CÓD.N05-S02-07 ONLINE

An analysis of the misuse of the article "the" by Spanish learners of English in the Degree of English Studies.

The present study is a computerized frequency-driven approach which focuses on 
the use of the definite article the by students in the Degree of English 
Studies at the University of Valencia. The objective of this research is twofold, 
first to explore and compare the frequency article-related errors made by students 
in their 1st and 3rd years and second, to identify the nature of the mentioned 
mistakes made by these EFL learners. The source of this investigation is the 
corpus of the research project CASTLE, made up of essays written by students on 
certain set tasks on a number of general topics selected from their textbooks. A 
total of 100 samples, each containing approximately 400 words, were compiled and 
analyzed by means of WordSmith Tools 6 (Scott 2012), both quantitatively and 
qualitatively. In this way, instances containing the article the were retrieved, 
taking into account the number of occurrences as well as its combination with 
adjacent words. 
The purpose was to recognize errors of usage, both in the omission of the 
article in a context where it should occur, and in its misuse including it in a 
sentence in which the zero article would be required. The basis for the present 
analysis was the set of 91 test-sentences in Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman (1999), 
which have been used in related works for the inspection of the English definite 
article (see Liu & Gleason 2002, García Mayo 2008, Isabelli-García & Slough 
2012). A survey made up of 50 gaps to be filled with the definite article the or 
the zero article was used to determine the difficulties of the students on this 
grammatical aspect. To carry out the investigation, this study focused on the 
four categories of the article the proposed by Liu and Gleason (2002), to which the 
category “article overuse” was added. The results show that the degree of 
difficulty varies depending on the category of the articles and that students 
find Type 1 use of the article (cultural use of the according to Liu and 
Gleason’s proposal, 2002) particularly difficult. The present investigation proves that 
not only 1st year students but also 3rd year students need guidance and practice 
in order to make use of the definite article appropriately in their essays.

Palabras clave

corpus grammar teaching

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Alicia Ricart

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