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Verb-Noun Collocations in Second Language Writing: A Corpus Analysis of Learners’ English


concerning this article should be addressed to Batia Laufer, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel. Internet:; or Tina Waldman, The Kibbutzim College of Education, Tel-Aviv. Internet:


The present study investigates the use of English verb-noun collocations in the writing of native speakers of Hebrew at three proficiency levels. For this purpose, we compiled a learner corpus that consists of about 300,000 words of argumentative and descriptive essays. For comparison purposes, we selected LOCNESS, a corpus of young adult native speakers of English. We retrieved the 220 most frequently occurring nouns in the LOCNESS corpus and in the learner corpus, created concordances for them, and extracted verb-noun collocations. Subsequently, we performed two types of comparisons: learners were compared with native speakers on the frequency of collocation use and learners were compared with other learners of different second-language proficiencies on the frequency and correctness of collocations. The data revealed that learners at all three proficiency levels produced far fewer collocations than native speakers, that the number of collocations increased only at the advanced level, and that errors, particularly interlingual ones, continued to persist even at advanced levels of proficiency. We discuss the results in light of the nature of collocations and communicative learning and suggest some pedagogical implications.