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Analysis Of Turkish Students' Morphological
And Syntactical Errors In Writing
by Ali Karakas
- 4

So far, we have analyzed single sentences which were formed discretely in order to provide responses to the predetermined questions. In Sample 2, we will look at a paragraph written by an Erasmus exchange student candidate who mentions his/her expectations from the exchange program.

Sample 2



As compared to the earlier sentences, these sentences look more complicated and involve more errors. The level of student's proficiency is one factor that can affect sentence formation and its complexity. The first sentence [I want to graduate my English and meet the different people and cultures with Erasmus] includes both finite and non-finite verbs. However, the choice of non-finite verb is wrong and was probably used to mean 'improve'. Yet, syntactically, it does not affect the structure of the sentence but semantically it does. Another error is the addition of a definite article (the) before NP (different people). Since it affects the phrase structure rule of NP, it is counted as a syntactic error. The cause of the error, as Kirkgöz mentioned above, is intralingual, for Turkish has no article among its sentence formation rules. Moreover, the use of conjunction (and) links the noun (culture) to the preceding verb (meet) which makes the sentence ungrammatical due to lack of adjective before the head in the NP (different cultures). Lastly, the misuse of preposition (with instead of through) cause a syntactic error since it is not the right constituent of PP. The correct form of sentence should appear like this: I want to improve my English and meet different people from different cultures through Erasmus.

The second sentence that the student produced [I will meet the new friends and the different education system in foreight country] is long and a compound sentence. The absence of articles in L1 confuses the student about when and how to use it. They also cannot attribute a meaning to this structure since there is no equivalent meaning in Turkish that can explain it. The misuse of articles deteriorates the phrase structure rules with an unnecessary inclusion of determiner (the) in NPs (new friends & different education system). Since the second sentence cannot take the verb "meet a different education system", the possible word might be "understand". Also, the definite article used wrongly should be replaced with an indefinite article to make the sentence free from syntactic error. As a result, the grammatical form should be 'understand a different education system'. The correct form of the sentence should appear like this: I will meet new friends and understand a different education system in a foreign country.

The following sentence [I will graduate my confidance with Erasmus] is indeed not syntactical and the meaning is unambiguous because of the wrong word choice (graduate could be replaced with increase, build or gain). The choice of wrong preposition distorts the nature of PP i.e. syntax of the sentence. The correct form of sentence should appear like this: I will increase my confidence through Erasmus. The tendency for the preposition "with" can be explained as an L1 impact as the translation of the preposition (with) encompasses the meaning of "through" in L1. Therefore, they think they think they can use "with" actually for the function of "through" in such similar phrases.

[I will explore different places] an(d) [maybe change my thought] This sentence indicates that this learner has trouble in using inflectional –s. In the first sentence, the student correctly applies the rule, yet in the second sentence fails to add plural –s after the word thought. However, syntactically, the sentence is correct except for the absence of the letter (d) in 'and' and wrong word choice (thought). It had better to be replaced with "ideas" by omitting the adverb "maybe" and the verb "change" to convey the intended meaning. Then, the sentence "I will explore different places and ideas" seems reasonably more standard as compared to the original one.

The fifth sentence [finally I will be some difficulty] [because [I don't live hostele] seems on the surface syntactic but includes errors related to tense and article. Moreover, in the first sentence, the verb "be" is a wrong collocation for the following phrase "some difficulty". The right is to be "Finally, I will have some difficulty". The second issue takes its source in wrong verb tense, a syntactic error. The perception of present perfect is rather complex for Turkish students due to the lack of an equivalent tense in their L1. The correct form should be 'I haven't lived in any/a hostel'. The last sentence [I will be happy with this choce] consisting of NP and VP followed by PP, is syntactically correct but the formation of the word 'choce' is morphologically wrong since student's suffixation for noun lacks the suffix –ice (cho-ose +ice).

Discussion and Conclusion

Although a number of syntactical and morphological errors have been detected in both Sample 1 and 2, the students, in general, succeeded in forming morphologically correct words and syntactically grammatical phrases and sentences. Considering the length they have been learning English, moderately 6 years, it might be, first, thought that the students have serious problems in generating words and combining them into phrases and finally into sentences, which might range from a very simple to highly complex ones. As put by Dulay and Burt (1973), irrespective of length of language learning, students are challenged in learning particular morphemes (cited in Akande, 2005) and syntactic rules. Even if they learn the rules of morphology and syntax, it does not guarantee that learners will grammatically apply the rules into their writing.

The common problems highlighted in the analyses of the students' samples consisted of omission of phrases, particularly NP and VPs in sentence formation, unnecessary addition of dummy"do", wrong word choice, especially adverbs, addition of "to infinitive", lack of subject verb agreement, faulty adjective formation, addition of –ing to the main verb, omission of plural -s, and prepositions, and misuse of definite and indefinite articles. The error types do not differ from those that previous studies identified. Likewise, the causes of the errors were frequently named as the same sources: L1 interference and intralingual.

The implications of the study for the language teacher are multifaceted. Having been identified, these errors can be eradicated or at least minimised through precautions by teachers. These might include giving students corrective written feedback either overtly or covertly. For example, the errors might be highlighted by underlining it, or the correct form may be provided with an implicit explanation. Another way of raising students' awareness is to encourage them read graded books that fit into their proficiency levels. This is because the exposure to correct forms of words, phrases and sentences are more likely to be absorbed by students through peripheral learning. Above all, it largely depends on teachers' creativity to take the right action to minimize above stated error types.


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Ali Karakas is a Research Assistant  at Mehmet Akif Ersoy University, Burdur, Turkey. He holds BA in ELT at Uludag  University,Turkey and is currently an Integrated PHD student in Southampton University, UK . He can be contacted at the following email address: Ali

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