Cognitive grammar and EFL


There has recently been growing interest in cognitive linguistics and cognitive grammar. Yet, this body of research has only had a marginal impact on the teaching of grammar to learners of English. Many (if not most) pedagogical grammars still list grammatical rules in a linear fashion and never attempt to identify the cognitive principles that might govern the grammatical system. This needlessly complicates the acquisition of L2 grammar.

This project aims to fill this gap by analyzing the English tense-aspect system from a cognitive grammar perspective. The tense-aspect system was chosen because even advanced learners often fail to fully master it and because of the existence of cross-cultural differences in how temporality is conceptualized. Furthermore, multiple, sometimes congruent, sometimes conflicting, cognitive models of the English tense-aspect system currently coexist, which underlines the need to shed light on its workings and harmonize the meta-language used in cognitive descriptions of the tense-aspect system.

This project will first produce a cognitive description of the English tense-aspect system, which will be followed by a proposal for the pedagogical treatment of this description in a cognitive- and corpus-based grammar for advanced French-speaking learners of English. Using learner corpora will make it possible to identify which errors require a more advanced cognitive treatment, while native corpora will be used to extract information on the use and frequency of the different forms in various types of texts. This project will be conducted in conjunction with the LONGDALE project, which aims to compile a longitudinal corpus of learner English and will provide the raw material required to study the acquisition and evolution of the L2 tense-aspect system.

Since we have recently completed the last LONGDALE data collection for the first cohort of participants, we are currently annotating this dataset to identify tense-aspect errors. This will form the basis of a preliminary study whose results will soon be published.


This project is funded by the Fonds Spécial de Recherche (FSR) of the Université catholique de Louvain.

Project Director: Fanny Meunier
FSR Fellow: Damien Littré