Macquarie University
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An analysis of the lexicogrammatical errors of Japanese university students studying English: a systemic functional grammar approach

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posted on 2022-03-28, 17:09 authored by Justin Falkus
This thesis presents an analysis of written lexicogrammatical errors, made by first-year Japanese university students studying English as their second language (L2). The perspective taken by the analysis, and the tools with which it is conducted, are those of Michael Halliday’s Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG). The research is contextualised by an exploration of the history of L2 error analysis as it appears in the academic literature. Since the literature presents a somewhat confusing picture, a new framework for categorising and understanding error analyses is presented. Sixty-six short essays, comprising 970 clauses, were collected and analysed. A total of 72 error categories were identified. The analysis shows that many errors are actually composite in nature, deriving from two and sometimes three different ‘strands of meaning’, or metafunctions. The analysis also illustrates that most errors involve not merely syntagmatic departures from English grammar, but also idiosyncratic paradigmatic choices from system networks. It is therefore argued that SFG allows us to posit two interpretations of these errors. The first considers them to be incorrect realisations of meaningful choices within what is commonly called ‘Standard English’, or what is called in this thesis the English System Network (ESN). The second interpretation takes the concept of ‘choice’ as its starting point, and views errors as incorrect selections from lexicogrammatical systems. While not amounting to a theory of an emerging variety of English, this second approach allows us to model lexicogrammatical systems as they emerge from learner texts. It is shown how these SFG-inspired perspectives can benefit language pedagogy, as they promote a greater focus on meaning than traditional, rule-based approaches. While still taking account of form, they help learners to visualise and contextualise these elements within the ESN through the use of system diagrams


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Literature review -- Chapter 3. Systemic functional grammar -- Chapter 4. Methodology -- Chapter 5. The error analysis -- Chapter 6. Discussion and conclusions.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 315-334

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

John Knox


Copyright Justin Falkus 2015. Copyright disclaimer:




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