Explicating the Complexity of Phrasal Verbs: The Task of Corpus Linguistics


Phrasal verb is one of the complex vocabulary types in English which English as Second Language learners find difficult to master due to its idiomaticity. The focus of this study is to investigate the relationship that exists between the phrasal verbs presented in senior high school (SHS) students’ course books and those that are found in real contexts of usage (corpus). The study is a corpus-based study as it seeks to explore an existing corpus to substantiate an assertion (Tognini-Bonelli, 2001). Accordingly, a reference corpus is the basis for the comparison. Apart from finding the relationship between the two sets of data, the distribution of the phrasal verbs in the senior high school course books is critically assessed. The data was a secondary one: SHS students’ course books and the British National Corpus (BNC). The data is quantitatively analysed with little qualitative analysis, and the results, thematically presented. The findings indicate that there is a huge disparity in terms of number and composition of phrasal verbs in the two sets of data (SHS course books and the British National Corpus). The topic is under-presented in the course books and thus, a probable reason for students’ abysmal performance on the topic and in the subject in general. Aside from that, the presentation of the concept in the students’ course books does not facilitate learning since they are presented in out-of-context instances.  The recommendations made are that corpora should be indirectly used (be the basis of course book materials) for teaching the concept and the subject as a whole since it presents authentic language usages which make learning meaningful and useful. Teachers of English ought to be abreast of corpora usages in order for them to explore them and use them as reference material for their teaching. 

Keywords: Corpus Linguistics, language teaching and learning, phrasal verbs

Article Review Status: Published

Pages: 24-58 (Download PDF)

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