Avoidance of Negative Prefixes in English


Research Paper (postgraduate), 2015
15 Pages

Free online reading

Contents

Abstract

1.0 Introduction
1.1 Statement of the Research Problem
1.2 Research Objectives
1.3 Research Questions

2.0 Literature review
2.1 Interlanguage
2.2 The five processes
2.3 Previous studies of avoidance in second language acquisition
2.4 Malay Language and English
2.5 Negative prefix

3.0 Methodology

4.0 Data Analysis
4.1 Results for Pre-Test
4.2 Results Post-Test

5.0 Findings and conclusion

References

Appendices

Abstract

The main purposes of this study are to investigate whether polytechnic students avoid using negative prefixes towards English language and identify the situation of avoidance behavior. The methodology used in this study is qualitative where 15 respondents were chosen as the sample to do pre- and post- test and answered few interview questions. The results show that there is avoidance of negative prefixes by the students regardless of any races and the avoidance behavior among them happen consciously. Thus, future researchers could do a study on this area with university students who are believed to have higher proficiency level than polytechnic students.

1.0 Introduction

This study was set to investigate the avoidance of the negative prefixes in English by polytechnic students. 15 students from northern polytechnics in Malaysia were asked to participate in two which were designed to obtain negative prefixes from their responses. It is assumed that there would be some avoidance in their responses. It is also hypothesized that the avoidance of the negative prefixes is due to the existence of a separate linguistic system which is distinguishable from their native language and the target language and which Selinker (1972) introduced as interlanguage.

1.1 Statement of the Research Problem

There is less or no research done in avoidance of the negative prefix published in any major journals of language teaching and second language acquisition, therefore this study on measurement to elicit negative prefix from the speaker was adapted from the study done by Lio & Fukuya (2002) on ‘Avoidance of phrasal verbs: The case of Chinese learners of English’. There are two reasons why the adaptation is based on the study of avoidance of phrasal verbs. Firstly, both studies are aimed to prove the existence of avoidance in the speakers’ output. Secondly, there are not many researches done to study on avoidance and the most prominent study on avoidance was done on relative clauses and phrasal verbs. Between these two, phrasal verbs are similar to negative prefix and for this reason, it was adapted to be carried out among polytechnics in Malaysia.

1.2 Research Objectives

This study was conducted to fulfill the following objectives:

1.2.1 To investigate whether polytechnic students avoid using negative prefixes.

1.2.2 To identify the situation of avoidance behavior.

1.3 Research Questions

The study opted for finding answers to the following research questions:

1.3.1 Do polytechnic students avoid using negative prefixes?

1.3.2 Does the avoidance behavior happen consciously or unconsciously?

2.0 Literature review

2.1 Interlanguage

Many researchers have proposed the existence of a third separate linguistic system which underlies second language production. According to Selinker (1972 as cited by Tarone, 2006), interlanguage is the separate linguistic system evidenced when adult second-language learners attempt to express meaning in a language where they are in the process of learning it. This separate linguistic system seldom conforms to the target language and it is also not a direct translation of the learner’s first language. This third linguistic system that is presented in the process of acquisition of full attainment of the target language has been given many terms among them, ‘learner-language’ system (Sampson and Richards 1973), an ‘approximative’ system (Nemser, 1971) and an ‘interlanguage’ (Selinker, 1972).

Therefore, this study intends to use the concept of Selinker (1972) which is interlanguage to analyze the avoidance behavior in learner production of second language. Selinker established five primary psycholinguistics processes that shape interlanguage behavior and second language acquisition. The five fundamental processes are language transfer, transfer of training, strategies of second language learning, strategies of second language communication and finally, overgeneralization.

2.2 The five processes

This study will look at the phenomena of avoidance in interlanguage. There are;

1) The process of the acquisition is dealing with language transfer if this phenomenon is the result of the learners’ first language.
2) This process is named as transfer-of-training if the findings show the behavior is more likely to be caused by training procedure.
3) If the materials they came across while learning the second language, then it becomes the process of strategies of second language learning.
4) The process is known as strategies of second language communication if it occurs when the learners use this behavior as an approach to communicate with the native speaker of the target language.
5) Lastly, overgeneralization rules apply if the avoidance behavior is caused by overgeneralization of target language materials.

The term strategies refer to cognitive activities that occurred as the learner is processing data of his second language in order to produce meaning. Tarone (2006) defines the strategies of language use as when the speakers desire to communicate meaning to listeners but they believe the linguistic structure or sociolinguistics structure is not available for them to communicate that meaning. Therefore, they attempt to avoid communicating the meaning or they try to find alternative means to communicate meaning.

2.3 Previous studies of avoidance in second language acquisition

Based on Corder’s (1967) study, the significance of learner’s errors had triggered streams of studies in second language acquisition to explore deeper into understanding of learners’ language especially in terms of their systematicity and strategies. His concepts and procedures in error analysis were expanded by Selinker (1972) in his paper ‘Interlanguage’. The processes and strategies of interlanguage include the developmental processes, fossilization, backsliding, avoidance and simplification.

The avoidance behavior in second language acquisition was first predicted by Schachter (1974) who believed most of the studies done earlier were focusing only on the language forms produced by the learner of a second language. She stated that research must also consider the forms which are not produced or are being avoided by the learners.

Schachter compared the relative clauses produced by native speakers of Chinese, Japanese, Persian and Arabic learning English. The result showed that Chinese and Japanese speakers produce fewer relative clauses compared to Persian and Arabic speakers. Therefore, her conclusion was when a learner finds difficulty in comprehending certain construction of a target language; he or she will try to avoid it. She also emphasized in her paper that contrastive analysis and error analysis alone are inadequate in explaining avoidance behavior in second language acquisition.

Another study on avoidance was conducted by Kleinmen (1977) where according to him, in order to avoid certain linguistics features; learners must have the capacity to choose not to avoid it. He stated that, avoidance strategy is employed by the learners when they perceived certain words or structure of the target language which are difficult to produce. The learners then have to possess the linguistics knowledge of the target language in order to decide the word or structure in the target language. This interpretation of avoidance behavior gives clear idea on how the tasks to elicit avoidance behavior should be designed in order to analyse what the learners want and what they actually produce.

Both studies done by Schachter (1974) and Kleinmann (1977) revealed that the structural differences between the learners’ first language and their second language would cause avoidance in certain structures that are considered difficult by the learners. Since then, many researchers followed their trail to investigate the phenomena of avoidance behavior in second language acquisition, namely Dagut & Laufer (1985): Hulstijn & Marchena (1989): Kamimoto et al (1992) as cited by Lioa & Fukuya (2004).

The result from the studies above is the manifestation of the existence of avoidance behavior in second language acquisition and the differences in the structure could be potential cause of this avoidance thus, generate interest for the purpose of this study to investigate an avoidance behavior of negative prefix among polytechnic students.

2.4 Malay Language and English

The historical background of both Malay language (the official language of Malaysia) and English indicates that these two languages do not come from the same cognate. The Malay language or Bahasa Malaysia originated from Central Asia and is classified under Austronesia language. On the contrary, English is categorized as a Germanic language that derived from the Indo-European group (Norsimah, et. al. 2007). It is unlikely that these two languages are interconnected and result in structural differences especially in morphological and syntactical aspects. Malay language has prefixes, suffixes, circumfixes and infixes while in English, prefixes and suffixes are more prominent.

2.5 Negative prefix

A prefix is a group of letters added in front of a word or a root of a word to change its meaning. A negative prefix is a prefix which carries a negative meaning ‘not’ or the opposite of. Common negative prefixes are ‘un’, ‘il’, ‘im’, ‘in’, ‘dis’ and ‘ir’ where some of these prefixes are only attached to verb, for example disconnect. It is impossible to predict whether negative prefixes ‘un’, ‘in’ and ‘dis’ are used with a particular word. The correct form must be learned from the study of phonetics and phonology. The process of phonology determines how negative prefix is chosen.

The prefix ‘un’ is very common in most English text for example unaware, unable, unplug and uncomfortable. The other negative prefix ‘in’ and its allomorphs can use other variant of spelling such as ‘il’, ‘ir’, and ‘im’ for example inexperience, improper, illegal and irregular. In Bahasa, the negative meaning is conveyed through the word ‘tidak’ and there is no prefix in Malay that could replace the word ‘tidak’ to give opposite meaning to a word in the language. The difference can be seen below:

1. It is illegal to sell drug in Malaysia.

Adalah tidak sah menjual dadah di Malaysia.

2. I feel so uncomfortable to walk during raining day.

Saya rasa sangat tidak selesa berjalan ketika hari hujan.

3. It is so irresponsible to leave your work without completing it.

Ianya benar-benar tidak bertanggungjawap meninggalkan kerja kamu tanpa menyiapkannya.

The above examples demonstrate the differences of the two languages in terms of structure, however in English, the word ‘not’ is also available to be used to show contradictory example; It is so not responsible to leave your work without completing it.

3.0 Methodology

The methodology used in this particular study is qualitative. A group of 15 students from five different polytechnics in northern area at different level were chosen as the sample. The respondents were given five open ended questions and they had to write their answers in five minutes. The pre-test was given first to the respondents to obtain negative prefixes from their answers. Next, another five minutes were given to answer the opposite word test (post-test). The purpose of this test was to establish that the respondents actually have the knowledge of negative prefixes. Finally, the participants were interviewed on their education background for five minutes. The interviews were conducted to elicit their second language learning experiences and the opportunity they had in applying their linguistic knowledge.

The students started learning English at the age of seven during primary level where the English subject was taught thirty five minutes a day, five times a week. Some of the most common oral activities in classes are: reading aloud comprehension passages in the textbooks, answering WH questions and a direct answer lifted in one chunk straight from the text. The lessons involved drilling and heavy translation of English words into Bahasa.

They then spent another five years in secondary school where English was taught sometimes in Bahasa of the forty five minutes of the allocated time for the subject. The respondents did not use English anymore after school where they use their first language (Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and Tamil) to communicate with parents, siblings and friends at home. After eleven years, the input and exposure to the English linguistic structures were enormous. However, they lacked the opportunity to produce the output (practice the knowledge of the language because of constraints such as culture, education system and attitudes of the society towards English).

4.0 Data Analysis

4.1 Results for Pre-Test

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1: Results for pre-test

The data collected above shows that majority of the respondents did not use negative prefixes (un, im, ir, il, in) to convey the negative meaning in their answers. The first research question asked whether the polytechnic students avoid using negative prefixes an in order to answer this question the result from open-ended questions was analyzed. From the data, it can be seen that uncomfortable and illegal words are quite familiar among the students with 20% each while irrelevant and inadequate are not written by the students (0%). So, the result revealed that the participants have avoided using negative prefixes in their second language performance but preferring to use the word ‘not’ as an alternative.

4.2 Results Post-Test

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 2: Results for post-test

Next question of this study investigated whether the learners are conscious or unconscious when they avoided negative prefix in their production. The answer for this can be derived from the analysis of the opposite word test refer to (Appendix B). Majority of the students successfully gave the correct answers to all the questions where 100% answered comfortable and aware. Only 1 person (7%) gave different answer than legal to question four. Although many respondents gave different answers for question five, 67% of them still gave proper as the answer.

Therefore, it means the respondents understand the meaning of the adjectives used in the test and also the meaning of negative prefixes. This result gives an indication that they consciously avoid using negative prefixes in their output of their second language. This proved Kleinmann (1977) study that a learner must have linguistics knowledge of the language feature in order to avoid using it in the language performance.

5.0 Findings and conclusion

It is very crucial to differentiate between the learners’ linguistics knowledge and their actual output as this will affect the analysis of the learners’ interlanguage behavior. If the difference is not indicated clearly, then there would be implications that avoidance of the speaker is primarily caused by his ignorance of the meaning of negative prefixes rather than because of conscious avoidance. As Kleinmann (1977) correctly pointed out for a learner to be able to avoid a particular linguistics items or a structure, he or she must be able to choose to avoid it, in other words, he must have the knowledge of it.

Based from the discussion above, there is a reason to believe that there is avoidance of negative prefixes among northern polytechnic students. They might be other factors that influence the avoidance of negative prefixes such as lack of vocabularies and exposure towards the use of the negative prefixes words. However, for this study, the result proved that the speakers avoided the prefixes based on the five processes that they went through in interlanguage. However, this does not represent the result of entire polytechnics in Malaysia.

References

Corder, S. P. (1967). The significance of learner’s errors. Retrieved on May 5, 2015 from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED019903.pdf

Dr. Norsimah Mat Awal, et. al. (2007). Morphological differences between Bahasa Melayu and English: constraints in students’ understanding. Retrieved on May 5, 2015 from http://repo.uum.edu.my/3264/1/N6.pdf

Kleinmann, H, H. (2006). Avoidance behavior in adult second language acquisition. Language Learning, 27: 93–107. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-1770.1977.tb00294.x

Lio, Y. D., & Fukuya, Y. J. (2002). Avoidance of phrasal verbs: the case of Chinese learners of English. Retrieved on May 5, 2015 from http://www.hawaii.edu/sls/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/LiaoFukuya.pdf

Schachter, J. (1974). Error Analysis: avoidance. Retrieved on June 3, 2015 from http://www.english.wisc.edu/rfyoung/333/avoidance.ho.pdf

Tarone, E. (2006). Interlanguage. Retrieved on June 3, 2015 from http://socling.genlingnw.ru/files/ya/interlanguage%20Tarone.PDF

Appendices

Sample of the questions

A: Pre-test

Answer the questions below in complete sentences.

1) Do you feel comfortable when people smoke in front of you?

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2) Do you think it is possible that a man can get pregnant?

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3) Is it relevant to let a baby leaves alone at home?

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4) Is it legal to sell drug in Malaysia?

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5) Do you think it is adequate to just have diploma in the future?

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B: Post-test

Answer the questions below in complete sentences.

1. Do you think it is impossible for a woman to get pregnant?

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2. Do you feel uncomfortable when people call your name politely?

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3. Are you always unaware of the final exam?

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4. Do you think it is illegal to sell Ferrari in Malaysia?

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5. Is it improper to call someone by her/his name?

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15 of 15 pages

Details

Title
Avoidance of Negative Prefixes in English
Author
Year
2015
Pages
15
Catalog Number
V311212
ISBN (Book)
9783668099715
File size
678 KB
Language
English
Tags
negative prefixes, English, avoidance
Quote paper
Nur Syuraini Zaini (Author), 2015, Avoidance of Negative Prefixes in English, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/311212

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