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Constructing Another Language – Frequencies of Expressions and Constructions in Second Language Acquisition

The general aim of this paper is to discuss the application of Usage-Based Linguistics (UBL) to a description of developmental issues in SLA. It will be investigated how well the UBL suggestion that language learning is item-based, going from formulas via low-scope patterns to fully abstract constructions serves "as a default in guiding the investigation of the ways in which exemplars and their type and token frequencies determine the second language acquisition of structure." (Ellis, 2002: 170). Furthermore, ‘the rule/list fallacy’ (Langacker, 1991; Taylor, 2003) will also be discussed, keeping in mind that “the main point from an acquisition point of view is that when a higher abstraction is made the lower level concrete expressions do not necessarily go away but remain available for use – especially if they are used frequently.” (Tomasello, 2003: 106)

This main aim of this paper, then, in applying UBL to a general description of second language development, is to discuss frequencies of usage patterns and how these relate to acquisition. The empirical point of departure is longitudinal oral classroom data and the focus of the present study is one particular student in the class in question.



Ellis, N.C. (2002): Frequency Effects in Language Processing – a Review with Implications for Theories of Implicit and Explicit Language Acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 24, 143-188

Langacker, R.W. (1991): Concept, Image, Symbol. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter

Taylor, J.R. (2003): Cognitive Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tomasello, M. (2003). Constructing a language. A usage-based theory of language acquisition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.