Reconstructing verb meaning in a second language. How English speakers of L2 Dutch talk and gesture about placement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study examines to what extent English speakers of L2 Dutch reconstruct the meanings of placement verbs when moving from a general L1 verb of caused motion (put) to two specific caused posture verbs (zetten/leggen ‘set/lay’) in the L2 and whether the existence of low-frequency cognate forms in the L1 (set/lay) alleviates the reconstruction problem. Evidence from speech and gesture indicates that English speakers have difficulties with the specific verbs in L2 Dutch, initially looking for means to express general caused motion in L1-like fashion through over-generalisation. The gesture data further show that targetlike forms are often used to convey L1-like meaning. However, the differentiated use of zetten for vertical placement and dummy verbs (gaan ‘go’ and doen ‘do’) and intransitive posture verbs (zitten/staan/liggen ‘sit, stand, lie’) for horizontal placement, and a positive correlation between appropriate verb use and target-like gesturing suggest a beginning sensitivity to the semantic parameters of the L2 verbs and possible reconstruction.


External organisations
  • Radboud University Nijmegen
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • Dutch, English, verb semantics, placement, second language acquisition, gesture, event representation, caused motion
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-245
JournalAnnual Review of Cognitive Linguistics
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Linguistics and Phonetics (015010003)

Total downloads

No data available