'Take him to the cleaners and make him do your homework': a corpus-based analysis of lexical structure used by English language learners
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The present study is an empirical corpus based analysis of the use of four lexical bundles or strings by ESL students at a higher education centre in Ireland. The overall aim was to ascertain if students at both ends of the language learning spectrum used the following multi-word items in their speaking and writing: 1) Multi-word verbs 2) Delexical verbs 3) Collocations and 4) Idiomatic expressions. There are two levels of learners who took part in this study: A2 and C1. The learner’s use of language was analysed over a period of twelve weeks. Recorded interactions and oral presentations in class were analysed as well as written homework and assignments. Integral to this study is corpus linguistics and the researcher’s created Adult Corpus of English (ACE). This corpus-based methodology enabled the identification of the frequency and number of the four lexical strings used by the language learners. Overall, twenty four students agreed to take part in the research and as a result the corpus amounts to 170,000 words: 20,000 written and 150,000 spoken. The use of WordSmith Tools (2016) and manual sifting of the corpus identified that both cohorts clearly use the four lexical strings in their speaking and writing. Multi-word verbs such as come back and put in, delexical verbs such as make an effort and do your homework, collocations for example spend time and write a letter and idiomatic expressions such as the grass is always greener and black and blue were recorded, identified and tagged. It is argued that though the classroom is not the most natural of contexts the majority of language used is produced by the learner without prompting or explicit teaching. Overall, the C1 cohort was found to use the majority of opaque lexical structures while the A2 cohort used less and transparent strings.
Delexical v lexical structures
English as a second language