Acquisition of English Definite Article ‘The’ By Arab EFL Learners

Mohamed Taha Ali Hassan, Wong Bee Eng


The English has the definite article “the”, indefinite article “a/n” and a zero article “Ø”. This paper examines the acquisition of the English definite article ‘the’ by L1 Arabic speakers. The Arabic language makes use of a definite article al which corresponds to the English definite article superficially. However, the Arabic language has different ways of encoding both the notions of definiteness and indefiniteness. Using Huebner’s (1983) classification system, this paper aims to investigate the extent to which L1 Arabic speakers of L2 English of varying proficiency levels have acquired the definite article the. One hundred and fifty L1 Arabic respondents, drawn from three proficiency levels (advanced, upper-intermediate, and lower intermediate) were selected for the study. The respondents attempted a set of study tasks, a fill-in-article test task and a forced-choice elicitation task respectively. The data was analysed quantitatively. The results of the study showed that L1 Arabic respondents generally are non native-like in using the English definite article. Respondents showed low levels of accuracy with regard to the use of the definite article the. The findings also show that L1 transfer was involved in the acquisition of the English articles. In addition, the different assignments of the articles in both languages seemed to have contributed to the difficulty of the definite article use in English evident in the study. The study highlights the importance of investigating the acquisition of English definite article by L2 learners and provides some pedagogical perspectives for the L2 English instructors and highlights the importance of the context in which articles are used.


second language acquisition (SLA), the English definite article the, L1 Arabic speakers

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