A Fossilized Language Pattern for the Singular First Person Subject Pronoun in the Saudi Context: I vs. I am

Mehmet Bulent Rakab


The drive that motivated this study was an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher’s observation of a fossilized grammar pattern produced by students over an extended period of time.  The fossilized pattern “I am go” frequently emerges in the EFL context of Saudi Arabia, for which a number of factors could be accountable, including overgeneralization of a grammar pattern, inadequate instruction, lack of negative and corrective feedback, being frequently exposed to peers’ production of the fossilized pattern, and so forth.  155 undergraduate students from a Saudi university responded to a multiple-choice question with three options.  The findings revealed that only one third of the participants identified the correct singular first person subject pronoun in English “I”, which corresponded to (انا) in Arabic.  Based on the results, pedagogical and methodological recommendations are made as to how the possibility of the emergence of the incorrect pattern in question can be reduced or minimized.



Fossilization, Function words, interlanguage errors

Full Text:



Azar, B. S. (2002, December 6). Teacher Talk. Retrieved from


Banerjee, M. (2013). Pattern of Sentence Construction with L1 Influence by Bengali EFL Students. International Refereed Journal of Engineering and Science, 2(2), 39-47.

Bley-Vroman, R. (1989). What is the logical problem of foreign language learning? in S. Gass & J. Schachter (eds.) Linguistic Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition. CUP New York: 41-68.

Braddock, R., R. Lloyd-Jones, & L. Schoer (1963). Research in Written Composition. Urbana Champaign, Illinois: NCTE, ED 003 374.

Brown, H. D. (1994). Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. (3rd edition.) Prentice Hall.

Bruton, A. (2002). From tasking purposes to purposing tasks & when and how the language development in TBI? ELT Journal, 56(3), 280-297. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/56.3.280

Celce-Murcia, M., Dörnyei, Z., & Thurrell, S. (1997). Direct approaches in L2 instruction: A turning point in communicative language teaching? TESOL Quarterly, 31(1), 141-152. DOI: 10.2307/3587979

Commission on English. (1965). Freedom and discipline in English. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.

DeKeyser, R. (1993). The Effect of Error Correction on L2 Grammar Knowledge and Oral Proficiency. The Modern Language Journal, 77(4), 501–514. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.1993.tb01999.x Ellis

Ellis, R. (1985). Understanding second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, R. (2009). Corrective Feedback and Teacher Development. L2 Journal, 1, 3-18.

Esch, E. (1996). Self-access and the adult language learner. London: CILT.

Eskey, D. E. (1983). Meanwhile back in the real world…: Accuracy and fluency in second language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 17(2), 315-323. DOI: 10.2307/3586663

Ferris, D. R. (2004). The ‘‘grammar correction’’ debate in L2 writing: Where are we, and where do we go from here? Journal of Second Language Writing, (13), 49–62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jslw.2004.04.005

Gass, S. M. (1997). Input, interaction, and the second language learner. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Han, Z.H. (2004). Fossilization: Five Central Issues. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 14(2), 212-42.

Hasbún, L. H. (2007). Fossilization and Acquisition: A Study of Learner Language. Filología y Lingüística, 13(1): 113-129.

Hendrickson, J. (1978). Error correction in foreign language teaching: Recent theory, research and practice. Modern Language Journal, 62, 387-398. DOI: 10.2307/326176

Hyland, K., & Hyland, F. (2006). Feedback in second language writing: Contexts and issues. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Krashen, S. (1982) Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon.

Lenneberg. E. H. (1972). On explaining language. In M.E.P. Seligman & J.L. Hager (Eds.). Biological boundaries of learning (pp. 379-396). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Lightbown, P. M. & Spada, N. (1999). How Languages are Learned. Oxford University Press.

Lightbown, P. M., Halter, R. H., White, J. L., & Horst, M. (2002). Comprehension-based learning; the limits of “Do it yourself”. Canadian Modern Language Review, 58(3), 427-464. https://doi.org/10.3138/cmlr.58.3.427

Mangubhai, F., Marland, P., Dashwood, A., & Son, J.B. (2004). Teaching a foreign language: One teacher’s practical theory. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20 (3), 291-311.


Masouleh, N. S. & Jooneghani, R. B. (2012). Autonomous learning: A teacher-less learning! Social and Behavioral Sciences, 55, 835 – 842

doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.09.570

Mitchell, R. & Myles, F. (1998). Second Language Learning Theories. London: Arnold.

National Council of Teachers of English (1985). Annual Business Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Nushi, M. (2016). On the Role of L1 Markedness and L2 Input Robustness in Determining Potentially Fossilizable Language Forms in Iranian EFL Learners' Writing. Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies, 12(2), 66-86.

O'Riordan, M. (1999). Strategic use of pedagogic grammar rules in micro-level editing. Proceedings from the annual meeting of the New York State teachers of English to speakers of other languages held in Bronx, NY, 1999 (pp. 1-32). New York: ERIC Clearinghouse.

Renou, J. (2001). An Examination of the Relationship between Metalinguistic Awareness and Second-language Proficiency of Adult Learners of French. Language Awareness, 10(4), 248-267, DOI: 10.1080/09658410108667038.

Richards, J .C. (2008). Moving Beyond the Plateau: From Intermediate to Advanced Levels in Language Learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Richards, J. C., Platt, J., and Platt, H. (1992). Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied Linguistics. (Second Edition), Harlow, Essex: Longman.

Schmidt (1990). The role of consciousness in second language learning. Applied Linguistics, 11, 129-158. https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/11.2.129

Selinker L. (1972). Interlanguage. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 10, 209-241.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/iral.1972.10.1-4.209

Schulz, R.A. (1996). Focus on form in the foreign language classroom: Students’ and teachers’ views on error correction and the role of grammar. Foreign Language Annals, 29, 343–364. DOI: 10.1111/j.1944-9720.1996.tb01247.x

Schulz, R.A. (2001). Cultural differences in student and teacher perceptions concerning the role of grammar teaching and corrective feedback: USA–Colombia. Modern Language Journal, 85, 244–258. DOI: 10.1111/0026-7902.00107

Skehan, P. (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Spolsky, B. (2007). On second thoughts. In Janna Fox, Mari Wesche, Doreen Bayliss, Liying Chencg, Carolyn E. Turner & Christine Doe (Eds.), Language testing reconsidered (pp. 9-18). Ottawa Canada: University of Ottawa Press.

Sultana, A. (2009). Peer correction in ESL classroom. BRAC University Journal, 6 (1), 11-19.

URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10361/450

Towell, R. & Hawkins, R. (1994). Approaches to second language acquisition. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Truscott, J. (1999). The case for “The case against grammar correction in L2 writing classes”: A response to Ferris. Journal of Second Language Writing, 8(2), 111-122.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-1770.1996.tb01238.x

Vigil, N. A. & J. W. Oller (1976). Rule Fossilization: A tentative model [J]. Language Learning, 26, 281-295. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-1770.1976.tb00278.x

Widdowson, H. G. (1998). Context, community and authentic language. TESOL Quarterly, 32(4), 705–616. DOI: 10.2307/3588001.

Wright, T. (2002). Doing language awareness: Issues for language study in language teacher education. In H. Trappes-Lomax and G. Ferguson (eds) Language in Language Teacher Education. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Yagcioglu, O. (2015). New approaches on learner autonomy in language learning. Social and Behavioral Sciences, 199, 428 – 435. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.07.529

Zhang, M. X. (1998). The crucial role of formal and explicit instruction and learners' prior knowledge: An example in learners of Chinese background. ERIC Clearinghouse, 1- 18.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21462/asiantefl.v1i1.39


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
ASIAN TEFL: Journal of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics by http://www.asian-tefl.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.asian-tefl.com.
View My Stats
Indexed and Abstracted by:


ASIAN TEFL: Journal of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics

web: www.asian-tefl.com

email: asian.teflj@gmail.com

Publisher: Asosiasi Dosen Linguistik, Pendidikan Bahasa, dan Sastra di Indonesia (Lecturer Association of Linguistics, Language Teaching, and Literature Studies in Indonesia)

Address: Prodi Sastra Inggris, Universitas Dian Nuswantoro, Jl Imam Bonjol No. 207, Semarang