Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1879-7865
  • E-ISSN: 1879-7873



In a previous series of crosslinguistic empirical studies in the domain of narratives and picture descriptions, it has been shown that different conceptual principles of discourse structure are built by L1 users based on routine cognitive processes. These in turn seem to be induced by the underlying language-specific properties of the L1s. Native speakers of Dutch and German, for example, tend to conceptualize and structure the progression of the narrative or description through linking devices in utterance-initial position, primarily through the use of the protagonist or temporal/locative adverbials. In contrast, native English speakers tend to prefer linking with the (syntactic) subject in initial position. The present study shows how complex it is for very advanced Dutch learners of L2 English to unravel these non-superficial underlying conceptual discourse structures in their L2. The question is whether they can overcome the routinized cognitive schemata of language processing that go with their habitual L1 strategies of telling a story or describing a picture. This paper shows how even very advanced Dutch learners can only partially learn the narrative or descriptive strategies of native English speakers.

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