Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Applied Linguistics

Committee Chair

Charles Hall

Committee Member

Teresa Dalle

Committee Member

Emily Thrush

Committee Member

Reginald Martin


Corpus-based evidence suggests that a great proportion of the written academic discourse is formulaic; that is, it comprises lexically bundled items that take different shapes and serve diverse functions. Recurrent word combinations are an important subclass of formulaic language which has received considerable attention. Attempts to synthesize and analyze such combinations have led to the development of various taxonomies that incorporate a large number of recurrent units, along with their frequency counts, the discourse functions they perform and their structural patterning. While these units appear to be easily accessible to native English speakers, they are notoriously difficult to grasp by nonnatives who display poor knowledge on how to recognize and use such units in meaningful contexts. This study bridges a gap in our current body of knowledge by exploring, first, the differences between native speakers and Arabic-speaking learners of English on the recognition and production of a set of academically oriented recurrent word combinations and, second, the variation within each group concerning which knowledge type is more adequately mastered. A further goal of this investigation is to conduct a sequence-based examination of the ill-formed contexts produced by both groups to probe the underlying reasons why the target sequences have not been accurately realized. A total of 50 native and nonnative speakers pursuing undergraduate studies in various disciplines formed the pool of participants in the study. Data collection procedures involve the use of two tasks: the Receptive Knowledge Test and the Productive Knowledge Test.A mixed-method approach is thus used, combining both quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze data and seek explanation for the research problem. Analysis of the results shows that native speakers demonstrate a greater understanding than nonnatives of recurrent word combinations. It has also been found that knowing these combinations receptively is greater than productively and that this holds true for both natives and nonnatives. Reasons for producing ill-formed contexts include the lack of knowledge on the meaning and function of the sequence as a single whole and, further, the apparent influence of the learners' first language. Implications of the findings and suggestions for future research are also discussed.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.