Table of Contents
1. INTRODUCTION.. 1
2. CONTRASTIVE LINGUISTICS AND CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS HYPOTHESIS 3
2.1 History. 3
2.2 Definitions and Terminology. 4
2.3 Division of Contrastive Studies. 4
2.4 Formulating Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis. 5
2.5 Moderating Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis. 8
3. INTERLANGUAGE THEORY.. 11
3.1 The Birth of Interlanguage. 11
3.2 Selinker’s View of Interlanguage. 12
3.3 Other Views of Interlanguage and its Properties. 13
3.4 Transfer, Interference and Cross-linguistic Influence. 14
3.5 Positive and Negative Transfer. 15
3.6 Borrowing. 16
3.7 Code Switching. 17
3.8 Fossilization. 18
4. ERROR ANALYSIS. 20
4.1 Definitions and Goals. 20
4.2 Development of Error Analysis. 21
4.3 The Importance of Learners’ Errors. 22
4.4 The Criticism of Error Analysis. 23
4.5 Linguistic Ignorance and Deviance. 24
4.6 Defining Mistake and Error. 26
4.7 Procedures of Error Analysis. 29
4.8 Sources of Error. 31
5. ERROR TAXONOMIES. 36
5.1 Errors Based on Linguistic Category. 37
5.2 Surface Strategy Taxonomy. 37
5.3 Comparative Taxonomy. 39
6. CONCLUSION.. 42
English has undoubtedly become today’s global lingua franca. Apart from the 350-450
native speakers of English there are also about 800 million of people who speak it as a foreign
language (James, 1998: 25). This suggests that most of the interaction in English takes place among
its non-native speakers (Seidlhofer 2005).
English as a lingua franca (ELF) therefore serves as “a contact language between
persons who share
neither a common native tongue nor a common (national) culture, and for whom English is the chosen
foreign language of communication” (Firth 1996: 240 cited in Seidlhofer 2005: 339). Other terms
used for this phenomenon are ‘English as an international language’, English as
a global language’
and ‘English as a world language’, but as Seidlhofer argues, the preferred term when referring to
people from different mother-tongue and cultural backgrounds is ‘English as a lingua
(Seidlhofer 2005: 339).
Seidlhofer (2005: 339) also claims that current English is being shaped by both its native and
non-native speakers, the fact which is quite paradoxical and calls for further study of ELF. And
this is exactly what led me to the idea of analysing non-native speakers’ English,
i.e. English as
a lingua franca.
In my thesis I will provide a theoretical background for an analysis of ELF or ‘English as a
second/foreign language’ (ESL/EFL) on the level of lexis and grammar, with attention
errors influenced by their mother tongue (MT). I will supply some of the types of errors with
examples from my own collected data, demonstrating that MT transfer is a frequent, but not the only
source of errors in ESL/EFL. I will not take into account examples on the level of phonology,
although I know that it is the level on which the MT transfer is most apparent.
2. CONTRASTIVE LINGUISTICS AND CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS HYPOTHESIS
In this chapter I will give a short overview of how the Contrastive Analysis movement was formed,
discuss the related terminology and then follow the development of the Contrastive Analysis
hypothesis through the three versions until it was displaced by other theories.
Contrastive Analysis has been the first major theory dealing with the relationship between the
languages a learner acquires or masters. Linguists have always been interested in comparing and
contrasting different language systems and first pioneering works appeared at the
end of the
nineteenth century (James 1981). The term ‘Contrastive Study’ was coined by Whorf in 1941; before
that this discipline had been called ‘Comparative Linguistics’ or ‘Comparative Studies’ (Fisiak
After the Second World War the interest in teaching foreign languages increased in the USA and many
linguists were concerned with pedagogically oriented contrastive studies, especially in trying to
predict learning difficulties on the basis of comparing the native language with the foreign
language being learnt, and also with the study of bilingualism and language contact phenomena. It
was believed that pointing to the similarities of the two languages compared will make the process
of foreign language learning easier for the learner. Robert Lado’s formulation of
Analysis Hypothesis’ in his Linguistics across Cultures (1957) is considered the greatest
contribution in the field of contrastive studies (Fisiak 1981, James 1981 and Krzeszowski 1990).
2.2 Definitions and Terminology
Fisiak defines contrastive linguistics as “a subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the
comparison of two or more languages or subsystems of languages in order to determine both the
differences and similarities between them” (Fisiak et al. 1978 cited in Fisiak 1981:
As Krzeszovski explains (1990: 11), there is, unfortunately, not much consistency in the
terminology related to contrastive linguistics. However, the terms ‘contrastive linguistics’ and
‘contrastive studies’ are most often used.
The term ‘contrastive linguistics’ is usually used to refer to the whole field of cross-language
comparison, slightly focusing on the instances related to the theory or methodology of comparisons.
Another term, ‘contrastive analysis’, can be used interchangeably with the above
but linguists tend to use it to refer to the comparison proper. And finally, ‘contrastive grammar’
refers to “the product of contrastive studies, as a bilingual grammar highlighting the differences
across languages” (Krzeszowski 1990: 11).
2.3 Division of Contrastive Studies
Fisiak (1981: 2-3) divides contrastive studies into theoretical and applied: “Theoretical
contrastive studies give an exhaustive account of the differences and similarities between two or
more languages, provide an adequate model for the comparison, and determine how and which elements
are comparable „” They are language independent, which means that they do not investigate how a
particular category or item present in language A is presented in language B, but “they look for
the realization of an universal category X in both A and B” (Fisiak 1981: 2).
Applied contrastive studies belong to applied linguistics. Fisiak (1981: 2-3) explains that
“drawing on the findings of theoretical contrastive studies they provide a framework
comparison of languages, selecting whatever information is necessary for a specific purpose „” The
main focus of applied contrastive studies is “the problem of how a universal category X, realized
in language A as Y, is rendered in language B, and what may be the possible consequence on this for
a field of application” (Fisiak 1981: 2-3). They are also concerned with “the
probable areas of difficulty in another language where, for example, a given category is not
represented in the surface and interference is likely to occur” (Fisiak, 1981: 3). So they are
rather interested in the surface representation of language.
Being a part of applied linguistics, applied contrastive studies depend on several other
disciplines, including theoretical, descriptive and comparative linguistics,
sociolinguistics, didactics and psychology of learning and teaching (Krzeszowski 1990).
2.4 Formulating Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis
The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH) was widely accepted in the 1950s and 1960s
USA and its original purpose was purely pedagogical. The teaching method which used the CAH as its
theory of learning was the audiolingual method.
Based on behaviorist and structuralist theories, the basic assumption for this hypothesis was that
“the principal barrier to second language acquisition is the interference of the first language
system with the second language system „” and “„ that second language learning basically involved
the overcoming of the differences between the two linguistic systems – the native
languages” (Brown 1980: 148). The term ‘interference’ here refers to “any influence from the L1
which would have an effect on the acquisition of L2” (Powell, 1998: 2). I will further
term ‘interference’ in chapter 3.4.
The assumptions about L1 interference were supported by the evidence from speakers’ performance in
their second language. As Brown states, “it is quite common, for example, to detect
accents and to be able to infer, from the speech of the learner alone, where the learner comes
from” (1980: 149).
Lado’s practical findings were based on his own experience and family background. Being an
immigrant to the USA and a native speaker of Spanish, he observed what difficulties his
Spanish-speaking parents had with learning English and how interference was evident in their
In the preface to Linguistics across Cultures, Robert Lado explains:
The plan of this book rests on the assumption that we can predict and describe the patterns that
will cause difficulty in learning, and those that will not cause difficulty, by comparing
systematically the language and the culture to be learned with the native language and culture of
the student. (Lado 1957: vii cited in Brown 1980: 149)
Later in the same book he claims
that the student who comes in contact with a foreign language will find some features of it quite
easy and others extremely difficult. Those elements that are similar to his native language will be
simple for him, and those elements that are different will be difficult. The teacher who has made a
comparison of a foreign language with the native language of the student will know better what the
real learning problems are and can better provide for teaching them. (Lado 1957: 2 cited in Fisiak
This formulation of the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis was later called by Ronald Wardhaugh ‘the
strong version’ of the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (Brown 1980: 157).
Another linguist supporting the strong version of the CAH was Fries. In his opinion, “the most
effective [teaching] materials are those that are based upon a scientific description of the
language to be learned, carefully compared with parallel description of the native language of the
learner” (Fries 1945: 9 cited in Powell 1998: 1).
Although the practical process of contrasting languages is not the aim of this paper, I am going to
give a brief outline of the procedure used, as Ellis (1994: 307) mentions it. The procedure
involved four stages:
1. description (i.e. the two languages were formally described)
2. selection (i.e. certain items or areas were selected for comparison)
3. comparison (i.e. finding similar and different items)
4. prediction (i.e. in which areas the errors will most probably occur)
Wardhaugh believed that the strong version was “unrealistic and impracticable”, since “at the very
least, this version demands of linguists that they have available a set of linguistic universals
formulated within a comprehensive linguistic theory which deals adequately with syntax, semantics,
and phonology” (Wardhaugh 1970: 125 cited in Brown 1980: 157).
2.5 Moderating Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis
As a reaction to the criticism of the strong version of the CAH, Wardhaugh offered a ‘weak
The weak version does not imply the a priori prediction of certain fine degrees of difficulty. It
recognizes the significance of interference across languages, the fact that such interference does
exist and can explain difficulties, but it also recognizes that linguistic difficulties can be more
profitably explained a posteriori – after the fact (Brown 1980: 157).
Thus it has rather explanatory power, helping the teachers of foreign languages understand their
students’ sources of errors.
In the 1970s, Oller and Ziahosseiny proposed a compromise between the two versions of the CAH and
called it a ‘moderate version’. Their theory was based on their research of spelling errors in
learners of English as L2 which showed that spelling errors were more common among those learners
who used a Roman script in their native language (e.g. Spanish or French) than among those who used
a non-Roman script (e.g. Arabic or Chinese). However, the strong version of the CAH would predict
the contrary, i.e. more difficulties on the part of the learners who had to acquire a new writing
system (Brown 1980).
Brown (1980: 159) concludes that interference is more likely to occur when there is similarity
between the items to be learned and already known items than in the case of learning items which
are entirely new to the learner. He also points to the fact that most of the errors committed by L2
learners are ‘intralingual’ errors, i.e. errors which result from L2 itself and
not from L1.
Whitman and Jackson carried out a study in which predictions made in four separate contrastive
analyses by different linguists were used to design a test of English grammar which was given to
2,500 Japanese learners of English as L2. After comparing the results of the test to the
predictions based on the four contrastive analyses, Whitman and Jackson found out that they
differed a lot. They came to the conclusion that “contrastive analysis, as represented by the four
analyses tested in this project, is inadequate, theoretically and practically, to predict the
interference problems of a language learner” (Whitman and Jackson 1972 cited in Brown 1980: 158).
Besides the problem of inappropriate predictions, Towel and Hawkins (1994: 18-19) state two other
problems. One of them is that “not all areas of similarity between an L1 and an L2 lead to
immediate positive transfer” (1994: 19). Towel and Hawkins support this argument by the findings of
Odlin’s study in which L1 Spanish learners of L2 English omitted the copula ‘be’ at the early
stages of learning regardless the fact that Spanish also has a copula verb adequate to English ‘be’
and thus the positive transfer was possible. However, it didn’t happen. The other problem, they
argue, is that only a small number of errors committed by L2 learners could be unambiguously
attributed to transfer from L1.
Thus, the strong version of the CAH has been proved inadequate, except for the phonological
component of language, where it is quite successful in predicting the interference between the L1
and L2 in pronunciation in the early stages of L2 acquisition. Dulay, Burt and Krashen similarly
conclude that “„ present research results suggest that the major impact the first language has on
second language acquisition may have to do with accent, not with grammar or syntax” (1982: 96).
The weak version is not satisfactory because it is only able to offer an explanation for certain
errors. The only version which remains acceptable is the moderate version. However, its findings as
presented by Oller and Ziahosseiny are in contradiction with Lado’s original idea.
This doesn’t mean that the idea of L1 interference was completely rejected, but the CAH is
applicable in practice only as a part of Error Analysis, which will be discussed later.
3. INTERLANGUAGE THEORY
This chapter is dedicated to Interlanguage theory or hypothesis, which arose as a
reaction to the CAH. I will explain how the concept of interlanguage emerged and how it developed
and was understood by different linguists. The focus will be on how a learner’s L2 system develops
and how transfer and interference are related to this issue.
3.1 The Birth of Interlanguage
The CAH focused on the influence of L1 on the emerging L2 system and stressed the similarities and
differences between the L1 and L2. The Interlanguage theory, which is a reaction to the CAH,
basically understands second language learning as “a creative process of