Scholarly article on topic 'Interference of L1 Prepositional Knowledge in Acquiring of Prepositional Usage in English'

Interference of L1 Prepositional Knowledge in Acquiring of Prepositional Usage in English Academic research paper on "Languages and literature"

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Abstract of research paper on Languages and literature, author of scientific article — Zeinab Gvarishvili

Abstract The purpose of the current study is to examine the extent to which students rely on their L1 prepositional knowledge in acquiring an understanding of prepositional usage in English. Learning English is becoming essential in a time of worldwide communication, apart from different peculiarities of English language structure, preposition usage occupies one of the prominent place. Being the essential part of set-expressions, prepositional phrases, phrasal verbs and certain collocations they produce distinct problems not only for lower level students bur for advanced ones. Especially, in cases of the similar constructions (but with another preposition) in L1.Theoreticians and language teachers have long recognized the important role of a native language (L1) in the acquisition of a second language (L2). However certain elements in the first language hinder second language acquisition through negative interference. Therefore, the teacher of English can use the students L1 for structures that use equivalent prepositions in both languages. On the other hand, whenever there are verbs or expressions in the L1 and L2 that have different structures, with different prepositions, or that have no equivalent in one of the languages, instructors should point out these differences to their students.

Academic research paper on topic "Interference of L1 Prepositional Knowledge in Acquiring of Prepositional Usage in English"

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Procedia

Social and Behavioral Sciences

ELSEVIER Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 70 (2013) 1565 - 1573

Akdeniz Language Studies Conference 2012

Interference of L1 prepositional knowledge in acquiring of prepositional usage in English

Zeinab Gvarishvili*

Assistant professor Batumi State University, #27 Ninoshvili street, PC: 6010, Batumi, Georgia.

Abstract

The purpose of the current study is to examine the extent to which students rely on their L1 prepositional knowledge in acquiring an understanding of prepositional usage in English. Learning English is becoming essential in a time of worldwide communication, apart from different peculiarities of English language structure, preposition usage occupies one of the prominent place. Being the essential part of set-expressions, prepositional phrases, phrasal verbs and certain collocations they produce distinct problems not only for lower level students bur for advanced ones. Especially, in cases of the similar constructions (but with another preposition) in L1.Theoreticians and language teachers have long recognized the important role of a native language (L1) in the acquisition of a second language (L2). However certain elements in the first language hinder second language acquisition through negative interference. Therefore, the teacher of English can use the students L1 for structures that use equivalent prepositions in both languages. On the other hand, whenever there are verbs or expressions in the L1 and L2 that have different structures, with different prepositions, or that have no equivalent in one of the languages, instructors should point out these differences to their students.

© 2012 The Authors. Published b y Elsevier Ltd. Selection and peer-review under responsibility of ALSC 2012

Key words : Language interference; cognate languages ; error analysis; intralanguage and interlanguage errors

1.1 Introduction

Zeinab Gvarishvili. Tel: +00 000 000 0000; fax: +00 000 000 0000 E-mail address: z.gvarishvili@gmail.com.

1877-0428 © 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and peer-review under responsibility of ALSC 2012 doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.01.224

Every language is governed by the rules that are often referred to as "parameters" when an adult learner attempts to learn a second language he tries to adjust the parameters to a new language rules and either consciously or subconsciously changes the rules about language. However while learning the new language they are also applying some rules from their first language onto the target language this phenomenon is known as learning transfer(James, 2007)the transfer may be of either positive or negative character. Negative transfer occurs when a student's grammar clashes with the target grammar. According to Jie (Jie 2008) it may cause one of the four types of mistake: over generalization; neglecting of L2 rules, applying the rules incompletely, creating imagery rules for L2. The mistakes that student make in relation to prepositions vary according to their language background and are referred to as interlingual, overt errors caused by negative transfer. Quite a number of researchers, such as Brown (1994), and White (1977) have found that L2 learners at a beginning level produce a large number of interlingual errors. As these learners progress in acquiring the norms of the target language, more and more intralingual errors are manifested. A number of studies were conducted to examine which aspects of a native language transfer to a target language. The Contrastive Analysis hypothesis assumes that L2 learners tend to transfer to their L2 utterances the formal features of their L1. However, Lado (James 1980) believes that individuals tend to transfer the forms and meanings and the distribution of forms and meanings of their native language and culture to the foreign language and culture. As for grammatical structures, Lado (Gass and Selinker 1983) emphasizes that this transfer occurs so subtly that learners are not aware of it unless it is called to their attention. Adjernian (Gass and Selinker 1983) believes that given enough similarities between the native and target languages, the properties of lexical items and the rules they are related to, are transferred. He believes that lexical transfer includes transfer of underlying lexical properties. According to Ringbom (1992) transfer depends on how closely the L1 is related to the L2. The closer the two languages, the greater number of cognates, and the congruence of the grammatical systems will facilitate learning the target language. Finally, Postmand (Ellis 1965) believes practice is a factor in producing negative or positive transfer. Increasing practice on the original task increases positive transfer, and with little practice, negative transfer occurs. It is noteworthy that L1 interference is the main source of the errors analyzed in our study. Thus we can conclude that negative interference emerges not only in cases of cognate but non cognate languages as well. Due to negative interference, learners substitute English prepositions with the postposition existing in the same prepositional constructions in Georgian language.

1.2. Causes and results of Preposition errors in Georgian language

It is inevitable to make various mistakes and errors in the process of second language learning therefore it is crucially important for teachers to identify the cause, type and source of the error as they provide the

evidence of how language is learnt and what strategies are employed by learners in the process of discovery of language. Precise mistake analysis is advantageous not only for teachers but for learners as well since it enables them both, to evaluate the progress of language learning and to remediate their weak points. Common mistake/error analysis is in the language researchers' scope of interests as well since mistakes made by learners in the process of constructing a new system of language, hold keys to the understanding of the process of language acquisition.

Undoubtedly the proper usage of prepositions is one of the most common areas of difficulty for ESL students .As Pittman (1966) describes, prepositions have earned a reputation for difficulty if not a downright unpredictability. Takahaski (1969) also states that the correct usage of prepositions is the greatest problem for learners of English.

English preposition is often defined as a word that describes the location of one object in relation to another. Edward Finnegan (2008) defines prepositions as units, describing relationship between two "entities", one being trajectory in the foreground and the other being a landmark in the background. However, propositions are often vague and confusing even for native speakers. Prepositions are especially difficult for the English language learner when L1 is not cognate language and belongs to synthetic, agglutinative type of languages, where the functions of preposition may be performed either by inflections, postpositions or other lexical units.

The aim of our study is to reveal the types and sources of the errors emerging due to negative interference of L1 in the process of Second language acquisition .For the purpose 105 writings of Georgian ESL learners were collected and analyzed according to the model suggested by Moreover, Gass & Selinker (1994, p. 67) who identified 6 steps followed in conducting an error analysis: Collecting data, Identifying errors, Classifying errors, Quantifying errors, Analyzing source of error, and Remediating for errors. Types of errors observed in the writings of ESL learners can be identified as follow: (Table.1.)

• Substitution due to L1 negative interference (69% ): I am interested with it; it is typical for him; he is good/bad in English;

• Addition (11% ) :he plays on the piano; he is going to home; he entered in the room , he dreaded mounting on the horse;

• Omission (10%): the doctor operated? him for appendicitis (on); it is pouring ? rain (with) he changed ? his uniform (into);he followed ? his father's footstep (in);

• Overgeneralization doubled with L1 negative interference (10%): he was taken in the hospital. He studies in the University; he jumped on his feet;

Data analysis revealed the following reasons of Georgian ESL students' misuse of English prepositions:

• Each language has its own set of rules that regulate preposition usage. In the process of second language learning there are a lot of clash points and prepositions are in the centre of the clash. One of the examples of the clash that results in mismatch of prepositional usage is the position of preposition. As it is known preposition come before the noun in English but in Georgian they come after, making them postpositions: "I have come to you" -" 9g "Q^jooudB9ci3gQoo"/me shentan movedi]; "the child is coming from school" -"&^3330 lymQjoxjwff 9ci«joob" [bavshvi skolidan modis]

• In certain cases the function of preposition in Georgian language may be performed by declensional inflections. Namely, by the inflectional endings of Instrumental, Dative and in some cases, Genitive declensions. For example in the sentence :" he is looking at the picture" preposition "at" is expressed by Dative inflection "b?,,ob ^y^Ag&b hxyfobmb" [is ukurebs surats]; preposition "in"in the sentence "he believes in God " is expressed by the inflection of Genitive case "ob" ,,9ab wdpftmob b^>9b" [mas ghmertis stsams] Instrumental case inflection "ooj" is used instead of English preposition "of in the sentence "I am proud of my son" - ,,9g 3i95yci& Bg9o 3 b$oco" [me vamakob chemi vazhit] ;

• There is a mismatch problem between some English preposition and its appropriate equivalent in Georgian language. According to Celce-Murcia&Larsen-Freeman in their spatial meaning prepositions don't match up well from language to language even in relatively closely related languages (1999). This problem is aggravated if the case refers to non cognate languages like English and Georgian. There are certain prepositions in English that may be used both as locative preposition and constitutional part of metaphorical, prepositional expressions as well. e.g.: "he lives beyond the forest -it's beyond me; "the balloon flew high above the sky - it's above me; "he walked across the river - I have come across an old photo; "the burglar came through the window - I see him through; " he was sitting beneath the tree - this book is beneath criticism; These prepositions have no one-to one equivalent in Georgian, therefore in different contexts, various words and constructions conveying the function of adverbial modifier are employed to express the same locative idea for example: yKS>Qbl[gaghma] fpoQb^QbXgadaghma] lofom[iqet] -"beyond"p^Aqooj^Aqcx)ci,[gardigardmo], fy^b3^ocn[gadavlit]-across tyQq"ocn[gavlit\ - through. However, aforesaid prepositions may be even omitted in similar metaphorical expressions of Georgian language or expressed by ^ adverb. For ex^nple the sentence "he is above suspicion" is constructed in Georgian without separate postposition -"ob /is echvgareshea] the meaning of absence of suspicion is conveyed by an adverb"^^^" -"without", which is the part of compound predicate". This type of cross-linguistic variety leads to L1 interference in interpretation of

metaphorically used preposition and consequently to omission or substitution of the prepositions in English;

• In Georgian language there is no strict semantic and lexical distinction between such English prepositions as " above" and "on" as both of them correspond to Georgian"^"[ze] -"on" ; both "into" and "onto" correspond to Georgian „&o"[shi]-„m". The lack of differentiation of the aforesaid English preposition leads to their misuse. That is why when it comes to translation of the sentence containing preposition "beneath" Georgian ESL learners indiscriminately use "under" instead of "beneath" having no clear distinction between the two, as both of the prepositions correspond to one and the same Georgian spatial preposition [qvesf]- "under";

• Cognitive linguistics reveals how the person subconsciously thinks about prepositions. Each preposition has a central meaning, which is the mental picture of a spatial relationship. Once the central meaning of a preposition is found, it becomes clear that the various meanings branch out in a polysemic network, what Evans and Tyler call "semantic network" (2005) and when L2 learner has to express an abstract relationships between two entities he tends to think of the relationship in concrete terms and apply a spatial preposition that is why Georgian ESL learners make mistake like: "he is popular among the teenagers" using preposition "among" instead of "with" as preposition "among" in mental image of Georgian learner refers to entity existing between two or more objects (in this case the youth). the source of the misuse of the preposition in erroneous sentence - "I am in home" is the perception of place and meaning of the preposition "in" in the semantic network of the given preposition in Georgian language. The postposition "in" -"9o" is associated in Georgian language with the position of being within some space, in this case within the territory belonging to you. It is also noteworthy that representatives of different languages and cultures may perceive the object from different angle and sides that consequently leads to mistakes in prepositional usage of ESL learners. In one and the same construction English language may emphasize the surface of the object while Georgian points to its inner part. The sentence "the house was on fire" sounds in Georgian as "bib^o QQQbp^ffo oycn &i>b3g£)<i;;>o" [sakhli tsetskhlshi iko gakhveuli]- 'the house was in fire" actually the house in this case is surrounded with flames of fire so the house is both in and on the fire but two aforesaid languages perceive the object - the house, from different angles and use different prepositions in the same situation.

• Prepositions are especially tricky when they are constitutional part of prepositional expressions. In majority of the cases second language learner tries to define L2 preposition in prepositional expression by matching it with native equivalent of the similar constructions. But as in Georgian language

the same expressions may be built up either with different postpositions or even without them, they are extremely deceptive for Georgian ESL learners. Our study revealed vivid examples of misuse of the preposition due to the above mentioned reason e.g. : Nino was late on lessons ; "eating junk food might be harmful to your health" ; "the patient suffered from insomnia" all of these errors should be considered as interlingual ones caused by negative interference of L1 due to existence of similar constructions in native language.

• Negative transfer of interference of L1 causes interlingual mistakes but it may be doubled with intralingual error - overgeneralization. This type of error mainly emerges when a preposition is originally thought as equivalent of a certain native preposition and afterward this knowledge is over generalized and used in inappropriate context. For example in erroneous sentence -'^e was taken in the hospital"; "studies in the University" we face the case of LI interference that is aggravated with overgeneralization as the preposition "in" has been learnt by the student as the equivalent to Georgian „So" (in) and transferred to target language disregarding the context. The misuse of the preposition "on" in the sentence" he jumped on his feet", we can state that the deviation in this case is first of all the result of L1 negative interference since aforesaid sentence is constructed in Georgian language with postposition '"bo"-"00" ggb-t<f [tsamokhta pekhze].on the other hand, after learning of constructions like "on foot", "stand on one's feet", "on one's feet" the learner associates "on" with foot thus due to overgeneralization this usage of preposition seems perfectly correct to him. In the sentence "he was expert in troubleshooting" usage of the preposition "in" instead of'Wis the result of the construction "to be expert in some field" that was though before and was taken as an example of the proper usage of the preposition in the similar constructions. On the basis of these examples we can state that some interlingual errors may cause intralingual errors as well.

1.3. Conclusion

In conclusion, basing on the data, collected from the Georgian ESL learners, as well as the error analysis concerning the misuse of preposition by Georgian ESL learners we can state that:

• The main source of the misuse of preposition is L1 negative interference;

• Georgian and English Languages emphasize spatial scenes differently and it is one of the sources of mistake in prepositional usage of Georgian ESL learner ;

• Interlingual errors may lead to intralingual ones;

• The main types of errors concerning prepositions ,caused by the L1 interference are: substitution, omission, addition, overgeneralization;

• Being highly inflected, agglutinative language Georgian employs postposition, declension ending and adverbs for expressing the function of preposition. This difference between the two languages

leads mismatch of English and Georgian prepositions and leads Georgian ESL learners to the misuse of the preposition;

English Prepositional Expression Deviations in Georgian ESL Learners Type of error

To be known for To be known with Substitution due to negative transfer

To be popular with To be popular among Substitution due to negative transfer

To be made of To be made from Substitution due to negative transfer

To be tired of To be tired from Substitution due to negative transfer

To be late for To be late on Substitution due to negative transfer

To be at home To be in home Substitution due to negative transfer

To be addicted to To be addicted on Substitution due to negative transfer

To be interested in To be interested with Substitution due to negative transfer

To be on fire To be in fire Substitution due to negative transfer

To be proud of To be proud with Substitution due to negative transfer

To be typical of To be typical for Substitution due to negative transfer

To be married to To be married on Substitution due to negative transfer

To be sure of To be sure in Substitution due to negative transfer

To be harmful to To be harmful for Substitution due to negative transfer

To be blue with cold To be blue from cold Substitution due to negative transfer

To take smb. to hospital To take smb. in hospital Substitution due to negative transfer

To have problems with To have problems in Substitution due to negative transfer

To suffer from To suffer of Substitution due to negative transfer

To blame smb. for To blame in Substitution due to negative transfer

To accuse smb. of To accuse smb. in Substitution due to negative transfer

To dream about To dream on Substitution due to negative transfer

To drink to smb. To drink for smb Substitution due to negative transfer

To go to the party To go on the party Substitution due to negative transfer

To feed on milk To feed with milk Substitution due to negative transfer

To believe in To believe of Substitution due to negative transfer

To boast of To boast with Substitution due to negative transfer

To agree with To agree to Substitution due to negative transfer

Cure for disease Cure of disease Substitution due to negative transfer

To play the piano To play on the piano addition

To go home To go to home addition

To enter the room To enter in the room addition

Meet somebody next/last week Meet somebody in next/last week

To mount a horse To mount on the horse addition

To operate on somebody for some disease To operate him for appendicitis omission

To pour with rain it is pouring rain omission

To change into uniform he changed his uniform omission

To compliment on something. To compliment omission

To approve of smb. To approve smb omission

To be taken to hospital To be taken in the hospital; overgeneralization

To study at the University To study in the University overgeneralization

To jump to his feet; To jump on his feet; overgeneralization

To be an expert at troubleshooting To be an expert in troubleshooting overgeneralization

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