Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

L1 Transfer in Recognition and Production of A/Telic Sentences

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

L1 Transfer in Recognition and Production of A/Telic Sentences

Article excerpt


This study investigates L2 acquisition of telicity, in particular, how the Persian EFL learners interpret a/telic sentences comparing with English native speakers. To the mentioned aim, 70 EFL learners of English assigned to four groups of elementary, low intermediate, high intermediate and advanced speakers were asked to contribute to the present study. In task one the participants were to judge whether some telic and atelic sentences in Persian were compatible with the given context or not. Task 2, was a task of translation to evaluate the participants' production power and task 3 was a task of telicity in English based on Persian. The results revealed that Iranian EFL learners were more successful with telic structures both in translation and recognition task comparing with the atelic ones. The results on telicity in Persian revealed that the markers of telicity in English and Persian are different. Where languages had different markers of telicity, participants were influenced by L1 in all groups but advanced.

Keywords: Telicity, Telic/Atelic, First language transfer

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1. Introduction

A major task for the first language (L1) acquirer is to arrive at a linguistic system which accounts for the input, allowing the child to build linguistic representations and to understand and produce a certain language (White, 2003). UG is proposed as part of an innate biologically endowed language faculty (e.g. Chomsky, 1965; Pinker, 1984), which permits the L1 acquirer to arrive at a grammar on the basis of linguistic experience (exposure to input). The outcome of first language acquisition is almost always a success: at about 5 or 6 years of age, normally developing children mostly acquire the grammar of the language that surrounds them (Slabakova, 2005). By contrast, adult second language acquisition results in different degrees of success, with some speakers performing on a variety of linguistic tasks like native speakers and others diverging considerably from these.

There are certain similarities between first and second language acquisition. In L2 acquisition, learners are faced with a similar task to that of the L1 acquirers, namely the need to arrive at a system accounting for L2 input (White, 2003). L2 learners are also faced, at least potentially, with a logical problem of language acquisition, in that there are abstract, complex and subtle properties of grammar that are underdetermined by the L2 input (Schwartz & Sprouse 2000a, b; White 1985).

L2 learners, however, already have a means of representing language, namely the grammar of the mother tongue which L1 acquirers lack. Thus, it might be that there is, in fact, no under determination problem: if L2 learners demonstrate the relevant kind of subconscious knowledge, it might be the case that they are drawing on the L1 grammar, rather than on UG itself, as is for L1 learners (Schachter, 1990).

This contrast between L1 and L2 acquisition has led some researchers to support the view that L1 and L2 acquisition are different epistemological phenomena: L1 acquisition is regulated by UG while L2 acquisition utilizes general-learning inductive procedures (Bley-Vroman, 1989; Meisel, 1997). Possessing a language by L2 learners has led some researchers (Schwartz & Sprouse, 1996) to claim that according to the "Full Transfer Full Access hypothesis", L2 learners start out with their L2 development by utilizing their LI grammar (i.e., the so called 'LI transfer'). Evidence for LI transfer, especially at the initial state of L2 acquisition, has been provided by many studies (Gass & Selinker, 1994; Schwartz & Sprouse, 1996, 2000) in various linguistic domains, such as the overt morphology-syntactic level (Hazneder, 1997) and the covert semantic level such as telicity and aspect (Slabakova, 2005; Gabriele, 2005, among many others). As opposed to Full Transfer Full Access hypothesis, Epstein, Flynn & Martohardjono (1998), on the other hand, proposed that UG is directly accessed and "transfer is not part of the acquisition model itself (White, 2003). …

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