The syntactic development of grade 12 ESL learners
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The primary aim of this study is to determine the level of syntactic development in English of South African matriculants. The ESL standard in South Africa has been criticised, but no objective data are available. This study provides relevant data, based on an index, and indicates shortcomings in learners' syntactic competence. Poor school-leaving standards in English are a cause of great concern in South Africa, and complaints about school leavers' standard of English have increased over the last few years. Yet, apart from generally being labelled as "poor", little is known about the actual level of development reached by ESL learners. Comments are often based on subjective impressions. This study focuses on syntactic development in writing and aims to determine the level of syntactic development of Grade 12 ESL learners in an objective way. Interlanguage, the concept of 'stages of development’ and fossilization are discussed. The need for an index that can measure language development objectively is considered. General means of measuring syntactic development are evaluated and an index formula is established by means of statistical analyses. This formula is based on the T-unit and assigns numerical values to levels of development. The index formula is used to determine the level of syntactic development of a group of Grade 12 ESL learners. The compositions that were analysed were obtained from six provinces in South Africa. Index values are calculated for Higher and Standard Grade, for the group as a whole, and each of the six provinces. An Error Analysis is conducted and error frequencies are reported. Problem areas in syntax are identified. The implications of the findings are considered and recommendations are briefly made for the teaching and learning of grammar.
- Humanities