Teaching Phrasal Verbs More Efficiently: Using Corpus Studies and Cognitive Linguistics to Create a Particle List

Ryan Spring


Phrasal verbs are important for EFL and ESL education because of their high frequency, but can be difficult for learners because of their number and polysemy. While there are a number of studies on phrasal verbs, the widening focus of such studies has left a gap between theory and practical instruction. This study improves upon previous studies related to teaching phrasal verbs through cognitive linguistics by combining the theory of event conflation with corpus-based research to create a list of phrasal verb particles and meanings that is concise and yet comprehensive enough to account for approximately 95% of common phrasal verb meanings. It also reports the results of an experiment in which learners taught with this particle list improved more on pre-/post-tests of phrasal verbs than learners that studied a list of the most common phrasal verbs as whole entities (p<0.001, d=1.34). Quantitative and qualitative data presented in this study also indicate that learners taught with the particle list improved their ability to conjecture the meanings of novel phrasal verbs more effectively than learners who studied common phrasal verbs as whole units.


Phrasal Verbs, Cognitive Linguistics, Corpus, Instruction Materials, TEFL, Second Language Acquisition

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.alls.v.9n.5p.121


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