The CECL is currently involved in several projects:
This five-year Collective Research Initiative (ARC, 2019-2024) project addresses the challenges of fostering social interactions and socio-cognitive conflicts (i.e. differences in point of view that are socially experienced and cognitively resolved) to promote learning in an online learning platform. With the help of various disciplinary methodological toolkits (content analysis, corpus linguistics, and social media analytics), we investigate the presence and unfolding of socio-cognitive conflicts in the forums of massive open online courses (MOOCs) developed by LouvainX on the edX platform.
More info on MOOCresearch2.0
Though proficiency is one of the most important constructs in Second Language Research, its measurement has not always received the attention it deserves, and practices of proficiency level assignment have been the subject of continued criticism. In many learner corpora, proficiency is still operationalized in ways that are widely regarded as unreliable (e.g. institutional status). While some learner corpora improve on the current state of the art by including text-based proficiency scores, the time and cost difficulties typically associated with analytical scoring means that it is often absent from, or operationalized in unreliable ways, in currently available large-scale learner corpora.
The main objective of this research project is to investigate whether Adaptive Comparative Judgment (ACJ), a method used in educational assessment, can be used for reliable and valid large-scale proficiency rating of learner language. The project adopts an experimental design to investigate the effect of judges’ language assessment training and expertise, as well as of text features such as topic and length, on the reliability and validity of ACJ tasks. Answering a call for more research into CJ validity, the project focuses on its construct validity, content validity, and criterion validity by collecting and analyzing the judges’ justifications that underpin their selection of one text above the other, and examining correlations between ACJ rank orders and CEFR levels of learner texts from the International Corpus of Learner English.
Theoretically, the project will contribute to a better understanding of proficiency in L2 research by allowing for an empirical investigation into the components that factor into reliable assessments, the relative importance of the various components, and the potential dynamic relationship between these components as learner proficiency develops. Practically, it will generate valuable resources to be shared open access with the research community.
The project aims to offer a theory-based account of how foreign language learners come to master linguistic alternations. In alternation phenomena, speakers have at their availability several linguistic structures to communicate one same message, because these so-called alternants have the exact same meaning in certain contexts (e.g. the genitive alternation: the dog’s tail/the tail of the dog). In such contexts, speakers’ choice of alternant is not random but depends on several interacting factors. At present, a large body of literature has researched the factors that guide the use of alternations by (English) native speakers, but it is still unclear how alternation phenomena and their contributing factors are mastered by adults learning a foreign language. To address this gap, the project combines the framework of Probabilistic Grammar (Bresnan 2007) with insights from Usage-based approaches to Second Language Acquisition (e.g. Wulff & Ellis 2018). Within this integrated framework, I discuss the development of the probabilistic grammar of learners of English as a Foreign language (EFL) for two types of alternation: the positional genitive alternation (see example above) and the nonpositional future marker alternation (he will read the paper tomorrow/he is going to read the paper tomorrow). I analyze two complementary types of data. First, I make use of the Trinity Lancaster Corpus (Gablasova et al. 2019), from which I derive multifactorial classification models for both alternations. Additionally, I conduct rating task experiments to be administered to native speakers and EFL learners. By virtue of the integrated theoretical framework and the mixed methodological approach I adopt, the project not only offers a comprehensive account of the acquisition of alternation phenomena in EFL learners specifically; it also provides a theory-based starting point to discuss the acquisition of probabilistic aspects of grammar for language learners at large.
This project is funded by the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.-FNRS).
Bresnan, Joan. 2007. Is syntactic knowledge probabilistic? Experiments with the English dative alternation. In Sam Featherson & Wolfgang Sternefeld (eds.) Roots: Linguistics in Search of Its Evidential Base. Series: Studies in Generative Grammar. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 77-96.
Gablasova, Dana, Vaclav Brezina & Tony McEnery. 2019. The Trinity Lancaster Corpus: Development, description and application. International Journal of Learner Corpus Research 5(2). 126–158.
Wulff, Stefanie & Nick C. Ellis. 2018. Usage-based approaches to second language acquisition. In David Miller, Fatih Bayram, Jason Rothman & Ludovica Serratrice (eds.). Bilingual Cognition and Language: The state of the science across its subfields. John Benjamins. 37-56.
This project examines the writing process, i.e. whatever happens in-between the beginning and the end of the activity leading to the production of a written text. To have access to this process, use is made of screencasting and keylogging data, which record the screen and keyboard activity while the subject is typing a text and show what stages the text goes through. The project relies on the tools and methods of corpus linguistics to investigate large quantities of data, taken from the Process Corpus of English in Education (PROCEED). The subjects are French-speaking university students learning English as a foreign language. A comparison is drawn between these students’ writing process in their native language (L1; French) and their corresponding writing process in the foreign language (L2; English), with a focus on fluency, i.e. how smooth their writing process is. The study of writing fluency relies on the examination of fluency indicators mentioned in the literature (e.g. frequency and duration of pauses, number and types of revisions, P-bursts/R-bursts) or developed on the basis of the corpus data in a bottom-up fashion. The analysis of these indicators makes it possible to establish fluency profiles characterising a certain writing behaviour.
The project has a descriptive goal of highlighting the similarities and differences between L1 and L2 writing fluency profiles, as well as distinguishing the aspects of L2 writing fluency that are the result of general and language-independent skills from those that are caused by the difficulty of writing in a non-native language. The project also pursues a more theoretical objective by considering fluency as a means of providing insights into the mental processes underlying the writing event; such insights then make it possible to develop writing process models representing native and non-native novice writing, and showing how L1 and L2 writing abilities interact with each other. Finally, the project has a pedagogical goal, in that it seeks to exploit the L2 writing process data in order to develop and test process feedback sessions with the aim of improving L2 learners’ writing fluency.
This project is funded by the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS).
This thesis is devoted to a contrastive study of questions in French and Mandarin. In the first part, we propose a taxonomy of questions in French and Mandarin Chinese, relying on Her et al's (to appear) syntactic tests. In the second part, we will zoom in on two crosslinguistic similarities, that is, wh-in-situ (paying particular attention to the evolution from wh-fronting to wh-in-situ) and question particles (Mandarin Chinese ne and French est-ce que and ça). To analyse these different aspects, we will resort to self-compiled parallel and comparable corpora and behavioural experiments.
- Supervisor: Marie-Aude Lefer
- PhD candidate: HSU, Hung-Hsin (Romain)
English serving as the language of supracultural communication, the amount of translation work into it is anything but negligible. However, because native English-speaking translators cannot always be easily reached (given temporal, spatial, and financial constraints), translation into English is regularly carried out by non-native speakers (Campbell, 1998). Upheld by many international organizations, the mother tongue principle (Thelen, 2005), which precludes professional translators from working in the L1>L2 translation direction (on the assumption that being a native speaker of the target language constitutes a proof of quality), is thus often violated (Pavlović, 2007; Whyatt & Kościuczuk, 2013). Interesting as contemporary translation practices may be, and despite the scholarly attention the issue of directionality (L1 vs. L2 translation) has received in recent years, the construct remains under-researched in empirical translation studies (ETS), with studies focusing mostly on the process/cognitive aspects of L1 and L2 translation (Ferreira et al., 2016; Whyatt, 2018).
The present project, firmly rooted in empirical translation studies and usage-based cognitive linguistics, aims at investigating directionality through the prism of two translation features, namely simplification and explicitation. It deals specifically with the French-English language pair, looking at two aspects that are essential to language usage: production (as represented in computerized corpora) and processing (as visible through, for example, keyboard logging).
This PhD project has three main objectives:
Descriptive: to qualify claims on directionality by describing, on the basis of solid empirical evidence (viz., the product and process output of student translators working into L1 and L2), the typical (product/linguistic and process/cognitive) properties of L1 and L2 translation;
Theoretical: to refine our understanding of simplification and explicitation as translation features, building bridges between translation studies and other fields such as second language acquisition, learner corpus research, readability research, and pragmatics, in which the notions of simplicity/complexity and explicitness/implicitness have been widely studied;
Methodological: to develop reliable linguistic operationalizations for simplification and explicitation, testing the potential of product-process/linguistic-cognitive triangulation in empirical translation studies.
This project was funded by UCLouvain's Fonds Spécial de la Recherche between 2018 and 2020 and is currently being funded by the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.-FNRS).
- Supervisors: Gaëtanelle Gilquin and Marie-Aude Lefer
- PhD Candidate: Laura Aguiar de Souza Penha Marion
- Campbell, S. (1998). Translation into the second language. Abingdon, England: Routledge.
- Ferreira, A. A., Schwieter, J. W., Gottardo, A., & Jones, J. (2016). Cognitive effort in direct and inverse translation performance: Insight from eye-tracking technology. Cadernos de Tradução, 36(3), 60–80.
- Pavlović, N. (2007). Directionality in translation and interpreting practice. Report on a questionnaire survey in Croatia. In A. Pym & A. Perekrestenko (Eds.), Translation research projects (Vol. 1, pp. 79–95). Tarragona, Spain: Intercultural Studies Group.
- Thelen, M. (2005). Translating into English as a non-native language: The Dutch connection. In G. Anderman & M. Rogers (Eds.), In and out of English: For better, for worse? (pp. 242–255). Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
- Whyatt, B. (2018). Old habits die hard: Towards understanding L2 translation. Między Oryginałem a Przekładem [Between Originals and Translations], 24(41), 89–112. doi:10.12797/MOaP.24.2018.41.05
- Whyatt, B., & Kościuczuk, T. (2013). Translation into a non-native language: The double life of the native-speakership axiom. mTm Translation Journal, 5, 60–79.
In recent decades, studies in Learner Corpus Research have highlighted features that are considered to be typical of English as a foreign Language (EFL) learner writing, such as register unawareness, a more involved style, and explicit authorial visibility (e.g. Gilquin et al. 2007, Paquot 2010). However, a number of researchers have stressed the fact that academic writing is no-one’s mother tongue, and that, as a consequence, everyone needs to acquire academic writing skills, regardless of their L1 status (e.g. Escobar & Fernández 2017, Pan et al. 2016, Swales 2004). This means that novice writers – native and non-native speakers alike – need to be trained in EAP writing and acquainted with EAP conventions in order to enter the academic community. In sum, it is argued that “expertise is a more important aspect to consider than nativeness” (Römer 2009: 99) and that academic writing might thus be better described in terms of novice writing vs. expert writing.
Against this background, this PhD project aims to revisit the concept of noviceness and tease apart features of novice vs. learner writing through a cross-linguistic approach of authorial stance. It is guided by the following research questions:
RQ1: To what extent do L1 French and L1 English novice writers share authorial stance features?
RQ2: To what extent can characteristics of French-speaking EFL writing be explained by the non-nativeness vs. the noviceness of these writers?
RQ3: Are individual preferences of authorial stance in L1 transferred to L2?
In second language (L2) research, indices of linguistic complexity are frequently used to assess language proficiency and quantify the language learning and development process. Although the lexis-grammar interface has become central to a variety of theoretical and empirical research programs, it has remained virtually absent from L2 complexity research where syntax and lexis are considered two independent levels and the complexity that arises at their interface has never been systematically investigated. To help fill the current gap in the L2 literature, the project aims to analyze this dimension in L2 Dutch writing data.
The project centres around four main objectives:
- establish the construct validity of new measures of lexicogrammatical (LG) complexity,
- describe LG complexity at different proficiency levels in L2 Dutch writing,
- chart the development of LG complexity over time and
- investigate to what extent LG complexity relates to other aspects of linguistic complexity tapped by the current repertoire of measures of syntactic and lexical complexity in L2 Dutch.
More generally, the research project will contribute to giving the lexis-grammar interface the place it deserves in theories of language proficiency and language development.
This project is funded by the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek – Resarch Foundation Flanders (FWO) (2017-2021)
- Project directors: A. Housen (VUB) and M. Paquot
- PhD student: R. Rubin
Situated in empirical translation studies, the project aims to test Halverson’s (2017) revised gravitational pull model, which posits three cognitive sources of translational effects: source language salience (gravitational pull), target language salience (magnetism) and cross-linguistic link strength (connectivity). We take concatenated nouns (i.e. sequences of at least two nouns) as a test case, comparing English-to-French specialized translations produced by both expert and novice translators. Adopting a mixed methods approach combining corpus and experimental data, we test the hypothesis that the force of the three sources of translational effects varies according to translation expertise.
This project is funded by the UCLouvain's Fonds Spécial de la Recherche.
- Project director: Marie-Aude Lefer
- Reference: Halverson, S. L. (2017). Gravitational pull in translation. Testing a revised model. In G. De Sutter, M.-A. Lefer & I. Delaere (eds), Empirical Translation Studies. New Methodological and Theoretical Traditions. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 9–46.