THE ROLE OF THE NATIVE LANGUAGE:
A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
Prof. Abdulrahman Alabdan
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Transfer
 The role of the native language as sub a field of SLA has
become known as language transfer.
 Transfer : Transfer, derived from the Latin word “transferre”,
means “to carry”, “to bear” . It isThe use of linguistic
information from previously known language
( usually first or native language in the second language.
 In L2 acquisition there are two different underlying learning
processes of transfer:
1) Positive transfer (also known as facilitation): It results in
correct language forms as a result of similarities between the
L1 and the L2.
2 ) Negative transfer (also known as interference): It results
in language errors because of differences between the L1 and the
L2
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 There are two types negative transfer (interference)
(a) Retroactive inhibition-where learning acts back on
previously learned material, causing someone to forget
(language loss)
(b) Proactive inhibition-where a series of responses
already learned tends to appear in situations where a
new set is required.
 This is more similar to the phenomenon of L2 learning
because the L1 in this framework influences /inhibits
/modifies the learning of the L2.
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Theoretical Backgrounds
To understand why language transfer was
accepted as the mainstream view of language
learning, it is necessary to understand the
psychological and linguistic thinking at the time
of Lado .
 Lado assumed that L2 learners rely extensively
on t heir native language Across Cultures (1957)
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Psychological Background
 Behaviorism :
 The study of observable behavior (responses) in relation to the environment
(stimuli)
 Inner experiences cannot be studied.
Complex behavior is reducible to simple stimulus-response patterns.
Stimuli and responses can be observed and measured experimentally.
Behaviorist learning
Operant conditioning
Reinforcement of desired response to stimulus.
The influence of behaviorism :
Minimize the introspective study of mental processes and feelings .
Substitute the study of the objective behavior of individuals in
relation to their environment by means of experimental methods.
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conditioning : An association between a stimulus and a response
or tow two stimuli .
 Operant conditioning : forming an association between a
behavior and a consequence. (It is also called response-stimulus or RS
conditioning ).
 Operant Conditioning : A term used by Sinner to describe forming
the association between a behavior and a consequence. (It is also
called response-stimulus or RS conditioning )
 There are four types of operant conditioning
1) Positive Reinforcement: Strengthening a particular behavior by
the consequence of experiencing a positive condition ( reward )
A hungry rat presses a bar in a cage and receives food. The food is a
positive condition .
2) Negative Reinforcement :Strengthening a particular behavior by
the consequence of stopping or avoiding a negative condition .
A rat is placed in a cage receives immediately a mild electrical shock
on its feet. The shock is a negative conditioning.
•
e.
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3) Punishment: Weakening a particular behavior by the
consequence of experiencing a negative condition.
A rat presses a bar in a cage and receives a mild electrical shock
on its feet ( a negative condition) .The rat's behavior of pressing
the bar is weakened by the consequence of receiving a shock.
4) Extinction : Weakening a particular behavior by the
consequence of not experiencing a positive condition or
stopping a negative condition .
A rat presses a bar in a cage and nothing happens. Neither a
positive or a negative condition for the rat. The rat's behavior of
pressing the bar is weakened by the consequence of not
experiencing anything positive or stopping anything negative.
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B J Skinner
1904 -1990
The dog has been conditioned to
wipe his feet before entering the
house.
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Linguistic Background
LEONARD BLOOMFIELD (1887-1949)
Bloomfield was one of America's foremost
scientific linguists, concerned with theoretical,
descriptive, and applied aspects of his field.
Promoted linguistics as an independent science
using scientific procedures.
Based his work especially his approach work, to
meaning, on behaviorist principles.
His major work, Language (1933) is regarded as
the classic text of structural linguistics, also
called structuralism.
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Structural Linguistics
 Speech is the primary form of language.
 Distinguish between actual instances of speech and what
speakers know.
 Language is a system or structure comprising elements at various
phonological, grammatical, and semantic levels.
 Sound is the basic unit of language analysis.
sentences
words
morphemes
phonemes
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Three periods of SLA research
•I. 1960’s Behaviorism & structuralism
Language as habit :
Underlying much work in the 1950s and 1960s was the notion of
language as habit.
L2 learning was seen as the development of a new set of habits.
If L2 learning is replacing a set of habits (habits of English = L2 )
with another set of habits (those of Arabic= L1)a valid descriptions
are needed comparing the "rules" of the two languages.
 The role of the native language became significance because, in
this view of language learning, it was the major cause for lack of
success in learning the L2.
From this framework emerged Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis
(CAH)
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Contrastive analysis
What is CA?
CA is a comparison, structure-by-structure, of the
sound system, morphological system, syntactic
system, and the cultural system of two languages (
L1 & L2) for the purpose of discovering similarities
and differences. The ultimate goal is to predict
errors or areas of difficulty for the purpose of
isolating what needs to be learned and what does
not in L2 learning .
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Contrastive Analysis Assumptions
 The pedagogical materials that resulted from CA were
based on a number of assumptions
1) Language learning = habit formation .
2) L1 is major source of error in L2 production/reception.
3) Errors are accounted for by considering differences
between L1 and L2 .
4) The greater the differences, the more errors will occur
5) Focus on differences in learning; similarities
require little new learning .
6) Difficulty and ease in predicted by differences and
similarities between L1 and L2.
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Hierarchy of difficulty
Lower number = more difficult
Category
1. Differentiation
Difference between L1= Arabic and L2 =
English
Example
One item in Arabic but two in English
/b l vs./b/& /P/
2. New category
An item absent in Arabic but present in
English
Indefinite a
3. Absent category
An item present in Arabic but absent in English Duality
4. Coalescing
Two items in Arabic but one in English
5. Correspondence
Two items are roughly the same in both
languages
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=Uncle‫خال وعم‬
CAH: Two versions
A priori or strong version of CA: comparison
between languages will predict learning
outcomes.
A posterior or weak version of CA : comparison
between languages will help explain learning
outcomes, especially errors.
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Error Analysis
Error analysis provides broader possible explanations
than contrastive analysis for researchers/teachers to use
to account for errors, as the latter only attributed errors
to the NL
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What is Error Analysis (ER)?
(ER) is procedure for analyzing second language
data which begins with the errors that learners make
and attempts to explain them.
 Unlike contrastive analysis (in either its weak or
strong form ) ER uses the target language as the point
of comparison.
 The comparison made is between the errors a learner
makes in producing the TL and the TL form itself.
 ER is similar to the weak version of contrastive analysis
in that both start from learner production data;
however, in contrastive analysis the
comparison is made with the native language, whereas
in error analysis it is made with the TL.
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‘Mistake’ versus ‘Error’
Mistake: Random performance slip caused by
fatigue, excitement, etc. Readily selfcorrected.
Error: Systematic deviation by learners who
have not yet mastered the rules. More
difficult to correct. Indication of learner’s
attempt to figure out the L2 system
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Steps in Error Analysis
1) Collect data. Although this is typically done with
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)
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written data, oral data can also serve as a base.
Identify errors. What is the error (e.g., incorrect
sequence of tenses, wrong verb form, singular verb
form with plural subject)?
Classify errors. Is it an error of agreement? Is it an
error in irregular verbs?
Quantify errors. How many errors of agreement
occur? How many irregular verb form errors occur?
Analyze source : interlingual or intralingual
Remediate. Based on the kind and frequency of an
error type, pedagogical intervention is carried out.
Types of errors: interlingual &
intralingual
• Interlingual – based on cross-linguistic
comparisons
• Intralingual – based on language being
learned
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