Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics VIAL

Frank Boers (1), Seth Lindstromberg (2) and June Eyckmans (3). Some explanations for the slow acquisition of L2 collocations VIAL. Number 11/2014: 41:62.


Collocations have attracted a fair amount of attention from SLA researchers in recent years. Even though many collocations are made up of words that must be familiar to intermediate learners (e.g., make a mistake), there is a growing body of evidence that even advanced learners often fail to combine words the way native speakers do (e.g., *do a mistake). We first review a collection of explanations for this, mostly concerned with learners’ attention (or lack thereof) to (parts of) collocations. We then turn to a factor that -to our knowledge- has been under-researched in the context of L2 collocation learning, namely phonological properties. We report a small- scale study the results of which suggest that certain common kinds of phonological repetition across the constituent words of collocations can hamper their recall. Given the long list of hindrances to incidental L2 collocation acquisition, it must be concluded that the calls for explicit attention to collocation learning in contemporary language pedagogy are probably justified.

Keywords: Collocations, second language acquisition, memory, attention, phonology

(1) Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, (2) Hilderstone College, UK, (3) Universiteit Ghent and Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium.

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