Proceedings of The Academic Conference of African Scholar Publications & Research International on New Strategies and Approaches Vol. 5 No. 2. 6th August, 2015- Federal University, Dutse, Student Centre Hall, Dutse, Jigawa State, Nigeria. CONCORD AND PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH NIGERIAN LEARNERS OF ENGLISH CHINYERE UCHEGBU-EKWUEME & TAKIM AJOM OKONGOR Faculty of General Studies, Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State, Nigeria Abstract The work is an attempt to investigate how and to what extent the students (of Department of English, Federal University Dutse) are able to master the rules that govern the acceptable English sentence structure. The paper examines the written works of 100 level and 200 level students who take Eng. 105: Practical Grammar and Eng. 201: Advanced English Syntax in the Department of English, Federal University Dutse, Nigeria. The researcher having marked the scripts discovered that, most sentences constructed by some of the students contain more than one error which James (1998) defines as error ascribe to more than one cause which operate simultaneously. Errors of varying types are committed. Some of these errors are either phonological, semantic, while others are lexical or syntactic in nature. It was further revealed that some of the major causes of these errors are: over – generalization of rules of English language, bad pronunciation, competent conflict or transfer of mother tongue into second language among others. Based on these findings appropriate recommendations are made which the researcher hopes will solve the problems. Also common agreement errors in the scripts identified and pedagogical means of trying to improve the grammatical ability of these students would be heighted. Pedagogical suggestions are proffered, how students should be prepared by the language teacher to express themselves clearly and adequately in writing and speaking. Keywords: Error, mother tongue, phonological, semantics, over – generalization. Introduction Concord refers to the agreement between all the parts of a sentence, especially between the subject and verb. For a sentenced to be grammatically correct and meaningful, there must be an agreement between the subject and the verb. The notion of subject – verb agreement is an important aspect of language which many students do not understand. There is an undeniable connection between demonstrable language performance and a proper understanding of the rules that govern the construction of acceptable grammatical structures. One of such rules is the rule of concord. A lack of understanding of this phenomenon (agreement) affects the comprehensibility of both spoken and written forms. Breaking the grammatical rules can lead to a breakdown in communication or being misinterpreted by your listeners. Hence, limiting an individual ability to communicate effectively. English, like any other language has rules that govern acceptable usage in Syntax, Phonology and Semantics which everyone who speaks it attempts to master. For second language users of English, it becomes sometimes difficult for such rules to be strictly adhered. It is this kind of problem that manifest under subject – verb agreement which constitutes a major obstacle in syntax to users of English as L2. Subject – verb agreement errors relate to the kind of problems that occur in harmonizing the various parts of a sentence structure in compliance to the rule which states that the subject of a sentence must agree with other subsequent words in the same sentence both in number and person. During the course of marking scripts, the researcher discovered serious grammatical errors in the scripts of some students. The errors ranged from the misuse of tenses, omission and misuse of articles, noun inflexion, lexical errors, errors in mechanics, spelling errors and concord errors. This research in centered on errors of concord found in some students scripts. Most of these errors consisted of disagreement between the number of a subject and the number of the verb. Examples in the data are: 1a. The boy have come (wrong). 1b. The boy has come (correct). 2a. She have come to see you (wrong). 2b She has come to see you. (correct). 3a The cattle is grazing on the field (wrong). 3b The cattle are grazing on the field (correct). 4a I does not know (wrong). 4b. I do not know (correct). 5a Is the babies sleeping (wrong). 5b Are the babies sleeping (correct) . 6a. The police is coming (wrong). 6b.The police are coming (correct). 7a.There is five students in the class. (wrong). 7b.There are five students in the class. (correct). 8a.Every students like him. (wrong). 8b. Every student likes him. (correct). 9a. The students is in the class(wrong). 9b. The students are in the class(correct). 10a. The classrooms is dirty(wrong). 10b.The classrooms are dirty(correct) Types of concord Quirk et al (1985) make a distinction between three types of concord, namely: a. Grammatical Concord b. Notional Concord c. Proximity Concord Grammatical Concord Concerning grammatical concord, the most important type of concord in English is subject-verb agreement which involves, mainly, number and person. For a sentence to be grammatical correct, all the components of the structure must be in agreement with one another. For example, the subject must agree with verbs within the sentence. Proceedings of The Academic Conference of African Scholar Publications & Research International on New Strategies and Approaches Vol. 5 No. 2. 6th August, 2015- Federal University, Dutse, Student Centre Hall, Dutse, Jigawa State, Nigeria. Examples: The baby cries every morning. Babies cry every morning. It is important to note that the agreement of subject and verb is a very fundamental issue in language use, competence and effective communication. It becomes problematic when a learner is made to learn that a singular verb takes“s” or “es” a plural verb does not take the plural morpheme “s” or “es” Examples: Singular verb Plural verb leaves, goes, leave, go sells, brushes sell, brush From the examples above, we can see that all singular subjects take singular verbs and all plural subjects take plural verbs. In sentential terms, these rules can be put thus. Mary(singular noun)writes(singular verb) every day.. Mary and John( plural noun) write(plural verb) every day. There is also the phenomenon of agreement of subject and complement. By complement here is meant a noun or an adjective in the predicate that follows a linking verb. Since the complement is related to the subject, it should be in agreement with it. For examples: Mr James is a lecturer. The women are nurses. In the sample above there is an agreement between the subjects. “Mr James” and “ The women” as well as their complements “a lecturer” and “nurses ” respectively. Notional Concord Notional concord is a type of semantic agreement between the subject of the sentence whose form is singular but whose meaning involves more than one entity. Notional concord is agreement base on the idea of number rather than the singular form of the noun. In other words, if the individuals are considered as a unit, a singular verb is used but when the group is treated as a collection of individuals a plural verb is used. For example: The congregation has taken the decision. The congregation have taken the decision. Proximity Concord In proximity concord, the verb agrees with the noun or pronoun that precedes it. In other words, if one of the two subject phrases co-ordinate is singular and the other is plural, the verb agrees with that subject which comes after it. That is, the subject nearest to the verb determines whether the verb would be plural or singular .Examples: Either Mr David or his children are happy. Either his children or David is happy. Problems of Concord with Nouns Ending in – s There are some nouns that are followed by singular verb even though they carry the plural morpheme “s”. These nouns are known as singular invariable nouns. Examples are disease and game names ending in “s” such as: draughts, athletics, gymnastics, billiards measles mumps etc. Names for things made of two parts such as shorts, pants, spectacles, pliers, scissors, and glasses are usually used as plural. These nouns which consist of two equal halves joined together are called summation plural or plural invariable nouns. When the nouns are preceded by a qualifier such as “a pair of”, a singular verb is used when the nouns are preceded by “two or more pairs of” a plural verb is used. For example: There is a pair of shears on the table. There are pairs of shears on the table My shorts are torn. Noun like police, clergy, cattle take the plural verb, although they lack the “s” or “es” ending. Example: The police are discipline. The clergy are meeting today. Special Cases The following are some cases that create problems concerning the rule of concord. 1. Expression such as: as well as, accompanied by, along with, in addition to, do not obey the rule of concord. For example, The teacher accompanied by his children has gone home. 2. When the structure” a number of” occurs as a subject, it can be either singular or plural depending on whether it is preceded by a definite or indefinite article . Examples: The number of women absent today is ten. A number of women are absent today. 3. Structures of coordination such as “and” always take a plural verb; but when such structures contain entities which express a single idea, they take a singular verb. Example: My brother and medical adviser lives in Kaduna Yam and stew is served every Saturday. 4. When plural words and phrases are used as titles, quotations, they take the singular verb. A phrase serving as the subject of a sentence also takes a singular verb. Example. To treat woman as minors is bad. Without a Silver Spoon is my best novel. 5. A relative pronoun such as: who, whom, which, that, must agree with its antecedent. That is, the noun it refers to. Proceedings of The Academic Conference of African Scholar Publications & Research International on New Strategies and Approaches Vol. 5 No. 2. 6th August, 2015- Federal University, Dutse, Student Centre Hall, Dutse, Jigawa State, Nigeria. Example: John is one of the boys who play here. Common Errors in Concord Most agreement errors result from the misuse of the common verbs “have” “do” and “be”. The students needs to be reminded that the verb “have” appears as “has” if the subject is a singular noun or if the subject is a third person singular. If the subject is a plural noun or the pronoun I, you, the verb “have” is used. Examples: She has a book. I have a book. Similarly, the verb ”do” appear as “does” if subject is a singular noun or a third person singular pronoun such as: he, she, it. For example: James does his homework every day. If subject is a plural noun or the pronoun I, you, they, we, then “do” is used. Example: Mary and Mercy do their homework every evening. Apart from the above errors, it also difficult for the students to make the verb agree in number with the subject. Hence, violating the important rule that a subject must be in agreement with its verb and all other subsequent words that come with it in the same sentential structure. For example: The salivary glands produces saliva and this is used in softening food substance. The above sentence is wrong because there is no subject verb agreement. The subject is plural while the verb is singular. To make both agree, the verb should drop its “s” in order to change its form. Conclusion The aim of human language is communication. Human utterances are aimed at achieving meaningful communication and intelligibility. This is also true of writing where it is expected that much time is taken before thoughts are put down on paper. Unfortunately it is observed that many second language learners of English have problems in making the subjects of their sentences agree with their verbs. In most cases too, it was found out that students find it difficult to make compound subjects of sentences agree with their verbs. It was also observed that in many cases, students find it difficult to make complement of sentences agree with their subjects and with the copula verbs that link them to the subjects. Pronouns which relate back to nouns in sentence also pose some difficulties for students to handle. It was revealed that in some instances, students cannot strike an agreement between these pronouns and their referents. In summary the inability of students to properly handle, agreement and concord hinder their ability to communicate effectively. In order to assist students overcome these difficulties and to improve their grammar, some rules governing subject – verb agreement would be listed below. This may help reduce the students’ errors. (i) Use a singular verb when the subject of the sentence is singular. (ii) Use a singular verb after indefinite pronouns such as: each, everyone, everybody, nobody, somebody, and someone etc. (iii) If you use either…or, neither…nor, look at the subject nearest to the verb, if the subject closest to the verb in singular, use a singular verb and vice versa. (iv) Nouns denoting measurement of money, time and distance require a singular verb. Example, Two thousand naira is a lot of money. Ten hours is a long time to wait to see a lawyer. (v) Word such as: all, both, few, many, always use the plural verb. Students should know that only the subject affects the verb Recommendations In order to reduce these errors at the tertiary institutions, the English teachers at the lower levels of education have great roles to play. This is because after the curriculum designers, teachers are implementers of the educational aim. The teachers should be knowledgeable enough to know the problem areas of Nigerian students and offer useful suggestions. 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