It has been shown through a number of corpus linguistic researches that idioms, collocations or any other phrase groups are a vital part of English as well as many other languages, as in the researches of Altenberg, 1998; Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad, & Finegan, 1999; Sinclair, 1991, 1996. Altenberg (1998) says that up to 80 percent of such phrasal groups are used through native speakers. A number of such phrasal groups have been discovered by Biber et al. (1999) in both spoken and written texts. A number of research has tried to identify such lexicon items, their structure, and their use. According to Nesselhauf (2003, 2005), in order to become fluent and comprehensive, it is important for both native and non native speakers to acquire these phrasal constructions.
One of the most important areas for progress in the discussion of phraseological units is phrasal verbs which constitute one of the most distinctive and creative features of the English language (Gardner & Davies, 2007). Because phrasal verbs (thereafter PVs) consist of one open-class item (the verb) and one closed-class item (the particle), they are at the interface of lexis and grammar “that has important ramifications for second language acquisition” (Gardner & Davies, 2007, p. 340; Gass & Selinker, 1992; Howarth, 1998). PVs are typical of spoken and informal English, but also widely used in written and formal English (Fletcher, 2005; McCarthy & O’Dell, 2004). When it comes down to non-native learners of English, particularly learners with non-Germanic first languages (L1s), PVs are notoriously difficult to acquire, especially due to the fact that they tend to permeate and be highly productive in English (Celce-Murcia ; Larsen Freeman, 1999; Darwin ; Gray, 1999; Moon, 1998). Sinclair (1996) even refers to them as “the scourge of the learner” since they present so many inherent difficulties, such as “idiomaticity or polysemy” (p. 78). PVs therefore present a worthy field of study as far as non-native learners of English are concerned.
In spite of the importance of PVs in gaining native like fluency, little research has been done on the use of PVs by Korean learners of English. Only in recent years, a few researchers have shown interest in PVs in the Korean context (An, 2012; Sung, 2012), but to our knowledge, no research has dealt with the actual use of PVs by Korean EFL students. In this regard, the present paper investigates the use of PVs by Korean EFL students via an analysis of a student corpus, asking more practical questions about what kinds of PVs Korean EFL students use, how frequently they use them, and what pedagogical implications it conveys. More precisely, this paper attempts to give evidence indicating what are the most frequent PVs, lexical verbs in PV constructions, and adverbial particles in Korean EFL students’ writing. It also compares and contrasts the use of PVs between Korean students and native speakers of English.
The present study takes the perspective provided by a usage-based approach to language which “emphasizes the notion that actual language use is a primary shaper of linguistic form and the foundation for language learning” (Tyler, 2010, p. 270). That is to say, the study is concerned with learner performance rather than with theories on the semantic and syntactic aspects of phrasal verbs.
With its detailed analyses of phrasal verb use in Korean students’ writing, the present study aims at contributing a further facet to the general understanding of Korean learners of English. In other words, this paper is intended to provide some empirical data for an understanding of Korean EFL students in the context of English teaching and learning; where they stand at the moment, and what they need to be more fluent English users, in terms of PV use. As for a researcher and teacher, it is believed that seeking for useful methods for effective teaching would be the upmost important task, but knowing her students’ status quo is equally important for effective teaching. As the present research is based on the extraction of all rather than only those from a predefined list, a great advantage of this study is to provide all instances of PVs that Korean EFL students use.