Abstract Lexical Structure in Second Language Learning

Longxing Wei


Different from most previous studies of language transfer phenomena in second language learning which remain at an observational and descriptive level, this study proposes that the major source of language transfer is the interference of first language abstract lexical structure. It assumes that any interlanguage system, like other linguistic systems, has an abstract lexical structure containing several discrete but interacting subsystems: lexical-conceptual structure, predicate-argument structure, and morphological realization patterns. Unlike abstract lexical structures in other linguistic systems, the abstract lexical structure in second language learning has different sources. This study claims that any abstract lexical structure in second language learning contains more abstract elements than surface configurations of language, that is, language-specific lemmas underlie lexical entries, and such language-specific lemmas are in contact in second language learning, which can be split and recombined in novel, yet constrained ways in constructing the developing interlanguage system. Some typical instances of language transfer indicate that parts of the abstract lexical structure from first language lexical entries may influence that of the incompletely acquired L2 lexical entries. Thus, successful second language acquisition is driven by the complete acquisition of the abstract lexical structure underlying second language lexical entries.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/sll.v2n3p223


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