Susan Conrad

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics

Physical Description

1 online resource (iii, 89 pages)


Negative transfer, Writing, English as a second language, Heritage language speakers, Second language acquisition -- Study and teaching, Russian language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching -- United States




This study explored the phenomenon of negative transfer from English in the writing of proficient heritage vs. second language learners of Russian. Although a number of studies have examined negative transfer from English into Russian, and other studies have compared the performance of heritage language learners (HLLs) to second language learners (SLLs), little research has investigated the phenomenon of negative transfer in the writing of both HLLs and SLLs and compared the two groups. Thus, this study employed an exploratory approach to empirically investigate the differences in language transfer between the two groups of learners. Specifically, the study addressed the following questions: (1) What are the most common types of negative transfer from English that occur in the writing of students of Russian at the Intermediate High - Advanced levels? (2) Are there differences in types and amount of negative transfer used by HLLs vs. SLLs at comparable levels of proficiency? If so, what are the differences? The research was conducted at the Russian Flagship Program at Portland State University. Participants were 13 advanced students of Russian - 6 heritage speakers of Russian and 7 native speakers of English. The study analyzed the written work of students completed during one quarter. Errors were coded into 13 categories that emerged from the data and frequencies were compared between the groups. The results found that none of the errors were more frequent than 5 per 1000 words. The most common categories were semantic extension, commas after an introductory phrase, lexical borrowings, and null subject errors. However, some categories of errors were associated with only one group, SLL or HLL, and some were not. Specifically, the categories of null subject errors, loan translations, conjunction "yesli/li" (if/whether), adjectives for nationality, and negation errors were found only in the writing of second language learners. There were only two categories limited to the group of heritage language learners: conceptual shift and number errors. The categories of semantic extension, comma after an introductory phrase, lexical borrowings, reflexive possessive pronoun "svoj", capitalization, and preposition errors were found in writing of both groups of students. Overall, second language learners made more transfer errors that heritage learners. Ultimately, this study will be of interest to anyone interested in heritage and second language acquisition of Russian, language transfer in learners of Russian, or the teaching of advanced language courses.


Portland State University. Dept. of Applied Linguistics

Persistent Identifier