Author Liu, Ling
Title Cross-linguistic influences on the acquisition of English relative clauses by Chinese-speaking learners in China.
Institute Thesis (M.A.) National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University
Year 1997
Supervisor Poedjosoedarmo, Gloria ; Cheng, Ngai-Lai
Call no. PE1261 Liu
 
Summary
Cross-linguistic influence is an interesting issue in the study of L2 acquisition. There has been no agreement in regard to the nature, the constraints and the explanation of cross-linguistic influence through the study of Chinese influences on the production of the English relative clause (RC) by Chinese-speaking learners in China.

English and Chinese are different: the former is subject-prominent and the latter, topic-prominent. Chinese differs from English both in syntax and in discourse structure. The English RC does not have a structural equivalent in Chinese , but it has a variety of Chinese functionally equivalent structures.

This study shows that chinese influences on the production of English RCs are not limited to the features of the so-called Chinese RCs, which were the focus of study in most of the previous work on Chinese influences in the acquisition of English RCs. It is evident from this study that chinese influences also stem from the general features of chinese. Chinese -speaking learners of english transferred the various chinese structures functionally equivalent to English RCs or overproduction of certain structures. Next, cross-linguistic influence can appear in the overuse of some patterns which the native speaker does not employ. This kind of transfer, as is suggested by Schachter and Rutherford(1986:313),represents a carry-over not of surface syntax from L1 to L2 but rather of L1 function form constraints to L2. In other words, overproduction is an instance of a variety of cross-linguistic influences from L1 function to L2 form. In addition chinese influences are constrained by some universal factors such as the Accessibility Hierarchy and the interruption Hypothesis.

The explanation or conditions for the effects of chinese on the chinese speaker's production of English RCs can be related to two principles known as transfer to somewhere and transfer to nowhere; that is , both language similarities and differences can cause cross-linguistic influences to occur, but at different levels of abstractions.

The findings of this study can be summarized as follows:

1. In the production of the English RCs, the chinese speaking learners are prone to make use of English structures which are literal translations of chinese structures functionally equivalent to English RCs on the basis of discourse similarity.

2. The chinese speaking learners have difficulty in learning relative pronouns and distinguishing the use of non-restrictive RC because there are no such categories in Chinese.

3. Chinese syntactic features influence the production of English RCs by the chinese learners. As a result, they frequently omit elements in RCs and produce English sentences with chinese sentences patterns instead of RCs.

4. The low incidence of RCs in the chinese speaker's inter language of English is a case of transferring the construction strategies of Chinese into English rather than a case of avoidance as Schacter(1974)has suggested.

5. Under the influences of Chinese discourse, Chinese speaking learners tend to put the RC in the sentence-final position in accordance with the Interruption Hypothesis, which is a universal principle originally concerned with the comprehension of the RC.

6.Influenced by chinese topic-comment discourse feature, Chinese learners often use RCs in the There be structure. This can be considered a further discovery based on Schacter and Rutherford's(1986) finding that Chinese learners overproduce the there be structure as a result of transfer -- a case of L1 discourse patterns influencing L2 syntax.

7. The occurrences of RCs in the Chinese-speaking learner's production partly support the Accessibility Hierarchy. In agreement with this hypothesis, most RCs occurred in the subject position while there was no occurrences of RCs in the position of object of comparison. However, the absence of RCs as indirect object and the high score of RCs as object of preposition are peculiar phenomena of this case. Other exceptions include the are occurrence of the resumptive pronoun in the data.

In spite of the limits of the study, the findings nevertheless have important implications. Some important implications are pedagogical, significant both for the teaching of English to Chinese speaking learners in particular and for L2 teaching in general. The findings of this study would also have theoretical and for L2 teaching in general. The findings of this study would also theoretical implications for L2 acquisition research and contribute to an understanding of cross-linguistic influence on L2 acquisition.