Contrastive Analysis and Error Analysis in combination with Analysis of the Semantic Level


Ljubica Kardaleska (Skopje)


There are a number of factors that interact and influence the linguistic performance of a second or a foreign language learner. They include: language transfer, intralingual interference, sociolinguistic situation, modality, age, approximative system, hierarchy of difficulties.


Although a number of variables affect learner's performance, one of the principal factors is a specific type of mental organization a learner possesses (reflected in the specific learning style of a particular learner), which causes him to use a set of processing strategies to produce utterances in a language.


Contrastive analysis and Error Analysis have been regarded as main pillars in the domain of second or foreign language acquisition.


Contrastive Analysis of two languages in question: L1 and L2, pointing at the specific features of each language system (in its major areas: phonology, morphology, lexicology, syntax, text analysis) helps in the process of anticipation of possible difficulties with the L2 learners. A part of the difficulties can be attributed to the mother tongue (first language) interference.


With the knowledge about the kinds and degree of differences between languages on a number of linguistic levels from phonetics to stylistics, CL has contributed a lot to the general methodology and theory of language teaching. Applied Contrastive Linguistics has concerned itself with error-prediction.


Error analysis by observation and analysis of the most frequent patterns in use of L2 helps in creating a systematic and orderly list of problems that require special consideration having into account not only the data from the contrastive analysis but also all the above listed factors in the language learning process.


Nevertheless, my view is that the results from Contrastive Analysis and Error Analysis would be incomplete without awareness of the deep level of semantic categories. These categories reflect the way in which speakers conceptualise the world around them. In fact, these categories are essential for the linguistic means used to express them.


Different languages and their grammars may be regarded as autonomous, but when it comes to Semantics it seems that it is the core of the languages and a common or universal basis that they share, regardless of the differences in their grammars. Therefore I believe that it is very important for a translator or a second (and foreign) language teacher to be aware of the interaction of the level of semantic categories and the level of formal exponents.


Doing semantics is largely a matter of conceptual analysis, exploring the nature of meaning in a careful and thoughtful way, using a wide range of examples. Examples show that the relationship between mental processes (thoughts), abstract semantic entities (propositions), linguistic entities (sentences) and actions (utterances) is problematic and complicated.


To illustrate my belief in the significance of Semantics, I have chosen one area of grammar which I find a ground of numerous difficulties for the foreign / second language learners and that is the category of Definiteness, linguistically expressed by Articles.