“Because It Sounds Right”: A Guiding Light of Speaker Knowledge

Diana Van Lancker Sidtis


Approaches to second language teaching have included continuous exposure, grammar lessons, and a various combinations of these methods. Recent studies highlight specific, detailed knowledge, in speakers of a language, of the phonetic and structural information of many kinds of phrases. These include formulaic expressions (idioms, proverbs, conversational speech formulas, expletives), lexical bundles (sentence stems, conventional expressions, discourse organizers), and collocations (a range of other unitary, multiword expressions). These exemplars share the feature of familiarity: they are known and recognized by speakers of a language, and stored in mental representation with their concomitant features of structure, phonetic and prosodic shape, meaning, and use. In addition, the linguistic sciences currently advance the perspective that language competence is constituted by knowledge of constructions at various levels of abstraction, implying a larger role of memory in language competence than previously understood. Performance by persons with neurological disorders reveals specific effects on production of these kinds of phrases. Given the putatively extremely large repertory of known, stored expressions and constructions that have been shown to constitute language representation, a guiding principle of speaker use might be that the expression sounds right, implying special importance to listening exercises in second language learning.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/selt.v7n3p345


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