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Research Center for Language and Cognition LANSPAN colloquia

LANSPAN lectures 2019

Date Speaker & title of presentation Time & location
15 January Onno Crasborn ( Radboud University Nijmegen ) - Sign language for all?

16.15 – 17.30h

room 1315.0036

26 March

Nivja de Jong (Leiden University) - The concept of fluency in four different disciplines

16.15 - 17.30

room 1315. 0036

2 April

Giulis Sulis (Lancaster University)

16.15 – 17.30

room 1315. 0036

14 May Akira Murakami ( University of Birmingham ) - The role of frequency, contingency, and formulaicity in the accuracy of L2 English grammatical morphemes

16.15 – 17.30

room 1313. 0346

30 October Audrey Rousse-Malpat - Effectiveness of Structure-based vs. Dynamic usage-based approaches to foreign language instruction: a longitudinal study on oral and written skills 16.15 – 17.30h
4 December

Mirjam Günther (NHL Stenden) - A holistic approach towards multilingualism in education

16.15 – 17.30

room 1315.0043


Sign language for all?

Onno Crasborn

The concept of fluency inSign Language of the Netherlands (NGT) is a small indigenous language of the Netherlands. It is used by about 12,000 deaf people and an unknown number of hearing people. In countries like Australia and New Zealand, arguments have been put forward for an endangered status of signed languages in western countries. The increased use and success of cochlear implants in children is leading to fewer and fewer young signers, with the ultimate consequence of signed languages dying out. In this talk I would like to argue for the relevance of signed language skills for everyone, deaf or hearing, in the Netherlands. There are about 1.5 million hard of hearing people, with varying degrees of problems with spoken communication. These would all benefit from signing skills themselves, but also from signing skills in the people around them. Whether family, friends, or professionals, hard of hearing people have many hearing people around them with whom communication would be easier if some signs were used in communication. This ideal situation raises several issues that I will discuss: the relation between sign language and sign-supported speech, the challenge of strengthening the deaf community in this larger effort, and the problem of teaching a non-written visual language for which few resources and teachers are available. four different disciplines

The concept of fluency in four different disciplines

Nivja de Jong

This presentation critically evaluates the current conceptualization of fluency in the field of applied linguistics. Most of the research on fluency that is usually cited and used as empirical basis, naturally, comes from that research field. This presentation, however, seeks evidence from four different research disciplines: applied linguistics, psycholinguistics, discourse analysis, and sociolinguistics. Incorporating evidence from these four disciplines, I will question the current conceptualization of fluency as a concept that should be sought in the ear of the beholder, and in which disfluency is usually seen as a deficit. I will sketch how future research should focus on finding ways to ensure that the measures for fluency used, for instance when assessing language proficiency, actually reflect the ability to talk fluently and efficiently, rather than measures that only reflect listeners’ impressions about such ability.

The role of frequency, contingency, and formulaicity in the accuracy of L2 English grammatical morphemes

Akira Murakami

In this talk, I will present an ongoing collaborative research project on the effects of frequency, contingency, and formulaicity on the second language (L2) acquisition of English grammatical morphemes. The constructionist account of L2 acquisition holds that learners are sensitive to the distributional properties such as frequency and contingency of linguistic features. Guo and Ellis (2018) examined it experimentally in the context of English grammatical morphemes and showed that availability (i.e., surface-form frequency), reliability (i.e., the proportion of a particular inflectional form out of all the occurrences of the corresponding lemma), and formulaicity (i.e., how formulaic the context in which the morpheme occurs is) influence L2 learners’ accurate use of grammatical morphemes.

The study reported in this talk complements and extends their work by drawing data from a large-scale learner corpus. Specifically, the study examined (i) whether the use of grammatical morphemes is more accurate in more available and more reliable words and in more formulaic contexts, and (ii) whether the effects of the three variables interact with other factors such as learners’ proficiency. The target morphemes of the study were the same as those targeted in Guo and Ellis (2018); past tense -ed, progressive -ing, third person -s, and plural -s. The data were drawn from EF-Cambridge Open Language Database, and availability, reliability, and formulaicity were calculated based on the Corpus of Contemporary American English.

A series of statistical models indicated that reliability is a strong predictor of morpheme accuracy in past tense -ed, progressive -ing, and third person -s, with more reliable forms used more accurately in each of the three morphemes. Its effects, however, were often modulated by other variables. Specifically, in high proficiency learners, the effect is weaker in past tense -ed and comes to be significant in plural -s. The results of availability and formulaicity were more mixed. Availability was generally not a significant predictor of accuracy except in plural -s. Formulaicity did not turn out to be significant in past tense -ed and third person -s, either. It, however, was positively associated with accuracy in progressive -ing and unexpectedly negatively correlated with accuracy in plural -s. It further interacted with other predictors in some of the morphemes. Overall, our corpus-based study indicates that L2 learners are sensitive to the contingency in linguistic input but requires more fine-grained examination of the effects of availability and formulaicity.

References: Guo, W., & Ellis, N. (2018, July). Second language (L2) knowledge of English morphology: A usage-based account. Paper presented at the Tenth International Conference on Construction Grammar, Paris.

Effectiveness of Structure-based vs. Dynamic usage-based approaches to foreign language instruction: a longitudinal study on oral and written skills

Audrey Rousse-Malpat

One of the main goals of L2 foreign language instruction in high school is to provide a favorable environment in which young learners can learn to communicate in a new language. If you agree with this statement, you will be surprised to hear that in Dutch highschools, less than 30% of the French or German language class is given in the target language (West & Verspoor, 2016). The problem is twofold: on the one hand, learners are provided with poor input in quantity and quality because many teachers in the Netherlands adopt a structure-based approach to language learning with explicit instruction, which focuses on explicit explanation of linguistic rules. On the other hand, teachers depend on such structure-based methods because they feel that the output of their learners is poor in quantity and quality. Besides, there is a strong belief among teachers that language is structure-based and that the teaching of grammar is necessary (Lightbown & Spada, 2013).

In my presentation, I will show the results of an empirical study on the development of L2 French which compares two different approaches to language learning: Structure-based (SB) vs. Dynamic Usage-Based (DUB). A DUB approach to language learning would predict that language is not structure-based but rather emerges from repetitive exposure to meaningful input and language use (Langacker, 2000; Tomasello, 2003). The DUB-inspired method in our study focuses a lot on meaning with implicit instruction to grammar, in other words with no focus on rules (Long, 1991; Ellis, 1995; Van Patten, 2002; Verspoor and Winitz, 1997).

This study addresses the question of the effectiveness of SB vs. DUB after three years of instruction. Rather than using a laboratory setting, we traced the development of 229 learners in their actual L2 French classes. The learners were compared on both spoken and written data, collected in (semi) free response tasks. Our main finding was that the DUB-inspired method was more effective on the development of both general oral and written skills after three years of instruction. Our investigation also revealed that the DUB method provided much more L2 exposure than the SB method as DUB teachers were all able to maintain a high degree of L2 exposure compared to SB teachers.

In order to control for the effects of exposure, we performed a detailed analysis of the oral and written skills of a sub-group of learners with a comparable amount of L2 exposure. This analysis showed that the DUB group had more effects on complexity and fluency (particularly in L2 use) and on some aspects of accuracy (present tense). On the other aspects of accuracy (gender and negation) and vocabulary, both methods had the same effects.

Insights from the Dynamic usage-based theory will be used to explain how we think language is processed with the DUB approach compared to the SB approach. We will also discuss what those results mean for foreign language teaching in European classrooms.


Ellis, N. C. (1995). Consciousness in second language acquisition: A review of field studies and laboratory experiments. Language Awareness, 4(3), 123-146.

Langacker, R. W. (2000). A dynamic usage-based model. In M. Barlow, & S. Kemmer (Eds.), Usage-based models of language (pp. 1-63). Stanford: CSLI.

Lightbown, P., & Spada, N. (2013). How languages are learned 4e (oxford handbooks for languageteachers). UK: Oxford University Press.

Long, M. H. (1991). Focus-on-form: A design feature in language teaching methodology. In K. de Bot, G. Ginsberg & C. Kramsch (Eds.), Foreign language research in cross-cultural perspective (pp.39-52). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Tomasello, M. (2003). Constructing a language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

VanPatten, B. (2002). Processing instruction: An update. Language Learning, 52(4), 755-803.

Verspoor, M. H., & Winitz, H. (1997). Assessment of lexical-input approach for intermediate language learners. Iral, 35, 61-75.

West, L., & Verspoor, M. (2016). An impression of foreign language teaching approaches in the Netherlands. Levende Talen Tijdschrift, 17(4), 26-36.

Last modified:28 November 2019 2.32 p.m.