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Cultural and Linguistic Encounters

Arab EFL Learners Encoding and Decoding Idioms

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Anissa Daoudi

Idioms are universal to all languages, and figurative language is pervasive in everyday discourse. However, idiom studies rarely touch on the problems figurative language can present to non-native speakers. This book sets out to provide an original analysis of the issue, focusing on a number of languages, including Arabic, Berber, French and English. The author addresses the question of idiomaticity from linguistic, psycholinguistic and pedagogical perspectives, highlighting in particular the strategies used by Arab learners (primarily Saudis and Algerians) to decode and encode idioms.
The book explores in detail the process of identifying idioms and the factors that affect comprehension. The author also analyses the current state of bilingual Arabic-English-Arabic dictionaries and asks to what extent learners can rely on them as a source for decoding idioms.

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Chapter FourDictionary Use, Idiom Production 101

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CHAPTER FOUR Dictionary Use, Idiom Production All types of dictionaries are, in principle, concerned with idiomatic usage, particularly since such entries are significant to both native and foreign lan‑ guage users. As defined earlier, an idiom is an institutionalized expression consisting of at least two morphemes, in which the meaning of the whole is not a product of the parts, and which involves at least one deficiency of a structural, semantic or pragmatic nature. One of the characteristics of an idiom is its institutionalization, i.e. its inclusion in the dictionary, which takes place after a long period of use, as idioms are called ‘dead metaphors’. Research into dictionary use and dictionary requirements can be recog‑ nized in a number of ways. Hartmann (2001) distinguished four categories of investigation (Nessi, 2000: 3). First, research into the information cat‑ egories presented in dictionaries. In other words, research into dictionary typology. Second, research into specific dictionary user groups is referred to by Hartmann as ‘user typology’. Third, is research into the contexts of dictionary use ‘needs typology’. And finally, research into dictionary look‑ up strategies, known as ‘skills typology’. For the purpose of the present study, a discussion follows of the specific dictionary user group (EFL Arab subjects) and their look‑up strategies as advanced language learners using bilingual dictionaries (Arabic‑English‑ Arabic). In this section, some investigations will be made of the dif ferent types of looking‑up operations and the skills required to make them suc‑ cessful. Before that, however, an...

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