The Presence or Absence of Definiteness in the Native Language and Its Impact on ESL Learning

Abdel-Rahman Abu-Melhim


The purpose of this study was to determine if first language interference does play a significant role in the use of articles in English by native speakers of Arabic as compared to other ESL learners. An error analysis was conducted on the use of English articles in essays taken from two groups of advanced ESL learners. The essays were composed by undergraduate students at Texas A&M University located in Commerce during the period 2011-2013. The first group was comprised of 18 native speakers of Arabic while the other was comprised of 18 other non-native speakers of English. The use of English articles was categorized numerically using a taxonomy of formal obligatory contexts. None of the statistical tests used in the study revealed significant differences between the groups even though over 90% of group two participants were native speakers of languages that do not have a system which contrasts articles as definite and indefinite like English does, or a system that separates article function from indexical use of the morpho-syntactic unit. Since Arabic does have an article system, these findings provide evidence that the strong version of the contrastive analysis hypothesis has little predictive import with respect to the English language article system in the written language of advanced ESL learners. The major factors affecting the use of English articles by these subjects are intra-lingual rather than inter-lingual.

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English Language Teaching       ISSN 1916-4742 (Print)   ISSN  1916-4750 (Online)

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