A Bigram-Based Exploration of Phraseological Development in Norwegian Secondary School Students’ Writing in English L2

  • Kaja H. S. Ø. Evang University of Oslo
Keywords: young learner language, English L2, longitudinal, phraseology, collocation, association measure


This study investigates phraseological units produced by Norwegian secondary school students (aged 13 to 17) writing in English L2. The study employs association measure as a way of calculating the collocational strength and certainty of words in word pairs (bigrams) in the L2 learners’ writing. The association measures MI and t-score have been shown to be reliable measures for telling learner language apart from native language. Durrant and Schmitt (2009) and Granger and Bestgen (2014) found a higher proportion of high MI-scoring bigrams to be a marker of more advanced language, native or nativelike, while a higher proportion of high t-scores was associated with less advanced language. The present study includes language from a lower proficiency level than has previously been investigated. The pattern of association measures found for intermediate Norwegian learners of English does not match the previous findings for advanced learners. Instead, an initial decline is uncovered, in that the students produce a higher proportion of bigrams with high MI scores and high t-scores in the first year than they do one and two years later. At higher levels of proficiency, the scores increase again, the pattern resembling previous findings. The article considers possible explanations and discusses applications for teaching.