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The Idiom Principle in L2 English: Assessing elusive formulaic sequences as indicators of idiomaticity, fluency, and proficiency
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to explore and compare intermediate learners’ and native speakers’ usage of formulaic sequences, i.e. conventionalized and memorized combinations of lexis and/or grammar, here with a focus on written production of L2 English. The primary material consists of compositions and two gap tests, in which the informants filled in single words missing in formulaic sequences.

The hypothesis of the present thesis is that L2 learners predominantly use the idiom principle (cf. Sinclair 1991), involving a single choice of retrieving a memorized sequence. The first research question concerns the quantity of formulaic language in the primary material. The second question addresses the issue of how the learners deal with unfamiliar formulaic sequences. The final question concerns the relationship between the use of formulaic sequences in the primary material and general proficiency in the target language.

The results of the study give support to the hypothesis. However, the learners’ formulaic language does not always match the native speaker target. The largest category among non-accepted formulaic sequences is ‘attempted formulaic sequences’, which bear traces of formulaicity from the learners’ L1 and L2. Had these been included in the overall proportion of formulaic language, the learners’ proportion would approximate the level of the native speakers. Results show that there are indeed statistically significant correspondences between knowledge of formulaic language and proficiency in both receptive and productive skills. Knowledge of formulaic language thus seems to be an indicator of overall proficiency.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Engelska institutionen , 2008. , xviii, 280 p.
Keyword [en]
formulaic sequences, attempted formulaic sequences, learners, native speakers, idiomaticity, fluency, proficiency, open choice principle, idiom principle
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-7317ISBN: 978-91-7155-568-7OAI: diva2:198041
Public defence
2008-03-01, hörsal 11, hus F, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2008-02-01 Created: 2008-01-21Bibliographically approved

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