Extensive English Concord Error Analysis. Problems, Solutions and Recommendations

Scientific Study, 2019

102 Pages, Grade: 3.49 (B+)








1.0 Introduction
1.1 Background to the Study
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 Purpose of the Study
1.4 Objectives of the Study
1.5 Research Questions
1.6 Significance of the Study
1.7 Delimitation of the study
1.8 Organization of the Study

2.0 Introduction
2.1 Theoretical Framework Guiding the Study
2.2 Conceptual Framework Guiding the Study
2.2.1 The concept of grammar
2.2.2 Grammar as a set of rules
2.2.3 Grammar as a subject matter
2.2.4 The concept of concord Subject- verb concord or grammatical concord Notional Concord Proximity concord Pronoun antecedent concord Subject- verb complement concord Subject-object concord Concord with the Correlatives Concord with Intervening Phrases/Words Concord with third person pronouns
2.3 Concept of Error
2.3.1 Causes of errors Language transfer ` Incomplete application of rules Over-generalization Fossilization Ignorance of rule restrictions Overuse Underuse Influence of computer or technology
2.4 Errors Analysis Studies in General
2.5 Senior High School Students’ Error Problems
2.6 Summary

3.0 Introduction
3.1 The Study Area
3.2 Research Design
3.3 Population and Sampling Frame
3.4 Sample Size and Selection of Participants
3.5 Sampling Techniques
3.6 Tools of Data Collection
3.6.1 Questionnaire
3.6.2 Objectives test
3.7 Validity of Instrument
3.8 Reliability of Instrument
3.9 Methods of Data Analysis and Presentation
3.10 Conclusion

4.0 Introduction
4.1 Research Question 1: What type(s) of concord errors do students make?
4.2 Research Question 2: What is the competence level of students in their concord usage?
4.3 Research Question 3
4.3.1 Teacher training /in-service training
4.3.2 Extensive reading
4.3.3 Availability of teaching and learning materials
4.4.4 Mother tongue interference
4.5 Summary

5.0 Introduction
5.1 Summary of Findings
5.2 Conclusions
5.3 Recommendations
5.4 Suggestion for Further Studies





Teachers’ Research Questionnaire


We dedicate this work to all students and researchers of the Queen’s language globally. Let us continue to blaze the trail in research. Thank you


Table Page

1: Student Population Distribution for 2019

2: Teacher Population Distribution for the four Schools in 2019

3: Sample size for the students’ respondents based on Miller and Brewer’s (2003) formula

4: Proportional distribution of students’ sample size

5: Question 1

2: Question 2

3: Question 3

4: Question 4

5: Question 5

6: Question 6

7: Question 7

8: Question 8

9: Question 9

10: Question 10

11: Question 11

12: Question 12

13: Question 13

14: Question 14

15: Question 15

16: Compentence Level of students

17: Qualification of Teachers of English

18: Teachers Responses to Item Three



1. Map of Senior High/Technical Schools in Wa Municipality-Ghana


This study reports the dominant linguistic errors that occur in the test items given to students of four Senior High Schools. The English sentence has a fairly strict word order and the elements that make up a sentence must be in concord, otherwise, the linear sequence becomes ungrammatical. This study investigated the degree of competence on concord in English attained by the Senior High School students in four selected schools in the Wa municipality of Ghana. The need for the work was underscored by the crucial role played by the English Language in Ghana’s education. The findings of the study would be relevant in English Language learning and pedagogy. A simple survey research design was adopted for the study and the subjects of the study comprised one hundred and eighty-seven students from four SHSs in Wa. Fifteen objective questions set on different types of concord were used as test instrument. The students’ errors were classified and analyzed using a simple percentage. The finding of the research revealed that the students have not mastered the rules guiding different types of concord. They were unable to dictate concord errors caused by shift in the construction of elements of sentences. The causes of concord errors were more of misappropriation of concord rules. The implications of the findings in the teaching and learning of English were discussed and suggestions for improvement made.


1.0 Introduction

English grammar is without doubt one of the most daunting aspects of the English Language, an area riddled with complexities, inconsistencies, and contradictions. It has also been in a state of flux for pretty much of its entire existence (Herring, 2007).

Although English is an official language in Ghana, its teaching and learning often pose some challenges to both teachers and students in schools, colleges and even universities. Studies have however revealed that the challenges posed by the use of English as second language in Ghana is as a result of how the language is taught and learned at all levels of education in the country. For example, studies have revealed that some teachers of English who teach English as a second language do not have the requisite training or qualification before teaching the subject in some schools, colleges and even universities in Ghana (Afful, 2007). For this reason, certain aspects of the English, such as grammar, is often relegated in the English Language classroom. Indeed, my experience over the years as a teacher and a student of English Language revealed that some teachers of English often shirk the responsibility of teaching English grammar, which is the core of the language. It is in an attempt to salvage some of the challenges pertaining to the teaching and learning of the grammar of the English Language that the researcher embarks on this research.

1.1 Background to the Study

Huddersfield (2008) postulates that English Language is gradually becoming a universal medium for communication in the whole world. Across the globe there is a conscious effort by individuals, companies and nations to get their employees learn the English Language so as to facilitate effective communication and business transactions across continents. The teaching and learning of English Language have therefore remained a constant activity in schools within English speaking countries (Nimako, 2008).

English Language plays a significant role in the Ghanaian society. It is the official language of communication and the official medium of school instruction. It plays a unifying role in the country by facilitating contact between Ghanaians of diverse linguistic backgrounds (Akurugu, 2010).Requirements for entry into educational institutions and the job market include English Language competence test. In effect, English is the language of education, administration, law, communication and commerce (Afful, 2007).Once one chooses to educate one’s self, one has no good reason not to speak English well.

Learning a language, for that matter English, requires an understanding of the rudiments of the language which is referred to as the grammar of the language. According to Pomeyie (2007, p.30), “grammar is the rules of a language set out in terminology which is hard to remember, with many exceptions appended to each rule.”

William (1981, p.12) defines “grammar as an inescapable fact of a language system because it is the set of principles which permit orderly speaking and writing”. The fact is that grammar would exist even if there were no books about grammar because it is essentially the unwritten agreement among speakers of the language about the ways to express ideas most efficiently. To be able to speak and write requires a working knowledge of grammar which is a refinement of the basic or instinctive knowledge the writer has about the language. Good writing and speaking are more than the art of obeying grammatical rules but extends deeply into the art of arranging words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs in such a way as to engage and sustain the listener’s or reader’s attention (Richards, 2007). The grammar of a language covers such points of usage as tenses, spellings, punctuation, concord, parts of speech, lexis and structures.

According to Dakubu (1988) as cited in Yeboah (2014, p.1), “the country is linguistically heterogeneous as there are about forty-five (45) different indigenous languages”. To break the language barrier, English has become an effective medium of communication in our multilingual setting. Therefore, acquiring a high proficiency in English in Ghana is essential. It is for this reason that Senior High School students in particular and Ghanaians in general should be well equipped with the rules of the language so that they can function effectively and efficiently both in Ghana and beyond. All instructional and learning materials like syllabi and teachers’ guides have been written in English. This indicates the high value our educational system places on language.

English is one of the core subjects taught both at the Basic and Senior High School levels of education. Any individual who wants to climb in the academic owes it an obligation to, at least, have a credit in the English Language (Yebaoh, 2014).Therefore mastering English Language is very important to students in Ghana. Regrettably, this mastering of the language is confronted with a lot of challenges, such as lack of sufficiently qualified teachers of English, lack of role models, negative attitude to the learning of the language, poor reading culture and, above all, inadequate exposure to the intricacies of the grammar of the language (Sarpong, 2014).

Learning English as a second language basically aims at improving the grammatical proficiency of students which, eventually, leads to the acquisition of the academic English of the learner (Yeboah, 2014). This acquisition includes acquisition of the grammatical forms of Standard English. The study of grammar in this sense is therefore, a means to acquiring proficiency in academic English. To what extent then have students made use of grammar as a means of developing their academic English?

Akurugu (2010) reports the results of a survey of the performance of students at various educational institutions in the Northern Region of Ghana. The outcome of the survey points to the fact that the standard of English is indeed falling. The survey which captured a period of thirty years revealed that the quality of English that students produce at various levels of education have changed drastically which can be attributed greatly to the progressive decline in their proficiency in the English language. Considering the special place that English has in the Ghanaian society, one would have thought that proficiency in English among Ghanaians would be growing from good to better, rather it is the vice versa. Under-achievement in English at the Senior High Schools’ level is a common phenomenon in Ghanaian educational system. The most noticeable indication of poor performance is obvious in the WAEC conducted WASSCE English Examination. The situation becomes worse every year.

Additionally, the WAEC Chief Examiner’s Report in (2013) reveals student’s poor performance in English. This abysmal performance in English in particular is worrisome because it would be impossible for any candidate to do well in examinations if English Language as a medium of expression is not mastered. One major weakness of the students is poor syntax; prominent among them is concord errors. The committee, therefore, called for a return to the policy of placing emphasis on lexis and structure.

Grammar in its simplest sense is the study of how a language works (Sarpong, 2014). What this means specifically is that grammar is the study of the systems and patterns which operate in a language to give meaning to an utterance. These suitable systems and patterns are believed to constitute the rules of language. These rules govern the sounds, words, sentences and other elements, as well as their combination and interpretation (Owu-Ewie, 2006). Safo-Adu (2009) cited in Yeboah (2014p.30) confirms that a fully adequate grammar must assign to each of an infinite range of sentences, a structural pattern indicating how this sentence is to be understood by the ideal speaker-hearer.

In English grammar, there are rules, which govern variations in the form of words, variation in the word order and combination of phonemes. The phonology of English, for instance, permits the combination of certain phonemes in a particular sequence to form acceptable patterns. Let us consider the letters ‘p’, ‘a’, ‘t’, when combining English letters to form words such as ‘pat’, ‘tap’ and ‘apt’ are realized but ‘atp’ on possible combination is not acceptable in the language. In the same vein, ‘eggs’ is the plural of ‘egg’, but ‘mans’ is not accepted as the plural of ‘man’. The same holds for arrangement of words in an English sentence, which accounts for acceptability in examples1, 3 and unacceptability in 2, 4 below:

1. I want mangoes.
2. *want mangoes I.
3. Blessing has a pen.
4. *has Blessing a pen?

Clearly, any deviation from the conventional and acceptable norm is termed ungrammatical, represented with asterisks in the above sentences. In English Language, the word classes, according to Quirk and Greenbaum (2000) in Obi (2009), can be exemplified as follows:

a) Noun-John,room,book
b) Adjective- happy, steady, new, large, round
c) Adverb-steadily, completely, really, very, then
d) Verb- search, grow, play, be, have, do
e) Article- the, a, an
f) Demonstrative- that, them
g) Prepositions – of, at, in, without, in spite of
h) Conjunction - and, that, when, although

These units of speech are not used randomly in a sentence. Their occurrence and arrangement in a sentence must be guided by the syntax of the language. A particular grammatical element must be in harmony with another grammatical element for them to co-occur in a sentence. This is known as concord (Obi, 2009). Nankuri (2015, p.32) contends that “concord is a relationship which exists between two grammatical units such that when one of them displays a particular feature, for example, plurality that accords with a displayed feature in the other”. This kind of relationship exists between the subject and the verb in a sentence so that if the subject contains a plural feature, the verb must have the same feature in order to make the sentence grammatically acceptable. This kind of concord between the subject and the verb on the basis of number is technically referred to as grammatical concord as exemplified in the following sentences:

(1a). My mother is here.
(2b). My mothers are here.

In sentence (1a), the singular subject, ‘my mother’ selects the singular form of the verb ‘is’ while in sentence (2b), the plural verb, ‘are’ must co-occur with a plural subject, ‘my mothers’ for acceptability of the sentence.

Weinreich (2008) explains that grammatical concord is the most important concord in English. Other patterns of agreement or concord are Subject-Complement Concord; Pronoun-Antecedent Concord, Concord of Person, Subject-Object Complement Concord, Concord with Correlatives, Proximity Concord, Subject-Object Concord, Sequence of Tense Concord, Verb-Verb Concord, Shift in Construction Concord, Adjective-Noun Concord, and Notional Concord .

The following sentences illustrate some different types of concord:

Subject- Verb Concord or Grammatical Concord

1. The door is open.

Sing. Subject Sing. Verb

2. The doors are open.

Plural Subject Plural Verb

Subject-complement Concord

1. Mr. and Mrs.Dery are my friends.

Plural subject plural complement

2. This young man is an actor.

Singular subject Singular complement

In the sentences above, the subject must agree with the complement in relation to number.

Selinker (2011, p.40) explains that “errors are not evidence of carelessness or unwillingness but of growing pains and desire to learn”. Owu-Ewie (2006) believes that learners’ errors are of particular importance because the making of errors can be regarded as a device that learners use in order to learn. Sarpong (2014, p.10) defines errors as “a systematic deviation from the target language by non-native speaker(s).” He explains that learners’ errors exhibit his incompetence in a particular aspect of language. Sarpong (2014) further distinguishes errors from mistakes. Mistakes could be caused by slip of the tongue, oversight in writing, distractions and so on. Mistakes could easily be corrected by the person who made them; but a person who has committed an error is incapable of correcting it unless he is taught the correct form. Errors could be interlingual or intralingual in nature. “Interlingual errors are caused by analogy with the native language while intralingual errors imply general characteristics of rule learning such as over-generalization or faulty application of rules or conditions” (Corder, 2004, p.32).

Most Ghanaians especially Senior High School students have acquired their first language to a significant degree before they are introduced to the English language. As a result of this, the contact between the English language and their indigenous or first language has its implications-the sound system and grammar of the first language interfering with those of English. This usually leads to interlingual errors. In every English sentence, for instance, a singular subject must agree with its verb in number and in person. This rule runs contrary to the Dagaaba syntax in WA Municipality as in the examples below:

English Dagaaba

(1a). Daddy wants the chair. (1b). N saa boↄrↄ la a dakogi .
(2a). My parents want the chair. (2b). N dↄgereba boↄrↄ la a dakogi.

The verb element in (1b), boↄrↄ la ‘want’ goes with both singular and plural subjects. Therefore, “there is no grammatical agreement between the subject and the verb” (Safo-Adu, 2009) as cited in Yeboah (2014). The intricate and complex nature of the English language often creates problem for a second language learner in his effort to internalize and apply the rules of the language. For instance, though there are rules governing the English concord, the flexibility of the language and its inherent irregular forms could result in construction of deviant sentences by learners. There are irregular ways of forming the plurals of certain nouns. Differentiating between the singular and plural forms of words of foreign origin is sometimes difficult to learners. Some English words, though have plural marker(s), are obligatorily singular while some nouns are never singular. See the following examples:

Singular Plural

Pen pens

Table tables Regular nouns

Mouse mice Irregular nouns

Ox oxen

Some of the singular words that end in plural markers but must obligatorily co-occur with singular verbs are headquarters, alms, gallows and others. Nouns like trousers, scissors, glasses, arrears, amends, minutes, particulars are always plural and must select plural verbs. An ESL learner who is not quite conversant with these irregular forms in the language is bound to commit grammatical errors, unless he is well grounded in these exceptional cases. Therefore, considering the interlingual and intralingual problems confronting the learner of English as a second language, there is an urgent need to make the learners internalize and make use of the appropriate grammar rules, which generate the correct form of the English language. It is for this reason that the researcher takes up the challenge to analyse concord errors of students, look into possible areas of concord errors, and what can be done about the situation to improve students’ competency in English.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

A group of students I interviewed at the Senior High Schools in WA Municipality, Ghana in 2019 as to what they thought about the teaching and learning of English grammar indicated that it is featured by serious academic work and this collaborated with Angeli-Carter’s view that good academic work is characterized by good style of grammar (Angeli-Carter, 1998, p.53).Indeed, their response underscores the important role of English grammar in academia. Notwithstanding the challenges the teaching of English grammar poses to both teachers and students in schools, colleges and even universities, not much effort has been made by teachers and students to curtail the recurrence of some of these problems (Afful, 2007). Ironically, some schools of thought have argued that English should not be taught by anybody in classrooms because it does not help students, but rather confused them since there are many rules to be learnt by students (Bakuuro, 2015). In particular, Krashen (1982) and Prabu (1987) are of the view that students become naturally good speakers of a target language – English Language, on their own than when they are taught by somebody who knows the language. In contrast to the views expressed by Krashen (1982) and Prabu (1987),Bock (1989) in Angeli-Carter (1998,p.53) is of the view that the teaching of English grammar in the English language can afford students the opportunity to “…communicate additional meanings about ‘time (tense), plurality, possibility…” It is in line with the views shared by Bock, in Angeli-Carter (1998), Sharwood (1988), Ellis (1997) and others concerning the teaching of English grammar that the researcher intends to advance reasons in this work in support of the need to teach English grammar especially concord well.

According to Agor (2003) English Language plays a very important role in the academic pursuit of students of Senior High Schools and other levels of education. English is used as a medium of communication at all sectors of life (Huddleston, 2000). In our schools, English plays a pivotal role since all the textbooks and instructional materials like syllabi and teachers guides have been written in English. This indicates the high value our educational system places on the language. English happens to be one of the core subjects taught in both Junior and Senior High School levels of education, and any individual who aspires to climb high in the academic ladder owes it an obligation to, at least, have a credit in the English Language (Darko, 2009). Therefore, mastering English Language is very important to students in Ghana.


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Extensive English Concord Error Analysis. Problems, Solutions and Recommendations
3.49 (B+)
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extensive, english, concord, error, analysis, problems, solutions, recommendations
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Justine Bakuuro (Author)Basil Muokuu (Author), 2019, Extensive English Concord Error Analysis. Problems, Solutions and Recommendations, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/984514


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