Idiomatic Second Language Acquisition

On July 23 2013, the Netherlands were suffering very hot weather with increasing risks of thunder. This inspired the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant to the headline ‘Onweersbuien zetten hittegolf op de tocht’ (‘Thunder storms jeopardize heat wave’). While the Dutch newspaper title is clear to natives, it poses serious difficulties to L2 learners of Dutch who are not familiar with the expression “op de tocht zetten” (‘to put in a draught’ = to jeopardize), because its meaning cannot be inferred from the composing words (although context may help). L2 learners have even more difficulties in actively using such expressions in language production. Because of its opacity and multifaceted complexity, idiomatic language is much harder to acquire and master for L2 learners than individual words.

The aim of the ISLA programme is to investigate how second language learners learn, comprehend and use formulaic language in their second language. This is studied in four inter-related projects by combining techniques from different disciplines such as psycholingusitics, second language acquisition and automatic speech recognition.

This work is part of the research programme Free Competition in the Humanities, which is financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).