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UNIVERSIDAD CATLICA DE TEMUCO

FACULTAD DE EDUCACIN
PEDAGOGA EN INGLS
LINGSTICA APLICADA II
Helen Kehr 2015

The Learner Language or Interlanguage


(Larry Selinker, 1972)
Interlanguage is the learners developing second language knowledge.
Analysis of a learners interlanguage shows that it has some characteristics influenced by:
1) the learners previously learned language(s),
2) some characteristics of the second language, and
3) some characteristics which seem to be very general and tend to occur in all or most
interlanguage system (some universal characteristics).
Interlanguages are systematic, but they are also dynamic, continually evolving as learners
receive more input and revise their hypotheses about the second language.
Interlanguages present some of the following characteristics:
I. ERROR TYPES that are commonly found in learners interlanguages are:
1. TRANSFER ERRORS (INTERLINGUAL ERRORS OR CROSSLINGUISTIC
TRANSFER):
They are based on cross-linguistic influence: errors produced due to first
language interference.
Transfer means using sounds, expressions or structures from the L1 when
performing in the L2.
These are errors produced by the learners attempts to use patterns of their first
language in the second language (e.g. English) sentences.
Positive Transfer: If the L1 and the L2 have similar features, then the learner
benefits from the positive transfer of L1 knowledge to the L2 (e.g, marking
plural at the end of nouns in Spanish and English).
Negative Transfer or Interference: If a feature of L1 is different from a
feature of L2, then the learner will negatively transfer it from the L1 to the L2
(e.g, adjective order in the noun phrase en Spanish and English)
Negative transfer is more common in the early stages of L2 learning and often
decreases as the learner develops familiarity with the L2.
2. DEVELOPMENTAL ERRORS (INTRALINGUAL ERRORS):
Errors that are NOT due to first language interference, but that reflect learners
understanding of the second language system itself rather than an attempt to
transfer characteristics of their first language.
They are called developmental errors because they are similar to those made by
children acquiring English as their first language.
Developmental errors are classified into:

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2.1
Overgeneralization: Errors caused by trying to use a rule in a context where it
does not belong , for example, the s ending on the verb in they plays.
2.2
Simplification / Omission: There is omission of some elements in the sentence,
or where all verbs have the same form regardless of person, number, or tense.

II. FOSSILIZATION
When some learners develop a fairly fixed repertoire of L2 expressions, progressing any
further, their interlanguage is said to have fossilized.
This term is used to describe a persistent lack of change in
interlanguage patterns, even after extended exposure to or
instruction in the target language. It is when some interlanguage features stop
changing.

This is controversial because further change is always possible if circumstances


change.

III. DEVELOPMENTAL SEQUENCES


Second language learners, like first language learners, pass trough sequences of development:
what is learned early by one is learned early by others.
Example: Acquisition of grammatical morphemes in English as a second language
The results of many studies that have examined the development of grammatical morphemes
suggest an order which, while not identical to the developmental sequence found for first
language learners, was similar among second language learners from different first language
backgrounds.
Krashens (1977) summary of second language grammatical morpheme acquisition sequence.

-ing (progressive)

Plural

copula (to be)

Auxiliary (progressive as in He is going

Article

irregular past

regular past ed

third person singular s

possessive s
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III. AVOIDANCE
Learners sometimes avoid using certain features of the second language which they
perceive to be difficult for them. This avoidance may lead to the absence of certain
errors, but it also leaves the analyst without information about the learners developing
interlanguage.

IV. COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES


These are learners attempts to communicate meanings for which they lack the requisite
linguistic knowledge. Learners, particularly in natural settings, constantly need to
express ideas which are beyond their linguistic resources. They can either give up and
so avoid the problem, or try to find some way around it. Typical communication
strategies are requests for assistance (e.g. What dyou call ____?) and paraphrase (e.g.
wow wow for bark). Communication strategies involve compensating for nonexistent knowledge by improvising with existent L2 knowledge in incorrect and
inappropriate ways.

Material taken from:


Ellis, Rod (1985). Understanding Second Language Acquisition. Oxford University
Press. Oxord, UK.
Lightbown, Patsy & Nina Spada (2006). How Languages Are Learned. Fourth Ed.
Oxford University Press. Second Edition. New York, USA.
Yule, George (2006). The Study of Language. Third Ed. Cambridge University Press.
Cambridge, UK.

Applied Linguistics II Second Language Acquisition Helen Kehr


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