Preposition and article usage in learner English : An investigation of negative transfer
Abstract: The ways in which someone’s first language (L1) influences his or her second language (L2) to create errors, that is negative transfer, is a topic that has received much attention in the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Previous research has suggested that negative transfer is responsible for many errors. The primary aim of this study is to investigate article and preposition errors in the production of Swedish learners of English and to discuss these errors in relation to negative transfer. The secondary aim is to compare transfer errors by L1 Swedish and L1 Portuguese learners of English. The first and main part of the study is a corpus investigation of the written production of 80 students in upper secondary school (high school). The second part is a multiple-choice test constructed to provoke transfer errors. It was distributed to students in upper secondary school in Sweden and in Brazil. The results from the corpus analysis are largely in line with those of previous research, for example with regards to how definite article errors are more common than indefinite article errors, and how contexts with definite articles and generic noun phrases seem prone to create transfer errors. The corpus study also shows that substitution was the most common preposition error and that many transfer preposition errors supposedly were caused by direct translations. Through the multiple-choice test, the degree to which the first language had an impact on individual errors could be revealed. All in all, the study reveals several aspects of negative transfer that perhaps a single-language investigation could not, because it is in the comparison of English-learners with different L1s that the most interesting results occur.
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