Collocations in a Learner English Corpus : analysis of Yoruba-speaking Nigerian English learners' use of collocations

Obukadeta, Peter (2019) Collocations in a Learner English Corpus : analysis of Yoruba-speaking Nigerian English learners' use of collocations. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The aim of the study reported in this thesis is twofold: to build a learner corpus of Nigerian English, and to investigate the production and use of collocations by Nigerian English learners. Computer learner corpora have offered us a new tool for better analysis and understanding of learner language enabling us to either reinforce or challenge some of our most-deeply rooted ideas about learner language. While learner corpus research has grown rapidly within its relatively short existence, there is no learner corpus of Nigerian English. This study built a half a million words Nigerian Learner Corpus of English (NILECORP) representing four proficiency levels (A2, B1, B2 and C1). While various studies have shown that learners have difficulties producing collocations, there has been a dearth of studies of collocations within the context of World Englishes. This study investigates the production and use of collocations by Yoruba-speaking Nigerian English learners not based on the notions of norms and standards of the prestigious varieties of English but based on the sociolinguistic reality of language use in the Nigerian context. Using LOCNESS (a native English corpus), NILECORP and the Nigerian component of the Corpus of Global Web-based English (GloWbE), this study investigates the extent to which native speakers and L2 learners use collocations, and the relationship between frequency of and exposure to input in L2 learners’ speech community and their production of collocations. It also investigates the relationship between proficiency and the production of collocations, and the nature and causes of the collocational errors produced by the learners. The findings suggest the difference between the collocations produced by the learners and the native speakers does not lie in the quantity but in the linguistic complexity – structural and semantic properties of the collocations produced. It also suggests that frequency and exposure to input facilitate the productive knowledge of collocations, and that frequency trumps incongruency. It shows that the production of collocations increases in tandem with proficiency increase but the production of congruent collocations decreases as proficiency increases. The most proficient group which produced more acceptable collocations than the others also produced the highest numbers of unacceptable collocations with L1 negative transfer being the biggest source of collocational errors across the four groups.

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