Studies on Contrastive Analysis

By Tao, Guo; Lijuan, Zhou et al. | International Forum of Teaching and Studies, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Studies on Contrastive Analysis

Tao, Guo, Lijuan, Zhou, Gann, Rosalind Raymond, International Forum of Teaching and Studies


This paper discusses the development and eventual rejection of Contrastive Analysis, which emerged in the 1950's as a strategy for comparing specific languages and predicting the difficulties students would experience in learning them. Using an historical perspective, the paper traces initial enthusiasm for Contrastive Analysis, along with related unsupported pedagogical applications, one of which was the audio-lingual method. The link between structuralist linguistics and behaviorism is noted, and the process of Contrastive Analysis is described. The questionable predictive claims of Contrastive Analysis are analyzed and discussed, and the later modifications of the theory described. The possible utility of Contrastive Analysis in phonology is recognized, as is its total absence of semantic application. The paper details how Chomskyan concepts of language acquisition and deep structure forced a complete revision and eventual discrediting of Contrastive analysis. Noted are concomitant findings from language acquisition research, which also influenced the demise of Contrastive Analysis.

Error Analysis and Interlanguage Theory are presented as subsequent developments in second language acquisition researches, which have attempted to describe issues once addressed by Contrastive Analysis. Readers are encouraged to view earlier theoretical perspectives in historical context.

[Keywords] Contrastive analysis; audio-lingual; linguistics; audiolingual method; TEFL; China; Army method; FLT


The success of the "Army Method" had a significant effect on Foreign Language Teaching (henceforth FLT) in the US. It was designed to provide the American government with personnel fluent in a wide range of languages such as German, French, Italian and Chinese. After the emergence of the US as a world power, it was extended to civil ends. A demand for foreign expertise in the teaching of English increased as thousands of foreign students entered American universities and required training in English to begin their studies. Thus in 1958, the US government allocated funds for the development of teaching methods that would ensure effective teaching. Around the same time, Lado developed his theory of Contrastive Analysis (hereafter CA). His Linguistics across Cultures (1957) was published in 1957.

CA is concerned with solving the problems that second language learners have in learning a second or foreign language. (In this paper, the terms second and foreign language are used interchangeably learning and referred to as L2.) This is supported by behaviorist/ structuralist studies on bilingualism which argued that the problems faced by learners learning L2 were attributable to interference from the L1. In its early formulation, Lado's CA offered new perspectives to applied linguistics, as this theory seemed to offer the key to second language acquisition. A major role was attributed to L1 in second language learning.

Linguists were enthusiastic about Lado's claims and embarked, perhaps too hastily on a comparison of English with other languages. Many teaching materials reflecting this approach were published. CA became very academically fashionable, and it entered classrooms without empirical investigation. But theoretical linguistics manifested a radical reorientation following Chomsky's ironic Syntactic Structures (1957) and subsequent review of Skinner's Verbal Behavior (1959). Identification of inadequacies at both the theoretical and practical level marked the downfall of what was for a decade a promising and popular theory of L2 learning. This paper is to identify the reasons that lead to the discrediting and eventual rejection of CA. The present work is organized around: 1) A brief outline of Contrastive Analysis, involving its historical as well as linguistic, psychological, and pedagogical origins followed by the pedagogical implications and applications of CA. 2) The major developments in linguistic and psychological theory as well as in second Language Acquisition (SLA) researches. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Studies on Contrastive Analysis


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.