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On the Complexity of Transfer in Multilingualism. Patricia Bayona PhD Candidate The University of Western Ontario. Transfer phenomena has mainly been approached from the generative and psycholinguistic perspectives.

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on the complexity of transfer in multilingualism

On the Complexity of Transferin Multilingualism

Patricia Bayona

PhD Candidate

The University of Western Ontario

Transfer phenomena has mainly been approached from the generative and psycholinguistic perspectives.
  • Theoretical proposals on transfer imply specific assumptions regarding the nature of language’s -and interlanguage’s- mental representation, as well as regarding the nature of the acquisition process.

Role of

previously acquired



for transfer

On transfer


of transfer

Nature of


It will be discussed:

Transfer viewed from:

Pavlenko & Jarvis






generative perspective
Generative perspective
  • Both UG and L1 grammar are determining influences on the form and functioning of the interlanguage grammar.
  • Full Transfer-Full Access (Schwartz&Sprouse 1986): L1 representation is fully implicated in the interlanguage lexicon; lexical entries can be restructured on the basis of L2 input.
  • Minimal Trees Hypothesis (Vainikka and Young-Scholten 1994): Initial grammars contain lexical categories, but lack of functional categories. They would subsequently emerge.
  • Valueless Features Hypothesis (Eubank 1996):

L1’s features strength do not transfer. They are ‘inert’.

m ller 1998
Müller (1998)
  • Reviews longitudinal studies on the acquisition of word order in German subordinate clauses.
  • Children encounter great amount of variability in adult German word order in subordinate clauses that accept verb-final and non-verb-final order as well.
m ller 19981
Müller (1998)
  • The children who produce word order errors have two separate grammatical systems.
  • Errors made in bilingual language development are due to transfer of features from the other language
m ller 19982
Müller (1998)
  • Transfer emerges as a relief strategy in bilinguals who face ambiguous input
  • The learner, due to economy principles, develops a new generalization which outranks the old generalization -the parameter.
  • This new ‘subrutine’ occurs based on positive evidence the child may have of grammatical analysis in the recipient language (not ‘blind transfer’).
m ller 19983
Müller (1998)
  • Hulk (1998).
  • This ‘relief strategy’ not only takes the form of transfer, or involves ‘subparameters’.
  • Term ‘crosslinguistic influence’ instead of ‘transfer’.
  • Schlyter (1998)

Possibility of bidirectional transfer.

psycholinguistic perspectives
Psycholinguistic perspectives
  • Social-psychological factors influence the production of languages
f ller 1999
Füller (1999)
  • MLF model on L2 acquisition.
  • Bilingual interlanguage is comparable to codeswitching, where lexical structure may be split and recombined to construct interlanguage.
f ller 19991
Füller (1999)
  • Case study based on telephonic conversations between a young female L1 English, and L2s Spanish and German, and her grandmother L1s Spanish and German, and L2 English.
  • German-English-Spanish codeswitching
f ller 19992
Füller (1999)
  • The speaker creates a composite ML with bilingual interlanguage.
  • Transferred knowledge from previously learned languages will provide the speaker with the lexical complexity required in communication.
  • Language structures are not assumed to be hierarchical, but evenly linked according to structural convergence.
pavlenko jarvis 2002
Pavlenko & Jarvis (2002)
  • Study framed within multicompetence framework:

Individuals who know more than one language have a distinct compound state of mind that is not equivalent to two monolingual states (Cook 1991)

pavlenko jarvis 20021
Pavlenko & Jarvis (2002)
  • Narratives collected in Russian and English, by Russian individuals who had lived in English speaking environments between 3 and 8 years.
  • Transfer can be bidirectional, with influence in both L1 and L2.
  • Transfer can be simultaneous or synchronic
pavlenko jarvis 20022
Pavlenko & Jarvis (2002)
  • Syntagmatic and paradigmatic transfer extends beyond semantic representations to areas of formal linguistic competence that were thought to be part of an adult speaker’s ‘steady state’.
  • These findings open the possibility of exploration on bidirectional transfer, transfer between more than two languages, and attrition of one or more of the languages involved under the influence of another language.
It will be discussed:

Transfer viewed from:

Pavlenko & Jarvis






Bilingual interlanguage

Comparable to


Relief strategy

for ambiguous input




Eubank, Lynn. "Negation in Early German-English Interlanguage: More Valueless Features in the L2 Initial State."Second Language Research 12.1 (1996): 73-106.

Fuller, Janet M. "Between Three Languages: Composite Structure in Interlanguage."Applied Linguistics 20.4 (1999): 534-61.

Hulk, Aafke and Elizabeth Ven Der Linden. "Evidence for Transferin Bilingual Children?" Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 1.3 (1998): 177-80.

Muller, Natasha. "Transfer in Bilingual First Language Acquisition." Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 1.3 (1998): 151-71.

Muller, Natasha. "Really Transfer?" Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 1.3 (1998): 189-92.

Pavlenko, Aneta and Scott Jarvis. "Bidirectional Transfer." Applied Linguistics 23.2 (2002): 190-214.

Schlyter, Suzanne. "Directionality in Transfer?" Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 1.3 (1998): 183-84.

Schwartz, Bonnie and Rex Sprouse. "L2 Cognitive States and the Full Transfer/Full Access Model." Second Language Research 12.1 (1996): 40-72.

Vainikka, Anne and Martha Young-Scholten. "Gradual Development of L2 Phrase Structure." Second Language Research 12.1 (1996): 7-39.

White, Lydia. Second Language Acquisition and Universal Grammar. Cambridge Textbooks in Linguisitics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.