ERROR ANALYSIS, INTERLANGUAGE AND. SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION. S. P. Corder. University of Edinburgh. 1. In the course of learning a second. Error analysis and interlanguage. Front Cover. Stephen Pit Corder. Oxford University Press, – Language Arts & Disciplines – pages. “Corder, S. Pit. Error Analysis and Interlanguage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, ” Canadian Modern Language Review, 40(4), pp. –.

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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Contrastive Analysis, Error Analysis and Interlanguage: Three Phases of One Goal. Three Phases of One Goal Introduction The mistakes or “errors” that students make in the process of learning a second or foreign language target language, or TL, hereafter have always been a cause of much concern to the teachers and textbook writers aalysis 1. This concern is reflected not only in the way writers interlamguage pedagogical grammars draw attention to the potential “pitfalls” in the TL, but also in the many lists of “common errors” prepared by experienced coredr.

The “one goal” mentioned in the title of this chapter refers to the attempt to facilitate the process of TL learning and teaching by studying the phenomenon of “errors” within a scientific framework that is consistent with both linguistic theory and learning theory.

The “Outreach” of the Areas of Research This is not to imply, of course, that the areas of research mentioned in the title have this pedagogical goal as their qnly concern. On the contrary, each of the three fields of study has been claimed to have important contributions to make in a variety of related areas.

Contrastive Analysis CA hereafter is claimed to be central to all linguistic research-in developing a general theory of language based on the discovery of the “universals” of language, in the study of diachronic change and of dialectal variation, in longitudinal studies of language acquisition, as well as in interlingual translation 3 see Ferguson Errod Analysis EA, hereafterit is claimed, is significant for the insights it provides into the strategies employed in second language acquisition, and in turn into the process of language learning in general see Corder The study of Interlanguage IL, hereafterit is claimed, has implications for theories of language contact, language change and language acquisition, besides its usefulness in describing ,special language types such as immigrant speech, non-standard dialects, non-native varieties of language and the language of aphasics and of poetry, among others see Nemser a; Richards ; Corder a.

Despite these many and varied claims, it is still correct, however, to say that the primary goal of all the three areas of research has been to facilitate TL learning by providing insights into the nature of the learner’s performance.

It is the purpose of this chapter to present a anakysis of the art” in each f these areas of research from the point of view of the “one goal” explained above. In particular, with respect to each field of study, we shall examine the current trends in theory, methodology, claims and empirical validations thereof and its contribution to TL teaching. The following discussion is organized in four parts-the first, second and third parts deal with CA, EA and IL respectively and the last part is the conclusion.

There will be a good deal of overlap among interlnaguage sections, but this is unavoidable given the fact that the three fields have developed at times as rivals, and as complementary inrerlanguage one another at other times.

Error analysis (linguistics)

intelranguage Fries who firmly established contrastive linguistic analysis as an integral component of the methodology of TL teaching. In doing so, he also made the first move in what has turned out to be one of the most spirited controversies in the field of foreign language teaching, namely on the role and relevance of CA, but more on this later see Sections 1.

The challenge was taken up by Lado, whose work Linguistics Across Cultures soon became a classic field manual for practical contrastive studies. The Chomskyan codrer in linguistics gave a fresh impetus to CA, not only making it possible for the comparisons to be more explicit and precise, but also giving it what seemed to be a more solid theoretical foundation by claiming the existence of “language universals” but cf. The volumes of The Contrastive Structure Series e.

The chapters from the three conferences on CA held at Georgetown, Cambridge, and Stuttgart Alatis anaalysis, Nickel a, Nickel b, respectively present scholars as, by and large, optimistic about the possibilities of CA. But by early s, CA was already open to attack on both external grounds of empirical validity and internal theoretical foundationsleading Selinker to wonder that CA was still thriving “at a period when a analyssi crisis of confidence exists as to what it is” Selinkerp.

If anything, the controversy seems to have clarified the possibilities and xorder of CA and its place, along with other components, in the task of accounting for the nature of the learner’s performance. The Rationale for CA The rationale for undertaking contrastive studies comes mainly from three sources: Every experienced foreign language teacher knows that a substantial number of persistent mistakes made by his students can be traced to the “pull of the mother tongue.


CatfordSchachteror to give a different type of example, cordr Indian learners of English systematically replace the alveolar consonants with their retroflex counterparts, there is no doubt that the learner is “carrying over” patterns of the mother tongue into his TL performance. Students of language contact have also noted the phenomenon of “interference,” which Weinreich defines as “those instances of deviation from the norms of either language which occur in the speech of bilinguals as a result of their familiarity with more than one language”p.

Weinreich was the first and perhaps still the best extensive study of the mechanisms of bilingual interference. The third source that has been considered to support the CA hypothesis see Section 1.

In its simplest form transfer refers to the hypothesis that the learning of a task is either facilitated “positive” transfer or impeded “negative” transfer by the previous learning- of another task, depending on, among other things, the degree of similarity or difference obtaining between the two tasks.

The implications of transfer theory for TL learning are obvious. For an excellent study of the application of transfer theory to second language learning, see Jakobovits ; see also Carroll CA is based on the assumption, he says, 1. In particular, scholars differ on how strongly they wish to claim for interlingual interference the pride of place among error types, and the rather “simpliste” correlation corer Lee’s version, between differences in structure and learning difficulty.

For a detailed discussion of the “predictive” versus “explanatory” version of the CA hypothesis, see Sections 1. Its Pedagogical Claims On the basis of these, or similar assumptions, various claims have been made as to the potential role of CA in TL teaching. It is also claimed by Lado that the results of CA provide ideal criteria for selecting testing items for an opposite view, see Upshur It is also generally agreed that basing teaching materials on the results of contrastive studies necessarily entails a more “mentalistic” technique of teaching-explicit presentations of points of contrast and similarity with the native language, involving an analytical, cognitive activity RiversJakobovitsStockwell CA and Linguistic Models Since comparison depends on description, there exists an inevitable implicational relationship between CA and linguistic theory.

Accordingly, the assumptions of CA, the delicacy of its comparisons and forms of contrastive statements have changed from time to time, reflecting the changes in linguistic theory. However, characteristic of a practice that has been endemic in CA, the theoretical and methodological contradictions did not deter practitioners of CA.

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Taxonomic CA displayed the similarities and differences between languages in terms of similarities and differences in i the form and ii the distribution of comparable units comparability being based on nothing more spectacular than “gut feelings”.

With the advent of generative grammar, taxonomic CA, like taxonomic descriptive linguistics in general, has been criticized for its preoccupation with the surface structure of language d. Di Pietro and Three aspects of the TG model have profoundly influenced CA: The universal base hypothesis, it is claimed, provides a sounder theoretical foundation for CA as contrasted with the structuralisms relativity hypothesis, for the assumption analyiss all languages are alike at an abstract, underlying level provides, theoretically at least, a basis for comparability.

Finally, the adaptation of mathematical models for the description of natural language phenomena has enabled descriptions to be rigorous and explicit. This is not to say that the use of the TG model has solved the problem of CA; on the contrary, it has made explicit the intricate problems facing CA which had not cordeg been appreciated.

Nevertheless, it will not be disputed that the application of the TG model has made it possible for comparisons and contrasts to be insightful and sophisticated to a degree unimaginable two decades ago.

The Methodology The prerequisite for any contrastive study is the availability of accurate and explicit descriptions of the languages under comparison. It is also essential that the descriptions be theoretically compatible.

Selection It is generally agreed that attempting to compare two languages in entirety is both impractical and wasteful. An alternative is suggested by the British linguists, who advocate a Firthian “polysystemic” approach.

This approach is based on the assumption that language is a “system of systems. A second criterion for selection has often been advocated by scholars who consider the role of CA to be primarily “explanatory” and not “predictive” see Catford ; Lee According to these scholars, CA should limit itself to “partial” comparisons, analyzing those parts of the grammar which are known through error analysis to present the greatest difficulty to learners.

But such an approach, as Hamp rightly points out, is of limited value-we need CA to provide a “theory adequate to explain cases not in our corpus”p. Within this area, common productive processes such as infinitive embedding, for example should be compared for the two languages with respect to the rules generating them.

This is essentially the approach adopted by Stockwell et al. While Stockwell admits that their approach was somewhat tempered by [error-analysis]” used as a delimitation device in selectionhe insists that “the most useful basis for contrastive analysis is entirely theoretical”p. A much more difficult and crucial problem is that of “comparability. Despite the extensive study of various aspects of CA, this problem which lies at the heart of CA has yet to be satisfactorily, resolved.


The question can be approached from three points of view, viz. While the most widely used criterion in the literature has been that of translation equivalence, the term has been used rather loosely. Levenstonon the other hand, points out the possibility of multiple translation equivalents d. Catford, on the other hand, believes that “the only basis for equating phonemes or for equating grammatical units in two languages is extra-linguistic-is substantial rather than formal”p.

For him, the test of translation equivalence is the interchangeability of the items in a given situationp.

correr Is it possible to formalize the relationship that should hold between constructions that are considered translation equivalents by a “competent bilingual”? There have been a few attempts to confront this crucial problem. Dingwall proposed that “languages are more likely to be similar in their ‘kernel’ than in their total structure, and that which is obligatory in the most valued grammar is more basic than that which is optional,” but with the demise of the notion of “kernel” sentences, his hypothesis has become somewhat outdated.

Perhaps the single most influential work on this question etror Krezeszowski This chapter, although it does not solve the problem of equivalence, shows how much CA has gained in rigor and sophistication from the application of current generative theory. While this is probably the closest we have ever come to rigorously defining the notion of “equivalence,” even this formulation is still far from satisfactory, as is apparent from the works discussed below.

Kachru has shown the limitation of a purely structural notion of equivalence and the relevance of pragmatics and “conversational implicature” for defining “equivalence.

A different approach to defining equivalence is suggested in Sridhar For example, in describing a scene in which an inanimate object e. This technique, therefore, demonstrates the possibility of establishing functional equivalence across structures in empirical terms. While discussion, formalization, and refinement of the notion of equivalence proceeds on the theoretical plane, the problems involved in this endeavor have not significantly impeded the flow of practical contrastive studies and their application to classroom and text materials.

Error analysis (linguistics) – Wikipedia

I will now briefly consider the state of the art in practical contrastive analysis. The Scope of Contrastive Studies By “scope” here I mean the levels of linguistic structure and language use covered by contrastive studies. Even a cursory glance at the extensive bibliographies by Hammer and Rice and Gageas interlwnguage as the volumes of IRAL, Language Learning and other journals, reveals that the major emphasis has been on contrasting phonological systems.

Also, it is consistent with the structuralist dictum regarding the primacy of speech. However, as Stockwell rightly reminds us, it is time to face up to the fact that “pronunciation is simply not that important. Grammar and meaning are at the heart of the matter”p. Part of the problem may have to do with the rapid change in corfer theory in the last thirty years that has left the “applied” linguist constantly trying to catch up with the new developments.

The best intetlanguage studies of contrastive syntax still remain in the volumes produced under Errror Contrastive Structure Series of the Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington, D.

The area of vocabulary has hardly been touched at all. One of the notable exceptions is Oksaar In that work, Oksaar reports on research using the semantic differential technique Osgood, Hofstatter in order to measure intra- and interlingual differences German-Swedish in the area anf connotative meaning.

Taking certain operational terms to demonstrate the approach, she comes to the following conclusion: The extensive work done in bilingual lexicography has not been, as Gleason correctly points out, “deeply theory- informed work”p.

The huge area of usage still remains practically unchartered, and in the absence of a viable theory, the best that can be done in this area is, in the words of Stockwell, “listing with insight. Critics of CA For convenience of discussion, we may consider the major criticisms of CA under two heads: Critics of CA have argued that since native language interference is only one of the coeder of error, indulging in CA with a view to predicting difficulties is not worth the time spent on it; moreover, they argue, many of the difficulties predicted by CA do not show up in the actual learner performance at all; on the erdor hand, many errors that do turn up are not predicted by CA.

In the light of this, they suggest, the only version of CA that has any validity at all is the a posteriori version, i. These, and some other criticisms of CA have been, in my opinion, ably answered in James Suffice it here to say that the proponents of the strong version of CA are the first to concede that CA does not account for all errors; they never claimed that it did see the caveats in Section 1.