Effects of cross-linguistic influences on second language acquisition: a corpus-based study of semantic transfer in written production


  • María del Mar Ramón Torrijos Universidad de Castilla- La Mancha




language transfer, cross-linguistic influence, second language acquisition (SLA), English as a foreign language (EFL)


This article concentrates on the impact that cross-linguistic influences have on second language acquisition. It investigates the importance of the learner's native language (L1) in written production of a second language (L2), particularly the use of L1 linguistic rules by Spanish speakers when they are writing in the target language (L2). This exploratory research focuses on the production errors made by students relative to specific subsystems such as semantic and syntactic areas. Errors are studied with respect to the differences between Spanish and English through a contrastive analysis between both languages in problematic linguistic areas. In this article only semantic errors will be considered as a first approximation to the study of transfer in written production. The results indicate that transfer is a reality and an important determinant in the process of second language acquisition. Teachers in an EFL context should be able to identify this phenomenon in order to prevent the errors which may arise from it.


Download data is not yet available.


Agustín Llach, M., Fernández Fontecha A. & Moreno Espinosa, S. (2005). “Differences in the Written Production of Young Spanish and German Learners: Evidence from Lexical Errors in a Composition”, Barcelona Language and Literature Studies 14, Barcelona: Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona.

Alonso Váquez, M. C. (2005). “Transfer and Linguistic Context in the Learning Process of English Negative Structures.” Miscelánea: A Journal of English and American Studies, 31: 25-42.

D, H. and Burt. M. (1983). “Goofing: an indicator of children’s second languages strategies” in S. Gass L. Selinker (eds.) Language Transfer in Language Learning. Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House.

Fries, C. (1952). The Structure of English. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.

Gass, S. and J. Schachter (2004). Linguistic Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition. London: Cambridge University Press.

Gilsan, E. (1985). “The effects of word order on listening comprehension and pattern retention: an experiment in Spanish as a foreign language”, Language Learning 35: 443-72.

Gumperz, J. Discourse Strategies. (1982). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hawkins, J. Word Order Universals. (1983). New York: Academic Press.

James, C. (1988). Errors in Language Learning and Use: Exploring Error Analysis. London: Longman.

Jarvis, S. & Odlin, T. (2000). “Morphological Type, Spatial Reference and Language Transfer”, Studies in Second Language Acquisition 22-4: 535-56.

Kellerman. E (1983). “Now you see it, now you don’t” in S. Gass L. Selinker (eds.) Language Transfer in Language Learning. Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House.

Krashen, S. and S. Lee. (2004). “Competence in Foreign Writing Progress and Lacunae.” Literacy across Culture 12-2:10-14.

Lado, R. (1957). Linguistics Across Cultures Ann. Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Lakshmanan, U. (2006). “Child Second Language Acquisition and the Fossilization Puzzle”, en Z. Han and T. Odlin (eds.) Studies of Fossilization in Second Language Acquisition, Clevendon, England: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Master, P. (1987). “Generic the in Scientific American”, English for Specific Purposes, 6/3,165-186.

Mesthrie, R. & Dunne, T. T. (1990). “Syntactic variation in language shift: the relative clause in South African Indian English”. Language Variation and Change 2.

Murphy, S. (2003). “Second Language Transfer during Third Language Acquisition”, TESOL and Applied Linguistics 3-2: 1-21.

Odlin, T. (1989). Language Transfer: Cross-linguistic influence in language learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Peck, S. (1978). “Child-Child Discourse in Second Language Acquisition”, en E. Hatch. (ed.) Second Language Acquisition: A Book of Readings, Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House.

Richards, J. (1971). “A Noncontrastive Approach to Error Analysis”, English Language Teaching 25: 204-219.

Ringbom, H. (1987). The Role of the First Language in Second Language Learning. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Romaine, S. (1995). Bilingualism (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK.;Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell

Selinker, L. (1972). “Interlanguage.” International Review of Applied Linguistics 3: 209-231.

Swanson, H. L., L. Saenz, M., Gerber, y J., Leafstedt. (2004). “Literacy and Cognitive Functioning in Bilingual and Non-Bilingual Children at or not at Risk for Reading Disabilities”, Journal of Educational Psychology 93: 3-18.

Schachter, J. & W. Rutherford. (1979). “Discourse Function and Language Transfer.” Working Papers in Bilingualism 19: 1-12.

Thomason, S. and Kaufman, T. (1988). Language Contact, Creolization and Genetic Linguistics. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wei, L. (2003). “Syntactic binding, semantic binding and explanation of crossover effects.” Foreign Languages Research 3: 73-78.

Weinreich, U. (1963). Languages in Contact: Findings and Problems. The Hague: Mounton.