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Phrasal Verbs: Usage and Acquisition

Journal: Athens Journal of Philology (Vol.1, No. 2)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 111-126

Keywords : ;

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Phrasal verbs represent a typical feature of English. Multiword expressions, and especially phrasal verbs, can assess the level of English language proficiency. However, learners of English tend to adopt a strategy of avoidance. Unpredictable, phrasal verbs can be difficult to both understand and remember for non-English speakers, which prompted Sinclair (1996) to call them ‘the scourge of the learner’. The role of multiword constructions has also been emphasized in theories of first language acquisition (Goldberg, 1995; Tomasello, 2003). They are indeed a rich and productive source of predication that children must master, doing so at very young ages. There is, nevertheless, a huge gap in the study of child language acquisition that has largely left unaddressed questions about how the child learns and acquires verb-particle constructions. The purpose of this paper is to explore the gradual development of verb-particle constructions in child language by examining longitudinal data from the spontaneous oral speech of Naima, an English-speaking girl from the Providence Corpus of the CHILDES database (MacWhinney, 2000; Demuth, Culbertson & Alter, 2006), between ages 0;11 and 3;10. My findings also support the claim that input and interaction play a major role in the language acquisition process. Indeed, by analyzing the emergence and usage of phrasal verbs by Naima, I will thus compare the top ten verb-particle construction types used by the child and the adult. Ultimately, I will show the correlation between the most frequently used phrasal verbs in adult speech and the earliest constructions acquired by Naima.

Last modified: 2015-07-01 19:38:39