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The effects of teaching EFL learners metaphor and metonymy: With reference to emotion expressions
Chen, Yi Chen
Lai, Huei Ling
Chen, Yi Chen
Cultural universality and specificity
|Issue Date: ||2013-09-04 14:48:02 (UTC+8)|
Metaphor and metonymy, pervasively found in everyday language, has been shown by cognitive linguistic research to lie at the heart of human thought and communication. Thus, ability to notice and comprehend metaphoric and metonymic expressions in expressing abstract concepts is indispensible for language users. However, since languages and cultures vary in a wide array of ways to employ metaphor and metonymy, L2 learners should develop metaphoric competence along with communicative competence.
Various methods to develop L2 learners’ metaphoric competence have been proposed. In the extant literature, instruction involving conceptual metaphors (CM), which focuses on correspondences of general traits, has been proved effective in raising learners’ awareness, comprehension, and retention for Hungarian and Dutch EFL learners. Its effectiveness in Chinese speaking context is worth attested empirically. On the other hand, metaphoric mappings, which illustrate both ontological mappings and epistemic mappings of two concepts in more systematic and detailed manners, offer a promising method for EFL language learning. Hence, instruction involving metaphoric mappings (MM) is assumed to be more effective than instruction of CM. The effectiveness of such a method is also worth attested empirically.
The present study aimed to test the effects of CM and MM on EFL learners’ awareness, comprehension, and retention of metaphoric and metonymic expressions with empirical evidence from a carefully-designed experiment. Finer-grained analyses on three important issues were provided: first, an in-depth examination of the intricate interaction of metonymy and metaphor as a continuum, and its influences on figurative language learning was conducted. Second, cultural universality and specificity among languages and the different degrees of difficulties for EFL learners in transferring expressions between L2 and L1 were also investigated. Third, whether structural and logical mappings between languages and cultures could assist learners to better grasp abstract concepts was examined.
The participants included 115 Taiwanese EFL learners, who were freshmen of a general university and a four-year technological university. The English proficiency of the former group was high-intermediate and that of the latter was low-intermediate. The experiment contained three phases: pre-teaching, teaching and post-teaching. The participants were divided into two sub-groups: one received instruction involving CM, and the other received instruction involving MM. They were asked to complete the computerized metaphoric competence test before and after receiving instructions. The results of the tests were collected and analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively.
The results showed that both instructions could lead to better awareness, comprehension, and retention. However, only the participants of the MM groups performed significantly better in the posttest regarding the Awareness Test, especially in finding metonymic-metaphoric and metaphoric expressions that contained no bodily descriptions, the two categories which were considered the most abstract among the expressions. Regarding the Comprehension Test, MM instruction was found to be especially beneficial for the participants in interpreting expressions involving cultural-specific conceptual metaphors. Moreover, MM instruction resulted in convergent effects in the participants’ performances and led toward relatively more consistent and steady progress. To conclude, MM instruction, with its structural, systematic, and logical mapping processes, was found to be especially helpful in facilitating learners’ awareness of expressions involving more abstract concepts, overcoming difficulties caused by cultural specificity, and leading to longer-term effects on retention.
The present study sheds light on the application of metaphor and metonymy to EFL teaching and learning of figurative language in three aspects. First, that explicit instructions on second language acquisition carry beneficial effects is validated for the development of learners’ metaphoric competence in the target language. In addition, metonymy is suggested as equally important as metaphor, and should be included in EFL language learning programs. Moreover, that learners’ interlanguage system is a continuum encompassing expressions with universal and specific cultural characteristics is also validated. Therefore, designs of EFL teaching materials are suggested to take such a continuum into consideration. In brief, the results of the study contribute not only to applied linguistics but also to second language acquisition.
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