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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton October 21, 2020

Development of the progressive construction in Chinese EFL learners’ written production: From prototypes to marginal members

  • Tianqi Wu ORCID logo and Min Wang EMAIL logo


This study investigates the developmental trajectory of L2 English progressive construction with a focus on frequency, verb-construction contingency and semantic prototypicality. Comparisons were made on the use of the progressive construction in argumentative essays written by Chinese learners at three different proficiency levels and English native speakers. Data of frequency and verb type distribution indicate that L2 learners’ progressive repertoire showed an increase in productivity and variability and a spread from a fixed type to a wider range of verbs. Contingency data demonstrate that, when associating verbs with the progressive, learners’ preference shifted from prototypical progressive verbs which denote specific and dynamic meanings to more marginal members represented by generic verbs. In addition, semantic prototypicality overweighs generality in driving the development of the progressive, which presents an interesting contrast with findings in the verb-argument construction learning literature where semantically general verbs were first predominantly used in the construction.

Corresponding author: Min Wang, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, Shaanxi, China, E-mail:

Funding source: Chinese Funding of Social Science

Award Identifier / Grant number: 18XYY012


The authors would like to thank Prof. Nick Ellis, Dr. Ludivine Crible and the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions on earlier versions of this paper. Our thanks also go to Prof. Ute Römer for her kind help with the statistical analyses.

  1. Funding: This work was funded by Chinese Funding of Social Science (18XYY012).


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Published Online: 2020-10-21
Published in Print: 2022-05-25

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