Difficulties in second language acquisition

An analysis of the lexemes travel, journey, trip, voyage with a teaching unit

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2006
22 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents


1. Definitions / research methods
1.1 Travel
1.2 Journey
1.3 Trip
1.4 Voyage
1.5 Summary

2. Componential analysis
2.1 Lexical field
2.2 Meaning components

3. Didactic approach
3.1 Awareness of meaning diversity
3.2 Introducing definitions and exclusive features
3.3 Exercises for practical use

4. Conclusion

5. Sources

6. Appendix
6.1 Table of co-occurences, based on the BNC
6.2 Worksheet: Gap exercise
6.3 Worksheet - Definitions
6.4 Worksheet: Translation English - German


Every learner of a foreign language has experienced the problem that very often there is more than one meaning to a lexeme, and one needs a good command of English through experience to chose the right translation in order to avoid mistakes, which might in the worst case lead to a completely different understanding of the meaning that one wanted to convey.

The German lexeme Reise has a variety of meanings in English: travel, journey, trip, voyage, crossing, flight, tour, etc., which makes it difficult for the L2-learner to distinguish between them when in need for a translation. Some are fairly easy to use, but others become confusing, if one looks them up in a dictionary, because their meanings overlap and the boundaries are not clear cut.

So the first aim of this paper is to further compare and research four of the meaning variants of Reise, i.e. the lexemes travel, journey, trip and voyage, in order to establish their distinct usage for the EFL classroom and of course, based on the aforementioned, for practical real world use.

The second aim is to develop adequate methods to teach these findings to pupils in a way that goes beyond strict learning from a book, but puts the given vocabulary into contexts.

1. Definitions / research methods

To start with, the definitions of the English lexemes are compared in the following on the basis of the entries in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary ( CALD), Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English ( LDOCE) and Merriam-Webster OnLine Search ( M-W). The specific meaning of each term is being substantiated or respectively questioned with findings in the British National Corpus World Edition (BNC). With regard to the purpose of translating the noun Reise in this paper, the spectrum of meanings of the above mentioned lexemes is reduced to nouns concerned with physical travel of humans, thus leaving out for example the sun’s journey through heaven, an inner journey, ego-trips or drug-trips.

The focus on differences in use is based on co-occurrences researched in the BNC in the following fields:

(1) ‘sex’ and ‘number’ of the person(s) mentioned in the context, based on co-occurrences with the lexemes his and her, and our, group and school.
(2) ‘time’ and ‘distance’ , based on co-occurrences with the lexemes short and long. The problem here is that for these co-occurrences it can not be stated whether a time or distance relation is referred to, and the possibility to evaluate all single entries as to their specific meaning is not given in the context of this paper. Also, these terms are both very subjective and thus very relative, based on the traveller’s experience: strenuous journeys are often experienced as long, e.g. a day’s walking trip is possibly experienced as longer than a day spent with flying to another city in the same country.
(3) ‘means of transportation’: the co-occurrence with the lexemes boat, ship, ferry, coach, taxi, bus, car, train, rail, railway, walking, hiking and open-boat should give information as to what extent which means of transportation is used and in which context it is used in written and spoken text.
(4) ‘travelled medium’: the co-occurrence of the lexemes with space, sea, air, land and ocean is researched in order to find out whether there is a preference in use of the travelled medium or preference in use of the means of transportation.

The position of the specific co-occurrant was restricted in the search to the position -1, which is the position of the lexeme preceding the relevant lexeme. I define co-occurrant for this paper as: the lexeme that co-occurs with one of the four lexemes in question, namely travel, journey, trip and voyage).

The other focus is based on the BNC distribution lists for the lexemes, which give information as to the gender and the age of the text’s author, differentiating the domains written and spoken texts. The total number of hits for words and their frequency in texts are given, resulting in the comparable frequency per million words (fpmw). The total corpus contains 97,626,093 words, of which 87,284,364 are written and 10,341,729 are spoken.

1.1 Travel

The noun travel is used to express “the general activity of moving from place to place” (LDOCE), “usually over long distance” (CALD). In M-W it is defined as “a going from one place to another usually of some distance”, differentiating between “the act of traveling: PASSAGE”, “a journey especially to a distant or unfamiliar place: TOUR, TRIP”.

The lexeme is used in PDE (1) in the singular in compounds as travel agent or travel brochure (Collins), (2) in the plural it appears in (to be) on one’s travels (LDOCE, Collins) and (3) uncountables are used in collocations as air-/space travel (CALD) and rail travel (LDOCE). It describes “an act of travelling; a journey” which again is defined as “to make a journey; to go from one place to another; to journey” (OED).

In the BNC (the query "travel=SUBST" returned 3938 matches in 1216 different texts, that is a fpmw of 40.34) the co-occurrences of short and long with travel can both be disregarded, either appearing hardly; thus the definitions above mentioning “some distance” or “long distance” have been proven as being relative. The means of travel mentioned in the BNC are in order of frequency rail, coach, car and bus, but in absolute numbers these are less frequently mentioned than the medium which is travelled: Travel co-occurs more often with a medium than with a means of transportation: In order of frequency in the BNC, travels are mostly via air, much less frequent are space, land and sea travels.

Co-occurrences with his are much more frequent than with her and with our, thus according to the given data it seems as if men travel more frequently than groups of people and women do.

The BNC distribution list for the category “written text” gives 3,699 occurrences (i.e. a fpmw of 42.38), for “spoken texts” it is only 239 occurences (i.e. a fpmw of 23.11). In written texts we have a dominance of occurrences in the category “leisure” with 1,250 occurences (i.e. a fpmw of 102.58), followed by “commerce and finance” with 455 occurrences (i.e. a fpmw of 62.69). The age groups of the written text’s authors is very close together in its fpmw, first in the ranking are the 15-24 year olds with a fpmw of 24.2, followed by the 35-44 year olds with 23.72 and the 60+ with 22.27. The sex of the written text’s authors with the highest frequency is given as “mixed” with an fpmw of 51.57, next following are “female” authors with a fpmw of 34.71 and last are “male” authors with a fpmw of 23.92. In the domain of “spoken context governed texts” the leading category is “leisure” with a fpmw of 46.76. Sex and age of the author/speaker are not given.

1.2 Journey

Journey is used when referring to a “movement from one place to another, especially in a vehicle” (CALD). The LDOCE defines it as “travelling a long distance or travelling regularly, when the emphasis is on the travelling itself “. In M-W it is also defined as “a going from one place to another usually of some distance”, differentiating between “an act or instance of traveling from one place to another: TRIP” and “chiefly dialect: a day's travel”. The OED defines journey as “a [...] continued course of going or travelling, having its beginning and end in place or time, and thus viewed as a distinct whole; a march, ride, drive, or combination of these or other modes of progression to a certain more or less distant place, or extending over a certain distance or space of time; an excursion or expedition to some distance; a round of travel. Usually applied to land-travel, or travel mainly by land, in contradistinction to a voyage by sea.” Backing this up, the BNC (the query "journey=SUBST" returned 5384 matches in 1523 different texts; that is a fpmw of 55.15) gives co-occurrences with means of transport mainly by land: train, car, bus, rail, railway. The co-occurrence with a travelled medium is unfrequent. Also, the frequency of long co-occurring with journey is much more frequent than the one with short, which confirms the above defintions, when we assume that a long distance takes a long time to be travelled.

As to the sex and number of travellers, journey primarily co-occurs with his, in the second instance with our and then with her, which implies that again men are the ones who mainly undertake a journey, but next frequently are groups, which gives a difference in the use of the lexeme .

The BNC distribution list gives 5,112 occurrences (i.e. a fpmw of 58.57) for the category “written text” and 272 occurrences (i.e. a fpmw of 26.3) for “spoken text”. The text domain of written texts is spearheaded in relative numbers by the category “belief and thought” with only 303 occurrences but a fpmw of 100.76. The category with the highest number of total words is “world affairs”, but with a middle frequency of only 49.67 pmw. The category with the highest total number of hits is “imaginative” with 1,385 occurrences. The category “leisure” is second in the total number of hits (1,097) and in relative numbers with a fpmw of 90.03. This leads to the assumption that the context researched in this paper, i.e. the physical travel of humans, is of secondary importance when using the lexeme journey.


Excerpt out of 22 pages


Difficulties in second language acquisition
An analysis of the lexemes travel, journey, trip, voyage with a teaching unit
University of Marburg  (Institut für Anglistik/Amerikanistik)
HS Lexical Semantics
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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513 KB
Difficulties, Lexical, Semantics, language acquistion
Quote paper
Konstantin Seitz (Author), 2006, Difficulties in second language acquisition , Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/80085


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