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Review of  Phraseology in Foreign Language Learning and Teaching

Reviewer: Rita Finkbeiner
Book Title: Phraseology in Foreign Language Learning and Teaching
Book Author: Fanny Meunier Sylviane Granger
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 19.2816

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EDITORS: Meunier, Fanny; Granger, Sylviane
TITLE: Phraseology in Foreign Language Learning and Teaching
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2008

Rita Finkbeiner, Department of German, Stockholm University

This volume consists of a collection of papers that deal with the role of
phraseology in second language acquisition and instruction. The starting point
of the book is the question of what consequences the centrality of phraseology
in language has for the role of phraseology in second language learning and
teaching. The papers discuss both theoretical questions and develop practical
tools and support for learning and teaching and are therefore of relevance to
both researchers and teachers interested in phraseology.

The book is divided into three main sections that shed light on the issue from
three different perspectives: Extracting and describing phraseological units,
learning phraseological units and recording and exploiting phraseological units.
The three sections are preceded by a preface from Nick C. Ellis, where he gives
an overview of research fields in which phraseology plays a central role, and an
introduction from the editors in which they give a short summary of the papers
collected in the book.

Section I, ''Extracting and describing phraseological units'', consists of five
papers that focus on the role of native and learner corpora for the extraction
and description of phraseological units as the starting point of informing
language pedagogy.

By using frequency and mutual information measures, Graeme Kennedy examines the
collocates associated with eight high frequency lexical verbs in the British
National Corpus (BNC). He shows that high frequency lexical verbs do not
co-occur arbitrarily with particular collocates, but tend to be associated with
other words having particular grammatical features or belonging to particular
semantic domains. Kennedy also discusses the question of why phraseology did not
have a prominent place in the curriculum under the last few decades.

Susanne Handl proposes a new method of defining and classifying essential
collocations for learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL), suggesting
that collocations are not uniform lexical combinations, but form directional
relationships in which the partners exert different degrees of attraction. With
the help of the criteria of semantic transparency, collocational range and
related frequency, collocations found in the BNC are classified on a semantic, a
lexical and a statistical dimension.

In chapter three, John Osborne examines two corpora of written productions by
university level learners of English. The aim of this chapter is to find out
whether ''simple'' errors like omission of 3rd person '-s' in the careful
production of relatively advanced learners do occur at random or whether they
are facilitated by certain contextual effects, especially phraseological
triggers. By using part-of-speech tagged versions of the material and automatic
retrieval, Osborne is able to identify three phraseological factors that can be
seen to be responsible for these errors: blending, bonding and burying.

The use of three types of English discourse phrases by Spanish learners of EFL
is investigated by JoAnne Neff van Aertselaer. The study compares English
argumentative texts written by expert writers with those written by novice
writers, both Spanish EFL and American university writers. Additionally, Spanish
texts are used to trace the transfer of interactional patterns in the Spanish
EFL texts. The relevant items are automatically retrieved from the texts (which
are taken from the International Corpus of Learner English, the American
university writer corpus, and the English-Spanish Contrastive Corpus). Van
Aertselaer shows that there are three main factors that influence EFL writers:
EFL developmental effects, novice writer factors, and transfer effects from L1.

In the last chapter of section I, Magali Paquot examines the influence of the
mother tongue on learners' written production of multiword units in academic
writing, focusing on multiword units with the rhetorical function of
exemplification. She compares learner data (five sub-corpora of the
International Corpus of Learner English) with corpora of the learners' L1. The
study shows that besides cross-linguistic (developmental or instruction-induced)
factors, there are significant L1-related effects which influence learners' use
of multiword units in academic writing.

Section II, ''Learning phraseological units'', contains three papers that deal
with the learning aspect: How do language learners grasp phraseology?

Alison Wray and Tess Fitzpatrick investigate the role of multiword memorization
in acquiring native-like competence in the L2. The data result from an in-depth
study of six intermediate/advanced learners of English who were memorizing,
rehearsing and finally performing utterance models which they got from native
speakers as appropriate for certain conversations. Wray and Fitzpatrick argue
that learners ' deviations can be used as a means to gain insights into the
pattern of strengths and weaknesses in an individual's command of the L2.

Averil Coxhead's contribution to the learning aspect of phraseology lies in
outlining some of the challenges of phraseology in English for Academic Purposes
(EAP) for teachers and learners. Some of the questions she discusses are: What
phrases should we teach in EAP? What pedagogical approach should we use? What
barriers do students encounter in using formulaic sequences in their writing?
Focusing on the question of how to teach phraseological units, Coxhead considers
the three psychological conditions of noticing, retrieval, and generation of
collocations. Concerning the question of barriers for students, Coxhead
stresses, among other factors, certain pragmatic strategies, such as deciding to
only learn verbs because ''learning one word was hard enough, so why learn two or
more?'' (p. 158).

In his chapter on multiword expressions and the digital turn, David Wible
addresses the question which kinds of digital tools can increase learners '
mastery of phraseological units. He describes traditional tools, such as
dictionaries, as static, centralized, and passive, and outlines criteria for
designing digital resources. As an exemplification, he sketches an existing tool
called Collocator which was developed by the author and his colleagues. It is
argued that digital lexical tools are appropriate means of fostering the process
of acquiring multiword units.

The three papers in section III, ''Recording and exploiting phraseological
units'', are concerned with the question of how to develop suitable resources for
teaching phraseological units, such as dictionaries and textbooks.

Dirk Siepmann empirically investigates the question whether learners'
dictionaries adequately represent routine formulae. Those semantically fully
transparent and very frequent multiword units are found to be neglected severely
by a number of monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, a result that can be seen
as one possible reason for learners' low awareness of collocations of regular
syntactic-semantic composition. Siepmann also gives practical suggestions for
lexicographic improvement and argues for an onomasiological perspective in
learners' dictionaries.

Mojca Pecman presents empirical research into bilingual English-French
phraseology for academic and scientific purposes. The main goal is to provide
French academics with a tool for easy access to EAP phraseology. Pecman
illustrates one such tool by developing a model for compiling, formalizing and
presenting bilingual phraseology based on data from a parallel corpus consisting
of scientific texts. After extracting the multiword units by the frequency
criterion, they are categorized semantically and an electronic database is
constructed that offers both alphabetical and semantic access to the data.

In the last chapter of this section, Céline Gouverneur assesses the treatment of
the two high-frequency verbs 'make ' and 'take ' and their phraseological
patterns in textbooks of English for General Purposes. For her investigation,
she uses the TeMa corpus, a new pedagogically annotated corpus of textbooks
which allows for automatic query. The treatment of the verbs and verb patterns
in the different textbooks is assessed with regard to exercise focus, learning
activities, and lexical focus. Among other results, Gouverneur found that the
lexical contents of the textbooks vary strongly - a result that questions the
selection principles of textbook designers - and that textbook designers put
less focus on the patterns at an advanced level than at an intermediate level,
despite the difficulty those patterns still cause at the advanced level.

The editors conclude the volume by identifying major issues for future
theoretical and applied work, for example the challenge of dealing with
learners' attitudes, the importance of the availability of phraseological
information, the question of how to deal with the lexis-grammar-interface, the
dangers with extrapolating from L1 to foreign language learning, the challenge
of refinement of statistical measures and automatic procedures, and the need of
teacher training. In outlining their view of phraseology in second/foreign
language learning, the editors stress the necessity of putting more emphasis on
phrases without putting less emphasis on grammar. Concerning the question of
selection of items to teach, they call for ''a harmonious combination of
technology [...], common sense and teachers' experience in selecting relevant
units for teaching'' (p. 250).

The volume sheds light on the issue of phraseology in foreign language learning
and teaching from a variety of relevant angles. One of its merits is that
besides presenting theoretical findings, the contributors give practical aid and
suggestions for teachers and concrete examples of tools, materials, and
resources. Even if a range of different methodologies and approaches are
presented, the book is compact and coherent thanks both to being logically
organized in three thematic sections and to the editors' introduction and
conclusion. The volume is edited very carefully, structured clearly and contains
a useful author and subject index.

Despite the fact that second language acquisition and instruction was one of the
starting points of the development of phraseological research in general (see
e.g. Pawley 2007, Kennedy this vol. p. 36), a book entirely devoted to the role
of phraseology in second language learning and teaching has, to my knowledge,
been absent until now. Instead, the focus of recent publications in the field of
phraseology has been on linguistic, corpus linguistic and psycholinguistic
topics, such as the semantic and syntactic features of multiword units, their
automatic identification and retrieval, questions of idiom production and
reception as well as cultural aspects (see e.g. Burger et al. (eds.) 2007,
Fellbaum (ed.) 2007, Skandera (ed.) 2007), while tending to neglect questions of
language learning and instruction. Therefore, the book makes an important and
well-needed contribution to current research.

A minor disadvantage of the book is that there is somewhat less emphasis on the
question of phraseological acquisition. Many of the papers that deal with the
learning aspect focus on learners' written production (see Osborne, van
Aertselaer, Paquot), while issues such as acquisition techniques, progress
stages or the effects of phraseological exercise and training are rather
neglected. On the other hand, production is the most directly observable part of
learning which also provides evidence for acquisition-related questions. The
chapters of Coxhead, Wray & Fitzpatrick, and Wible are examples for studies that
are dealing with important parts of the acquisition aspect, namely learners'
attitudes towards phrases, memorization strategies and lexicographic acquisition

A more general, striking fact that can be learned even from the present book is
how little different phraseological research traditions actually do interact
with each other. The present volume is clearly devoted to the Anglo-American
research tradition on phraseology and language learning and teaching (see e.g.
Firth 1957, Pawley & Syder 1983, Sinclair 1991, Nattinger & DeCarrico 1992, Wray
2002, Nesselhauf 2005), while the German-speaking phraseological research
tradition, which has been increasing quite fast the last decades, is left aside
almost completely. This might have to do with the fact that in the German
tradition, the focus has been on semantically irregular idioms which are less
important for second language learning compared with collocations and routine
formulae which are emphasized in the traditions of Firth and Sinclair, and that,
for that reason, even questions concerning learning and teaching of phraseology
only play a minor role in the German tradition. On the other hand, even idioms
pose considerable problems for language learning and teaching that should be
accounted for in a volume on learning and teaching of multiword units. It can
also simply be due to language problems that the German literature often is
neglected in the English-speaking academic world. Anyway, it would be desirable
to have more exchange between the different schools.

In sum, I found the book very interesting and useful and recommend it to
everybody interested in or dealing with language learning and teaching.

Burger, H., D. Dobrovol 'skij, P. Kühn & N.R. Norrick (eds.) (2007).
_Phraseologie/ Phraseology. Ein internationales Handbuch zeitgenössischer
Forschung./ An international handbook of contemporary research. 2. Halbbd./ Vol.
2_. Berlin, New York: de Gruyter

Fellbaum, C. (ed.) (2007). _Idioms and Collocations. Corpus-based linguistic and
lexicographic studies_. Birmingham: Continuum

Firth, J.R. (1957). _Papers in Linguistics 1934-1951_. London: Oxford University

Nattinger, J. & J. DeCarrico (1992). _Lexical phrases and language teaching_.
Oxford: Oxford University Press

Nesselhauf, N. (2005). _Collocations in a learner corpus_. Amsterdam: John Benjamins

Pawley, A. & F. Syder (1983). Two puzzles for linguistic theory: Native-like
selection and native-like fluency. In Richards, J. & R. Schmidt (eds.) _Language
and communication_. London: Longman, 191-226

Pawley, A. (2007). Prologue. In Skandera, P. (ed.) (2007), 3-45.

Sinclair, J.M. (1991). _Corpus, concordance, collocationh. Oxford: Oxford
University Press

Skandera, P. (ed.) (2007). _Phraseology and Culture in English_. Berlin, New
York: de Gruyter

Wray, A. (2002). _Formulaic language and the lexicon_. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press

Rita Finkbeiner is a PhD-student at the German department at Stockholm
University. She is currently working on a dissertation on sentential idioms in
German. Her main research interests are in phraseology, lexical semantics,
pragmatics and multilingualism. She also teaches courses in German as a second
language and German linguistics.