[en] Cognitive linguistics ; Posture verbs ; Foreign language learning
[fr] Linguistique cognitive ; Verbes de position ; Apprentissage des langues étrangères
[en] This article presents a study of the use of the Dutch cardinal posture verbs staan (‘stand’), liggen (‘lie) and zitten (‘sit’) by French-speaking learners of Dutch; the data is drawn from a corpus of semi-spontaneous oral picture descriptions. Due to the typological differences between French and Dutch in the spatial domain (see Talmy 2000; Lemmens & Slobin 2008), the use of posture verbs is a highly problematic subject for French-speaking learners of Dutch. As a result, their interlanguage is typically characterized by an overall underuse of posture verbs as well as a confusion of the different posture verbs. Our study evaluates how the use of the posture verbs by the learners aligns with their level of proficiency. Strikingly, the statistical tendencies in our data show that a higher proficiency does not correspond to a more accurate use of posture verbs. At first sight, this seems to suggest that advanced learners have become worse at the use of posture verbs. A more refined analysis, however, shows that despite the increase of errors, the learners adopt more native-like strategies as their level of foreign language proficiency increases, suggesting that they gradually become more aware of the strong locative character of Dutch.