- Avoidance: grammatical or semantic causes?
- Studies in Second Language Acquisition
- Volume | Issue number
- 11 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
This article follows up on a study by Dagut and Laufer (1985), who found that Hebrew learners of English avoid phrasal verbs, such as ‘let down’, while preferring one-word verbs, such as ‘;disappoint’, since phrasal verbs do not exist in Hebrew. A corollary derived from Dagut and Laufer's study is that Dutch learners of English would tend not to avoid English phrasal verbs, since phrasal verbs also exist in Dutch. It was hypothesized, however, that Dutch learners of English as a second language (ESL) would avoid phrasal verbs, too, not for structural, but for semantic reasons. Three tests (multiple choice, memorization, and translation) were administered to intermediate and advanced Dutch learners of English. Each test contained 15 sentences, eliciting preference for either a phrasal verb or an equivalent one-word verb. The results show that, as expected, Dutch learners of English do not avoid phrasal verbs categorically. However, they seem to avoid those idiomatic phrasal verbs that they perceive as too Dutch-like (lack of contrast between the first and second language). Furthermore, they exhibit a tendency to adopt a play-it-safe strategy, preferring one-word verbs with general, multi-purpose meanings over phrasal verbs with specific, sometimes idiomatic, meanings. It is argued that this semantic play-it-safe strategy may have also played a causal role in the avoidance behavior of the Hebrew ESL learners observed by Dagut and Laufer.
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