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Interlanguage Syntax of Arabic-Speaking Learners of English: The Noun Phrase
Muhammad Raji ZughoulDepartment of English, Yarmouk University, Irbid, Jordan
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AUTHORZughoul, Muhammad RajiTITLEInterlanguage Syntax of Arabic-Speaking Learners of English:
The Noun Phrase.PUB DATE2002-00-00NOTE23p.PUB TYPEReportsResearch (143)EDRS PRICEEDRS Price MF01/PC01 Plus Postage.DESCRIPTORSArabic; College Students; English (Second Language); Error
Patterns; Higher Education; *Interlanguage; *Nouns; PhraseStructure; Second Language Learning; *Syntax; UncommonlyTaught Languages
This study examined the interlanguage syntax of Arabicspeaking learners of English in the area of the noun phrase, focusing on theclosed system elements that can occur before or after the noun head, the nounhead and pronouns in line with Quirk and Greenbaum’s (1977) treatment of thenoun phrase. Participants were 25 Arabic speaking English language learnersfrom seven Arab countries attending an intensive English program at theUniversity of Texas Austin. The first 500 words of each student’s oralproduction were analyzed, and a typology of errors based on a pilot projectwas established. Results indicated that noun phrase errors were second toverb phrase errors, forming 32.8 percent of the total number of errors in thesample. The most frequent noun phrase errors were in the use of articles,particularly the omission of the indefinite article in obligatory contexts,the use of “the” redundantly, omission of the article “the,” and redundantuse of the articles “a” and “an.” Ordinals were used interchangeably, andquantifiers were confused as to their use with count/noncount nouns. Arablearners from different dialect backgrounds had different problems. Errorsmade by Arab learners of English were very similar to errors made by learnersfrom other language backgrounds. (Contains 47 references.)(SM)
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Interlanguage Syntax of Arabic-Speaking Learners of English: The Noun Phrase
Muhammad Raji ZughoulDepartment of English, Yarmouk University, Irbid, Jordan
INTRODUCTION AND REVIEW OF THE LITERATUREThe noun phrase has been the subject of a large number of research projects inthesis anddissertation form in Arab and Western universities. Most of these studies focusedon contrastbetween an aspect of English on one hand and a variety of Arabic (regional,or dialectal) on theother. Reference can be made to Abu-Seif (1967)on nominals in English and Cairene Arabic;Hassani (1967) on the classification of the noun in both English and Arabic; Qafisheh(1968) onpre-nominal modifiers; Al-Safi (1972) on concord; El-derwi (1967)on number; Yassin (1977) onthe genitive; Mehdi (1981) and Zughoul (1979)on prepositions; El-Sheikh (1963) on pronouns;Bulos (1960), Tadros (1979) and Toshie (1983)on relatives.
Several other studies of more general nature along the lines of Error Analysisincluded sections onthe noun phrase. These include Samhoury (1966)on Syrian students; Yacoub (1972) and Al- Ani(1979) on Iraqi learners of English; Tadros (1966), El-Hibr (1976) and Kambal(1980) on Sudaneselearners; El-Ezabi (1967), Rouchdy (1970), Emam (1972) and Mattar (1978)on Egyptain learners;Kharma (1981) and Al-Qadi (1982) on Kuwaiti stdents; Abu-Shanab(1978), Miller (1981),Hanania (1974) and Hanania & Gradmann (1977)on Saudi learners; Meziani (1984) on Moroccanlearners; Mukattash (1978), Al-Musa (1974), Al-Qasim (1983) and Shaheen(1989) on Jordanianlearners. Of more general nature which included students frommore than one Arab country werethose of The Defense Language Institute (DLI 1969), Willcott (1972,1978) and Scott & Tucker(1974), Kharma and Hajjaj (1989) and Aziz (1996). Though contradictoryon some aspects, thefindings of most of these studies has been strikingly similar. Thisstudy is error analytic andcomprehensive in the scope of its coverage and data base.
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OBJECTIVES AND METHODOLOGYThe objective of this paper is toreport the findings of a study of the interlanguagesyntax of Arabic-speaking learners of English in thearea of the noun phrase. More particularly, this studywill beconcerned with the closed system elementsthat can occur beforeor after the noun head, the nounhead and pronouns in line with Quirkand Greenbaum (1977) treatment ofthe noun phrase. Thesubjects of the studywere twenty five Arabic speaking learners of Englishfrom seven differentArab countries (Algeria 2, Lybia 5,Egypt 5, Jordan 3, Lebanon 2, Saudi Arabia7, Bahrain 1). Theywere attending the Intensive English Program of theUniversity of Texas at Austin. The first500words of the oral production of eachof the 25 subjects– a body of about 12,500 words — wasselected for description, analysis,quantification and explanation oferrors. A typology of errorsbased on a pilot projectwas established, part of which deals with thenoun phrase.FINDINGSThe count of errors in thecorpus in general indicates that noun phraseerrors are second to verbphrase errors. They form 32.8% ofthe total number oferrors in the sample. Table 1 is asummaryof the errors in thenoun phrase.Table 1Summary of Noun Phrase ErrorsNP% TotaDeterminersArticles16138.012.5Omission of a, an07647.217.9Use of THE for 0 article04326.710.1Use of 0 for THE01811.104.2Use of a, an for THE01308.003.0Substitution01106.802.6Other determiners01002.300.7Predeterminers00200.400.1PostdeterminersOrdinals01403.301.0Quantifiers01704.001.320448.215.8
NOUN ERRORSWrong number7317.25.6Misformation of plurals0902.10.6Misformation of nouns0601.40.4Confusion of Ns with other parts of speech1904.41.4Noun as a subject or an object5713.44.4Repetition of SOmission of SOmission of objectPronouns4711.13.6Pronominal referenceReported speechOmission of pronounThe genitive081.80.6approx.423100%32.8DETERMINERSARTICLES
The most frequent errors in the noun phrase area are in the use of articles (38%); they formed12.5% of the total number of errors. In his error analysis study on Arab students, Willcott (1972)concludes that definiteness problems were far more frequent than any other problem in Englishsyntax faced by Arab students. Where the count may differ, the results of this study confirm thatdefiniteness is a serious problem for Arab learners of English. Following are examples of the articleerror types from the data.Omission of the indefinite article A, AN, (0 for A, AN)1. Tom is very good teacher.2. They don’t give certificate.3. It is French company.4. I filled application.5. It is English program.6. I don’t have opportunity to take French.7. I don’t have plan to work outside the country.8. I worked in Japanese company as storekeeper.9. When you live in apartment, you buy your food yourself.10. It is good change.
Redundant use of THE (THE for 0 article):11. We study in the night.12. The problem here is the money.
13. The life is cheaper in Saudi Arabia.14. The American food bad for me.15. We have many jokes about the Englishmen.16. I am reading Readers Digest which describe the life in America.17. I watch it at the Dobbie Mall.18. The water and the electricity are very difficult.19. I like the life in Seattle more than in Austin20. The fruit in Lebanon is cheaper.
Omission of the definite article (0 for THE).21. I visited animal zoo.22. We went to Libyan embassy.23. It belong here to United States.24. He slept in Dallas until next day.25. I spend most of time in the Union because there is people.26. You can talk about political situation. Redundant use of the indefinite article
A, AN (A, AN for 0).27. I always look for a work.28. I heard a news from him.29. I drink a tea in the break.30. She give us a homework everyday.
Substitution (the for A, AN).31. I want to study the area and get the house and fix everything.32. We rent the apartment near UT.33. I take the English course with her.34. I borrow the cup from the office.
Omission of the indefinite article A, AN. The most freqent error within this categorywas theomission of the indefinite article in obligatory contexts (44.6%). It should be pointed out here thatas in the case of be omission or the omission of the third person singular -s, the subjects of thisstudy did insert the indefinite article properly in some cases and omitted it in others. Not inonesingle case was there consistent omission of the indefinite article. However, therange of errorvaried significantly from one subject to another. Definitenessversus indefiniteness is ‘a universalfeature in linguistics. However, languages express these concepts differently. In Arabic,a definitenoun is usually marked by the particle ?al, which is referred to as ?al al-ta9ri:f (instrument ofdefinition), while the indefinite noun is unmarked. In other words, Arabic hasno article equivalentto a or an.
The absence of an article in the Arabic equivalent of sentence 35 is an indicator that book isindefinite. Moreover, definiteness and indefiniteness have different distribution in the twolanguages such that a noun used with a definite article in Arabic may be indefinite in English. Amore detailed discussion of the issue of definiteness will follow in the next section.
The absence of markedness for the indefinite article in Arabic has been proposed by contrastive anderror analyses studies like (DLI, 1969; Willcott, 1972, 1978; Kharma, 1981) as the main source oferror in the case of article omission.
Use of THE for 0 article. The second most frequent error in the use of articles was the use of theredundantly, i.e., where 0 article is obligatory in this context. Sentences 11-20 are examples of thiserror.The redundant use of the in sentencs 11-20 has the effect of changing reference, thus changing themeaning, from a generic to an anaphoric one. This is one of the main areas, i.e., expression ofgeneric versus specific reference where there are significant differences in the use and distributionof the article in Arabic and English. In English, the number variable gets into the expression ofreference. In the case of countable nouns, generic reference can be expressed in one of three ways(Quirk and Greenbaum 1977):36. The lion is a wild animal. (Subject is singular, definite)37. A lion is a wild animal. (subject is singular indefinite.)38. Lions are wild animals. (Subject is plural indefinite.)
In the case of noncountable nouns, however, only 0 article is possible in the expression of genericreference, as in the sentence: Gold is expensive. In Arabic, generic reference is always expressedwith the use of the definite article with count and noncount nouns alike. Thus, the followingsentences are rendered in Arabic as follows:
39. A dogisafaithfulanimal.al-kalbuhyawa:nunami:nunThe doganimalfaithful.
40. Dogsarefaithful animals.al-kil:abuhayawa:na:tun ami:nah.The dogsanimalsfaithful.
41. Goldisexpensive.al- oahabuga:linThe goldexpenesive.
Some count nouns are used with 0 article in English in abstract and idiomatic expressions thatdenote seasons (in winter, in summer), institutions (in bed, in hospital, in school), means oftransportation (travel by car, go by bus), times of the day (at night, at sunset), illnesses (anaemia,influenza); they are also used in some parallel structures (day by day, face to face, man to man). Inall these instances, with a few exceptions in the parallel structures category, Arabic uses thedefinite article. Included also is the case of “unique” reference, as in names of festivals, months,and days of the week, where Arabic mostly uses the definite article.
The contrast in the distribution of the in the two languages leaves room for interference. All theexamples in this category (11-20) are produced with the in Arabic: the money, the life, the fruit, thewater, the electricity , etc. Among these examples are instances where the is used with propernouns, as in the Dobie Mall and the Dexter House. Again, if produced in Arabic, those propernouns would be produced with the. Mother tongue interference, though significant in this case as asource of error, is among several other possible factors that will be discussed later.
Omission of the definite article THE.Sentences 21-25 are examples of this error. Willcott(1972) reported this error to be the most frequent error made by the subjects of his sample. In hisexamples, however, there were too many occurrences of one single item throughout his scripts,which is U.S. and was frequently unmarked by the. Though not required for grammaticality in the
noun phrase, the omission of the made the sentence “foreignsounding” or semantically unjustifiedby the larger context. This error cannot be explained in terms of mother tongue interference. In fact,sentences 21-24 can be good counter examples to any argument for interference since in thefirstlanguage the context requires the use of the and the learner failed to insert it. The inherent difficultyof the articles in English and their semantic complexity are possible sources of this error.
Redundant use of the indefinite article A, AN. In a few occurrences (7.7%), the indefinitearticles a, an were used redundantly. In these cases a was used with noncount nouns. This is a clearcase of overgeneralization of rules. Substitution errors. In the relatively few occurrencesofsubstitution errors in the use of articles (6.5%), the pattern was to substitute the definite article forthe indefinite article as in examples 31-34.
Error analysis studies conducted on learners of English from various language backgrounds haveconsistenly shown that articles in English are difficult to learn. The patterns of error acrosslanguage backgrounds are strikingly similar (Bhatia, 1973; Arabski, 1979; Duskova, 1969;Angwatanakul, 1976; Mirhosseini, 1986). Most of these studies attribute the sources of error tomother tongue interference. One problem with this explanation is that as Mirhosseini (1986) pointsout, the patterns of error are far more variable than what contrastive analysis would lead one topredict. Moreover, occurrences such as 21-24 in this study challenge contrastive analysis for anexplanation.
The articles are the most frequent morphemes in English, and despite their frequency they areacquired by native speakers at a late stage. Though they are not grammatically complex since theyinvolve one transformation (Brown, 1973), they are semantically complex and their semanticcomplexity is what makes them difficult to learn. Duskova (1969) hypothesizes an interference
different from that of mother tongue in the case of articles. She notes that once the learner startsinternalizing the article’s system, interference from that system begins to operate.
In a number of occurrences, some and any were used with singular count nouns as in sentences42-44.42. There is some student Arab in our class.43. I have some friend in Austin.44. There isn’t any student Arab in our class.
While those errors can be interpreted more as errors in the use of the noun where a singular nounstubstitutes for a plural noun, it is the impression of the writer that Arab students tend to havedifficulties distinguishing between the use of stressed some, which may be used with singular countnouns meaning “extraordinary,” and the use of unstressed some, which is usedwith plural countnouns and noncount nouns (sentences 45-48).
45. It was some present that he bought for his mother.46. He bought some presents for his mother.47. That is some watch you have there.48. There are some watches over there.
There were no other occurrences of error in the other classes of determiners.PRE-DETERMINERSIn the class of predeterminers (the class of closed-system items that occur before determiners, i.e.,both, half, all, double, twice, three/four. ..times), there were not many occurences of these items.In the few occurrences of all, there were two errors in the use of all. These were:
49. All we are are students now.50. All them Libyan students are scholarships.
The first sentence is an error of misplacement where all can fit after we or are; the second is a caseof the omission of of, which is obligatory in this construction. Libyan students is a repetition ofthem.
POST-DETERMINERSGeneral Ordinals (OTHER, THE OTHER, ANOTHER). The use of these general ordinals, asQuirk and Greenbaum (1977) call them because of their grammatical and semantic similarity toordinal numbers, seems to be problematic for Arab learners. They were used interchangeably insome instances, mostly where the other and other were used for another, and then the other forother. Following are examples of this error.
51. It is one in the elementary school the other one in preparatory school and the others in highschool.52. I am going to other apartment alone.53. One in the bank the other one is in company and the third one he is study54. I applied for Kentucky and Oklahama and the other institute Florida Institute.55. I still want to take another two semesters.56. Austin Community College is cheaper than the other colleges.
Errors in these general ordinals account for 3.3% of the errors in noun phrase errors and 1% of thetotal number of errors. The source of error here could be the similarity of these forms and therelationship in their distribution to that of the articles. Once the learner masters the use of thearticles, it is likely that he masters the use of other, another, and the other.
Quantifiers. Errors in quantifiers accounted for only 4% of the errors in the noun phrase and 1.3%of the total number of errors. Much was confused with many in 7 occurrences, few was used for afew in 4 occurrences, and little was used for a little in 2 occurrences. The following examplesillustrate these errors.
57. There is too much Arab student in Austin.58. I met very much Mexican people here.59. I have few exams next week.
60. I will marry after just few years.61. I work and get little moeny for my tuition fees.
The quantifier much and many have one equivalent in Arabic, “kaOi:r,” where there is nodistinction between countable and noncountable nouns. It is an error predictable by contrastiveanalysis and it did occur. The difference between few/ a few, and little/ a little is subtle in Englishand is generally hard to explain. Even when the negative-positive-contrast suggested by Quirk andGreenbaum (1977) is used, Arab students may be baffled by a contrast between several/not manyand some/not much. Consequently, the only possible source of error here is the inherent difficultyof this structure in English.
Other Quantifiers. Phrasal quantifiers such as plenty of, a lot of, lots of, a great deal of, a gooddeal of, a large quantity of, a small quantity of, a great number of, a large number of, and a goodnumber of did not occur in the data. From the writer’s class-teaching experience, Arab learners ofEnglish are likely to confuse those used with count nouns with those used with nouncount nouns.Consequently, plenty of, a lot of, and lots of are the easiest to learn. However, those restricted tooccurence with noncount nouns like a great deal and a large/small quantity/amount of may be usedwith count nouns by Arab learners of English. Similarly, quantifiers restricted to occurrence withplural count nouns like a great/large/good number of may be used with noncount nouns by Arablearners. Celce-Murcia and Larsen- Freeman (1983:198), in their discussion of quantifiers point outthat many ESL/EFL textbooks “do not do justice to measure words or collective nouns and saylittle about quantifiers beyond contrasting the use of much/many and the meanings of a few/fewand a little/little.” They rightfully conclude that the quantifier-collector system in English is farmore complicated than these textbooks would suggest and that it needs to be stressed more than itis at the present. The lack of occurrence of these items in the data provides further support to theearlier conclusion.
NOUN ERROSNoun (noun head) errors account for 38.7% of errors in the noun phrase. Following areexamples ofthese error types.Wrong number: determiner and noun in disagreement in number.62. They talk bad about our country and all Arab country.63. I wrote many application.64. Some teacher hate Arab.65. I want to do this because I want take some lesson from my life.66. I had some friend in the oil business.67. Some college want five hundred.68. One of his cousin is here.69. One of my cousin he is in Florida.70. One of his unle live here.71. All the other sister they are studying now.72. I have two hundred and fifty relative work in Khafjeh.73. We are seven three sister and four brother.74. There are twelve or thirteen university have this major.75. They are American citizen right now.76. They government chose the best student to send them abroad.
Misformation of plurals.77. I cook Lebanese foods.78. I mean pizza is not American foods.79. Most of the people are foreigns.80. I mean money and bookses.81. Sometimes they talk about the womens.
Misformation of nouns.82. I have some relationship as I told you, Uncle.83. I try to have an acception from there.
Confusion of nouns with other parts of speech.84. I have work in the Ministry of Financial.85. May be you have a lot of foreigns.86. There was too much violent form.87. I am from Sweida; it is southern of Syria.88. If you want the true, I lost many things.
Wrong number. Number is not more complex in English than it is in Arabic. Whereas in Englishnouns are either singular or plural, in Arabic they aresingular, dual, or plural. Nouns are not onlymarked for number, but they are also marked for case; thus, kitabani (two books + nominative) andkitabayni (two books + genitive or accusative). Plural formation is also as complex in Arabic whereplurals are formed by suffixation as in the case of sound masculine plural formation (mu9allim,
teacher/mu9allimun,teachers)andsoundfeminineplurals(mu9allimah,femaleteacher/mu9allimat, female teachers) or by vowel change and/or suffixation as in the case of brokenplurals (tiff, child/atfal, children; kita:b, book/kutub, books; jida:r, wall/judran, walls). Moreover,the Arabic noun has to agree with the determiner and the verb in number, gender, and case as in
89. ha:t:ani al-ta:libata:ni katabata: al-wa:jibaha:ta:ni = this + female + nounal-ta:libata:ni = the + student + female + 2 + nounkatabata: = wrote + female + 2al-w:ajiba = the + assignment + accusativeThese two students wrote the assignment.
The complexity of noun number in Arabic is expected to interfere positively in the learning of theEnglish noun number. However, the difference in suffixation as well as the presence of numerousexceptions in English might partly account for some of the difficulties faced by Arab learners inthis area.
An examination of sentences 62-76 shows that a serious problem for Arab students is the use of asingular noun where the plural should be used. Another way is to view the error as an omission ofthe plural marker. In the first five examples, a singular noun was used after all, some, many. In thenext group of examples (86-70), a singular noun was used after one of. In the third groupofexamples (71-73), a singular noun was used after numbers more than one. In 74-75, a singular nounwas in a context where the plural is appropriate.
In all these examples, with the exception of 72-74, the context in the native language requires theuse of a plural noun. This makes an explanation of this error in terms of mother tongueinterferencedifficult to accept. One possible explanation of these errorsis the universal strategy ofsimplification, which usually leads to the omission of redundant features. The plural marker is aredundant feature in all these sentences where plurality is carried out by other components of the
sentence. Another possible source of error suggested by Bhatia (1972) is the fact that studentsusually learn the unmarked form–the singular–first. Based on the writer’s experience, Arablearners tend to have difficulties in other aspects of number in English. One particular problem isrelated to singular and plural invariables. In the case of singular invariables, learners tend topluralize singular noncount nouns as furniture, homework, information, meat, and bread. They alsofail to use the partititives ( a bit, a piece, a slice, an item, etc.) as means of imposing countability onthese noncount nouns. The problem wih plural invariables (nouns that are only plural) is that Arablearners tend to use summation plurals such as scissors, glasses, shorts, trousers, and pliers in thesingular, failing to use the partitive a pair of to impose countability on these nouns. Abstractadjectival heads such as the beautiful and the true are always confused wih personal adjectivalheads such as the rich and the poor. Irregular foreign plurals coming fom Latin, Greek, French, andItalian take a lot of practice to master.
Misformation of plurals. In a relatively small number of cases, plurals were misformed. Massnouns were pluralized as in sentences 77-78. Sentences 80 and 81, where bookses and womensoccur, can be interpreted as cases of overinflection and overgeneralization of rules.
Noun misformation. In a few occurrences (1.4%), the noun was misformed. sentences 82-83 areexamples of nouns misformed. In the first one, the student meant relatives, but used relationship; inthe second one, the subject coined acception for acceptance. Both are examples of analogy.
Confusion of nouns with other parts of speech. In a relatively small percentage of occurrences(1.4% of noun phrase errors), nouns were confused with other parts of speech. As shown inexamples 84-88, nouns were mostly confused with adjectives (financial-finance, foreign-foreigner,violent-violence, southern-south, true-truth). The students’ preoccupation with producing the right
lexical item to convey the meaning may cause the student to overlook the form of that item.Moreover, there are striking similarities between the adjective and the noun forms in theseexamples. This error may be interpreted as a developmental error that disappears with furtherproficiency in the language.
Noun as a subject and as an object — repetition and omission. An error with a relatively highfrequencey (13.4% of noun errors and 4.4% of the total number of errors) is related to the use of thenoun as a subject and as an object. The following examples illustrate the errors in this area.Repetition of the subject.90. One he has a shop live in the East Coast of Algeria.91. One he is working with the government, but he does not have a big post.92. There are about twelve or thirteen university they have this major.93. My brother in law he is doctor MD.94. All the other sister they are studying now.95. I visit one he is from Lebanon.96. Rent here it is expensive.97. The town it is not as big as Austin.98. American people they can’t get 500 in TOEFL.99. One of my cousin he is in Florida.
Omission of the subject.100. The first time X take it in five days in fifth of June.101. X study English in Delaware.102….and then tell me if X bring five hundred.103. Sometimes X go to Lake Austin you will go because I have a car.
Omission of the object.104. I learn X in the high school for two years.105. I can understand X.106. No, he is not with the army, he pays X by himself.107. I am going to take X tomorrow.108. Yes, I like X.109. No, I don’t want X.110. I visited X but I can’t remember.
Repetition of the subject. Sentences 90-99 are examples of this error, which is relatively frequent.It is also a confusing error in terms of the established typology where it can also be consideredunder the redundant use of pronouns. Though the students are redundantly using pronouns in theseexamples, it is felt that the subjects hypothesized that the sentence would not be complete without
referring to the subject again. Most of theocurrences of this error seem to be after one, and it isalways the pronoun repeating the subject andnever the other way around. In Arabic, there isgenerally a tendency to use independent (as opposedto suffixed) pronouns after nouns to achieveemphasis. Whereas English uses stress and intonationto achieve emphasis, Arabic uses pronounsredundantly to achieve it. Consequently, thiscan be interpreted as a transfer error.
Omission of the subject. Sentences 100-103are examples of this error where the subject of theclause or the subject of the sentence is omitted. One possibleexplanation is that this kind of error isassociated with oral production as opposed to writing. When speaking,native speakers of Englishdelete the subject because it is usually known.
Omission of the object. An error thatmay strongly mark the production of the learner as “foreignspeech” is the omission of the object in contexts where objectdeletion is a violation of Englishsyntax. Sentences 104-110 are examples of thiserror and may be partly attributed to mother tongueinterference; Arabic allows for a transformation where theobject is deleted after verbs like want,understand, like, and take.
Errors in the use of pronouns account for 3.6% of the totalnumber of errors. Besides the redundantuse of pronouns, an error that was treated under subjecterrors, there were the following other errortypes.
Pronominal reference.111. I show him and they say O.K.112. If I don’t like what they gaveme, I can explain that to him.113. They (teachers) tell you to do it, ifyou don’t he don’t care.114. The people here is free. Hecan do anything like big man.115. I meet some people in Abilene and I stay with himtwo month.
In reported speech.116. Some friend told me thatyou have to spend two year in Britain in London.117. They told me that you have to studyover there I have no chance to choose.118. He tell me if you bring five hundredyou will stop.119. When Gathafi came, he said that I stop alcohol just likethat.120. They told me that you have to apply again.Pronoun omission.121. I am going to take tomorrow.122. I think I want to be an independent state.123. I visited but I cannot remember.
Pronominal reference. On the whole,pronouns and pronominal reference do not seem to beproblematic areas for Arab learners of English.Pronouns are usually introducedvery early inschool textbooks, they are very frequent, and there isnot much room for interference from Arabic.In fact, given the complexity of thepronoun system in Arabic where each pronoun is marked forperson (first, second, third), number (singular, dual, and plural), gender (feminineand masculine),and case (nominative, accusative, genitive),one may expect positive interference in the learning ofEnglish pronouns. Thus, apronoun like hunna, for example, is plural feminine thirdpersonnominative while anti’ for example, is singular femininesecond person nominative. Thepresenceof a parallel set of inseparablepronouns suffixed to words depending on case, gender, and numberadds to the complexity of the Arabicpronoun system and is supposed to make learning the Englishsystem easy. It does seem to facilitate the learning of Englishpronouns because the errors revealedby the data of this study are relatively less frequentand limited in scope.
A look at the two groups of examples (111-120) showsthat the problem is the confusion betweenhim-them, which may be explainedas a case of transfer from Arabic. Stylistically, a shift betweenhim and them is normally made in spoken Arabic,but such a shift is not practiced in English.Pronominal reference was also confused in theparticular case of reported speech where the subjectstarts to report then shifts back in pronominal referenceto direct speech. Examples 116-120 showthis confusion occurs mostly in thecase of I-you. Again, those errors can be partly explained in
terms of interference because in spoken Arabic such a shift takes place. Theycan also be viewed asperformance errors.
Pronoun omission. Examples 121-123 illustrate this error type, whichwas treated earlier undernouns. In those errors, the pronoun that is the object in the sentence is omitted, consequentlyresulting in such deviant utterances as I am going to take tomorrow.
Other pronoun errors. Other errors in the use ofpronouns observed by the writer in othersituations but that did not occur in the corpus include misformation of the reflexivepronouns(himself, themselves, yourselves, ourselves ); they are sometimes produced by Arab learnersashisself, theirself, yourself, ourself, respectively. Arab learners also face difficulties in masteringtheuse of the possessive pronouns that function as nominals rather than determiners, i.e., my-mine,her-hers, our-ours, their-theirs.
GENITIVESThe occurrence of the genitive in the data was very low. Therewere eight errors (1.8% of nounphrase errors and 0.6% of total) in which the subjects omitted the genitive marker.Following areexamples of this error.
124. One of my sister son live here.125. I use my friend car.126. I have all my friend assignments.
Whereas there are two forms for the genitive in English ( ‘s and ofas in the boy’s book and thecover of the book ), there is one form in Arabic, which is al-?idafah as in kitabu alwalad (book/theboy) and iildatu al-kita:b (cover/the book). It is predicted by contrastiveanalysis that Arabicspeakers may have difficulties choosing the appropriate form of the genitive in English.Generally,the subjects of this study followed the commonly taught rule of using ‘swith human head nounsand of with nonhuman head nouns. However, when the ‘s formwas required in context, the
frequent error was the omission of the ‘s marker as shown in examples 124-126. Celce-Murcia andLarsen-Freeman (1983) maintain that the main reason for this error is the fact that the ‘s morphemehas a low frequency in English compared with other inflectional morphemes suchas the plural, thepast, or the progressive. Because of that, it is acquired later than the more frequently occurringmorphemes. Interference from Arabic may be a factor.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONSThis study has reported the findings of an error analysis project on thenoun phrase. Arab learnersof English from different dialect backgrounds had problems with definiteness in English mainlybecause of the differences in the expression of reference in English and Arabic. Ordinalswere usedinterchangeably and quantifiers were confused as to their use with count/noncountnouns. The mostfrequent error in the use of nouns was that of wrong number. Othererrors included themisformation of plurals, misformation of nouns, the confusion of nouns with other parts of speech,repetition of the subject and omission of the noun as an object. Pronominal reference provedto benot problematic despite the occurrence of a few errors in this category. While a sizable number ofthese errors can be explained by interference, some othererrors defy explanations offered by thecontrastive analysis hypotheses. Moreover, the errors made by Arab learners of Englishseem to bestrikingly similar to those made by learners from other language backgrounds. A comparative studyof errors in this area across different language backgroundsmay reveal many more similarities thandifferences. The data for this study did not include many of the structures whichwere supposed tobe covered by the analysis. The media (spoken English) and the data gathering technique (theinterview) as well as avoidance on the part of the subjectwere major variables in limiting thecoverage of the study. Other studies should illicit a wider spectrum of structures in the language.
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