Chapter II “An Error Analysis of Simple Past Tense in Student’s Composition Focusing on Narrative Text”

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Chapter II

An Error Analysis of Simple Past Tense in Student’s Composition Focusing on Narrative Text”

This chapter presented relevant theories to this study. In details, this chapter consists of the definition of tenses especially Simple Past Tense, the definition of Error Analysis, the difference between Error and Mistakes, procedure of Analyzing Error, the definition of writing, the definition of composition and narrative Text.

    1. Error Analysis

2.1.1 Definition of Error Analysis

According to Stephen Pit Corder (1960) Error analysis (EA) was an alternative to contrastive analysis, an approach influenced by behaviorism through which applied linguists sought to use the formal distinctions between the learners' first and second languages to predict errors. Error analysis showed that contrastive analysis was unable to predict a great majority of errors, although its more valuable aspects have been incorporated into the study of language transfer. A key finding of error analysis has been that many learner errors are produced by learners making faulty inferences about the rules of the new language. Stephen Pit Corder (1960) mentions Error analysts distinguish between errors, which are

systematic, and mistakes, which are not. They often seek to develop atypology of errors. Error can be classified according to basic type: omissive, additive, substitutive or related to word order. They can be classified by how apparent they are: overt errors such as "I angry" are obvious even out of context, where as covert errors are evident only in context. Closely related to this is the classification according to domain, the breadth of context which the analyst must examine, and extent, the breadth of the utterance which must be changed in order to fix the error. Errors may also be classified according to the level of language: phonological errors, vocabulary or lexical errors,syntactic errors, and so on. They may be assessed according to the degree to which they interfere with communication:global errors make an utterance difficult to understand, while local errors do not. In the above example, "I angry" would be a local error, since the meaning is apparent.

According to linguist Corder (1960), the following are the steps in any typical EA research: (Step in Error Analysis)

  1. collecting samples of learner language

  2. identifying the errors

  3. describing the errors

  4. explaining the errors

  5. evaluating/correcting the errors

Collection of errors: the nature and quantity of errors is likely to vary depending on whether the data consist of natural, spontaneous language use or careful, elicited language use. Corder (1973) distinguished two kinds of elicitation: clinical and experimental elicitation. Clinical elicitation involves getting the informant to produce data of any sort, for example by means of general interview or writing a composition. Experimental elicitation involves the use of special instrument to elicit data containing the linguistic features such as a series of pictures which had been designed to elicit specific features.

Brown (1994: 51) mentions analysis of linguistic error that learner makes is commonly known as error analysis. Brown (1994) adds, error analysis is the fact that learners do make errors, and that these errors can be observed, analyzed and classified to reveal something of system operating within the learner, led to a surge of study of learners errors. Lim (1976) claims that one of the central purposes of error analysis is to help teachers assess more accurately what treatments would be necessary for ESL students preparing an English test, as to help these students avoid the most common errors. Furthermore, Tarigan (1990: 69) states that error analysis has aims as follow:

  1. To determine the sequence of the items presentation that is taught in the text book in the classroom for example, the sequence of easy difficult.

  2. To determine the sequence of relative level stressing, explanation and the exercise of all the materials taught.

  1. To plan the exercise and remedial teaching.

  2. To choose the items for evaluating the students ability.

From the aims above, analyzing student’s error is expected to give clear steps for teachers on developing learning process for their students.
2.1.2 Difference between Error and Mistakes

Semantically, both error and mistake might have common meaning. They are interpreted as a deviation from rules. But viewed from the analysis aspect, error and mistake are two different things. According to Burt et al (1982) as cited in Mohideen (1992), an error refers to a systematic deviation from a selected rule or set of rule. Moreover, Dulay et al (1982) notes that

Errors were flawed side of learners speech or writing and they were those parts of conversation that deviate from some selected norms of mature language performance….
Along with those statements, Brown (1994:205) explained a mistake as a random guess or a slip that failure to utilize a known system correctly. Yet Corder (1981) describes mistake as an unsystematic deviation, such as speech mistake that is influenced by fatigue, emotion, etc. Corder also adds, mistake lies on performance, while error lies on competence which is a continuous systematic deviation and describe learners language comprehension at a certain phase. To simplify the differences between error and mistake, Tarigan (1988: 76) presents a table as follow:
Table 2.5

The differences between error and mistake, Tarigan (1988: 76)

Point of View Category












Linguistic System

Un-mastered yet






Need more teacher guidance, practice and exercise

The learners themselves (need more awareness)

2.1.3 Procedure of Analyzing Error

According to Ellis (1985: 296) error analysis is a procedure that is used by both teachers and researchers with involves

  • Collecting sample of learners language

  • Identifying the errors in the sample

  • Describing these errors

  • Classifying the errors according to hypothesized kinds and classification

    1. Tenses

2.2.1 Definition of Tenses

  • According to Sutrisno (2010), Tenses is a form of verb that indicated an event or activities. Based on event times, Tenses is divided be 4 types

they are: Present Tense, Past Tense, Future Tense and Past Future Tense. Based on event disposition, Tenses is divided be 4 types they are: Simple, Continuous, Perfect and Perfect Continuous.

  • From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 9th ed, p1436.), tense is a form taken by a verb to show the time of an action.[1] There are three main tenses:

  1. Present tense: things that are true when the words are spoken or written; or are generally true; or for some languages will be true in the future

  2. Past tense: things that were true before the words were spoken or written

  3. Future tense: things that will or might be true after the words are spoken or written

The tense can be shown in the verb. For example, amis, and are are always present tense, and was and were are always past tense. Or the tense can be shown by adding words to the verb. In English, the words that we add to the verb are "helping verbs" or "auxiliaries", like behaveshallwill, and so on. So we get the continuous present with is taking, the future with will take, and so on.

Chinese and Indonesian verbs do not show tense. Instead they use context (other words in the sentence) to show when the verb happens.

  • Based on the classroom experience when studying Interpreting, the writer can put forward the following tenses, there are 12 basic tenses.


(e.g to do)






I do my work

You do your work

He does his work

She does her work

We do our work

They do their work

I did my work

You did your work

He did his work

She did her work

We did our work

They did their work

I shall/will do…

  1. Simple Present :

S + V1

  1. Simple Past :

S + V2

  1. Simple Future :

S + Shall/Will + V1


I am dancing

You are singing

He is bowing

She is washing

We are dancing

They are learning together

I was dancing

You were singing

He was bowing

She was washing

We were dancing

They were learning together

I shall/will be…

  1. Present Continuous :

S + V-ing

  1. Past Continuous :

S + was/were + V-ing

  1. Future Continuous :

S + Shall/Will + be + V-ing


I have finished my work

You have finished your work

He has finished his work

She has finished her work

We have finished our work

They have finished their work

I had visited Agnes’s house

You had closed the store

He had answered the question

She had copied her homework

We had came to Andi’s party

They had gone from Indonesia

I shall/will have..

  1. Present Perfect :

S + have/has + V3

  1. Past Perfect :

S + had + V3

  1. Future Perfect :

S + shall/will + have + V3

Perfect Continuous

I have been Studying English.

You have been Studying English.

He has been Studying English.

She has been Studying English.

We have been Studying English.

They have been Studying English.

I had been having a good time.

You had been having a good time.

He had been having a good time.

She had been having a good time.

We had been having a good time.

They had been having a good time.

I shall/will have been…

  1. Present Perfect Continuous :

S + have/has + been + V-ing

  1. Past Perfect Continuous :

S + had + been + V-ing

  1. Future Prefect Continuous :

S + shall/will + have + been + V-ing

Actually there are 4 other tenses which are uses in condition sentences since the writer only focuses on Simple Past Tense. The 4 conditional sentences are not pranded in this paper.

      1. Definition of Simple Past Tense

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 9th ed, p1436.), Simple Past Tense:
+ Subject + V2

- Subject + did + not + V2

? Did + subject + V1?

    1. Writing

2.3.1 Definition of Writing

  • According to (Harmer, 2004:11) “Writing can be defined as a process of delivering idea by taking note.”

  • As Elbow (2000 as cited in Lopa, 2012) “Writing is a process used to expressideas without saying or face-to-face interaction which the meaning can be understood by reading it.”

  • According to (Emilia, 2005: 130) “Writing is central to education, since most students academic works, such as examination, reports, and research papers, are very contingent on writing.”

  • According to (Nunan, 1989) “point out writing as a complex action that is formed from formulating of ideas, shaping of thoughts into sentences, and arranging them into paragraphs.

      1. The importance of Writing

Writing is an “absolute necessity” (Alwasilah, 2001:15). Further, Alwasilah (2001) explains that writing represents many valuable aspects such as culture and civilization; and through writing phenomenon which culture is passed from one generation to another. Edge with Alwasilah, Wilkinson (1986) defines writing as a prime means of developing thinking and emotion and defining

ourselves. In teaching and learning activities, writing is very important since it leads students to think what they have learned (Harmer, 2004:10; Emilia 2005:130). In addition, Graham and Perin (2007) in Emilia (2005) suggest

Writing plays two distinct roles in school. First it is a skill the draws on sub-skills and processes such as handwriting and spelling; a rich knowledge of vocabulary, mastery of the convention of punctuation, capitalization, word usage and grammar, and the use of strategies, such as; planning, evaluating, revising text (Graham and Perin, 2007:8)
Moreover, Halliday (1985, in Lopa, 2012) mentions some function that are provided by writing activity ijn our life, such as use particularly in action (manual books, product labels, public signs, etc.), and entertainments (poetry, fiction books, drama, etc).

To summarize, the aim of teaching writing is to equip students with the knowledge and skills to write effectively for a range of purposes and in a variety of contexts. To assist students in learning writing, teachers need to know the aspects of writing itself and difficulties that students may have in writing activity. Teachers have to concern to some aspect of writing as the basic guidelines in assisting their students. Thus, next section will discuss aspect of writing and student’s difficulties in writing.

2.3.3 Aspect of Writing

Writing activity has some aspects that should be concerned by teacher in order to have their students make a good composition. Cohen (1994: 328) and Brown (2001: 357) mention five principal aspect in writing, which are important to master. These aspects include the content, the organization, vocabulary, grammar, and mechanic matters.

The content is delivering the writer’s main idea. A good writing clearly and accurately state what the text is going to tell about. The content needs the organization in order to make the ideas cohesive and coherent. The use of vocabulary is crucial in writing. This covers the choice of words, idioms and words form. Using appropriate vocabulary enables the text to effectively deliver the message.

In addition, another aspect in writing that teachers should pay attention to their student’s work is grammar. However, good choices of vocabularies will be considered as bad writing without the support of correct grammar. Moreover, mastering spelling and punctuation are the characterictics of the mechanic matters to avoid ambiguity of a text. These aspects sometimes are distracted due to the student’s difficulties in writing activity. Further discussion on student’s difficulties in writing will be elaborated in the next section.

2.3.4 Student’s Difficulties in Writing

Students may experience difficulties in writing for various reasons. According to Levine (1993), some students may have difficulty communicating ideas, events and experiences because of a limited repertoire of written English. Others may have difficulties with the ‘mechanical’ aspect of writing, such as handwriting, punctuation and spelling. Apparently, Levine (1993) has classified common difficulties that come from students in writing, which are:

  • Difficulty in developing and organizing ideas

  • Difficulty with sentence structure and word order

  • Difficulty with word sound, spelling and meaning

  • Difficulty with conventional grammar

  • Lack for vocabulary

Since teachers are supposed to assist their students in the overall learning process. The quality of teaching and assessment makes the most difference to their achievement.

    1. Composition

      1. Definition of Composition

  • According to (Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, 1995:445) “In dictionaries, Composition is the result of arrange, written, short story, object of writing pen.”

  • According to (Hornby, 1989:237) “Composition is a short piece of non-fictional writing done as a school or college exercise, or an essay.” A composition may consist of as many developing paragraphs as there are main topics to discuss. Many sentences are combine to make up a paragraph and paragraphs are combine to form a composition.

  • According to (Gorsy, 1994:34) “Ada beberapa persoalan yang harus diperhatikan untuk mencapai penulisan yang efektif, misalnya pertama-pertama pengarang harus mempunyai suatu obyek yang dibicarakan; bila ia sudah menemukan obyek itu, maka ia harus memikirkan dan merenungkan gagasan/idenya secara jelas, kemudian mengembangkan gagasan-gagasan utamanya secara segar, jelas dan terperinci.

    1. Narrative text

      1. The Nature of Narrative text

The writer focuses on teaching writing student’s composition on narrative text. Narrative text is one of text types is taught in eighth of junior high school. Calfe and Drum (1986; 386, cited in Dymock, 2007) report that narrative text is a representative text of an event or series of an event that generally tell “what happened, who did, what, to whom and why. It can be drawn into plot to see how

the story tells and the problem of the story get resolved. In line with Aristotle (as cited in Fulton, Huisman, Murphet and Dunn 2005), plot of a story is important which arranges incidents of the story and represent actions. The plot is properly supported by character, diction, thought and spectacle.

The basic purpose of narrative text is “to entertain, to gain, and to hold the readers’ interest in a story (Derewianka, 2004, p. 40). Moreover, Emilia (2012) also states that the purpose of narrative text to describe a story that tells someone or a group of people, show the action of these people, and explore moral and culture value of the story.

There are several types of narrative text. Those are fairy tales, mystery, science fiction, romance, adventure stories, parables, fables and moral tales, myths and legends and historical narratives (Derewianka, 2004; Emilia, 2012). Those can be categorized as imaginary of factual stories.

      1. Generic Structure of Narrative Text

According to Fulton et al (2005) and Emilia (2012), narrative text has five parts of its generic structure. Those are as follows:

  1. Orientation, where the writer tries to sketch in introduction of a story. The introduction is begin from the characters and how to describe the characters. Next, it describes some indication given of where the action is located and when it is taken place. Then, the orientation develops the beginning story through personality of major or minor character, the type of situation, place and time, and the relationship with other characters.

  2. Complication, this part focuses on telling what happened then in the story or a problem that is not expected by main character.

  3. Evaluation, the writer usually gives connection about the story from complication. It steps back to evaluate the plight. It means that the writer

tries to explain more about the event of the story and to extend the event so that the readers can know what happened to the character more and create suspense until the readers want to know more what happened then.

  1. Resolution, the complication may be resolved for better or for worse in this part.

  2. Coda, it usually serves little bit comments about the story or future live of characters. Many fairy tales have coda such as “and they lived happily ever after”. However, coda is optional in a narrative text.

      1. Language Features of Narrative Text

Emilia (2012, p. 93) and Derewianka (2004, p. 42) state language features of narrative text as follows:

  1. Specific, the participants are often described individually with defined identities. Major participants are human, or sometimes animals with

human characteristics.

  1. Mainly action (material processes), but also many verbs which refer to what the human participants said, or felt, or thought (verbal and mental processes)

  2. Normally past tense.

  3. Many linking words to do with the time, such as once upon a time, after a while, first, then;

  4. Dialogue is often included, during the tense may change to the present or future and using verbal processes, such as said, asked and replied.

  5. Descriptive language chosen to enhance and develop the story by creating images in the readers’ mind, for example: “When it was ripethey found a beautiful baby in it.” “They lived happily …”

  6. Can be written in first person (I, we) or third person (he, she and they), (In choose- your- own- adventures, the reader is involved in the story as a major character and addresses as “you”.)

      1. Kinds of Narrative Text

  • From ;

  1. Fairy tale, such as: Cinderella, Snow White, beauty and the beast and peterpan.

  2. Fable, such as: the ant and the grasshopper, the ugly duckling, the hare and the tortoise, the lion and the mouse.

  3. Legend, such as; Malin Kundang, Tangkuban Perahu.

  • From ;

  1. Myths

Myths – explanation


To provide a fictional explanation for natural phenomena. Many cultures use myths to explain the world and its mysteries by handing them down from one

generation to the next generation. Myths can also pass on cultural, religious or spiritual beliefs and traditions. Myths often provide narrative clues that help to build a picture of the beliefs, life styles and ideology of the people who first told them.

Myths are set in the past, usually a distant and non-specific past, and are presented (unlike fables) as something that actually happened. There is evidence that the content of some myths is based on real events and places that may have existed.

Opposites occur frequently in myths as themes, including:

  • Good and evil;

  • Night and day;

  • Calm and storm;

  • Wise and foolish;

  • Old and young;

  • Beautiful and ugly;

  • Mean and generous;

  • Just and unjust.

Like other traditional stories, myths use quests, journeys and trial as themes. The hero or heroine often has to undergo some kind of test (the trials of Hercules)

or set off on a long and difficult journey where dangers arise at each stage (the Odyssey).

Plot and Structure:

The plot of the myths usually includes incredible or miraculous events, where characters behave in superhuman ways using unusual powers or with the help of superhuman beings.


Characters typical of traditional stories appear in myths (talking animals, rich kings, foolish young men, clever villains) although the ‘trickster’ character is often a mischievous god (Loki, for example). The most notable character types in this sub-class are classic heroes and supernatural beings.


Rich, evocative vocabulary and use of imagery are typical but style is often more literary than other types of tales. Myths often include very vivid description of characters and settings (dense, mysterious rainforest or icy, mist-shrouded mountain peaks) and fast-moving narration of action. They tent to make less use of dialogue and repetition than some other types of traditional story.

Post by M.Y. Yuriis at 06:14:00 PM

  1. Legends

Legends – explanation


To provide information about the way particular people lived, and what they believed. Legends also help us to reflect on our own lives because they often deal with issues that are cross-cultural and relevant today.

Plot and Character:

There are a great many similarities between myths and legends and some stories are categorized in both these sub-classes of traditional tales. Although legends often include mythical being and supernatural events, their narrative spine is more closely connected to the real world of human history. The event in legends tend to seem more likely and less fictionalized than those in myths.

Legends are usually based on real characters and events, even though these have been richly embellished and exaggerated over time. This gives the narrative an exciting quality because all the events seem to be within the realm of possibility even when the plot has become so widely adapted or updated that it is completely fictional. The plot of a legend usually focuses on an individual character, a cultural hero or a person respected and remembered but there are also legends about places, objects and legendary animals.

Structure and style:

The structure is usually episodic, as in the phases of a journey over several years or the stages of a great battle. Some legends tell the entire life story of their hero as a series of linked episodes, each one a story in its own right, as in the king Arthur stories and the sagas of German-speaking and Northern European countries.

Common structure included:

  • Chronological episodes;

  • Journey stories;

  • Sequential stories;

  • Life stories and community histories.

Like myths, legends sometimes use a more literary style than fairy tales or fables. For example:

  • Rich, evocative vocabulary

  • Memorable language use

  • Use or rhythm and repetition techniques

  • Formulaic openings and endings

  • Imagery: simile, methapor and symbolism.


Legends employ many of the typical themes of traditional stories:

  • Good and evil

  • Friend and foe

  • Magic

  • The supernatural

  • Rich and poor/rags to riches/riches to rags

  • Wise and foolish

  • Strong and weak

  • Just and unjust

  • A quest or search

  • A journey

  • Trials and forfeits.

Legends, like myths, reveal information about the way people lived, what they believed, what was important to them, what they valued and what they were afraid of.

They also convey meaning about the way we live our lives that make them relevant and interesting across cultures and time. This makes them worth repeating through generations and publishing as new versions or adaptations for twenty-first century readers. Brand new legends continue to be developed as part of contemporary literary and oral story telling cultures.

Post by M.Y. Yuriis at 06:15:00 PM

  1. Fairy tales

Fairy Tales – explanation


Fairy tales were originally intended for adults and children. They were passed down orally to amuse and to convey cultural information that influences

behavior, such as where it is safe to travel and where it is dangerous to go.


Fairy tales are found in most cultures and many derive from the oldest stories ever told. Some modern fairy tales could be included in the more recently categorized genre of ‘fantasy’.


The familiar themes of many traditional stories are prevalent in fairy tales:

  • Magic and skill

  • Safe and dangerous

  • Good and evil

  • Weak and strong

  • Rich and poor

  • Wise and foolish

  • Old and young

  • Beautiful and ugly

  • Mean and generous

  • Just and unjust

  • Friend and foe

  • Family/home and stranger/far away

  • The origins of the Earth, its people and animals

  • The relationship between people and the seen or unseen world around them.


Fairy tales consistently include some of the most familiar and traditional archetypes of all folk tales (hero, villain, mentor, trickster, sage, shape shifter, herald). Human characters are simply the people who lived in the castles, cottages and hovels of the original stories: kings and queens, princes and princesses, knights and ladies, poor farmers, youngest sons, wise old women, beggars, tailors, soldier, a goose-girl. The main character is often humble, melancholy or hard-working and wants to make life better.

Characters also include a wide range of magical folk including animals or creatures who may have mystical powers yet behave with human characteristics. Interestingly, the presence of fairies or talking animals is not necessarily the best way to identify a traditional tale as a fairy story. Many fairy stories do not include fairies as characters.

Plot and Structure:

The setting and details about when events took place are nearly always vague. (Once upon a time…., a long, a long time ago…. It happened that….) the stories tell the adventures of people in the land of fairy folk so plots usually include the use of magic, fantastic forces and fanciful creatures. Often the hero or heroine in searching for something (a home, love, acceptance, wealth, wisdom) and in many tales dreams are fulfilled with a little help from magic. ‘Fairy tale endings’ (where everything turns out for the best) are common.


Fairy tales include good examples of the repetitive, rhythmic and patterned language of traditional stories. Phrases or expressions are repeated for emphasis or to create a magical, theatrical effect (so she went over the gate, across the meadow and down to the stream once more…not once, not twice, but three times….).

Fairy stories use:

  • Rich, evocative vocabulary

  • The language of the fairy world (magic spells, incantations, charms)

  • The spoken language of the ordinary people (dialogue, regional accent and dialect vocabulary, informal expressions)

  • Memorable language (rhyme, alliteration, assonance, repetition)

  • Formulaic openings and endings; imagery: simile, metaphor and symbolism.

Fairy tales are commonly presented as implausible but it is important to remember that in cultures where the inhabitants of the magical world are perceived as real, the stories may be interpret more as legends, so that story teller and readers/audience understand them to have some historical, factual basis.

Post by M.Y. Yuriis at 06:16:00 PM

  1. Fables

Fables – explanation


A fables sets out to teach the reader or listener a lesson they should learn about life. The narrative drives towards the closing moral statement, the fable’s theme: the early bird gets the worm, where there’s a will there’s a way, work hard and always plan ahead for learn times, charity is a vitue.

Plot and Structure:

Plot is overtly fictitious as the point of the story is its message, rather than an attempt to convince the reader of a real setting or characters. Fables do not carry any non-essential narrative baggage. There are usually few characters.

Narrative structure is short (sometimes just a few sentences) and simple and there is limited use of description. Action and dialogue are used to move the story on because the all-important moral is most clearly evident in what the main characters do and say.

The main characters are often named in the title (the town mouse and the country mouse, the north wind and the sun) and they are also frequently animals, another subtle way of signaling the fictional, ‘fabulous’ nature of the story and its serious purpose.

Animal characters speak and behave like human beings, allowing the storyteller to make cautionary point about human behavior without pointing the finger at real people.


Many fables use the rich vocabulary, imagery and patterned language common in traditional tales but generally speaking, the shorter the fable, the more simple its use of language. In these short texts, use of vocabulary is often pared down and concise.

Fables tend to use:

  • Formulaic beginnings that establish setting and character very quickly (one day a farmer was going to market….a hungry fox was sitting by the roadside…. In a field, one spring morning…)

  • Connectives to explain or show cause and effect (if you will give me… so the wolf…)

  • Temporal connectives that hold the narrative together and give it a chronological shape (one morning… as he was…. First he saw…. Then he saw…. When winter came… and then the grasshopper understood…)

  • Simple dialogue between two main characters, often questions and answers (why do you howl so loudly?) or statements that reflect on a situation (you seem to have a wonderful life here in the town. My feathers may not be beautiful but they keep me warm in winter).

, across the meadow and down to the s Post by M.Y. Yuriis at 06:16:52 PM

2.6 Conclusion Remarks

This chapter has discussed theories and studies related to the main purpose of the study which is error analysis of simple past tense in student’s composition focusing on narrative text. Relevant findings and discussion are also presented within this chapter. The next chapter will elaborate the methodology use in this research.

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