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EVIDENCE OF LEXICAL TRANSFER IN LEARNER SYNTAX

The Acquisition of English Causatives by Speakers of Hindi-Urdu and Vietnamese

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 September 2001

Rena Helms-Park
Affiliation:
York University

Abstract

This article reports the findings of a study in which transfer of verb properties was investigated via syntactic data elicited from second language (L2) learners. It was hypothesized that a learner's first language (L1) would influence the acquisition of verbs in those L2 semantic classes where so-called L1-L2 translation equivalents could be found. To investigate lexical transfer, the performance of Hindi-Urdu speakers on tests of English causatives was compared with that of Vietnamese speakers, because there are significant differences between causativization patterns in Hindi-Urdu and Vietnamese. To account for proficiency-based variation in performance, learners were placed in one of three levels of lexical proficiency in English, and Mann-Whitney comparisons were made between Hindi-Urdu and Vietnamese speakers at corresponding proficiency levels. It was found that the performance of the Hindi-Urdu and Vietnamese groups differed significantly in several semantic contexts. Generally, the results suggest that there is some transfer of semantic information from the L1 verb lexicon to the emerging L2 verb lexicon. More specifically, the findings suggest that verb properties are transferred selectively and that transfer plays a role in the difficulty or ease involved in the shedding of overgeneralized lexical rules.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2001 Cambridge University Press

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