Learning Idiomaticity
A Corpus-Based Study of Idiomatic
Expressions in Learners' Written Production

By Maria Wiktorsson
December 2003
Lund University
ISBN: 91-974023-4-6
189 pages, Illustrated, 6" x 8 "
$67.50 Paper Original


The mastery of idiomaticity appears to be one of the more difficult tasks in the learning of a foreign language. In fact, even advanced learners quite often fail to reach a native-like level of idiomaticity. Consequently, native speakers often perceive their production as odd or unnatural. This book investigates how Swedish learners of English at different levels of proficiency master idiomaticity in their target language. It argues that idiomaticity is related to the storage and use of multi-word expressions preferred by native speakers.

These preferred expressions, or prefabs as they are called here, are analyzed in essays written by three different subject groups: native speakers, Swedish university students and Swedish upper-secondary-school pupils. The study examines 1) how Swedish learners master idiomaticity in comparison with native speakers, and 2) the progression of idiomaticity achieved by Swedish learners at different proficiency levels. The study shows that the less advanced Swedish learners use fewer prefabs than the native speakers, whereas the more advanced Swedish learners do not. However, both learner categories tend to use prefabs of a kind typically found in speech rather than in writing.

Language Studies
Lund Studies in English, No. 105

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