Mental images and contextual clues: A comprehension study of animal idiomatic expressions in an EFL environment. by Wen-Shuenn (Michael) Wu Chung Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan for PacSLRF 2006. Agenda. Why did I conduct this research? Research Questions Subject and Materials
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Mental images and contextual clues: A comprehension study of animal idiomatic expressions in an EFL environment
by Wen-Shuenn (Michael) Wu
Chung Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan
Why did I conduct this research?
Subject and Materials
1. let sleeping dogs lie
2. fight like cats and dogs
3. in the doghouse
4. a/the dog and pony show
5. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
6. curiosity killed the cat
7. let the cat out of the bag
8. (has the) cat got your tongue
9. like a cat on a hot tin roof; like a cat on hot bricks
10. like the cat that ate the canary
11. get off one’s high horse
12. hold your horses
13. (right) from the horse’s mouth
14. put the cart before the horse
15. don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
16. till/until the cows come home
17. a/the cash cow
18. a bull in a china shop
19. take the bull by the horns
20. hit a/the bull’s eye
– Pigs are dirty, messy, and rude.
– Lions are courageous and noble.
– Foxes are clever.
Note: cow: a large female farm animal kept to produce meat and milk
bull: a male cow
in the doghouse: ______________________
Ex1. He is in the doghouse with his wife because he came home late last night.
Ex2. Jeremy’s in the doghouse. He forgot that it was his wife’s birthday and he didn’t even buy her a card!
Ex3. Jerry is in the doghouse because he dropped the ball, and the other team won because of that.
__ I understand this AIE from the contextual clues
__ I understand this AIE from mental images
Our study suggested that mental images do not really help EFL learners comprehend idioms, or at least one specific type of idiomatic expressions – animal idiomatic expressions.
While some mental images of idiomatic expressions are universal, probably more is culture-specific.
Most EFL learners in Taiwan depended on comprehension-friendly contexts rather than mental images to work out the AIE definition.
Lakoff (1987) stressed that mental images were automatic, unconscious, and effort-free. Here comes a question: if mental images for some idioms are spontaneous and unconscious, can they be teachable?
If mental images are natural and not teachable, more effort should be concentrated to expose EFL learners in a natural and authentic context to acquire idiomatic expressions.
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