Errors in the Written Production of Chinese Learners of English: A Typological Perspective

Ming-yueh Shen

Abstract


This study aimed to examine errors in the written production of Chinese learners of English from a typological perspective. The thirty-nine participants were native speakers of Chinese enrolled in an undergraduate English course in Taiwan. Data were collected from a translation-elicitation task which involved ten Chinese sentences with Chinese TP (Topic-Prominence) features described by Li and Thompson (1976; 1981): surface-coding, double subject, deletion of co-reference, null subject (topic chains), and null dummy subject.  The data were analyzed by comparing with the Chinese TP features to decide if they exhibited the interlingual transfer. Further analysis was done to locate the causes related to overgeneralizing TP features, which were found causing grammatical errors. The results indicated that the learners’ L1 structures in inter-language development were especially prevalent in the early stages. The less proficient learners used more topic-prominent structures (as shown in Mandarin Chinese), while those with better proficiency tended to be able to use the structures closer to the target language (English, a subject-prominent language). This study thus called for attention to contrastive analysis as a diagnostic function for learners’ language development.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v3i1.630

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