Cross-Linguistic Influence at Lexical Level: An Exploratory Study of How Arabic Speakers Acquire Chinese Onomatopoeias

  •  Rashidah Albaqami    


Empirical evidence suggests that the first language (L1) has a fundamental role in the second language (L2) development, especially at the lexical level. Studies of L2 development have reported a relationship between negative L1 transfer and L2 poor comprehension. It is evident that cross-linguistic transfer might also take place during the course of third language (L3) development and that the impact may be from L1. At the lexico-semantic level, this study examines onomatopoeia as a property of L3 acquisition that requires Arabic learners of Chinese to identify some new lexicons with meanings and functions that might not exist in their L1. Given that onomatopoeia, in general, is often not taught sufficiently and explicitly in many language classroom contexts across the world, the purpose of the current study is to determine the extent to which transfer from L1 influence L3 comprehension and to establish the conditions in which L1 was the prevailing impact. A total of 45 Arabic native speakers were asked to translate a number of Mandarin Chinese onomatopoeic expressions (n = 20) into Arabic. The findings suggest that Arabic learners find Mandarin Chinese onomatopoeic expressions, that neither have Arabic nor English direct counterparts, significantly challenging. The study concludes that enhancing awareness of lexical transfer through a focused consideration of the common difficulties seems crucial for L3 learners to attain comprehensive mastery.

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