SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION OF SPATIAL METAPHORS IN ENGLISH AND CHINESE WRITINGS: INSIGHTS FROM NATIVE AND LEARNER LANGUAGE CORPORA
Second Language Acquisition & Teaching
Chinese as a foreign language
English as a foreign language
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractFirst outlined by Lakoff and Johnson (1980), Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) continues to thrive (e.g. Lakoff&Johnson 1992, Lakoff, 1993, 1999, 2008), by first challenging the traditional view on metaphor as a matter of language and something extraordinary and poetic. CMT claims that metaphor is pervasive and essential in language and thought. Furthermore, metaphor is considered as the locus for abstract reasoning in this theory.Since its proposal, CMT has triggered plethoric research. However, few empirical studies have examined metaphors in second language (L2) acquisition and the importance of metaphor has not been fully recognized as an indispensable dimension in second language teaching and learning (Littlemore, 2009; Littlemore&Low, 2006b). However, metaphors present a hurdle for L2 learners (Danesi, 1992); L2 learners misinterpret metaphors for cultural reasons (Littlemore, 2003); teaching conceptual metaphor as a learning strategy facilitate language learning (Littlemore&Low, 2006a; Li, 2009).Thus, the current study investigates metaphor in learner language in light of CMT via a corpus-based approach. The study particularly examines how L2 learners of Chinese and English express vertical spatial metaphors in L2 English and L2 Chinese writings and how they differ from learners' target languages and learners' native languages.The findings reveal that L2 language development is a dynamic process and four key factors are found to interplay in learners' acquisition of conceptual metaphors: frequency of the metaphor, L2 proficiency, topic familiarity, and linguistic factors. In particular, the frequency of the metaphor as reflected in the target language has the most important impact on learners' acquisition of conceptual metaphors, overriding the factor whether a metaphor is shared in L1 and L2 or not; secondly, L2 proficiency influences how learners are affected by their first languages: learners with lower proficiency are more affected; thirdly, learners acquire the metaphors associated with a familiar topic; finally, L2 learners are constrained by the main semantic unit in the metaphorical expressions. Overall, the study demonstrates that figurative language development is a dynamic process: learners' metaphoric competence demonstrates a developmental pattern, in particular, a pendulum effect and it eventually emerges over L2 proficiency.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Language Acquisition & Teaching
Degree GrantorUniversity of Arizona
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