m etymology on the Iranian EFL learners’ knowledge of opaque idioms. This study hoped to have pedagogical value in the area of idiom teaching and learning in that the findings might suggest an effective strategy in knowledge of opaque idioms of Iranian EFL learners. As a result, teachers of English can use the effective procedure to enhance opaque idiom. In addition, EFL learners can partly overcome the problems they encounter in understanding and acquiring English opaque idioms as well as their use in daily life.
1.3Objective of the study
The main objective of this study is to facilitate the way opaque idioms are learned by Iranian EFL learners. Teaching of those idioms that are unfamiliar to most of the learners of English will be the focus of the present study. To this end the main goal is to find an effective solution to make their meaning more explicit to the students.
1.4 Research Question
The present study will address the following research question:
Does the etymological knowledge of English idioms produce any promising effect on the learning of opaque idioms by Iranian EFL learners?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
In line with the above research question, the following null hypothesis is formulated:
The etymological knowledge of English idioms has no promising effect on the learning of opaque idioms by Iranian EFL learners.
1.6 Definition of the key words
A commonly understood cultural or emotional association that some words or idioms carry, in addition to the word’s or idiom’s explicit or literal meaning, which is its denotation.
The study of the origin and history of idioms which motivates its meaning.
Figurative Meaning of Idiom
“Figurative” has the same root as “figure,” which is another word for a diagram, display; an image or illustration. A “figurative” meaning is a meaning that is not literal; the meaning used is not the meaning of the word or phrase itself, but a different meaning implied by it. This meaning is dependent on culture and history. This is the “indirect” meaning.
For the particular aim of the present study, idiom knowledge is defined as the learners’ scores on a specially designed knowledge test of idioms.
Literal Meaning of Idiom
“Literal” has the same root as “literary,” which means “related to a book.” A “literal” meaning is a meaning that is “by the book,” that is, according to the dictionary meaning. This may be thought of as the “direct” or “straight” meaning.
Metaphorical meaning of idiom
A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in “a sea of troubles”
The meaning of an opaque idiom cannot be derived from the meanings of its individualparts because there are items which have cultural references.
E.g., 1.Up the river (in prison)
Review of the literature
When you learn English idioms, you take English out of textbook and into the real world. The English language can be considered as being made up of two components: (1) “TextbookEnglish” and (2) “Natural English”. The textbook form of English is composed using proper English vocabulary, while strictly adhering to the rules of English grammar. The sentences in textbook English are necessarily grammatically correct and complete in all respects. The natural form of English, on the other hand, allows liberal use of slang, jargon, phrases and idioms, lending a colorful hue to the language.
Natural English is spoken at an informal level, and it is the idioms in the language that give it a natural, conversational and creative feel. So, if you want to speak English fluently, just like a native speaker, it is important that you learn English idioms.
The purpose of this chapter is to provide a theoretical background to the current study by reviewing relevant literature on different English idioms especially opaque idioms, and the effective strategies in opaque idiom knowledge. An opaque idiom is a phrase whose meaning is not clear from the meaning of individual words and which must be learnt as a cultural and whole unit. (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 1999) In other words, the meaning of an idiomatic expression is not the sum of the individual words. For example, the meaning of kick the buckethas little to do with the meaning of kickor bucket.
English is a language particularly rich in idioms – those modes of expression peculiar to aLanguage (or dialect) which frequently defy logical and grammatical rules. Without idioms English would lose much of its variety and humor both in speech and writing. The background and etymological origins of most idioms is at best obscure. This is the reason why a study of differences between the idioms of American and British English is somewhat difficult. But it also makes the cases, where background, etymology and history are known, even more interesting. Some idioms of the “worldwide English” have first been seen in the works of writers like Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Lewis Carroll or even in the paperbacks of contemporary novelists. An example of Shakespearian quotation can be found in the following sentence: “As a social worker, you certainly see the seamy side of life.” Biblical references are also the source of many idioms. Sports terms, technical terms, legal terms, military slang and even nautical expressions have found their way to the everyday use of English language.
Many idioms are similar to expressions in other languages and can be easy for a learner tounderstand. Other idioms come from ancient phrases which have changed over time. For example “To hold one’s horses” means to stop and wait patiently for someone or something. It comes from a time when people rode horses and would have to hold their horses while waiting for someone or something “Hold your horses,” I said when my friend started to leave the store (Niergarth, 2007).Other idioms come from such things as sports that are common in the United Kingdom or the United States and may require some special cultural knowledge to easily understand them. “To cover all of one’s bases” means to thoroughly prepare for or deal with a situation. It comes from the American game of baseball where you must cover or protect the bases. I tried to cover all of my bases when I went to the job interview.
Idioms often present severe problems of meaning, a fact that is reflected in the familiar definition ‘a group of words with a meaning that cannot be deduced from those of the individual words’. However, we need to extend that definition to account for two facts. The first is that idioms appear to vary in the extent to which their overall meaning is derived from those of the parts. Take for example by fair means or foul, where fair means is independently understandable. Then compare ‘the means they used were perfectly fair’, where the use of foul would strike us as rather dated.
The second qualification that has to be made concerns the figurative meaning of idioms. A considerable number have developed metaphorically from some existing, unproblematic, literal, or technical phrase. For example, in the case of an idiom such as close ranks, the whole of the (originally military) phrase has undergone a shift of meaning to become ‘unite to defend common interests’. However, possibly in that case, and certainly in some awareness of an earlier, literal meaning. The latter idiom is thus linked in our experience with its origins in railway usage. For example it can be said, run as well as go off the rails. Such examples suggest that phrases should be seen as spread along a scale, with the fully fixed and most ‘ opaque’ in meaning at one end and the wholly free and most ‘ transpar
ent’ in meaning at the other.
The transparency or opacity of an idiom cannot be measured in absolute terms, as it is affected by the individual’s real world knowledge, awareness of cultural norms, and genera familiarity of the phrase.
2.1 Brief review of idioms structure and definition
2.2.1 Structure of Idioms
Most idioms are unique and fixed in their grammatical structure. The expression to sit onthe fence cannot become to sit on a fence or to sit on the fences. However, there are manychanges that can be made to an idiom Some of these changes result in a change in the grammatical structure that would generally be considered to be wrong. To be broken literally means that something is broken. The lamp is broken so I cannot easily read my book. To be broke is grammatically incorrect but it has the idiomatic meaning of to have no money. I am broke and I cannot go to a movie tonight.
Idioms are a cluster of words or phrases that have a meaning of their own peculiar to thatlanguage. For example, as it has been said that learning English will be a piece of cake – now, you cannot take the meaning of “a piece of cake” in the literal sense; you have to understand it in the idiomatic sense, in which it means “easy” (Gillett, 2004).
Idioms are an interesting phenomenon in languages. A meaning of an idiom is not a sum of its literal parts and often it does not have equivalents in other languages. Thus, idioms can be very difficult for foreign language learners.
There is clearly a need to study idioms from the point of view of second language learning since most of the studies on English idioms have concentrated on how native speakers understand them.
Idioms are a fascinating phenomenon in language and the interest in them has a long tradition (Cacciari&Tabossi 1993: xi). Johnson-Laird (1993/ ix-x) describes idioms as mysterious and “the poetry of daily discourse”. Levorato (1993/ 126) adds that the reason why they are so intriguing is that they engage imagination, can transform abstract meanings into more concrete ones and enrich the meaning of simple concepts. Idiomatic expressions are not a restricted part of the language of popular culture but they exist in every area of human communication (Levorato: 1993/126). They are pervasive, whichemphasises even more their importance in language. Spontaneous speech becomes difficult without the use of idiomatic language. (Johnson- Laird 1993/ x)
The focus in idiom studies has ranged from form and frozenness to metaphoricity and the degree of literalness, i.e. from idiom structure to idiom meaning (M?ntyl? 2004: 26). Different approaches and the different features of idioms have added to the complexity of the term. According to Cacciari and Tabossi (1993: xiii) the difficulties in characterizing idioms is one of the reasons why idioms have attained fairly little attention even though their relevance is unquestionable. Idioms are illogical and frustrating features of
discourse since their meanings do not depend on the meanings of their parts and the syntactic relations of those parts (Johnson-Laird 1993).
Idiom studies have a long tradition in the former Soviet Union and Russia butin the West idioms have not gained any greater attention until recently despite some studies published in the 1960s and 1970s (M?ntyl?; 2004/ 48). In spite of the increased number of studies on idioms, scholars have not been able to agree on definition of the term. However, what is agreed on is that idioms are very difficult to characterize and as M?ntyl? (2004, p 36) points out, it is impossible to define them in an indisputable way.
M?ntyl? (2004, p 26) thinks that the character, range of literalness andfigurativeness as well as the relationship between them appears to be the main point with idioms. This is the case since it is difficult to define the relationship of idioms to other metaphorical and multi-word expressions. However, M?ntyl? (2004, p26) points out that there are also other features of idioms that have been considered, such as their structure. The definition of the term has depended on