Processing of English Idioms with Body Part Components by Native Speakers of Turkish with Intermediate Level of English

the aim of the present research is to find out ways native speakers of turkish learning english use while processing english idioms with body part components in their structure. the experiment was conducted among first year students who study in different departments of Middle east technical University (ankara, turkey). the results of the experiment showed that turkish students mostly provide definitions of english idioms based on word associations, the second preference is universals, and the third option is reliance on concepts.

the object of the present research is idioms with body part components. the choice of this type of idioms is stipulated by the important role the body plays in the use of language as a source domain for metaphorical meaning. in cognitive linguistics there is a notion of ‘embodiment’ (intertwining of mind and body) which reveals an interconnection between thoughts, emotions and language on one side and the human body, including internal body parts, on the other side [1]. Cognitive linguists point out to the importance of bodily experience for the formation of language and thought: the former serves as a foundation and a source for the latter.

the aim of this study is to investigate strategies turkish learners apply while guessing the meaning of english idioms with body part components. an experiment was held to achieve the aim, and the data were collected in three stages: firstly, a questionnaire was administered to collect background information of respondents and their definitions of english idioms as a result of guessing activity. then, retrospective data collection method was ap-

plied: five learners were interviewed – they verbalized the thoughts they had while guessing and writing the meanings of idioms. Finally, think-aloud protocols were held: six respondents from another group were asked to hypothesize the meaning of idioms and describe the line of reasoning that they followed to find out which thoughts occurred in the learners’ minds while processing idioms.

the number of studies on acquisition of l2 idioms and their comprehension by l1 learners is not numerous. one of early studies on the topic was done by Gibbs [2] who focused on the factors that affect idiom comprehension; according to him, there are three groups of idioms that have different degrees of analyzability. they are the following: (1) decomposable or “normally decomposable”, e.g., to button one’s lips; (2) abnormally decomposable, e.g., to give the green light; (3) non-decomposable idioms, e.g., to paint the town red. if the first two idioms can be comprehended to some extent due to the understanding that “button” can mean an action of “closing” and “green light” refers to traffic regulation, then the third idiom can hardly be interpreted as “to have a wild celebration during a night on the town”, as far as it is not semantically decomposable. studies based on learners’ metaphoric competence have an indirect implication for the present research; for example, littlewood [3] compares the ability of l2 learners to understand and produce metaphors in their native language and in the target language. she finds out that they mostly show better performance in l1 rather than in l2, but conversely interpret the meaning of l2 metaphors in the metaphor test better than l1 ones. the reason for the last finding is explained as the following: “in their l1 students have enough confidence to claim that a given metaphor makes no sense, whereas in their l2 students are used to having to guess meanings and are therefore reluctant to dismiss expressions as unmeaningful” [3, 306]. littlewood claims that differences at learners in l2 acquisition may depend on their metaphoric competence, i.e. their ability to understand and produce metaphors, firstly, in the native language, and then, in the target one.

the number of studies on the interpretation of idioms’ meaning increased in the last decade. the peculiarity of recent research is that linguists apply a combination of techniques in their experiments with idiom-meaning guessing tasks: for example, they provide a pre-experimental instruction on semantic and/or etymological domain sources, or deliver an

explanation on conceptual metaphors, or supply an experiment with pictures for better comprehension of idioms by l2 learners. the aim of those studies is to enhance the acquisition of vocabulary, idioms in particular, by equipping language instructors with the knowledge of possible hindrances and advantageous strategies and techniques. boers and Demecheleer [4], for example, emphasize that those l2 idioms which originated from sources different to l1 ones pose a certain difficulty to l2 learners when dealing with l2 idioms. there is no clear understanding of the role of the l1 idioms in the comprehension process of identical and similar l2 idioms by l2 learners. some studies indicate the influence of the native language on the process of comprehending of l2 idioms [5]. though, there are also studies which showed that similar idioms were more difficult to comprehend [6].

in turkey there are few studies related to conceptualmetaphorsandconceptualrepresentations of turkish idioms. the recent research by aksan and Kantar [7] and Can and Can [8] somehow fill the gap on metaphors in the turkish language. the former research compares english and turkish conceptualizations of love, and finds out that there are certain differences in source domains as well as in the cross-linguistic metaphorical mappings of love is JoUrNey metaphor. the latter study compares conceptual metaphors related to english chat and turkish sohbet, and states that they have different connotations and conceptualizations as a reflection of cross-cultural differences. a few studies focus on strategies utilized by learners of english while idioms’ meaning-guessing process [9; 10; 11], and have certain implications for teaching english idioms to native speakers of turkish.

the present research is mainly based on assumptions of the following theories:

the Cognitive theory of Metaphor [12] underlines the metaphorical character of the conceptual system of people. Metaphors are formed due to the ability of people to categorize and structure the surrounding world into the system of categories which range from general to specific ones, with cognitively basic categories in the middle of this hierarchy [1]. the components of idioms may be metaphors, and many idioms may be understood on the basis of conceptual metaphors.

a three-store hypothesis [13] considers that the mind of bilingual speakers keeps two subsystems related to languages a speaker has acquired; each

subsystem comprises the information on its phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and lexicon. linguistic competences of l1 and l2 are independent of each other, and both are connected to the conceptual system where thoughts originate and are processed. it is considered that conceptual competences of l1 and l2 are different but are stored in one and the same system, forming common underlying conceptual base [14].

the theory of Universal Primitives is based on a belief that human beings possess innate concepts, conceptual or semantic primes [15; 16]. this assumption is connected to natural semantic metalanguage approach which claims that those concepts are found in all languages and are embodied as meanings of lexis, grammar and pronunciation. a list of semantic primes includes substantives (you, people, body), determiners (this, other, all), similarity (like), attributes (good, bad), etc. those beliefs of innate nature of concepts can be reasoned by the interconnectedness of human bodies and the surrounding world, and the embodied experience people receive from this relationship.

there are different strategies learners comprehend l2 idioms. one way is to identify definitions that refer to l1 and l2 conceptual base. the comparative analysis of conceptual representationsoftwolanguagesshowedthatenglish and turkish idioms with body part components generally share similar concepts; and the only difference exists among idioms with ‘head’ baş component. in turkish idioms baş is conceptualized as state oF beiNG UP/ iN hiGh PositioN whereas in english idioms ‘head’ reveals the notions of heaD For MeNtal FaCUlty/ loCUs For reasoNiNG/ CoNtrol CeNter. at the same time, it was found out that that english ‘head’ has the same conceptual base with turkish kafa head – in turkish there are two synonymous words denoting ‘head’, and they represent different concepts.

another way is to review word associations [17]. studies based on the survey of word associations – both semantic and etymological [18; 19] – emphasize, firstly, a close connection between culture and language, and, secondly, an importance of associations for learning purposes. verhallen and schoonen [20] report the most typical responses to l1 word associations; they are the following: clang associations, i.e. similar in form but different in meaning; associations based on

syntagmatic relations (adjective-noun, verb-noun); and semantically similar words, such as synonyms, antonyms, etc. they assume that two former ones are mostly peculiar to younger learners, and the latter one – to older ones.

Finally, in order to find out the way students utilize to guess the meaning of idioms it is to consider semantic primitives which also comprise body part concepts like ‘walk’ (foot, leg), eat/ drink (mouth), bite (teeth) and lick (tongue). body parts, according to her classification, comprise ‘relatively simple’ concrete concepts which bear some universally recognized features. While guessing the meaning of idioms with body part components, students will utilize semantic primitives, if they refer to universal concepts of body parts, such as Feet/ legs for Walking, arms/hands for Giving/ taking/ holding, head for thinking, heart for Feeling, ears for hearing, eyes for seeing, Nose for breathing, Mouth/tongue for speaking/eating, and stomach for Digesting. Consequently, the meaning of idioms can be traced through those universals.

Method of research

the study was conducted among 20 native speakers of turkish – first-year students from different departments of Middle east technical University, ankara. the number of respondents from technical departments corresponds to the number of ones from humanitarian departments. the level of instruction is upper-intermediate; there is equal number of males and females. the age of participants ranges from 18 to 23, with a mean of

2.85 and standard deviation of 0,988.

idioms included in the questionnaire were taken from the National british Corpus to ensure the inclusion of idioms’ scope used in modern english. Fifteen english idioms out of thirty ones with body parts components were selected following the results of norming study among native speakers of english who indicated the most frequently used idioms. the selected idioms represent a variety of different parts of the body, and include those that either have equivalent and analogous turkish idioms, or do not have them. For example, english idiom ‘on the tip of the tongue’ is equivalent to turkish Dillinin ucunda olmak; to hold your tongue’ – to Dilini tutmak; blink of an eye – to Göz açıp kapayncaya kadar; to give a hand – to Elinden tutmak; and english idiom all ears is analogous to turkish Kulak kesilmek. Questionnaires consisted of three parts; the first section of the questionnaire aimed at

finding out whether idioms were familiar to them. the second part of the questionnaire presented fifteen english idioms with the body part components in their structure. the task for the respondents was to guess the meaning of english idioms and to write them in turkish or english. the third part of the questionnaire comprised questions to reveal the background information on respondents; the data obtained from this part were collected to reveal an impact those factors had on the quality of answers to the assignment of guessing the meaning of idioms. Consequently, those variables appeared not to have played a vital role in the outcomes of the research but just gave additional information on participants.

results and discussion

the data received from questionnaires revealed the following: the number of correct answers ranged from 3 to 9 ones out of 15 idioms. three participants obtained the lowest result in the experiment – 3 correct answers; two of them knew elementary German, and studied english for 10 years, the third one studied english for 6 years. None of them went to a foreign country; the scores received at english Proficiency exam were rather high (67, 72, and 74, correspondingly). there was no any reliable reason to explain their poor performance in the experiment. one respondent had the highest number of correct answers – 9 out of 15. a period of her study of english was 12 years, but this fact could not be a reason to her sound performance because other three participants who studied english for the same period obtained diverse results in the experiment. Four respondents studied english for 10 years, and they displayed a variety in the performance – a range from 3 to 7 correct answers. one participant who claimed to have studied english just for 1 year obtained 4 correct answers which is the result of four other people who studied english for different periods of time – two, three, and twelve years, correspondingly. then, the variable of the period of study of the english language cannot explain the difference in the number of correct answers.

the period of study of english by participants of the experiment ranges from 1 year to 12 years. a comparative analysis of data related to the period of study english and the amount of correct answers showed little dependence of the former variables on the latter ones. the correlation coefficient is positive (.305), it indicates that the more time of the study of english participants had, the more sound performance was in the experimentthough, as the value of Pearson correlation indicates (r=1.0), there is a small correlation between those two data. the same situation is with the relationship between the sex of participants and the number of correct answer. the strength of correlation (r=1.0) is small, it suggests weak dependence of participants’ sex on the number of correct answers. eight learners visited other foreign countries but this factor as well as knowledge of any other foreign language did not have a significant impact on their performance. so, the factual data on participants of the experiment did not give any evidence to the reason of wide range in the number of correct answers. the only explanation to the variety in answers may be found in personal characteristics of respondents – their individual diligence and their inference abilities in general.

the analysis shows that idioms that have turkish equivalents and analogues received the most number of correct answers (‘Give me a hand’ and ‘on the tip of the tongue’ – 90% and 70%, correspondingly; ‘hold your tongue’ – 60%, and ‘all ears’ – 50%); the ‘blink of an eye’ idiom received just 20% of right guesses. as for english idioms that do not have turkish equivalent and analogous idioms, the percentage of correct answers varies according to their motivational structure: ‘Keep your eyes on the ball’ idiom received 85% of correct answers; ‘it cost an arm and a leg’, and ‘Play into someone’s hands’ – 50%. three idioms (hit the nail on the head, eat your heart out, and Put your foot in your mouth) have 100% error performance, no participant gave a right answer. the meaning of two idioms (Wear your heart on your sleeve, and Pull someone’s leg) was correctly guessed only by two respondents each, and ‘Pay through the nose’ – by one. as for the strategies participants of the experiment with questionnaires applied while guessing the meaning of idioms, they are the following: 62 replies out of 228 (27%) are based on conceptual representations, 73 replies (32%) are backgrounded by universal primitives, and 93 answers (41%) are based on word associations.

Five learners out of 20 ones that participated in the experiment and filled in questionnaires were asked to answer to interview questions which were elaborated to find out any specific details on the process of comprehending english idioms. the focus of the analysis was the answers to questions: ‘Which idiom’s meaning did you guess most easily?’ and ‘Which idiom’s meaning was the most difficult to guess?’, and the backgrounded reasons for those answers. the respondents referred to ‘to wear your heart on your sleeve’, ‘to pay through the nose’, ‘blink of an eye’, ‘to put your foot in your mouth’, and ‘to pay through the nose’ as the most difficult idioms; and to ‘Give me a hand’, ‘butterflies in your stomach’, ‘to pull someone’s leg’, and ‘to play into someone’s hands’ as the easiest ones.

interviewees presented the following reasons for easy guess of english idioms:

existence of the similar idioms in the turkish language;

Familiarity with an idiom due to movies, soap operas and books – butterflies in the stomach.

the most attention drew the data that caused difficulties while processing english idioms, and the strategies interviewees applied to guess their meaning. one of interviewees reported to have failed to guess the meaning of the english idiom ‘to put your foot in your mouth’ while filling in a questionnaire. as for the strategies turkish learners applied, their interpretation of the meaning of the most difficult idioms is based on:

Conceptual representation – heart For PersoN’s FeeliNGs

‘to wear your heart on your sleeve’ (kalbi görünür bir yere koymak bir insanın kalbini kıyafet gibi dışına giymezse duygularını hemen belli ettiği diğer insanlar tarafından duygularının kolayca anlaşılabildiği anlamla girebileceğini düşündüm; duygularını çabuk belli etmek olabilir).

Nose is beiNG oN the Path For the state oF beiNG iN MoveMeNt

‘to pay through the nose’ (bu yüzden bir şey istemeden yapmak burnundan yapmak anlamı bir bağlantı kurdum kendimce; zor durumda kalmak olabileceğini düşündüm. Burnunuz ayrıca nefes alış verişinizi sağladığı için bir şeylerde zorlancağınız anlamına geliyor, aldığınız her nefesin. Bu sebepten dolayı da bir konu hakkında aşırı şekilde zorlanmak olabileceğini düşündüm).

reference to word associations:

‘blink of an eye’ (hızlı bir şekilde göz kırpmanın tanıdığın birine yapıyorsa bir şeylere hazır olması gereketiğini düşündüm. O yüzden ‘Get ready to do something’ olarak bir açıklama getirdim ona).

‘to wear your heart on your sleeve’ (yani o kişiyi anlamak. Zaten benim inanışım bir kişiyi ikna etmek onu anlamaktan geçiyor. Burdan da hani bu kişiyi anlayıp, bu kişinin manevi duygularını kullanarak onu olumsuz yönde etkilemek gibi bir şey çıkardım).

Generally, the data obtained from the interview of the participants of the experiment show that they equally applied the conceptual background of idioms (4 cases – 36%) and word associations (4 cases – 36%); and their third preference was universals (3 cases – 28%).

six respondents – turkish learners of english from a different group – took part in think-aloud protocols. the participants were asked to articulate aloud thoughts while guessing the meaning of five english idioms (selected from a list of 15 english idioms) which caused the most difficulty for participants of the questionnaire session, and those which had 100% error results. they produced the following definitions: ‘eat your heart out’ (not show your feelings; do not think about your emotions but act according to your mind; seyretmek – to look on, to watch; be brave, be straight; take decisions based on logics, not on emotions; to have your belongings always with yourself), ‘hit the nail on the head’ (think before acting or saying in order not to harm; about thinking – consider it and think about it; rahatsız etmek – to bother, to annoy somebody; burnundan getirmek – to get revenge of somebody for having done something bad to you; regret over wrong thıngs done; pişmanlıktan başını duvara vurmak; teach somebody compulsorily; tahtası eksik – to manage behavior of a mad person), ‘Put your foot in your mouth’ (not to talk about your feelings or thoughts because it may be dangerous; think twice before you talk; ayağını yorguna göre uzatayağına kalkerken biraz dikkatli ol; keep silent, shut up, don’t intervene; regret over words said; ayağını yorguna kadar; iki ayağını pabucaya sokmak – to hustle, to rush somebody), ‘Wear your heart on your sleeve’ (behave according to heart’s desires; do not hide your heart under your dresses – act according to your emotions; ellini vicdanına koymak; doğru söyle; reveal your feelings, thoughts, and ideas. be straight, express yourself openly. Yüreğini ortaya koy – reveal your feelings, you are who you are; take responsibility, take control over something. be ready for emotions; beyin etin yeyiyor, beyin etin bitirdi; çok düşünmekten kafası patladı), and ‘Pay through the nose’ (ayağını yorganına göre uzat – cut your coat according to your cloth; to criticize people often, to find their faults; regret over wrong things done; yaptığın şey burnundan gelir; burnundan getirmek). the total number of answers is 28, out of 30: two respondents failed to guess the meaning of ‘Pay through the nose’ idiom. the data obtained from think-aloud protocol also revealed the fact that its participants mostly referred to word associations (50%) rather than to conceptual base of idioms (36%); and a small number of definitions are given on the basis of primitive universals (14%). the most focus in this study is given to the data received from questionnaires which were first analyzed in groups based on different degrees of analyzability (Gibbs, 1994), and then in relation to total list of 15 idioms under consideration.

a special attention in the present research is given to answers of those learners who set the idioms to be unfamiliar to them. three learners out of 17 who did not know the idiom ‘Wear your heart on your sleeve’ gave its definition based on the concept heart For FeeliNGs; though ‘heart’ in the idiom is replaced from its usual location to the sleeve, it is still associated by them with feelings and emotions: not behave emotionally; duygularını çabuk belli etmek; do not be heartless. two participants gave a definition that is based on the concept of heart is obJeCt: kalbimizle düşünmek (lit. to think with heart); tüm kalbiyle, var gücüyle savaşmak (lit. to fight with all heart and strenth possible). lastly, two learners matched the english idiom with the turkish one: canını dişine takmak (fig. to take one’s life in one’s hands). Four respondents had other associations based on the idiom’s components: herşeyi açıkça yapmak ya da söylemek (lit. to do and to speak openly) – an exposure of the heart on the sleeve is perceived as its exposition to public; try hard to accomplish something – the association is with an impossible task similar to wearing the heart on the sleeve; always being in a nervous situation – an association with a stress; bir kişiyi manevi olarak etkilemek ve bu şekilde o kişiyi kullanmak – an association with moral/ spiritual features of a human being.

Five participants out of 14 who did not know ‘Put your foot in your mouth’ idiom provided the answers related to a universal Mouth is for speaking: not speak; stop talking because of a bad thing you said before; saying that try hard, to say nothing; not to say anything, trying to hold yourself not to say something; talk considerably. Four respondents related to a concept of MoUth is Path based on difficulties or acceleration of difficulties due to an obstacle in the path: iki ayağın bir pabuca sokmak – to hustle/ to rush someone; bir işi yaparken çok dolaylı yollara başvurmak – not to apply the shortest way for doing something; to do something very hard, to accomplish something seeming to be impossible; zorluklara katlanmak (to stand/ to tolerate difficulties). two learners had other associations related to the meaning of the idiom: canını dişine takmak (a turkish idiom – to take one’s life in one’s hands); and açlık çekmek – to be hungry.

Five participants out of 18 ones who claimed that they did not know the idiom ‘eat your heart out’ provided definitions based on conceptual representations – heart is For PersoN’s FeeliNGs: not to talk about your feelings to someone; making someone fall in love; duygu sömürüsü yapmak; and heart is obJeCt: birinin kalbini kırmak, üzülmesine sebep olmak; you are a heartless person. six respondents associated the meaning of the idiom with some problematic or tiresome situation, and emotions related to it, mostly referring to the word ‘eat’ rather than to ‘heart’: içini kemirmek – to be consumed by anxiety; to make someone exhausted, to make you tired; düşüncesizce davranmak – to behave thoughtlessly; nervous about something very much; making yourself worried about something; do something just yourself.

eight learners out of 15 participants who did not know the ‘hit the nail on the head’ idiom provided its meaning by referring to different word associations: to remind something that you did before every time and everywhere, something annoying; kulağına küpe olsun/ iyice öğren (the same respondent gave an interpretation that more refers to conceptual represention than to an association but the first part of an answer was considered – unutma (do not forget), başına bir çivi gibi çak (lit. to hit the nail on the head); stop the person who is the head of something; teach or explain something to someone by trying too much to make understand; birine zarar vermek; to accomplish your target; make somebody bored by talking so much; giving harm to yourself accidentally. eight respondents provided definitions of the idiom based on concepts of heaD For MeNtal FaCility: kara kara düşünmek (fig. to brood over); always remember; don’t forget; do not forget; asla unutmayacak olmak (never forget); and heaD is a CoNtaiNer (the concept refers to both languages): bir anda aklina gelmek (to come to one’s mind immediately); to have a headache; başını ağrıtmak (lit. to give a headache to; fig. to annoy, to bother).

table 1 shows turkish students’ answers related to unmotivated english idioms; they are mostly based on associations related to idioms’ components

Table 1 – Proportion of answers related to non-decomposable idioms (in numbers and percent).

#

Idioms

Number of answers

Concept

Association

Universal

     

#

%

#

%

#

%

1

Wear your heart on your sleeve

11

5

46

6

54

-

-

2

Put your foot in your mouth

11

4

36

2

18

5

46

3

eat your heart out

11

5

46

6

54

-

-

4

hit the nail on the head

16

8

50

8

50

-

-

5

Pull someone’s leg

14

1

7

8

57

5

36

 

Total

63

23

36

30

48

10

16

Table 2 – Proportion of answers related to abnormally decomposable idioms.

#

Idioms

Number of answers

Concept

Associa tion

Univer

sal

     

#

%

#

%

#

%

1

Keep your eyes on the ball

19

17

89

2

11

-

-

2

Play into someone’s hands

17

9

57

8

43

-

-

3

it cost an arm and a leg

16

-

-

3

19

13

81

4

Pay through the nose

10

1

10

9

90

-

-

5

butterflies in your stomach

20

1

5

17

85

2

10

 

Total

82

28

34

39

48

15

18

other than body part ones (48%); and the remaining answers are based on conceptual representations (36%) and on universals (16%).

Nine learners out of 16 who claimed of being unaware of the meaning of ‘Pay through the nose’ idiom gave explanations based on word associations: to be angry; to have a lot of debt; having a lot of debt, or being in a situation that a person cannot stand; bir işi istemeden yapmak; bir işi yaparken keyif alamamak, acı çekmek; to regret or to bare the consequences; inatlaşmak ve bunun sonucuna katlanmak – (lit. to be obstinate and to suffer from that); costing a fortune; difficulty in doing something back. all associations have been developed either in connection with the word ‘pay’, or difficult conditions of executing any actions through the nose, or emotions related to those situations. one respondent based his definition on the concept of Nose is obJeCt – be beaten, having broken nose.

When processing the idiom ‘Play into someone’s hands’, nine participants out of 13 ones who claimed of not having known it produced the definitions based on the concept of holDiNG is CoNtrolliNG: bırının oyuncağı olmak/ bır kımseyin her dediğini yaparkıyen mecbur kalmak (to be someone’s toy/ to be forced to do what someone tells you); to be manipulated by someone; to be directed by someone else; bir başkasının elinde kukla olmak, onun her istediğini yapmak (to be a puppet in one’s hands, to do whatever someone tells you); kaderi başkasının elinde olmak (to hold the fate in someone’s hands); başkasının adına karar vermek (to decide on behalf somebody else); bir kişinin işine karışmak ve kötü yönde etkilemek (to interfere in somebody affairs and to effect in a bad way); çıkarlarina göre hareket etmek (lit. to act/ to behave/ to work in one’s interests); doing somebody’s job/ assignments. eight students identified the idiom’s meaning in association with other notions: acting like somebody else; someone tells lies to you for being done whatever s/he wants; depending on another person; to help someone at the point when you don’t have a chance to benefit for yourself; deceiving someone and entertain with his/her confusion; dancing for money at wedding; having been deceived by someone; try to deceive someone.

ten respondents defined ‘blink of an eye’ idiom as an unknown one, and four of them met it before

Table 3 – Proportion of answers related to equivalent and analogous idioms.

#

Idioms

Number of

answers

Concept

Associa

tion

Univer

sal

     

#

%

#

%

#

%

1

all ears

18

-

-

8

44

10

56

2

Give me a hand

19

-

-

1

5

18

95

3

blink of an eye

15

-

-

11

73

4

27

4

hold your tongue

16

3

19

1

5

12

75

5

on the tip of your tongue

15

8

53

3

20

4

27

 

Total

83

11

13

24

29

48

58

Table 4 – Proportion of all answers (in numbers and percent).

#

Idioms

Number of

answers

Concept

Associa

tion

Univer

sal

     

#

%

#

%

#

%

1

all ears

18

-

-

8

44

10

56

2

Give me a hand

19

-

-

1

5

18

95

3

blink of an eye

15

-

-

11

73

4

27

4

Keep your eyes on the ball

19

17

89

2

11

-

-

5

Play into someone’s hands

17

9

57

8

43

-

-

6

hit the nail on the head

16

8

50

8

50

-

-

7

eat your heart out

11

5

46

6

54

-

-

8

it cost an arm and a leg

16

-

-

3

19

13

81

9

Pull someone’s leg

14

1

7

8

57

5

36

10

Put your foot in your mouth

11

4

36

2

18

5

46

11

Pay through the nose

10

1

10

9

90

-

-

12

butterflies in your stomach

20

1

5

17

85

2

10

13

hold your tongue

16

3

19

1

5

12

75

14

on the tip of your tongue

15

8

53

3

20

4

27

15

Wear your heart on your sleeve

11

5

46

6

54

-

-

 

Total

228

62

27

93

41

73

32

but did not remember its meaning. None of respondents provided the turkish equivalent Göz açıp kapayıncaya kadar but gave its meaning based on associations: the time passed during the blinking; çok kısa; in a very quick manner; happening very quickly, just in some seconds; to give the message; değersiz bir şey; unimportant thing; to consider the life; get ready to do something; bilinmeyen, belirsiz durum; others gave explanations related to visual function of the eyes: Bır bakış atmak to glance at; seeing just a second; seeing light in someone’s eyes; cannot see or understand one’s environmental structure or events. table 3 shows respondents’ answers related to english idioms that have equivalents and analogues in turkish; it reveals a prevalence of answers based on universals (58%); associations (29%) and conceptual representations (13%) make up the remaining part of responses.

table 4 represents all the answers produced by turkish learners while processing english idioms with body part components; it shows that students’ answers are mostly based on associations related to idioms’ components other than body part ones (41%); and the remaining answers are based on universals (32%), and on conceptual representations (27%).

the analysis of results of the experiment with questionnaires conducted among turkish learners of english showed that turkish students who have an intermediate level of english when guessing the meaning of idioms with body part components relied firstly on word associations (41%), then on universal notions (32%), and, lastly, on concepts related to body parts in both english and turkish languages

Table 5 – Distribution of strategies among learners of turkish with intermediate level of english (consolidated results).

 

Concept

Association

Universal

Questionnaire

62

27%

93

41%

73

32%

Interview

4

36%

4

36%

3

28%

Think-aloud protocol

10

36%

14

50%

4

14%

Total

76

28%

111

42%

80

30%

(27%). the analysis of results of the experiment with interviews revealed the following proportion of strategies applied: conceptual base and word associations – 36% each, and universals – 28%. the analysis of the results of the experiment with thinkaloud protocol showed that learners mostly relied on word associations – 50%, on conceptual base – 36%, and, lastly on universals – 14%. a combined table gives a consolidated account lof results of the experiment in its three stages:

as it is seen from table 5, a scale of preference among strategies applied while guessing the meaning of idioms is rather homogeneous: the bigger reliance is revealed on word associations (42%), the second preference is on universals (30%), and the third option is reliance on concepts (28%).

Conclusion

the present research revealed the strategies native speakers of turkish learning english applied while processing english idioms, they are the following – comprehension of idioms based on associations, on concepts and on universal primes. it showed that the acquisition of idioms based on associations was the permanently preferred option by turkish learners irrespective of the idioms’

decomposable structure. as for the two remaining strategies, the study found out that there were variations in respondents’ answers depending on the degree of idioms’ analyzability: they preferred to turn to concepts when dealing with non-decomposable and abnormally decomposable idioms, and to universals when processing english idioms that have equivalents and analogues in turkish. thus, the study highlighted the need for differentiated approach to teaching l2 idioms for the purpose of their more effective comprehension. it emphasized the importance of the instructors’ awareness of the strategies and the approaches to be applied while teaching english idioms.

the present research is believed to contribute to comparative study of english and turkish idioms and their metaphorical conceptualizations defined by cultural peculiarities of two languages, and to enhance further research on the issue. it has certain implications for language teaching practice, for teaching english idioms to native speakers of other languages, i.e. turkish. teaching activities on comprehension of l2 idioms through cognitive processing can be successfully and reasonably introduced to language instruction.

 

References

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Magazine: KazNU BULLETIN
Year: 2013
City: Almaty
Category: Philology