Verbal synonymy: an investigation of native speakers' and German learners' usage

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University of Alabama Libraries

Fourteen intermediate non-native Germans studying at a university in the southern United States were asked to participate in a partially questionnaire-based study on verbal synonymy and language acquisition. As comparative target language data, the German search engine COSMAS II was also used for a corpus-analysis of the internal semantic structure of a set of the following German near-synonymous verbs: erlauben, ermöglichen, gestatten, and genehmigen. All render meanings associated with allow', permit'. In the questionnaire, the participants were asked to make lexical choices by filling in gaps with an appropriate verb. The results confirm that non-native speakers have certain difficulties differentiating between the nuances of the near-synonymous meanings of the four verbs. The patterns that emerge might suggest that teachers may wish to emphasize the nuanced meanings of certain lexical items and stress the importance of contextualized input to facilitate instructed vocabulary acquisition. Furthermore, the corpus-based approach serves the function of analyzing the degree of similarity in an overlapping semantic continuum. This work also challenges the `synonymy' of the integral relations of the verbs at a lexical, constructional, functional, and formal level. In addition, the descriptive analysis of the four near-synonyms may serve as a guideline for L2 German learners who wish to acquire these verbs in context

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Language, Linguistics