[Toegepaste Taalwetenschap in Artikelen 55] 1996
► pp. 161–174
Although Dutch learners of English generally achieve high levels of proficiency, even advanced students produce errors like the following: English Dutch *Ifshe would do that, I would leave her (Als zij dat zou doen, zou ik hij haar weg-gaan) instead of: If she did that, I would leave her (Als zij dat deed, zou ik bij haar weggaan) They tend to insert would in the ¿/^clause of hypothetical sentences. This type of error is a characteristic feature of Dutch English and in many cases it has become fossilized. The following questions present themselves: Why is it exactly this error which is so persistent while other aspects of grammar are acquired much more easily? To what extent does the mother tongue influence the fossilization process and to what extent do general principles like markedness and semantic disambiguation play a role? Dutch corpus data show that although the structural equivalent of both the correct and the incorrect structures above are perfectly acceptable in Dutch, one form is often highlyy preferred over the other, depending on factors like time frame (future/present/past), clause order and nature of the verb (strong/weak). On the basis of these facts, I will provide a thorough description of hypothetical conditionals, which serves as a starting point for my research. In order to gain more insight into the mother tongue in the fossilization process, a written test was administered to Dutch learners of English with different levels of proficiency, first in Dutch and a couple of weeks later in English. The learners had to fill in the verb forms in hypothetical conditional sentences embedded in a short situation description. The results showed that the distribution of the different forms in Dutch was to a large extent mirrored in English; i.e. where in Dutch the would equivalent was used, the number of if...would errors increased in English and where a past tense in the if-clause was favoured η Dutch, fewer mistakes were made in English. Apparently crosslinguistic influence does play a role here and the fossilization of if ..would seems to be limited only to a subset of conditional types.
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