Multi-Word Verbs in Prerecorded Instructor Speech: A Corpus-Informed Study
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Advances in corpus linguistics have contributed greatly to second language (L2) research and teaching. For example, evidence of high-frequency vocabulary in authentic language has been particularly useful for identifying important, general English vocabulary and words distinctive to academia. However, most academic corpora investigations use written texts and broad-based approaches, overlooking differences between written and spoken language and localized vocabulary patterns. This study examines spoken academic language in a university context by addressing a vocabulary category often associated with conversation, multi-word verbs. This examination was completed by compiling a localized, spoken academic English corpus, the Falcon Instructor Speech Corpus (FISC), containing 52,725 words from 15 different instructors at a university in the United States. Four research questions drove the investigation: (1) Which of the multi-word verbs identified in the local corpus occur most frequently? (2) How do the most frequent multi-word verbs in the local corpus compare to phrasal verb frequency lists from large English corpora? (3) What proportion of the local corpus is comprised of multi-word verbs? (4) Does multi-word verb use differ between general academic contexts and ESL contexts in the local corpus? Relevant literature on corpora and the importance of vocabulary, listening, and multi-word verbs for university English language learners (ELLs) are surveyed. Next, transcription, corpus compiling, and data gathering methods are outlined. Results suggest 68 multi-word verbs salient for ELLs at the university and provide evidence that at least 3% of words in the corpus are part of multi-word verbs. The data also shows multi-word verbs were used twice as often in general academic contexts than in ESL contexts, and that a recent, pedagogical phrasal verb list created from large corpora analyses only covered 25% of multiword verb occurrences in FISC. Teaching implications and areas for future research are offered.