Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 8 : 4 April 2008
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Transfer of Conjunctions in ESL Writing

Kausar Husain, Ph.D.
Rizwana Wahid, Ph.D. Candidate


The present study has sought to examine the transfer of conjunctions from L1 to L2 in the writing of ESL students. The study was conducted on fifteen Hindi/Urdu speaking students of class X1th and X11th of Aligarh Muslim University, who were given to write three types of compositions: descriptive, narrative and expository first in their L1, and then were required to translate them into English. The results of the study showed that of all the conjunctions used by the students in their L2 scripts, 86.46% were the result of transfer. Of all the transferred conjunctions on the other hand, the percentage of positively transferred conjunctions was 99.29%. This suggests that learners learn heavily in the process of transfer in their use of conjunctions in L2 writing, since connecting sentences logically together in a coherent whole is an inherent cognitive ability shared by all humans. It also implies then that providing the students with L2 equivalents of L1 conjunctions should be adequate for their successful transfer to L2 production; and precious time spent in the teaching of the use of conjunctions in the current ESL pedagogy can be devoted to other more important areas.


Interlingual transfer is universally acknowledged as an important process of SLA. In the 60’s and early 70’s, transfer was seen as an offshoot of behaviourism, which proposed that all learning is the process of habit –formation and second language learners come to the learning task with their first language habits which help or hinder the learning process. If L1 habits are in accordance with L2 rules, because of similarities between the two languages, they will have a facilitative role. On the other hand if the L1 habits are discordant with L2 rules, because of differences between the two languages, they will pose problems for the learner, and result in negative transfer or interference. The notion of transfer and interference fell into disfavour after the rejection of the behaviourist theory of learning and its replacementby cognitivism and creative construction theory. However, researchers soon began to see afterwards the importance of transfer within the cognitive framework of SLA as a strategy of learning, especially under the influence of research in psychology.

Researchers in psychology have always acknowledged the significant role of previous learning in all subsequent learning. The schema theory is only one of the fallouts of the notion which postulates that all new learning is built upon previous learning which exists in our minds in the form of mental configurations, maps or schemas pertaining to different areas of knowledge (Ausubel 1968, Carrell 1987) .Thus a new interest is evident in L1and transfer in the process of second /foreign language acquisition and it has become an important area of research in SLA since the early 80’s. Many researchers and linguists have again claimed that knowledge of one language makes the study of a closely related language easier (Ringbom1987, Bailey1994, Flashner1989, Giacalane et al1990, Odlin1989, Kellerman1995, Shirai and Kurono1998, Oliver2000, Revesz 2004).

Positive Transfer reduces the time in second language learning when the vocabulary, word-order, reading or writing systems of the first language and the second language are similar. For example, an Urdu speaking person learning Arabic as a second language will be facilitated by his previous knowledge of his/her LI because of the similarities between the vocabularies and the writing systems of the two languages. As Ausubel states “… past experience… has positive effects on new meaningful learning and retention by virtue of its impact on relevant properties of cognitive structure. This is true, all meaningful learning necessarily involves transfer” (1968:165).

However, in spite of the corroboration of the old idea of the significant role of L1 knowledge in L2 acquisition by contemporary research, language pedagogy has not been able to accommodate this and adapt itself to the new findings about the fruitful role of L1 transfer in its practice. By turning our attention towards the differences and similarities between the first and the second language and exploiting them in our pedagogy , not only we could save precious time and energy spent in learning and teaching , but could also make L2 learning a less intimidating task.

The present study is a humble attempt in attracting readers’ attention towards one area of English grammar, that is, conjunctions, which form a part of ‘linking devices’, now considered a very important area of ESL pedagogy. Linking devices have been one ofthe major focuses of ELT since the advent of communicative language teaching which bases itself on the notion of communicative competence.

Discourse competence, the ability to join sentences in a coherent whole with the help of these linking devices is seen as one important and essential component of the construct of communicative competence .The researchers are of the view that joining sentences logically in larger texts is a cognitive ability which all human beings share together, and it need not to be taught afresh if learners have the right L2 equivalents of these cohesive ties, the functions and meanings of which they understand in their L1 competence.

Halliday and Hasan (1976) have categorized linking devices into two main categories: grammatical and lexical. While lexical linking devices are items such as synonyms, hyponyms, repetition and collocation; grammatical linking devices are divided into four subcategories: reference, ellipsis, substitution and conjunctions. Conjunctions constitute a closed system of form words in English used to join words, phrases, clauses and sentences. The following are some examples of how conjunctions function at different levels:

Words: Bread and butter.
Phrases: Going in or coming out.
Clauses: Sameen participated in the game though her sister refused to do so.
Sentences: The owl is considered to be a symbol of wisdom in the western cultures. On the contrary, in India it stands for stupidity.

Halliday and Hasan have given a comprehensive list of conjunctions in their book Cohesion in English (1976). They categorize conjunctions on the basis of their functions into four broad types:

  1. Additive: and, or, nor, furthermore, in other words, thus.
  2. Adversative: but, though, however, even so, in fact, actually, on the other hand, on the contrary, anyhow.
  3. Causal: so, then, therefore, consequently, in consequence, for, because, on account of this, it follows.
  4. Temporal: then, next, before that, in the end, at first, now, finally, at once, soon.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

The Semiotics of Visual Communication in Print Advertisement: How to Read Between the Lines | Religion and Ethnicity in Africa | Transfer of Conjunctions in ESL Writing | Use and Rankings of Vocabulary Learning Strategies by Indian EFL Learners | English for Engineering Colleges - What Do the Students Want? And What Would the Teachers Like to Change? | Errors Made by the Students of Engineering and Technology in Written English | Ethnicity, Nativity and Recent Migrants - Problems of Imposed Loyalty and Perceived Disloyalty | HOME PAGE of April 2008 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Kausar Husain, Ph.D.
Department of English
Aligarh Muslim University

Rizwana Wahid, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of English
Aligarh Muslim University

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