Larry Selinker’s interlanguage

IN POLISH

Larry Selinker developed his theory of ■→interlanguage or “third language”, in 1972. A “latent psychological structure” becomes woken in the brain, when a human learns a second language, said Mr. Selinker.

We learn a ■→second language, if we have spoken a few words of another tongue before. My Polish was far from proficient, when I began learning American. I remember the cognitive moment when pears made quite some difference against gruszki.

I was about 5 years old, and still had some kindergarten to do. Nowadays many more people get to begin learning another language early, but let us reason without pointing at anyone in particular. We can imagine Eduardo.

Eduardo was born in America, in an immigrant Hispanic family. He spoke mostly Spanish before he went to school. His parents spoke Spanish, and his friends in the town area he lived were all Hispanic. However, Eduardo has always had a good awareness of American English in his environment, also via the media.

Eduardo becomes 20. He is doing an IT degree. He takes elliptic integrals easy, but he would need a dictionary to translate math from English to Spanish — he has learned math and spoken about it in English.

Mr. Selinker would say Spanish is Eduardo’s first tongue.

Love yet has not come Spanish-first. Eduardo’s girlfriend is an American, and American English is her only language. She is a real treasure and a natural for a good conversation. When Eduardo tells his sweetheart he loves her, he says it in English, and he means it.

Mr. Selinker would say Eduardo must be holding on to another, third or interlanguage, that is only in Eduardo’s head.


A D V E R T I S E M E N T


Insight from experience

Regardless of origin and gender, people have primary languages, rather than first or second.

My primary language for linguistics is American English. I need a dictionary to translate my own works to Polish, though I was born and grew up in Poland; both my parents spoke Polish, and I went to Polish schools. Only my English study was not in Polish.


Let us now imagine Ai-li. Her grandparents were Chinese. She has always been for languages. She learned American along with Chinese, before she went to school. About ten years old, she started learning German and French.

Ai-li is graduating from university now. She is writing a thesis about spatial reference in German and French — her two “second languages”, or her “third-second languages”? Should American count as the second, German and French would make the third or fourth, but she has worked with all her languages, for some 14 years now.

Insight from experience

The primary language is not a fixed option. A multilingual speaker will prioritize the relevant tongue, dependent on the environment and context.

A primary language may become “the learner”. Learning German began to work better for me when I started referring to American English, rather than Polish. Matters were the same when I learned French, so it is not about language groups or “families”.


A D V E R T I S E M E N T

The world may never have seen her original handwriting, if her skill was taken for supernatural. Feel welcome to Poems by Emily Dickinson prepared for print by Teresa Pelka: thematic stanzas, notes on the Greek and Latin inspiration, the correlative with Webster 1828, and the Aristotelian motif, Things perpetual — these are not in time, but in eternity.

Electronic format $2.99
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It is owing to latent psychological structures in the brain that second language learners show simplification, circumlocution, and over-generalization, stated Mr. Selinker.

Human brains yet do not make “latent” or “psychological” synapses. Latencies may occur with injury, but trauma is incapable of supporting brain language structures. The word latency here is to refer to time of response. Please compare ■→visual evoked potentials over Wikipedia.

Selinker noted that in a given situation, the utterances produced by a learner are different from those native speakers would produce, had they attempted to convey the same meaning, expands ■→Wikipedia.

Mark Twain remains a famous figure for speaking American “since birth”, that is, natively. As we can tell by his ■→Speeches, such a native speaker would be of a genial disposition and sense of humor; hence, why differ:
And if I sell to the reader this volume of nonsense, and he, instead of seasoning his graver reading with a chapter of it now and then, when his mind demands such relaxation, unwisely overdoses himself with several chapters of it at a single sitting, he will deserve to be nauseated, and he will have nobody to blame but himself (Mark Twain, Speeches).

To set a linguistic requirement, we have to be able to provide guidance, and how do we teach people to “convey the same meaning” as above, by Mark Twain? Assessment needs to allow for speech and language to be generated — which brings also creative and humorous uses — nobody speaks in paraphrase and probably nobody would care.


A D V E R T I S E M E N T


Let us analyze a book by Larry Selinker and Susan M. Gass, Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course.
Imperfective morphology emerges with durative and/or stative verbs (i.e. activities and states), then gradually spreads to achievement/accomplishment and punctual verbs.

The book gives examples.
(7-33) She dancing (activity);
(7-34) And then a man coming… (accomplishment);
(7-35) Well, I was knowing that (state);
(7-36) Other boys were shouting ‘watch out’! (achievement).

I cannot really think about a place in the USA — countryside, town, or metropolis? — where people would believe that accomplishment needs to be grammatically different from achievement. Resources show “punctual verbs” mostly for Japanese or ■→Singlish. The book says the participants were children aged 8 years, French and Dutch.

The French learners were overall less proficient than the Dutch learners and never reached the stage where they could use the regular past morphology productively; the book adds, the study lasted three years.

On ■→aktionsart and verbs ■→“semelfactive”, Emily Dickinson’s poetry may encourage a good quality question mark. Can we really class verbs in such ways?

The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.

The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,
For, lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.
■→Emily Dickinson, The Brain is Wider than the Sky.

Feel welcome to read:
■→Grammatical Aspects or cognitive variables?


A D V E R T I S E M E N T

The world may never have seen her original handwriting, if her skill was taken for supernatural. Feel welcome to Poems by Emily Dickinson prepared for print by Teresa Pelka: thematic stanzas, notes on the Greek and Latin inspiration, the correlative with Webster 1828, and the Aristotelian motif, Things perpetual — these are not in time, but in eternity.

Electronic format $2.99
E-book | NOOK Book | Kindle
Soft cover, 260 pages, $16.89
Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Hard cover, 260 pages
Barnes & Noble | Lulu


We may conclude with a piece of experience all people might try and be assured that the language faculty, as the brain capacities for language and cognition can be called, always is one.

People to have learned one language, then another later in life, and gained proficiency in both, if learning a third language later still, would have an accent in that third tongue that does not resemble the first as much as it complies with the second language, in the order of their acquisition.

There is a simple way to get around it, however many languages we have learned and whatever our order of acquisition. I devised the way myself. We choose the language of reference. If in our English we tend to have a Polish accent, the reference language will be Polish; etc.

For our example here, we incorporate the speech sounds of English into Polish words. The brain sure has good and strong habits for a language, to transfer its features on another. These habits can work also another way: they can help discernment for other speech habits.

To continue with the example, we can learn to say szopa in Polish with [sh] as in the English shop, etc. Our regular way to say szopa is not going to change. The way to say shop should acquire the English speech sound quality, with just a little exercise. Vowels and non-vowels can be practiced in this way. The brain language faculty is one.

Feel welcome to the Travel in Grammar, travelingrammar.com.