Comparing Formulaicity of Learner Writing through Phrase-Frames: A Corpus-Driven Study of Lithuanian and Polish EFL Student Writing


  • Rita Juknevičienė Vilnius University, Lithuania
  • Łukasz Grabowski University of Opole, Poland



EFL writing, learner corpus, Lithuanian EFL learners, phrase-frame, Polish EFL learners


Learner corpus research continues to provide evidence of how formulaic language is (mis)used by learners of English as a foreign language (EFL). This paper deals with less investigated multi-word units in EFL contexts, namely, phrase-frames (Fletcher 2002–2007), i.e. sets of n-grams identical except for one word (it is * to, in the * of). The study compares Lithuanian and Polish learner writing in English in terms of phrase-frames and contrasts them with native speakers. The analysis shows that certain differences between Lithuanian and Polish learners result from transfer from their native languages, yet both groups of learners share many common features. Most importantly, the phrase-frame approach highlights structural peculiarities of learner writing which are otherwise difficult to capture.


Ädel, Annellie. 2006. Metadiscourse in L1 and L2 English. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Ädel, Annellie and Britt Erman. 2012. Recurrent Word Combinations in Academic Writing by Native and Non-native Speakers of English: a Lexical Bundles Approach. English for Specific Purposes 31. 81–92.

Baumgarten, Nicole. 2014. Recurrent Multiword Sequences in L2 English Spoken Academic Discourse: Developmental Perspectives on 1st and 3rd Year Undergraduate Presentational Speech. Nordic Journal of English Studies 13(3). 1–32.

Biber, Douglas et al. 1999. The Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Harlow: Longman.

Burneikaitė, Nida. 2009. Metadiscoursal Connectors in Linguistics MA Theses in English. Kalbotyra 61(3). 36–50.

CECL (Centre for English Corpus Linguistics). 1998. LOCNESS. Louvain-la-Neuve: Universite catholique de Louvain. Available from Accessed: 12th September 2016.

Chen, Yu-Hua and Paul Baker. 2010. Lexical Bundles in L1 and L2 Academic Writing. Language Learning and Technology 14(2). 30–49.

De Cock, Sylvie. 2004. Preferred Sequences of Words in NS and NNS Speech. BELL – Belgian Journal of English Language and Literature 2. 225–246.

Fan, May. 2009. An Exploratory Study of Collocational Use by ESL Students. A Task Based Approach. System. [Online] ScienceDirect 37. 110–123. Available from: Accessed: 3rd January 2017.

Fletcher, William, H. 2002–2007. KfNgram. Annapolis: USNA. [Online] Available from: Accessed: 20th November 2011.

Fletcher, William, H. 2010. Phrases in English. [Online] Available from: Accessed: 20th September 2014.

Forsyth, Richard, S. and Łukasz Grabowski. 2015. Is There a Formula for Formulaic Language? Poznań Studies in Contemporary Linguistics 51(4). 511–549.

Fuster-Marquez, Miguel. 2014. Lexical Bundles and Phrase-frames in the Language of Hotel Websites. English Text Construction 7(1). 84–121.

Garner, James, R. 2016. A Phrase-frame Approach to Investigating Phraseology in Learner Writing Across Proficiency Levels. International Journal of Learner Corpus Research 2(1). 31–67.

Grabowski, Łukasz. 2015. Phrase-frames in English Pharmaceutical Discourse: a Corpus-Driven Study of Intra-disciplinary Register Variation. Research in Language 13(3). 266–291.

Granger, Sylviane. 1996. From CA to CIA and Back: An Integrated Contrastive Approach to Computerized Bilingual and Learner Corpora. In: Karin Aijmer, Bengt Altenberg & Stig Johansson (eds.), Lund Studies in English 88: Languages in Contrast. Text-based cross-linguistic studies, 37–51. Lund: Lund University Press.

Granger, Sylviane et al. 2009. The International Corpus of Learner English. Handbook and CD-ROM. Version 2. Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses universitaires de Louvain.

Gray, Bethany and Douglas Biber. 2013. Lexical Frames in Academic Prose and Conversation. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 18(1). 109–135.

Grigaliūnienė, Jonė and Rita Juknevičienė. 2012. Corpus-based Learner Language Research: Contrasting Speech and Writing. Darbai ir dienos 58. 137–152.

Halliday, Michael, A.K & Ruqaiya Hasan. 1976. Cohesion in English. London: Pearson Education.

Hasselgren, Angela. 1994. Lexical Teddy Bears and Advanced Learners: A Study Into the Ways Norwegian Students Cope with English Vocabulary. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 4. 237–260.

Hyland, Ken. 1998. Hedging in Scientific Research Articles. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Hyland, Ken. 2008a. Academic Clusters: Text Patterning in Published and Postgraduate Writing. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 18(1). 41–62.

Hyland, Ken. 2008b. As Can Be Seen: Lexical Bundles and Disciplinary Variation. English for Specific Purposes 27. 4–21.

Jalali, Hassan. 2013. Lexical Bundles in Applied Linguistics: Variations Across Postgraduate Genres. Journal of Foreign Language Teaching and Translation Studies. [Online] Available from: Accessed: 3rd January 2017.

Jarvis, Scott. 2000. Methodological Rigor in the Study of Transfer: Identifying L1 Influence in the Interlanguage Lexicon. Language Learning 50(2). 245–309.

Juknevičienė, Rita. 2009. Lexical Bundles in Learner Language: Lithuanian Learners vs. Native Speakers. Kalbotyra 61(3). 61–72.

Juknevičienė, Rita. 2013. Recurrent Word Sequences in Written Learner English. In: Inesa Šeškauskienė and Jonė Grigaliūnienė (eds.), Anglistics in Lithuania. Cross-Linguistic and Cross-Cultural Aspects of Study, 178–197. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Kizil, Aysel S. and Abdurrahman Kilimci, A. 2014. Recurrent Phrases in Turkish EFL Learners’ Spoken Interlanguage: A Corpus-driven Structural and Functional Analysis. Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies [Online] 10(1). 195–210. Available from: Accessed: 3rd January 2017.

Kjellmer, Göran. 1991. A Mint of Phrases. In: Karin Aijmer and Bengt Altenberg (eds.), English Corpus Linguistics: Studies in Honour of Jan Svartvik, 111–127. London: Longman.

Leńko-Szymańska, Agnieszka. 2014. The Acquisition of Formulaic Language by EFL Learners: A Cross-sectional and Cross-linguistic Perspective. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 19(2). 225–251.

Martelli, Aurelia. 2006. A Corpus Based Description of English Lexical Collocations Used by Italian Advanced Learners. [Online] Atti del XII Congresso Internazionale di Lessicografia: Torino, 6-9 settembre 2006, 1005–1011. Available from: Accessed: 15th September 2016.

Martinez, Ron, and Norbert Schmitt. 2012. A Phrasal Expressions List. Applied Linguistics 33(3). 299–320.

MICUSP (Michigan Corpus of Upperlevel Student Papers). 2009. Ann Arbor, MI: The Regents of the University of Michigan.

Nesselhauf, Nadia. 2005. Collocations in a Learner Corpus. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

O’Donnell, Matthew B., Römer, Ute and Nick C. Ellis. 2013. The Development of Formulaic Sequences in First and Second Language Writing. Investigating Effects of Frequency, Association, and Native Norm. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 18(1). 83–108.

Paquot, Magali. 2013. Lexical Bundles and L1 Transfer Effects. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 18 (3). 391–417.

Paquot, Magali. 2014. Cross-linguistic Influence and Formulaic Language: Recurrent Word Sequences in French Learner Writing. EUROSLA Yearbook 14. 240–261.

Pawley, Andrew and Francis H. Syder. 1983. Two Puzzles for Linguistic Theory: Nativelike Selection and Nativelike Fluency. In: Jack C. Richards and Richard W. Schmidt (eds.), Language and Communication, 191–225. London: Longman.

R Core Team. 2015. R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Viena, Austria. [Online] Available from: Accessed 15th September 2016.

Renouf, Antoinette and John Sinclair. 1991. Collocational Frameworks in English. In: Karin Aijmer and Bengt Altenberg (eds.), English Corpus Linguistics, 128-143. New York: Longman.

Römer, Ute. 2009. English in Academia: Does Nativeness Matter? Anglistik: International Journal of English Studies 20 (2). 89–100.

Römer, Ute. 2010. Establishing the Phraseological Profile of a Text Type. The Construction of Meaning in Academic Book Reviews. English Text Construction 3(1). 95–119.

Römer, Ute and Matthew O’Donnell. 2009. Positional variation of phrase frames in a new corpus of proficient student writing. [Online] Paper presented at AACL conference. Edmonton, Canada, 9 Oct 2009. Available from: Accessed: 15th September 2016.

Scott, Mike. 2008. Wordsmith Tools. Version 5. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sinclair, John. 2004. Trust the Text: Language, Corpus and Discourse. London: Routledge.

Simpson-Vlach, Rita. and Nick C. Ellis. 2010. An Academic Formulas List: New Methods in Phraseology Research. Applied Linguistics 31(4). 487–512.

Stubbs, Michael. 2007. Quantitative Data on Multi-word Sequences in English: the Case of the Word ‘World’. In Michael Hoey, Michaela Mahlberg, Michael Stubbs and Wolfgang Teubert (eds), Text, Discourse and Corpora, 163–190. London: Continuum.

Tognini-Bonelli, Elena. 2001. Corpus Linguistics at Work. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Vidakovic, Ivana and Fiona Barker. 2010. Use of Words and Multi-word Units in Skills for Life Writing Examinations. Research Notes 41. 7–41.

Waibel, Birgit. 2007. Phrasal Verbs in Learner English: A Corpus-based Study of German and Italian Learners. [Online] Unpublished PhD dissertation. Freiburg: Albert-Ludwigs-Universität. Available from: Accessed: 15th September 2016.

Wang, Ying. 2016. The Idiom Principle and L1 Influence. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Wray, Alison. 2000. Formulaic Sequences in Second Language Teaching: Principle and Practice. Applied Linguistics 21(4). 463–489.

Wray, Alison. 2002. Formulaic Language and the Lexicon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.




How to Cite

Juknevičienė, R., & Grabowski, Łukasz. (2018). Comparing Formulaicity of Learner Writing through Phrase-Frames: A Corpus-Driven Study of Lithuanian and Polish EFL Student Writing. Research in Language, 16(3), 303-323.