Usage-Based Approaches to Language Acquisition

An Invited Lecture in the Series on • Multidisciplinary Approaches to Modeling and Facilitating Second Language Acquisition
Mon, 10/17/2016 - 3:00pm to 4:00pm
6191 Helen C. White
Speaker and Affiliation: 
Nick Ellis, University of Michigan

Usage-based approaches hold that we learn language through using language. Our linguistic ability emerges as a result of our cognitive learning mechanisms analysing this experience. Corpus Linguistics provides the relevant evidence of usage. Cognitive Linguistics and Construction Grammar analyse the representations of language and how people acquire, represent, and process this knowledge.

This paper analyses (1) usage patterns of English verb-argument constructions (VACs) in terms of their grammatical form, semantics, lexical constituency, and distribution patterns in large corpora, (2) patterns of VAC usage in learner-directed speech and in first and second language acquisition, (3) psycholinguistic investigations of VAC processing in first and second language speakers. It demonstrates: 

1.     Language usage is highly patterned in ways that support learning.

2.     Language acquisition is guided by this patterning.

3.     Language users have rich implicit statistical knowledge of these patterns.

Nick Ellis is Professor of Psychology; Professor of Linguistics; and Research Scientist, English Language Institute, at the University of Michigan. His research interests include language acquisition, cognition, emergentism, corpus linguistics, cognitive linguistics, applied linguistics, and psycholinguistics. His research in second language acquisition concerns (1) explicit and implicit language learning and their interface, (2) usage-based acquisition and the probabilistic tuning of the system, (3) vocabulary and phraseology, and (4) learned attention and language transfer. His emergentist research concerns include language as a complex adaptive system, networks analysis of language, scale-free linguistic distributions and robust learning, and computational modeling. Two recent books on these themes are: Language as a Complex Adaptive System (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, with Diane Larsen-Freeman), and Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition (Routledge, 2008, with Peter Robinson). He is General Editor of Language Learning.

Wendy Johnson
Second Language Acquisition Program, Department of English