This is a hard-won truth that when people learn a second language, they can be affected by the mother language especially the students who learn Mandarin in China. However, there are some controversial questions about this fact all the time. How does the language transfer? How does the language transfer affect the process of learning second language especially for the students who learn Chinese language?
If you learn Mandarin in China, it is better to learn something about the research. In the 1950s and 1960s, based on the comparative approach of two languages, contrastive analysis hypothesis which is based on behaviorist theory had studied the possibility of language transfer and the way of language transfer coming into being. Among them, there is an extreme opinion that the difference degree of mother language and the target language is the best way to predict the difficulties in learning for the students especially for the students who learn Chinese language.
On this account they evaluate the learning process by language comparison so that they had ignored the factor from the learners themselves. The predicted phenomena of language can not match with the practical learning process.
In the early 1970s and 1980s, with the universal grammar method widely spreading, some views which is about language transfer and based on the universal grammar had showed up. There are 2 main kinds as follows: full transfer Schwartz & Sprouse (1996), Full Transfer/ Full Access Hypothesis. The features of the learners’ mother language can be transferred into their second language completely.
In one period, the learners especially the ones who learn Chinese language can learn the acquisition of the second language’s features with language input and resting the data of UG. Minimal Tree Hypothesis (MT) written by Vainikaka thinks only part of grammars of the mother language can be moved into the original state of the interlanguage. Within the limit of vocabulary the second language may own the similar features of the mother language.
However, the features of mother language can not be moved to the second language within the limit function especially for the students who learn Chinese language. On the other hand, the Valueless Features Hypothesis of Eubank (1996) thinks: both the limit of vocabulary and function can be moved into the original state of interlanguage. Even though the limit of function will exist, the feature values will not transfer, existing in a state of missing. These entire theses are focusing on summering the abstract theories.
On this account, these theses can not be exactly identified with true of false in the language learning and researching. Therefore, it has great limitations to explain the acquisition process of the language. With the developing of the Language Typology and the combining with the Universal Grammar thesis, some scholars try to explain the language transfer from the standpoint of Marked Language thesis especially for the students who learn Chinese language. Croft thinks (1990) that there are 3 main kinds of ways to estimate the degree of one language’s components. They are structure (for example the plural form needs the special attached form in structure. On this account, in English the markedness of the plural form is stronger than the single form.); polymerization form (for example in English, the pronouns he, she, it only can be matched with corresponding types and gender separately. However the first person “I” can be used without this limitation.
Therefore, the marking of “I” is weaker than any other pronouns. ); frequency (In the practice of language and the distribution of the world’s languages, the unmaked language is used much more often than the marked projects.) Quite a few of researches find out: as the general process of cognition, learning language follows the general rule especially for the students who learn Chinese language: simple to complicated, general to special, unmarked to mark. When learning the second language, the unmarked features of the mother language often transfer into the second language, while the marked features of the mother language may not. (Ellis, 1985)
These theses discuss the issues of language transfer from different angles. Although they are supported by some experience and experiment researches respectively, they also are denied by some observations and experimental results. There is one important reason leading to this phenomenon. It is that these theses have emphasized to predict the mechanism of language transfer from the standpoint of language corpus. However, they have ignored that the learners, cognitive subject, plays a part in the process of acquisition. Processability Theory, Emergentism about learning second language has assert that cognition mechanism is one important maters to affect the process and the result of the language learning.