[lg policy] book review: New Trends in Crosslinguistic Influence and Multilingualism Research

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 27 15:14:36 UTC 2012

New Trends in Crosslinguistic Influence and Multilingualism Research
SERIES TITLE: Second Language Acquisition
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2011

Alicia Pousada, English Department, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras

This volume serves as an introduction to the growing field of CLI
(cross-linguistic influence), a term first utilized in Sharwood Smith 1983 and
developed in Sharwood Smith & Kellerman 1986. While the articles present
empirical studies of the acquisition of additional languages among bilinguals,
they also review the literature, terminology, and current theoretical debates in
this area. Research in CLI goes beyond positive and negative "interference" from
L1 to L2 and looks at the role of L2 in the acquisition of additional languages
and the varying influences of those languages upon each other and upon L1. The
evidence presented comes from English, German, French, Spanish, Finnish,
Swedish, Polish, Chinese, and Catalán and pertains to phonology, morphology,
lexicon, syntax, and pragmatics in both spoken and written discourse.

The Introduction by Gessica De Angelis and Jean-Marc Dewaele (pp. vii-xv)
outlines the history of CLI and indicates probable directions of future
research. It also shows how the articles actively engage current theoretical
debates regarding the metalinguistic awareness produced by language learning,
psychotypological categorization of languages by speakers, foreign vs. second
language status of given languages, and organization of the
multilingual lexicon.

Ch. 1: Awareness and Affordances: Multilinguals versus Bilinguals and their
Perceptions of Cognates by Agnieszka Otwinowsky-Kastelanic (pp. 1-18)
The concept of affordances, derived from work in perceptual psychology (Gibson,
1977), refers to perceived opportunities provided by one's environment. Language
offers certain affordances to users, and speakers vary in their sensitivity to
these and in their ability to take advantage of them in learning new languages.
Otwinosky-Kastelanci studied three groups of Polish-English young adult
bilinguals who varied by English proficiency level (elementary, intermediate,
and advanced) and another group of young adult multilinguals (none of whom knew
Latin or Greek) in Warsaw. She hypothesized that the English proficiency level
of the 512 individuals was linked to their awareness of cognate lexical items.
Study participants were asked to respond to a questionnaire in which they gave
their perception of the typological distance between Polish and English,
expressed their beliefs concerning cognates, and enumerated five cognates. They
also commented on similarities among the European languages they knew.

Quantitative results indicated that the lower the speakers' English proficiency,
the more simple (as opposed to sophisticated) cognates they enumerated. Over
half of the elementary group had low cognate awareness in comparison to the
multilingual group, 70% of whom had medium or high awareness, outdoing even the
advanced bilingual group. Qualitative results revealed that almost all of the
multilinguals saw searching for crosslinguistic similarities as a useful
strategy, and 65% pinpointed vocabulary as the area that most benefited from
this approach.

Otwinosky-Kastelanci concluded that the multilingual group had a wider range of
affordances at their disposal. They were fully aware and made ample use of
cognates in their learning process, while most bilingual learners underestimated
the number of cognates that existed between Polish and English. She recommended
that syllabus designers introduce Latin and Greek roots early on and that
teachers be trained to show students how to recognize and use crosslinguistic
lexical similarities to their advantage.

Ch. 2: Perceived Redundancy or Crosslinguistic Influence? What L3 Learners'
Material Can Tell us About the Causes of Errors by Håkan Ringbom (pp. 19-24)
Ringbom examined English errors made by Finnish students who had Finnish L1,
English L2, and Swedish L3. She utilized the concept of "redundancy" to refer to
language elements viewed by learners as unnecessary or not present in the native
language and thus disposable within a strategy of language learning
"efficiency". For example, Finnish learners of English regularly omit
prepositions and articles because these don't exist in their L1 and are seen as
"redundant" in English. Similarly, English learners of Finnish leave off many
endings from the 14 cases, and English learners of Swedish often leave
adjectives uninflected for number and gender.

In L3 learning, there are two prior systems that can be relied on. However, the
learner's perception of similarities among systems (psycho-typology) is crucial.
Ringbom's learners saw English and Swedish as similar and English and Finnish as
dissimilar, primarily based on the number of markers required (e.g. case,
number, second person pronouns). She concluded that learners assumed that the TL
should be like the L1 and discarded any superfluous or redundant systemic
differences to reduce their workload.

Ch. 3: Crosslinguistic Interaction and Metalinguistic Awareness in Third
Language Acquisition by Mariana Bono (pp. 25-52)
Bono focused on the roles played by native and non-native languages in TLA
(third or additional language acquisition) and the impact of metalinguistic
awareness upon learning. She examined 42 bilingual university students learning
Spanish exclusively in classrooms in France (18 beginners, 24 intermediates). L1
was French for all but two, and L2 for most was English. Sixteen had also
learned German. Thus Spanish was L3, L4, or L5. Forty-eight small-group
conversational sessions were recorded under the assumption that less controlled
tasks would lead to more code switching and that peer interaction would support
shared and contextualized multilingual strategies and joint
construction of meaning.

Bono analyzed 1,371 code switches, functionally categorized as pragmatic,
metalinguistic, and lexical inserts (explicit, implicit, and non-elicited). The
results indicated that most switches during Spanish (L3) production were
implicit lexical inserts (i.e., use of non-target language words with rising
intonation), probably to keep the conversation flowing. The majority of switches
came from beginners, probably due to limited L3 vocabulary. Interestingly
enough, all pragmatic and metalinguistic switches were in French (L1); however,
63% of non-elicited lexical inserts were in L2 (usually English). Bono
attributed this to the role of English as the European lingua franca for young
consumers of music, film, and the Internet. Even though L1 (French) and L3
(Spanish) were typologically closer, familiarity with English overrode genetic

Bono concluded that L3 learners could use their L2 to analyze and monitor L3
production and recommended that learners be encouraged to reflect upon
similarities and differences among languages to draw on shared resources in
their language repertoires.

Ch. 4: Transfer from L3 German to L2 English in the Domain of Tense/ Aspect by
Anna S.C. Cheung, Stephen Matthews and Wai Lan Tsang (pp. 53-73)
Cheung, Matthews and Tsang studied native Cantonese-speaking students with
English L2 who were learning German L3. They focused on the influence of L3 on
verb forms referring to past actions in L2 (i.e., backward transfer). Since
German (L3) uses both preterite and perfect verb forms to refer to past actions
with or without present relevance, this was a perfect test of its influence upon
English (L2), which clearly distinguishes simple past from present perfect
forms. Cantonese (L1), which does not mark tense, utilizes an aspectual marker
to distinguish perfective from imperfective events. This marker [gwo3] indicates
completion, like the present perfect in English, but is also used for events
without present relevance, contrasting with the English present perfect. It was
hypothesized that learning L3 German would exercise a negative influence upon
the production of the present perfect/past contrast in L2 English. In other
words, students taking German would be more likely to use English present
perfect to refer to past events than those with no knowledge of German.

Thirty-seven university students in Hong Kong participated in the study. An
experimental group of 26 students taking intermediate German was compared to a
control group of 11 students learning English as L2 with no knowledge of any
other European languages. They were all given a writing task in English that
required recounting past events. The experimental group also carried out the
same task in German. A second task involved making acceptability judgments of 26
English sentences in which past tense events were discussed. Written verb
phrases were coded in terms of non-target structures produced (i.e., present
perfect used for past, present perfect progressive used for past [both evidence
of possible German influence], simple present used for past, and past perfect
used for past [both indicative of possible Cantonese influence]. Speaker ratings
of five sentences containing non-target uses of the present perfect were
statistically analyzed.

Results indicated that four of the twelve English essays written by the L3
German- learning experimental group had non-target verbs (16 instances), while
the control group had no non-target verbs (i.e., none showed any influence of
Cantonese on English present perfect usage). Half of the control group rejected
the ungrammatical English present perfect in the acceptability task, in contrast
to only a third of the experimental group. This difference was statistically
significant and provided strong evidence for the influence of L3 German on L2
English among the experimental students.

The researchers concluded that since German and English are genetically related,
as well as having overlapping functions and structures, learners perceived them
as similar. Backward transfer occurred from L3 to L2 in one specific aspect of
the grammar. The authors suggested that English teachers be made aware of this
possibility in order to raise student awareness of overlaps among
their languages.

Ch. 5: Perception of Preposition Errors in Semantically Correct versus Erroneous
Contexts by Multilingual Advanced English as a Foreign Language Learners:
Measuring Metalinguistic Awareness by Martha Gibson and Britta
Hufeisen (pp. 74-85)
The major goal of this article was to test if bilingual learners had superior
metalinguistic skills, particularly with regard to control of attention and
analysis of structure. Gibson & Hufeisen examined 47 advanced EFL university
students in Germany with German L1 and 2-5 foreign languages. Participants
carried out two tasks. The first was to locate, correct, and determine the
impact of 11 prepositional errors in a mini-mystery story. The second was to do
the same with prepositions embedded in semantically nonsensical noun and verb
phrases, a task requiring attention to grammar while ignoring meaning. The
expectation was that all participants would perform better on Task 1 than on
Task 2 and that participants with more foreign languages would be more
successful with Task 2 than those with fewer foreign languages.

Preliminary analysis revealed that "of" was problematic for all participants
because of semantic overlap with German "von" (from), so it was eliminated from
further analysis. Errors with the remaining 10 prepositions were detected in
Task 1 by 76% of the participants and in Task 2 by 69%. There was no
statistically significant difference in overall accuracy in performing the two
tasks. The semantic anomalies did not negatively influence participants' ability
to attend to grammatical errors.

There was a statistically significant relationship between having high FL
experience and downgrading the seriousness of preposition errors. No experienced
speakers judged any errors to be "most serious," while 41% of the less
experienced speakers considered that some were so serious. The reason for this
difference needs to be researched further but may be linked to more efficiency
in language processing at the grammatical level among experienced learners. The
authors cautioned against generalizing from this study, given that the highly
experienced FL participants may not be typical of adult FL learners.

Ch. 6: 'Luisa and Pedrito's Dog will the Breakfast Eat': Interlanguage Transfer
and the Role of the Second Language Factor by Laura Sánchez (pp. 86-104)
Sánchez examined data from a large-scale study on the effects of age and
language input on FL learning in Spain. She focused on the influence of L3
German on L4 English acquisition by Spanish/Catalán bilinguals, hypothesizing
that the syntactic similarities of Spanish, Catalán, and English (all SVO
languages) might prevent activation of German SOV patterns during English
production. Participants were 154 simultaneous bilingual children learning
German as L3 in a partial immersion program and English as L4 through formal
instruction only. Data were elicited from stories written in English in response
to picture stimuli. Occurrences of transfers from German were quantified and
analyzed statistically.

Results revealed that German syntax was highly activated during English writing
(e.g., "The dog have the picnic ating." "They want a picknik mek." "Janet and
Pedro must the breakfast doing.") 56% of the children had German word order in
their English. These 86 participants were then analyzed separately, and all had
transfer in 92.6% of the relevant contexts, indicating a strong effect and
disproving the authors' initial hypothesis.

The authors concluded that L3 could be activated more than L1, regardless of
typology, and this activation may be out of the learners' control. More research
is needed on this issue, especially with different language combinations and age
groups. Results of such research would be useful in determining the best age at
which to introduce an L4 in the school curriculum.

Ch. 7: Crosslinguistic Influence in Multilingual Language Acquisition: Phonology
in third or Additional Language Acquisition by Eva-Maria Wunder (pp. 105-128)
The final chapter of the volume considers acquisition of phonology among
multilinguals. Factors involved in phonological CLI include: proficiency,
recency, foreign language effect (categorization of language as non-native), and
task relatedness. Phonological CLI is most frequent in initial acquisition
stages and with most recently acquired languages.

Wunder examined the aspiration of stressed, syllable-initial, voiceless stops
/p, t, k/ produced by eight native German speakers with English L2 who were
beginning to learn Spanish. Presence or absence of aspiration is one aspect of
"accented" speech. Aspiration was measured by voice onset time (VOT), voiced by
negative VOT value, while voiceless, unaspirated sounds have a VOT of 0; and
voiceless, and aspirated sounds have a positive VOT value.

Participants were recorded during two read-on-your-own tasks, first a story in
both English and Spanish and then a short English nonsense text designed to
elicit /p, t, k/. Wunder compared their output to that of native speakers of
German, British English, and Castilian Spanish. Participants showed mainly
German L1 influence upon their Spanish phonology. None revealed CLI only from
their L2, English. This contradicted earlier findings.

Wunder concluded that there was no clear evidence of L2 English influence on L3
Spanish aspiration patterns, possibly due to the limited number of speakers or
their stage of linguistic development. She recommended that learners be taught
to be more aware of CLI. Teachers should help students channel prior linguistic
knowledge to facilitate the acquisition of new phonology.

This slim volume contributes meaningfully to the field of CLI. In accordance
with the goals set by the editor in the first chapter, the articles contained
form a cohesive group, all strongly rooted in the historical and current debates
within the field. There is some overlap among the chapters, which is to be
expected in an edited volume, but each piece offers something new to the reader,
while simultaneously reinforcing the statements made in the other chapters.
Perhaps the greatest strength of the volume is the coverage of many distinct
language combinations, both European and non-European. Another strength is the
way in which all results are considered in terms of their implications for
language teaching and curriculum development.

The book is most appropriate for readers with a strong background in second
language acquisition, although newcomers can also draw insight from the
excellent reviews of literature. All procedures and results are clearly
documented with tables and graphs, which makes them good models for graduate
students seeking to replicate existing studies.

The volume would make a good addition to a graduate linguistics library,
particularly for a program that focuses on bilingualism, language acquisition,
or applied linguistics. It could serve ably as a supplementary reader for a
course or as a primary source for thesis / dissertation research.

Gibson, J.J. (1977). The theory of affordances. In R.E. Shaw & J. Bransford
(Eds.). Perceiving, acting, and knowing. Hilllsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Sharwood Smith, M. (1983). Crosslinguistic aspects of second language
acquisition. Applied Linguistics, 4, 192-199.

Sharwood Smith, M. and Kellerman, E. 1986. Crosslinguistic influence in second
language: an introduction. In E. Kellerman & M. Sharwood Smith (Eds).
Crosslinguistic influence in second language acquisition (pp. 1-9). Oxford:

Alicia Pousada received her Ph.D. in Educational Linguistics from the
University of Pennsylvania. Since 1987, she has taught linguistics at the
undergraduate and graduate levels in the English Department of the College
of Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. Her
publications and presentations focus on language policy and planning,
multilingualism, and teaching of English as an Auxiliary Language world-wide.


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