Valuing variability: Dynamic usage-based principles in the L2 development of four Finnish language learners

Sirkku Lesonen


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    The general aim of this study is to trace the second language (L2) development of four beginner learners of Finnish over one academic year from a dynamic usage-based perspective. Contrary to many previous studies, this study starts out from meanings, not forms. In other words, an onomasiological approach is adopted. The aim is to investigate what kind of constructions the learners use to express 1) evaluation and 2) existentiality. In line with a dynamic usage-based approach, the goal is to investigate three aspects of development: 1) the interaction between different linguistic means used to express a certain meaning and between the instruction and learning trajectories, 2) variability patterns in different subsystems and in different constructions, and 3) the abstractness of the constructions the learners used. Free response data consisting of both written and spoken texts were collected weekly from the four university students over a nine-month period. The findings are reported in four research articles and in the overview. They point to some general patterns in L2 development, even though the details show that L2 development is individually owned. For all learners, the constructions that they used to express evaluation show a competitive interaction with each other, although the timing of the phases of competition differed among the learners. For all learners, a higher degree of variability in the use of evaluative constructions could be detected at times of rapid progress than at times of slower progress. When two evaluative constructions were compared in terms of their abstractness, it was found that different levels of abstractness characterized their initial use. With expressions of existentiality, individual learning paths were also found: some learners tried out only a few different linguistic means to express this idea and seemed to need the instruction to point out the target construction. This study shows that starting an investigation of L2 development from meaning can give us valuable information about the mechanisms of change in a developing L2.
    Originele taal-2English
    KwalificatieDoctor of Philosophy
    Toekennende instantie
    • Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
    • Verspoor, Marjolijn, Supervisor
    • Suni, Minna, Supervisor, Externe Persoon
    • Steinkrauss, Rasmus, Co-supervisor
    Datum van toekenning18-mei-2020
    Plaats van publicatie[Groningen]
    Gedrukte ISBN's978-94-034-2674-7
    Elektronische ISBN's978-94-034-2675-4
    StatusPublished - 2020

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