Error analysis


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Error analysis

  1. 1. Error analysis (linguistics)From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to: navigation, searchIn second language acquisition, error analysis studies the types and causes of languageerrors. Errors are classified[1] according to: modality (i.e., level of proficiency in speaking, writing, reading, listening) linguistic levels (i.e., pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, style) form (e.g., omission, insertion, substitution) type (systematic errors/errors in competence vs. occasional errors/errors in performance) cause (e.g., interference, interlanguage) norm vs. systemMethodologyError analysis in SLA was established in the 1960s by Stephen Pit Corder and colleagues.[2]Error analysis was an alternative to contrastive analysis, an approach influenced bybehaviorism through which applied linguists sought to use the formal distinctions betweenthe learners first and second languages to predict errors. Error analysis showed thatcontrastive analysis was unable to predict a great majority of errors, although its morevaluable aspects have been incorporated into the study of language transfer. A key findingof error analysis has been that many learner errors are produced by learners making faultyinferences about the rules of the new language.Error analysts distinguish between errors, which are systematic, and mistakes, which arenot. They often seek to develop a typology of errors. Error can be classified according tobasic type: omissive, additive, substitutive or related to word order. They can be classifiedby how apparent they are: overt errors such as "I angry" are obvious even out of context,whereas covert errors are evident only in context. Closely related to this is the classificationaccording to domain, the breadth of context which the analyst must examine, and extent,the breadth of the utterance which must be changed in order to fix the error. Errors mayalso be classified according to the level of language: phonological errors, vocabulary orlexical errors, syntactic errors, and so on. They may be assessed according to the degree towhich they interfere with communication: global errors make an utterance difficult tounderstand, while local errors do not. In the above example, "I angry" would be a localerror, since the meaning is apparent.From the beginning, error analysis was beset with methodological problems. In particular,the above typologies are problematic: from linguistic data alone, it is often impossible toreliably determine what kind of error a learner is making. Also, error analysis can dealeffectively only with learner production (speaking and writing) and not with learnerreception (listening and reading). Furthermore, it cannot account for learner use of
  2. 2. communicative strategies such as avoidance, in which learners simply do not use a formwith which they are uncomfortable. For these reasons, although error analysis is still usedto investigate specific questions in SLA, the quest for an overarching theory of learnererrors has largely been abandoned. In the mid-1970s, Corder and others moved on to amore wide-ranging approach to learner language, known as interlanguage.Error analysis is closely related to the study of error treatment in language teaching. Today,the study of errors is particularly relevant for focus on form teaching methodology.See also Error analysis Second language acquisition Common Sources of Error in Physics Lab Experiments There is no such thing as "human error"! This vague phrase does not describe the source of error clearly. Careful description of sources of error allows future experimenters to improve on your techniques. This long list of common sources of error is meant to help you identify some of the common sources of error you might encounter while doing experiments. If you find yourself stuck for words when describing sources of error, this list may help. The list goes from the common to the obscure. Incomplete definition (may be systematic or random) - One reason that it is impossible to make exact measurements is that the measurement is not always clearly defined. For example, if two different people measure the length of the same rope, they would probably get different results because each person may stretch the rope with a different tension. The best way to minimize definition errors is to carefully consider and specify the conditions that could affect the measurement. Failure to account for a factor (usually systematic) - The most challenging part of designing an experiment is trying to control or account for all possible factors except the one independent variable that is being analyzed. For instance, you may inadvertently ignore air resistance when measuring free-fall acceleration, or you may fail to account for the effect of the Earths magnetic field when measuring the field of a small magnet. The best way to account for these sources of error is to brainstorm with your peers about all the factors that could possibly affect your result. This brainstorm should be done before beginning the experiment so that arrangements can be made to account for the confounding factors before taking data. Sometimes a correction can be applied to a result after taking data, but this is inefficient and not always possible. Environmental factors (systematic or random) - Be aware of errors introduced by your immediate working environment. You may need to take account for or protect your experiment from vibrations, drafts, changes in temperature, electronic noise or other effects from nearby apparatus. Instrument resolution (random) - All instruments have finite precision that limits the ability to resolve small measurement differences. For instance, a meter stick cannot distinguish distances to a precision much better than about half of its
  3. 3. smallest scale division (0.5 mm in this case). One of the best ways to obtain moreprecise measurements is to use a null difference method instead of measuring aquantity directly. Null or balance methods involve using instrumentation to measurethe difference between two similar quantities, one of which is known veryaccurately and is adjustable. The adjustable reference quantity is varied until thedifference is reduced to zero. The two quantities are then balanced and themagnitude of the unknown quantity can be found by comparison with the referencesample. With this method, problems of source instability are eliminated, and themeasuring instrument can be very sensitive and does not even need a scale.Failure to calibrate or check zero of instrument (systematic) - Wheneverpossible, the calibration of an instrument should be checked before taking data. If acalibration standard is not available, the accuracy of the instrument should bechecked by comparing with another instrument that is at least as precise, or byconsulting the technical data provided by the manufacturer. When making ameasurement with a micrometer, electronic balance, or an electrical meter, alwayscheck the zero reading first. Re-zero the instrument if possible, or measure thedisplacement of the zero reading from the true zero and correct any measurementsaccordingly. It is a good idea to check the zero reading throughout the experiment.Physical variations (random) - It is always wise to obtain multiple measurementsover the entire range being investigated. Doing so often reveals variations thatmight otherwise go undetected. If desired, these variations may be cause for closerexamination, or they may be combined to find an average value.Parallax (systematic or random) - This error can occur whenever there is somedistance between the measuring scale and the indicator used to obtain ameasurement. If the observers eye is not squarely aligned with the pointer andscale, the reading may be too high or low (some analog meters have mirrors to helpwith this alignment).Instrument drift (systematic) - Most electronic instruments have readings that driftover time. The amount of drift is generally not a concern, but occasionally thissource of error can be significant and should be considered.Lag time and hysteresis (systematic) - Some measuring devices require time toreach equilibrium, and taking a measurement before the instrument is stable willresult in a measurement that is generally too low. The most common example istaking temperature readings with a thermometer that has not reached thermalequilibrium with its environment. A similar effect is hysteresis where the instrumentreadings lag behind and appear to have a "memory" effect as data are takensequentially moving up or down through a range of values. Hysteresis is mostcommonly associated with materials that become magnetized when a changingmagnetic field is applied.9.3 Analyzing learners language Learners language provides data for research into the nature of the learningprocess. In order to gain insights into the process, researchers have engagedthemselves in the analysis of learners language. Since the 1940s, there have beenthree modes of analysis --- contrastive analysis, error analysis, and the study ofinterlanguage, each of which is a milestone in understanding second languageacquisition.
  4. 4. Contrastive analysis was conducted from the 1940s to the 1960s as an effort tounderstand the source of errors in learners language. It was assumed that the greaterthe difference between the native language and the target language, the greater thelearning problem and the potentiality of mother tongue interference. Theassumption was challenged by findings of later studies. Many errors were found thathad no relation with the native language. As interference makes up a smallproportion of errors, the contrastive analysis hypothesis has proved less powerful inexplaining why learners language is as it is. Error analysis was employed from the late 1960s as part of the methodology ofthe study of second language acquisition. Corder (1967, 1973) pointed out thaterrors have theoretical and practical significance. They are theoretically significantin that they provide feedback to psycholinguistics in constructing theories of SLA.They are of practical significance to language teachers, indicating to them theeffectiveness of the teaching materials and techniques. The practice of error analysis is divided into identifying, describing andexplaining. Identifying errors is the first step of error analysis. To identify errors wehave to compare the sentences produced by the learner with the correspondingsentences native speakers are likely to produce to express the same meanings. Thisis not always straightforward. Sometimes it is not clear whether a deviation is a slipof the tongue or a systematic error. Corder (1973) first distinguished errors frommistakes. Errors reflect gaps in a learners knowledge of the target language. Thelearner does not know what is correct. Mistakes reflect occasional lapses inperformance. The learner knows the correct form but slips due to nervousness,carelessness or tiredness. For example, many Chinese learners of English, evenadvanced learners, use he to refer to a female person in conversations. This is amistake, not an error, as they know what the correct form is. Learners may correctthemselves once they have the time to monitor their own speech or writing. So,accurate identification of errors as the starting point of error analysis is not as easyas assumed. It is of importance to both researchers and teachers. For researchers, itis important to collect the right data. For teachers, it is necessary to treat mistakesand errors differently in their instruction. Describing errors, the second step of error analysis, is categorizing errorsgrammatically. Once errors are identified, they can be classified into categories.Corder (1973) proposed four major categories: omission of some required elements,e.g. “He went bus stop”; addition of some unnecessary or incorrect element, e.g.“Does he can swim?”; selection of an incorrect element, e.g. “I lost my road”; andmisordering of elements, e.g. “I gave to him the book”. These categories are highlygeneralized. Another way to describe errors is to classify them into grammaticalcategories. For example, we can gather all the errors that have been identifiedrelating to verbs and then classify them. The latter is more practicable for languageteachers and provides more useful feedback to teaching. Explaining errors, the final step, is the task of tracing the source of errors. Thistask is more psychological than linguistic in essence. In terms of sources, errors aredivided into interlingual errors and intralingual errors, based on whether they arecaused by L1. Interlingual errors are caused by mother tongue interference. Onesknowledge of L1 contributes to learning L2. The positive role L1 plays is calledtransfer. The negative role is termed interference. For example, many Chinese
  5. 5. learners of English use although and but in the same sentence. This is an instance ofinterference, specifically, a kind of negative transfer of the learners syntacticknowledge. Interference also occurs in other aspects of language. Intralingual errors are produced by second language learners regardless of theirmother tongue. If a learner says “I eated too much”, he has overgeneralized theformation of past tense. Overgeneralization is found universal in SLA (also in L1acquisition). Some errors are attributed to simplification (also called redundancyreduction). Many Chinese learners of English omit the third person singular -s inspeech and writing. This is a typical error of simplification. The meaning of thirdperson singular is already expressed by the subject, the marker of the predicate verbis redundant in terms of information. That is why the -s is often left out. Someerrors are attributed to cross-association, confusion in memory of two forms. Theword stalagmite is often confused with stalactite. Dessert (sweet food) and desert (alarge area of sand) are often mixed in pronunciation. Although error analysis has gained some insights into the complex process ofSLA, it is not without limitations. By focusing only on errors, researchers may loosesight of the whole picture of learners language. Engaged in error analysis,researchers study what learners are doing wrong, but not what they have donesuccessfully. Another flaw in error analysis is that it fails to account for all the areasof L2 in which learners have difficulty. Schachter (1974) reported that Chinese andJapanese learners of English committed fewer errors in relative clauses than Spanishand Persian learners of English. It was discovered that the Chinese and Japanesestudents avoided producing relative clauses. This result shows that fewer errors maynot necessarily prove achievement in learning a particular aspect of L2. It is equallyimportant to determine whether the learners use of correct forms approximates thatof the native speaker. This idea gave rise to the study of interlanguage. Interlanguage is the approximate language system that the learner constructs foruse in communication through the target language. The term was coined by theAmerican linguist Larry Selinker, (Selinker 1972). Corder (1971) called learnerslanguage an idiosyncratic dialect. Both terms suggest that learners language isbetween L1 and L2 and that it is a continuum along which all learners traverse.Learners construct a series of mental grammars as they gradually accumulate theirknowledge of the target language. From the perspective of interlanguage, errors can be seen as the evidence oflearning strategies. Overgeneralization reflects learners cognitive activity inworking out the rules of L2. Omission errors suggest that learners are in some waysimplifying the learning task by ignoring some grammatical morphemes that theyare not yet ready to use. Studies in interlanguage find that learners resort to communication strategies. Incommunication through the target language learners every now and then are at lossin saying what they want to say in the language due to inadequate knowledge. Inthis case they will naturally employ communication strategies to continue theconversation. They may avoid a particular syntactic structure. They may use asuperordinate (for example, worm for silkworm) or coin a word (airball for balloon,apricot seed for almond, for instance). The choice of communication strategiesreflect the learners stage of development along the interlanguage continuum. The
  6. 6. effect of using communication strategies on SLA will be an interesting topic in SLA research.