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Data Coding and Interpretation

Mengzi Cai

Colorado State University


Data analysis
Mengzi & Xichen

Data Coding and Interpretation

1. Introduction
The subject in the oral interview is an adult who speaks Teochew (a dialect of
Chinese) as L1 and English as target language. The age of the first exposure to English
of the subject is 6. He/she has learned in primary school where English was the medium
of instruction in Singapore. The data is collected by an oral interview between the
subject who is a Singaporean waitress and a native speaker of English. The Singaporean
waitress is interviewee and the native English speaker is HP. They talked about the
education and life of the interviewee. The purpose of the data analysis is to identify the
nonstandard features in speaker’s interlanguage and analyze the possible effect of
his/her dialect.
Two typical nonstandard features in this speaker’s interlanguage we chose to
analyze is the subject and morphology. In this data, we use the general term subject to
represent three categories of errors: the lack of subject; subject-object reversion (SOR)
in the sentences; and subject repetition. In addition, we use morphology to represent
the lack of inflectional suffix “-s” for plural forms and for the third person singular.
In the chart 1, we listed all the instances in the data which belong to these two
features in the speaker’s interlanguage, including the corrected (only consider this
particular feature) form and nonstandard form:

Incorrected Corrected

1. Perryman Secondary 1. There’s number of schools

school. there.
2. Is small. 2. There’s also go churches
The lack 3. Is government school. there.
Subject of 4. Ya, is. 3. I am Methodist.
subject 5. Speak little Cantonese. 4. We speak English.
6. Mix them ah. 5. We have.
7. Mostly from Australia – 6. When I am schooling in…
some local. 7. We get lesson about

8. Then become porridge. scripture.

9. Depends on what type of 8. We go to Chinese
things to eat. restaurant.
10. Geyland Methodist School 9. We usually go to Chinese
is called. (Combine the restaurant.
features of lack subject and 10. They usually have dishes
SOR). on big tray.
1. Geyland Methodist School 11. You know me ah?
is called. (Combine the 12. They use rice.
features of lack subject and 13. They add more water than
SOR). usual.
SOR 2. Very nice place is Hong 14. They usually have this.
Kong. 15. Then I transfer myself to
3. All the other dialect they Tomlin School.
learner. 16. I t’ing.
4. English I go now. 17. You ever been to China.
1. Some of them they take 18. Hong Kong is only
Malays as on dialect... Cantonese.
2. Mostly Singaporeans they 19. We mostly-we know-our
understand Hokkien. home counted my parent.
3. Some of them they tell us 20. My father know English,
about their life. my mother a Hokkien.
4. Some they live in other par’ 21. So we usually mix dialect.
of world. 22. Sometime we speak
5. Some of them they have English, sometime we
pork and spice. speak Hokkien, sometime
we speak Teochew.
23. We studying mostly from
24. Actually from Primary
School One we don’t do
that lah.
25. So we studying we sing
songs – sometime we
Subject learn gospel.
repetition 26. I go every Sunday to
Methodist Church.
27. I go Chinese Church when
I was small.
28. I go ou’ – mos’ly with
some friend. Usually two
or three we wen’ to pi’ni’
and then walk around’
29. Usually we go’t dinner in
30. All my family go.
31. I have dinner with a group
of friend ah.
32. We wen’ to a – you know
where is a ah-Hoices?
33. There’s a number of
coffee house there.

34. ..., then you cook - ...

35. Usually some of them

1. I go ou’ – mostly with some 1. There’s number of schools

friend. there.
2. I have dinner with a group of 2. ..., that means...
friend. 3. They take two types.
3. There’s a number of coffee 4.
Morphology 4. There is also go churches
5. We mostly – we know – our
home counted my parent.
Third 1. My father know English.
Chart 1

We also calculated the number of nonstandard and standard instances of each feature.
Number of the
Incorrected Corrected

The lack of subject 10
Subject SOR 4 35
Subject repetition 5
Plural 5
Morphology Third person 4
Chart 2
In chart 2, there are 19 errors that occurred in terms of the subject – 10 belong to the
lack of subject, 4 belong to the SOR and 5 belong to the subject repletion. Regardless of
other constituents of a sentence, if the constituent that we are discussing in a sentence is
correctly used, we count it as a corrected instance. For example, in the sentence “There’s
also go churches there.” although this sentence contains grammatical problems, it has a
subject at the beginning of the sentence, so we regard it as a correct use of subject. We

decide what is systematic and what is variable based on the number of instances. There are
totally 35 standard uses of the subject in the data, which is far more than nonstandard uses
of the subject, so we think that the subject is more systematic. The number of nonstandard
uses of morphology is 6, while the standard uses is 4 which is less than the nonstandard
uses, so we think that the morphology is more variable.

Conclusion of the data:

Based on the data, we summarize two features of nonstandard English uses in
speaker’s interlanguage which are subject and morphology. The speaker makes three kinds
of errors in the terms of the subject: the lack of subject, SOR, and the subject repetition.
The second feature is about the morphology that the speaker ignores the inflectional suffix
“-s” in the plural form and third person. We calculated the number of the nonstandard
sentences and we use the quantity to identify which is more systematic and which is more
variable. We think that the subject feature is more variable and the morphology is more


According to the data, the interviewee makes mistakes in the uses of the adverbial
there, and the lack of articles, predicates, subjects and morphology, etc. We selected two
prototypical features (subject and morphology) to analyze. We think that several principles
from the study Input Processing in Adult SLA (VanPattern, 2004, ch. 7) can be adopted to
account for the incorrected usages in the speaker’s interlanguage. This study includes
eleven principles and we use three of them to explain the nonstandard uses in the data.
The contextual constrain principle means that the preceding context can constrain the
interpretation of the following context. In this oral interview, the HP asked the interviewee
questions which contains a cue of the present topic, thus, both the HP and the interviewee
know the topic of this conversation, namely the contextual constraint. For example, when
HP asked the direction that “Tell me about your school”, the interviewee knew that the HP
was asking about his/ her school, and his/her answer should be about the school. Besides,

it is an oral interview which does not need to be very formal, so he/she omitted the subject
and directly answered that “Is small”. Both of them can understand that the subject of this
verb phrase is his/her school. The contextual constrain principle may explain the lack of
subject in interviewee’s utterance.
The L1 Transfer Principle state that the learners’ input process is based on the L1
Parsing Procedure. The speaker reverses the position of subject and object and the reason
may be that he/she translate the English from Chinese. For instance, the sentence of “Very
nice place is Hong Kong” is translated from the grammatical use of Chinese.
According to the Lexical Preference Principle, learners tend to process the content
lexical items before the grammatical forms which should be conincident with the same
semantic notion. For instance, the speaker answered with the sentence that “I go ou’-mos’ly
with some friend”. He/she uses the content word some to express the notion of more than
one friends, and ignore or later process the use of inflectional suffix -s to the friend.
L2 learners may have some difficulties connecting the meaning and the form. Take
the interviewee in this interview as an example, he/she knows what the question is and
what he/she is going to answer, the possible problem is that he/she may have some
difficulties connecting the meaning and the form. Because during the process of connecting,
some errors which can be explained by the principles appear: L1 transfer, lexical preference,
contextual constraints, etc. Therefore, teachers could draw on the principles of input
processing in SLA class to analyze the errors occurred in students’ interlanguage, and help
them to correct them. For example, one problem that occurs in this oral interview is the
lack of subject. Instructors may attribute it to the factor of contextual constraints, so the
students can be trained to create the complete sentences under various situations.