Do foreign language learners also have constructions?
- Authors: Stefan Th. Gries 1 ; Stefanie Wulff 2
- Source: Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics, Volume 3, Issue 1, 2005 , pages 182 –200
In Construction Grammar, the ultimate grammatical unit is the construction, a conventionalized form-meaning pairing. We present interrelated evidence from three different methods, all of which speak in favor of attributing an ontological status to constructions for non-native speakers of English. Firstly, in a sentence-fragment completion study with German learners of English, we obtained a significant priming effect between constructions. Secondly, these priming effects correlate strongly with the verb-construction preferences in native speaker corpora: verbs which are strongly associated with one construction resist priming to another semantically compatible construction; more importantly, the priming effects do not correlate with verb-construction preferences from German translation equivalents, ruling out a translational explanation. Thirdly, in order to rule out an alternative account in terms of syntactic rather than constructional priming, we present semantic evidence obtained by a sorting study, showing that subjects exhibited a strong tendency towards a construction-based sorting, which even reflects recent explanations of how constructions are related.
Affiliations: 1: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology; 2: University of Bremen