Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics VIAL

Ramiro Cebreiros Álvarez (1): The operation of transfer and interlanguage principles: the case of empty categories in the interlanguage of Spanish learners of English. VIAL. Number 1/2004: 33-54.


This study investigates the role of transfer and interlanguage principles in the occurrence of empty categories in IL. Two experiments were carried out with a group of 18 learners of English in a natural context and 33 learners who had received formal instruction in English. The results showed that transfer was the most important factor involved in the production of empty categories in all groups. Many cases were the result of the operation of IL transferability principles such as the one-to-one principle. Due to transfer, characteristic IL constructions which do not exist in the L1 or L2 were also produced. Some empty categories resulted from conceptual transfer, the transferring of different conceptual representations of the world from the L1 to the L2. Normally, other SLA phenomena interacted with transfer in the production of empty categories such as simplification or overgeneralization, suggesting that the multiple effects principle may be working. As a consequence, the fossilization of these elements is plausible. This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that many of them were still found in the advanced group of learners.

(1) University of Leeds, U.K.

Back to Contents of Number 1

Download full text of this article in pdf format