A quantitative investigation of alignment processes in English as a lingua franca interactions

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English as a lingua franca (ELF), syntactic alignment, lexical alignment, corpus study

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The effects of alignment in L2 have mostly been demonstrated by means of task-based interactions and experiments, which indicate, for instance, that language proficiency can modulate both type of alignment (Kim & McDonough 2008) and its strength (Hartsuiker & Bernolet 2017). The present study investigates whether these and similar experimental findings also hold true for naturally occurring communication through English as a lingua franca (ELF), which can be understood as "second language in real-world use" (Mauranen 2007), and in which speakers are seen as proficient, autonomous language users (Seidlhofer 2011). The study looks at ELF interactions as attested in the VOICE corpus, and measures syntactic and lexical alignment as a correlation between two alternative items (e.g. dative/genitive alternation; what vs which). It was expected that both syntactic and lexical alignment will be detected in the data for all items. However, a generalized linear mixed-effects model showed that, e.g. in the case of dative alternation, speakers align only when using the less complex structure (double object), and that this effect is pronounced only if the lemma in both structures is the same. By analyzing other similar variables, the study aims to complement the existing experimental findings and offer a deeper understanding of alignment processes in L2 interactions.Hartsuiker, Robert J.; Bernolet, Sarah. 2017. "The development of shared syntax in second language learning". Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 20(2), 219-234.Kim, Youjin; McDonough, Kim. 2008. "Learners' production of passives during syntactic priming activities". Applied Linguistics 29(1), 149-154.Mauranen, Anna. 2007. "Investigating English as a Lingua Franca with a Spoken Corpus". In Campoy, Mari Carmen; Luzón, María José (eds.). Spoken corpora in applied Linguistics. Berlin: Peter Lang, 33-56.Seidlhofer, Barbara. 2011. Understanding English as a lingua franca. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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PhD student, University assistant
University of Vienna

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