The Nitty-gritty of Language Learners’ Errors – Contrastive Analysis, Error Analysis and Interlanguage

Bandar Mohammad Saeed Al-Sobhi


The major aim of the current paper is to review and discuss three prevailing approaches to the study of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) since the middle of the twentieth century: Contrastive Analysis (CA, henceforth), Error Analysis (EA) and Interlanguage (IL). It begins with a general overview of how the CA approach was formulated and developed and discusses the three versions of CA which were displaced later by other approaches, such as EA and IL. The paper also provides an in-depth theoretical discussion of the notion of EA in terms of its definitions, goals, significance, development, causes and procedures. The discussion about the SLA approaches concludes with a review of IL which claims that language learners produce a separate linguistic system with its own salient features, which differs from their L1 and target language. Additionally, a bulk of previous studies conducted on EA in different contexts are reviewed throughout the paper.


Contrastive Analysis, Error Analysis, Interlanguage

Full Text:



Awasthi, J. R. (1995). A linguistic analysis of errors committed by Nepali learners of English (Unpublished doctoral dissertation), University of Hyderabad, India.

Brown, H. D. (2000). Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. (4th Ed). Addison Wesley, New York: Longman.

Brown. H. D. (2007). Principles of Language Learning and Teaching (5th Ed). Addison Wesley, New York: Longman.

Burt, M. & Kiparsky, C. (1972). The Gooficon: A Repair Manual for English. Newbury House.

Chomsky, N. (1959). A review of BF Skinner’s Verbal behavior. Language, 35(1), 26–58.Cook, V. J. (1999). Teaching spelling. Retrieved January 17, 2019 from

Corder, S. P. (1971) Idiosyncratic Dialects and Error Analysis. In J.C. Richards (ed.) (1974) Error Analysis: Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition (pp. 158–171). London: Longman.

Corder, S.P. (1973). Introducing Applied Linguistics. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books Ltd.

Corder, S.P. (1978) Language-learner Language. In J.C. Richards (ed.) Understanding Second and Foreign Language Learning (pp. 71–93). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Corder, S.P. (1981). Error Analysis and Interlanguage. Oxford University Press.

Crystal, D. (2010). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, D. (2008). A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics. (5th Ed.). London: Blackwell.

Dulay, H., & Burt, M. (1974). Error and strategies in child second language acquisition. TESOL Quarterly, 8, 129-138.

Dulay, H., Burt, M. & Krashen, S. (1982). Language Two. Oxford University Press.

El-Dakhs, D. and Mitchell A. (2011). Spelling Error Analysis among EFL High-School Graduates. Retrieved on 3 January 2019 from

Ellis, R. (1985). Understanding Second Language Acquisition. Oxford University Press.

Ellis, R. (1994). The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford University Press.

Ellis, R. (1997). Second Language Acquisition. Oxford Introduction to Language Study. Series Editor H. G. Widdowson.

Ellis, R. (1988). The Effects of Linguistic Environment on the Second Language Acquisition of Grammatical Rules. Applied Linguistics 10, 281-302.

Ferris, D. R. (2011). Treatment of Error in Second Language Student Writing. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Fisiak, J. (1981). The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Grauberg, W. (1997). The elements of foreign language teaching (Vol. 7). Multilingual Matters.

Han, Z., & Tarone, E. (Eds.). (2014). Interlanguage: Forty years later (Vol. 39). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

James, C. (2013). Errors in language learning and use: Exploring error analysis. Routledge..

Keshavarz, M. H. (2003). Contrastive Analysis and Error Analysis. Rahnama Publications Tehran.

Lado, R. (1977) Linguistics across Cultures. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Littlewood, W. (1984). Foreign and Second Language Learning: Language Acquisition Research and Its Implications for the Classroom. Cambridge University Press.

López Castillejos, W. (2009). Error Analysis in a Learner Corpus. What Are the Learners’ Strategies? Retrieved on 14th March 2019 from

Mitchell, R. and Myles, M. (2004). Second Language Learning Theories. New York: Hodder Arnold.

Nemser, N. (1971). Approximate Systems of Foreign Language Learners. IRAL, 9(2) 115-124.

Nickel, G. (1971). Papers in Contrastive Linguistics. London: Cambridge University Press.

Oller, J. W. & Ziahossieny, S. M. (1970). The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis and Spelling Errors in Language Learning. Vol 20.

Politzer, R. and Ramirez, A. (1973). An Error Analysis of Spoken English of Mexican-American Pupils in a Bilingual School and a Monolingual School, Language Learning, 23(1), 39-61..

Powell, G. (1998). What is the Role of Transfer in Interlanguage? Department of Linguistics and Modern English Language, Lancaster University. Retrieved on 20th February 2019 from

Richards, J. C. (1974). Errors Analysis Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition. Applied Linguistics and Language Study. Longman Group Limited, London.

Richards, J. & Sampson, G. (1974). The Study of Learner English. In Errors Analysis Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition. Applied Linguistics and Language Study. Longman Group Limited, London. pp. 6-8.

Richards, J. C. & Schmidt, R. (2010). Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied Linguistics. (4th Ed). Pearson Education Limited.

Saville-Troike, M. (2006). Introducing Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge Introduction to Language and Linguistics. Cambridge University Press.

Schachter, J. (1974). An error in error analysis. Language Learning, 24, 205-214.

Selinker, L. & Gass, S. (2008). Second Language Acquisition: An introductory course. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Selinker, L. (1992). Rediscovering Interlanguage. London: Longman.

Selinker, L. (1972), Interlanguage. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 10, 209–231.

Spolsky, B. (1979). Contrastive analysis, error analysis, interlanguage, and other useful fads. The modern language journal, 63(5‐6), 250-257. Sridhar, S. (1980). Contractive Analysis, Error Analysis and Interlanguage: Three Phases of one Goal. “Readings on English as a second Language. Croft, K. (ed.) Cambridge. Massachusetts: Winthrop publisher.

Swalameh, M. H. M. (2013). Error Analysis of Written English Essays: the Case of Students of the Preparatory Year in Saudi Arabia. English for Specific Purposes World. Vol.14.

Taylor, G. (1986). Errors and Explanations. Applied Linguistics, 7,144-66.

VanPatten, B. & Benati, A. G. (2010). Key Terms in Second Language Acquisition. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Weireesh, S. (1991). How to Analyze Interlanguage. Journal of Psychology & Education.9 (1), 13 -22.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2013-2019 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD.

International Journal of Education and Literacy Studies  

You may require to add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list’ If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox'. Otherwise, you may check your 'Spam mail' or 'junk mail' folders.