AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE MISUSE OF PREPOSITIONS AMONG STUDENTS
1.1 Background of the Study
The performance of the learners in writing skill performance-based assessment tasks such as the constructed-response in essay mode is often evaluated by the language experts. Most commonly used rubrics to assign a score to writing in performance-based assessments (PBAs) are analytic, holistic and primary traits rubrics (East & Young, 2007). But for the purpose of this study, the researcher has used analytic scoring technique because it can upgrade (Xi & Mollaun, 2006) reliability among measures. Each linguistic feature is assigned a separate score in analytic scoring technique. In a writing skill assessment task, it provides sufficient diagnostic information of the underlying ability of the learners.
The present study focuses on prepositions and grammatical accuracy to analyze the writing skill of Communication Art students. Keeping in view the nature and purpose of the study, it is important to explain what is meant by ‘misuse’. The words and sentences used by the learners during their writing task are checked by language instructors in the process of evaluating Communication Art students writings. They are commonly termed as errors, mistakes and slips. The presence of errors refers to the learners’ inability to employ properly the semantic categories, structure of grammar and other linguistics units. The terms ‘mistakes’ and ‘errors’ are repeatedly confused and interchanged with each other with the notion of their being synonymous for each other. Actually they are not semantically synonymous; there is a lucid and clear line of difference between these two terms.
According to Brown (1980) mistakes allude to the failure in order to use a system that is known by the learners in an approved manner. He further precedes his argument that it is a performance error. Finally, we can infer from Brown’s point of view that in his native language, a native speaker can make a mistake but he cannot make an error which non- native learners typically commit. To Edge (1989) an learner can correct his mistakes by himself/herself but to correct his errors, he definitely requires the supervision of some competent language instructor. From aforementioned discussion, it is quite vivid that errors are the result of lack of knowledge with regard to the language rules.
A learner has to go through a complicated, hit and trial process to learn a second language. In Nigeria education system, English language teaching has always occupied a superior status. Students are scarcely conscious towards the process of English language writing skill in Nigeria because particularly at college level there is not any systematic procedure and implementation of error analysis system. Besides, in this regard lecturers hardly make any committed effort. Consequently in English language writing skill, learners go on making errors and mistakes. Lecturers do not rectify these errors and as a result they become a constant feature of learners’ writing skill in the long run. The linguist is seriously concerned with the errors of the learners in modern languages pedagogy because the analysis of the errors of learners provides useful information to lecturers about the problematic areas that require to be rectified. On students writing skill, an integral part of second language instruction is the feedback. It supports in knowing how far the students have been able to steer on the road of amelioration in their writing skill. Perhaps on the part of lecturers, this is estimated to be one of the most vital responsibilities. No doubt, the feedback given by the teacher affects of how learners should move toward the writing skill process and make revisions to their writing for improvement (Hedgcock & Lefkowitz, 1994).
Prepositions are always considered as the most crucial elements in teaching English particularly in the teaching of speaking and writing skills (Mukundan & Norwati, 2009). A preposition expresses a relation between two entities, one being represented by the prepositional complement of the various types of relational meaning (Quirk et al, 1985). These relationships include those of time, place, direction, and various degrees of mental and emotional states. Studies have shown that the preposition is one of the most problematic categories that students encounter in learning English (Ravina, 1982). (Thahir, 1987) claims that prepositions can cause a problem for Arabic learners of English. What makes it harder for Arab learners of English to master English preposition usage is that Arabic prepositions are more limited in number than those of English. On the other hand, (Hayden, 1956) claims that English has fifty seven prepositions. Researchers on different languages with which English is in contact have attested to learners‟ difficulty in learning and using prepositions (Al-Marrani, 2009; Tahaimeh, 2010; Bukhari et al., 2011; Jalali and Shojaei, 2012). (Grubic, 2004) concluded that speakers of English as a foreign language encounter three problems with prepositions: using the incorrect preposition, or deleting the necessary preposition or using an additional preposition. Some teachers do not pay much attention to these set of words especially in a second language setting (Delija et al., 2013), because English preposition is just as hard to teach as it is to learn! According to Boquist (2009:5) “one cannot really explain a preposition without using one or two more prepositions in the definition … soon both the teacher and student are caught in a spiral whirlwind of prepositions and their still vague meaning”. The errors which deal with prepositions are the most common mistakes done by the non-native speakers especially in their writing. This could be due to a wide range of linguistic functions that prepositions serve, hence learners may feel discouraged to learn and master this grammar topic. For example, in choosing the appropriate preposition, one has to know and understand the context as well as “the intended meaning” (Tetreault & Chodorow, 2008)
1.2 Problem Statement
From school and college level, English language is taught as a compulsory subject. Conversely, in spite of its being taught for so many years, the learners at graduate level still have problems in their second language especially in prepositions and grammatical accuracy. The learners have to face many difficulties of how to write accurately in accordance with syntactic rules. They even cannot develop meaning between sentences. They cannot write an essay accurately with the correct use of prepositions.
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