relationship between pebble and calculus and make more inferences when learning related words as calculate, calculation, and incalculable.
Although Pierson’s (1989) examples came with no empirical data in support of the effectiveness of etymology on vocabulary acquisition, his pedagogical proposal has been accepted and further developed in experiments by other researchers. Boers (2001, 2004) conducted a series of large scale empirical studies on the application of etymological elaboration to L2 idioms comprehension and retention. The rationale for these studies is mainly based on the research on conceptual metaphor and the concept of mapping abstract figurative meaning to concrete source domains. As many cognitive linguists have discovered, there is a class of figurative idioms that can be derived from rather specific experiential domains that are associated with historical and cultural origins. Therefore, helping learners understand the metaphoric nature of such idioms can be achieved by reactivating the literal sense of the expression or by tracing back to idioms’ original use in contexts. Such a pedagogical approach is called by Boers (2004) etymological elaboration, which serves as a more specific application of a combination of conceptual metaphor and semantic elaboration strategies.
Etymological elaboration as a pedagogical approach in L2 idiom instruction has been of particular interest in SLA research, and its effectiveness has been examined by Boers,(2000, 2004) with several large-scale studies. One study involved two groups, of which one experimental group was told the literal, original usage of the target idioms while a control group from the same population served as a comparison one who was not given access to the etymological information of the same material. The experimental group was informed, for example, that the idiomatic usage of on the ropes is derived from its literal usage in the context of boxing matches. A post-test and a delayed post-test were administered to measure the effects of the treatment. Scores revealed that the subjects who had been familiar with the etymological information acquired significantly more idioms than the subjects in control group. From 1998 to 2004, Boers, et al. have conducted a series of experiments on the effects of etymological elaboration on idiom acquisition and their results generally support the assumption that helping learners gain access to literal and original usage of target idioms can effectively contribute to their comprehension and retention of idioms.
2.16.1 Etymological Elaboration, an Effective Strategy in Teaching Idioms
Ilson (1983) has defined etymology in a narrow and a broad conception. When etymology is used in learner’s dictionaries, it means the search for ‘etyma’ and cognates in order to find its source in earlier stages of the same language or other languages. The broader conception of etymology includes the search for sources and parallels, and information about how a word, phrase, or sense has come to be as it is. The significant role of etymology in L2 vocabulary learning has long been embraced by researchers in the literature. Zolfagharkhani and GhorbaniMoghadam(2011) conducted a study with Iranian upper- intermediate EFL learners in order to show the impact of etymological instruction on vocabulary learning. The results of their study revealed that the participants receiving treatment (introducing prefixes, suffixes, roots, andorigin of the words) in the experimental group out performed those in the control group, which followed its normal education .Returning to idioms, associating idioms with information about their origin and source domains is called etymological elaboration. As it was mentioned earlier, in cognitive linguistics, it is maintained that the meaning of many idioms is somehow motivated by their literal, original usage. A similar research was conducted on using contextual clues in L2 idiom comprehension have found that guessing from context is an effective strategy and is recurrently used in L2 idiom comprehension.
Cooper (1999 used the think-aloud research method to investigate the kind of strategies L2 learners employ in the comprehension of unfamiliar idioms.The result showed that a number of strategies were used to comprehend idioms: guessing from context (28%), discussing and analyzing the idiom (24%), using the literal meaning (19%), repeating or paraphrasing the idiom (7%), using background knowledge (7%), referring to an L1 idiom (5%), others(2%). The overall results of Cooper’s study revealed that the most frequently used strategy, which was the most successful one, was guessing from context as it led to correct answers 75% of the time. In a similar vein, Cain, Towes, and Knight (2009) investigated the contribution of inference from context to young children’s understanding of idiomatic sentences. They compared 7-8 and 9-10 year-old learner’s abilities to adults in using the strategy of inferencing from context to comprehend idioms. Multiple choice tasks with and without a supportive story context were used in this experiment as an instrument. Children’s performance was compared to adults’ performance after the treatment. Results showed that very young children were sensitive to meanings in context and could process language at the phrasal and discourse level while these processing skills, which help idiom comprehension, were not fully developed in 11-12 year-olds.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English:
“Familiarity with a wide range of idiomatic expressions and the ability to use them appropriately in context are among the distinguishing marks of a native like command of English” (Cowie&Mackin 1975). While many second language learners may be satisfied with something less than ‘native-like’ command, idiomatic usage is so common in English that it can be difficult to speak or write without using idioms (Seidl&McMordie, 1987). Tajalli (2008) states that using idioms in speech can have a great effect on listener or reader. So idioms constitute an integral part of vocabulary learning. The importance of teaching and learning idioms has fostered an interest in developing more effective ways of teaching idioms. One of these which this study sought to investigate is etymological elaboration.
The technique of associating the meaning of idioms with their original, literal usage is referred to as etymological elaboration or EE (Boers, Demecheleer&Eyckmans, 2004). How etymological elaboration helps learners comprehend and retain idioms is not clear yet. As Boers (2004) states: “We cannot be sure about what exactly might be going on in the learners’ brain for etymological elaboration to have this attested mnemonic effect.” One plausible explanation lies in Dual Coding Theory (Clark &Paivio, 1991), as the etymological information is likely to call up a mental image of a concrete scene which then can be stored in memory alongside the verbal form, and which can subsequently provide an extra pathway for recall” (Boers, Eyckmans&Stengers, 2007).
According to Bagheri and Fazel, in recent years, idioms have received overwhelming attention in language pedagogy. Experts in the field have sought ways to optimize learning and teaching of these prefabricated language chunks. It is now maintained that the meaning of idioms which was once deemed as arbitrary is somehow “motivated” by their literal, original usage. Referring to the etymology of idioms in order to understand their idiomatic meaning is called “etymological elaboration”. The study sought to explore the effect of this technique on learners’ retention of idioms. It appears that this effect can be explained by Dual Coding Theory where the etymological association calls up a mental image of a concrete scene which can be stored alongside the verbal form in memory.
In this experiment 50 Iranian advanced students studying English at Bahar Language Institute, Shiraz were divided into two homogeneous groups of experimental and control. The test of the former group comprised a matching task pertaini
ng to the origin of idioms, a multiple-choice task concerning the idiomatic meaning of idioms, a multiple-choice task regarding the idiomatic meaning of idioms and a gap-filling task in which subjects were supposed to provide the missing keyword for each idiom.The control group just had a test including multiple choice as well as gap filling tasks. The matching task was utilized as a treatment to demonstrate the effect of knowing the origin of idioms on the participants’ performance on the other tasks. The participants’ mean scores were calculated, in both “identify-the-meaning” and “gap-filling” tasks, the mean score of participants provided with the etymological elaboration was more than those who did not receive this treatment, which indicated that etymological elaboration enhanced the learners’ comprehension and retention of idioms effectively.
This chapter includes information about participants, materials selection, study design, data collection and analysis. Two instructional approaches, etymological elaboration and definitions of opaque idioms, were incorporated into learning units for experimental and control groups respectively. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected throughout the study and they were analyzed to address the research questions.
The target population of this study were 60 female EFL students at intermediate level of proficiency. All of the participants were native speakers of Persian studying at the Iran Language Institute of Rasht in Iran.
It should be noted that the participants were required to attend the researcher’s private institute and receive treatment through the two methods of instructions. The participants received remuneration for their participation in the study.
To select a sample of homogenous participants from the target population, the standardized Oxford Placement test (OPT) was administered to 150 female EFL students at intermediate level of proficiency. All of the participants were native speakers of Persian studying at the Iran Language Institute of Rasht in Iran. The participants answered three sections including the structure, vocabulary and reading comprehension sections of the test. To randomize the participants, the researcher used Super Cool Random Generator as a randomization tool.
Following the rating score suggested by the OPT, 90 EFL learners whose score fell beyond 31 on the grammar and vocabulary modules and beyond 8 on the reading section were identified as intermediate level students and were randomly selected to three equivalent groups of participants. (See table 1. under the list of tables).
After calculating the OPT results, 90 participants abided and 30 of them considered as pilot group to obtain a reliable and valid test of opaque idioms which were teacher-made. The researcher asked the participants to answer the 80 high frequency opaque idioms that were selected from reliable dictionariessuch as: American Heritage Dictionary, McGraw Hills Dictionary, Collins Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary, Longman Dictionary and also reliable books of English Idioms such as: Idioms Organizer, All Clear, Speak English Like an American, English Idioms in Use, Idioms in English, Street Talk 3 and so on.
By using TAP (Testing Analysis Process) application developed by Brooke, the item facility of the opaque idiom questions were measured. 60 items with facility indices close to zero were selected and included the final draft of the test.(See Appendix 1 under the list of appendices).
The reliability of 60 items of the idiom test was approximated through a pilot study on 30 EFL learners. Moreover, the index of reliability was interpreted according to the reliability