Research Project

EFL Formulaic Language Teaching

Principal Investigator
Dr Sophia Skoufaki

What is the effect of teaching methods on the learning of English as a foreign language?

This project examined the effect of teaching methods inspired by cognitive linguistics on the learning of idioms in L2 English. 

This research examined whether the cognitive linguistics (CL)-inspired method of presenting idioms in metaphoric groups leads to better form and meaning memorisation than the more traditional method of presenting them in functional groups. Findings indicate that provided learning is intentional and the idioms taught are highly transparent, the metaphoric grouping leads to better form – but not meaning – memorisation.

This research also compared the effectiveness of two CL applications of the common proposal that learners should be encouraged to infer the meaning of unknown vocabulary from context. In the sub-area of L2 idiom instruction, CL theory has been combined with the meaning inference method in two ways. The first is having learners infer the meaning of L2 idioms which are considered to be underlain by conceptual metaphors and/or metonymies. The second is having learners infer the meanings of L2 idioms while offering them metaphoric clues about these meanings. Research findings indicate that the second proposal is more effective than the first.

This research also led to the testing of theoretical claims about the nature of idiom transparency, both for native and second language speakers. 

Principal Investigator

Key publications

Investigating the source of idiom transparency intuitions

This article reports the results of an experiment which examines whether the cognitive linguistic claim about a hybrid source of idiom transparency intuitions is correct.

Read the abstract or view the full article in our research repository.

Conceptual metaphoric meaning clues in two L2 idiom presentation methods

Cognitive linguists have explored how giving learners information about the motivation of L2 idioms can facilitate comprehension and retention. Results overall are encouraging, but the relative effectiveness of different proposals has not yet been examined. In this chapter, a small-scale experiment comparing the relative effectiveness of two CL-inspired idiom presentation methods is reported.

Read the abstract or access the full chapter online at De Gruyter.

Use of conceptual metaphors: A strategy for the guessing of an idiom’s meaning?

In this study, Greek adult advanced-level learners of English guess at the meaning of unknown English idioms and describe the train of thought that led them to an idiom's interpretation immediately after supplying an interpretation for it.

Read the abstract or download the full paper online at eJournals.

Get in touch
Centre for Research in Language Development throughout the Lifespan (LaDeLi) University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Telephone: 01206 872083