Ute Römer Abstract

TITLE:Combining corpus and psycholinguistic methods in second language acquisition research: The benefits of interdisciplinary work in applied linguistics’.

 In this talk I will report on an interdisciplinary project at the interface of Corpus Linguistics, Cognitive Linguistics, and Language Acquisition that combines methods from linguistics and psychology to study second language learners’ development of English verb patterns. Starting from patterns identified in the COBUILD Grammar Patterns volume on verbs (Francis, Hunston, & Manning, 1996), the project examines English language usage and how this affects the first and second language acquisition and representation of sets of common verb-argument constructions (VACs; Goldberg, 2006), such as the ‘V about n’ construction (e.g. she thinks about chocolate all the time). We use corpus- and psycho-linguistic methods and tools to study the relationship between VACs in usage and speakers’ mental VAC representations (Ellis, Römer, & O’Donnell, 2016).

The focus of this talk will be on investigating what second language (L2) learners of English know about VACs and how this knowledge develops with increasing proficiency. It will address how mental representations of VACs differ between native speakers and learners of different first languages (including German and Spanish), and which role language transfer and typology play in this context. Comparisons of learner production data at different proficiency levels allow us to trace the emergence of constructional knowledge in L2 learners. Data on L2 learner knowledge of VACs come from lexical production tasks, the German and Spanish subcomponents of ICLE (the International Corpus of Learner English) and LINDSEI (the Louvain International Database of Spoken English Interlanguage), and subsets of EFCAMDAT (the Education First Cambridge Open Language Database).

Inspired by my positive experiences with this project, I will also discuss the value of collaborative work in Applied Linguistics. I will show how combining methods and data types from different fields can be beneficial to research outcomes, and call for more collaboration between corpus linguists and scholars from neighboring disciplines.


Ellis, N. C., Römer, U., & O’Donnell, M. B. (2016). Language Usage, Acquisition, and Processing: Cognitive and Corpus Investigations of Construction Grammar (Language Learning Monograph Series). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

Francis, G., Hunston, S. E., & Manning, E. (1996). Collins COBUILD grammar patterns 1: Verbs. London: HarperCollins.

Goldberg, A. E. (2006). Constructions at work: The nature of generalization in language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Ute Römer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Linguistics and ESL at Georgia State University. From 2007 to 2011 she was director of the Applied Corpus Linguistics unit at the University of Michigan English Language Institute where she managed the Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English (MICASE) and the Michigan Corpus of Upper-level Student Papers (MICUSP) projects. Her research interests include corpus linguistics, phraseology, second language acquisition, academic discourse analysis, and the application of corpora in language learning and teaching. She serves on a range of editorial and advisory boards of professional journals and organizations, and is general editor of the book series Studies in Corpus Linguistics (John Benjamins). More information about her research interests and a full list of her publications can be found at http://www.uteroemer.com.