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“Justification for contrastive analysisis to be found in its explanatorypower .” (Paul Van Buren – Ch 10)Explaining a language is onlypossible thanks to a classificationof the available linguistic databefore we start formulating anyexplanatory hypotheses.
This chapter aims at:1- examining some existing theories2- providing a method for theevaluation of these theories3- discussing in detail the problem ofcontrastive linguistics4- examining how results of C.A. canbe put at the service of L2 teaching.
Such a procedure is rathercomplex for three reasons:a- the technical nature of theanalysisb- the difficulty of simplifying for non-linguistsc- the difficulty of converting thesestatements into teaching materials
Some approaches to C. A.In Linguistics across Cultures, RobertoLado presents the following propositions:1- The comparison of L1 and L2 mighthinder or enhance L2 learning2- Effective materials should rest on ascientific description of L1 and L23- Teachers who have made thecomparison of L1 and L2 will providebetter L2 teaching.
Yet, these statements concealfundamental problems in C.A.:1- What is scientific description?2- What is involved in the process ofcomparison?3- What is the best grammatical modelfor a structural description of languages?
(1) I’ve been waiting for six hours.(2) J’attends depuis six heures.Yet, (2) can be back-translated into: I’ve been waiting for six hours.(3) I’ve been waiting since six o’clock.The comparison of the English and Frenchsentences will be based on the following:
1- There is Tense in English…….... (axiom)2- There is Tense in French..……....(axiom)3- Tense in English and French can becompared………………………....( conclusion)Yet, instead of being “axiomatic”, tense isthe only “fact” at our disposal in the twoFrench and English utterances, and itbelongs to the theoretical realm,distinguishable from that of facts, betweenwhich complex correspondences exist.
No C.A. is then possible without the pre-existence of “common categories” or“universals.”However, many advocates of C. A. don’t evenacknowledge the importance of the existence ofsuch “universals,” arguing that “languages areself-sufficient systems in which, every elementhas a value in opposition to other elements.”Yet, this principle of “self-sufficiency” goesagainst the very basis of comparison acrosslanguage borders - the very foundation of C. A.
Back to sentences (1) and (2): (1) I’ve been waiting for six hours (2) J’attends depuis six heures,the mere existence of “tense” in bothlanguages isn’t enough, as we will need a“deeper scientific description” of thephenomenon.In English, the present perfect continuouswhich refers to two grammatical categories,tense and aspect, is translated by the simple
And however the concepts involved arelabeled, our statement is one of extremelylow generality since it involves twotranslation equivalents only.Thus we will need to use a more“generative substitution frame” torepresent the phenomenon:(4) NP+ have + been + V-ing + for + Time(5) NP+ V-pres + depuis + Time.
Yet, frames (4) and (5) are too powerful as theycan lead to wrong overgeneralizations.(6) J’attends depuis Noël.(7) I have been waiting since Christmas.(8) I have been waiting for Christmas.*To avoid overgeneralisations, we shoulddevelop frame (4) into the following: for(9) NP+ have+ been+ V-ing + + Time. since
In back-translation, frame (9) generates moreerrors: J’attends depuis six heures. I have been waiting for six hours. (10) I have been waiting since six hours.*The proposed generative substitution frame in (4)doesn’t include the necessary selectionalrestrictions between the prepositions “for” whichcalls for an object that expresses duration, and“since” which requires an object expressing astarting point in time.
The solution would then be to incorporate theserestrictions into the frame itself, as in (9), based onChomsky’s “generative grammar,” which assigns thecorrect constituent of a sentence to its structure.A writing code shall be observed as follows:a. Syntactic rules are always written between squarebrackets. Bb. A where B and C are alternative choices. Cc. A B (C) where C represents an optional choice.
English Grammar (Branching rules):E1 S NP + PPE2 PP Aux + VP (place) (time)E3 VP V (NP)E4 Aux Tense (mod.) (perf.) (cont.)E5 Time Point / DurationE6 Point Prep + NPE7 Duration Prep + NPE8 Place Prep + NPE9 Tense Past / PresentE10 NP Det + NE11 V CSE12 N CSE13 Prep CS
Subcategorization in EnglishE14 [+N] [ + Time]E15 [+Time] [ + Duration]E16 Hour [+ N, + Dur.]E17 Christmas [+ N, – Dur. (point in time]E18 since [+ Prep + Perf. + Cont. – Dur.]E19 for [+ Prep + Perf./Past Cont. + Dur]French GrammarThe same branching and subcategorization rulesas for English, except forF4 Aux Tense (perfect) (modal)F18 depuis [ + Prep, + Tense + Time]
English Branching RulesA further rule should be taken into account inbranching representation:“The terminal string of the basegrammar is derived from apreterminal string by the insertionof one additional syntactic feature”.(Chomsky)
Further points to be made about Englishand French grammars:a- Only base components are relevant tothe present study,b- These “base components” areinadequate as “grammars” since only therules relevant to the argument wereincluded,c- These “rules” express only a restrictednumber of generalizations about aspect andtense in English and French.
The difference between English and Frenchlies in the auxiliary expansion rule, as in thedifference between E4 and F4, in addition tolexical restrictions “ici = here”. (p. 4)Actually, as a rule in the generative-transformational theory, semanticinterpretations are effectuated relative to thebase components that should all undergosemantic interpretation.
The difference between the auxiliary expansion rule inEng. and Fr. could lead to different semanticinterpretations of the following translation equivalents: I have been waiting since Christmas. J’attends depuis Noël.Thus, it seems legitimate to further raise thequestion whether tense and aspect belong in deepbranching structure, or whether they should bederived from some other source?To answer this question, let’s consider thefollowing: (23) I go yesterday.* (24) I went yesterday.
The relevant semantic interpretation in (24)does not derive from the simple past tense,but from the adverb of past time “yesterday.”Let’s also consider the following example: (25) I leave on Monday.In (25) we have a simple present tense but afuture time, which means that “…tense alonein English seems irrelevant to the expressionof semantic time.” (Chomsky)We can stipulate then that all sentenceshave adverbials hidden in deep structure.
Such a proposal constitutes a natural additionto the base component of the generative-transformational grammar.This is only possible thanks to the presenceof the time adverbial in the sentence and tothe features of its aspectual properties.To better grasp the problem, we have tointerpret the PERFECT sentence as follows:1- Orientation of the speaker (the present)2- Beginning of the action (in the past)3- Continuation of the action in the present4- The time point (implicit or explicit).
One can notice that these features are(a) semantic in nature,(b) common to both English and French,(c) implicit/explicit in the utterance, and(d) the permutation of the categories is coded differently between English and French.
As a result, although “since” and “depuis” aretranslation equivalents, the tense use they callfor is different: [since + perfect + continuous] [depuis + present]Recent tendency has been that semanticrepresentations should form the basis ofgrammar. Grids (see appendix ) are useful asthey require the production of data based onwhich the categories and their permutation arestudied.
As grammar focuses on semantics andsyntax, it reaches an importantexplanatory power for L2 teaching.
ConclusionIn this part we have compared threeapproaches to contrastive analysis:1- the structuralist approach,2- Chomsky’s transformational-generativeapproach, and3- the notional approach.However, what we need a theory thatdistinguishes deep and surfacephenomena.
1- Given that the “structuralist approach” lacksthis distinction, we may consider it asinadequate when generalization is required.2- In “Chomsky’s approach”, the deep grammarsof En. and Fr. are similar rather than identical:similarity relies on base-components inopposition to identity condition. Yet in this case,the notion of universals becomes incoherent.3- The “notional approach” reflects the identitycondition on deep components, requiring athorough search for primary and secondarycategories calling for more in-depth reflection onlanguages.