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PhD Research School in Linguistics and Philology

Hilde Johansen

Definiteness in Norwegian learner language – A corpus-based approach to conceptual L1 transfer

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This study is a part of ASKEladden – A corpus-based approach to L1 transfer in Norwegian learner language, and investigates Polish learners use of the semantic/pragmatic category definiteness. The two main issues to be investigated are:

1. Is Polish learners’ expression of definiteness in Norwegian influenced by their native language?

2. Can this influence be explained by differences between Norwegian and Polish at the conceptual level?

While research on transfer so far mainly has emphasized the transfer of structural elements from the native language, recent theoretical developments has set their attention to what is often referred to as conceptual transfer – which is the result of differences between the native language and the target language at the conceptual level, rather than plain structural differences.

Polish and Norwegian is not similar when it comes to expressing semantic/pragmatic definiteness. Norwegian expresses the category morphologically (grammatical definiteness), while Polish make us of pragmatic word order. These two types of expression are to a certain degree comparable, but there are also some differences to be found, for instance when it comes to drawing the line between given and new information.

The main hypothesis is that the different ways of expressing semantic/pragmatic definiteness in Polish and Norwegian cause different perspectives on the content of the category. This will influence how polish learners understand and make use of definiteness while learning Norwegian.

The Norwegian language learner corpus (ASK) is the main source of data for this study. Part of the project is also to explore and improve ASK as a research tool.

Johansen works at the Department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies.