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Tense and aspect in the writing of Singapore school students
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Paper presented at the ERAS Conference, Singapore, 29-31 May 2006
This paper examines the development of tense and aspect in the writing of Singapore school students, through a comparative analysis of verb and verb phrase errors in the compositions of Singapore primary and secondary students. The analysis is done using a lexical semantic framework which looks at how meaning and form interact with one another: the Aspect Hypothesis (Salaberry and Shirai 2002, Andersen and Shirai1996, Bardovi-Harlig 2000, etc.) postulates that the aspectual meaning of verbs - viz. the ways in which verbs describe the completion and duration of events - affects the degree to which they are accurately marked for tense and aspect. Data of over 100 school composition scripts were examined to provide an authentic basis for the analysis. The comparative analysis across primary and secondary school writing demonstrates interesting patterns which indicate that the development of the grammar of the verb moves from a focus on form to a focus on meaning. The findings in this paper suggests that a more effective approach to the teaching of grammar would be one where the aspectual meaning of verbs is explicitly taken into account when teaching the grammar of verbs in relation to tense and aspect.
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