Back to list

Detail of contribution

Auteur: Sandrine ZUFFEREY

Co-Auteur(s): Liesbeth Degand, Université Catholique de Louvain

The role of L1 transfer in misuse of discourse connectives by advanced L2 learners: evidence from eye movement

Abstract/Résumé: An important number of corpus and elicitation studies have stressed the difficulty of discourse connectives for second language learners (e.g. Altenberg & Tapper, 1998; Crewe, 1990; Degand & Hadermann, 2009; Field & Yip, 1992; Granger & Tyson, 1996; Lamiroy, 1994; Milton & Tsang, 1993; Müller, 2005). These difficulties have moreover been found to remain even in advanced learners, for example students of English at the University level. Problems with L2 learners’ use of connectives include an overuse but also an underuse of some connectives as well as a number of misuses, related to the semantics of the relation expressed, the syntactic position used or an inappropriate register. The possible causes of these misuses discussed in the literature include inappropriate teaching and possible L1 transfer. In order to assess the role of L1 transfer in misuses of connectives, we will discuss the processing of two English discourse connectives, 'when' and 'if', by advanced Dutch-speaking University students, using eye-tracking. Our study includes native Dutch-speaking 1st year university students and students who are native English speakers. Our experimental material contains 32 sentences pairs with appropriate and inappropriate connective uses as well as 32 pairs of filler items. Two types of misuses have been included: inappropriate semantic uses of 'when', conveying a conditional meaning (1), typically produced by Dutch-speaking learners (as evidenced from data from the International Corpus of Learner English) and inappropriate semantic uses of 'if' with a contrastive meaning (2), typically produced by French-speaking but not by Dutch-speaking learners. (1) The kids don’t look very tired today. When they don’t take a nap now, we can go out for a walk. (2) The admission policy for foreign students is variable across universities. If in some of them all students can enroll, in others there is an entrance examination. A difference in processing is expected between the two groups of subjects, with English speakers but not Dutch speakers showing sensitivity to typical misuses of 'when' due to transfer from Dutch. The comparison between these two types of misuses also provides important clues regarding the role of L1 transfer vs. a more general inability to deal with connectives on the detection and processing of connectives’ misuses by advanced learners.