The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH) is a major field in comparative linguistics and it is based on the behaviorist theory and was initially proposed by Lado (1957). CAH aims at identifying and analyzing the differences and similarities between two or more languages or dialects in a systematic way. Generally speaking, there are three versions of CAH: the strong and weak versions of Wardhaugh (1970) and the moderate version of Oller and Ziahosseiny (1970). The strong version predicts areas of difficulty through a systematic and scientific analysis of the learners’ L1 and L2 errors. the weak version of CAH, on the other hand, started with observing and identifying the errors, then seeks to contrast the structural language items between the two languages for the sake of finally getting an explanation of the occurred errors
To compensate for the limitations of both the weak and the strong version, Oller and Ziahosseiny (1970) Suggested an alternative version which is ‘the moderate version.’ For them, the strong version was too strong and the weak version too weak. So, they proposed a moderate version of the hypothesis. This article will deeply deal with it since there is little research done in this area of study.
The moderate version hypothesis was a result of a study conducted on English spelling errors using the UCLA placement test. The findings of the study showed that wherever the patterns of two language systems are minimally distinct, learners face some problems in second language learning. Similar to their study, Brown (1987) stated that inference causes some more problems on the basis of learning when two items are similar while a little interference happens when there are two distinct items to be learned. The more fascinating fact about the moderate version that the others lack was when Ziahosseiny (1999) claimed that it can explain both interlingual errors which are related to the native language and intralingual errors dealing with target language. Moreover, some errors which are due to overgeneralization can be interpreted and predicted on the basis of moderate version.
After discussing the three versions of the CAH, it is noteworthy to list some of the remarkable attributions of the hypothesis in the field of language teaching and learning. First, Lado (1957) believed syllabus producers and textbook designers benefited from steps procedures of contrastive analysis hypothesis to prepare effective teaching materials taking into consideration students’ difficulties. Second, contrastive analysis helps teachers locate the main difficulties in learning a foreign language. It can be more applicable in action research to look for a remedy. Third, Mackey (1965) claimed that thanks to CAH, teachers, and learners become aware that errors are necessary and a compulsory stage. Thus, many contrastive analysts tried to predict errors and strategies to overcome them. Finally, since CAH was based on the behaviorist theory, all students’ behavior in the target language learning and teaching is based on habit formation and is shaped by the stimulus-response pattern ( Lado, 1957).
It is worth mentioning that CA covers also the lexical area. Contrastive lexicology is carried out between the vocabulary system(s) of two languages. It is concerned with the way lexical items in one language are expressed in another language. This can be done by identifying both the semantic fields and the semantic properties in order to specify the divisions and sub-divisions of the lexicon. Lexical CA may result from the incomplete, partial, or null equivalence between languages.
All in all, Lado (1957) admitted that the analysis has important limitations when he said that “contrastive analysis must be considered a list of hypothetical problems until final validation is achieved by checking it against the actual speech of students” (p. 72). As he stated, the contrastive analysis focuses merely on languages themselves and tends to ignore the actual language that learners use. Therefore, the results from the contrastive analysis are often too general and theoretical to apply to authentic L2 learning and teaching. To add, the notion of ‘language transfer’ is correlated to the contrastive analysis and generally to the behaviorist theory. Asa result of the emergence of new paradigms and theories like cognitivism and social constructivism, language transfer has gone also through many changes since then and has been challenged by a number of researchers, such as Chomsky (1959).
Additionally, predictions based on the comparison between L1 and L2 linguistics structures were not able to account for learners’ difficulties and errors. As a result, Error Analysis appeared as an alternative to the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis. James (1988) believed that Error Analysis’ aim was mainly to describe the learners’ interlanguage (Selinker, 1972) and the target language and then to compare them, but without any reference to the L1.
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