Anteprima della tesi di Silvia Pareti

How the Learning of a Second Language Affects the First Language of an Individual: The Italian of Monolingual and Multilingual Speakers

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Anteprima della tesi: How the Learning of a Second Language Affects the First Language of an Individual: The Italian of Monolingual and Multilingual Speakers, Pagina 6

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6the L2 is still positively modifying the speaker’s linguistic system, some minor
effects of attrition are already occurring. The effect of the L2 on the L1 seems also
to be that of reducing its lexical diversity, of increasing the difficulty with words
retrieval, and other regressive phenomena. Laufer (Cook, 2003:19-31) for
example, realized that in free expression, the percentage of non-frequent
vocabulary and the total amount of words produced by Russian immigrants to
Israel declined as the contact time with L2 increased. The difficulty of having a
situation of stability, and not the presence of L2, has to be considered as the
responsible for these changes. A minimal attrition effect on the L1, limited in its
use, is the price to pay for having the precious possibility of accessing two
language systems and with them, two cultures.
3.1. Premises for a ‘reverse transfer’ to be possible
The ‘reverse transfer’ is a subtle phenomenon, apart from code-mixing or
time pressure mistakes, the L2 user might not realize that his L1 is changing,
unless it is deeply affected by the process of attrition. However, fluency in the L2
makes the direction of transfer reverse and the speaker unconsciously starts
restructuring his L1 according to principles of the L2 (Seliger & Vago, 1991).
For this to happen, the L2 must have reached a certain degree of autonomy
from the L1. Kecskes and Papp (2000), called this level of knowledge, required
for the ‘reverse transfer’ to be possible, the ‘hypothetical threshold’.The
concept is derived from the Thresholds Theory
, applied to bilingualism and
suggesting the existence of two thresholds the bilingual children have to reach.
Reaching the first threshold is necessary for the consequences of bilingualism not
to be negative; the second is instead reached when the children acquire an
appropriate competence in both languages and show cognitive benefits from
bilingualism. Although it is not possible to exactly determine when this level is
For a review on the development of the Thresholds Theory (first put forward by TOUKOMAA,
P. & SKUTNABB-KANGAS, T. The Intensive Teaching of the Mother Tongue to Migrant
Children at Pre-school age. Tampere: University of Tampere, Department of Sociology and Social
Psychology, 1977); and by CUMMINS, J. The Influence of Bilingualism on Cognitive Growth: A
Synthesis of Research Findings and Explanatory Hypotheses. Working Papers on Bilingualism, 9:
1-43, 1976.) see Kecskes and Papp (2000).