Error analysis of tense and aspect in the written English of Turkish students
Şahin, Mehmet Kadir
Yontz, Ruth A.
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This study sought to identify the most common tense and aspect errors in the written English of native Turkish-speaking, first-year undergraduate learners of English as a foreign language. The study was based on error analysis to form a basis for teachers, syllabus designers, textbook writers, and researchers. The data used in this study were elicited from the written discourse of one hundred volunteers from different faculties at Cumhuriyet University in Sivas. The written discourse was elicited by asking students to write a short autobiographical essay. Verb strings were identified and categorized as types of syntactic and semantic/pragmatic errors. Syntactic errors were identified applying the surface structure formula given below to the each verb string in the data: Tense + ( Modal) t (have + -en) + (be + -ing) + Main verb Semantic/pragmatic errors were identified by referring to the larger context and inferring the intended meaning. The results of the study showed that semantic/pragmatic errors were more common than syntactic errors in the written English of Turkish students. Out of 316 errors, 61.39% were semantic/pragmatic errors and 38.60% were syntactic errors. Semantic/pragmatic errors were categorized into two types: 1) verb tense and aspect errors and 2) lexical errors. The majority of semantic/pragmatic errors (71.64%) were verb tense and aspect errors, and 28.35% were lexical errors. Verb tense and aspect errors fell into four categories: use of present tense instead of past tense (30.93%); use of present progressive aspect instead of simple present (24.46%); use of present perfect aspect instead of simple past (23.02%); and use of past tense instead of present tense (21.58%). Syntactic errors were categorized into four types: misuse of the progressive aspect; lack of subject-verb agreement; omission of the verb; and misordered verb string· Among the syntactic error categories, misuse of the progressive aspect (33.60%) was the largest group. Lack of subject- verb agreement constituted 30.32% of the syntactic errors, omission of the verb constituted 27.04%, and misordered verb string constituted 9.01%. Misuse of the progressive aspect was categorized into two types of errors: omission of the auxiliary 'be' (63.41%), and omission of the '-ing' morpheme (36.58%). The omission of verbs was also categorized into two types: omission of the copula (78.78%) and omission of other verbs (21.21%). The findings of the study suggest that the meaning of tenses is more problematic than the form. Thus, the teaching of tense and aspect should be contextualized in meaningful discourse. Syntactic errors may be treated by focusing on oral and written drills.