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SSLA, 22, 535556. Printed in the United States of America.


Scott Jarvis
Ohio University

Terence Odlin
Ohio State University

This study clarifies issues related to the transferability of bound morphology and reports on an empirical investigation of morphological transfer in the spatial expressions of Finnish-speaking (n = 140) and Swedish-speaking (n = 70) adolescent learners of English. The results indicate that both the bound, agglutinative morphology of the L1 Finnish spatial system and the free, prepositional morphology of the L1 Swedish spatial system constrain the types of options that learners pursue in their L2 English spatial reference. Additionally, however, the structural and semantic differences between the two L1 systems result in different patterns of spatial reference in the L2. We characterize these differences in terms of semantic transfer and simplification, and go on to show how transfer and simplification interact in our data.

During the many years of interest in the phenomenon of language transfer, one of the most frequently discussed issues has been transferability. Again and again researchers have addressed the question of what constraints, if any, there are on cross-linguistic influence. Some have stated or implied that virtually no constraints exist (e.g., Thomason & Kaufman, 1988), whereas others
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Second Language Research Forum, October, 1998. The authors would like to thank Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig, Donna Lardiere, Jussi Niemi, Bonnie Schwartz, Helena Sulkala, Sangeetha Venkatraman, and Don Winford for their help with different aspects of this research. Address correspondence to: Scott Jarvis, Dept. of Linguistics, Ohio University, Gordy Hall 383, Athens, OH 45701; email:
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Scott Jarvis and Terence Odlin

have seen the constraints as very far reaching: In the case of Dulay, Burt, and Krashen (1982), for example, transfer involving either morphology or syntax was considered to be minimal. Although many problems remain to be solved, the growth of the empirical record has made it increasingly clear that some supposedly nontransferable structures do indeed find their way into interlanguage grammars: for example, basic word-order patterns and semantically opaque idioms (e.g., Odlin, 1989, 1990, 1991). Our paper addresses yet another supposedly nontransferable domain: bound morphology in the context of a more general investigation of transfer in spatial reference. The term morphological transfer can mean many things, and in the next section these possibilities are considered as well as the notion of transfer itself. Of all the subsystems of language, there has probably been more skepticism about the transferability of morphology than about any other. Writing in 1881, William Dwight Whitney downplayed the likelihood of such transfer (his term), especially transfer involving inflectional morphology, and arguments similar to his have found their way into the claims of other students of historical linguistics and language contact, several of whom are noted by Thomason and Kaufman (1988). During the 1970s, when many second language researchers felt skeptical about grammatical transfer, morphology was sometimes pointed to as an area immune to cross-linguistic influence. For Dulay and Burt (1974), the investigations of Uriel Weinreich (1953/1968) came up with no convincing evidence for morphological transfer. Krashen (1983) made similar claims, and in recent papers Eubank (1993/1994; Eubank, Bischof, Huffstutler, Leek, & West, 1997) has adopted the same position. In Eubanks case, the supposed facts about nontransferability underpin certain positions he takes with respect to Universal Grammar. In his 1993/1994 paper, he argued that NL influence appears to be more limited: Lexical as well as functional projections transfer, as do directionality characteristics of those projections, but morphology-driven information like the strength of the inflection does not transfer (pp. 183184). Further on in the same paper, he cited previous work: The Dulay and Burt research lends support to the idea that inflection does not transfer even though other aspects of the NL may (p. 206). In his co-authored 1997 paper, some of the arguments about UG had changed, but the position on nontransferability remained the same, with an assumption that overt inflectional morphology generally does not transfer from NL to L2 (p. 176).1 Our differences with Eubank have nothing to do with the UG issues he has raised but rather with the empirical issue of transferability itself. In general, three points about the tradition of skepticism about this issue should be emphasized. First, any discussion of morphological transfer should consider all of the possible ways in which cross-linguistic influence might be manifested and this is something that the skeptics have generally failed to do. Second, a careful reading of Weinreich (1953/1968, pp. 33, 68) shows that he was not so skeptical about such transfer; in fact, some of the evidence he cited indicates that morphology is susceptible to cross-linguistic influence (e.g., Rosetti,

Morphological Transfer


19451949). Third, since Weinreichs time there have been studies that make a convincing case for transferability, some of which will be discussed in the following sections. The empirical issue at present is not just whether morphological transfer occurs but also what constitutes this type of transfer and how such transfer may operate. As a contribution toward understanding those questions, our investigation indicates that the nominal case system of Finnish is a frequent source of cross-linguistic influence in the acquisition of English. The evidence seems especially compelling from a more general comparison of the systems of spatial reference used by learners whose native language (L1) is Swedish and by those whose L1 is Finnish. As will be seen, the patterns of spatial reference favored by these two populations are quite different and clearly reflect differences in the L1s. Before the comparison, however, we discuss the possible meanings of morphological transfer, which is followed by a comparison of the morphosyntax of spatial reference in Finnish and Swedish. We then describe the investigation and the methods used, with the discussion of the results offering a chance to consider closely issues of transfer and simplification in relation to earlier work.

POSSIBLE MEANINGS OF MORPHOLOGICAL TRANSFER As Selinker (1992) observed, the term language transfer encompasses a wide range of phenomena. Yet although its status as a cover term is undeniable, much of what is called cross-linguistic influence can be viewed in terms of retentions: Whenever challenges of using or understanding a second language arise, learners may retain something from their L1 or some other language to aid in coping with the new challenges. The notion of retention is applicable whether or not the attempt at coping converges with the target language (i.e., positive transfer) or diverges (negative transfer). Although the notion of retention might seem equivalent to claims by Krashen (1983) that transfer is no more than falling back on the L1, Krashens claims are not credible even though some transfer might be regarded as a default behavior arising from ignorance of the target language (L2). One key way in which retention differs from falling back is that learners often create hybrid forms that show a blending of L1 and L2 forms, as seen in a sentence written by a native speaker of Swedish who was describing a film: They have many appletrees and vinetrees. The use of vinetrees owes something to the Swedish word vintra d grape vine, literally wine tree, but it is clearly a blend of an L1 and an L2 form. Such lexical hybrids reflect only one of the ways in which any learner can creatively construct an interlanguage shaped by many factors, including the L1 (see Schachter, 1983, 1992; Selinker, 1992; Sharwood Smith, 1979). Although retention encompasses much of what is meant by language transfer, it is not necessarily applicable to all interlanguage behaviors that may be susceptible to influence from the L1, including avoidance, hypercorrection, and simplifica-


Scott Jarvis and Terence Odlin

tion, the latter behavior being one that we will discuss in some detail later in this article. Even within the restricted scope of retention, however, the notion of morphological transfer includes many phenomena. For example, cross-linguistic influence involving any free or bound morpheme technically qualifies as morphological transfer. On the other hand, rather different issues can be involved when bound morphemes are in question as opposed to independent words. Transfer involving bound morphology can itself be subcategorized in several ways. Second language users may make interlingual identifications that involve both semantic and phonological structures. For example, an Estonian learner of Finnish might identify, quite correctly, the Finnish inessive case inflection -ssa with the Estonian form -s and thus equate Finnish taivaassa in heaven with Estonian taevas in heaven, with positive transfer resulting in speech or writing if the extra syllable in the Finnish form is discarded. Interlingual identifications involving bound morphology may also be possible even when the L2 structure does not rely on affixes. On a purely semantic basis, a Finn might equate taivaassa with English in heaven, where the free morpheme in functions as the equivalent of the inessive case marker in Finnish. Whereas this example involves positive transfer, negative transfer might also occurand indeed, examples of such divergence are discussed at some length later in the paper. Bound morphology itself is not at all monolithic. The distinction between inflectional and derivational morphology is clearly important, and Whitney (1881, p. 20) considered inflectional morphemes to be less likely candidates for transfer than derivational ones, which he also considered to be more or less immune to transfer. Since Whitneys time, however, a number of counterexamples to his claim have come to light and, once again, some of the evidence to be discussed later (e.g., Sulkala, 1996) provides still further instances. For research on L2 acquisition, the focus of transfer research is naturally on retentions from the L1 (or some other previously learned language). However, cross-linguistic influence can also work in the opposite direction, where the acquisition of L2 structures causes some kind of change in the L1. Among the kinds of transferable structures is bound morphology. One of the most convincing counter examples to Whitneys (1881) claim about the nontransferability of inflections is a study by Dawkins (1916) of dialects of Greek in which there are clear instances of Turkish verbal inflections finding their way into the verb systems of Greek, such influence resulting from the bilingualism of Greeks who had acquired Turkish. Although such cases are only indirectly relevant to SLA research, they should inform any well-developed characterization of L1 transfer because in both borrowing and substratum transfer (to use terms from Odlin [1989], with the latter covering cases of transfer in SLA), there must be interlingual identifications, and the latent psychological structure underlying identifications in either type of transfer may be largely the same (see Selinker, 1992).

Morphological Transfer


As suggested already, the outcome of any cross-linguistic influence can be either convergent or divergent, and it is important to emphasize that any claims about the transferability of bound morphology must consider positive as well as negative transfer. Eubanks (1993/1994) claim about the overt bound morphology is clearly untenable in light of a study by Orr (1987) that shows that speakers of Ngoni, a Bantu language, had a strong advantage in learning the complex prefixation of Chichewa, another Bantu language, in comparison with learners of Chichewa whose L1 was Gujarati, an Indo-European language that makes no use of the Bantu prefixing system. Such comparisons of different L1 groups can help to determine negative transfer, but they are especially valuable in demonstrating a facilitative influence as in the case of the advantage shown by Ngoni speakers (see Odlin, 1989). Because such comparative studies are the exception and not the rule in language-transfer research, it is not surprising that possible facilitating effects of similarities of bound morphology in some cases have gone largely unnoticed. Just as positive transfer has often been ignored in discussions of morphological transfer, so too have hypotheses concerning comprehension (in contrast to production) been rarely discussed. That is, any fully satisfactory account of transfer and morphology should specify just how cross-linguistic similarity might contribute advantages in listening or reading comprehension. Intuition suggests, for example, that the similarity between Finnish taivaassa and Estonian taevas would help an Estonian in comprehending Finnish just as it presumably would in producing structures in the L2. More generally, if Ringbom (1992) is correct that the advantages of transfer are especially great in comprehension tasks, the benefits may frequently involve some kind of positive morphological transfer. Whatever effects transfer may show with regard to a morphological system, there are also possible effects arising from the interaction between other linguistic subsystems. For example, the extensive inflection on Finnish nouns (see the section titled Typological Comparison of Finnish and Swedish) interacts with the order of clause constituents so that the word order of Finnish is highly flexible. Thus when Finnish learners produce word-order errors in English, as in She took from the car bread, the interdependence of morphology and syntax in Finnish may well be a factor. To our knowledge, such kinds of interactive factors have not yet been extensively studied with regard to transfer, and they are only briefly mentioned here. PURPOSES OF THE PRESENT INVESTIGATION The present paper examines morphological transfer in the spatial reference of Finnish-speaking and Swedish-speaking learners of English. Our purpose is threefold: (a) to examine the types of interlingual identifications that learners make between the spatial morphology of the L1 and L2, (b) to investigate the formal means by which learners exhibit their interlingual identifications, and (c) to explore possible interactions between morphological transfer and mor-


Scott Jarvis and Terence Odlin

phological simplification in learners spatial reference. Our research is guided by the following questions:
1. Can learners from different L1 backgrounds be distinguished according to the types of options that they pursue with respect to both spatial reference and morphological transfer? 2. Will Finnish-speaking learners make interlingual identifications between the bound locative morphology of Finnish and the spatial prepositions of English? 3. What types of morphological transfer will Finnish-speaking learners exhibit in their English spatial reference, and how will they differ from Swedish-speaking learners? 4. Will both Finnish-speaking and Swedish-speaking learners exhibit morphological simplification in their English spatial reference, and will they differ with respect to their patterns of simplification?

In cases in which learners retain structural or semantic properties from their L1s, it follows that learners from different L1 backgrounds will have at their disposal different (though probably overlapping) sets of structural and semantic options for expressing their intended message in the L2. Thus, an important question from the perspective of the present paper is whether this type of transfer can be found in learners reference to spatial relations, and whether it can involve the retention of L1 morphological properties. As mentioned earlier, the present study compares the English spatial expressions of Finnish-speaking learners with those of Swedish-speaking learners. Because the spatial systems of the learners L1s differ both structurally and semantically (see section entitled Typological Comparison of Finnish and Swedish), it is relevant to ask whether these differences will lead to differences in the structural and semantic patterns (or options) they display in their English spatial reference. This is essentially what the first research question asks. The second question more explicitly addresses the transferability of bound morphology. This question becomes pertinent because, although Swedish is similar to English in its coding of locative and directional information primarily through spatial prepositions, Finnish expresses spatial relationships mainly through bound, agglutinative morphology. If one were to adopt the traditional assumption that bound morphology does not transfer, then one might expect to find transfer in Swedes but not Finns English spatial reference. This alone could result in different sets of options for Finnish-speaking versus Swedishspeaking learners, which would constitute positive support for our first research question. Our second research question, however, requires us to analyze more specifically whether properties of Finnish bound morphology are actually retained in Finns reference to spatial relations in English. The third research question requires a full account of the structural and semantic patterns that both Finns and Swedes exhibit in their English spatial reference. It also requires a comparison of the options that Finns and Swedes seem to have at their disposal. Finally, this question requires an interpretation of which options involve transfer, and, moreover, which ones involve morphological transfer.

Morphological Transfer


The final research question addresses the interaction between simplification and transfer. First, it asks whether learners patterns of spatial reference include instances of structural simplification (e.g., omissions) or semantic simplification (e.g., semantic overgeneralization). It also asks whether learners from different L1 backgrounds differ in the patterns of simplification that they exhibit. Insofar as performance differences between learners from different L1 backgrounds suggest the possibility of transfer, any emerging differences in Finns and Swedes patterns of simplification may indicate an interaction between transfer and simplification. In other words, it may indicate that some types of simplification come about at least partly through transfer. We consider these possibilities in more detail in the Discussion section. TYPOLOGICAL COMPARISON OF FINNISH AND SWEDISH To fully appreciate the aims and results of the present study, one must first understand how our learners L1s differ. In this section, therefore, we provide a brief typological comparison of Finnish and Swedish. As a point of departure, it is important to recognize that the Finnish and Swedish languages are historically unrelated and typologically distinct. Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language, closely related to Estonian, and more distantly to (among other languages) Hungarian. Swedish, however, is a Germanic language and is closely related to (among other languages) Danish, Dutch, and English. Although Finns and Swedes share a long history of cultural contact, the structural characteristics of their languages have remained largely unaffected. Some borrowing, mainly lexical, has occurredespecially from Swedish to Finnishbut this has had little effect on the grammar of either language (cf. Ringbom, 1987, pp. 1923). One of the most striking grammatical characteristics of Finnish is its nominal case system (see Homburg & Nikanne, 1993; Karlsson, 1983). Finnish has 15 productive nominal cases that are expressed as agglutinative suffixes on nouns and their modifying adjectives. (It should be noted, however, that the agglutination in Finnish sometimes involves obscure stem-affix boundaries, unlike Turkish; see Comrie, 1981.) Most of the cases are expressed differently in the singular and plural, with the result that almost every noun and adjective in Finnish has over two dozen distinct formsand even more when the Finnish possessive suffixes and agglutinative particles are taken into consideration. The nominal cases in Finnish include the nominative, accusative, partitive, genitive, and a number of cases that correspond roughly with various prepositions and other function words in either English or Swedish (see, e.g., Karlsson, 1983, pp. 2224). Swedish, like English, has only the nominative and genitive cases for nouns, and the nominative, accusative, and genitive cases for pronouns. The Swedish verbal system is also simple and has no subject-verb agreement at all (e.g., Beite, Englund, Higelin, & Hildeman, 1963). Finnish, on the other hand, has a complex subject-verb agreement system in which the verb takes a separate


Scott Jarvis and Terence Odlin

Table 1. Basic spatial systems of Finnish, English, and Swedish

Finnish locative cases Locatives Internal External Neutral Goal -Vn -lle Location -ssa -lla Source -sta -lta English and Swedish basic spatial prepositions Goal into in i onto pa to till Goal/ location in i on pa at vid Source out (of) n (ut) ur/ifra off (of) av from n fra

suffix depending on whether the subject is first, second, or third person and whether it is singular or plural (e.g., Karlsson, 1983). Swedish is grammatically richer than Finnish only in its grammatical gender, article, and prepositional systems. Swedish has two grammatical genders, whereas Finnish has none. Swedish also has both definite and indefinite article systems that realize the same functions as English articles and additionally reflect the grammatical gender and number of the noun (Beite et al., 1963). The article systems of Swedish will not be discussed further in this paper, but it is relevant to point out here that the definite article in Swedish involves a bound morpheme. Thus Swedish has its own distinct complications involving bound morphology. Finnish, although optionally allowing for the use of thirdperson pronouns as definite articles in certain contexts, lacks articles as a separate grammatical class (Ringbom, 1987; cf. Laury, 1997). Finally, whereas Swedish has a rich system of prepositions to represent spatial, temporal, and other grammatical and semantic relations, Finnish has only about 15 prepositions, most of which are more commonly used as postpositions. Most of the spatial and temporal relations that are expressed in Swedish and English with prepositions are expressed in Finnish through the nominal case system, and nearly all others are expressed with postpositions. The locative case system in Finnish is shown in Table 1, and is contrasted with the basic locative prepositions in Swedish and English. The six Finnish locative cases are formally and semantically divided into two general classes: the internal and the external locatives. Each class is further divided according to whether the marked noun represents the goal, location, or source of the predicated action. In English and Swedish, prepositions can be used to represent these spatial distinctions, and there are at least three important differences with respect to the spatial systems of English and Swedish versus Finnish. First, unlike Finnish, English and Swedish include a class of prepositions (e.g., to, at, from) that are neutral as to whether the goal, location, or source is internal or external. Second, unlike Finnish, English and Swedish conflate goal and location into a single category for internal (e.g., in),

Morphological Transfer


external (e.g., on), and neutral (e.g., at ) prepositions. Third, whereas the goal and location suffixes in Finnish are formally similar to their source counterparts (e.g., the formal similarity between the external suffixes -lle, -lla, and -lta), the goal and location prepositions in English and Swedish are formally distinct from their source counterparts. Examples of these contrasts will appear later in the tables of our empirical study. METHOD AND ANALYSIS Participants in the present study included 140 Finnish and 70 Finland-Swedish adolescents who were tested in English, as well as another 66 Finnish, 44 Finland-Swedish, and 66 American adolescents who were tested in their L1s (see Jarvis, 1998).2 The Finns were fifth, seventh, and ninth graders in public schools in Finland where the language of instruction is Finnish, and the Finland Swedes (henceforth, Swedes) were seventh and ninth graders in similar schools in Finland where the language of instruction is Swedish (see Ringbom, 1987). The Americans were in the fifth, seventh, and ninth grades. All of the EFL learners were in their third, fifth, or seventh year of formal English instruction at the time of testing. As part of a larger study, participants were shown an 8-minute segment of the silent film Modern Times, and immediately afterwards they were asked to write a narrative of the film. These narratives constitute the data for the present paper. Two types of analysis were performed. First, we identified the directional, goal-oriented usages of the verbs take, sit, and put. While doing so, we tabulated participants use or nonuse of prepositions along with these verbs, and we quantified the results according to lexical type and participants L1 background. In the second analysis, we identified participants reference to a specific scene in the film in which a person is seen taking bread out of the back of a delivery vehicle. In connection with this analysis, we tabulated and quantified learners reference to this source-oriented spatial relationship. The results of the two analyses are presented in the next section. RESULTS We will first discuss the two verbs that we have examined in detail: take and sit (although there will also be a brief discussion of put ). Both of these occur frequently in learners descriptions, quite often with locative and directional expressions. We coded each occurrence of any recognizable form of sit not only sit, sits, sat, and sitting, but also forms such as sett and satted. Likewise, in the case of take, we coded each occurrence of any recognizable form, including take, takes, took, taking, and taken, and also variant forms such as toke and token. In the case of sit, there were 352 recognizable forms, and of these 239 had locative or directional phrases that included nouns or pronouns. We excluded from the analysis any cases of sit that did not occur with an internal nominal


Scott Jarvis and Terence Odlin

Table 2. Examples of prepositions co-occurring with sit

Preposition Zero in on under by to Sample sentence C.C. and the woman go to sit the grass. After that they sat in grass. Charlie and woman sit on the crass [sic]. Then they sat under the big tree. Chaplin and the woman sit by the street. Chaplin and girl sat to grass.

Table 3. Frequency of prepositions co-occurring with sit

Group Finns Swedes Americans Total Zero 12 0 0 12 in 14 17 7 38 on 43 18 15 76 under 18 21 12 51 by 2 0 15 17 to 8 1 0 9 Other 15 15 5 35

Table 4. Frequency of prepositions co-occurring with sit and grass in the lawn scene
Group Finns Swedes Americans Total Zero 5 0 0 5 in 5 7 4 16 on 21 5 1 27 to 6 0 0 6

argument, which were generally either simple intransitive verbs or tokens occurring with an adverb such as there or down. However, we did include all cases in which the adverb co-occurred with a prepositional phrase as in sit down on the grass. Table 2 shows sentences with the most common examples of prepositional choices made by the native speaker and learner groups, and Table 3 shows the statistical pattern. The figures in Table 3 show some striking intergroup differences. Most significantly, only the Finns used patterns with zero prepositions. The 12 instances of zero came from 12 different individuals, and these omissions of prepositions reflect an important intergroup difference. Likewise, Finns more often chose the preposition to, whereas their choice of under does not seem very distinctive. In the case of in and on, Table 3 suggests possible intergroup differences, but these can be more clearly appreciated when only instances involving the same context are considered. Thus, Table 4 shows the choices

Morphological Transfer


Table 5. Examples of prepositions co-occurring with take

Preposition Zero to into in Sample sentence The policeman take Charlie policecar. Police take him to a police car. Then he take Charlie into the car. Then policeman take Chaplin in the police car.

Table 6. Frequency of prepositions co-occurring with take

Group Finns Swedes Americans Total Zero 10 0 0 10 to 25 13 7 45 into 10 2 1 13 in 11 6 0 17 Other 1 0 1 2

when the young writers attempted to recount a scene in the film where the two escapees sit on a lawn and dream of a better life. The most frequent noun used in nominal arguments in this context was grass, as in the first three examples in Table 2. From Table 4 it is evident that the Finns showed a strong preference for phrases such as on the grass, whereas the Swedes preferred in the grass. A chi-square test run on the Finns and Swedes choices revealed a statistically significant intergroup difference (2 = 11.39, df = 3, asymptotic p = 0.01). To control for the possible effects of small cell values, a Fishers Exact test was also run (exact p = 0.01), which confirmed the results of the chisquare test. In the case of take, there were many more recognizable forms, 771 in all. However, we excluded numerous cases from our analysis. Take is usually a transitive verb, yet although it has an obligatory direct-object argument, locative arguments are normally optional. In our corpus, this verb showed proportionally fewer instances with a nominal locative argument, in comparison with sit. Moreover, we excluded nominal arguments involving sourcefor example, take milk from a cow. These instances were interesting, and we will discuss learner expressions involving source later; however, our count focuses on cases where take occurred with a nominal argument indicating a spatial goal, as in took Charlie Chaplin to the policecar. Table 5 shows sentences with the most common examples of prepositional choices, and Table 6 shows the statistical pattern. As in the case of sit, there are numerous instances of zero prepositions occurring with take produced by the Finns: 10 cases, with 9 of them coming from different individuals. Moreover, there is a strong preference among the Finns for into, which was used 10 times, whereas Swedes only used that preposition


Scott Jarvis and Terence Odlin

Table 7. Frequency of prepositions co-occurring with take and -car in the paddy wagon scene
Group Finns Swedes Americans Total Zero 8 0 0 8 to 16 9 1 26 into 7 1 0 8 in 8 5 0 13

twice. Though both groups used to numerous times, the choice of in is also common, as in Then policeman take Chaplin in the police car. We will discuss the unique status of in a little further on. The majority of nominal goals cooccurring with take refer to the scene where Chaplin is taken to a paddy wagon, and so the statistical pattern in Table 7 is similar to what is seen in Table 6. Even though a chi-square test and a Fishers Exact test failed to reveal a statistically significant difference between the Finns and Swedes with respect to the figures in Table 7 (2 = 5.59, df = 3, asymptotic p = 0.13, exact p = 0.16), one can nevertheless see from the results that only the Finns exhibit the zero-preposition option in this context. We suspect that positive transfer from both Finnish and Swedish accounts for the less divergent patterns in the two L1 groups with take in comparison with sit. Although eight Finns used zero prepositions, the three choices of to, into, and in are all viable in the L2, and the structure of the L1 can motivate all three choices (though in the case of in, the motivation is somewhat more complex, as discussed in the Discussion section). In the L1 Finnish compositions written by students in the control group, the illative case (representing internal goal) is the usual inflection to mark the paddy wagon ( poliisiauto) as a directional referent, as in Poliisi vei Chaplinin poliisiautoon The policeman took Chaplin to the police car, where the -on inflection marks the illative case. The normal translations of illatives are to and into, and so it is not surprising that most Finns would be able to make successful interlingual identifications. The likelihood of L1 influence is all the greater in the case of one Finn who apparently could not recall the English form took and used the Finnish equivalent (vei ) instead: Policeman came and vei the Chaplin to policecar. In the L1 Finnish compositions, vei is used several times for the paddy wagon scene, and every time it is so used, the Finnish word for police car is marked with the illative (e.g., poliisiautoon). In the case of the Swedes, their L1 has prepositions corresponding fairly closely to the two most common English choices till for English to, and i for English in (see Table 1), and these choices are also evident in the L1 Swedish compositions. We focused on take and sit because both of these verbs frequently co-occur with locative nominals and because they show significant intergroup differences in the choice of prepositions (including zero). We should note, how-

Morphological Transfer


Table 8. Examples of source prepositional choices co-occurring with bread in the theft scene
Preposition Zero in out of from Sample sentence The girl stole a loaf a bread the car and run away . . . She stealing in the car a bread. So when he goes in she takes some bread out of the truck and runs. Then she take a bread from car and run away.

Table 9. Frequency of source-oriented choices co-occurring with bread in the theft scene
Internal Group Experimental groups Finns Swedes Americans L1 control groups Finns Swedes Zero External Neutral

Goal Loc. Source Goal Loc. Source Goal Loc. Source into in out of onto on off to at from

2 0 0 0 0

1 0 0 0 0

6 1 0 0 0

2 1 5 26 6

1 0 0 0 0

1 1 0 0 0

0 0 1 0 0

0 0 0 0

2 0 0 0

12 13 4 9

ever, that intergroup differences are also evident in the case of other verbs as well. With regard to the verb put, for example, the preposition to was used by five Finns (and by no Swedes), as in the sentence . . . a policeman put him to the policecar. The corpus indeed shows intergroup differences in many areas besides the coding of spatial concepts. Our second analysis is an examination of learners spatial reference to a scene in the film in which a person is seen taking bread out of the back of a bakery delivery truck. There were 53 identifiable references to this event in the English narratives, 26 in the Finnish narratives, and 15 in the Swedish narratives. We coded each occurrence of participants reference to this event according to the prepositions or locative markers they chose to refer to the source relationship between the bread and the delivery vehicle. Table 8 shows sentences that are representative of the most common prepositional choices made by the native speaker and learner groups, and Table 9 shows the statistical patterns of the native speaker and learner groups, as well as of the corresponding L1 control groups. The figures for the Finnish learner group show some striking differences


Scott Jarvis and Terence Odlin

Table 10. Examples of Finns nonstandard use of in categorized according to the Finnish spatial system
Finnish case suffix -Vn (internal goal) -ssa (internal location) -sta (internal source) -lle (external goal) Sample sentence produced by L1-Finnish learner She runaway, but bumped in Chaplin and they both fell down. They lay in the crown [ground], and get up. When they had escaped in the police car they sat under the tree. That woman who stole bread Charlie give he place in woman.

both from the Swedish and American groups, on the one hand, and from the Finnish control group, on the other. As before, the Finnish learner group is the only group to use patterns with zero prepositions. The native speaker and L1 control groups are the most consistent in choosing only prepositions or locative suffixes that conventionally mark source relations, whereas the learner groupsmost notably the Finnsuse a wider variety of prepositions. The most frequent choice for both the Finnish and Swedish learner groups is from. The 12 instances of from for the Finnish group came from 11 different individuals, and the 13 instances of from for the Swedish group came from 13 different individuals. What is most striking about these figures is that a strong second choice for the Finns is the preposition in. This is striking because in does not seem to be a logical candidate to represent the source relation that was ostensibly being referred to, and it is also striking because it does not seem to be motivated by the internal-source locative suffix that was consistently chosen by the Finnish L1 control participants. To further investigate Finns unexpected use of in, we conducted a followup analysis of the data in which we identified all of the nonstandard uses of in by the Finnish learner group. Of the 364 instances of this preposition in the Finns narratives, we identified 64 nonstandard occurrences. Seven of these involved the phrase in there, and five others were conspicuous for syntactic reasons. The remaining 52 nonstandard occurrencesproduced by 35 different individualsinvolved a variety of nontargetlike uses of in for example, Charlie Chaplin is in her way and they crash to each others and fall in the ground and It was some meal and they were cutting it in same time (emphases added). In an attempt to make sense of these, we categorized them according to the Finnish locative cases that were used in the same spatial reference contexts by the Finnish L1 control group. The results are revealing. Table 10 shows examples of sentences categorized in this manner, and Table 11 shows the statistical pattern. The 21 instances of in categorized as internal goal were produced by 19 different individuals, the 8 instances in the internal location column were produced by 6 different individuals, the 21 instances of in as an internal source were produced by 19 different individuals, and the 2 instances of in as an external goal marker were produced by two different Finnish learners of English. It is important to point out that the data elicited from the Finnish learners

Morphological Transfer


Table 11. Frequency of Finns nonstandard use of in by comparison with the Finnish spatial system
Internal Goal Case suffix Finns (use of in) -Vn 21 Loc. -ssa 8 Source -sta 21 Goal -lle 2 External Loc. -lla 0 Source -lta 0

contain many more instances of in used as an internal goal or internal location marker than are shown here. These figures represent only the Finnish learners nonstandard uses of the preposition in. Given that this preposition carries the meaning of both internal goal and internal location in Standard English, the figures in the first two columns of Table 11 represent instances in which Finnish learners have overgeneralized the use of in to contexts that are not conventionally marked as internal goal or internal location by native English speakers. The most striking result, of course, is the figure in the third column of Table 11 that reflects the large number of Finnish learners who used in to mark an internal source. This is conspicuous because, on the surface, the learners overgeneralization of in in this way does not seem likely to be motivated by either direct interlingual identification or L2 input. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that Finns nonstandard use of in is limited almost exclusively to the internal spatial relations. The evidence here seems to suggest that one way in which Finnish learners of English overgeneralize English spatial prepositions is by choosing a single preposition, in in this case, to represent an entire class of spatial relations, here the internal spatial system. This assumption is given further support by the fact that each of the 19 Finns who used in to represent an internal source relation also used it to mark an internal goal or internal location relation, or both. We will say more about the Finns overgeneralization of in in our discussion of the results, to which we now turn. DISCUSSION Research Questions Addressed Three of our four research questions receive direct confirmation from the present results: (a) Finns and Swedes do show differences in the options they pursue with respect to both spatial reference and morphological transfer, (b) Finns do seem to make interlingual identifications between the bound locative morphology of Finnish and the spatial prepositions of English, and (c) Finns and Swedes do differ noticeably in their patterns of morphological simplification. The remaining research question is more exploratory, restated here as follows: What types of morphological transfer do Finnish-speaking learners ex-


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hibit in their English spatial reference, and how do they differ from Swedishspeaking learners? We attempt to answer this questionas well as provide more support for the previously mentioned research questionsin the following paragraphs. To begin, the striking differences we have found between the Finns and Swedes in their reference to locative and directional expressions in English leave little doubt that L1 influence is at play in this area of second language acquisition. The differences arising from L1 background concern the preference for different prepositions by the Finns and Swedes in the same spatial contexts, as well as the omission of spatial prepositions by the Finns but not the Swedes. One of the clearest examples of differing prepositional choices involves the learners reference to the scene where Chaplin and his female friend are sitting on the grass. The Finns show a strong preference for on, whereas the Swedes prefer in (although both choices are in fact grammatical). Corresponding patterns were found for the L1 control groups: 27 instances of -lle/-lla on and 0 instances of -ssa/-Vn in by the Finns, and 11 instances of i on by the Swedes. This is an important finding for in and 5 instances of pa two reasons. First, it suggests a strong role for semantic transfer in learners spatial reference and, second, it shows that Finns, in particular, are capable of making interlingual identifications between postposed bound morphology in Finnish and preposed free morphology in English. The basis for these interlingual identifications is semanticthat is, learners match meanings in the L1 and L2, ignoring the formal disparities. With respect to the omission of prepositions, the Finnish learner group used patterns with zero prepositions in all of the spatial contexts that we examined, whereas the Swedish learner group did not use a zero preposition in any of these contexts. Although the use of a zero preposition is a form of linguistic simplification, its use by the Finns also constitutes a form of transfer, given that the structural nature of the Finnish locative cases predisposes Finns to disregard preposed function words as relevant spatial markers. Thus, the Finns omission of spatial prepositions in English seems to arise out of an interaction between simplification and transfer. Another result from our analysis that appears to have arisen out of the interaction between transfer and simplification is the Finns overgeneralization of the preposition in. Overgeneralization, like omission, is a form of simplificationas we discuss laterbut the way the Finns overgeneralize in as a cover term for internal locative and directional relations seems to be motivated by structural differences between Finnish and English. As mentioned earlier, the Finnish locative cases distinguish between external and internal relations, as well as between goal, location, and source relations. English makes similar distinctions with its spatial prepositions, but the English prepositions that express location (in, on, and at ) are also used to express goal relations. This means that the preposition in in Standard English conflates both internal location and internal goal. The Finnish locative cases, in contrast, do not allow such semantic conflation. Therefore, when faced with L2 input where the

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preposition in is used to express more than one internal relation, some Finnish-speaking learners of English may assume that in can be used to express all internal relations. An extension of Andersens (1984) One-to-One Principle may be applicable here: If a linguistic form does not represent a single concept, such as internal location, then it must represent a single class of related concepts, such as internal space. The Swedes do not overgeneralize in in this way presumably because the corresponding Swedish word, i, conflates internal location and internal goal in a similar manner to English. Relevance to Previous Research The conclusions just discussed are consonant with previous work on the acquisition of spatial reference. Because prepositions are a notoriously difficult area of English for nonnative speakers, there have naturally been several investigations (e.g., Carroll, 1997; Mukattash, 1984; Pavesi, 1987; Ringbom, 1987; Schumann, 1986). Not surprisingly, these studies have also identified cases of transfer. Mukattash, for example, found two sources of negative transfer in the results of a standardized test taken by Jordanian learners of English: Jordanian Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic. Although many of his learners prepositional errors are not directly attributable to transfer, Mukattash asserted that they are nevertheless dominated by L1 interference (p. 59) and largely concern the use of primary counterparts (i.e., perceived lexical translation equivalents). Pavesi likewise saw transfer as one, although not the sole, source of some of the English prepositional errors of Italian speakers, but she provided few details on the exact nature of the cross-linguistic influence. Investigations into the use of English prepositions by Finnish-speaking and Swedish-speaking learners, in contrast, have been much more explicit about the nature of cross-linguistic influence (see Ringbom). One particular point of concurrence between earlier research in Finland and our own is that Finns omit English prepositions far more often than Swedes do, and this appears to be largely due to the more substantial structural differences between Finnish and English with respect to the languages spatial systems. Not all the work on transfer involving prepositions has focused on English, however. For example, Harley (1989) compared the performance of native and nonnative speakers of French in their use of spatial prepositions in a controlled composition task. The nonnative speakers showed a strong preference for using prepositions in a manner consistent with their English L1 and not with the L2; for example, many writers chose the preposition a ` to express directional concepts, as in Le chat courait a [sic] la maison The cat ran to the house. This use of a ` resembles the English use of to as a directional preposi` is a locative tion, and it differs from the French norm. In the target language, a ` to, till being the normal directional as in but not a directional, with jusqu a Le chat a couru jusqu a ` la maison (the periphrastic verb a couru is also normal, although there was probably no interaction between the learners choice of the `). Although other semantic contexts imperfect form courait and the choice of a


Scott Jarvis and Terence Odlin

allow for positive transfer between English to and French a `, the locative-directional contrast elicited by Harleys task led to negative transfer. Along with work on the acquisition of prepositions, some recent research has examined problems that learners encounter in acquiring highly agglutinative languages such as Finnish (e.g., Martin, 1995; Sulkala, 1996). Sulkalas study included a look at likely L1 influence from Estonian, another agglutinative language. The evidence for transfer identified by Sulkala clearly strengthens our case about the transferability of bound morphology, but we should note that in her study, as well as in Martins (which did not attempt to look at cross-linguistic influence), other factors besides transfer were also found to be at work. By the same token, work on the acquisition of languages sponsored by the European Science Foundation (e.g., Becker & Carroll, 1997; Extra & Mittner, 1984) considered a variety of cognitive factors involved in the evolution of spatial reference in an L2, of which transfer was only one. More on Simplification and Transfer Our findings also support those of Schumann (1986), who found that transfer and simplification together account for the structure of learners spatial expressions. In particular, Schumann found that his one Cantonese- and two Japanese-speaking learners, whose L1s lack spatial prepositions,3 produced structures with zero prepositions much more frequently than his three Spanish-speaking learners, whose L1 does contain spatial prepositions. Additionally, Schumanns Spanish speakers overgeneralized their use of the preposition in to refer to spatial relations that would require on, at, or to in Standard English. The Spanish speakers appear to have overgeneralized in on the model of the Spanish preposition en, in which internal and external spatial meanings are conflated. It is important to point out that Schumanns Spanish speakers overgeneralized in in a substantially different way from how our Finnish speakers did; these differences can be attributed to structural and semantic differences between the spatial systems of the learners L1s. In any case, our findings, along with those of Schumann, show that transfer and simplification can jointly contribute to the way learners refer to spatial relations in an L2.4 Like Schumann (1986), we identified two general types of simplification in learner language that appear to interact with transfer. The first type is similar to what Meisel (1980) referred to as restrictive simplification, which he characterized as the use of structurally or grammatically reduced patterns (pp. 3637). In terms of spatial expressions, the clearest cases of restrictive simplification would involve the omission of prepositions or related functional morphology. In our study, restrictive simplification in the form of prepositional omissions was found to be frequent in the Finns spatial expressions but nonexistent in the Swedes. Our results, therefore, show not only instances of restrictive simplification, but also a seemingly strong interaction between this type of simplification and learners L1 background. Schumann and others (e.g., Mukattash, 1984; Ringbom, 1987) have likewise found that even though restric-

Morphological Transfer


tive simplification often occurs regardless of transfer, its occurrence is greatly increased when the two processes interact. The second general type of simplification that we identified in our data is similar to what Meisel (1980) referred to as elaborative simplification (cf. Ellis, 1982). Unlike restrictive simplification, elaborative simplification is not characterized by omissions or structural reduction but rather by an attempt at elaborating ones interlanguage system. More precisely, elaborative simplification is an attempt to formulate hypotheses about a certain rule which may be approximations to the actual rule (Meisel, 1980, p. 37). As elaborative simplification includes the notion of semantic overgeneralization, our results show instances of this type of simplification, too. In particular, we demonstrated that Finnish-speaking learners often overgeneralize the use of in to represent all internal spatial relations (goal, location, and source), whereas Swedish-speaking learners do not show the same tendency. Besides demonstrating that the two groups of learners differ with respect to their patterns of overgeneralization, we have additionally shown that Finns hypotheses concerning the function of in appear to be directly motivated by the nature of their L1 spatial system. Thus, like Schumann (1986), we found convincing support for the interaction between transfer and overgeneralization, or elaborative simplification (for additional evidence of transfer in learners prepositional overgeneralizations, see, e.g., Correa-Beningfield, 1990; Ijaz, 1986). In sum, it appears that both restrictive and elaborative simplification can interact with transfer, although clearly not all instances of either restrictive or elaborative simplification involve transfer (see, e.g., Mukattash, 1984; Schumann, 1986), and not all instances of transfer involve simplification. Although we adopted Meisels (1980) distinction, we certainly do not share his skepticism (1983) about the role of language transfer. Moreover, we find it important to emphasize that cross-linguistic influence is compatible with that of hypothesis formation in relation to elaborative simplification. Indeed, Schachter (1992) saw language transfer arising whenever previous knowledge (the L1 in the case of L2 acquisition) constrains the range of hypotheses the learner will invoke to make sense out of an unfamiliar structure. Whether or not the notion of hypothesis formation can account for all types of crosslinguistic influence, it does seem applicable here. Moreover, Schachters emphasis on competing hypotheses helps in recognizing that our results indicate more than one possible source for source-language influence. This latter point is one that we will return to briefly in our conclusion. CONCLUSION The results of our study provide further evidence of the transferability of bound morphology. More generally, our findings indicate that the coding of spatial information in the L1 can greatly influence the way such information is realized in an interlanguage. Whether the information is coded as a preposition, a postposition, or an inflectional morpheme, the L1 can inform the


Scott Jarvis and Terence Odlin

semantic choices a learner makes. It might be tempting to say that the morphological coding is irrelevant and that only the semantics matters. That inference would be mistaken, however, given that the performance of the Finns indicates that when speakers of an agglutinative language such as Finnish make interlingual identifications with a language such as English, they are prone to overlooking inflectional information equivalent to prepositions in the L2. Although such omissions might seem to be no more than simplification, such instances of zero prepositions are related to the structural contrast between Finnish and English. The fact that different learners choose different prepositions is also significant, as when some Finns choose to write sit to the grass whereas others choose sit on the grass. Both choices reflect transfer, negative in the case of the former and positive in the case of the latter. What is especially significant here is that cross-linguistic influence is not monolithic. In other words, the L1 sometimes offers more than one hypothesis when learners look to it for help in acquiring an L2. (Received 4 November 1999)
NOTES 1. Eubank (personal communication, October 28, 1998) stated that his claims should be understood to refer only to the nontransferability of overt, visible morphology from the NL. We prefer to let his published words speak for themselves, noting that even his claim concerning overt, visible morphology is untenable; we return briefly to this issue in the following section of the paper. 2. Finland Swedes prefer not to be referred to as Swedish-speaking Finns, although they are natives of Finland whose L1 is Swedish (see, e.g., Ringbom, 1987). 3. Cantonese does have a special class of verb particles that function similarly to English spatial prepositions; however, these particles normally occur either preverbally or postnominally and are rarely used to express directionality (Ball, 1971). In Japanese, spatial relations are expressed through postpositions (Kuno, 1978). 4. We should also note that our findings are compatible with the Transfer to Somewhere principle of Andersen (1983). On the one hand, the absence of zero prepositions in the narratives of the Swedes suggests positive transfer from one prepositional language to another. On the other hand, the zero prepositions of the Finns suggest that the difference of morphological type disposes them to overlook the semantic information of Finnish inflections, which are equivalent semantically but not formally to English prepositions. REFERENCES Andersen, R. (1983). Transfer to somewhere. In S. M. Gass & L. Selinker (Eds.), Language transfer in language learning (pp. 177204). Rowley, MA: Newbury House. Andersen, R. (1984). The One-to-One Principle of interlanguage construction. Language Learning, 34, 7795. Ball, J. D. (1971). Cantonese made easy. Taipei, Taiwan: Cheng Wen. Becker, A., & Carroll, M. (Eds.). (1997). The acquisition of spatial relations in a second language. Amsterdam: Benjamins. Beite, A.-M., Englund, G., Higelin, S., & Hildeman, N.-G. (1963). Swedish grammar. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell. Carroll, M. (1997). The acquisition of English. In A. Becker & M. Carroll (Eds.), The acquisition of spatial relations in a second language (pp. 3578). Amsterdam: Benjamins. Comrie, B. (1981). The languages of the Soviet Union. New York: Cambridge University Press. Correa-Beningfield, M. R. (1990). Prototype and second language acquisition. Revue de Phone tique e, 9597, 131135. Applique

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