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The English Profile (2): Identifying criterial features in learner languages

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Since 2001 the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: learning, teaching and assessment (CEFR) has been disseminated widely and has been translated into approximately 30 languages. It has now become a common reference instrument for organising language teaching and certification in many member states of the Council of Europe and there is also growing interest in many other parts of the world. However, immediately after its publication there was criticism of the CEFR with regard to its empirical basis; the validity and psychological reality of the proficiency levels; and the cross-linguistic alignment of proficiency levels. The English Profile Programme, which started in 2005, provides a scientifically underpinned reaction to such comments. Its main goal is to gain a more refined understanding of English proficiency levels which are described in the CEFR in terms of general “can-do” statements. It is a long-term endeavour to develop and refine Reference Level Descriptions for English covering all six levels of the CEFR from A1 to C2, in line with the Council of Europe’s recommendations. In this paper we propose to give some information about the research topics studied by the researchers within the RCEAL strand. In particular we will focus on the projects using data from the Cambridge Learner Corpus to look for criterial features in the written language of L2 learners from a wide variety of backgrounds (L1s and countries of origin). Results have been gathered over the last few years in the domains of morphology (tense marking, marking the progressive, use of articles), syntax (word order and complexity), and, at a different level of language, semantics (choice of verbs versus satellites to mark change of location), pragmatics and discourse phenomena (appropriate use of personal pronouns to track reference, etc.) and will form the main constituent of this talk.

This talk is part of the Second Language Education Group series.

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