Adult learners' retention of collocations from exposure
Formulaic language is widely recognized to be of central importance to fluent and idiomatic language use. However, the mechanics of how formulaic language is acquired are not well understood. Some researchers (e.g. Nick Ellis) believe that the chunking inherent in formulaic language drives the language learning process. Others (e.g. Wray) claim that adult second language learners take an essentially non-formulaic approach to language learning, analysing their input into individual words and not retaining information about what words appear together. If the second model is right, it represents a crucial difference between child first and adult second language learning. This 'non-formulaic' model is tested here through a lab-based study of collocation learning. Our findings indicate that, contrary to the model, adult second language learners do retain information about what words appear together in their input. This suggests that any shortfall in non-natives' knowledge of collocational associations between words is due to inadequate input, rather than a non-nativelike approach to learning. The study also examines the effects of different forms of repetition on collocation acquisition and draws conclusions regarding pedagogical activities for learning.