Covariation between temporal interlanguage features and nonverbal event categorisation

Norbert Vanek, Larry Selinker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigates crosslinguistic influence and conceptual transfer in advanced Chinese learners of English on two levels: expression and categorisation. Specifically, it tests how patterns of temporal reference in learners’ linguistic expression co-vary with their nonverbal event categorisation. The key structural difference between the target and the source language is that achievements are compatible with grammatical ongoingness marking in English (the door is closing) but not in Chinese (*men zai guan). 42 learners were asked to retell videos with achievement-type events (throw away a frisbee) and activities (push a piano) in English. Before expression, the same learners judged which animation (action-biased vs. result-biased) looks most like the model clip (equidistant from event midpoints). Results from expression showed pronounced crosslinguistic influence in learners’ infrequent combination of ongoingness with achievements, when compared with the English controls. Categorisation data signals that L1-modulated preferences also underlie learners’ nonverbal judgements. Crucially, the main new finding is covariation between the frequency of combined forms in learners’ retellings (he is running with a frisbee and threw it away) and how much their overall categorisation choices approximate to those in the target control group. Using a combined new methodology, the reported modulation of learners’ nonverbal behaviour by interlanguage systems provides a hitherto unattested empirical contribution to our understanding of L2 learners’ cognitive restructuring.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching
Early online date7 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sep 2017

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© 2017 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

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