Showing posts with label ELT. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ELT. Show all posts

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fossilisation in SLA


In the process of L2 acquisition, IL continually evolves into an ever-closer approximation of the TL, and ideally, a learner’s IL should continue to advance gradually until it becomes equivalent, or nearly equivalent, to the TL. However, it has been observed that somewhere in the L2 learning process, such an IL may reach one or more temporary restricting phases during which the development of the IL appears to be detained (Nemser, 1971; Selinker, 1972; Schumann, 1975). A permanent cessation of progress toward the TL has been referred to as fossilization.

Fossilization includes such items as pronunciation, vocabulary usages, and grammatical rules. It has also been noticed that adult L2 learners’ IL systems, in particular, have a tendency, or propensity, to become stagnated or solidified i.e., the language learners make no further progress in IL development toward the TL, and become permanently fossilized, in spite of the amount of exposure to the L2.

The concept of fossilization in SLA research is so intrinsically related to IL that Selinker (1972) considers it to be a fundamental phenomenon of all SLA.

Language Transfer and Language Interference in SLA

Language Transfer and Language Interference

Language transfer is the effect of one language on the learning of another. Two types of language transfer may occur. Negative transfer, also known as interference, is the use of a native-language pattern or rule which leads to an ERROR or inappropriate form in the TARGET LANGUAGE. For example, a French learner of English may produce the incorrect sentence I am here since Monday instead of I have been here since Monday, because of the transfer of the French pattern Je suis ici depuis lundi (“I am here since Monday”). Positive transfer is transfer which makes learning easier, and may occur when both the native language and the target language have the same form. For example, both French and English have the word table, which can have the same meaning in both languages.

What is error anylysis in SLA ? What are its major limitations?

The field of error analysis in SLA was established in the 1970s by S. P. Corder and colleagues. Error analysis was an alternative to contrastive analysis, an approach influenced by behaviorism through which applied linguists sought to use the formal distinctions between the learners' first and second languages to predict errors. Error analysis showed that contrastive analysis was unable to predict a great majority of errors. A key finding of error analysis has been that many learner errors are the results of language transfer.
Error analysts distinguish between errors, which are systematic, and mistakes, which are not. Before 1960s, when the behaviouristic viewpoint of language learning was prevailing, learner errors were considered something undesirable and to be avoided. It is because in behaviourists perspectives, people learn by responding to external stimuli and receiving proper reinforcement. A proper habit is being formed by reinforcement, hence learning takes place. Therefore, errors were considered to be a wrong response to the stimulus, which should be corrected immediately after they were made. Unless corrected properly, the error became a habit and a wrong behavioural pattern would stick in your mind.

Error analysis was an alternative to contrastive analysis. Error analysis developed by S.P. Corder and his colleagues reassessed Contrastive Analysis and elevated the status of errors. To them the errors are not undesirable rather a guide to the inner workings of the language learning process.
The most significant contribution of Error Analysis lies in its success in elevating the status of errors. Now, errors were considered as sort of feedback to the teachers. Moreover, errors are significant in three other ways:

1- to the teacher: they show a student’s progress. So, errors are like feedbacks to the teachers.
2- to the researcher: they show how a language is acquired, what strategies the learner uses.
3- to the learner: he can learn from these errors.
Error analysts often seek to develop a typology of errors. Error can be classified according to basic type: omissive, additive, substitutive or related to word order. They can be classified by how apparent they are: overt errors such as "I angry" are obvious even out of context, whereas covert errors are evident only in context. Errors may also be classified according to the level of language: phonological errors, vocabulary or lexical errors, syntactic errors, and so on.

Limitations of Error analysis
In 1970s and early 80s, a large number of papers on error analysis were published throughout the world. However, it lost its attention and enthusiasm gradually as more and more criticism was made against the approach and method of error analysis.

From the beginning, error analysis was beset with methodological problems.

1-In error analysis, it is often impossible to reliably determine what kind of error a learner is making. It is often difficult to identify whether a learner does a mistake from overgeneralization or L1 transfer.
2-Also, error analysis can deal effectively only with learner production (speaking and writing) and not with learner reception (listening and reading).

3-Furthermore, it cannot account for learner’s use of communicative strategies such as avoidance, in which learners simply do not use a form with which they are uncomfortable.

For these reasons, although error analysis is still used to investigate specific questions in SLA, it is considered less favorite by the SLA researchers.

Error analysis is closely related to the study of error treatment in language teaching. Today, the study of errors is particularly relevant for focus on form teaching methodology.

Inspite of the avobe limitations, error analysis has had a huge contribution on SLA research. It directed researcher’s attention to specific areas of error analysis. It also helped linguists realize that although errors sometimes obstruct communication, they can often facilitate second language acquisition; also they played a significant role in training teachers and helping them identify and classify students' errors, as well as helping them construct correction techniques.

What is contrastive analysis hypothesis in SLA? What are its major limitations?

Contrastive analysis is a systematic study of comparison between two languages: the native language (L1) and the target language (L2). Researchers from the 1940s to the 1960s conducted contrastive analyses, systematically comparing two languages. They were motivated by the prospect of being able to identify points of similarity and difference between L1 and L2. In this connection, the researchers made some assumptions. In accordance with their assumptions, the researchers came into a decision that the main difficulties in learning a new language/ target language (TL) are caused by the interference of the native language(NL). This interference is called the L1 interference. Contrastive analysis(CA) can predict these difficulties which a learner faces in learning the TL. In his classic work Linguistics Across Cultures, Robert Lado attributes our difficulties and errors in learning TL or a foreign language to the interference of our native language(NL) or mother language (L1).

Whereever the structure of the target language(TL) differs from that of the native language (NL), the learner faces both difficulty in learning and error in performance. Successful learning and appreciable command over the target language is absolutely dependent on learning to overcome these difficulties. Where the structures of the two languages are identical, the learner does not face any substantial difficulty. Difficulty arises where there are structural differences between TL and NL. Teaching needs to be directed at the points of structural dissimilarities. Speaking in mathematical term, difficulty is proportionate to difference between languages. But this difficulty can be lessened to a substantial extent by carrying out a comparative study between the target language (TL) and the native (NL) or L1 and L2. This comparative study between TL and NL is dubbed as Contrast Analysis(C.A) C.A is of immense worth in predicting the difficulties of the learner. This determines what the learners have to learn and what the teacher has to teach. The teaching materials of L2 can also make use of CA to reduce the effects of interference. The results of CA are therefore, built into the fabric of language teaching materials, syllabuses, tests and research. Different text books will have to be produced for each language group. So, it is obviously evident that especially from the pedagogic point of view, Contrastive Analysis bears concrete weight in language learning and teaching.

According to Charles Fries, comparing a scientific description of L2 with a parallel description of L1 is the most efficient material in SLA. From the hypothetical point view, individuals or learners tend to transfer the forms and meanings and the distribution of forms and meanings of their native language and culture to the foreign language and culture- both productively and receptively.

All difficulties or differences in SLA or in learning the target language(TL) are not equal. There is a degree of difficulties as well as degree of easiness. Where two languages are similar positive transfer occurs and where they are different, negative transfer, or interference is resulted. Eminent linguists Stockwell, Bowen and Marlin developed a hierarchy of difficulties on the basis of this hypothesis. This is known as the Hierarchy of Difficulties.

Contrastive Analysis has two aspects-psychological and linguistic. The psychological aspect is based upon the behaviourist theory. Behaviourist theory/ behaviourism is a theory of psychology which states that human and animal behaviour can and should be studied in psychological process only. And the linguistic aspect is based upon structuralist linguistics. It is an approach to linguistics which stresses the importance of language as a system and which investigates the place those linguistic units such as sounds, words, and sentences have within this system.

The association of CAH with behaviourism gave it academic legitimacy. The behaviourists hold that language acquisition was a product of habit formation. Habits were constructed through the repeated association between some stimulus and some response. Second language learning was viewed as a process of overcoming the habit of L1 in order to acquire new habits of L2. But ironically, behaviourism led the CAH to its downfall. With Chomsky’s attack on the behaviourist view of language acquisition in his classic review of Skinner’s Verbal Behaviour, the behaviourist view fell into disorder.

The CAH exists in two forms: strong version and weak version. Wardaugh proposed a distinction between a strong version and a weak version of the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis(CAH). The strong version of CAH claims that all L2 errors can be predicted by identifying the differences between L1 and L2. The strong version of CAH is clearly based upon a priori contrastive analysis of the L1 and L2. The predictions are, however not always borne out. On the contrary, the weak version of the CAH is based upon on a posterior investigation. This is, by nature diagnostic. It is utilized in identifying which errors are the results of interference. Researchers start with learner’s errors and explain them by pointing to the similarities and differences between the two languages. It possesses a “posteriori”, explanatory power. As the weak version of CAH can be used to identify errors, CA needs to walk hand in hand with error analysis(EA). First actual errors must be identified by analyzing a corpus/ discourse of L1. Then a contrastive analysis can be used to establish which error in the corpus can be put down to find the difficulties between L1 and L2.

There are some limitations in Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis. As behaviourism as a theory fails, Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis also fails. It ceases to exist. CA is not effective in all responses. CA is directly originated from behaviourism/ stimulus response theory. Contrastive analysis suffers from under prediction and over prediction. It cannot find out the errors which are committed by the learners due to overgeneralization. CA is inadequate to predict the interference problems of a language learner. No uniformity is evident in Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis. CA is unable to account for the failures or the success of the learners. CA does not analyze the language acquisition process in all the ways. It only analyzes with linguistic approach. Thus Contrastive Analysis is a partial approach. It is not acceptable as it cannot give a total idea of language acquisition. It does not say anything about psychological factors.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What are the major word formation processes in English?

The following are the ways by which new words are formed in English. 


Derivation is a process of forming new words according to fairly regular pattern on the basis of pre-existing words.

If we analyse the process of derivation in more detail we will notice that a step in a derivation is usually not on process but 3 semantinal process namely-
a)      morphological process
b)      semantic process
c)      syntactic process

Major word formation processes in English are:-

1) Affixation-
One of the commonest methods of word making in English is called Affixation. Affixation is accomplished by means of a large number of small bits of the English language which are not usually given in listings in the dictionary. These small bits are called affix and the process is known as affixation. A few examples are the elements un, mis, pre, less ish etc which appear in words like unhappy, misrepresent, pre-paid, boyish, terrorism etc.
In the preceding groups of words it should be obvious that some affixes had to be added to the beginning of a word. For example- “un”. These are called prefixes and the process is known as prefixation. The other affix forms are added to the end of the word, for example, “ism” and these are called suffixes. The process involved here is called suffixation. All English words formed by the derivational process of affixation used either prefixes or suffixes or both. Thus “mislead” has a prefix, “disrespectful” has both prefix and suffix and “likeliness” has two suffixes.   

The English language has made generous use of prefixes and suffixes to make new words or to modify or to extend the root idea. But there are some important differences between prefixes and suffixes. Prefixes are put before a word whereas suffixes are put in the end of a word. Another important difference between them is that prefixes mostly have a meaning of their own, though they are not generally used as separate words, whereas suffixes are used only to modify the root idea of a word or to convert the word into another part of speech. For example, if we add a prefix to the word “author” we’ll get “co-author”. Here the root idea is not modified and moreover the word class is unchanged. But by suffixation we get a new word authorship. Here we get a new word.


Some new words are formed from the initial letters of a set of other words. These are called acronyms. For example-SARS, NASA, NATO, UN. Acronyms can loose their initials become everyday terms such as LASER, SCUBA (self-continued underwater breathing asparagus)etc.


A very especialised type of reduction process is known as backformation. Typically a word of one type (usually a noun) is reduced to form another word of a different type( usually overt). For example, televise for television, emote from emotion, enthuse from enthusiasm, edit from editor etc.


A change in the function of a word, as for example when a noun comes to be used as a verb without any reduction is generally known as conversion. Other lebels for this very common process are category change and functional shift. A number of nouns such as paper, butter, bottle etc can via the process of conversation come to be used as verb as in the following sentences-

He is papering the bedroom walls
Have you buttered the toast?
He is tutoring the students.


One of the commonest ways of making a new word is to join two or more element, each of which is also used as separate word. This method of forming new word is called composition or compounding, and the words thus formed are called compounds. For example brainwash, headache, sleep walking, day dreamer, self control etc.

Words made from the names of places and persons:-

Another prolific source of word formation in English is the derivation of new words from the names of places, persons and characters in famous books. For example; the word sandwitch comes from the name of the Earl of Sandwitch. Cardigan comes from the Earl of Cardigan. Quicksotic comes from Don Quicksotc. The word solomon as a substitute for wisdom originates from the Bible.

Portmantaau words:-

This process is comparatively a new comer in the scenario of word generation. This is of noble nature in comparison with other forms of word formation. Too different and independent lexical entries are blended together by subtracting the front portion of a word and a back portion of another. The word thus formed are called Portmantaau words; for example; happenstance (happening+circumstance); workaholic(work+alcoholic);wevzine(web-sight+magazine); Internet(International+Network) etc.

The difference between inflection and derivation

Both derivation and inflection makes word but derivation makes a new word. For example, respect->respectful; good-> goodness etc. But inflection merely changes the relation of case, number, gender, person and pens. For example

dog-  dogs-    dogs
            plural   possessive
look-  looks-   looks

In English prefixes are always derivational.