A corpus-based study of the use of prepositional verbs in second language emergent academic writing

Elizabeth Marie Wilcoxon, University of Texas at El Paso


In this paper, the author reports on a corpus-based study of prepositional verbs in L2 emergent academic writing using data collected from English as a Second Language [ESL] and English for Academic Purposes [EAP] classrooms in a Hispanic-serving university in the US. Prepositional verbs are relatively common in academic prose (lacking the informal overtones of phrasal verbs) and draw on the full set of prepositions (Biber et al., 1999). They are also difficult to acquire given the challenges posed by prepositional usage for most ESL/EAP learners. The literature in this area highlights the importance of prepositional verbs in L2 learning (Tetreault & Chodorow, 2008; Hong et al., 2011); however, there is a lack of empirical studies of these verbs in ESL and EAP writing. The motivation for the study comes from the author's experiences as an ESOL writing tutor and novice post-secondary instructor of ESL /EAP students, mostly Spanish-speaking learners. Using data from the ULCAE, a local learner corpus, she explores the use of prepositional verbs by means of frequency analyses aimed at determining the degree to which students use prepositional verbs in their essays, as well as comparing their occurrence across proficiency levels. The author discusses these patterns of occurrence and the distribution of conversational and academic prepositional verbs (based on Biber et al, 1999) as well as findings from an error analysis of a sub-sample of the data conducted in order to identify typical errors in the use of prepositional verbs.

Subject Area

Linguistics|English as a Second Language

Recommended Citation

Wilcoxon, Elizabeth Marie, "A corpus-based study of the use of prepositional verbs in second language emergent academic writing" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1557802.