Chapter published in:Usage-inspired L2 Instruction: Researched pedagogy
Edited by Andrea E. Tyler, Lourdes Ortega, Mariko Uno and Hae In Park
[Language Learning & Language Teaching 49] 2018
► pp. 237–265
Compounds and productivity in advanced L2 German writing
A constructional approach
The frequent formation of complex, hierarchically structured compounds is a striking property of German grammar to non-natives, to the point that German has been referred to as ‘compounding happy’ (Schlücker, 2012). This chapter asks how compounding works in second language (L2) German grammar, by exploring data from the error-annotated Falko corpus of native and advanced non-native German writing. Beyond differences in overall frequency and productivity of L2 compounding, I use a constructional approach based on compound paraphrases and partially filled prototypes to analyze differences between first language (L1) and L2 usage, as well as to identify frequent error types. Although errors are overall not very frequent (about 11% in total), the data show significant differences in compounding frequency based on learner native language, and some possible phonetic explanations are offered for morphological errors at the boundary between compound heads and modifiers. The results also reveal that productivity as evidenced by rare items in L2 output is a key factor in the native-like acquisition of compounding, and that proficiency as assessed by a C-Test correlates better with more complex productivity measures than with raw vocabulary size. Semantic errors are overall very rare but in many cases attributable to transfer effects, even from constructions that are not compounds in the underlying L1, or indeed from languages low in compounds. This suggests that both abstract and partially lexicalized compounding constructions are learned, and errors can affect either of these at the lexical level.
Published online: 13 February 2018
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