The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Ettien Koffi

Second Advisor

Edward Sadrai

Third Advisor

Emily Schultz

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

resolution rules, phi-feature agreement, subject/verb agreement, agreement errors, Arabic writers, English L2 compositions


Resolution rules are syntactic parameters that regulate the proper agreement of phi-features (person, number, and gender) between a noun/noun phrase and a verb phrase within a grammatical language system. This study examines L2 English compositions written by native Arabic speakers and investigates whether or not students transfer agreement patterns from their L1 to their L2. Although the compositions were examined primarily for salient resolution rule agreement errors, the scope was widened to also include other agreement issues that were prevalent. The findings revealed that although agreement errors were found in conjunction with person and number resolution rules, these were not the most wide-spread agreement errors with this group of Arabic writers. Constructions that included isolated subject referents and indefinite pronouns proved more difficult to resolve, and negative transfer led to copious zero copula errors and pro-drop errors. In terms of subject/verb agreement for these writers, data from this study determined that auxiliary verb constructions were the most difficult.


I would like to express my appreciation to my advisor Dr. Ettien Koffi for his guidance, insight, opportunity, and humor (all qualities that he delivers with aplomb). His many classes that I had the pleasure of attending were all among my favorites, although thoughts of the Pedagogical Grammar exam still leave me in a cold sweat occasionally. I never had the good fortune of taking classes with either Dr. Edward Sadrai or Dr. Emily Schultz, also members of my committee, and that is a loss for me. I appreciate greatly the copious notes, comments, and suggestions that Dr. Sadrai provided on the initial version of this study—the work benefited in large part from his time and attention. Dr. Schultz provided a clear, objective perspective which any writing that I undertake requires, and she supplied it with a smile. I would also like to thank Dr. Michael Schwartz for the student compositions that were used in this study. I am much obliged to all of you for your attention and guidance.

I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge the incredible patience of my wife and her willingness to allow house projects to go unfinished for three long years while I attempted to build a way for us to retire in Amalfi…or Dubrovnik…or perhaps even Rabat. My daughter also endured many trips to and from St. Cloud during these years, ably entertaining herself as I taught, was taught, or merely met on campus. She was only too willing to make the trip as long as it included a visit to the White Horse.

The work in front of you was also helped by the assistance of two wonderful friends that I had the good fortune to meet in Dr. Serrano’s Education class during our first semester at St. Cloud: Bree and Mohammad. Mohammad and I have had the pleasure of sharing stimulating conversation, scintillating recipes, Turkish coffee, and tasty sweets. He was also kind enough to verify and correct my Arabic examples, and even make a digital recording of each of them. Bree was kind enough to help me massage those same examples into phonetically succinct IPA for inclusion beneath each example. Not only has Bree been a discerning and well-informed colleague and friend for me, but she has also become a confidant and perfect Chinese tutor for my daughter. Our family friendship with Bree carried us into the welcoming arms of her family in Tianjin this past summer, and provided our family with an experience in China that was unforgettable. Thank you friends and thank you SCSU!