners. “Correct” production yields little information about the actual linguistic system of learners.
error analysis
Error analysis
  • Human learning is fundamentally a process that involves the making of mistakes.
  • They form an important aspect of learning virtually any skill or acquiring information.
  • Language learning is like any other human learning.
  • L2 learning is a process that is clearly not unlike L1 learning in its trial-and-error nature. Inevitably, learners will make mistakes in the process of acquisition, and that process will be impeded if they do not commit errors and then benefit from various forms of feedback on those errors.
  • Corder (1967) noted: “a learner’s errors are significant in that they provide to the researcher evidence of how language is learned or acquired, what strategies or procedures the learner is employing in the discovery of the language.”
mistakes and errors
Mistakes and errors
  • In order to analyze learner language in an appropriate perspective, it is crucial to make a distinction between mistakesand errors, technically two very different phenomena.
  • Mistake –refers to a performance error that is either a random guess or a “slip”, in that is a failure to utilize a known system correctly. Native speakers make mistakes.When attention is called to them, they can be self-corrected.
  • Error –a noticeable deviation from the adult grammar of a native speaker, reflects the competence of the learner (Does John can sing?)
mistakes and errors14
Mistakes and errors
  • The fact that learners do make errors, and these errors can be analyzed, led to a surge of study of learners’ errors, called error analysis.
  • Error analysis became distinguished from contrastive analysis by its examination of errors attributable to all possible sources, not just those resulting from negative transfer of the native language.
errors in error analysis
Errors in error analysis
  • There is a danger in too much attention to learner’s errors.
  • A classroom teacher can become so preoccupied with noticing errors that the correct utterances in L2 go unnoticed.
  • While the diminishing of errors is an important criterion for increasing language proficiency, the ultimate goal of L2 learning is the attainment of communicative fluency.
identifying and describing errors
Identifying and describing errors
  • One of the most common difficulties in understanding the linguistic systems of both L1 and L2 is the fact that such systems cannot be directly observed –they must be inferred by means of analyzing production and comprehension data.
  • The first step in the process of analysis is the identification and description of errors. Corder (1971) provided a model for identifying erroneous or idiosyncratic utterances in a second language. (chart 8.1) p. 221
  • A major distinction is made between overt and covert errors.

a. overt –erroneous utterances ungrammatically at the sentence level

b. covert –grammatically well-formed but not according to context of


Does John can sing?



D. Can John sing?

E. original sentence contained pre-posed do auxiliary applicable to most verbs, but not to verbs with auxiliaries. OUT 2

I saw their department.


B. NO (context about living quarters in Mexico)


F. YES, Spanish

G. Yo vi su departamento.

H. I saw their apartment.

E. Departamento was translated to false cognate department. OUT 2

categories for description of errors
Categories for description of errors
  • Errors of addition, omission, substitution, and ordering (math)
  • Phonology or orthography, lexicon, grammar, and discourse
  • Global or local (a scissors)
  • Domain and extent
interlingual and intralingual transfer
Interlingual and intralingual transfer
  • Interlingual (L1 and L2) transfer is a significant source of error for all learners.
  • It is now clear that intralingual transfer (within the target language itself) is a major factor in L2 learning. It is referred to as overgeneralization. (see examples on p. 225)
contexts of learning
Contexts of learning
  • A third major source of error, although it overlaps both types of transfer, is the context of learning.
  • Context refers, for example, to the classroom with its teacher and its materials in the case of school learning or the social situation in the case of untutored second language learning.
  • In a classroom context the teacher or the textbook can lead to the learner to make faulty hypotheses about the language. Richards (1971) called it “false concepts”
stages of learner language development
Stages of learner language development
  • Corder (1973) presents the progression of language learners in four stages based on observations of what the learner does in terms of errors alone.
  • 1st stage –random errors, called pre-systematic in which the learner is only vaguely aware that there is some systematic order to a particular class of items.
  • 2nd stage –(emergent) stage of learner language finds the learner growing in consistency in linguistic production. Learner has begun to discern a system and to internalize certain rules. Its characterized by ‘backsliding” –seems to grasp a a rule or principle and then regresses to previous stages.

3. 3rd stage –truly systematic stage in which the learner is now able to manifest more consistency in producing the second language. The most salient difference between the 2nd and the 3rd stages is the ability of learners to correct their errors when they are pointed out.

4. Final stage –stabilization stage; Corder (1973) called it postsystematic stage. Here the learner has relatively few errors and has mastered the system to the point that fluency and intended meanings are not problematic. This fourth stage is characterized by the learner’s ability to self-correct.

variability in learner language
Variability in learner language
  • A great deal of attention has been given to the variability of interlanguage development. Just like native speakers hesitate with expressions in their own language, the same occurs in L2.
  • Tarone (1988) focused her research on contextual variability, that is, the extent to which both linguistic and situational contexts may help to systematically describe what appear simply as unexplained variation. Tarone suggested four categories of variation:

1. according to linguistic context

2. according to psychological processing factors

3. according to social context

4. according to language function

  • It is quite common to encounter in a learner’s language various erroneousfeatures that persist despite what is otherwise a reasonably fluent command of the language.
  • This phenomenon is most saliently manifested phonologically in ‘foreign accents’ in the speech of those who have learned a L2 after puberty (chapter 3).
  • The relatively permanent incorporation of incorrect linguistic forms into a person’s second language competence has been referred to as FOSSILIZATION.
  • It is a normal and natural stage for many learners and should not be viewed as some sort of terminal illness.
error treatment
Error treatment
  • Should errors be treated? How they should be treated? When?
  • Vigil and Oller (1976) provided feedback about these questions with the following model:
  • Fossilization may be the result of too many green lights when there should have been some yellow or red lights.
affective cognitive feedback for error treatment
Affective/cognitive feedback for error treatment

Does John can sing?

red (-) abort(X)recycle

Messageyellow (0)

green (+) continue continue

affective cognitive

feedback feedback


(positive) Keep talking; I’m listening

(neutral ) I’m not sure I want to continue this conversation.

(negative) This conversation is over


(pos.) I understand your message; it’s clear.

(neutral) I’m not sure if I correctly understand you or not.

I don’t understand what you are saying; it’s not clear.


To treat or to ignore

To treat immediately or delay

To transfer treatment (other learners) or not

To transfer to another individual, subgroup or the whole class

To return , or not, to original error maker after treatment

To allow other learners to initiate treatment

To test for efficacy of the treatment


Fact or error indicated

Location indicated

Opportunity for new attempt given

Model provided

Error type indicated

Remedy indicated

Improvement indicated

Praise indicated

Bailey (1985) recommended a useful taxonomy for error treatment classification; 7 basic options complemented by 7 possible features
  • The matter of how to correct errors is exceedingly complex.
  • Research on error correction methods is not at all conclusive about the most effective method or technique for error correction.
  • It seems quite clear that students in the classroom want and expect errors to be corrected.
in the classroom a model for error treatment
In the classroom: A model for error treatment
  • Flow chart as an example of error treatment in a classroom