First Advisor

Thomas G. Dieterich

Term of Graduation

Spring 1998

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

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


Applied Linguistics




English language -- Grammar, Comparative -- Japanese, Japanese language -- Grammar, Comparative -- English, English language -- Study and teaching -- Japanese speakers, Second language acquisition



Physical Description

1 online resource (121 pages)


The role of the first language (L1) in second language acquisition (SLA) has been disputed among researchers since the classic Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH) was proposed. Some recent research shows that similarities between L1 and a second language (L2) can cause negative L 1 transfer. Others claim that functional differences between L1 and L2 should play more significant roles for L 1 interference.

The purpose of the present study is to examine whether negative L1 transfer would occur when Japanese learning English as a second language (ESL) perceive English passives. Japanese has so-called adversity passives, a productive linguistic system of expressing adversity, which makes Japanese different from English both structurally and pragmatically. The influence of L1 due to this difference is examined in terms of the following three aspects: (i) structural L1 interference: (ii) pragmatic L1 interference in be-passives; (iii) pragmatic L1 interference in the be-and get-passive relations.

Thirty adult advanced Japanese ESL learners (JPN group) and 30 adult native speakers of English (AME group) participated in this study by answering a grammaticality judgment test and/or questionnaire for unpleasantness. The data were analyzed using paired t-tests. t-tests, and/or Kruskal-Wallis tests at the significance level of 0.05.

The test results suggested that there are at least some possibilities of structural L1 interference only when the JPN subjects tried to judge the grammaticality of English passives whose passivized verb was transitive. On the other hand, clear evidence of pragmatic L1 interference was observed when the JPN subjects tried to detect sentence connotations of be-passives. However, it was also found that in spite of this L1 interference, the learners can concurrently acquire the proper pragmatic values of be-passives. Another interesting finding was that both JPN and AME subjects, against expectation, tended to regard passives with a human subject as an indicator of adversity.

These findings seem to support the claim that functional differences between L1 and L2 are a significant factor for L1 interference.


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