Foreign Language Learning:
Phraseology and Discourse

Action de recherche concertée
University of Louvain, Belgium





Phraseology and Second Language Acquisition


While the role played by phraseology in first language acquisition has been investigated in a number of studies and has been integrated in models of L1 acquisition which accommodate both analytic and gestalt strategies of acquisition (see Wray 2002), its role in second language acquisition is still largely unexplored. The few studies that have been carried out so far (for a survey, see Weinert 1995) suffer from a number of major limitations:
- highly limited number of subjects
- predominantly children or adult beginners acquiring the L2 in a country where that language is spoken (i.e. second – rather than foreign - language learners)
- mainly experimental and introspective data

A few researchers have recently started using natural language use data in the form of learner corpora to investigate foreign rather than second language learners of more advanced proficiency levels (Howarth 1996, Chi Man-ali et al 1994, Wiktorsson 2000, 2001, Sugiura 2002). However, the usefulness of these studies is limited. The methods and criteria used to identify prefabs display considerable variation, which makes it impossible to compare the results. In addition, the corpora used are very small (from 5,000 to 25,000 words), the investigation is usually restricted to one specific type of prefab and the quantitative results are often difficult to interpret (lack of differentiation between types and tokens or raw and relative frequencies, absence of statistical measures).

The main objective of the current project is to uncover the role played by phraseology in foreign language learning and in particular, the impact of L1 transfer on the learners’ phrasicon. To reach that aim, phraseology will be approached from a range of perspectives with a variety of methods and data types.




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Last updated: March 2005