Phonetic and Syntactic Transfer Effects in the English Interlanguage of Basque/Spanish Bilinguals

VIAL, Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics

The present study examines transfer errors at the levels of phonetics and syntax in the interlanguage of 10 fourteen-year-old Basque/Spanish bilinguals who have been learning English for 7 years in a formal school context in the Basque Country. Analyses showed that learners display L1 effects in the acquisition of both English phonetics and syntax, even though phonetic transfer errors (replacement of novel phonemes by L1 sounds, spirantisation and lack of aspiration in stop sounds, closure of fricative sounds) were far more frequent than syntactic ones (use of null subjects, null objects and null determiners). It is suggested that negative transfer would be minimised if certain educational measures were adopted, such as the enhancement of teachers’/learners’ linguistic awareness towards interlanguage processes, the inclusion of contrastive linguistics and language acquisition topics in teacher training programmes, and learners’ participation in courses where the target language is used in a more natural, communicative way