Spatial Encoding in English and Persian: Typological Influences on Second Language Acquisition

Document Type : Research Paper


Department of English, Isfahan (Khorasgan) Branch, Islamic Azad University, Isfahan, Iran


Cross-linguistic influence is a documented cause of errors committed by second language learners. Since Talmy (2000) proposed two categories to classify languages of the world regarding their preferred lexicalization patterns of a literal motion event, known as verb-framed and satellite-framed languages, the effect of typological properties of the first language on second language acquisition specifically in the domain of motion expressions has been subject to extensive scrutiny. The present research examines whether the typological properties of Persian (L1) and English (L2) affect adult second language acquisition, particularly in the spatial domain comparing controls (English and Persian native speakers). To this end, three groups (every 25 members) of participants were asked to watch 12 short animated cartoons representing voluntary motion carried out in vertical and trajectory directions. The participants’ descriptions were recorded and analyzed regarding information density, semantic focus, and semantic locus of utterances. The findings of the research revealed that in spite of different lexicalization patterns to encode manner in English and Persian, Persian learners of English across two levels of proficiency, do not face challenges to lexicalize motion components in English, but they produce utterances with low density which is the typical way of focusing on spatial components in their native language, suggesting that the challenge learners face encoding motion events was not a linguistic issue, but rather a cognitive one. Persian learners’ use of English motion expressions regarding information density was more aligned with that of English motion expressions as they advanced to a higher proficiency level.


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Volume 10, Issue 41 - Serial Number 41
تابستان 1401
July 2022
Pages 49-63
  • Receive Date: 07 January 2022
  • Revise Date: 11 March 2022
  • Accept Date: 18 April 2022
  • First Publish Date: 18 April 2022