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ERRORS COMMITTED BY STUDENTS OF HAI DUONG UNIVERSITY IN USING PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE FROM COGNITIVE PERSPECTIVE

VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES

KIỀU THỊ HỒNG

ERRORS COMMITTED BY STUDENTS OF HAI DUONG UNIVERSITY IN
USING PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE: FROM COGNITIVE PERSPECTIVE
(Lỗi dùng giới từ địa điểm của sinh viên
Trường Đại học Hải Dương: từ góc độ tri nhận)

M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS

Field: English Linguistics
Code: 60220201

Hanoi, 2017


VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES

KIỀU THỊ HỒNG

ERRORS COMMITTED BY STUDENTS OF HAI DUONG UNIVERSITY IN
USING PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE: FROM COGNITIVE PERSPECTIVE
(Lỗi dùng giới từ địa điểm của sinh viên
Trường Đại học Hải Dương: từ góc độ tri nhận)

M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS

Field: English Linguistics
Code: 60220201
Supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Văn Độ

Hanoi, 2017


DECLARATION
I, Kieu Thi Hong, certify that this thesis is the result of my own research and
the substance of the research has not been submitted for degree to any other
university or institution.
Hanoi, April 2017
Signature

Kieu Thi Hong

i


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The completion of this study would not have been possible without the
assistance of special and wonderful people.
First of all, I would like to acknowledge my indebtedness and gratitude to
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Van Đo, for his unfailing encouragement, constant
support and supervision during all stages of the study. His enthusiastic assistance,
guidance, support, and his wisdom greatly contributed to the fulfillment of my
thesis. I would also like to thank my supervisor for his patience in reading and
editing my draft. It must be an excruciating experience.


My heartfelt gratitude is also to Dr. Huynh Anh Tuan, The Head of Faculty
of Post-Graduate Studies and all his staff members who have been of great help.
Last but not least, I would like to give my deepest gratitude to my parents,
and my friends for their moral support and encouragement throughout my course.
The study still has limitations, therefore all the suggestions and
recommendations would be warmly welcomed.

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ABSTRACT
Prepositions are known as a small but notoriously difficult lexical unit in
English because it is the differences in the linguistic cognition among cultures that
prevent language users from mastering and using prepositions properly. In order to
help language learners overcome these difficulties, this study aims at exploring the
frequencies and causes of the errors in using prepositions of place “in, on, at” from
cognitive perspective. The theory of cognitive linguistics and error analysis are used
to carry out this study. 120 students at Hai Duong University took part in two types
of tests including multiple choice tests and written test to analyze based on
qualitative and quantitative methods in order to find out the types of errors and their
causes. The results show that the students at Hai Duong University often misuse
between prepositions “in” and “on” there exist many differences in applying
locative strategies TR and LM to encode languages due to the distinguishing
features in perception regarding space, the living habits, topography and sky
orientation. Moreover, they also have difficulty using prepositions of place “in”
because of the difference of cognition. It is hoped that the findings can be a small
contribution to the stock of prepositional research.

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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

TR

Trajector

TRs

Trajectors

LM

Landmark

LMs

Landmarks

E.A

Error Analysis

iv


LIST OF FIRGURES AND TABLES
Figure1. CONTAINMENT schema for in (Herskovits, 1986)
Figure 2. Schematic representation of in indicating the final inclusive status of a
process (Lindner, 1982)
Figure 3. General image schema of on (Ming, 2011)
Figure 4. PATH schema for on (Ming, 2011)
Figure 5. CONTAINMENT schema for at (Yang, 2008)
Figure 6. ADJACENCY schema for at (Yang, 2008)
Figure 7. LINEAR-RELATION schema for at (Yang, 2008)
Figure 8. DYNAMIC-RELATION schema for at (Yang, 2008)
Table 1. Image schemas of prepositions in, on and at with their application of the
present study
Table 2. Results of section 1- test 1
Table 3. The incorrect answer section 1- test 1
Table 4. Results of the section 2-test 1
Table 5: The incorrect answer section 2- test 1
Table 6. Results of the section 3-test 1
Table 7: The incorrect answer section 2- test 1
Table 8. Results of the test 1
Table 9. Results of the test 2
Table 10. The general understanding of in, on and at
Table 11. The examples of in and how the CONTAINMENT schema is applied
Table 12. The examples of on and how the CONTACT schema is applied
Table 13 .The examples of at and how ADJACENCY schema is applied

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
DECLARATION ........................................................................................................ i
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ....................................................................................... ii
ABSTRACT .............................................................................................................. iii
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ................................................................................... iv
LIST OF FIRGURES AND TABLES ........................................................................v
TABLE OF CONTENTS .......................................................................................... vi
PART A: INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................1
1. Rationale of the study..............................................................................................1
2. Aims and objectives of the study ............................................................................2
3. Research questions ..................................................................................................2
4. Scope of the study ...................................................................................................3
5. Methodology ...........................................................................................................3
6. Significance of the study .........................................................................................4
7. Organization of the study ........................................................................................4
PART B: DEVELOPMENT .......................................................................................5
CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW ....................................................................5
1.1. Introduction of cognitive linguistics ....................................................................5
1.2. Error in language learning process .....................................................................11
1.2.1. Notions of error ...............................................................................................11
1.2.2. Errors and Mistakes.........................................................................................12
1.2.3. Error Analysis .................................................................................................13
1.2.4. The Source of Error .........................................................................................14
1.3. Preposition..........................................................................................................14
1.3.1. Prepositions in English ....................................................................................14
1.3.2. Vietnamese Prepositions .................................................................................16
1.3.3. Some comments about prepositions of place “in, on, at” from cognitive
perspective .................................................................................................................17
1.4. Review of previous studies ................................................................................18
CHAPTER 2. METHODOLOGY ............................................................................21
2. 1. Restatement of research questions ....................................................................21
2. 2. The fitness of the research approach .................................................................21
2.3. Context of the study ...........................................................................................21
2.3.1. Setting of the study..........................................................................................21
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2.3.2. Participants ......................................................................................................23
2.4. Research instruments .........................................................................................23
2.5. Data collection and analysis procedure ..............................................................25
2.6. Summary ............................................................................................................26
CHAPTER 3 DATA ANALYSIS .............................................................................28
3.1. Errors in section 1- Test 1 ..................................................................................28
3.2. Errors in section 2-Test 1 ...................................................................................31
3.3. Errors in section 3-Test 1 ...................................................................................32
3.4. General tendencies .............................................................................................34
3.5. Written Test ........................................................................................................35
CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS AND IMPLICATIONS .................................................38
4.1. Findings ..............................................................................................................38
4.2. Implications ........................................................................................................40
PART C: CONCLUSION .........................................................................................46
1. Summary of the study ...........................................................................................46
2. Limitations of the research and suggestions for further studies ...........................47
REFERENCES ..........................................................................................................49
APPENDIX 1 .............................................................................................................. I
APPENDIX 2 ............................................................................................................. II

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PART A: INTRODUCTION
1. Rationale of the study
Firstly, after reading numerous previous researches and journals, the
researcher has realized that it is prepositional error is one of the major grammar
errors. According to Corder (cited in James, 1998), he defines errors as the result of
some failure of performance. This is not surprising as prepositions comprise a
significant portion of the words contained in completing English language sentence.
Collins (1991) said that it was observed that most of the English language sentences
produced contained at least one preposition and that three out of ten most frequent
words of the English language are prepositions. The researcher has had the
experience of witnessing the difficulties among her students in attempting to use the
correct prepositions. It is the intention of the researcher to discover the causes
behind the difficulties experienced by these students in employing acceptable
prepositions of place.
Secondly, the majority of studies which discuss the teaching of prepositions
from a cognitive perspective focus on the extended uses of prepositions .However,
in fact, the students at Hai Duong University cannot distinguish the core meaning of
the prepositions of place IN, ON, AT. Moreover, there is not any study to focus on
studying the errors in using prepositions of place at Hai Duong University. In
relation to this, the researcher chooses the prepositions of place as the main subject
matters as these are among one of the main problems faced by the students at Hai
Duong University.
Thirdly, language teachers and researchers have long recognized that the
acquisition of English prepositions poses major challenges for second language
learners. Celce-Murcia and LarsenFreeman (1998) note several reasons for this
difficulty. They observe that “in their spatial meanings, prepositions do not match up
well from language to language”, even in relatively closely related languages. For
instance, the English sentence: There is a bird in the sky, would be "translated" in

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Vietnamese by: Trên trời có một con chim (There is a bird in the sky). Since English
is far different from Vietnamese, it is not easy for learners to have fully
understanding about parts of speech in English at the beginning. Prepositions, as well
as other parts of speech such as nouns, adjectives, and verbs are introduced to
students in the early classes at the secondary schools. Students need prepositions in
order to build up simple sentences. The little words 'AT, ON, are troublesome and
confusing for the learners of English. Errors in the learning process are inevitable.
To conclude, the study proceeds from three main reasons, the first lies in the
decisive role of finding the difficulties in using prepositions of place. Then the cause
of error in using prepositions of place is found. Secondly, the researcher would like
to find the differences between Vietnamese and English in cognition of prepositions.
Lastly, the researcher has found that there has never been any research on error
analysis of using preposition from cognitive perspective at Hai Duong University.
An analysis of errors in using prepositions of place AT, ON, IN is carried out to help
answer these questions. In addition, it also a practical and applicable study, which
provide some suggestions for the improvement of teaching and learning English
prepositions of place AT, ON, IN.
2. Aims and objectives of the study
The main purpose of the study is to focus on error analysis of using
prepositions of place made by students within the framework of cognitive theory.
With the above aims, the objectives of this study were as follows:
- Identify the errors in using preposition of place “at, on, in” by students at Hai
Duong University
- Assessing the ability of students‟ use of prepositions
- Determining the sources and causes of their errors
- Suggesting pedagogic solutions for teaching and learning prepositions of place “at,
on, in” at Hai Duong University.
3. Research questions
The following research questions are raised:
With the given aims and objectives, the study implies three research questions:

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1. What kinds of errors do students at Hai Duong University often have in using
prepositions of place AT, ON, IN?
2. What might be the sources of the errors?
3. What suggestion can be made in order to help students acquire the use of English
prepositions of location AT, ON, IN?
4. Scope of the study
The study was conducted at Hai Duong University, Hai Duong province.
Because of limited time, it only focused on investigating the students in using
prepositions of place including “in, on, at” from cognitive perspective. Actually, the
cognitive perspective has two trends including cognitive semantics and cognitive
approach to grammar. Consequently, research in cognitive semantics tends to be
interested in modeling the human mind as much as it is concerned with
investigating linguistic semantics. A cognitive approach to grammar is concerned
with modeling the language system (the mental „grammar‟), rather than the nature
of mind per se. However, it does so by taking as its starting point the conclusions of
work in cognitive semantics. In this study, the cognitive semantics is employed to
find out the causes of errors in using prepositions of place.
The participants were students from three classes U2KT9, U2KT2 and
U2KT1, who were non – English major students.
5. Methodology
Both the quantitative and qualitative approach have been chosen to identify
the errors of using prepositions of place “in, on, at”. Besides, using descriptive
method is employed to collect the qualitative information and find out the causes of
errors made by the students of Hai Duong Univeristy in the field of spatial
cognition. The study was carried out by some steps as follows:
First, the test for students was employed to find out the frequency and types
of errors in using prepositions of place. There are two types of test including
multiple choices and written test.
Second, the data were collected, sorted and analyzed quantitatively and
qualitatively to obtain realistic results .The procedure for error analysis is described
basing on the six-step method set by Corder (1974).

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6. Significance of the study
The thesis shows strong evidences that the students at Hai Duong
Unviversity have problems in using prepositions of place IN, ON, AT. Through the
analysis, there are differences between Vietnamese and English prepositional
system. In other words, how prepositions are perceived depends on the way in
which people are different cultures realize their physical world based on their
experiences.
Secondly, it is expected that this thesis will contribute to the stock of
research on prepositions from cognitive perspectives, giving readers theoretical
background of one of the most complicated aspect in English.
Finally, the study provides readers with some suggestions to avoid the errors
in using prepositions and enrich the pedagogical methods in studying English
prepositions and translating prepositions to the students at Hai Duong University.
7. Organization of the study
The study consists of three main parts:
Part A, Introduction presents the rationale of the study, the aims, the research
questions, the significance, the scope, the method and the design of the study.
Part B is Development including three chapters:
Chapter 1 Literature review gives the concepts of cognitive linguistics and
cognitive semantics, prepositions in English and Vietnamese, error analysis and
differences in perceiving prepositions of place. Furthermore, the review of previous
studies is also presented.
Chapter 2 Methodology, describes the participants, the setting of the study
involving the school. Moreover, this chapter shows how the researcher applied the
data collection instruments and the procedure of conducting the study.
Chapter 3 is Data analysis, in which the researcher used both qualitatively
and quantitatively method to study and analyze the figure and information collected.
Chapter 4 is Findings and implications. In this chapter, the findings is shown,
then the implications are given based on the findings.
Part C: Conclusion is the last part which offers a summary, some
limitations and suggestions for further study.

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PART B: DEVELOPMENT
CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW
1.1. Introduction of cognitive linguistics
Cognitive linguistics is a modern school of linguistic thought and practice. It is
concerned with investigating the relationship between human language, the mind
and socio-physical experience. The stage was set for cognitive linguistics in the
nineteen seventies and early eighties with Len Talmy's work on figure and ground,
Ronald Langacker's cognitive grammar framework, George Lakoff's research on
metaphor, gestalts, categories and prototypes, Fillmore's frame semantics, and
Fauconnier's mental spaces. It has been a powerful approach to the study of
language, conceptual systems, human cognition, and general meaning construction.
Today, there are hundreds of scholars who work in this paradigm, and there is a
huge amount of published research on the theories and applications.The following
information related to cognitive linguistics plays an important role in the study.
1.1.1. Cognitive Linguistic Framework
In 1987, Lakoff he contended that “we structure our knowledge about the world
in terms of idealized cognitive models in his book “Women, Fire and Dangerous
Things”. He further distinguished four types of structuring principle for this kind of
construct: propositional, image-schematic, metaphoric and metonymic. In other
word, meanings essentially involve an “imaginative” projection by using
mechanisms of schematization, categorization, metaphor and metonymy. In the
interaction between human beings and their environment, human experience is
imposed on a structure in terms of natural dimensions of the kind. The recurrent
experience leads to the formation of categories, which are experiential gestalts with
those natural dimensions. Such gestalts define coherence in human experience.
According to, Johnson (1980) there is two ways for people to understand this
experience. The first way is that people understand one thing directly when they see
it. These kinds of things are “structured coherently in terms of gestalts that have
emerged directly from interaction with and in the environment”. By this

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understanding, the prepositions extend the spatial senses. The second way of
understanding (mainly referring to imagination, reason and so on) is required, when
perceiving one kind of thing in terms of another kind is involved.
For the target prepositions (in, on and at), their basic senses indicated location in
space, the spatial usages of prepositions can be experienced directly, for instance, in
the car, on the table, and at the door. By the first way to understand this experience,
the spatial usages can be acquired straightforward.
Cognitive linguistics practice can be divided into two main areas of research:
cognitive semantics and cognitive (approaches to) grammar. The cognitive
semantics is concerned with investigating the relationship between experience, the
conceptual system, and the semantic structure encoded by language. In other terms,
scholars working in cognitive semantics investigate knowledge representation
(conceptual structure), and meaning construction (conceptualization). Cognitive
semanticists have employed language as the lens through which these cognitive
phenomena can be investigated. Consequently, research in cognitive semantics
tends to be interested in modeling the human mind as much as it is concerned with
investigating linguistic semantics. A cognitive approach to grammar is concerned
with modeling the language system (the mental „grammar‟), rather than the nature
of mind per se. In this study, the cognitive semantics is employed to find out the
causes of errors in using prepositions of place. The following part, the researcher
presents theory of cognitive semantics more clearly.
1.1.2. Cognitive semantics: major theories and approaches
Actually, as the writer mentioned above, cognitive semantics investigate
knowledge representation and meaning construction. Consequently, research in
cognitive semantics tends to be interested in modeling the human mind as much as
it is concerned with investigating linguistic semantics. Moreover, the purpose of this
essay focuses on the human mind. That is the reason why the author just discusses
deeply about cognitive semantics theory. In following section the author briefly
introduce some of the most significant theories in cognitive semantics.

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1.1.2.1. Image schema theory
The theoretical construct of the image schema was developed by Mark Johnson
in his 1987 book” The Body in the Mind”, Johnson proposed that image schemas
one way in which embodied experience manifests itself at the cognitive level. These
are rudimentary concepts like contact, container and balance, which are meaningful
because they derive from and are linked to human preconception experience. This is
experience of the world directly mediated and structured by the human body.
The developmental psychologist Jean Mandler (e.g. 1992, 1996, and 2004) has
made a number of proposals concerning how image schemas might arise from
embodied experience. Mandler suggests that by attending closely to such spatial
experiences, children are able to abstract across similar kinds of experiences, and
find meaningful patterns in the process. For instance, the container image schema is
more than simply a spatio-geometric representation. It is a „theory‟ about a
particular kind of configuration in which one entity is supported by another entity
that contains it. In other words, the container schema is meaningful because
containers are meaningful in our everyday experience.In this study the author just
carried out studying the basic prepositions of place “in, on, at” so the expressions of
the image schemas of in, on and at are illustrated and discussed in the following
section with the analysis of the corpus-based examples (BNC, 2011).
The image schema of in
The basic spatial meaning of in is the location of interiority, which is defined
as inclusion or containment of a located object (the TR) in the reference object (the
LM). In principle, this interiority may: (1) be partial or total; (2) be a specific range
across objects of any dimension; (3) be either real or virtual (Frawley, 1992).
Herskovits (1986) also defines the ideal meaning of in: inclusion of geometric
construct in a one-, two-, or three-dimensional geometric construct. Figure 1
illustrates these definitions with the examples.

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Figure1. CONTAINMENT schema for in (Herskovits, 1986).
Secondly, the preposition in is used to express the final static status after an object
(the TR) moving towards a destination consisting of an enclosing boundary and an
interior (Lindner, 1982). The path stops at the interior of the LM (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Schematic representation of in indicating the final inclusive status of a
process (Lindner, 1982)
To sum up, the spatial meanings of in can be distinguished into two categories
according to the TR-LM relation and all the two kinds of image schemas are related
to CONTAINMENTschema that our body experiences are as inclusion. Therefore,
the basic spatial meanings of in is used and designed as CONTAINMENT schema
in the study. Throughout the study, the image schema of in is considered as
CONTAINMENT with events occurring within this container.
The image schema of on
According to Zhang (1991), the spatial senses of on usually indicate a surface
with two dimensions and are generally classified into five image schemas:
CONTACT, SUPPORT, PRESSURE, CONSTRAINT and PATH (Ming, 2011).

Figure 3. General image schema of on (Ming, 2011)
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Figure 4. PATH schema for on (Ming, 2011)
In the present study, the general image schema of on as CONTACT in the static
process is considered.
The image schema of at
In the study of Yang (2008), based on the BNC (from 1980 to 1993), there are
the five image schemas of at including CONTAINMENT, ADJACENCY,
LINEAR-RELATION, DYNAMICRELATION.

Figure 5. CONTAINMENT schema for at (Yang, 2008)

Figure 6. ADJACENCY schema for at (Yang, 2008)

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Figure 7. LINEAR-RELATION schema for at (Yang, 2008)
The DYNAMIC-RELATION of at indicates that one object is moving from one
space to another as.

Figure 8. DYNAMIC-RELATION schema for at (Yang, 2008)
To sum up, the image schema of at is used in the following terms of ADJACENCY
that one object infinitely adjoins to another but never coming to a convergence.
Summary
In general, the image schema of in is used in terms of CONTAINMENT,
indicating the interiority and the final inclusive status of a process. The spatial
relationship can be described as the TR is within a container (the LM) leading to use
the preposition in. The image schema of on is specified as CONTACT, referring to
the support, pressure, and constraint and path relation. Regarding to the image
schema of at, even if there are different classifications, the image schema as
ADJACENCY for the basic spatial relation is concluded. For the CONTAINMENT
relation for at, the present study considers it as abstract relation rather than spatial
relation.
Based on embodied experience, the image schemas of in, on and at for the students
are structured in a concise way. These considering the image schema of in as

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CONTAINMENT, the image schema of on as CONTACT and the image schema of
at as ADJACENCY are taken into account in this study.
Table 1: Image schemas of prepositions in, on and at with their application of the
present study.
in

On

At

e.g. He‟s driving in the e.g. There is a rabbit sitting

e.g. Do you know the man

car.

on the rock.

standing at the door?

TR= he

TR= a rabbit

TR= the man

LM= car

LM= the rock

LM= the door

1.1.2.2. Prototype approach
Prototype approach started from Bernnett (1975) is pervasive among the
studies in the acquisition of English prepositions. In localistic theory, three types of
meaning are considered as meanings of prepositions; namely, spatial, temporal and
abstract. He claimed that the centre of the meaning was spatial and the other two
meanings were derived from the spatial meaning. Since then, many researchers
theoretically have considered temporal and abstract relations as extensional usages of
spatial relations. In other words, the spatial usage, which is the easiest meaning to
show the relationship between the TR and LM, is the prototypical meaning of our
target prepositions.
1.2. Error in language learning process
1.2.1. Notions of error
According to Longman dictionary of Applied linguistic by Richard, Jetal
(1992: 95), error is the use of a linguistic item in the speech or writing of a second
or foreign language learner including a grammatical item, a speech act, etc in a way

11


which a fluent or native speaker of language regards as showing faulty or
incomplete learning. In other words, error is the results of incomplete knowledge.
Based on Corder (1973:257), errors are breaking the role, due to lack of
competence such as knowledge of the language, which may or may not be
conscious. Furthermore, they tend to be not correctable.
According to Lennon (1991) an error is "a linguistic form or combination of
forms which in the same context and under similar conditions of production would
not be produced by the speakers' native speakers‟ counterparts". In the second
language teaching or learning process, the error has always been regarded as
something negative which must be avoided. On one hand, it was considered to be a
sign of inadequacy of the teaching techniques and on the other hand it was seen as a
natural result of the fact that since by nature we cannot avoid making errors we
should accept the reality and try to deal with them.
In general, these notions of error show that error causes the lack of
competence of the language. The third definition is more suitable for the study
because it mentioned that error was seen as a natural result and was affected by
teaching techniques. Moreover, in Vietnam, where English is taught and learnt as a
foreign language, the selected norm here must be the prescriptive English standard
usage so this viewpoint will also lay a foundation for this thesis.
1.2.2. Errors and Mistakes
For the purpose of this study, it is necessary to distinguish errors from
mistakes. Errors are systematic which means that it is repeated occurrences and are
typically produced by language learners. An error takes place as a result of lack of
knowledge. It represents a lack of competence i.e. The learner‟s underlying
deficient knowledge of the target language linguistic system. Ellis (1997) refers to
errors as gaps in the learner‟s knowledge.
Conversely, mistakes are unsystematic, occasional and occur typically at random. A
mistake occurs when learners fail to perform their competence (Corder, 1967). A
mistake is a result of processing problems that prevent learners from accessing their
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knowledge of a target language rule and causes them to fall back on alternative,
non-standard rule which they find easier to access. Mistakes are thus performance
phenomena and are regular features of native-speaker speech. They reflect
processing failures that arise as a result of factors such as memory lapses, emotional
strains, carelessness and lack of automaticity.
Mistakes hold no pedagogical relevance in error analysis. Error analysis
should be restricted to the study of errors, exclusive of mistakes (Corder, 1967).
Errors produced by second language or foreign language learners have long
attracted attention of applied linguists, researchers, teachers and course designers.
Studies have been carried out investigate the sources and problems faced by nonnative language learners. Error Analysis Hypothesis (EAH), Error Analysis from
cognitive perspective are approaches employed to find out the learner‟s difficulties.
1.2.3. Error Analysis
It is important for the English teacher to realize that errors made by learned
need to be analyzed correctly in order to arranging learning strategy effectively.
Moreover, it is important to discuss error analysis because it is the key for foreign
language acquisition.
According to Sanal (2007:597), error analysis is a study to identify, to describe
and systematically to explain the learners‟ error by using any of the principles and
techniques provided by lingungistics. It can be said that error analysis as a process
based on analysis of the students‟ errors. Corder, in his serminal1967 paper, said
that errors are evidence of what the learners have taken in rather than what teachers
think they have put in. Errors are significant in three respects including telling what
needs to be taught, how learning proceeds, how to test the learner‟s hypotheses
about the language they are learning. The procedure for Error Analysis (E.A) is
described basing on the six-step method set by Corder (1974) including: (1) A
corpus of language is selected (2) Identification of Errors (3) Description of Errors
(4) Explanation of Errors (5) Evaluation of Errors (6) Prevention of Errors

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In general, Error Analysis is carried out to serve three different purposes:
Firstly, to identify strategies used by learners in language learning; secondly, to
identify causes of learner's errors; finally, to obtain information on common
difficulties in language learning in order to find out the solutions for the problems.
1.2.4. The Source of Errors
In order to be able to decide whether it is error or not it is needed to understand
fully the source of errors. Errors are stated by Brown (1992:166), arise from several
possible general causes or sources. It could be interlingual error of the interference
from the native language, intralingua errors within the target language or and the
sociolinguistic context of communication, psycholinguistics or cognitive strategies
and no doubt countless affective variables.
Firstly, it is interlingua errors that can be called errors by negative transfer. Richard
(1974:173) states Interlingual error is type of error that the learners of a foreign
language make mistake in the target language by effect of his mother tongue.
Chainstain (1976:61) states that Interlingua errors are due to the interference from
the mother tongue.
Secondly, it is intralingual error which the interference from the student‟s own
language is not the only reason for committing errors but also not knowing the
target language very well; they have difficulties in using it. Richard (1974:6) writes,
“Intralingual interference refers to items produced by learner, which reflect not the
structure of mother tongue, but generalization based on partial exposure of the
target language”. Thus, intralingual errors are the direct result of the learner‟s
attempt to create language system he is learning.
1.3. Preposition
1.3.1. Prepositions in English
According to Oxford Advanced Learner‟s dictionary, a preposition “is a word or
group of words used before a noun or pronoun to show place, position, time or
method”. Another definition is that a preposition “may be defined as connecting
word showing the relation of a noun or a noun substitute to some other words in the

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sentence (“Prepositions: definition and usage”, n.d). From these definitions, we can
come to a conclusion about the function of a preposition which is it is used to
connect nouns and noun structures with other structures in a sentence. Prepositions
are often in one-word form; however, there are also other prepositions with more
than one word. They are made up with two or three words. Prepositions are used
with a lot of functions including time, location, manner, means, quantity, purpose,
and state or condition.
In this part, the researcher would like to mention the ideal meaning of
prepositions of place “in, on, at”. According to Herskovits (1986: 128-140), the
ideal meaning of a preposition is a geometrical idea; from which all uses that
preposition derive by means of various adaptations and shifts. An ideal meaning is
generally a relation between two or three ideal geometric objects ( eg., points, lines,
surfaces, volumes, and vector). He divided informal definitions of the core
meanings for two categories of prepositions, designated as "topological" (at. on. in)
in: partial inclusion of a geometrical construct in a volume, an area, or a line.
Firstly, the ideal meaning of “at”: „AT‟– for a point to coincide with another
(coincidence of a point with a point in space.)The following suggested use types:
Spatial entity at location (Julie at the post office; party at office); Spatial entity at
sea (containers at sea); Spatial entity at generic place (vacations at the seaside);
Person at institution (Prof. Jones at Berkeley; son at University); Person using
artifact (Maggie at desk; girl at typewriter) ; Spatial entity at landmark in
highlighted medium (bubbles at surface of water) ; Physical object on line and
indexically defined crosspath (campsite at river) ; Physical object at a distance from
point, line, or plane (airplane at 10,000 feet).
Secondly, the ideal meaning of “On”, Herskovits (1986, 140) gives “on” the
deal meanings: for a geometrical construct X to be contiguous with a line or surface
Y; if Y is the surface of an object Oy, and X is the space occupied by another object
Ox, for Oy to support Ox.( on: contiguity, adjacency of a geometrical construct with
a surface, or a line.). And identities these use types: Spatial entity supported by
physical object; Accident/objects as part of physical object; Physical object attached

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to another; Physical object transported by a large vehicle ; object over another;
Spatial entity located on geographical location; Physical or geometrical object
contiguous with a line; Physical object contiguous with edge of a geographical area.
Thirdly, the ideal meaning of preposition “in” is inclusion of a geometric construct
of x in a one-, two-, or three-dimensional geometric construct of y (in: partial
inclusion of a geometrical construct in a volume, an area, or a line): Spatial entity in
a container (the milk in the glass, the chair in the corner); Gap or object
“embedded” in physical object (the fish in the water, sugar and milk in the coffee);
A physical object in the air (the bird in the air); Physical object in outline of another
or a group of objects (the bird in the tree, straw in his hair); Spatial entity in part of
space or averment (there is a chair in the middle of the room. They sat in the
shadow of a tree); Accident or object part of physical or geometric object (the
crease in his pants, a page in a book, a man in crowd); Person in clothing (a man in
red hat); Person or participant in institution (My son is in college); Object in the
road (there is a truck in the road).
1.3.2. Vietnamese Prepositions
Like English, Vietnamese also has a category of word which is similar to
prepositions. We may call this category Vietnamese equivalent of English
preposition. To make it simple, some people prefer to use the name preposition.
Nevertheless, the notion preposition in Vietnamese is a quite complicated issue
because some linguists have claimed that prepositions do not exist in Vietnamese.
According to Tran (2007) there are two main types of preposition in Vietnamese:
prepositions of time and location. In addition, there are some other prepositions
called miscellaneous ones. Prepositions of time are vào (in, on, at), trong or suốt
(during), trước (before), sau (after), kể từ khi (since) and cho tới khi (until). In terms
of prepositions of location, there are trên (on, above, over), trong (in, inside), chung
quanh (around), bên phải (on the right of), cạnh (next to) and so on. Finally,
miscellaneous prepositions conclude cho (for), với (with), về (about), nhờ (thanks
to), bởi (by) and so forth.

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