Never judge a wolf by its cover. An investigation into the relevance of phrasemes included in advanced learners' dictionaries for learners of English as an additional language in Australia

Author: Julia Liliane Miller

Miller, Julia Liliane, 2011 Never judge a wolf by its cover. An investigation into the relevance of phrasemes included in advanced learners' dictionaries for learners of English as an additional language in Australia, Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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Native speakers of English use idioms, proverbs and similes, collectively known as 'phrasemes', to communicate in a variety of settings and in a variety of ways. However, phrasemes can cause problems for learners of English as an additional language (EAL). Not knowing that a word belongs to a phraseme, they may look for the item in their monolingual English learners' dictionary (MELD), but MELDs often vary in their choice of headword, and consistency is not guaranteed even within a single dictionary. After finding the meaning of an item, learners may not know with whom the phraseme should be used, since native English speakers in different countries, such as Australia and the UK, may not use the same phrasemes, and usage may vary according to age group. Such differences may not be reflected in MELDs. This thesis addresses an original area of investigation at the intersection of three related fields: (1) the concept of communicative competence, with regard to EAL learning and teaching; (2) lexicography, particularly in relation to MELDs; and (3) phraseology, in regard to the use of phrasemes by native speakers of English. The investigation aimed to discover which phrasemes are used by which age groups in the UK and Australia and whether age and country usage need to be addressed by MELDS more accurately in their inclusion and labelling of phrasemes. The two hypotheses investigated are that (1) people in the same geographical location will have similar knowledge, and perhaps similar use, of phrasemes, regardless of their age (a regional model); and (2) age has a greater influence than location, so that people in the same age group in two locations will have similarities in phraseme knowledge and use (a generational model). Literature regarding lexicography, EAL learning and phraseology is addressed, and a gap in research into phraseme use by native speakers of English is identified. The methodology takes an emic (intralingual) and etic (interlingual) perspective, providing qualitative and quantitative data. Data were collected through an online questionnaire completed by over 1000 participants from different age groups of native English speakers in the UK and Australia. It was found that the generational model of phraseme use is more accurate than the regional model. The results provide a description of phraseme use that should be applied to the coverage of phrasemes in future MELDs used in Australia, with two major implications for lexicographers and publishers. First, future research needs to ascertain if the label 'British English' in MELDs means that these items are used in the UK rather than the US, or whether these items are only used in the UK and not in other English speaking countries such as Australia. Secondly, the old-fashioned label should be clarified or a youth label introduced. These changes would greatly benefit the communicative competence of EAL learners in the use of phraseology.

Keywords: lexicography,phraseology,EAL,English,learner,Australia,age,region

Subject: Humanities thesis, French thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2011
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Dr Colette Mrowa-Hopkins