Michigan State University

Dr. Stefanie Wulff is Assistant Professor in the Linguistics Department at the University of Florida. Her main research interests are in the areas of second language acquisition, corpus linguistics, and data-driven teaching. Dr. Wulff is the author of Rethinking Idiomaticity: A Usage-based Approach (2008, Continuum Press) and over 40 peer-reviewed research articles and contributions to edited volumes.

Dr. Wulff is the co-creator of the Technical Writing Project, the first large-scale corpus of student technical writing.  Her research on improving STEM undergraduate students’ writing skills (in collaboration with Ryan K. Boettger, UNT) is currently supported by NSF funding. She is editor-in-chief of Corpus Linguistics and Linguistics Theory (de Gruyter Mouton).

Plenary title:  Getting more use out of “usage”

Plenary abstract:  While the notion of “usage” is traditionally associated with usage-based approaches to language acquisition, there is growing recognition across theoretical frameworks that usage plays an important role in better understanding the acquisition process. In this talk, I advocate for a definition of “usage” that is per se theory-neutral and thus encourages, even necessitates, collaborations that converge methods and theoretical perspectives. My talk is divided into three parts. In the first part, I outline the historical roots of “usage” in cognitive-functional linguistics before turning to a brief description of more recent work that suggest a place for usage across theoretical perspectives. In the second part, I discuss three key aspects of my understanding of usage and their implications for empirical research, pointing to example studies along the way: (i) usage is contextualized use, with context here including language-internal and –external factors that jointly impact how a usage event is realized. This implies that we need complex, multifactorial models to measure usage adequately. (ii) Usage reflects individual variation, meaning that usage unfolds differentially for each individual learner over time. This implies that we cannot simply pool data across learners, but should care to (also) track individual learners’ usage. (iii) Usage not only means output, but also exposure to the second language. This implies that we should not only look at learner production, but must also take into consideration what kind of and how much input learners receive. In the third part, I discuss further methodological and theoretical implications. I close with desiderata for future research.

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