International Journal of Language & Linguistics

ISSN 2374-8850 (Print), 2374-8869 (Online)

The Bilingual Mental Lexicon and Language Transfer in Second Language Learning
Longxing Wei, Xuexin Liu

Abstract
This study describes and explains language transfer in second language learning by exploring the nature and activity of the bilingual mental lexicon. It assumes that the bilingual mental lexicon contains language-specific lemmas, which activate language-specific morph syntactic procedures in speech production, and second language learners’ activation of lemmas for target language items may be influenced by the first language lemmas stored in their mental lexicon. As evidenced, language transfer may occur at three levels of abstract lexical structure: the lexical-conceptual structure, the predicate-argument structure, and the morphological realization patterns. The findings provide evidence that non-acquisition or partial acquisition of the target abstract lexical structure may cause learners to activate their first language lemmas in second language production. The study concludes that the activation of first language lemmas is the major source of language transfer, and successful second language acquisition requires learners to acquire the abstract lexical structure of the target language.

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