VLI 1(1): Sato & Batty (2012)

A Study of Learners’ Intuitions Behind the Use of Utterance Verbs in English
Yoshiaki Sato and Aaron Batty
Keio University
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.7820/vli.v01.1.sato.batty
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Abstract
Verbs of utterance are some of the most fundamental verbs in the English language, yet their usage patterns are exceptionally diverse. Learners of English should be able to use these words correctly and comfortably, but without an understanding of their core meanings acquisition of their various patterns of use can be daunting. The present research investigates the differences between English learners’ and native speakers’ intuitions regarding the utterance verbs ‘‘speak,’’ ‘‘talk,’’ ‘‘say,’’ and ‘‘tell.’’ The participants were 80 users of English in four proficiency groups (Low, Mid, High, and native). The participants were polled via questionnaire on their intuitions regarding various uses of the four utterance verbs. Data were analyzed and compared with descriptive statistics and t tests. Although the intuitions of learners of increasing proficiency increasingly resembled those of NS, the verbs ‘‘speak’’ and ‘‘talk’’ posed special problems, indicating a lack of understanding of these verbs’ core meanings. Language educators are recommended to pay particular attention to these verbs’ more idiomatic uses (e.g. ‘‘talk politics’’) to address these deficiencies.

Keywords
utterance verbs; semantically-interrelated verbs; division of labor; constructional ranges; core meaning; lexical hypothesis; lexical acquisition; systematic teaching.

Citation
Sato, Y.& Batty, A. (2012).A study of learners’ intuitions behind the use of utterance verbs in English. Vocabulary Learning and Instruction, 1(1), 2936.doi: 10.7820/vli.v01.1.sato.batty