CLER Seminar Series: Subject realisation in L2 English: a corpus study of expletive it and there in three learner groups

Expletive subjects (it/there) are rarely taught in L2 English classrooms, and the choice of expletive plus predicate and complement creates a complex learning task.

Eg *It can be found such ones as the difficulty to bring about a job.  (L1 Spanish). Most research on the L2 acquisition of English subjects has examined transfer of pro-drop properties by speakers of pro-drop L1s.

However, the empirical picture remains complicated, as learners seem to both overgenerate (Lozano & Mendikoetxea, 2010) and undergenerate (Mitkovska & BuÅžarovska, 2018) expletive subjects. We expand on this research using corpus data from the Chinese, German and Spanish components of the International Corpus of Learner English and the Louvain Corpus of Native English Essays (c. 1 million words). Expletives were extracted and the dataset (2776 tokens) coded for L1, expletive, predicate and complement-type, and grammaticality.

Examining the accuracy of each language group indicates which constructions are most problematic for learners from typologically different L1s, and therefore where grammar instruction could potentially be most beneficial. Despite a high level of overall accuracy, there are higher instances of errors with nominal complements, and accuracy with intransitive and passive predicates differs across the L1 groups. We suggest that using corpus data to inform us of patterns of language errors can help teachers decide which grammatical structures to focus on in the minimal input situation of the L2 classroom.

Speaker: Dr. Elaine Lopez is a Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and TESOL at Newcastle University. Her primary research area is formal linguistic (generative) approaches to Second Language Acquisition and the application of this research to the language classroom.

This event is open to all, and no registration is required. 

Location details

Coach House
School of Education
Hillary Place
University of Leeds
Leeds 
LS2 9JT

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