2.16 Etymological elaboration……………………………………………………..46
2.16.1 Etymological Elaboration, an Effective Strategy in Teaching Idioms………51
Chapter Three
3.0. Introduction…………………………………………………………………… 56
3.1. Participants………………………………………………………………………56
3.2. Instruments………………………………………………………………………56
3.3. Procedures………………………………………………………………………57
Chapter Four
4.0. Introduction…………………………………………………………………….61
4.1. Descriptive statistics for experimental and control groups’ posttest……………62
4.2. Results of Hypothesis Testing…………………………………………………63
4.3. Summary of the results…………………………………………………………64
Chapter Five
5.0. Introduction………………………………………………………………….66
5.1. Summary of the findings…………………………………………………….66
5.2. Pedagogical implications…………………………………………………… 67
5.3. Limitations and delimitations of the study……………………………………68
5.4. Suggestions for the further research………………………………………….68
5.5. Interview………………………………………………………………………69
On Etymological Elaboration and its Potential Effect on the Iranian EFL Learner’s Knowledge of Opaque Idioms.
Idioms are much more than ‘decorative icing’ to the language; they are an integral feature of both written and spoken English. The ability to comprehend and use idiomatic language is one of the distinguishing marks of native-like competence. In this research study, 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; Iran. After calculating OPT results and validating the idioms test through pilot study, the participants were divided into two groups to receive different treatments: Control Group:received no Etymological knowledge, but they received treatment through a conventional method, (definition of the opaque idioms with examples).Experimental Group:received instruction through etymological elaboration, (Etymological Information with examples). The research question sought to investigate which technique of teaching idioms yields better results in improving learners’ opaque idioms knowledge. The results of the opaque idioms posttest indicated that the group instructed through etymological elaboration had better performance, the group receiving explicit instruction of opaque idioms’ definitions had lower performance. However, the T-Test procedure revealed that the difference between the performances of the two groups were statistically significant. In other words, etymological information of the opaque idioms had significantly different effect on the learners’ knowledge of opaque idioms.Based on the results, it can be concluded that etymological information of idioms has differential effects on the knowledge of opaque idioms of Iranian EFL learners. In addition, etymological information is conducive to Iranian intermediate learners’ knowledge of opaque idioms.
Chapter 1
Statement of the problem
1.0 introduction

Teaching and learning English idioms have long been a difficult task for both EFL students and teachers in Iran due to some reasons such as lack of resources and little contact with the target language (Sadeghi, 2005). Among different components of a language (grammar, vocabulary, phrasal verbs, idioms, expressions…) learning the idioms is probably the most difficult task to be accomplished. In one hand, learning idioms has always been a big problem for students, especially foreign language learners. On the other hand, any foreign language learner knows that idioms are essential and their shortage leads to a feeling of insecurity.
According to Glucksberg (2001) the meaning of the idioms can be guessed from the meaning of one of their subcomponents but usually the meaning is completely different, this is the reason why they are so tricky for students. Boers (1992) stated that it is inevitable for students to face problems dealing with idioms by knowing this fact that their meanings are not clear and are motivated by their original, literal usage and the meanings of idioms cannot be attained directly at the first look and the tricky nature of idioms makes students face problems extracting their meanings.
Since L2 learners have difficulties in learning and using the phrasal words and idioms, and the traditional methods used by teachers do not make significant changes in L2 learner’s idiom learning, new techniques for teaching idioms to L2 learners are required. By the emergence of new approaches to teach a second language, finding a good method to teach idioms has been the main concern of some researchers (e.g., Elena & Moreno, 2001; Cook, Fazly, & Stevenson, 2007). To the researchers best knowledge; few studies have been conducted to examine the effect of different methods of teaching idioms to EFL learners.
As a result, this study is designed to investigate the effect of etymological information ofidioms on Iranian EFL learners’ knowledge of opaque idioms.
1.1 statement of the problem
Language, according to Hudson (1980), is at the center of human life and the ability to learn language is among the greatest mental achievements of mankind. Studies of language in television news programs have found that speakers use one unique metaphor for every 25 words (Grasser, Mio, & Millis, 1989). Linguists and educators in various language-related fields have been able to understand, to some extent, what language is and how it is learned as a second or foreign language and how it can be taught. Language is composed of many different parts each of which is important in learning. Learning and understanding idioms, metaphoric, and idiomatic expressions have long played an important role in the English language. In fact, the use of idioms is so widespread that understanding these expressions is essential to successful communication, whether in listening, speaking, reading, or writing.
The importance of idioms has been emphasized by linguists and language teachers in recent years. Bortfeld (2003) believes that the increasing number of idioms in Dictionary of American Idioms (Boatner, Gates, &Makkai, 1975;1995) is indicative of the essential role idioms play in daily language use. According to Salehi (2012), in recent years, idioms have received considerable amount of attention in EFL contexts. Linguists have sought ways to promote learning and teaching methods of these prefabricated language chunks. It is now believed thatthe meaning of all idioms is not arbitrary but somehow ‘motivated’ by their literal, original usage. This technique is called ‘etymological elaboration’. Idioms can be transparent and opaque in nature. Transparent idioms are those idioms that can be more easily understood. Examples are (“lend me a hand”, “hit the nail on the head”). Opaque idioms may have specific meaning that cannot easily be discerned. Opaque idioms may need more direction explanation and the use of other descriptions to help students understand the meaning. Examples are (“he’s pulling your leg”, “green thumb”).Many of English learners even those who have achieved advanced levels of English skills such as speaking, listening and etc, maybe deficient at cultural fields of language, because culture of an area is a unique matter of its own. Different countries, cities and even neighborhoods have distinct stories behind them and originated from that unique context and then will be transferred to the society. According to Brown(1994, p.170) culture is deeply ingrained part of the very fiber of our being, but language -the means for communication among members of a culture- is the most visible and available expression of that culture. An idiom is a phrase that is commonly used within a given culture and understood to have a meaning different from its literal meaning.
Glucksberg (2001) states that “what sets idioms apart from most other fixed expressions is their ‘non-logical’ nature, that is, the absence of any discernable relation between their linguistic meanings and their idiomatic meanings” (p. 68). This point of view is supported by Cooper (1998) who compares idioms to metaphors; “[a]n idiom can have a literal meaning, but its alternate, figurative meaning must be understood metaphorically. For example, over the hill can mean on the other side of the hill, but the figurative meaning is to be very old” (p. 255). Bromley (1994) goes even further by saying that “its meaning cannot be inferred grammatically, neither can meaning be determined from its literal translation, nor can meaning always be determined from the surrounding material “(p. 274). Without a doubt, this presents language learners with a special learning problem. Because idioms can mean something different from what the words mean. It can be difficult for someone not knowing the culture of that language and the story and the origins behind them thus the person cannot use them properly and does not how to deal with them.
Although research on the effect of etymological elaboration (provision of information about a word’s origin and background in instruction) on L2 idiom acquisition has showed that it is a useful mnemonic approach that can help L2 learners retain target idioms (Boers, Demecheleer, Eyckmans, 2000, 2004, 2007 ). Idiom learning constitutes a difficult part in second language acquisition because idioms are word collocations with figurative meanings that cannot be easily predicted from the literal meanings of their constituent parts(Cooper, 1999).
In order to understand an opaque idiom, one needs to know the culture references of that idiom. For example, most native North American speakers know that “up the river” means “to or in prison” and can use the idiom properly, but few know it, because this phrase originated with reference to Sing Sing prison, which is situated up the Hudson River from the city of New York. Therefore, in these conditions learning idioms seems so complicated and though. Knowing where your students are coming from makes it easier to anticipate what they might find difficult (or just strange) in class. Young children are inherently capable of learning the necessary phonemes, morphemes, and syntax as they mature. In other words, they have a genetic propensity to learn language. Language acquisition is a major aspect ofthis learning. How children actually learn a language is not entirely clear, however. Most linguists believe that they do it primarily by listening to and trying to communicate with adult speakers. Initially, this means that they imitate the phonemes. Later they begin to learn grammar by imitation as well. But learning the culture of the language needs more attention and it is a complicated matter in our country, Iran. Because, originally we are a traditional country and our focus is more on the grammatical cases of language.
The main goal of learning English language in Iran is just knowing some grammatical rules and communicating just to satisfy our basic needs. Yet nowadays the goals of learning English are very different from those times. In addition to grammatical rules, we must know cultural norms of that language as they are called cultural connotation .Knowing and using the origins and histories of opaque idioms is a part of cultural studies that in our country is not considered carefully and have been ignored in many cases .Many studies conducted on idioms have investigated different processes which are used during L1 idiom acquisition. In spite of this, the processes involved in L2 idioms representation are still a serious challenge in L2 idioms acquisition; as a result, second language learners have major problems in learning idioms.
According to Boers and Demecheleer, idioms with a clear etymological origin tend to be more transparent than those whose origin has become obscure. For example the etymological origin of under one’s own steam (i.e, steam energy on ships and trains) is probably clearer to most language users than that of its underway.
Conventions differ across cultures, so the straightforward images need not be self-evident in another. The imageable idioms of a given language may not call up the same conventional scenes in the minds of learners of that language. She broke my heart, for example, may be semantically quite opaque to members of community whose culture does not conceive of the heart as the seat of emotions (Fernando, 1996 124_35). Comprehension problems caused by such outspoken cross-culture differences will mostly be confined to situations where distant cultures meet.
1.2 significance of the study
Idioms are an important part of any language and there are many types of idioms. So, they should be learnt and taught appropriately since they are part of what is broadly considered to be general English (Moreno, 2011). The present study will investigate the impact of idiom 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
Cultural connotation
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.
Etymological Elaboration
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.
Idiom knowledge
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”
Opaque Idiom
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)
Chapter 2
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 ‘ transparent’ 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 which feature is emphasized. Some characteristics of idioms are
more important than others but there must be many features involved in order to call an expression an idiom (M?ntyl? 2004, p28).
Fernando (1996: 3) lists three features that are commonly brought up with idioms: compositeness, institutionalization and semantic opacity. Compositeness means that idioms consist of more than one word, i.e. they are multiword expressions. Institutionalization denotes that idioms are the end product of ‘ad hoc’ expressions which have conventionalized and, therefore, idioms are conventionalized expressions. Semantic opacity stands for nonliteral features of idioms. The meanings of idioms are not the sum of their literal parts. However, Fernando (1996, p3) admits that these three characteristics
occur very commonly in many types of multiword expressions. It means that also such expressions as collocations, proverbs and similes can be categorized as idioms. Thus, there must be also other features that distinguish idioms from other similar expressions.
M?ntyl? (2004: 28-35) discusses five features that are generally considered when characterizing idioms. They are metaphoricity/figurativeness (they are used as synonyms), analysability/non-compositionality, fixedness of form, level of formality and multi-word expressions. Metaphoricity is regarded as anessential feature of an idiom and it is also the most commonly mentioned one. Non-compositionality is seen as an indication that idioms are dead, i.e. their meanings are arbitrary and not figurative. Fixedness of form, on the other hand, means that idioms do not tolerate any variation in their structure, they are frozen. The level of formality is connected to idioms in the sense that they are considered to belong to informal, spoken language rather than to formal, written language. Finally, idioms involve more than one word and, therefore, they are multi-word expressions.

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However, M?ntyl? (2004, p.28-35) challenges these views. The five featuresmentioned above are reviewed on the basis of other idiom studies and each characteristic is critically considered as well as their significance in defining idioms. According to M?ntyl? (2004: 28) idioms are no longer seen as merely dead, frozen metaphors. There are several idioms that are not dead or frozen. The connection between metaphoricity and the origins of an idiom can be detected and idioms, in fact, tolerate variations. Nevertheless, if idioms are not arbitrary but they perform as single arbitrary words, it adds to the complexity of these expressions (M?ntyl? 2004, p.27). Despite this, idioms are more comprehensible if fixed notions about idiom features are put aside and their figurativeness is acknowledged. All in all, M?ntyl? (2004, p.35) remarks that instead of the importance or degree of any single feature, idiom should consist of the combination of these features. None of the features mentioned above is alone enough to label an expression as an idiom.
It is argued that figurative meaning is a function of so-called ‘literal’ meaning, and can only exist on the basis of compositional semantic structures. Idioms are approached as expressions that employ culturally prominent source domain scenarios in a figurative way with the purpose of projecting a clear evaluation onto a complex target situation.

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