Date: Mon, 02 Feb 2004 17:54:10 +0100 From: Marcus Callies Subject: Word Power: Phrasal Verbs and Compounds
Rudzka-Ostyn, Brygida (2003) Word Power: Phrasal Verbs and Compounds, A Cognitive Approach, Mouton de Gruyter, Planet Communication -- Mouton Textbook, edited by Paul Ostyn.
Marcus Callies, Department of English, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany & University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.
Contrary to what the title may suggest, "Word Power: Phrasal Verbs and Compounds, A Cognitive Approach" is not a book on cognitive linguistics, but "a textbook for guided self-learning intended for post-intermediate and advanced learners of English", containing "some 1,100 phrasal verbs and compounds used with 17 particles and/or prepositions which combine with some 500 different verbs, nouns and adjectives" (p. v). The book aims "to help more advanced grown-up learners to rapidly and significantly expand their lexicon" (p. v) and is to be used for preliminary individual work by the student outside the classroom, as well as for teacher-student and student group-work in class.
The book opens with a short introductory chapter titled "Words and the World" which describes the syntactic and semantic properties of phrasal verbs. It also briefly explains the fundamental underlying principles of language such as categorization and conceptualization, and points out the metaphorical nature of language in general (conceptual mapping using conceptual metaphors) and of phrasal verbs in particular: "English phrasal verbs, especially by the metaphorical use of the particle, enable us to conceive of several abstract domains in terms of concrete domains" (p.7). In order to visualize the spatial and extended metaphorical meanings of phrasal verbs, the book uses abstract drawings that are supposed to serve as schemata, i.e. mental representations of the underlying spatial orientation of the respective particle. The design of the schemata is based on two core notions borrowed from cognitive semantics to explain the human perception of the world: "we unconsciously foreground or focus on a (moving) entity and view it against a background seen as container or surface" (p. 9), subsequently termed "trajector" and "landmark", respectively.
The phrasal verbs and compounds covered in this book are grouped and organized around 17 different particles/ prepositions, each particle/preposition being treated in an individual chapter. The chapter titles are intended to capture the underlying spatial orientation of each particle: OUT is leaving a container, IN is entering or being inside a container, INTO is entering a container, UP is positive verticality, DOWN is negative verticality, OFF is breaking contact, AWAY is disappearing, ON is contact, OVER is higher than and close to, BACK is returning, ABOUT is dispersion, (A)ROUND is vicinity, ABOUT/(A)ROUND is dispersion vs. circular motion, ACROSS is motion to opposite side, THROUGH is crossing a container, BY is vicinity or path, ALONG is parallel path or entity.
Each chapter is introduced by some basic information as to the frequency of use, the lexical category and the meanings of the respective particle. The chapters are then divided into smaller subsections which focus on different aspects of meaning, such as chapter 1 "OUT is leaving a container", which contains the subsections
1.1 OUT: entities moving out of container 1.2 OUT: eat or inviting to eat away from home 1.3 OUT: sets, groups are containers 1.4 OUT: bodies, minds, mouths are viewed as containers 1.5 OUT: states/situations are containers 1.6 OUT: non-existence, ignorance, invisibility also function as containers 1.7 OUT: trajectors increasing to maximal boundaries
These subsections are in turn introduced by the abstract drawings mentioned above and mainly consist of sets of so-called "exetests" (a blend of "exercise" and "test"), sometimes supplemented by short explanatory text passages. These exetests are fill-in-the-blank exercises, comprising a number of individual sentences in which students have to provide a missing phrasal element. There are three ways to access the missing phrase: (i) the lexical material to be used to fill in the blanks is alphabetically arranged on top of each exetest, (ii) the initial letter of each missing element is indicated to the right of each exercise sentence, and (iii) there is a solution key to the exercises at the end of each chapter. Furthermore, supposedly less frequently used words that occur in the exercise sentences are glossed at the end of each exetest, allowing the teacher to use the book in very heterogeneous classes. Most chapters also include a section called "Expand and test your knowledge of X" and consist of a variety of exercises in some of which students are asked to explain or paraphrase the meanings of selected (pairs of) phrasal verbs in their own words.
Phrasal verbs are notoriously difficult for learners of a foreign language, since they are widely believed to be arbitrary in that their meanings usually cannot be identified by combining the meanings of the constituent parts. However, research in cognitive linguistics has shown that not only metaphorical expressions 'proper', e.g. phrases such as "a hot debate" or "to invest time", but also idioms, phrasal verbs and possibly more varied figurative expressions are in fact metaphorically motivated (e.g. Gibbs 1990, Gibbs and O'Brien 1990, Kövecses and Szábo 1996), and can be traced back to a common underlying metaphoric theme or source domain. Additionally, lexical research has uncovered that there is a systematicity underlying the formation of many phrasal verbs (see Sansome 2000 for a discussion and practical suggestions how this insight is relevant for foreign language teaching).
The last decade has seen a number of publications that recognize the importance of figurative language in foreign language learning and teaching, and suggest the integration of metaphorically motivated language in particular into ESL/EFL teaching as a means to expand students' vocabulary, or to provide an additional channel for vocabulary acquisition (Lazar 1996; Deignan, Gabrys and Solska 1997; Boers 2000; Beissner 2002). Studies in applied linguistics have shown that the lexical organization of vocabulary along metaphoric themes can raise foreign language learners' metaphor awareness, thus enhancing the understanding and retention of unfamiliar figurative expressions (e.g. Boers 2000).
This book successfully combines the findings of cognitive and applied linguistics and implements them into ESL/EFL teaching material. The phrasal verbs and compounds are grouped around each particle, thereby revealing their underlying spatial orientation and metaphorical motivation. This organizational principle is designed to raise metaphor awareness on the side of the student, and at the same time uncovers the figurative network of seemingly unrelated lexical items by using the underlying metaphoric themes as a type of alternative lexical field (cf. Boers 2000: 553). Additionally, and despite the very short introductory chapter, the book manages to capture the basic information needed to understand the cognitive approach, and it explains well how the figurative senses of the particles are extended from its spatial senses through conceptual metaphors(pp. 2-5).
Having said that, I'd like to make some suggestions which may help to improve the book still further. Given that the book is explicitly intended for self-study and gives only very little information on the linguistic background, it seems desirable to include at least some basic literature and suggestions for further reading, such as the classic text, but also more recent introductory works on the contemporary theory of metaphor (Lakoff and Johnson 1980 and e.g. Kövecses 2002). However, a reference list or further reading section is missing.
The author quite heavily draws on frequency information throughout the text, e.g. "less frequently used words" (p. v, vii) or "OFF is after UP and OUT the third most frequently used particle" (p. 121), but nowhere in the book is there any reference as to where this information is taken from, be it from recent corpus studies, modern corpus-based dictionaries such as the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, or the author's own observations and findings. This lack of references makes it impossible to verify the frequency information given in the text. Neither is there an index to all the phrasal verbs covered in the book.
The major point of criticism, however, relates to the make-up of the exercises. Despite the fact that the preface acknowledges that "learners fix new words or new meanings in a foreign language best  if they are embedded in contexts" (p. v), the exetests actually consist of isolated and unrelated sentences which are not embedded in surrounding co(n)-text, thus not sufficiently contextualized. Moreover, as was mentioned above, the majority of exercises (except for the "Expand and test your knowledge of X" sections which feature different kinds of vocabulary exercises) are basically fill-in-the? blank sentences, and students are likely to get bored with them. The use of more varied vocabulary activities and appropriately contextualized real-life material such as advertisements, newspaper clippings, sayings, or even poems (cf. Lazar 2003) would certainly help to make the exercise sections more lively and increase students' motivation for self-study. In fact, although the book is designed for post- intermediate and advanced students of English, the nature of the exercises, and the fact that the missing elements can be figured out all too easily, makes it more suitable for intermediate than advanced learners (for potentially more advanced and challenging exercises see the suggestions made by Boers 2000 and Beissner 2002).
Nevertheless, the book is a welcome and long-awaited contribution to the field of EFL/ESL teaching. It successfully applies the findings of cognitive linguistics to foreign language teaching and is probably one of the first of its kind in that it explicitly adopts a cognitive semantic approach in a pedagogical context for the presentation and teaching of phrasal verbs (see Lindstromberg 1996 and Boers and Demecheleer 1998 for a similar approach to the teaching of prepositions).
Beissner, Kirsten (2002), I see what you mean ? Metaphorische Konzepte in der (fremdsprachlichen) Bedeutungskonstruktion. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang.
Boers, Frank (2000), "Metaphor Awareness and Vocabulary Retention", Applied Linguistics 21:4, 553-571.
Boers, Frank and Murielle Demecheleer (1998), "A cognitive semantic approach to teaching prepositions", ELT Journal 52:3, 197-204.
Deignan, Alice, Gabrys, Danuta, and Agnieszka Solska (1997), "Teaching English metaphors using cross- linguistic awareness-raising activities", ELT Journal 51:4, 352-360.
Gibbs, Raymond W. (1990), "Psycholinguistic Studies on the Conceptual Basis of Idiomaticity", Cognitive Linguistics, 1:4, 417-451.
Gibbs, Raymond W. and O'Brien, Jennifer E. (1990), "Idioms and Mental Imagery: The Metaphorical Motivation for Idiomatic Meaning", Cognition, 36:1, 35-68.
Kövecses, Zoltan (2002), Metaphor. A Practical Introduction. Oxford: OUP.
Kövecses, Zoltan and Szabó, Peter (1996), "Idioms: A View from Cognitive Semantics", Applied Linguistics 17:3, 326- 355.
Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson (1980), Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lazar, Gilian (1996), "Using figurative language to expand students' vocabulary", ELT Journal 50:1, 43-51.
Lazar, Gilian (2003), Meanings and Metaphors. Activities to Practise Figurative Language. Cambridge: CUP.
Lindstromberg, Seth (1996), "Prepositions: meaning and method", ELT Journal 50:3, 225-236.
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. With New Words Supplement (2001). München: Langenscheidt-Longman.
Sansome, Rosemary (2000), "Applying lexical research to the teaching of phrasal verbs", IRAL 38:1, 59?69.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Marcus Callies is a doctoral candidate in English Linguistics at Philipps-University Marburg, Germany and currently a Visiting Research Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests include Contrastive Linguistics (German-English), Second Language Acquisition (with a focus on discourse-functional aspects of learner language and interlanguage pragmatics) and cross-cultural metaphor.