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Psycholinguistic Processes Which Shape Interlanguage English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1365 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The aim of this assignment is to present a fact that is not fully understood namely interlanguage. An interlanguage system is a system that was created by learners of a second language. The system has features of the language they are learning, as well as their first language. The learner keeps some features of their first language, to speak and write their target language. A disadvantage of the interlanguage system is that it can “fossilize” (Asher R.E. 1994:1715). Fossilize means that is can become fix and then stops to develop. According to Asher R.E. (1994:1715) “interlanguage was defined by Selinker (1972) as the separate linguistic system evidenced when adult second language learners attempt to express meaning in a language they are in the process of learning”. In order to understand the interlanguage system a brief discussion about the processes which shape the interlanguage system will be provided, followed by methodological issues in second language research. Three types of data collection procedures namely naturalistic, elicited and experimental will be compared in terms of issues related to reliability and validity. Finally, all the steps to be taken in analyzing interlanguage data will be discussed.

2. Psycholinguistic processes which shape interlanguage

Interlanguage is based on the theory that there is a psychological structure that exists in the brain, but is not well developed, and starts working when a person tries to learn a second language. (Selinker L. 1972:211). A disadvantage of the interlanguage system is that it can become fix and stops to develop. Children on the other hand are born with a feeling for language referred to as the “language acquisition device”. (Asher R.E.1994:1715). The babbling language of infants contain different sounds they hear spoken around them and developed into single words such as mommy and daddy. When the child is six years of age he will be fluent in the language spoken around him.

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To understand how adults learn a second language we will “assume that a latent psychological structure and not a language acquisition device are used” to achieve in acquiring a second language. (Asher R.E. 1994:1716). The interlanguage rules are shaped by ” five different psycholinguistic processes of the latent phychological structure”, such as native language transfer, overgeneralization of target language rules, transfer of training, strategies of communication and strategies of learning. (Asher R.E. 1994:1716). In the following five subsections the different phycholinguistic processes will be discussed.

2.1 Native Language transfer

The term “Transfer” refers to when a learner of L2 applies rules, forms and meanings from their native language in order to speak the L2. The learner use structures from the L1 in order to get a message across. It is easy to make an error in L2 when you follow a rule that is correct in your L1, but not in the L2. Errors such as wrong word order, sentence structure and verbs happen because of transferring a pattern from the L1. In Afrikaans it is possible to say Ek ken nie hierdie onderwyser nie, but when you translate it to English it is not correct to say I know not this teacher. The correct English will be I do not know this teacher. These errors are possible when you follow rules from your L1. According to Asher R.E. (1994:1716) “native language transfer plays an important role in shaping learners interlanguage system”. Learners make a connection between two different languages in order to learn a L2. (Asher R.E. (1994:1716) They become aware that the study of language units such as ” taxonomic, and phoneme are used in the same way and has the same meaning across different systems.”

Taxonomic means to arrange things into groups. For example a dress is a subtype of clothing but not every piece of clothing is a dress. For this reason a type must satisfy more parameters to be a dress than to be a piece of clothing.

A phoneme shows the difference between different units in the sound system of a language. In English the s in sip and the z in zip represent two different phonemes.

2.2 Overgeneralization of target language rules

Asher believes that “overgeneralization is a process which shows evidence of having mastered a general rule but does not yet know all the exceptions to that rule.” (Asher R.E. (1994:1716) .It is therefore possible to generalize – the regular way in which language rules are used – but overgeneralization has the following consequence for L2 learners. In learning the past tense, learners overgeneralize the ‘-ed’ rule by adding the ‘-ed’ to verbs such as I goed home instead of I went home and She holded the dog instead of she held the dog.

2.3 Transfer of training

Second language learners enter the learning process with important characteristics, such as prior experience and rules learned from textbooks which can influence the learning process of another language. It is possible to apply certain knowledge or rules to a second language but sometimes it can cause errors. (Asher R.E. (1994:1716) Many languages don’t differentiate between he and she and therefore use the pronoun he “on almost every occasion”. (Selinker L. (1972:218). According to Selinker L. (1972:219) learners of a L2 who use the pronoun he for he and she, become aware that there is no need to differentiate between the two pronouns when they communicate.

2.4 Strategies of communication

Communication strategies play an important role in finding solutions to communications problems.. According to Asher R.E. (1994:1717) there are many strategies of communication available to explain a meaning to someone else when the specific English word is not available . Gass and Selinker (2008:285) believe that communication strategies “express meaning when faced with difficulty in the second language”. If you don’t know the English word for kalkoen it is possible to explain it to the other person to get the message across. A learner may say “the big bird that you eat every Christmas. This example shows how an explanation was used as a substitute for the word kalkoen in order to convey a message. Gass and Selinker (1972:286) argues that a communication strategie definition can be devided into three different parts namely “problematic, consciousness and intentionality’. “Problematic” means that a learner must be aware that there is a communication problem that will be difficult to deal with. Gass and Selinker (1972:286) “Consciousness” is how a learner use his senses to understand what is happening, and how he will succeed in dealing with the communication problem. (Gass and Selinker (1972:286). Finally “intentionality” means that learners can choose an obtion and it is done on purpose. (Gass and Selinker (1972:286) Gass and Selinker (1972:286) believe this definition is not accurate because of several problems. When a learner explain the word computer because he is not familiar with the correct English word it is difficult to prove that the learner lacks vocabulary and has no idea that there is a name for the object. Therefore the communication strategies are not very accurate but are the changes to the “processes responsible for language acquisition and use that allow processing to be maintained”. (Gass and Selinker (1972:287)

2.5 Strategies of Learning

Learning strategies refer to methods that learners use to learn a second language. This include memory techniques such as mnemonics, textbook dialogs, and the use of flash cards. The disadvantages are that learners can get confused with the memorized words. An example is as follows. When an Afrikaans speaking learner of English use a substitute word voet in order to remember that the English word for kos is food it is possible to use the word voet when referring to food.


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