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European Journal of Applied Linguistics

Founded by Knapp, Karlfried

Editor-in-Chief: Bührig, Kristin / García Mayo, María del Pilar / ten Thije, Jan D.

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2192-953X
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Early Foreign Language Learning: the Case of Mother Tongue Influence in Vocabulary Use in German and Spanish Primary-School EFL Learners

María-del-Pilar Agustín-Llach
Published Online: 2014-06-07 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/eujal-2014-0009

Abstract

This paper investigates the influence of the mother tongue in vocabulary use in foreign language writing. The lexicon is considered one of the language aspects most permeable by L1 (Arabski 2006). L1 transfer is pervasive in all age groups and L1 backgrounds. Factors such as contrastive relationships between L1 and L2 lexis, or psychotypology evidence differences in lexical transfer. We were interested in describing how the L1 influences lexical production in L2 writing. Moreover, we wanted to examine whether different L1s influence lexical transfer in different ways. We analysed the written production of 71 Spanish and 38 German 4th graders. Learner compositions were scrutinized for instances of lexical transfer: borrowing or complete language shift, literal translation or calque, transfer of semantic features from L1 to L2 words, and relexification or foreignizing. Linguistic and psychotypological reasons led us to believe that German learners would transfer more, due to the higher perceived similarity between German and English. Results confirmed this hypothesis but only as regards borrowing. The great formal similarity between many German words and their English equivalents is liable to lead learners to these types of transfer. By contrast, calques and transfer of semantic features are more independent of formal similarity, and thus rarer in our data of young, low proficient L2 learners.

Zusammenfassung

In diesem Beitrag wird der Einfluss der Muttersprache auf die Wortschatzbenutzung in L2 untersucht. Der Wortschatz wird als einer der L1 durchlässigsten linguistischen Aspekte (Arabski 2006) betrachtet. L1 Übertragung kann in Lernern aller Altersgruppen und L1en wahrgenommen werden. Kontrastive Beziehungen zwischen L1 und L2 Wortschatz oder psychotypologische Aspekte legen Unterschiede in lexikalischer L1 Übertragung offen. Wir waren daran interessiert, den Einfluss der L1 auf die lexikalische Produktion in der geschriebenen L2 zu beschreiben. Zudem wollten wir untersuchen, ob unterschiedliche L1en die lexikalische Übertragung auf verschiedene Weisen beeinflussten. Das schriftliche Englisch von 71 spanischen und 38 deutschen Schülern in der 4. Klasse wurde analysiert. Wir haben nach Fremdwortentlehnung, direkten Übersetzungen, Übertragung semantischer Eigenschaften und L1/L2 Anpassungen gesucht. Linguistische und psychotypologische Gründe führten zu der Hypothese, dass aufgrund der formalen Ähnlichkeiten zwischen vielen englischen und deutschen Wörtern die deutschen Teilnehmer mehr übertragen würden. Unsere Ergebnisse bestätigen diese Hypothese, aber nur bezüglich Fremdwortentlehnung. Die großen formalen Ähnlichkeiten zwischen englischen Wörtern und deren deutschen Entsprechungen dürften dafür ursächlich sein. Demgegenüber sind direkte Übersetzungen und Übertragungen von semantischen Merkmalen unabhängiger von formaler Ähnlichkeit sein, und kommen deswegen noch selten in der Produktion unserer jungen Anfänger vor.

Resumen

Este artículo investiga la influencia de la lengua materna en el uso de vocabulario al escribir en lengua extranjera. El lexicón está considerado como una de las áreas lingüísticas más permeables a la influencia de la L1 (Arabski 2006). La transferencia de la L1 está presente en hablantes de todos los grupos de edad y de diferentes lenguas maternas. Factores como las relaciones contrastivas entre el léxico de la L1 y L2, o aspecto psicotipológicos evidencian diferencias en la transferencia léxica. Aquí nos interesa describir cómo la L1 influye en la producción léxica en la escritura en L2. Queremos además examinar si diferentes lenguas maternas influyen de distinta manera en la transferencia léxica. Analizamos la producción escrita de 71 aprendices españoles y de 38 alemanes que cursaban cuarto grado de Educación Primaria. Examinamos las composiciones para buscar ejemplos de transferencia léxica, en particular de préstamos, calcos o traducciones literales, transferencias de rasgos semánticos de L1 a L2, y de adaptaciones. Aspectos lingüísticos y psicotipológicos nos llevan a pensar que los aprendices alemanes van a transferir más, debido a la mayor percepción de similitud entre inglés y alemán. Nuestros resultados confirmaron esta hipótesis, pero sólo en lo que respecta a los préstamos. La gran similitud formal entre muchas palabras alemanas y sus equivalentes en inglés posiblemente favoreció este tipo de transferencia. Sin embargo, los calcos y la transferencia de rasgos semánticos son más independientes de similitudes formales, y quizá por ello menos comunes en la producción de nuestros jóvenes aprendices.

Keywords: Lexical transfer; psychotypology; low proficient L2-learners; Spanish-English; German-English

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About the article

Published Online: 2014-06-07

Published in Print: 2014-09-01


Citation Information: European Journal of Applied Linguistics, ISSN (Online) 2192-953X, ISSN (Print) 2192-9521, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/eujal-2014-0009.

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