Applied Linguistics

The linguistic error analysis

The linguistic error analysis

The linguistic error analysis

The linguistic error analysis (also: error linguistics ) tries to explain mistakes and their causes in the use of foreign languages ​​from the differences between native language and foreign language . It is u. a. discussed what actually a “mistake” is. As a “mistake” is usually a deviation from the applicable standards or a violation of linguistic correctness and adequacy, leading to misunderstanding so communication difficulties, defined. Defects defined in this way also occur when only the native language is used without any foreign-language influence. Linguistics has dealt with such cases since the 19th century under terms such as slip- ups and readers .

Error levels within the framework of linguistic structuralism are:

  • phonetic error,
  • orthographic error,
  • morphological error,
  • syntactic error,
  • lexical error,
  • contextual errors,
  • stylistic mistake.

The error explanation deals with the psychological , didactic or linguistic factors for the generation of errors.

The error analysis consists of several steps:

  1. Problem Determination / Error Levels : Errors can be phonetic, graphical, morphological, syntactic and lexical, or violations of conversational strategies (courtesy rules and norms of social behavior), the right choice of variety or style level.
  2. Cause of error : Errors can be attributed inter alia to inter lingual interference (influence from the native language) and intralingual interference (over generalization of a rule). In this context, it is important in the modern view to regard the function of the so-called interim language ( inter language ) in which the student subjects various so-called linguistic hypotheses to a continuous check on the way to the target language as positive.
  3. Error Review : First of all, here between negligible, inadvertent errors (error performance, Eng. Mistakes ) and basic errors (error competence, Eng. Errors ) to distinguish. Furthermore, a distinction must be made between violations of use and violations of a linguistic subsystem (English: errors of system ). In the error assessment should also play a modern role, whether an error is disturbing understanding or even misleading.
  4. Error Therapy / Error Correction : Teacher feedback is central to error correction. In lesson-oriented phases, mistakes should be promptly displayed and improved, while a high level of error analysis is needed in the communicative, communicative phases. Especially in the latter case, it is preferable to intervene only in those utterances that are incomprehensible or unclear, and those that represent a mistake in tone or register. Possible methods of displaying errors are the so-called prompting (whispering the correct utterance) or – in the case of written statements – the so-called peer correction(Correction by classmates). The main goal on the part of the teacher, however, should, in the modern view, be the impetus for self- monitoring . In addition, in addition to the cognitive aspect, in which, among other things, language must be considered on the meta level, the effective aspect must not be neglected (a positive teaching atmosphere can be created).
  5. Error prophylaxis : Aspects of error prophylaxis have already been discussed in the previous section. The two important characteristics for successful teaching seem to be the inclusion of meta linguistic discussions and a positive classroom atmosphere. It should also increase the motivation and mental activity of the students. It should, according to widespread opinion, apply the formula “demand instead of pampering”.

Type errors

Linguists have always been trying to describe the types of mistakes made by language learners, and that is exactly the best way to start, since it helps out the applied linguist to identify where the problem is. According to Dulay et al. (1982) errors occur when the student changes the structure of the surface in a particularly systematic way (p. 150), therefore, the error, no matter what form and type it is, represents damage at the level of the Target language production.

The errors have been classified by J. Richard et al. (2002) in two categories. Interlingual error and intralingual error, these two elements refer, respectively, to the negative influence of both the native language of the speaker, and the target language itself.

Interlingual error is caused by the interference of the mother tongue L1 (also known as interference, linguistic interference, and interlinguistic influence), whereby the student tends to use their linguistic knowledge of L1 in some of the language characteristics in the language of destiny, however, often leads to mistakes. The example, provided by J. Richard et al. (2002) ” the incorrect French phrase Elle aguade les (“You see them”), produced according to the order of the English words, instead of the correct French phrase Elle irrigate them (Literally, “sees them”) . (P. 267) shows the type of errors caused by the negative effect of mother tongue interference.

intralinguistic error is an error that occurs due to a particular misuse of a particular rule of the target language, which is, in fact, the opposite of Interlingual error, puts the target language in the focus, the target language in This perspective is considered a cause of error. On the other hand, J. Richard, et al. (2002) consider it as one that results from ” defective or partial ‘learning’ of the target language. (P.267) Thus the intralinguistic error is classified as follows:

Overgenerations: in linguistics, overgeneralization errors occur when the speaker applies a grammar rule in cases where it does not apply. Richard et al, (2002) mentions that they are caused ” by extension of the rules of the target language with the appropriate context. ” (P.185). These types of mistakes have been made in dealing with regular and irregular verbs, as well as the application of plural forms. For example (Tooth == Tooths instead of teeth) and (he goes == he goed instead of was).

Simplifications: which are the result of students who produce simpler linguistic forms than those found in the target language, that is, students try to be linguistically creative and produce their own poetic phrases / sentences, which can actually be successful in doing so , but that is not necessary, Corder (as cited in Mahmoud 2014: 276) mentions that students do not have the complex system that could simplify. These types of errors are committed through both omission and addition of some linguistic elements at the level of either spelling or grammar. A. Mahmoud (2014) provide examples based on research conducted in English written Arabic speaking second-year university students:

  1. Spelling: omission of silent letters:
    • no (= know) * dout (= doubt) * weit (weight)
  2. Grammar:
    1. Omission:
      • We wait for the bus all the time.
      • He was intelligent and has ^ ^ father understanding.
    2. Addition:
      • Students are doing their research every semester.
      • Both boys and girls can study together.

Development errors: this type of errors is somehow part of excessive generalizations, (this later takes the subtitle in natural learning and development stage errors), DE are results of the normal development pattern, such as (arrived = ComEd) and (break = breaked), dE indicates that the student has begun to develop their linguistic knowledge and not to reproduce the rules that have recently been exposed in the learning of target languages.

Induced errors: known as transfer of training, errors caused by misleading teaching examples, teachers, sometimes, unconditionally, explain a rule without highlighting the exceptions or the intended message they would like to convey. J. Richard et al. (2002) provide an example given at the level of teaching prepositions and in particular ” a ” where the teacher can hold up to a box and say ” I am looking in the box ”, students can understand that ‘ ‘ in’ ‘ means ” under ”, which later can absolutely ” the cat is on the table ” instead of the cat being under the table.

Avoidance errors : these errors occur when the student stops applying certain rules of the target language just because they are intended to be too difficult.

The errors of overproduction: in the early stages of language learning, students who have not yet acquired and accumulated satisfied linguistic knowledge are supposed to allow them to use the finite rules of the target language in order to produce structures infinite, most of the time, beginners overproduction, in such a way, that a particular structure is often repeated.


According to the linguist Corder, the following are the steps in any typical EA investigation:

  1. tongue sample collection
  2. error identification
  3. the description of the errors
  4. explaining the mistakes
  5. evaluate / correct errors

Collection of errors: the nature and amount of errors is likely to vary depending on whether the data consist of, the use of natural and spontaneous language or care, caused the use of language.

Corder (1973) distinguishes two types of elicitation: clinical and experimental elicitation. Clinical elicitation consists in obtaining the informant to produce data of any kind, for example, through the general interview or writing a composition. Experimental elicitation involves the use of a special instrument to obtain data containing linguistic features such as a series of images that had been designed to obtain specific characteristics.

Most frequent linguistic errors in children aged 3 to 6 years

When children begin to speak they make a series of linguistic errors resulting from their learning process.  In fact, sometimes we get alarmed when we see our son say 3-word phrases that are too simple or barely speak, but this does not have to be a problem. Therefore, it is important to know when to worry and when to take these small errata as simple phases of their development process.

We must also bear in mind that some of these mistakes often happen to adults: the famous lapsus linguae . Involuntary mistakes we make when we want to say one word, but we pronounce another or when we involuntarily exchange concepts.

This is because our thoughts sometimes do not appear grammatically armed in our mind and, therefore, we must carry out a process of choosing the most appropriate words. Let’s look at the most common linguistic errors in children aged 3 to 6 years depending on the unit affected.

Semantic errors (lexicon and meaning)

At the semantic level, between 2 and 3 years old, children make a lot of progress in the categorization and conceptualization processes. Thus, they begin to produce and understand a very high number of meanings, although they do not yet reach the level of older children or adults. In fact, between 2 and 6 years old, children usually learn 5 words a day. Take calculations!

When they start using a new word, kids are not aware of what its true meaning is. Little by little, they learn and diminish that semantic difference thanks to their mistakes (trial-error) and their environment. That is, it purifies the meaning of the concepts. However, in this learning process there are two types of linguistic errors:

  • By mismatch: they are those in which the child refers to something by another name. For example, call a “dog” a “dog” “ball.” Although they are rare, they are the result of an inadequacy between the meaning and the signifier.
  • Overlapping: they are more frequent than the previous ones and they occur when there is a partial coincidence between the meaning that the child gives to the word and the real or adult. These, in turn, are of two types.
    • Over extensions are the most common at these ages. They arise when the child extends the meaning of a concept to things, places or people that have features in common with him. For example, when you call all the women with whom you interact with or “dog” all the animals with legs.
    • Under-extensions are the opposite, limitations of the semantic field of the word. They occur when the infant calls “chair” only those in the kitchen of his house and not the rest.

Phonological errors (sounds)

Phonological errors are linguistic errors that occur in phonemes, the smallest unit of language . Sometimes, these mistakes affect the whole word, syllables of it or only some phonemes. Thus, sometimes children do not pronounce unstressed syllables, they “eat” letters or do not pronounce the final consonant of words.

They are of several types:

  • In anticipation (suddenly lame> of sudden or lame)
  • Of perseveration (is the stool> is the stool a) 
  • Phoneme exchange (“robbers> attacking dores ; not at all> acquitted).

There are children who pronounce a very limited number of phonemes but they do very well. Others, more intrepid , choose to try to articulate words that are beyond their abilities. In general, each child has their own articulation preferences.

Morphosyntactic errors

Morphology and syntax are two basic components of the language. Children, in the development of this morphosyntactic component , often resort to different acquisition mechanisms.

Children are like parrots! They repeat everything they hear and even what they shouldn’t. Therefore, when their parents say phrases, sayings or linguistic formulas they try to copy them. But they remember them in block, as a whole. No word for word.

Therefore, when they start to imitate them and reproduce them aloud, without being aware of how they have been built, they are only able to say them in the context in which they have learned them. For example, if they hear their mother say “How handsome you are today” to her husband, the children will choose to reproduce those same words at home and in the same situation. They do not generalize that formula.

Similarly, when they are learning, 3-year-olds do not know how the language system is structured. They are not aware of the grammar rules, nor that the words are constructed based on criteria. Therefore, they learn independent and isolated syntactic forms from each other.

With the passage of time, they realize that there are rules to which they have to submit and take them to the extreme . It is what is known as hyperregulation . Examples of it are “I have broken”> “I have broken” and “I don’t know”> “I don’t know”.

When to be alarmed?

There are certain types of linguistic behaviors that may be inappropriate for their evolutionary age and indicate some delay in the acquisition and development of the language. Some of them are:

  • Incorrect articulation of most sounds.
  • Use of isolated or very poor phrases. Use of sentences formed only by three words or less (up to 36 months is usually normal).
  • Systematic omission of verbs, prepositions, pronouns or articles in sentences.
  • The vast majority of their oral emissions are unintelligible and almost incomprehensible.
  • Excessive use of gesture language to be understood.
  • Vocabulary and poor lexicon. It shows no signs of progressively acquiring words.

However, the child’s linguistic errors are not symptoms of a setback in the development of their language skills. Quite the opposite . They are proof that the child is progressing and beginning to understand the language system (Borregón, 2008).

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