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Contrastive Grammar 11

Contrastive Grammar 11

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 
 
830
CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS
 
Svetlana 
Kurtes
1. Historical perspective and its
raison d’être 
Contrastive analysis
, traditionally defined, is a linguistic branch whosemain aim is to help the analyst to ascertain in which aspects the twolanguages are alike and in which they differ (cf. Filipovi
1975). It includestwo main processes – description and comparison (cf. James1980), set up infour basic steps: a) assembling the data, b) formulating the description, c)supplementing the data as required, and d) formulating the contrasts(James 1980). Although the term
contrastive analysis 
is widely accepted andcommonly used, the problem of terminological diversity was very present inthe relevant linguistic literature throughout the 20
th
century. Thus, thisdiscipline was also referred to as ‘parallel description’ (Fries 1945),‘differential studies’ (Lee 1974), ‘differential description’ (Mackey 1965),‘dialinguistic analysis’ (Nemser 1971), ‘analytical confrontation’ (
ibid.
),‘analytical comparison’ (Mathesius 1964), ‘interlingual comparison’ (Filipovi
 1975c), as well as ‘comparative descriptive linguistics’ (Halliday-McIntosh-Strevents 1964), or ‘descriptive comparison’ (Catford 1968). The very term‘contrastive linguistics’ was actually coined by American linguist andanthropologist Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897-1941) in his article
Languages and logic 
published in 1941, where he drew the distinction betweencomparative and contrastive linguistics, maintaining that the latter was “of even greater importance for the future technology of thought” (1967: 240),and defining it as a discipline which “plots the outstanding differencesamong tongues – in grammar, logic, and general analysis of experience”(
ibid 
.).It is important to notice a semantic dichotomy regarding the term
contrastive analysis 
. Namely, it is a systematic scientific method in its ownright and the most prominent branch of contrastive linguistics, together  with theory of translation and error analysis. Its main aim is, thus, toexplicitly define similarities and differences between the observed languages based on a systematic comparison of their description. American linguist and EFL methodologist Robert Lado (1915-1995) is unanimously regardedas the founder of contrastive analysis and 1957, the year in which hepublished his seminal book 
Linguistics across cultures 
, as the moment thediscipline was officially constituted as a scientific study field. But basicideas expressed here are certainly not unknown to scholars of the previoushistoric periods, which is why it is customary to talk about the (1)traditional, (2) classical and (3) modern period of contrastive studies. Hereare some major defining characteristics of each.(1) The end of the 19
th
century and the beginning of the 20
th
century,marked predominantly by typological studies, was generally recognized asthe traditional period of contrastive studies. It yielded some titles relevant tothe history of contrastive linguistics, such as
German and English Sounds 
by Charles H Grandgent (1892),
Elemente der Phonetik des Deutschen,
 
 
 
831
Englischen und Franz 
 
sischen 
 by Wilhelm Viëtor (1894),
Petite phonétique comparée des principales langues européennes 
by Paul Passy (1906),
etc 
.Some outstanding linguistic scholars of that period also emphasized therelevance of the contrastive approach to linguistic research, LeonardBloomfield (1887-1949) being among the most prominent names. Inparticular, Bloomfield (1933) emphasized the importance of interlingualcomparison to the study of language universals, claiming it to be the maintask for linguistics in the future. Linguists of the Prague School, most notably Vilém Mathesius (1882-1945) emphasized the advantages of parallellinguistic comparison of two or more languages for a better and moreprofound understanding of each of those languages, and, in a broader senseof the term, for the advancement of typological studies (Mathesius1964).(2) The period between the end of the Second World War and 1965, alsoknown as the classical period of contrastive studies, is of particular relevance. It was the time when contrastive analysis was finally recognizedand fully established as a scientific, pragmatic and academic discipline ableto yield numerous results which were subsequently successfully applied tostudies of bilingualism, teaching methodology, translation studies, languageplanning, etc. Among the most prominent names of this period were CharlesFries, Robert Lado, Kenneth Pike, Uriel Weinreich and others. In particular,Fries (1887-1967) published his highly influential book 
Teaching and Learning English as a Foreign Language 
in 1945, expressing his well-knownstandpoint that “the most effective materials are those that are based upona scientific description of the language to be learned, carefully compared with a parallel description of the native language of the learner”(1945: 9). The Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington organized the first contrastive studies project the result of which were ten studies,
Contrastive Studies Series 
, published between 1962 and 1965.
Series 
presented theresults of the phonological and grammatical contrastive analysis betweenEnglish and five other languages commonly taught as foreign languages in America – German, Russian, French, Spanish and Italian.(3) The modern period of contrastive studies was introduced by a hugenumber of contrastive projects being carried out in many academic centresall over the world, further elaboration and advancement of theoretical issuesand application of modern approaches, better communication betweencontrastivists on the international scale, etc. This was also the period whensome of the basic theoretical issues expressed during the previous periodsstarted to be severely criticized (cf. Hamp 1968). As a result, two major international conferences were organized to address the issues raised andoffer some clarification – 
19 
th 
Annual Round Table: Contrastive Linguistics and Its Pedagogical Implications 
in Georgetown in 1968 and
Honolulu-Hawaii Pacific Conference on Contrastive Linguistics and Language Universals 
in1971. On the European continent, however, this was the time of some major contrastive projects, the most important ones certainly were the Yugoslav Serbo-Croatian-English Contrastive Project in Zagreb, The Pozna 
Polish-English Contrastive Project, Projekt für angewandte kontrastiveSprachwissenschaft in Stuttgart, The Finnish-English Contrastive Project in Jyväskylä, The Romanian-English Language Project in Bucharest, English-Hungarian Contrastive Project in Budapest, Swedish-English Contrastive
 
 
 
832
Studies in Lund, etc. Several international conferences gathering Europeancontrastivists were also successfully organized: in Zagreb (1970), Bucharest (1975), Trier and Saarbrücken (1978), Charzykowy (1980), Jyväskylä (1982),etc. This was also a period when contrastive analysis became established asan academic discipline at various universities throughout the world, as the wider scholarly community acknowledged not only its applied andtheoretical aspects, but also granted it full academic status. The last couple of decades of the 20
th
century were also quite prolific for contrastive studies and it is to be hoped that the methods developed andresults achieved so far will attract attention of new generations of researchers and inspire their confidence in the discipline. Modern linguisticapproaches as well as modern technology have opened new horizons for contrastive analysis and the new direction into which it strives can now berecognized quite clearly. More precisely, cognitive linguistics, pragmatics,corpus linguistics, etc. have all offered precious new theoretical frameworksand methodology that have been incorporated into recent contrastivestudies, thus laying the foundation of contrastive analysis of the 21
st 
 century 
1
(cf. Kurteš 2005).Contrastivists have long been aware of the fact that contrastiveanalysis, being a branch of contrastive linguistics, can be considered to be both theoretical and applied discipline. Nonetheless, the discussion whether it belongs to ‘pure’ or ‘applied’ science have yielded three main clearly distinguishable standpoints: (1) contrastive analysis is a method of contrastive linguistics, which is a branch of theoretical linguistics, and itsresults are relevant to both ‘pure’ (e.g. typological studies) and appliedlinguistics (e.g. language teaching methodology, translation studies, etc.); (2) being a branch of applied linguistics, the results of contrastive analysis areprimarily relevant to foreign language teaching methodology; (3) there is no justifiable reason to insist on the distinction between the two; instead theterm contrastive studies should be used to cover both (cf. Filipovi
1971;Slama Cazacu 1971; Fisiak-Lipi
ska Grzegorek-Zabrocki 1978). Itsopenness and adaptability to new approaches, methodologies andtechniques, the versatility of its interests and ability to address the relevant issues at all levels of language structure should grant it a special statusamong other disciplines.
2.
 
 Theoretical and methodological considerations
1
There are a few projects currently underway which are certainly worth mentioning in this context. One such project is theCOLLATE research network, based in Ghent University in Belgium (http://bank.rug.ac.be/contragram/collate.html).Contrastive Linguistics and Language Typology in Europe – COLLATE for short – is an international researchnetwork set up in 1996 in order to “bring together, promote and co-ordinate fragmented research efforts in the field of contrastive linguistics”. Among other things, one of the most comprehensive bibliographies on contrastive linguisticsis to be found on their web-site. Participating research units (such as CONTRAGRAM) and other partners (e.g. TheCorpus Linguistics Group of Birmingham University, or the INTERSECT Project of Brighton University) allcontribute to the quality of the research results of the network. Another important research project is underway at theUniversity of Murcia in Spain, lead by Dr Antonio Barcelona and his associates Dr Javier Valenzuela and Dr AnaRojo. The project focuses on the systematic English-Spanish contrastive analysis of the conceptualisation and lexico-grammatical symbolization of four emotional domains. For preliminary results of the analysis cf. Barcelona 2001.

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