Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Cross-cultural semantic competence and metaphoric usage in the writing of second-language learners
by King, Pamela Ann, Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University, 2011, 401; 3484383
Abstract (Summary)

This research explores whether second language learners' errors can give us a glimpse into differences in underlying conceptualizations between Spanish and English. It investigates meaning by looking at frames, features, prototypes, image schemas, semantic categories, collocations, context, lexical fields, and conceptual/linguistic metaphoric differences across cultures, and is primarily based on cognitive linguistics.

A combination of error and contrastive analysis was used to look at first drafts of essays written by ESL students at Bronx Community College. Forty-five students wrote 12 to 18 essays each for a total of 607 essays and 5,611 errors, which were coded by parts of speech using a QSR NVivo computer program. The errors were translated into Spanish, which gave insight into the reasons for the errors. A great number of errors stem from the fact that across languages, more or less differentiation exists between words. Students made the greatest number of errors with prepositions, and in particular with the Spanish en, which can be parsed into at, in, and on in English. Looking at prepositions in terms of a spatial configuration should help students distinguish among them. Similarly, hacer differentiates into both make and do. In these cases, the Spanish speaker is not obliged to think about the differentiation that is required in conceptualization in English. Additional errors involved for as an earmarker, of meaning "belonging to," and problems that arose with collocation of verbs and prepositions such as marry and with, which operate differently in Spanish and English. Students may learn prototypical meanings of words but not know there are other polysemous meanings attached, which do not necessarily correspond across languages. These findings indicate that, if students could focus on learning the expanded polysemous meanings for a core group of words and differences in collocation across languages, their overall semantic competency would grow.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kleifgen, JoAnne
School: Teachers College, Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 73/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Bilingual education, English as a Second Language, Multicultural Education
Keywords: Cognitive semantics, Cross-cultural differences, English as a second language, Error & contrastive analysis, Features, Metaphor, Prototypes
Publication Number: 3484383
ISBN: 978-1-267-00825-1
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