Date: Sun, 17 Mar 1996 10:33:20 -0600 From: "Salikoko S. Mufwene" Subject: Re: 'going to' In message Fri, 15 Mar 1996 22:28:00 -0500, RonButters[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] writes: > I've been meaning to write and thank you for your kind correction to my > French grammar, but I wanted to try to figure out first why I wrote what I > wrote (i.e., "Je vais a' laver mes chats" and "Je vais a' me laver les > mains," neither of which should have "a'"). Obviously, interference from > English "I am going to wash my hands," etc., would lead the native > speaker of English to assume that French also had the 'to' morpheme. Ron: Thanks for your reaction to my correction. I doubt that there is an exclusive explanation for the mistake. Etymological connection between the infinitival "to" in your example and the preposition "to" in "I'm going to church" might explain it. Your knowledge of Spanish might have contributed to the mistake, regardless of the order in which you learn French and Spanish. Over two decades ago I learned of "retroactive inhibition" (our "interference") in a psychology class. But French itself may have caused the problem if we consider constructions such as "Je viens de parler" 'I have (just) spoken'/'I just spoke', in which "venir" retains its preposition before the infinitive", whereas "aller" does not do so. I learn from experts on second language acquisition that often all such factors contribute to producing errors. I empathize with the frustration of learning a foreign language from textbooks (partly at the mercy of other people's perceived generalizations and sometimes omissions?). Practice in a setting where the language is spoken as a vernacular or common lingua franca gives a more interesting meaning to speaking a language "idiomatically", knowing what is said in what particular context. I wish I could avoid the term "context" but it is all right if you interpret it broadly to include structural and non- structural context, I suppose. Cheers, Sali. ********************************************************************** Salikoko S. Mufwene s-mufwene[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] University of Chicago 312-702-8531; FAX: 312-702-9861 Department of Linguistics 1010 East 59th Street Chicago, IL 60637 **********************************************************************