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Cognitive Linguistics: Language and Thought

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In the contemporan world all the things are in a continuous change and progress. Educational system also suffers a lot of changes almost every year: new strategies, new techinques, new ideas and so on.

Idioms seem to be very difficult to be learned by the EFL students even while there are so many ways to teach them. But not all of the ways and technics are considered to be very efficient in the teaching-learning process. The congnitive linguistic approach is one of the most used and the most flattered in this regard. On that account this thesis is going to be about how to implement the congnitive linguistic approach to teaching idioms to EFL students in High School. The main purpose is to discover how applicable is this method compared to other classical methods of teaching idioms.

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Idiom has been considered as a form of expression, grammatical construction, phrase used in a distinctive way in a particular language, dialect, or language variety; spec. a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from the meanings of the individual words.” (Oxford English Dictionary).

Native English speakers grow up hearing and speaking idioms every day. 

Whether your students are young children or adults, it is important that they feel comfortable using these expressions in their everyday speech and writing. 

If your students are studying to learn English for a job, they especially need to learn how to understand and use idiomatic expressions so they can communicate with their co-workers, supervisors or customers. Idioms are used very frequently in English and occur in almost any type of text. Halliday and Yallop say that native speakers love idioms, because they consider them to be an important part of their cultural heritage. For non-native speakers, idioms represent a serious challenge in understanding the language because their meaning cannot be retrieved from the words, thus understanding, idioms is crucial for effective communication. On the other hand, Halliday and Yallop highlight the fact, that non-native speakers are in the habit of overusing those idioms they have learned. Parker and Riley say that idioms are often inconceivable to foreign-language learners, and they would rather use non-idiomatic equivalents, even in expressive tasks.

Understanding the lexicon of English demands more than knowing the denotative meaning of words. It requires its speakers to have connotative word comprehension and more, an understanding of figurative language. Idioms fall into this final category. The focus of this paper is to share the importance of idioms for non native speakers as part of their mastery of the English language. Idioms share cultural and historical information and broadens people’s understanding and manipulation of a language. Among the various definitions idioms are:

* the language peculiar to a people, country, class, community or, more rarely, an individual;

* a construction or expression having a meaning different from the literal one or not according to the usual patterns of the language is the second definition that best suits the focus of Idioms include all the expressions we use that are unique to English, including cliches and slang. Prepositional usage is also a common part of idiomatic expressions this paper addresses idioms as used in figurative language.

English as the language of communication and commerce. Whether it is working in one’s native country or in an English-speaking country, idioms are important as part of the shared knowledge among English speakers. While idioms are commonly used for official business, a distinction must be made about slang. Slang is “currently widely used and understood language, consisting of new meanings attributed to existing words or of wholly new words, generally accepted as lying outside standard polite usage. It usually passes out of usage time or is accepted into standard usage”. Referring someone’s apartment as his or her “crib” is slang, and “crib” is a word now out of style. I believe the phrase, subtleties of the language, best describes a general area into which idioms can be categorized. They transmit certain information about the speaker that might not be obvious. Students of English who effectively communicate with idioms show a certain understanding of the language. They understand and communicate on a deeper level of the language. I use the word “subtle” not as one of its definition where something is hard to grasp or difficult to define but in a more expansive way. The wider meaning consists of a definition where lexical usage shows a deeper understanding of the target language and culture. Since vocabulary and culture are intertwined, Language 2 speakers can gain more vocabulary through idioms and conversely, can learn more about idioms from being exposed to the target culture.

Using a proper approach or method in language teaching has always been a matter of concern among language learners and teachers. Liu (2003: 671) maintains that “idioms have rather rigid structures, quite unpredictable meanings and fairly extensive uses, and that they are “a notoriously difficult” but at the same time a very useful aspect of English for language learners.” In addition, Moon (1998: 3) points out that “idiom is an ambiguous term, used in conflicting ways”. As Cooper (1998) points out, comprehending and producing idioms present language learners with a special vocabulary learning problems as they are figurative expressions that do not mean what they literally state and since they are so frequently encountered in both oral and written discourse.

This diploma thesis includes theoretical part as well as practical part.

During the second part of the thesis I will engage with experimental work where I will demonstrate the applicability and the usage of cognitive linguistic approach to teaching idioms and how these can be utilized by EFL teachers.   

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