English article errors in Taiwanese college students' EFL writing

Neil Edward Barrett, Li-Mei Chen

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The English articles, the, indefinite a/an, and zero can be troublesome for English language learners. Thomas [1] demonstrated that English second language (L2) learners from first languages (L1) that do not have the equivalent of an article system encounter problems using articles. Ionin and Wexler [2] found that such learners fluctuate between definiteness and specificity. This study examined English L2 article use with Taiwanese English learners to determine the potential factors influencing English article substitution and error patterns in their academic writing. The corpus-based analysis used natural data collected for the Academic Writing Textual Analysis (AWTA) corpus [3]. A detailed online corpus tagging system was developed to examine article use, covering semantic (specific and hearer knowledge) as well as the other features of the English article. The results indicated that learners overused both the definite and indefinite articles but underused the zero article. The definite article was substituted for the indefinite article in specific environments. Although no significant difference existed between specific and non-specific semantic environments in zero article errors, a significant difference emerged between plural and mass/non-count nouns. These results suggest that, in regard to writing, learners need to focus on the semantic/pragmatic relationships of specificity and hearer (or reader) knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Dec 1
Event22nd Conference on Computational Linguistics and Speech Processing, ROCLING 2010 - Nantou, Taiwan
Duration: 2010 Sep 12010 Sep 2


Other22nd Conference on Computational Linguistics and Speech Processing, ROCLING 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Speech and Hearing


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