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Published by: SARAASHLEY on Dec 17, 2010
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www.teachervision.fen.com/teaching-methods/resource/5810.htmlIt is to S.P. Corder that Error Analysis owes its place as a scientificmethod in linguistics. As Rod Ellis cites (p. 48), "it was not until the1970s that EA became a recognized part of applied linguistics, adevelopment that owed much to the work of Corder". Before Corder,linguists observed learners' errors, divided them into categories, triedto see which ones were common and which were not, but not muchattention was drawn to their role in second language acquisition. Itwas Corder who showed to whom information about errors would behelpful (teachers, researchers, and students) and how.There are many major concepts introduced by S. P. Corder in hisarticle "The significance of learners' errors", among which weencounter the following:1) It is the learner who determines what the input is. The teacher canpresent a linguistic form, but this is not necessarily the input, butsimply what is available to be learned.2) Keeping the above point in mind, learners' needs should beconsidered when teachers/linguists plan their syllabuses. BeforeCorder's work, syllabuses were based on theories and not so much onlearners’ needs.3) Mager (1962) points out that the learners' built-in syllabus is moreefficient than the teacher's syllabus. Corder adds that if such a built-insyllabus exists, then learners’ errors would confirm its existence andwould be systematic.4) Corder introduced the distinction between systematic and non-systematic errors. Unsystematic errors occur in one’s native language;Corder calls these "
" and states that they are not significantto the process of language learning. He keeps the term "
" forthe systematic ones, which occur in a second language.
5) Errors are significant in three ways:- to the teacher: they show a student’s progress- to the researcher: they show how a language is acquired, whatstrategies the learner uses.- to the learner: he can learn from these errors.6) When a learner has made an error, the most efficient way to teachhim the correct form is not by simply giving it to him, but by lettinghim discover it and test different hypotheses. (This is derived fromCarroll's proposal (Carroll 1955, cited in Corder), who suggested thatthe learner should find the correct linguistic form by searching for it.7) Many errors are due to that the learner uses structures from hisnative language. Corder claims that possession of one’s nativelanguage is facilitative. Errors in this case are not inhibitory, but ratherevidence of one’s learning strategies.The above insights played a significant role in linguistic research, andin particular in the approach linguists took towards errors. Here aresome of the areas that were influenced by Corder's work:
Corder introduced the distinction between
(in competence) and
(in performance). This distinction directed the attention of researchers of SLA to competence errors and provided for a moreconcentrated framework. Thus, in the 1970s researchers startedexamining learners’ competence errors and tried to explain them. Wefind studies such as Richards's "A non-contrastive approach to erroranalysis" (1971), where he identifies sources of competence errors; L1transfer results in interference errors; incorrect (incomplete or over-generalized) application of language rules results in intralingual errors;construction of faulty hypotheses in L2 results in developmental errors.Not all researchers have agreed with the above distinction, such as
Dulay and Burt (1974) who proposed the following three categories of errors: developmental, interference and unique. Stenson (1974)proposed another category, that of induced errors, which result fromincorrect instruction of the language.As most research methods, error analysis has weaknesses (such as inmethodology), but these do not diminish its importance in SLAresearch; this is why linguists such as Taylor (1986) remindedresearchers of its importance and suggested ways to overcome theseweaknesses.As mentioned previously, Corder noted to whom (or in which areas)the study of errors would be significant: to teachers, to researchersand to learners. In addition to studies concentrating on errorcategorization and analysis, various studies concentrated on thesethree different areas. In other words, research was conducted not onlyin order to understand errors per se, but also in order to use what islearned from error analysis and apply it to improve languagecompetence.Such studies include Kroll and Schafer's "Error-Analysis and theTeaching of Composition", where the authors demonstrate how erroranalysis can be used to improve writing skills. They analyze possiblesources of error in non-native-English writers, and attempt to providea process approach to writing where the error analysis can helpachieve better writing skills.These studies, among many others, show that thanks to Corder'swork, researchers recognized the importance of errors in SLA andstarted to examine them in order to achieve a better understanding of SLA processes, i.e. of how learners acquire an L2.
Various researchers have concentrated on those errors whichdemonstrate the influence of one’s native language to second languageacquisition. Before Corder’s work, interference errors were regarded asinhibitory; it was Corder who pointed out that they can be facilitative

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