Academic journal article English Language Teaching

A Survey of Acquisition of Transferred Negation of English Syntax with Reference to Senior High School TEFL in Mainland China

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

A Survey of Acquisition of Transferred Negation of English Syntax with Reference to Senior High School TEFL in Mainland China

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study investigates the learning situation of senior high school students in mainland China about acquisition of transferred negation of English sentence structure. Through translation test and questionnaire investigation, a survey is made about this language learning phenomenon among 173 students. From the study it is found that students mainly have problems with the typical kind of transferred negation sentences, the negation caused by the predicative in the matrix clause, the negation of because-clause, the negation of infinitive structure or the objective complements and so on. The language foundation of English has no direct relation to whether students are familiar with transferred negation structure. There exists a very clear difference between students from different schools for some sentences and students from the same class tend to make mistakes in the same kind of transferred negation sentences. Female students have an advantage over male students in the translation test. Some factors like the habits of Chinese expression have great effects on students' understanding of the structure.

Keywords: TEFL, transferred negation, senior high school, China

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1. Introduction

In English, the phenomenon that a negative word or element moves out of its original position to a new place had existed long before it was definitely defined as "transferred negation" by Quirk et al. (1972). Language learners are liable to make mistakes with these sentences, and this study was carried out to investigate the learning situation of some senior high school students about transferred negation and make some suggestions about the learning and teaching of it.

In English, the transferred negation structure is a more preferable pragmatic strategy so that a native speaker would say "I don't think he is a good teacher" instead of "I think he is not a good teacher." For Chinese learners of English language, they would find it confusing and difficult when they are trying to understand the meaning or to translate the sentence into corresponding Chinese language.

Transferred negation is not a key grammar concept in College Entrance Examination in mainland China so some English teachers even ignore the teaching of this part. But we can not deny its importance in language uses and cross-cultural communication, so this study aims to investigate the learning situation of some senior high school students about transferred negation and make some suggestions about the learning and teaching of this kind of sentence structure.

2. Literature Review

"Transferred negation", can also be termed as "negative raising" or "negative transportation" (Quirk et al., 1985, p. 1033). It usually occurs when one of a particular set of mental activity verbs, such like think and suppose, introducing an indirect statement is structurally negated but semantically throws its negation forward to the main verb or adjective in the indirect statement. One of the most common structures of transferred negation is like "I don't I think that..." According to Morante and Sporleder (2012), negation is a complex phenomenon that has been studied from many perspectives, including cognition, philosophy, and linguistics. In English, the usual negative formation is as follows: "When we use verbs like think, suppose and believe to introduce a negative idea, we prefer to make the introductory verb negative, not the verb in the subordinate clause." (Foley & Hall, 2005, p. 89). This special phenomenon attracted the attention of the scholars for a very long time, and one of the earliest formal documents about it appeared in A Grammar of Contemporary English in 1972. According to the introduction of this grammar book, transferred negation, particularly common in informal style, is the transfer of the negative from a subordinate clause (generally a that-clause), where semantically it belongs, to the matrix clause (Quirk et al. …

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