In this article we examine various speech error classifications and suggest possible ways of using them in the process of teaching English as a foreign language.
Key words: speech error, classification, English, teaching, language.
In this article we shall examine types of speech errors and different classifications of them from the point of methodology, linguistics, psycholinguistics. First and foremost, it is crucial for our research to define the term “speech error”. Speech error is a deviation from the existing language norms of word usage, grammar, stylistics etc. However, it is also an integral element of speech activity. The stability and regularity of the manifestation of speech errors is due, on the one hand, to the language system itself, primarily because of such a feature as the availability of options, and the other — the features of individual language acquisition by each native speaker. Since words are the most important units of language, one ought to pay attention to their use, stylistic coloring, meaning, compatibility with other words. There are errors that belong exclusively to written or oral speech and those that do not depend on the form of speech. There are lexical, syntactic, stylistic, derivational, morphological errors. Errors can also be divided in groups based on speech mechanisms and processes, context, language levels.
Speech error can lead to distortion of meaning, which determines the information component of speech. If we want to achieve more effective communication, the task should be to reduce the number of errors in speech, thereby reduce the «noise» created by them, make the speech simpler, clearer, and therefore more accessible and understandable, and communication more effective.
The other reason to work on reducing speech errors is related to the fact that by teaching a person to speak correctly, we thereby form one of the key elements of culture in general sense.
Highly organized speech implies the absence of speech errors. Therefore, the work on the prevention and elimination of speech errors is an important part of the overall work on the development of speech. It is self-evident that it is critical to study speech errors and ways to eliminate them in teaching foreign languages and English language in particular. Hence, we deem it relevant to analyze speech errors in order to understand the mechanism behind this occurrence and develop measures to prevent and resolve such issues in the process of teaching foreign languages and EFL specifically. In order to achieve better communication and raise general cultural level we must work on reducing errors in our speech, and that requires a clear and profound classification of speech errors. We consider the first step on the way to achieve this goal to be the research of different approaches to classification of speech errors.
According to the well-known Russian linguist S. N. Tseytlin , speech errors can be classified depending on their belonging to oral or written speech. Thus, there are errors that can only happen in written or oral speech and errors that can happen regardless of the form of speech.
Peculiar to exclusively oral form of speech are orthoepic and accentological errors. Spelling and punctuation errors are typical in written speech. In the context of teaching English as a foreign language, errors that do not depend on a certain speech for are of particular interest to teachers.
- Stylistic errors.
This approach offers a clear and organized way to classify speech errors and can serve as a basis for developing correction exercises. Therefore, we consider it to be of a great use to a teacher.
The classification of speech errors by G. Stemberger presented in the book “Introduction to psycholinguistics” (“Vvedenie v psikholingvistiku”) by Russian psycholinguist A. A. Zalevskaya  uses the following criteria of error group allocation:
- Nature of error;
- Contextuality (further divided in accordance with sequencing, directionality and the relation between source and location);
- Language levels.
The first group suggests classification of errors based on processes or actions that determine them. It includes substitution, blend, addition, delition (omission).
Speech errors can be divided into two groups by dependence on context: contextual and non-contextual. Contextual errors are connected to sequencing, order in speech flow, and include subgroups of errors distinguished by directionality and relations between source and location. The former group consists of such errors as anticipation, perseveration, transposition, anticipation-perseveration, interrupted anticipation and shift. The latter includes errors located in a single unit (intra) and between different units (inter).
The aim of the fundamental research of G. Eiger, also considered by Zalevskaya, was to describe the mechanism of control of language correctness of the statement at the main stages of speech production as in the process of self-regulation (i.e. in the course of regulatory and evaluation activities), and in the process of the formation of this mechanism in the acquisition of a foreign language. G. Eiger traces features of the named mechanism at different stages of the process of speech production and offers in this regard the appropriate interpretation of speech errors.
At the speech programming stage errors are classified by orientation in a situation and situational-notional (semantic) syntaxing.
Orientation in a situation refers to identification of subjects and relationships between them in accordance to meaning. This includes errors caused by
- Non-distinction between the subject and the object of an action;
- Non-distinction between the subject of an action and the action (state);
- Non-distinction between the action and its object;
- Combination of the subject of an action and the result of it;
- Combination of the object of an action and its feature;
- Combination of a few actions.
Situational-notional (semantic) syntaxing errors refer to transition from simultaneous (abstract) image to internal scheme. It can result in the following types of errors:
- Insufficient development of causal relationships;
- Non-explication of logical-semantic specifiers;
- Lack of concretization of time relation (including blending of a period and its part, blending of a period and periodicity of an action, blending of the beginning and the end of an action);
- Lack of clarification of distributional relationship;
- Insufficient development of space-time relationship.
At the stage of implementation of the program errors are connected to syntaxing and lexical filling (choice of words).
Violations of syntax combination (metatax) type of speech errors can be caused by:
- Assimilation during the interaction of synonymic structure;
- Syntactic paronymy;
- Similarity of form and position of words from related classes;
- Semantic assimilation.
Violations of information encoding refers to speech errors caused by:
- Semantic induction.
This approach in classifying speech errors can function as a tool for in-depth speech error analysis. The more profound and deep understanding of a problem proves to be useful in search of solutions. Speech error analysis is a valuable skill for any foreign language teacher.
Another approach that we would like to mention is offered by Julian Edge .
According to him, speech errors can be divided into three types:
The first two types, slips and errors, are made when students are working on the material they are familiar with. The difference between these two types of speech errors lies in the ability of a student to correct their own mistake. “Slip” only requires teacher to point out a mistake. In case of “error” the student isn’t able to correct themselves, although they were taught the rule. An “error” can often mean that the material was not learned well enough and deserves the most attention from the teacher.
Attempts, on the other hand, happen when a student tries to use unfamiliar speech structures to express their thoughts, or when it is unclear what meaning they are trying to convey or which grammatical form to use.
A teacher capable of differentiating between these three types of speech errors is able to prioritize errors that require to be focused on first and to approach each student in an individual manner.
In conclusion, there are various approaches to classification of speech errors that use different criteria for that purpose. We consider all of the aforementioned classifications to be relevant and important for working out effective measures to eliminate speech errors. There are certain ways of implementing the speech error analysis, based on the classifications mentioned above, into the process of teaching EFL that increase the effectiveness of education. Speech error analysis allows a teacher to gain profound understanding of causes of the errors and enhances the teacher’s ability to solve the problem by using an individual approach to each student based on the knowledge of psycholinguistic nature of speech errors. It provides teachers with various ways to classify speech errors in an organized manner and develop correction measures due to systematical target approach. It also allows teachers to determine the priority of speech errors in order to correct them with greater effectiveness.
- Tseytlin, S. N. Rechevye oshibki i ih preduprezhdenie / S. N. Tseytlin. — Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 1982. — 127 p.
- Zalevskaya, A. A. Vvedenie v psiholingvistiku / A. A. Zalevskaya. —: Rossijskij gosudarstvennyj gumanitarnyj universitet, 1999. — 349 p.
- Julian, Edge Mistakes and correction / Edge Julian. —: Longman, 1997. — 70 p.