Nick Ellis – University of Michigan
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 1:30-3:20 pm
2336 Mason Hall
This course develops a constructionist approach to First and Second Language Acquisition (L1A, L2A). It presents psycholinguistic and corpus linguistic evidence for L2 constructions and for the inseparability of lexis, grammar, and semantics. It outlines a psycholinguistic theory of language learning following general cognitive principles of category learning, with schematic constructions emerging from usage. It reviews how the following factors jointly determine how a construction is learned: (1) the exemplar frequencies and their Zipfian distribution; (2) the salience of their form; (3) the significance of their functional interpretation; (4) the exemplars’ similarity to the construction prototype; and (5) the reliability of these form-function mappings. It tests these proposals against large corpora of usage and longitudinal corpora of L1 and L2 learner language using statistical and computational modelling. It considers the psychology of transfer and learned attention in L2A in order to understand how L2A differs from L1A in that it involves reconstructing language, with learners’ expectations and attentional biases tuned by experience of their L1. A central theme of the course is that patterns of language usage, structure, acquisition, and change are emergent, and that there is value in viewing Language as a Complex Adaptive System.
Week 1: Constructions, their cognition and acquisition
Week 2: A frequency-informed construction grammar of English usage
Week 3: Construction learning in L1A and L2A longitudinal corpora
Week 4: L2A, learned attention, and transfer and their implications for instruction.
Course Areas: Language Acquisition, Semantics/Pragmatics, Psycholinguistics, Corpus Linguistics, Cognitive Linguistics