A Preliminary Evidence of Transfer in the Acquisition of Sentential Negation of English in Multilingual Indonesian Children in School Contexts

Evynurul Laily Zen


Bilingual children in Indonesia have continued to develop their trilingual competence by adding English into their linguistic repertoires, in addition to Indonesian as the first language (L1) and Javanese or any other regional languages as the second language (L2). Considering the unique characteristics of third language (L3) acquisition in the way that it requires multidirectional interactions of three language systems, this study aimed at finding an evidence of L1 and L2 transfer in the acquisition of L3 sentential negation. In specific, it examined whether the absence of functional projection in Indonesian and Javanese negations would trigger transfer in the production of English negations, and testing out whether Cumulative Enhancement Model (CEM) worked best to the data. The CEM as one of L3 acquisition models encapsulates that any previous linguistic knowledge available to L3 learners will either enhance L3 learning or remain neutral. The English sentential negations were elicited from the already-available data sets; a limited corpus and in-class writing exercises of primary school learners aged 7-10 years old who were in an International Class Program in East Java, Indonesia where English became the medium of instruction. The findings demonstrated a preliminary evidence of transfer mainly in the absence of functional projections in English sentential negations resulted from a negative transfer of L1 and L2. More importantly, it suggested that the typological proximity of L1 and L2 had supported the cumulative effect in a negative way which was in contrast to the basic principle of CEM in which such collective process should enhance or be neutral when learning L3. Thus, this study has posited a theoretical implication of reconsidering the cumulative enhancement effect of L1 and L2 to the L3 by looking at the possibility of negative transfer. This current study has also imparted a practical implication for L3 teaching and learning with specific regard to English in that teachers can highlight any contrastive features embedded in learners’ L1, L2, and L3 to explicitly show the different patterns and uses.


Keywords: Transfer; Sentential Negation; Indonesian multilingual children; L3 Acquisition Models; Cumulative Enhancement Model (CEM)

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17576/3L-2018-2403-12


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