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Werkgroep Over Taal (WOT)

What is WOT?

Being part of CLIN, WOT is a multilingual discussion and study platform for all linguists at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and beyond. The goal is to bring together young (at heart) linguistic researchers who want to share their research in exchange for tips and tricks from their peers. The fields discussed range from sociolinguistics to second language acquisition to neurolinguistics (and much more). Besides presentations, we also offer workshops and plan on organizing more informal get-togethers as well. 

On this page, you can find our previous speakers and topics, as well as the upcoming presentations and workshops.

If you wish to join one of our upcoming lectures or workshops, or you are interested in giving a talk on your topic, you are requested to contact the supervisors: and

Upcoming discussions

30 June 2022: Presentation by Nathan Vandeweerd (VUB-UCL)


  • All WOT-seminars take place in the professorenzaal 5.C.402., unless announced otherwise. 
  • Note: during midday sessions, a small lunch is provided, if the session is in the afternoon we offer coffee and cake. 


Phraseological complexity in L2 French: Investigating variation across modes

Presentation by Nathan Vandeweerd, June 30th, 2022

Along with accuracy and fluency, complexity is considered a major component of L2 performance and proficiency (Housen et al., 2012; Housen & Kuiken, 2009; Skehan, 1996, 2009). Until recently, however, most measures of complexity have focused on solely lexical or syntactic aspects of L2 production, disregarding the important role that word combinations play in the development of linguistic competence. The construct of phraseological complexity (Paquot, 2019) addresses this by measuring complexity at the interface of lexis and grammar. In various studies, measures of phraseological diversity (e.g., type-token ratios of phraseological units) and sophistication (e.g., average PMI of phraseological units) have been found to be useful indices of L2 proficiency (e.g., Jiang et al., 2021; Paquot, 2018, 2019; Rubin et al., 2021) and development (e.g., Bestgen & Granger, 2018; Siyanova-Chanturia, 2015). With a few exceptions however, research in this domain has focused predominantly on L2 English, and so relatively little is known about the applicability of phraseological complexity measures to more synthetic languages such as French. In addition, while a handful of studies have investigated phraseological complexity measures in the oral mode (e.g. Paquot et al., in press), there has not yet been an attempt to compare phraseological complexity across modes. This is important because modality may effect both the type of phraseological units used (Biber et al., 2004) as well as the ability to pay attention to linguistic output, which is hypothesized to lead to generally higher levels of complexity in writing as compared to speaking (Kormos, 2014; Manchón, 2014; Skehan, 2014).

While research in L2 French has shown that learners use a higher quantity of phraseological units as they increase in proficiency (e.g. Forsberg, 2010), no study thus far has compared phraseological complexity (in terms of diversity and sophistication) across proficiency levels in L2 French or examined the effect of mode (speech vs. writing) on the manifestation of phraseological complexity. This project fills the gap by investigating the extent to which phraseological complexity is an indicator of proficiency and development in L2 French (RQ1), the extent to which phraseological complexity measures relate to other aspects of linguistic complexity (i.e. syntactic, lexical and morphological) in L2 French (RQ2) and the extent to which phraseological complexity differs in oral versus written L2 production (RQ3).

These questions are addressed in a series of empirical studies using both cross-sectional and longitudinal corpora of matched oral and written tasks by the same learners. Overall, the results show that in L2 French, both phraseological and non-phraseological complexity measures are significant predictors of proficiency level (as established independently on the basis of expert raters’ holistic proficiency assessments) and that phraseological complexity develops gradually over time. However, in both cases, these effects are small and appear to be moderated by both communicative function and the constraints of online production in speech. These findings speak to the importance of a more ‘organic’ approach to complexity (Norris & Ortega, 2009) that takes into account the effect of aspects such as target language or modality when interpreting the meaning of complexity measures.

Previous WOT discussions

15/06/2022 Dr. Lisa Hilte Universiteit Antwerpen Do teenagers write differently on WhatsApp depending on their conversation partners?
20/05/2022 Drs. Georgia Knell Vrije Universiteit Brussel What the eyes don’t see, the mind won’t learn: investigating the role of salience in the initial processing of morphology in SLA
11/03/2022 Drs. Fien De Malsche Universiteit Antwerpen The importance of small talk in corporate communicative contexts
17/12/2021 Drs. Julie Van Ongeval Vrije Universiteit Brussel A diachronic study of Dutch verbal cluster order variation.


Drs. Magda Serwadczak Vrije Universiteit Brussel & Universiteit Antwerpen  Reconstructing oral discourse in writing: an analysis of orality markers and entextualization strategies in historical witness depositions
21/02/2020 Drs. Eva Koch Vrije Universiteit Brussel Workshop on eye-tracking as a method in linguistic research
16/12/2019 Drs. Yasmin Crombez Vrije Universiteit Brussel What to Choose? Lexical Preference as a Road into Respondents’ Attitudes towards English Loanwords
16/12/2019 Miss Paola Mureddu Vrije Universiteit Brussel The influence of L2 on L1: a study of homographs and cognates in English and Italian


Drs. Carolin Schneider University of Duisburg-Essen ’Bueno, uhm’ – Interjections as a Code-switching Practice among People living with Alzheimer’s Dementia
04/06/2019 Miss Graziela Dekeyser  KU Leuven

Lost in Translation? Emotional Confusion among Ethnolinguistic Minority Children: A Family Approach


Drs. Ily Hollebeke & Drs. Rachida Aghallaj


KU Leuven

Promoting early multilingualism in childhood and childcare: Family language policy and parents’ perspectives on communication with professionals


Mr. Francisco Miguel Valada

Vrije Universiteit Brussel

The effects of instruction on the acquisition of phonological distinctions in a second language: the case of Portuguese


Drs. Nathan Vandeweerd

Drs. Rachel Rubin 

VUB/ UCLouvain Lexicogrammatical complexity in Learner Language
30/11/2018 Mr. Víctor Pérez Béjar  Universidad de Sevilla Suspended clauses in Spanish
30/11/2018 Mr. Serge Bibauw  KU Leuven Dialogue-based CALL: a multilevel meta-analysis
16/11/2018 Mr. Peng Bi   Syntactic Complexity Development for Chinese EFL Learners: Insights from an Annotated Learner Corpus
04/09/2018 Miss Jinling Li  University of Tilburg

Chineseness as a Moving Target: Changing infrastructures of the Chinese Diaspora in the Netherlands




Miss Kathy MinHye Kim Michigan State University

Sleep-dependent consolidation of second language grammar knowledge: The pre-sleep awareness status matters

22/06/2018 Miss Clara Ureña Tormo Universidad de Alcalá Teaching Spanish idioms from a Cognitive Linguistics perspective


Dr. Nanna Hilton

University of Groningen (The Netherlands)

Stimmen: A Citizen Science Approach to LVC


Miss Isa Hendrikx

Université Catholique de Louvain

Intensifying constructions in French-speaking L2 learners of Dutch or English: Longitudinal results


Miss Vanessa De Wilde 

Universiteit Gent

Uncovering covert knowledge of English in children


Dr. Iris Van de Voorde

Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Introduction to PhD project “Pluricentricity in language history. Building blocks for an integrated history of Dutch (1550-1850)”


Miss Geòrgia Pujadas Jorba

University of Barcelona

Focus and non-focus L2 learning through subtitles and captions


Mr. Toivo Glatz

University of Groningen (The Netherlands)

Game-based literacy training in Dutch


Dr. Memet Aktürk-Drake

Vrije Universiteit Brussel

When divergent state ideologies converge on mother-tongue instruction in immigrant languages: The case of Turkish in Western Europe


Dr. Hanneke Loerts

University of Groningen (The Netherlands)

The awful Dutch gender system: ERPs reveal difficulties in gender processing in native and bilingual Dutch speakers


Prof. Dr. Niels Schiller 

Leiden University (The Netherlands)

Morphological Processing in Language Production


Joint lecture: Miss Carmen Pascual & Miss Marina González Sanz 

Universitat de València (CP) & Universidad de Sevilla (MGS)

The Impact of CLIL in a Multilingual Context: the Valencian Region (CP) & Influence of gender and role on interruptions in the Political Talk Show (MGS)


Drs. Eva Koch

Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Incidental second language morphosyntactic learning in conversation: The acquisition of stem allomorphy in German strong verbs by adult native speakers of Dutch


Prof. Bertha Gregoria Salvador Jiménez

Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" de Las Villas, Cuba

Presentation on the phonological system of Spanish and some procedures for its acquisition