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THE STUDY OF LEARNERS APPROXIMATIVE SYSTEMS I.

INTRODUCTION Traditionally, second language acquisition can refer to the scientific study of the second-language learning process. It means that second language acquisition refers to what the learner does, it does not refer to what teachers do. As stated by Menyuk (1971) that study of the child-learners errors does indeed throw light on the types of the cognitive and linguistic processes that appear to be part of language learning process. In addition, Corner (1971) stated that in second language learning, the learners errors are indicative both of the state of the learners knowledge, and of the ways in which a second language is learned. According to Richard and Sampson that while current linguistic theories are more insightful than previous ones, there has not been a corresponding increase in the desriptive or explanatory powers of theories of second language acquisition. Furthermore, they also added that the data gathered could perhaps provide corrective feedback to general linguistic theory and to language teaching practice. II. THE STUDY OF LEARNERS APPROXIMATIVE SYSTEMS The concept of second language acquisition and how it is to be described and understood is widely debated. Boaz (1889) suggested that learners perceived sounds in new languages in terms of their native language or other languages to which they had earlier been exposed. With the emergence of the notion of language as a system however, the question of second language acquisition could be viewed as the juxtaposition of two systems. Lado (1957) tended to emphasize points of contrast between two language systems. Contrastive analysis subsequently arose as a field of research. To be sure, contrast between systems was understood not to be only factor involved in second language learning.

According to Corder (1967) linguists study the process of language acquisition and the various strategies learners may use. In line with this statement, Strevens (1969) hypotesized that errors should not be viewed as problems to be overcome, but rather as normal and inevitable features indiating the strategies that learners use. On the contrary, Nemser (1971) in his early work aimed at the collection and evaluation of relevant interference data. In line with Nemser, Briere (1968) attempted to test empirically the amount of interference that would ensue from competing phonological categories. Errors which did not fit systematically into the native language or target language systems were, for the most part, ignored. Current research tends to focus on the learner himself as generator of the grammar of his sentences in the new language. It is reflected in a growing terminology for a field of research which deals with the learners attempts to internalize the grammar of the language he is learning. This terminology includes error analysis, idiosyncratic dialects, interlanguage, approximative systems, transitional competence, letat de dialecte. The small amount of research and speculation about learners approximative systems mention seven factors that may influence and characterize the second language learner systems: 1. Language transfer. Sentences in the target language my exhibit interferences from the mother tongue. Interference analysis tends to be from the deviant sentence back to the mother tongue, while contrastive analysis predicts errors by comparing the linguistic systems of the mother tongue and the target langauge. As stated by George (1971) that one-third of the deviant sentences from second language learners could be attribute to language transfer. However, until the role of other factors is more understood, it is not possible to evaluate the amount of systematic interference due to language transfer alone.

2.

Intralingual Interferences. Richards (1970) proposed intralingual interferences refer to items produced by the learner which reflect not the structure of the mother tongue, but generalizations based on partial exposure to the target language. Furthermore, he found systematic intralingual errors to involve overgeneralization, ignorance of rule restrictions, incompete application of rules, and semantic errors. Like first language learners, the second language learner tries to derive the rules behind the data to which he has been exposed, and may develop hypotheses that correspond neither to the mother tongue nor target language. As stated by Torrey (1966) in his experiment on learning Russian word order, subjects sometimes adopted a consistent word order diffferent from either Russian or English. In line with this experiment, Brudhiprabha (1972) on his studies of Thai Learner of English, many intralingual errors represent the learning difficulty of what are often low level rules in the target language.

3.

Sociolinguistics Situation. Different settings language use result in different degrees and types of language learning. Terms of the effects of the socio-cultural setting on the learners language are different from terms of the relationship holding between the learner and the target language community and the respective linguistic markers of these relations and identities such as the effects of the learners particular motivations for learning the second language as well as the effects of the socio-cultural setting. Sociolinguistics situation leads to inclusion of the general motivational variables which influence language learning. Psychologists have related the types of language learning achieved to the role of the language in relation to the learners needs and perceptions. In focusing on the type of relationship holding between the learner and the target language community it would be appropriate to consider non-standard dialects, pidgins, creoles, and immigrant 3

language learning. According to Ferguson (1971) the phenomenon of simplification in some language contact situations, represented by the absence of the copula, reduction of morphological and inflectional system, and grammatical simplification, may likewise be socially motivated. In addition, Mackey (1962 noted that in describing interference one must account for variation according to medium, style, or register in which the speaker is operating. Sampson (1971) suggested that varying situations evoke different kinds of errors in varying quantities when children are trying to use the target language. 4. Modality. The learners language may vary according to the modality of exposure to the target language and the modality of production. Vildomec (1963) observed that interferences between the bilinguals languages is generally in the productive rather than in receptive side. Some of the modalities affecting the learners approximative system are auditory cues, spelling pronunciations, and confusions of written and spoken styles. 5. Age. Some aspects of the childs learning capacities change as he grows older and these may affect language learning. Lenneberg (1967) noted a period of primary language acquisition, postulated to be biologically determined, beginning when the child starts to walk and continuing until puberty. In some ways adults are better prepared for language learning than children. Adults have better memories, a larger store of abstract concepts that can be used in learning, and a greater ability to form new concepts. Children however are better imitators of speech sounds. Ervin-Tripp (1970) suggested tht adult mother tongue development is primarily in terms of vocabulary. The adults strategies of language learning may be more vocabulary oriented than syntactic. 6. Successions of Approximative Systems. 4

It concerns the lack stability of the learners approximative system. Because the circumtances for individual language learning are never identical, the acquisition of new lexical, phonological and syntactic items varies from one individual to another. Since most studies of second language learners systems have dealt with the learners production rather than his comprehension of language, the question also arises as to whether the grammar by which the learner understands speech is the same as that by which he produces speech. According to Troike (1969) assuming the learner hears and understands standard English but produses a significant number of deviant sentences, the distinction between his receptive competence (the rules he understands) and his productive competence (the rules he uses) may be useful. Evidence from earlier studies indicates that many phonological replacements found in the speech of second language learners are unique to the approximative system. 7. Universal Hierarchy of Difficulty. It concerns with the inherent difficulty for man of certain phonological, syntactic or semantic items and structures. III. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF LEARNER SYSTEMS The difference between first language acquisition and second language learning: First language acquisition learning of the mother tongue is the part of the whole maturational process of the child Second language learning Learning a second language normally begins only after the maturational process

The learners errors provide evidence of the system of the language that is using at the particular point at the course. For the teacher, it can give information about how far the goal has been reached, and what remains for him/her to be learned.