Adverb use in EFL student writing

Philip, Gill (2007) Adverb use in EFL student writing. [Preprint]

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Adverbs, especially those occurring in adverb+adjective collocations, play a central role in the language that advanced learners are expected to produce in their argumentative writing. However submodifying adverbs of degree such as ‘closely’, ‘deeply’, ‘strongly’ and ‘widely’ have been identified as being problematic for learners of English: Italian learners over-use very and really to the virtual exclusion of any other adverb (Philip 2007). This situation is due in part to the EFL curriculum, but monolingual and bilingual learner’s dictionaries appear to do little to address the issue. This contribution examines the treatment of lexical adverbs of degree in the five major English dictionaries for advanced learners (CALD, COBUILD, LDOCE, MED and OALD). It also assesses the treatment of the same forms in four bilingual dictionaries specifically aimed at Italian learners of English (Longman, Oxford Study, Rizzoli-Laroussse and Oxford-Paravia). Analysis reveals that these dictionaries do little or nothing to help students expand their workiong knowledge of adverbs of degree. The presentation of lexical adverbs is seen on the whole to be subservient to the adjectives from which they are derived. The information boxes which most modern learner’s dictionaries include seem to focus on elementary matters of grammar and word choice rather than on the collocation of these polysemous, metaphorically-motivated language items. The contribution concludes by suggesting some ways in which monolingual and bilingual learners’ dictionaries might modify their treatment of lexical adverbs in order to enable students to identify and use alternatives to ‘very’, ‘really’ and ‘a lot’.

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Philip, Gill
Additional Information
Versione preliminare (extended abstract)
adverbs, intensifiers, learner corpora, dictionary
Deposit date
12 Mar 2008
Last modified
16 May 2011 12:07

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