Vocabulary increase and collocation learning: a corpus-based cross-sectional study of Chinese EFL learners

Men, Haiyan (2015) Vocabulary increase and collocation learning: a corpus-based cross-sectional study of Chinese EFL learners. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.


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Collocation learning has long been recognised as a problematic domain for even high-level learners and acknowledged to lag far behind acquisition of other SLA aspects. This thesis explores the role of vocabulary growth in the learning of L2 collocations. It addresses the relationship between vocabulary increase and L2 collocation learning, aiming to identify whether increasing lexemes in a syn(onym)set (Fellbaum, 1998) is the main factor responsible. A corpus-based cross-sectional study was undertaken on Chinese EFL learners’written production of three types of collocations: verb + noun collocations (the main research target), adjective + noun and noun + noun collocations. Lexical verbs in verb + noun collocations were classified into synsets and analyses were performed on collocations within these synsets.

It finds a lag in L2 learners’verb + noun collocational knowledge with rising proficiency. This lag in collocational knowledge was found to be associated with an increase in lexical verbs learnt at higher levels. Collocation errors were seldom made where there was no increase in verb synsets. However, for synsets in which there was a verb increase, collocation errors involving new verbs were significantly more likely than errors with old verbs. The occurrence of collocation errors became increasingly limited to synsets with a verb increase as learners proceeded to more advanced levels. An alternative explanation was attempted to see if newly acquired nouns were also a factor responsible for the collocation lag. Results showed that in the majority of new nouns produced by higher levels of learners, collocations were target-like, and the percentages of new nouns in erroneous verb + noun collocations remained constant at both higher levels.

In contrast, it finds an improvement in L2 learners’knowledge of adjective + noun and noun + noun collocations. The thesis attempted to account for such differing performance from the perspective of vocabulary growth within synsets. The decreasing synonym density of verbs, adjectives and nouns may account for the relatively poorer performance on verb + noun collocations, and better performance on adjective + noun and noun + noun collocations. These findings are discussed with a view to a clearer understanding of the process of second language collocation learning, and to pedagogical implications.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
March 2015Completed
Subjects: CAH19 - language and area studies > CAH19-01 - English studies > CAH19-01-07 - linguistics
CAH19 - language and area studies > CAH19-01 - English studies > CAH19-01-01 - English studies (non-specific)
CAH19 - language and area studies > CAH19-04 - languages and area studies > CAH19-04-06 - Asian studies
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Institute of Media and English > School of English
Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Richard Birley
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2017 16:28
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:40
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/3870

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