Use of Articles in Learning English as a Foreign Language: A Study of Iranian English Undergraduates

Document Type: Research Paper

Author

University of Sistan and Baluchestan, Iran

Abstract

The significance of error analysis for the learner, the teacher and the researcher is now widely recognized. Earlier studies of error analysis concentrated on intersystematic comparison of the “native language” and the “target language” and drew the required data largely from intuitions and impressionistic observations. This study was conducted on the basis of the following observations: (1) to restrict to the study of one area viz articles. (2) to avoid comparison in terms of the systems of native and target language. In this study the major areas of difficulties that students face in the target language, i.e. the occurrence of articles in different syntactic features was examined and an attempt was made to establish a hierarchy of difficulties 40 undergraduates faced in the use of articles. For testing the correct retrieval, a slightly modified version of Leacok’s essay ‘My Financial Career’ was prepared. It included sufficient examples of almost all the important uses of articles. The test was given to the subjects in the form of a running text. The responses of the subjects were analysed in terms of noun or noun phrases preceded by articles, noun or noun-phrases preceded by no article, and grammatical categories other than noun or noun-phrases proceeded by no article. The findings revealed that most of the errors the students committed were due to the nature as well as the grammatical complexity of the articles in English, i.e. L1 independent which cannot be explained in terms of transfer from the native language. It was also found that students’ competence using anaphoric reference is far greater than using cataphoric reference. The findings are interpreted to have pedagogical implications for syllabus designers and EFL teachers. 

Keywords


Agnihotri, R. K. (1991). “Acquisition of articles in learning English as a second language: A Cross-culture Study South Asian Language Review, Vol.1, No.2; June 1991.

Agnihotri, R. K., Khanna A. L., and A. Mukherjee (1994). “The use of Articles in Indian English”, in R. K. Agnihotri and A. L. Khanna, (eds.) Second Language Acquisition: Socio-cultural and Linguistic Aspect of English in India,New Delhi: Sage Publication.

Chomsky, N. (1964). “A review of B. F. Skinner’s Verbal Behaviour” in J. Fodor and J. J., Katz (eds.), The Structure of Language Reading in the  Philosophy of Language, London: Prentice Hall.

Corder, S. P. (1981). “Idiosyncratic dialects and error analysis”, in J. C. Richards (ed.) Error Analysis: Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition,London: Longman.

Dulay, H., Burt, M., and Krashen, S. D. (1982). Language Two,Oxford:OxfordUniversity Press.

Dulay, H. C., and Burt., M. K.  (1982). “You can’t learn without Goofing”, in Richards, J. C. (ed.) Error Analysis: Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition,London: Longman.

Ferris, D. R. (2004). “The grammar correction debate in L2 writing: where  are we, and where do we go from here?”, Journal of Second Language Writing 13(1), pp. 49-62.

Kaluza, H. (1981). The Use of Articles in Contemporary English (Studies in 1 Descriptive Linguistics 6),Heidelberg: Julius Groos.

Krashen, S. (1981). Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning,Oxford: Pergamon.

Kubota, M. (2001). “Error correction strategies used by learners of     Japanese when revising a writing task”, System 29(4), pp. 467-480.

Lado, R. (1957). Linguistic across Cultures, Applied Linguistics Language Teachers,Ann Arbor, MI:University ofMichigan Press.

Lardiere, D. (2005). “On morphological competence”, in Laurent  Dekydtspotter, Rex Sprouse and A. Liljestrand (eds.), Proceedings of the 7th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2004), Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project,  pp. 178-192.  

Lardiere, D. (2007). “Acquiring (or assembling) functional categories in second language acquisition”, in Alyona Belikova, Luisa Meroni and Mari Umeda (eds.), Proceedings of the 2nd Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA), Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project, pp. 233-244.

  

Richards, J. C. (1971). “A non-contrastive approach to error analysis”, in Richards, J. C. (ed.), Error Analysis: Perspective on Second Language Acquisition,London: Longman.

White, L. (2003). “Fossilization in steady state L2 grammars: persistent problems with inflectional morphology”, Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 6, pp. 129-141.

Wren, P. C., Martin, H., (1998). High School Grammar and Composition,New Delhi: S. Chand and Company Ltd.