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Motivating idioms in English as a foreign language : a focus group study


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Češkić, Mirela. (2013). Motivating idioms in English as a foreign language : a focus group study. Diploma Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of English Language and Literature. [mentor Stanojević, Mateusz-Milan].

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This study looks into the importance of culture and embodiment in understanding metaphorical meaning as it appears in idioms. It has been shown by many cognitive linguistic researchers that most idioms are motivated, i.e. that their meaning is not completely random, but depends on their make-up. One of the mechanisms that plays a crucial role in motivating idioms is conceptual metaphor. Conceptual metaphors have been shown to be a universal ability which allows us to connect two domains. Still, some conventional metaphorical combinations which appear in idioms may require a greater share of embodied or cultural knowledge. For instance, the idiom to dip a toe in the water is more embodied (because it refers to an embodied experience of feeling water), whereas to cash in one's chips is more culture-based, because its meaning refers to a gambling scene. The aim of this study is to see whether idioms with a more clearly embodied motivation will be more readily understandable and more readily transparent to non-native speakers of English. We presented two focus groups of native Croatian speakers (with different levels of English competence) with 12 idioms (six of which were more clearly bodily-based, and six of which were more clearly culture based). Our results suggest that there is no clear difference in understanding the two groups of idioms, although the focus group with the higher English competence outperformed the other focus group. What seems to be the most important factor is the imageability of the idiom, i.e. the ability of the respondents to come up with a coherent image, regardless of the cultural vs. embodied division. Ultimately, this may provide some support to the idea that the grounding of conceptual metaphors is equally culture-based as it is embodied.

Item Type: Diploma Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: idioms, motivation, conceptual metaphor, grounding, embodiment, culture, cultural experience, imageability, transparency, universality, variation
Subjects: English language and literature
Departments: Department of English Language and Literature
Supervisor: Stanojević, Mateusz-Milan
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2013 15:52
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2014 23:24

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