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Multiword expressions and the digital turn

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Abstract

Increasingly the target language input that second language learners are exposed to is digital. This chapter traces some of the implications of this digital turn for the learning of multiword expressions. The underlying question being addressed in the chapter is what sorts of digital resources and tools can foster learners’ mastery of multiword expressions. First, it is shown how multiword expressions pose a fundamentally different acquisition challenge for learners who rely primarily on textual input compared to those who depend mainly on spoken input. Unlike most literature on the acquisition of multiword expressions, the chapter then concentrates on the challenge to the text-oriented learner. The limitations of traditional paper and ink lexical resources are described in terms of three qualities: they are static, centralized, and passive. The significance of the digitalization of these resources (for example, machine-readable dictionaries) is analyzed then through the lenses of these three qualities. Finally, the nature of the Web as a massive, noisy digital archive is taken as an environment for embedding a radically different sort of lexical resource for learning multiword expressions, one that is dynamic, distributed, and active. An existing tool that exemplifies this alternative, called Collocator, is described in terms of these qualities.

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