Tracing Developmental Changes in L2 Learners’ Structuring of Phrasal Verbs: A Corpus Study of Native and Non-native Argumentative Essays

Min-Chang Sung, Hyunwoo Kim


This study investigates the production patterns of English phrasal verbs (PV) by Korean-speaking foreign language learners of English, with a special focus placed on two structural features of PVs, namely, transitivity and particle placement. It offers a developmental perspective by analysing the production performance of PVs for three learner corpora at different proficiency levels (basic, intermediate, and advanced) and a native corpus. The results show that, while the basic- and intermediate-level learners significantly underused both transitive and intransitive PVs compared to the native speakers, the proportions of transitive and intransitive PVs in the advanced-learner corpus were statistically indistinguishable from those in the native corpus. In addition, verb-particle separation was identified only in the advanced-leaner and native corpora, indicating the specific developmental aspects underlying the L2 acquisition of PVs. The advanced learners, however, were found to be less capable of adhering to the end-weight principle and the givenness condition when structuring transitive PVs compared to the native speakers. These results suggest that associating contextual information with PV structures may be a major source of difficulty when teaching and learning PVs.


Keywords: phrasal verbs; learner corpora; particle placement; end-weight principle; givenness condition


Full Text:



Akbari, O. (2009). A corpus-based study on Malaysian ESL learners’ use of phrasal verbs in narrative compositions. Unpublished doctoral thesis, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Malaysia.

Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S. & Finegan, E. (1999). Longman grammar of spoken and written English. New York: Longman.

Bock, J. K. (1977). The effect of a pragmatic presupposition on syntactic structure in question answering. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 16(6), 723¬–734.

Boers, F. (2004). Expanding learners’ vocabulary through metaphor awareness: What expansion, what learners, what vocabulary? In M. Achard & S. Niemeier (Eds.), Cognitive linguistics, second language acquisition, and foreign language teaching (pp. 211–232). Berlin,

Germany: Mouton de Gruyter.

Bolinger, D. (1971). The phrasal verb in English. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press.

Callies, M. & Szczesniak, K. (2008). Argument realization, information status and syntactic weight – A learner-corpus study of the dative alternation. In P. Grommes & M. Walter (Eds.), Fortgeschrittene lernervarietäten. korpuslinguistik und zweitspracher-werbsforschung [Linguistische Arbeiten, 520] (pp. 165–187). Tübingen: Niemeyer.

Chen, M. (2013). Overuse or underuse: A corpus study of English phrasal verb use by Chinese, British and American university students. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 18(3), 418–442.

Choi, S. & Bowerman, M. (1991). Learning to express motion events in English and Korean: The influence of language-specific lexicalization patterns. Cognition, 41(1), 83–121.

Chomsky, N. (1955). The logical structure of linguistic theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Clark, H. H. & Clark, E. V. (1977). Psychology and language: An introduction to psycholinguistics. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Collins, P. (1995). The indirect object construction in English: An informational approach. Linguistics, 33(1), 35–49.

Dagut, M. & Laufer, B. (1985). Avoidance of phrasal verbs: A case for contrastive analysis. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 7(1), 73–79.

den Dikken, M. D. (1995). Particles: On the syntax of verb-particle, triadic, and causative constructions. New York: Oxford University Press.

Deshors, S. C. (2016). Inside phrasal verb constructions: A co-varying collexeme analysis of verb-particle combinations in EFL and their semantic associations. International Journal of Learner Corpus Research, 2(1), 1–26.

Fraser, B. (1966). Some remarks on the verb-particle construction in English. In F. P. Dinneen (Ed.), Problems in semantics, history of linguistics, linguistics and English (pp. 45–61). Washington, DC: Georgetwon University Press.

Gardner, D. & Davies, M. (2011). Pointing out frequent phrasal verbs: A corpus-based analysis. TESOL Quarterly, 41(2), 339–359.

Geld, R. (2009). From topology to verbal aspect: Strategic construal of in and out in English particle verbs. Doctoral dissertation, University of Zagreb, Croatia.

Gilquin, G. (2015). The use of phrasal verbs by French-speaking EFL learners: A constructional and collostructional corpus-based approach. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, 11(1), 51–88.

Goldberg, A. E. (2016). Tuning in to the verb-particle construction in English. In L. Nash & P. Samvelian (Eds.), Approaches to complex predicates (pp. 110-141). Bril.

Granger, S., Sanders, C. & Connor, U. (2007). LOCNESS: Louvain corpus of native English. Belgium: Universitaire de Louvain.

Greenbaum, S. & Quirk, R. (1997). A student's grammar of the English language (8th Ed.). New York: Longman.

Gries, S. T. (2003). Multifactorial analysis in corpus linguistics: A study of particle placement. London: Continuum Press.

Guéron, J. (1987). Clause union and the verb-particle construction in English. North Eastern Linguistics Society Annual Meeting (NELS) 17.

Gundel, J. K. (1988). Universals of topic-comment structure. In M. Hammond, E. Moravczik, & J. Wirth (Eds.), Studies in syntactic typology (pp. 209–239). Philadelphia: Benjamins.

Hawkins, J. A. (1994). A performance theory of order and constituency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hoekstra, T. (1988). Small clause results. Lingua, 74, 101–139.

Houshyar, S. & Talebinezhad, M. (2012). Study on avoidance behaviour among Persian EFL learners: Phrasal verbs in focus. Greener Journal of Educational Research, 3(6), 238–248.

Huddleston, R. & Pullum, G. (2002). The Cambridge grammar of the English language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hunt, K. (1965). Grammatical structures written at three grade levels. NCTE Research report No. 3. Champaign, IL, USA: NCTE.

Johnson, K. (1991). Object positions. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 9(4), 577–636.

Johnston, J. & Slobin, D. (1979). The development of locative expressions in English, Italian, Serbo-Croatian and Turkish. Journal of Child Language, 6(3), 529–546.

Kang, J. Y. (2004). Telling a coherent story in a foreign language: Analysis of Korean EFL learners’ referential strategies in oral narrative discourse. Journal of pragmatics, 36(11), 1975–1990.

Kang, J. Y. (2005). Written narratives as an index of L2 competence in Korean EFL learners. Journal of second language writing, 14(4), 259–279.

Kayne, R. (1985). Principles of particle constructions. In J. Guéron, H. Obenauer, & J. Pollock (Eds.), Grammatical representation (pp. 101–140). Dordrecht: Foris.

Kim, Y. & Kim, J. (2005). Teaching Korean university writing class. Asian EFL, 7(2), 1–15.

Kim, Y. & Yoon, H. (2014). The use of L1 as a writing strategy in L2 writing tasks. GEMA Online® Journal of Language Studies, 14(3), 33–50.

Kovács, É. (2014). Spotlighting English phrasal verbs. The Journal of Languages for Specific Purposes, 1, 7–21.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Conceptual metaphor in everyday language. The Journal of Philosophy, 77(8). 453–486.

Laufer, B. & Eliasson, S. (1993). What causes avoidance in L2 Learning: L1-L2 similarities, or L2 complexity? Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 15(1), 35–48.

Lee, H. (2009). A study on the English phrasal verbs and teaching methods. Master thesis, Kangwon National University, S. Korea.

Lennon, P. (1996). Getting ‘easy’ verbs wrong at the advanced level. IRAL, 24(1). 23–36.

Liao, Y. D. & Fukuya, Y. J. (2004). Avoidance of phrasal verbs: The case of Chinese learners of English. Second Language Studies, 20(2), 71–106.

Lindner, S. J. (1981). A lexico-semantic analysis of English verb particle construction with out and up. Doctoral thesis, University of California, San Diego.

Marefat, H. (2005). The impact of information structure as a discourse factor on the acquisition of dative alternation by L2 learners. Studia Linguistica, 59(1), 66–82.

McPartland-Fairman, P. (1989). The acquisition of phrasal verbs by non-native speakers of English. CUNYForum, 14, 150–156.

Muncie, J. (2002). Finding a place for grammar in EFL composition classes. EFL Journal, 56(2), 180–186.

Neeleman, A. (1994). Complex predicates. Doctoral thesis, Utrecht Universityn, the Netherlands.

Park, K. (2014). Information structure and dative word-order alternations in English and Korean: L1 children, L2 children, and L2 adults. Doctoral thesis, University of Hawaii.

Park, S. (2013) A study on the English phrasal verbs and an effective way of teaching. Master thesis, Kongju National University, S. Korea.

Peters, J. (2001). Given vs. new information influencing constituent ordering in the verb-particle construction. In R. Brend, A. K. Melby, & A.

Lommel (Eds.), LACUS forum XXVII: Speaking and comprehending (pp.

–140). Fullerton, CA: LACUS.

Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G. & Svartvik, J. (1985). A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London: Longman.

Ramchand, G. & Svenonius, P. (2002). The lexical syntax and lexical semantics of the verb-particle construction. WCCFL 21 Proceedings. 387–400.

Rhee, S. & Jung, C. (2012). Yonsei English learner corpus (YELC). Proceedings of the First Yonsei English Corpus Symposium (pp. 26–36). Yonsei University, Seoul.

Rhee, S. & Jung, C. (2014). Compilation of the Yonsei English Learner Corpus 2011 and its use for understanding current usage of English by Korean pre-university students. Journal of the Korea Contents Association, 14(11), 1019–1029.

Ross, J. R. (1986). Infinite syntax. Norwood: Ablex.

Side, R. (1990). Phrasal verbs: Sorting them out. ELT Journal, 44(2). 144–152.

Siyanova, A. & Schmitt, N. (2007). Native and non-native use of multi-word vs. one-word verbs. IRAL, 45, 119–139.

Sjӧholm, K. (1995). The influence of crosslinguistic, semantic, and input factors on the acquisition of English phrasal verbs: A comparison between Finish and Swedish Learners at an intermediate and advanced level. Doctoral dissertation, Abo Akademi University Press.

Slobin, D. (2006). What makes manner of motion salient? Explorations in linguistic typology, discourse and cognition. In M. Hickman & S. Robert (Eds.), Space in languages: Linguistic systems and cognitive categories (pp. 59–81). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Sokal, R. R. & Rohlf, F. J. (1995). Biometry. New York: Freeman.

Sorace, A. (2011). Pinning down the concept of “interface” in bilingualism. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 1(1), 1–33.

Stiebels, B. & Wunderlich, D. (1994). Morphology feeds syntax: The case of particle verbs. Linguistics, 32(6), 913–996.

Takahashi, C. & Matsuya, A. (2013). Learning of English phrasal verbs with audiovisual aids. Conference proceedings of ICT for language learning. 222–226.

Talmy, L. (1975). Semantics and syntax of motion. In J. Kimball (Ed.), Syntax and semantics (pp. 181–238). New York: Academic Press.

Thompson, S. A. (1990). Information flow and dative shift in English discourse. In J. A. Edmondson, F. Crawford, & P. Muhlhausler (Eds.), Development and diversity: Language variation across space and time (pp. 239–253). Arlington, TX: Summer Institute of Linguistics and University of Texas.

Verhelst, N., Van Avermaet, P., Takala, S., Figueras, N. & North, B. (2009). Common European framework of reference for languages: learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Waibel, B. (2007). Phrasal verbs in learner English: A corpus-based study of German and Italian students. Doctoral thesis, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, German.

Washburn, G. N. (2001). Using situation comedies for pragmatic language teaching and learning. TESOL Journal, 10(4), 21–26.

Yasuda, S. (2010). Learning phrasal verbs through conceptual metaphors: A case of Japanese EFL learners. TESOL Quarterly, 44(2), 250–273.

Zarifi, A. & Mukundan, J. (2014), Creativity and unnaturalness in the use of phrasal verbs in ESL learner language. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies, 20(3), 51–62.

Zeller, J. (2001). Particle verbs and local domains. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.


  • There are currently no refbacks.




eISSN : 2550-2247

ISSN : 0128-5157