The acquisition of phrasal vocabulary by non-native speakers of Spanish
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
The term ‘phrasal vocabulary’ refers to multi-word expressions, that is, idioms, templates or “strings of words, which appear to be processed without recourse to their lowest level of composition” (Wray, 2002, p.4). Formulaicity constitutes an essential feature of language production and comprehension, and phrasal vocabulary plays a central role in everyday language usage. This research study replicates the experimental design carried out in the study Acquiring phrasal vocabulary by Kuiper, Columbus, & Schmitt (to appear), which used a cloze procedure to test three main hypotheses: a) There are significant differences between the degree of acquisition of formulaic language items by native and non-native speakers of English; b) The frequency of usage of the head-verbs contained in verb plus complement formulaic sequences is positively correlated with the acquisition of such sequences; and, c) Phrasal vocabulary is age graded. In the present study the target language is Spanish instead of English. In addition, available evidence suggests that cultural integration seems to be linked to the acquisition of formulaic language. Thus, a questionnaire intended to measure the participants’ cultural integration level to the target language community was developed. The results of this study supported the predictions that the amount of formulaic language acquired by native speakers is positively correlated with age, and that non-native speakers’ phrasal vocabulary is significantly less extensive than that of native speakers. Most importantly, the results also showed a significant effect of verb frequency on the participants’ acquaintance with the formulaic sequences tested. However, the prediction that cultural integration would be positively correlated with the number of correct answers in the cloze test for both groups was not supported. Extending to the Spanish language the results reported by Kuiper, Columbus, & Schmitt supports the argument that the processes of acquisition of formulaic language across diverse linguistics systems function in a very similar way (Corpas Pastor, 2003). A better comprehension of the mechanisms by which speakers acquire formulaic language may significantly contribute to the development of an appropriate methodology to teach phrasal vocabulary to second language learners.