Learning Phrasal Verbs through Image Schemas: A New Approach

19 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2009 Last revised: 2 Nov 2009

See all articles by Antonio Abreu

Antonio Abreu

Universidade Estadual Paulista

Sarah Barbieri Vieira

São Paulo State University - UNESP

Date Written: October 31, 2008


According to Steen (2006) there are four single perspectives of cognitive approaches to metaphor: 1. metaphor in language as system, 2. metaphor in thought as system, 3. metaphor in language as use 4. metaphor in thought as use. Our aim in this work is to use the combination of 1. and 3., working with the framework of image schemas in order to provide metacognitive skills for understanding metaphorical phrasal verbs in everyday use.

Since Lakoff (1990), Lakoff & Johnson (1999), and more recently Hampe (2006), the study of image schemas has brought to the field of Cognitive Linguistics important achievements to describe metaphorical phenomena. The main idea is that starting from the concept that image schemas reflect human embodied characteristics it would be easier to teach English phrasal verbs not only to native speakers but also to foreign English students, given the statement that all human beings have the same embodied cognitive skills.

The most frequent image schemas are Source-Path-Goal, Container, Balance, Force Dynamics, based on the fact that human beings live in a physical space, are able to maintain their balance, walk, face obstacles, get into certain areas etc.

Observing phrasal verbs such as look up to (to admire someone), put behind (to forget unpleasant experiences), fill in (write in the blanks of a sheet of paper), find out (to reveal), we can easily find out embodied image schemas as to look upwards, (look up = admire), put something behind us (put behind = to forget) - when we locate something behind our bodies we can not see it anymore - put something into a container (fill in = complete), put something out of a container (find out = to reveal) etc.

After having made some descriptions of those data, we applied the analyses as a meta-cognitive strategy, teaching phrasal verbs to Brazilian learners of English. The results were awfully good. Learners could immediatly link the analyzed phrasal verbs and their embodied experiences. They have grasped their meanings two times faster than those submitted to traditional methods.

Since the studies of Favell, (1979), metacognitive strategies play a critical role in successful learning. Defined as awareness of the process of learning, it includes artificial skills like outlining, mnemonics, diagramming. Our statement is that the use of image schemas to describe and teach phrasal verbs works as a very successful natural metacognitive skill.

Keywords: cognitive linguistics, metaphor, image schema

Suggested Citation

Abreu, Antonio and Vieira, Sarah B., Learning Phrasal Verbs through Image Schemas: A New Approach (October 31, 2008). Sarah Vieira, Antonio Abreu, FROM LANGUAGE AS SYSTEM TO LANGUAGE AS USE: IMAGE SCHEMAS IN THE DESCRIPTION AND EXPLANATION OF PHRASAL VERBS IN ENGLISH, October 31, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1491689

Antonio Abreu

Universidade Estadual Paulista

Araraquara SP

Sarah B. Vieira (Contact Author)

São Paulo State University - UNESP ( email )

Rodovia Araraquara-Jaú, Km 1
Araraquara SP, São Paulo 14.800-901
(55)1633016212 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.fclar.unesp.br

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