Corpora, Constructions, Collaboration: Providing new insights into the use and acquisition of verb patterns in English


In this lecture I will report on a project at the interface of Corpus Linguistics, Cognitive Linguistics, and Language Acquisition. Starting from patterns identified in the COBUILD Grammar Patterns volume on verbs (Francis, Hunston, & Manning, 1996), the project examines English language usage and how this affects the first and second language acquisition and representation of sets of common verb-argument constructions (VACs), such as the ‘V about n’ construction (e.g. she thinks about chocolate all the time). We use corpus- and psycho-linguistic methods and tools to study the relationship between VACs in usage and speakers’ mental VAC representations.

The focus of this lecture will be on investigating what second language (L2) learners of English know about VACs and how this knowledge develops with increasing proficiency. It will address how mental representations of VACs differ between native speakers and learners of different first languages (including German and Spanish), and which role language transfer and typology play in this context. Comparisons of learner production data at different proficiency levels allow us to trace the emergence of constructional knowledge in L2 learners.

Inspired by my positive experiences with this project, I will also discuss the value of collaborative work in Corpus Linguistics. I will show how combining methods and data types from different fields can be beneficial to research outcomes, and call for more collaboration between corpus linguists and scholars from neighboring disciplines.

About Ute Römer

Ute Römer is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Linguistics and ESL at Georgia State University.

From 2007 to 2011 she was the director of the applied corpus linguistics unit at the University of Michigan English Language Institute where she managed the Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English (MICASE) and the Michigan Corpus of Upper-level Student Papers (MICUSP) projects. Her primary research interests and areas in which she has published include corpus linguistics, phraseology, academic discourse analysis, and the application of corpora in language learning and teaching.

Ute is currently involved in a large-scale project that combines corpus- and psycholinguistic evidence to gain insights into speakers‘ use and acquisition of English verb-argument constructions. She serves on the editorial boards of a number of academic journals (including the International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, Corpora, and English Text Construction) and is an advisory board member of the book series Studies in Corpus Linguistics(John Benjamins). She has published a book, three edited volumes, and numerous articles in leading journals in Corpus Linguistics and Applied Linguistics.

More information about her research interests and a full list of her publications can be found at