A Contrastive Study of English-Arabic Noun Morphology

By Salim, Jamal Azmi | International Journal of English Linguistics, June 2013 | Go to article overview

A Contrastive Study of English-Arabic Noun Morphology


Salim, Jamal Azmi, International Journal of English Linguistics


Abstract

The present study aims at comparing and contrasting English and Arabic noun morphology to determine the points where they differ. These differences are the main cause of difficulty in the learning of the second language. Teaching will be directed at those points where there are structural differences. This in turn determines what the teacher has to teach and what the learner has to learn. The whole focus of the present analysis will be confined to noun morphology in both languages.

Keywords: contrastive analysis, noun morphology, Modern Standard Arabic

(ProQuest: Foreign text omitted.)

1. Introduction

1.1 Contrastive Analysis and Foreign Language Teaching

The concept of contrastive analysis was first introduced by Charles Fries in (1952), and fully described by Robert Lado in his book Linguistics across Cultures (1957).

Contrastive analysis is a systematic branch of applied linguistics which deals with the linguistic description of the structure of two or more different languages. Such descriptive comparison serves to show how languages differ in their sound system, grammatical structure and vocabulary. This type of analysis can be used in language teaching among others, to point out the areas where the similarities and contrast between the two languages are present.

In contrastive analysis, we study the structures of two languages from two different families (i.e., the source language and the target language) in order to determine the points where they differ. These differences are the chief source of difficulty in learning a second language.

Lado states that "we assume that the student who comes in contact with a foreign language... and these elements that are different will be difficult" (1957, p. 2).

Lado was quite influenced by Charles Fries. On the first page of his book (1957), he quotes Fries, advocating the role of contrastive analysis. Fries believes that the most effective materials are those based upon a scientific description of the language to be learned, which is carefully compared with "a parallel description of the native language of the learners" (Nickel, 1971, p. 3).

Wardhaugh (1970) proposed a distinction between a strong version and a weak one of the contrastive analysis hypothesis. In its strongest formulation, the contrastive analysis hypothesis claimed that all the errors made in learning the L2 could be attributed to 'interference' by the L1. However, this claim could not be sustained by empirical evidence that was accumulated in the mid- and late 1970s. It was soon pointed out that many errors predicted by contrastive analysis were inexplicably not observed in learner's language. Even more confusingly, some uniform errors were made by learners irrespective of their L2. It thus became clear that Contrastive Analysis could not predict all learners' difficulties but was certainly useful in the respective explanation of error.

As we are aware, when the child acquires his\her native language, the child develops the native language behavior. Gradually, this becomes stronger and stronger. In learning the second language, the learner is very much influenced by his native language behavior. Where the structure of the two languages is the same or quite similar, no difficulty is anticipated. Where the structure of the second language (L2) differs from (L1), we can predict some difficulty, at least, in learning as well as error in performance. The bigger the differences between the two languages the greater the difficulty will be. Learning a second language behaviour is essential to overcome these difficulties. In other words, learning a second language involves changing one's native language behavior to that of the speaker of the target language.

In this respect, contrastive analysis will be useful. It will help discover the differences between the two languages concerned and predict the difficulties the learners will have to overcome. …

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