A Study of Taiwanese EFL Learners' Syntactic Transfer in Verb Transitivity

Hui-chuan Wang
2012 Theory and Practice in Language Studies  
L1 transfer is generally regarded as an important characteristic of L2 acquisition, also one of the sources of learners' errors. One of the primary transfer between English and Chinese lies in the verb usage since verbs that are transitive in Chinese may be intransitive in English, or vice versa. In the previous studies, the investigation on the syntactic transfer in verb transitivity is only one part of the research focus and not all kinds of verb transitivity are put into analysis. The
more » ... of the present study is to investigate the nature of syntactic transfer in all kinds of verb transitivity from the interlanguage of Taiwanese EFL college students. The subjects were 56 juniors. The instruments included a demographic questionnaire, a translation test with prompts, and a retrospective report. The demographic questionnaire was used to understand the subjects' personal learning background. The test measured four verb transitivities: complete verb transitivity, incomplete verb transitivity, complete verb intransitivity, and incomplete verb intransitivity. Test takers translated sentences from Chinese into English by using the prompts. When translating, they had to first mark their familiarity with the verb usage in order to explore the extent to which they employed syntactic knowledge or the guessing skills. Finally, each subject wrote a retrospective report to reflect the possible reasons why they made mistakes in the items whose translations resembled Chinese structures. The difficulty and familiarity level of each item and the percentages of using incorrect verb transitivity were calculated and analyzed. The results showed that the extent of syntactic transfer in verb transitivity is not as large as the previous studies. However, both negative and positive transfers were found in the learners' interlanguage. It is interesting to note that for the verbs which the learners were confident with, they were not even aware that they made errors. It seems that familiarity of the meaning of certain verbs made themselves believe that they have acquired the knowledge of the usage and use of the verb transitivity. This study contributed to a growing understanding of the language transfer in verb transitivity.
doi:10.4304/tpls.2.10.1993-2001 fatcat:wvkkxlvr2vhdhj43ilsoxyizxe