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error analysis (EA)


Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214823.1999.x


saw its heyday in the 1970s. It is an approach to understanding second language acquisition (SLA) which consists of compiling a corpus of L2 learner deviations from the target second language norms – the ‘errors’ learners make – classifying these errors by type and hypothesizing possible sources for the errors. In the history of SLA research, error analysis was a phase of enquiry which followed on from contrastive analysis . Contrastive analysis had been interested in comparing two linguistic systems – the learner's L1 and the target L2 – with a view to determining structural similarities and differences. The view of SLA which underpinned contrastive analysis was that L2 learners transfer the habits of their L1 into the L2. Where the L1 and the L2 were the same, the learner would transfer appropriate properties and be successful: a case of positive transfer. Where the L1 and the L2 differed, the learner would transfer inappropriate properties and learner errors would result: a case of negative transfer. This was the Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis. Errors on this account were predicted to occur entirely at points of divergence between the L1 and the L2. The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis lost favour with many researchers during the 1960s as the result of (a) a growing scepticism about the plausibility of a behaviourist (i.e. habit formation) account of language acquisition; ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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