2 Literature Review
2.1 Language Transfer
The term “transfer” was originally derived from the Latin word “transferre”, and was used as a technological term meaning “to bear”, “to print”, “to impress”, or “to copy (as a drawing or engraved design) from one surface to another” (Webster Third New World International dictionary, 1986: 2427). With the development of its meaning, “transfer” could also be used to mean “to carry-over or generalization of learned responses from one type of situation to another,” especially “the application in one field of study or effort of knowledge, skill, power, or ability acquired in another” (Webster Third New World International dictionary, 1986: 2427). Later on, it was applied in linguistics, for example, “language transfer”, or “linguistic transfer”.
Transfer, which is also known as cross-linguistic influence, is one of the various terms used in discussions of the influence of the native language on L2 learning. Some researchers denied the existence of language transfer and others have been doubtful about its importance. Yet there are also researchers who have argued for the importance of transfer and have gone so far as to consider it the paramount fact of L2 acquisition (Odlin 1989).
Kellerman (1987) suggests that the term be restricted to “those processes that lead to the incorporation of elements from one language into another” (p3). According to Gass and Selinker (1992), language transfer is “a term that was used extensively in the first half of the century and refers to psychological process whereby prior knowledge is carried over into a new learning situation” (p66).
Odlin (1989) offers another definition of transfer for the context of applied linguistics: “Transfer is the influence resulting from similarities and differences between the target language and any other language that has been previously (and perhaps inperfectly) acquired” (p27).
Hu (2001) believes that linguistic transfer refers to the phenomenon that when learners communicate with a new language, they try to use the previously acquired voice, the lexical, cultural habits and rules to express ideas. This phenomenon is very common in L2 learning, especially in the early stages of L2 learning. According to the different roles that L1 plays in L2 learning, linguistic transfer can be divided into two categories. According to Odlin’s (1989), the definition of linguistic transfer, previously acquired language mainly refers to L1. Transfer arising from similarities between L1 and L2 is called positive transfer, namely, habits of L1 are correctly applied to L2. For example, in English learning, Chinese students seldom make a mistake in making such sentence: I am a boy / girl, because such structure of Chinese sentence is exactly the same as in English, so in learning English, Chinese students can learn from similar Chinese to accelerate understanding and mastery of English. On the contrary, if learners inappropriately applied L1 to a target language, this phenomenon is considered as negative transfer, namely, L1 interference. For example, in Chinese grammar, verb modifiers in many cases is usually in front of a verb in a sentence, while English is just the opposite, adverbial modifier of a verb should be after the verb in a sentence. In this case, habit of Chinese interfere in learning English hinders L2 learning (Odlin, 1989).
Linguistic transfer theory has great impact on research on L2 learning in the 1950s and 1960s, when people were from all aspects to study and discuss linguistic transfer phenomenon. Ji (2012) believes that linguistic transfer is a major obstacle in language acquisition. Dai and Wang (2002) consider that linguistic transfer phenomenon is not critical in foreign language learning. Although peoples’ research results on linguistic transfer are not the same, these studies have described that linguistic transfer phenomenon has been attached great importance in the field of L2 learning. With the gradual in-depth study on linguistic transfer, people’s understanding of linguistic transfer is constantly revised and deepening, linguistic transfer theory has been applied more widely, Contrastive analysis (CA) which was prevalent in the 1950s and Error Analysis (EA) presented in the 1960s were closely linked with research on L1 linguistic transfer. This study is based on linguistic transfer to carry out EA and CA towards Interlanguage (IL) of Chinese college students.
2.2 Theoretical Bases of the Study
In this chapter, the author first of all reviews comparative analysis, error analysis and interlanguage analysis. Then western findings of negative transfer of L1 are reviewed, followed by three negative aspects of researches on negative transfer of L1, first is by previous studies to demonstrate that negative transfer of Chinese is prevalent in students’ English writing in China, second is through review of relevant studies to understand what is the performance of negative transfer of L1 in Chinese college students' English writing. Third, it is through relevant researches to understand why the negative transfer of L1 is ubiquitous in Chinese college students' English writing.
2.2.1 Contrastive analysisContrastive analysis (CA), as a practical application of the language transfer theory in linguistics, refers to comparison of two or more languages or subsystems of languages in order to determine both differences and similarities between them.
The famous linguist Robert Lado first put Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH) in 1957, which was based on the theory of behaviorism in psychology and structuralism in linguistics. Linguists advocates the belief that the basic problems in L2 learning do not result from any essential difficulties in the new language features but primarily from learners’ L1 habits (Odlin, 2001). The proposition of such a hypothesis that the main difficulties arise from interference of native language and all L2 errors and difficulty degree can be predicted by identifying the differences between learners’ native language and target language(TL), arouses SLA(Second Language Acquisition) researchers’ interest in L2 learners’ errors(Krapels A R.,1991).
Many researchers find that predictability of CA is doubtful. Not all the errors occur because of the L1 interference. According to Selinker (1974) and Odlin (2001), some errors are probably caused by other intralingual sources, for example overgeneralization or learning strategies such as transfer of training. Moreover, L2 learners are observed making fewer errors with those structures strikingly different from their L1 equivalents, but making more with those structures slimly dissimilar.
To remove the defect of the theory, Wardhaugh (1983) scientifically divides the contrastive analysis hypothesis into strong and weak versions. The former version attempts to predict difficulties by means of contrasting “the system of one language—the grammar, phonology, and lexicon—with the system of a L2” (Wardhaugh, 1983, p8). The latter version, however, starts with the evidences provided by linguistic interference and uses such evidences to explain the similarities and differences between systems. In the practice, this method is much more valuable and feasible than the strong type comparative analysis because it can reduce the requirement of language workers. Brown (1994) thinks highly of the weak version of CAH, pointing out that it not only reflects the significance of interference across languages, but also recognizes that such interference does exist and can explain difficulties.
In the CA theory, analyzing the errors is regarded as the root of progress. Therefore, this theory does not pay much attention to the approaches how to avoid the errors, especially in the foreign language teaching. With the development of Error Analysis, the CA theory has begun to be abandoned, although it has great contribution in the field of language universal research because it can do the theory translation and has done the description of the specific language, language typology (Fries Carl, 1980).
Nevertheless, although contrastive analysis as a method for the study of language has its flaws, it is still an important means of research on linguistic theory. In the process of carry out research in this study, it is through using contrastive analysis to explore differences between Chinese and English in structure and style to bring forward a deep analysis and interpretation of errors caused by negative transfer of L1.
2.2.2 Error analysis
Error analysis (EA), as the term suggests, is the study and analysis of error and is confined to the language learner (James, 2001). It became the acceptable alternative to CA by the late1960s and got rapid development in the 1970s. It was Corder (1967) who revived EA through his article "The Significance of Learners' Errors". EA is carried out in order to identify strategies which learners use in language learning, and try to identify the causes of learner errors and obtain information on common difficulties in language learning as an aid in teaching or in the preparation of teaching materials. It examines the actual errors produced by the learner in TL and views both first and second language acquisition as a process involving the active participation of the learner. This approach is based on cognitive psychology which sees errors as a clue to what is happening in the mind of the learner.
Error analysis provides a methodology for investigating learner language (Ellis, 1999). It has, to a certain extent, penetrated into the negative aspects of features in the process of L2 learning. As Corder (1967) notes that a learner’s errors... are significant in providing researcher evidence of how language is learned or acquired, as well as what strategies or procedures the learner is employing in discovering the language.
Guo and Liu (1997) note that analyze mistakes that learners make will help teachers, researchers to understand the current L1 system that learners acquire and the level they reach, as well as learning strategies and procedures used in the learning process. This has positive significance for the study on language development of learners, and learners themselves also benefit from error analysis.
Jiang and Luan (2005) divide error analysis process into the following five steps. First is selection, collection, analysis of language material. Language material for error analysis is mainly from L2 learners. The language material can be composed by oral contents expressed by learner, written exercises, and analysis information obtained from listening survey. Language material used in this study is written material. Second is identifying, confirming the errors. Error identification can be carried out from two aspects: standard syntax used and communication. In addition to determining whether a sentence conforms to syntax, it should further examine whether it agree with communicative context. Third is error classification. The specific step is to collect errors first, then according to different categories to group the errors collected to determine the categories of errors. Forth is explaining why errors occur. Considering from current researches, the causes of the errors are divided into three categories, first is interlingual errors, second is Intralingual errors, and third is other errors. In this study, it mainly analyzes interlingual errors, which is due to learners’ bringing native language and cultural conventions into the learning and application of a target language, that is the negative transfer of linguistic transfer
Fifth is evaluation of severity of errors. Severity of errors refers to the influence of errors on communication. Degrees of influence often depend on the nature of errors(James, 2001).
In this study, error analysis is mainly used for analysis of collected interlanguage material in order to obtain all kinds of error instances of Chinese college students, as well as the frequency of various types of errors as objective data to analyze the severity of the impact of L1, while these errors are classified for analysis and interpretation of the cause of errors.
Because of the flaws and limitations in the CA theory and EA theory, researchers tried their best to look for new ways to solve the problems during the studying process of L2 acquisition in the late 1960s. As a result, Interlanguage (IL) is coined by the American linguist Selinker (1972). It is a separate linguistic system resulting from the learners’ attempted production of TL norms. It is used to refer to learners’ systematic knowledge about a language which is independent of both their L1 and L2 system they are trying to learn (Ellis 1999).
As a transitional system, IL is constructed by the learner out of the linguistic input to which he has been exposed. It refers to the developing competence of L2 learners, from an initial stage of very limited knowledge about the new language to a final stage of almost complete fluency in the target structure. By a gradual process of trial and error and hypothesis testing, learners slowly and tediously succeed in establishing closer and closer approximations to the system used by native speakers of language. In short, language learning can be seen as a process which involves the construction of an “interlanguage”, a “transitional competence” reflecting the dynamic nature of the learners’ developing system. According to James(2001), whether to make the comparison between IL and TL, or MT and IL, interlanguage is a key and inevitable intermediate moment in L2 learning process.
Research objective of interlanguage study is to reveal the nature of interlanguage to explore the law of L2 acquisition to provide a theoretical basis for the choice and organization of teaching materials for a foreign language classroom teaching and guide foreign language teaching with method (Ellis 1999).
According to Wang (2010), language learners mainly use the following five methods in the process of interlanguage construction. First is linguistic transfer, referring to learners’ consciously or unconsciously using the rules of grammar of L1 to deal with information of target language, as they are not familiar with rules of the target language. Second is training transfer, which is language error caused by wrong teaching and improper use of learning materials. Third is L2 learning strategies, there are means and methods of learners in the learning process. Fourth is L2 communication strategy, referring to methods that learners use in making use of L2 to express ideas in communication. Fifth, overgeneralization of target language material, it is to extend and generalize the rules of a target language to an inappropriate degree.
Language material analyzed in this study is interlanguage material of Chinese college students. In the course of the analysis, it focuses on interlanguage construction of linguistic transfer to do deep research. According to Zhang’s (2007) theory, there are three paradigms of research on interlanguage: contrastive analysis of L1 and L2, error analysis of interlanguage and L2, transfer analysis of interlanguage and L1.
During the process of carrying out research in this study, error analysis, contrastive analysis and transfer analysis, these three paradigms are well combined, it is first of all based on real data, through error analysis to compare interlanguage material and L2, categorizing errors and on the basis of contrastive analysis to classify according to cause of errors, and then it uses contrastive analysis and transfer analysis to compare the differences between Chinese, Interlanguage, English to carry out an in-depth analysis of the causes of errors and process of when errors occur to provide deep theoretical explanations for errors arising from transfer of L1.
2.3 Foreign Researches on Negative Transfer of ML in International ContextsIn foreign language teaching and research abroad, there are a lot of researches on how L1 affects foreign language learning, researchers express their views, carrying out an in-depth discussion at all levels and having achieved fruitful results.
Ellis(1985) notes that when students with different MT learn a same foreign language, their processes of mastery of the grammatical structure of the target language are not entirely consistent, indicating that they are clearly affected by their MT.
Zobal (1980) points out in his study that the process of learning a foreign language is also the same as a children's mother tongue acquisition process, the time for a learner’s learning will be determined based on the input language material, for example, when a learner learns a foreign language with different structure from its L1, the time for learning will be longer, which is obviously affected by his L1.
James (2001) studies the circumstance of learning English articles of Chinese and Spanish students to find that there are articles in Spanish, Spanish students have grasp English articles much more better than Chinese students, as there is no article in Chinese. It might be caused by the habits of using ML.
Schacher (1974) has done a survey on the situation of using English attributive clause of students of four groups whose ML was Arabic, Persian, Chinese and Japanese. He found that students whose native language was Chinese or Japanese have more difficulties in learning than Arabic or Persian students. It is because the position of clause in Arabic or Persian is the same as in English, while the position of clause in Chinese and Japanese is contrary to the position in English, the study on attributive clause can explain that the role of transfer for different learners is different.
2.4 Researches on Negative Transfer of ML in China2.4.1 Universal negative transfer of Chinese in Chinese college students' English writing
In China, there are many scholars who have carried out in-depth research and analysis on the role of mother tongue in foreign language learning, they have published numerous papers and monographs to analyze the negative transfer of mother tongue in English Writing. A small part of the researches relate to the positive role of mother tongue in foreign language writing process, but they are also aware of that in their study and provide an objective evaluation on the negative impact of the role of mother tongue. Du (1985) believes that in learning a foreign language, interference of mother tongue is inevitable, interference of mother tongue often occurs when there is a very different or specious point between MT and L2.
Zhang (2014) note that the role of mother tongue in the writing process includes: the logical inference for writing content, analysis and determination of linguistic form, retrieval of related foreign words, phrases or sentences. Their article plays an important role for Chinese people to have a comprehensive understanding of the roles of MT in L2 learning.
Wen and Guo (1998) studied the course of Chinese high school students’ picture composition in English to explore the relationship between foreign language thinking and English writing ability. The study finds that students with high foreign language writing ability depend less on mother tongue than students with low ability, and their use of mother tongue is selective, in the process of writing, first language often plays the role of an intermediary of conversion and an intermediary of content generation.
Liu (1998) was through empirical research to indicate that Chinese students have too much emphasis on semantic functions of vocabulary and ignored the surface influence of vocabulary and the law of using syntactic categories in English, so they have difficulties in determining the part of speech of English and syntactic relations. He believes that this is mainly because students are interfered by the semantic schema of emphasis on meaning and ignoring form in their mother tongue, sometimes they even match the semantic schema with English, resulting in a significant transfer of the semantic schema.
Ma (2002) was through comparing and analysis the language features of Chinese and American College Students' English writing to point out that Chinese students used more second person pronouns, discourse function words, conjunctions and adjectives. American students used more adverbial clause, object clause and convince verbs. Ma believes that the reason for these differences is the different in the rhetorical habits of their MT.
In sum, although Chinese plays a positive role in Chinese students’ English writing process, most studies still affirm that there is a more common negative transfer phenomenon in Chinese students' English writing process.
2.4.2 Performance of negative transfer of Chinese in English writingIn the process of Chinese people’s learning English, because there is a huge difference between Chinese language and English language, Chinese culture and English culture, the negative impact brought by first language transfer is difficult to be avoided (Wang, 2013). Common errors in writing process are: misnomer, grammatical errors, monotonous sentence, structure confusion, lack of coherence and other negative transfer phenomenon. In college English writing, it can be clearly found the impact of negative transfer of first language in three levels, the lexical, the syntactic and discourse (Nie, 2012).
220.127.116.11 Effect of negative transfer related to vocabulary1. Misunderstand meaning
Differences between the ranges that an English word and a Chinese word refer to, as well as differences between connotations of English words and Chinese words will cause negative transfer. Considering meanings, English words and Chinese words correspond exactly, or do not correspond completely, or do not exactly correspond, the most notable is not exactly corresponded (Hutchinson and Quintas, 2008). A considerable number of Chinese students think that every Chinese word can be correspond to an English word, and then the two are exactly the same. In fact, due to the differences in the development and change trajectory of the two languages and differences in the social and cultural backgrounds between the two language, the lexical meaning of the two languages are very different. Situations of exactly corresponding Chinese and English words are rare, excepting some specialized vocabulary and few everyday vocabulary, most words are corresponding to words of several different meanings in another language (Nie, 2012). For example, in this sentence: I had to share a book with classmates because I had leave mine in the dormitory, Chinese students often use “forgotten” to replace “leave”, which is arising from a unclear understanding of the meaning of the word “forget”.
2. Inappropriate collocationBecause some Chinese collocations have different versions in English, and these versions are fixed in English and entire idioms, Chinese students will make mistakes if they slightest this aspect (Wang, 2013). For example, Chinese students often use “learn knowledge”, but the right should be “obtain knowledge”, Chinese students often use “big fog”, but the right should be “thick fog”, they often use “eat some medicine”, but it should be “take some medicine”.
3. Misuse of part of speechThere is no suffix in a Chinese word to represent the part of speech, and part of speech in the form of Chinese words is indistinguishable (Kim, Wright and Zhongxing, 2010). A Chinese word often has different syntactic functions, reflecting different parts of speech. For Chinese English writers, they tend to transfer the characteristics of Chinese words in part of speech to English vocabulary learning process, resulting in an error in the application of vocabulary (Wang, 2013). For example, in the sentences: when crossing the street, please careful, here, “careful” should be “be careful”.
18.104.22.168 Impact of negative transfer of syntaxIn English, it emphasizes the forms, in addition to rich changes in forms, the sentence structure has strict constraints in rules, reflecting highly formal and logical characteristics. English focuses on correspondence of forms and emphasizes the completion of forms and structures of sentences. In a sentence, words or clauses are linked by conjunctions to express grammatical and logic meaning (Nie, 2012). While Chinese pays attention to the continuity of meaning and has less emphasis on the completion of forms of a sentence, it is mainly through semantic meaning collocation and meanings of words to connect them. When Chinese students are writing in English, they always first use Chinese thinking in the minds, and then translate it into English, thus an error occurs (Guo & Liu, 2014), for example, the sentence “TV programs have too much violence nowadays” should be “There is too much violence on TV nowadays”.
22.214.171.124 Effect of the negative transfer of discourseDifferences between Chinese and English thinking patterns are embodied in discourse, organization and extension of English text are characterized by a topic sentence at the beginning of a paragraph, prominent focus and well-arranged structure (Ma & Wen, 1999). The development and structure of Chinese discourse focus on contrast, it is subtle and tactful with loosely structured features. American scholar Kaplan (1966) analyzed written articles in English by oriental English language learners and found that the organization of the chapters reflected people's thinking. He believes that organization and development of English texts is linear, it directly states a topic and discusses it; Chinese students’ mode of writing is a spiral type, it does not directly provide a topic, but discusses the theme through insinuations, and finally bringing a topic. Affected by Chinese mode of thinking, Chinese students’ writing in English is often unfocused, loosely structured, confused. For example, there is mostly a lack a topic sentence; there is no clear topic sentence at the beginning, sometimes even if the view is put forward, but the paragraphs followed fail to focus on this point of view, but through twists and turns to bring forward the point until the last paragraph (Ma & Wen, 1999).
2.4.3 Reasons leading to negative transfer of Chinese126.96.36.199 Differences in linguistic rules
Early behaviorism theory believes that differences in linguistic rules between target language and mother tongue is a major factor leading to negative transfer, the differences are reflected in pronunciation, vocabulary, syntax and so on (Shang, 2007).
In terms of vocabulary, English learners usually recite by rote the Chinese meanings of a word to recite the word, however, the most difference between English and Chinese vocabulary is that an English word may have different meanings in different contexts, reciting a few Chinese meanings of an English word is not always able to have an accurate understanding of the meaning of the world in a collocation. Thus, vocabulary should be learned in conjunction with context and a fixed term (Wang, 2010).
Wen and Wang (2013) analyze that considering syntax, in English acquisition process, Chinese students tend to ignore transformation of tense and confuse comparative and superlative degrees. Changes in English tenses are mainly reflected in inflected verbs, for example, a verb suffixed “-ed” indicates a past tense. And in Chinese, it is used time adverbial forms to reflect tense, verbs do not inflect. If Chinese students ignore changes in tenses of verbs, it will affect the expression of words. In addition, English tenses are more complicated, English learners prone to confusion and misuse, such as perfect tense and past tense. Pronunciation, vocabulary, syntax are the basic units in English, so English learners must master this knowledge. Cognitivism criticizes point of view of behaviorism, considering that negative transfer should not be only confined to linguistic rules, it should also take into account the socio-cultural factors of the use of the language( Wen and Wang, 2013).
188.8.131.52 Cultural differencesShang (2007) mentioned in his study that Sapir proposes that language can not exist without culture and can not be divorced from social inherited traditional culture and beliefs. Thus, language learning should be combined with culture. Cultural differences between China and English-speaking countries make English learners in China difficult to accept foreign cultures, and even have cultural misunderstanding. Cultural misunderstanding is mainly reflected in Chinese students’ learning of English words relating to English culture. For example, Chinese respects traditional Confucian culture, emphasizing the country’s and people's interests and ignoring individualism, so most Chinese English learners mistake the word “individualism” and link the word with “selfish, self-interest” and other negative words, further misunderstanding American culture. And the original “individualism” in English means that individuals in a society have the right to be not controlled by the government and the right to make their own decisions, its meaning is positive, reflecting social equality and freedom promoted in the United States. Therefore, English learners can not rely on Chinese interpretation only, but combine with culture behind the language. Zhang (2014) further points out that, at the same time, they should be concerned about the nuances between the two languages, by comparing and analyzing English and Chinese to strengthen the acquisition of English, which largely avoids the impediment of negative transfer in learning the language.
2.4.4 Thinking differenceVygotsky's theory of interiorization believes that thinking is the constantly internalized result of the external form of language (Shang, 2007: 190). Language and thought are inseparable, language learning must be combined with properly thinking culture. However, language teaching research often ignores this factor. SLA's L1 thinking has already been internalized, affecting language users’ thinking, behavior all the time. Under the influence of Chinese thinking, a lot of English learners spend a lot of time, pay a lot of effort to learn English and may still acquired less significant achievement, and the reason is failure in being aware of the importance of culturing language thinking. Chinese thinking emphasizes the significance coherence of between discourses, and thinking in English takes formal logic as the core and mainly uses cohesive means to achieve coherence. Differences in the thinking of the two languages negatively affect learning effect, which is particularly reflected in the output of language, resulting in the generation of Chinglish. In addition, Chinese thinking still impedes effective input of English, such as in memorizing vocabulary and so on. Chinese characters are pictographs, which are composed of a meaning element and a sound element, Chinese English learners have internalized this kind of thinking and memory. Zhang (2014) comments that this will undoubtedly increase the difficulty of learning English vocabulary, because English belongs to the Germanic languages and it is from a combination of different letters.
Again, based on what Zhang (2014) analyzed in his study, although English idioms and Chinese idioms have similar meanings, connotations of their meanings are different, the two are exactly the same is a kind of misguided thinking. For example, when English learners learn the idiom of “Drop in the bucket”, Chinese students often consider that it means it is trivial, and in Western thinking, the idiom expresses exactly the opposite meaning, it means a large number. Therefore, English learners should strengthen culture of their own thinking in English, weakening the negative impact of transfer of mother tongue on English language acquisition, through knowing more knowledge about history and culture of English-speaking countries, broadening their horizons to make learning English specialized.
2.5 SummaryComparative analysis, error analysis, interlanguage analysis are three methods commonly used in researches on negative transfer of L1, this study makes use of these three methods to expand the research. Past studies have shown that negative transfer of L1 is prevalent in Chinese college students’ English writing has a serious impact on improving Chinese college students' English writing, which reflects the significance of carrying out this study. Studies in the past have shown that negative transfer of L1 in Chinese college students’ English writing is reflected in the following three aspects: negative transfer of vocabulary, negative transfer of grammar and negative transfer of discourse. This study focuses on the former two aspects to explore the negative transfer of L1. Past studies have shown that negative transfer of L1 is ubiquitous in Chinese college students' English writing, which is caused by three reasons, first is different language rules, second is cultural differences, and the third is the difference of thinking. The author is based on the above three reasons to bring forward targeted methods to resolve problems of negative transfer of L1 in Chinese college students' English writing.