Chapter 2: Learner errors
Chapter 2 Learner errors 2.1 Deﬁning key terms The most rudimentary deﬁnition of a language error would describe the phe- nomenon as an “unsuccessful bit of language” (James, 1998, p. 1). Imprecise as it may be, this account certainly oﬀers a suﬃcient and safe starting point for any further deliberations on language errors. Especially when we consider the fact that over the years research in the ﬁeld of language errors has brought about various more and less speciﬁc terms relating to language errors, such as gaps, misapplications, ﬂaws, hitches (Austin, 1962); mistakes, slips, errors, attempts (Edge, 1989); distortions, faults (Hammerly, 1991); goofs (Burt & Kiparsky, 1972); deviances, solecisims (Burt & Kiparsky, 1972). The labels often refer to diverse language-related setbacks, caused by faulty teaching, impaired learning, gaps in competence or performance problems. Altogether the terms paint a vague picture of what language errors truly entail. The following sections aim to shed light on the key characteristics of the phenomenon of language errors. 2.1.1 Relativity What seems to be the one undeniable characteristic of language errors is their relational nature. Any given language deviance becomes an error only in the context of a rule of the code that has been broken, or in other words, when “the learners have not yet internalized the formation rules of the code” (Corder, 1973, p.259). As James (1998, ch. 3) points out, the choice of a “code” or a 8 2. Learner errors reference point, such as a particular variety of the...
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