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The persistence of L1 patterns in SLA: incidental learning and the boundary crossing constraint

Daller, M. (2019) The persistence of L1 patterns in SLA: incidental learning and the boundary crossing constraint. Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 16. pp. 81-106. ISSN 1697-0381

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To link to this item DOI: 10.35869/vial.v0i16.94


The present study analyses the influence of L1 patterns in the descriptions of motion events by Arab EFL learners. First we establish the differences in the construal of motion events by native speakers of Arabic and English (n=20 for each group). 12 prompts (cartoons) were used where a figure crosses a boundary in a certain manner (running, crawling etc.). In line with the literature (Talmy 1985, 1991, 2000a, 2000b and Slobin 1987 et passim), Arab native speakers avoid the use of manner of motion verbs in the description of these events in their first language and use simple path verbs (e.g. enter, go etc.), whereas speakers of English mostly use manner verbs. These deeply engrained differences between L1 and L2 are a learning challenge in SLA. The same prompts were used with two groups of Arab EFL learners (intermediate, n = 34; advanced, n = 30), who live in the UK. These learners follow the Arabic pattern in English. They use only simple path verbs and avoid the use of manner verbs in the description of the boundary crossings. As the learners do not produce ungrammatical sentences, they will not get negative feedback (e.g. from a teacher) and rely entirely on incidental learning from the input. However, despite the high frequency of these manner verbs in the daily input of the learners, they do not acquire the patterns of the target language even at a high proficiency level. This confirms results from earlier studies with different language pairs (e.g. Larrañaga et al. 2012). L1 patterns in the use of manner verbs with boundary crossings are persistent across proficiency levels in L2, and their influence cannot be overcome simply by exposure to the target language. Implicit learning in this context is hardly possible and explicit teaching and learning is needed to overcome the influence of the first language.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Language and Applied Linguistics
Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)
ID Code:80252
Publisher:University of Vigo


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