Cross-linguistic Influences in the Second Language Lexicon

Cross-linguistic Influences in the Second Language Lexicon

by Janusz Arabski

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This volume contains a selection of papers analyzing language transfer, a phenomenon which results from language contact in bilingual and multilingual language acquisition and learning contexts. The main focus of the volume is on the lexical aspects of language transfer.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781788920247
Publisher: Channel View Publications
Publication date: 02/28/2006
Series: Second Language Acquisition
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Janusz Arabski is a professor of English and Chairman of the English Language Institute at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland. He has published a number of books and articles in the areas of applied linguistics, foreign language learning, psycholinguistics, contrastive studies and lexicography.

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On the Ambiguity of the Notion 'Transfer'



In the 'Practical Information' provided by the organisers of the conference on 'Language Contact and Language Transfer' a portion of the text reads like this:

The fee [for this conference] is all-inclusive and will be paid at the conference desk. There is a possibility, however, of transferring the payment to our bank account earlier, for which the participants will be given an "early bird bonus" [...] Earlier transfers must be paid to our bank account at [name of Polish Bank Institute], with additional annotation SZCYRK-ARABSKI, by 30 April 2003. The annotation is very important, as this ensures the allocation of the money in the right sub-account. The participants are requested to fax their certificates of account payment to the Institute. (Emphasis through the italicised words is mine)

Since I have not only been interested in being attributed the privileged status of 'early bird', but in the use and meaning of the verb 'to transfer' (transferring) and the noun 'transfer' relevant to this information, I have got involved with this problem relating to the topic of my paper. The following considerations are the result of my investigation through looking at ordinary and etymological dictionaries and G. Fauconnier's (1997) seminal work Mappings in Thought and Language.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (1961), Vol. XI, 257:

– the verb to transfer means to convey or take from one place, person, etc. to another, to transmit, transport, to give or hand from one to another,

– to convey or make over (title, right, or property) by deed or legal process.

(No question, the status 'early bird' , according to this entry, could be transferred on to me, but that is a different question)

– the noun transfer in Law stands for conveyance from one person to another, spec. of shares or stock.

(I have been wondering, of course, whether this legal connotation of the term suggesting an explicit person-to-person exchange of financial property would permit the holder of the annotated sub-account to claim legal possession of the money)

– the act of transferring or fact of being transferred; conveyance or removal from one place, person, etc. to another; transference, transmission.

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary (2001), p. 1797 the connotation between transfer and transference of money is more evident:

– the verb to transfer (to trans'fer; to 'transfer: note the transfer of stress shift in modern English) means to move (someone or something) from one place to another. Ex: he would have to transfer to his own account.

– the noun stands for an act of moving something or someone to another place. Ex: a transfer of wealth to the poorer nations.

These entries, to come back to the first possibility of paying the conference fee mentioned in the information, seem to indicate that, appearing at the congress desk in a one-to-one person context I might have said: 'May I transfer the conference fee to you?' The answer most likely would have been: 'When may we expect to receive the money?' My invented statement, in other words, would have indicated an inappropriate linguistic transfer caused by my dictionary studies totally neglecting the inappropriate meaning of the term blended with a different analogical mental space, one of the sources of the ambiguity of the term transfer. Or to put it differently, my question would have been an intralingual pragmatic error, not caused by a crosslinguistic interaction with my primary language, but by a lack of expanding the term's standard meaning to its analogical or figurative meaning.

The second case of payment referred to in the Introduction is much more complicated in that there is no actual or very little person-to-person 'transference' involved, but on both ends and countries of the implicit communication process a large number of bureaucratic business activities between persons and banks, different currencies and dynamic exchange modalities, paper work as well as electronic information exchange, etc. This short outline of the complexity and shortcomings of the recommended kind of payment, quite in accordance with national and international financial vocabulary labelled 'transfer', referring to the early bird solution, may suffice to justify the expansion of the given dictionary meaning of transfer and the underlying ambiguity of the notion.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (1966: 936) the English verb to transfer is related to French transférer and to the Latin transferre. The basis of the Latin verb is the Greek verb [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.].

The English noun metaphor according to the same dictionary (p. 572) means a figure of speech involving the transference of a name to something analogous. The figurative meaning of transfer, in other words, depends on a relationship or mapping with analogy and metaphor in a blended mental space. This mapping, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1961: Vol. XI: 257) is already documented in an entry of 1586, referring to Day:

Metaphora, which is when a word from the proper or right signification is transferred to another neere vnto the meaning,

or another one of 1883 referring to Murray:

As the primitive sense (of words) has been ... transferred boldly to figurative and analogical uses.

Transfer, analogy, and metaphor, historically and etymologically speaking, are candidates to be related to and mapped onto each other in a common mental space of cognition.

Analogical Transfer

Much of the perennial discussion and disagreement concerning the effects of the processes of intralingual and interlingual interaction in the acquisition of languages, called transfer or interference, seems to be caused by the ambiguity of these terms. This ambiguity is the result of the theoretical, methodological and empirical complexity and the controversial foundation and goals of linguistically oriented transfer research.

A short look at the experimental treatment and discussion of the famous radiation problem within the framework of the problem-solving paradigm, introduced by Duncker (1945) and its later application to transfer research in general may by of particular interest. In his dealing with problem solution phenomena Duncker confronted his subjects with the following problem, among others:

Problem no. 2. Given a human being with an inoperable stomach tumour, and rays which destroy organic tissue at sufficient intensity, by what procedure can one free him of the tumour by these rays and at the same time avoid destroying the healthy tissue which surrounds it? (Quoted from Johnson-Laird & Wason, 1977: 15)

The solution to this and other similar problems through the invocation of past experience follows a principle which Duncker calls 'resonance'. The failure to do so Duncker attributes to what he calls 'functional fixity' (Johnson-Laird & Wason, 1977: 15–17). Needless to say, Duncker's concept of 'resonance' of past experience in the solution of a new analogical problem is what we now conceptualise as analogical transfer, based on knowledge of the world.

Holyoak's (1984) and Gick & Holyoak's (1980, 1983) experimental work follows Duncker's early research closely in that it relates his radiation problem to similar analogical problems such as the Attack-Dispersion Story (cf. Figure 1.1).

In a large number of experiments they engage their subjects in various problem solution tasks through the presentation of story analogs dealing with the radiation problem and structurally similar but thematically distant stories, as the Attack-Dispersion Story. The design of the experiments had the subjects read one story analog, for instance the attack-dispersion story. Then they were asked to solve the problem of the analogous story, for instance the radiation story. Although the resulting individual solutions showed a large variety, a general tendency was evident. Only some students succeeded in transferring the knowledge acquired from reading the first story to the solution of the second problem, most likely due to the ill-defined problem. Analogical transfer, in other words, if it is to contribute to the solution of complex problems as the radiation problem, rarely occurs without additional instruction or hints. Or, to put it differently, if the mapping of two problem domains, because of the diverging and distant content, presents an additional problem, however the task as such may be analogous, structurally speaking, the transfer of the solution suggested by one of the analogs causes remarkable difficulties.

Another interesting problem is raised in the article 'Schema induction and analogical transfer' (1983) and 'Mental models in problem solving' (1984). If analogical transfer means the solution of an unknown problem in terms of (an) old one(s) such a transfer depends on what has been called 'mapping'. The question then arises what is it that is 'mapped'. Is it some particular element(s), one or the other proposition of the base analog, or is it the overall macrostructure of the base analog that is mapped onto the target analog, its 'schema' or its underlying 'mental model'? Or to put it another way, is analogical transfer likely to occur more effectively or easily through the mapping of the macro-structural schemata or mental models underlying the problem analogs on a comparatively abstract level of modelling? And does perhaps competence in analogical transfer depend on the activation of such a schema or mental model? The research referred to above does not give a conclusive answer to this question.

What is of particular interest in the context of this paper is the obvious preference in the problem-solving literature for the application of the medical radiation domain in relation to the military domain as expressed in the attack-dispersion story. Or could it perhaps be that historically, culturally and conceptually the medical mental space and the military mental space have something in common and are thus likely to be mapped onto each other and blended into each other?

A Metaphor that Avoided War

In a provocative article with the title 'Metaphor and war: The metaphor system used to justify the war in the gulf' (1992) George Lakoff has analysed the metaphors and metaphoric systems which in American political discourse have been applied to justify the first Gulf War. In the light of the lines of argumentation and course of events that led to the first Gulf War and the present absence of any vision of a political solution to the problems resulting from the victory over Saddam Hussein after the second Gulf War, this article is as enlightening now as it ought to have been in the political discussion during the years following the first war and the propaganda leading to the second one.

Such metaphors and the analogical mapping of metaphors may lead to wars, as Lakoff's argumentation clearly demonstrates, so may wars be avoided by the proper choice and mapping of metaphors as well. An example of truly historical dimensions is the final solution to the Cuban Crisis in 1962 to be discussed later.

After the discovery of the construction of launch sites for intermediate range nuclear missiles and of the assembling of jet bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons in the island of Cuba by an American high-flying U-2 reconnaissance airplane on Sunday, 14 October, 1962, CIA specialists in the National Photographic Center in Washington mapped the photos to top Russian secret material provided by the agent Oleg Penkovsky. The result of this careful investigation practically meant an immediate menace of atomic destruction for the total area of the US, only excluding the Northwest.

On 16 October at 8.45 President Kennedy was informed of this alarming state of affairs by McGeorge Bundy, National Security Agent of the United States. A secret meeting with top advisers, including Robert Kennedy, was called immediately. On the same day the Executive Committee of the National Security Council, later known under its acronym ExComm, was summoned. For the coming 13 days between 16 October and 29 October, 1962 its task was to discuss and prepare political and military solutions to the crisis. It consisted of about 15 standing members who met regularly on a daily basis, if necessary, twice. Among them was Theodore Sorensen, what has some significance for this paper. On certain occasions specially invited experts participated as well. The so-called Kennedy Tapes are the result of a secret recording of these meetings initiated by JFK.

According to Dean Rusk during the first meeting in the morning of 16 October, there seemed to be two courses of action to be taken; a quick surprise strike against the installations or an invasion, or a combination of things (May & Zelikow, 1997: 54). General Taylor later added another alternative: 'I would also mention among the military actions we should take, that once we have destroyed as many of these offensive weapons as possible (through an air strike) we should prevent any more coming in, which means a naval blockade' (May & Zelikow, 1997: 58). These three military measures, frequently ranked in the same sequence, sometimes in a different line of execution, for the coming days become the continuous focus of the debate. Their goal must be the destruction of the missiles and airplanes already stationed in Cuba and the prevention of the strengthening of these weapons through those on their way to Cuba through a blockade. From the beginning the participants were aware of the potential effect of any of these measures on the Berlin question, which Khrushchev had mentioned during his meeting with Kennedy in Vienna. Whether such military actions should be preceded or accompanied by a declaration of war in the course of the proposals became a constant topic in the light of the Pearl Harbor Trauma. It was George W. Ball who in a passionate memo wrote: '... we tried Japanese as war criminals because of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor' and argued in the meeting of October, 18 that a surprise strike, 'far from establishing our moral strength ... would, in fact, alienate a great part of the civilized world by behaving in a manner wholly contrary to our traditions, by pursuing a course of action that would cut directly athwart everything we have stood for during our national history, and condemn us as hypocrites in the opinion of the world' (May & Zelikow, 1997: 121).

Whether the President who during the course of argumentation more and more favoured the blockade solution has ever considered a 'surgical strike' – the military solution blended and concealed with a medical metaphor – to me remains an open question. To the best of my knowledge I have not been able to find evidence for this in any of his taped statements. I am aware, though, of Theodore Sorensen's remark in his famous volume (Sorensen, 1965), according to an entry in the Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary (1986 Vol. IV, 651). Under Section e. it says, surgical: Designating swift and precise military attack, esp. from the air. orig. U. S. '1965 T. C. Sorensen Kennedy XXIV. 684 The idea of ... a so-called "surgical" strike ... had appeal to almost everyone first considering the matter, including President Kennedy.' This question as such only seems to indicate a minor problem. Looking at it, however, from a larger perspective, it is of great importance, in that Kennedy's final decision for the 'quarantine solution' most likely has been the decisive motivation for the activation of the medical mental space and mapping it with a relatively constrained military one, which finally allowed Khrushchev to give in. After all, such an analogical transfer and blending of the military and medical spaces may have saved us from the catastrophe of an atomic war.


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Table of Contents

Contributors, vii,
Preface, ix,
Part 1: Language Contact and Language Transfer Revisited,
1 On the Ambiguity of the Notion 'Transfer' Hans W. Dechert, 3,
2 Language Transfer in Language Learning and Language Contact Janusz Arabski, 12,
3 Could a Contrastive Analysis Ever be Complete? Terence Odlin, 22,
4 The Importance of Different Types of Similarity in Transfer Studies Hakan Ringbom, 36,
5 Language Contact vs. Foreign and Second Language Acquisition Elzbieta Manczak-Wohlfeld, 46,
Part 2: Language Contact Observed,
6 Genre: Language Contact and Culture Transfer Andrzej Eyda, 57,
7 Is Cross-Linguistic Influence a Factor in Advanced EFL Learners' Use of Collocations? Justyna Lesniewska, 65,
8 International Terms and Profile Transfer: On Discussion Krystyna Warchal, 78,
9 The Influence of English on Polish Drug-related Slang Magdalena Bartlomiejczyk, 97,
Part 3: Lexical Transfer in Language Processing,
10 Why Money Can't Buy You Anything in German: A Functional-Typological Approach to the Mapping of Semantic Roles to Syntactic Functions in SLA Marcus Callies, 111,
11 Lexical Transfer: Interlexical or Intralexical? David Singleton, 130,
12 The Interaction of Languages in the Lexical Search of Multilingual Language Users Danuta Gabrys-Barker, 144,
13 Assessing L2 Lexical Development in Early L2 Learning: A Case Study Anna Nizegorodcew, 167,
14 Code-mixing in Early L2 Lexical Acquisition Joanna Rokita, 177,
Part 4: Lexical Transfer in Fixed Expressions,
15 Metaphorical Transferability Rüdiger Zimmermann, 193,
16 On the Use of Translation in Studies of Language Contact Jolanta Latkowska, 210,
17 On Building Castles on the Sand, or Exploring the Issue of Transfer in the Interpretation and Production of L2 Fixed Expressions Anna Cieslicka, 226,
18 'Don't Lose Your Head' or How Polish Learners of English Cope with L2 Idiomatic Expressions Liliana Piasecka, 246,
19 Phrasal Verb Idioms and the Normative Concept of the Interlanguage Hypothesis Przemyslaw Olejniczak, 259,

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