Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School


First Advisor

John Taylor


The freshmen at South Dakota State University are primarily students who have lived their entire lives in small agricultural communities. They are neither stupid nor unintelligent but merely inexperienced in writing formal exposition. Many of them come from towns with populations under one-thousand and high school graduating classes of twenty-five to fifty. Their primary means of communication (up until they enrolled in college) was through speech. Because they rarely write, they feel very uncomfortable about learning to write effectively. For the most part, these inexperienced writers are bright but unable to express themselves orthographically. There were some who, in spite of their limited linguistic knowledge, excelled far beyond what would normally be expected of them. The majority, though, were inexperienced writers who wrote as they spoke because they were simply unaware of those basic differences which separate speech from writing. These were the students from whom I col1ected misspelled words to be used ultimately as data for my thesis. I collected and typed on individual index cards over five hundred errors from which I selected representative samples based on Chomsky's "clear case principle.” These unusual spellings and hypercorrections are attempts by conscientious students to master the language in written form. Furthermore, in an attempt to write more "educated" words, the inexperienced writer goes beyond correctness and produces an "innovative” word or phrase. Noam Chomsky, in his book entitled Syntactic Structures, defines what he means by the "clear case principle" I selected only those errors from freshmen who were native Americans, excluding the errors of any foreign students I had in classes. These particular student errors were collected during the 1981-82, as well as the 1983-84, academic year. I chose only the “Clear case” errors that directly demonstrate the theory of error analysis I wish to develop. The other unused errors from each category are listed in the Appendix at the end of each chapter.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Language and languages -- Orthography and spelling
English language -- Orthography and spelling



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


No Copyright - United State