Language interference - Студенческий научный форум

XIII Международная студенческая научная конференция Студенческий научный форум - 2021

Language interference

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A lot of research has been conducted over the last six decades selecting studying-english-samples in order to get a designations to what their first language was, as a result, as much information was gathered on this subject and if we were to put all this into a database, it would tell so much what kind of commun mistakes every group of native speakers would make, let’s say it’s more of a pattern of errors. For instance all the subject-verb agreement mistakes chinese speakers make, which is different from what spanish poeple do, chinese are going to do one thing, but spanish will do another because they have a different system of subject-verb agreement, or verb-tense mistakes from chinese speakers are going to be different from russian speakers because chinese as a language doesn’t have tense while russian does have one and so on.

Thus, no matter what their mother-tongue was, poeple would still make the same mistakes, which leads us to what we call «language inteference ».

First things first, before we dive on into details, I find it mendatory to define what a language interference is about. What are the major factors that play role in causing such phenomenon? What are the aspects around which turns the orbit of language interference ? In term of influence, what field of studies seems to be approached the most by this kind of interference ?

The term interference refers to the influence of one language (or variety) on another in the speech of bilinguals (multilingual) who use both languages which can take place at all levels of the linguistic system, i.e. in phonologymorphologysyntaxsemanticspragmatics, and lexicon.

Thanks to Uriel Weinreich's influential book « Languages in contact » the term became well-known, where he used it in both senses (interference in speech and interference in language change). Weinreich stated that language contact is an event of using two languages or more interchangeably done by a speaker. Language interference, in other words, is the application of linguistic features from one language to another by a bilingual or multilingual speaker.

As for the mechanism, language interference  may be either conscious or unconscious. Consciously, learners or unskilled translators may sometimes guess when producing speech or text in a second language because they have not learned or have forgotten its proper usage. Unconsciously, they may not realize that the structures and internal rules of the languages in question are different. Such users could also be aware of both the structures and internal rules, yet be insufficiently skilled to put them into practice, and consequently often fall back on their first language.

language interference or language transfer is most often discussed as a source of errors known as negative transfer, which occurs when speakers and writers transfer items and structures that are not the same in both languages.

Negative transfer requires allegedly the existense of an opposite. Indeed The positive aspects of language interference do exist, though less often discussed and yet they can be very important. Generally, the process will be more positive the closer the two languages are, and the more the learner is aware of the relationship between the two languages. Thus, an English learner of german may well correctly guess an item of german vocabulary from its English equivalent, but the word order is more likely to differ.

However interference can also take place between acquired languages: an English learner of French, Spanish or Arabic, for example, may mistakenly assume that a particular feature of one language applies also to the other. For example, in English, a preposition is used before a day of the week: "I'm going to the beach on Friday." In Arabic, the definite article is used instead.

The pure genius of Weinreich didn’t just stop at defining some terms and putting them into motion. In 1970, the American linguist was able to identify the factors behind language interferance such as the speaker multilingual background, disloyalty to target language, the limited amount of vocabularies of target language mastered by a learnen, the need of synonyms and least due to an appropriate prestige and style.

13 years later as the language had been developping due to modernisation David Lott figured out that the interlingual factor had been playing a major role in causing interference between languages and gave it an explicit explanation that would last a lifetime.

Indeed, interlingual transfer is a significant source for language learners. This concept comes from contrastive analysis of behavioristic school of learning. It stresses upon the negative interference of mother tongue as the only source of errors. The construction ‘I like to read’ is uttered as ‘I read to like’ by many Hindi speakers. In Hindi, the verb is pre-positioned while in English it is post positioned. This type of error is the result of negative transfer of first language rules to target language system.

The over extension of analogy has also been among the factors causing interference. According to Lott, a learner might get confused using a vocabulary caused by the similarity of the element between first language and second language, e.g. the use of cognate words (the same form of word in two languages with different functions or meanings). The using of the words ‘month’ and ‘moon’ is quite the example. Indonesian learners quite often confuse the two words using month to say moon in the space.

With sustained or intense contact between native and non-native speakers, the results of language interference in the non-native speakers can extend to affect the speech production of the native-speaking community. For example, in North America, speakers of English whose first language is Spanish or French may have a certain influence on native English speakers' use of language when the native speakers are in the minority. Locations where this phenomenon occurs frequently include QuébecCanada, and predominantly Spanish-speaking regions in the US. Nevertheless, the process of translation can also lead to the so-called hybrid text, which is the mixing of language either at the level of linguistic codes or at the level of cultural or historical references.

If language interferece had a sequel then It couldn’t be anything but language contact, since one thing leads to the other. Language contact occurs when speakers of two or more languages interact and influence each other and where the study of which is called contact linguistics.

When speakers of different languages interact closely, it is typical for their languages to influence each other. Language contact can occur at language borders. In most cases the influence can go deeper, extending to the exchange of even basic characteristics of a language such as morphology and grammar which opens the door to more and more studies.

References :

Weinreich, Uriel. 1953. Languages in contact: Findings and problems.

Lott, D. (1983). Analysing and Counteracting Interference Errors.

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