Foreign Language Learning:
Phraseology and Discourse

Action de recherche concertée
University of Louvain, Belgium







Over the past twenty years phraseology has established itself as a field in its own right in pure and applied linguistics research. Beside the ‘open choice principle’, which sees language as «the result of a large number of complex choices. At each point where a unit is completed (a word or a phrase or a clause), a large range of choices opens up and the only restraint is grammaticalness», it is now widely recognized that there is also an ‘idiom principle’ according to which «a language user has available to him or her a large number of semi-preconstructed phrases that constitute single choices, even though they might appear to be analysable into segments» (Sinclair 1991: 110; Gross 1988). Under the influence of Sinclair, the field of phraseology has considerably widened: at first, almost exclusively focussed on semantically opaque idioms (kick the bucket/casser sa pipe/zijn pijp aan Maarten geven), it now embraces a wide variety of word combinations, both lexical and grammatical, displaying varying degrees of fixedness and semantic opacity: collocations (to make an appointment/prendre un rendez-vous/een afspraak maken), colligations (to congratulate sb on sth, féliciter qqn de qqch, iemand met iets feliciteren), formulae (you’re welcome/je vous en prie/graag gedaan) and other types of recurring word combinations (the point is that../le fait est que../ het punt is dat; il n’en reste pas moins que/the fact remains that.../dat neemt niet weg dat…) (see Cowie 1998, Schapira 1999). Stored as wholes, these prefabricated chunks considerably facilitate language comprehension and production and therefore play a very important role in language acquisition. Both Hausmann (in Martins-Baltar, ed 1997, 289): ‘Pourquoi une certaine description linguistique est-elle à mille lieues de l’apprentissage d’une langue étrangère, de la réalité de ce qui se passe dans la traduction ? Parce qu’elle a évacué la réalité de la langue, c’est-à-dire sa foncière idiomaticité’ and Mel’cuk (1993) (‘Un natif parle en phrasèmes’) are very clear on this point.

Three parts:

1. Phraseology and Second Language Acquisition

2. Linguistic Analysis

3. Pedagogical Relevance



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Last updated: March 2005