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Analysis Of Turkish Students' Morphological
And Syntactical Errors In Writing
by Ali Karakas
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The Study
The writing samples are of two types. One consists of single-sentence answers given by five first-year students in a Turkish high school as part of an exercise under the topic 'computer games'. The other sample comes from a university student who is required to write at least 100 words about his/her expectations from Erasmus Student Exchange Program. This is a prerequisite for those who want to participate in the exchange program. Sample 1 is presented below together with analyses of morphological and syntactical structures of students' answers.

Sample 1: First-year high school students' answers


Morphological and Syntactical Analyses of Students' Answers
Firstly, I'd like to analyze the answers given to the first question. The question is a yes-no type and additionally asks students to explain their rationale for the preferred answer.

Do you like computer games? Why, why not?

a. S1: Yes, I do. Because of the fun. Yes I do because they are fun. (amended version)
The first part of the answer is syntactically correct. S1 shows that s/he recognizes yes-no questions and accordingly provides an answer using dummy 'do'. If it had been -Yes, I like – it would have been syntactically wrong since the verb 'like' is transitive and requires an object following it. However, the second sentence does not obey the phrase structure rule that (S -> NP VP) sentence is made up of a noun phrase (NP), a verb phrase (VP). But it consists of a PP and a NP, which does not comply with the existing rules. Although semantically the answer might be accepted as true in daily speech, it is erroneous to written language due to the lack of such phrases as NP (they) and VP (are) in the word order. This type of error generally stems from L1 interference, for Turkish syntax allows the omission of subject and verb in sentence formation.

b.S2: [I like computer games]. This is in accordance with phrase structure rules, thus, syntactically correct. S -> NP VP.

c.S3: MC [I like do computer games] SC [because sometimes useful and exciting computer] games.

Unlike the sentences above, this is a complex sentence including one main and one subordinate clause. However, the two clauses are syntactically faulty. The MC includes an additional verb (do). In English, no two main verbs occur together in the same sentence (except do for emphasis). This error probably occurred due to the misapplication of L2 rules drawn from present tense. While 'do' exists in interrogative and negative forms, it doesn't appear in affirmative forms. In SC, the syntactic problem is of types: the first one is mis-word-formation and the second one is a missing verb be. Also, the NP, computer games, in SC can be replaced with the subject pronoun "they". The amended sentence looks like as following: I like computer games because computer games [they] [are] sometimes useful and exciting.

d.S4: MC[Yes I like computer games] SC[because a good way to spend a nice time and fun.]
This is again a complex sentence with one MC and one SC. MC is not flawed but SC is faulty since the sentence lacks NP (they) and aux (are). This type of error results from negative transfer of L1 syntactic knowledge to L2 sentence formation. In the SC after the conjunction, and, the student fails to assign a verb (the right verb for collocation), which breaks the syntactic correctness of the sentence since it is conceived as "spend fun", if the verb "have" is not positioned before the word "fun". The correct form should be as following. Yes, I like computer games because [they are] a good way to spend a nice time and [have] fun.

e.S5: MC[Yes, I like to computer games. SC[because computer games is very fun and exciting.]
In this example, S5 forms a complex sentence, however, separates two clauses with a comma. In the MC, the inclusion of infinitive to is observed. The reason might be overgeneralization of the previously learned rules such as 'like to verb'. However, even in this case, infinitive clause needs a non-finite verb e.g. I like to play computer games. In SC, a very common error type is seen due to a subject-verb agreement which signals a morphological error. Computer games should be followed with 'are'. Such errors occur generally due to the lack of attention and self-monitoring during the writing process. For this sentence, there appears to be two possible amended versions: (1) Yes, I like computer games because they are fun and exciting. (2) Yes, I like to play computer games and they are fun and exciting. However, considering the original question, the former answer sounds more appropriate.

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