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UNIVERSITATEA “DUNĂREA DE JOS”, GALAŢI

FACULTATEA DE LITERE

LUCRARE METODICO-ŞTIINŢIFICĂ ÎNTOCMITĂ ÎN

VEDEREA OBŢINERII GRADULUI DIDACTIC I

Coordonator ştiinţific:

Prof. univ. dr. Mariana Neagu

Candidat:

Prof. Lepădatu (Onosă) Iuliana-Dorina

Galaţi

2018
UNIVERSITATEA “DUNĂREA DE JOS”, GALAŢI

FACULTATEA DE LITERE

SPECIALIZAREA: LIMBA ENGLEZĂ

TEACHING AND LEARNING ENGLISH VOCABULARY

THROUGH SEMANTIC RELATIONS

IN SECONDARY SCHOOL

Coordonator ştiinţific:

Prof. univ. dr. Mariana Neagu

Candidat:

Prof. Lepădatu (Onosă) Iuliana-Dorina

Şcoala Gimnazială “Nedelcu Chercea”, Brăila

Galaţi

2018
CONTENTS

Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………… 5

Chapter I – Teaching vocabulary ………………………………………………………. 8

I.1. The role of vocabulary in language learning ……………………………. 8

I.2. Selecting words to teach ………………………………………………… 10

I.3. What knowing a word means …………………………………………… 13

Chapter II – Semantic relations and vocabulary acquisition and teaching ………….. 16

II.1. Sense relations and their importance

in teaching and learning vocabulary ……………………… 16

II.1.1. Synonymy ……………………………………………………… 20

II.1.2. Antonymy ……………………………………………………… 28

II.1.3. Homonymy …………………………………………………….. 32

II.1.4. Polysemy ………………………………………………………. 36

II. 1.5. Hyponymy …………………………………………………….. 41

II. 1.6. Meronymy …………………………………………………….. 43

II.2. Semantic fields and vocabulary teaching …………………………….. 45

II.3. Teaching vocabulary through sense relations ………………………… 48

II.3.1. Presentation techniques ………………………………………. 49

II.3.1.1. Visual techniques ……………………………………. 49

II.3.1.2. Verbal techniques …………………………………... 51

II.3.2. Student-centred learning ……………………………………… 54

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II.3.3. Vocabulary practice ………………………………………..... 56

II.3.4. Vocabulary production ………………………………………. 58

II.4. Strategies and aids for

acquiring words through sense relations …………………….. 60

Chapter III – Research on teaching and learning

English vocabulary through polysemy …………………………. 73

III.1. Introduction to research ………………………………………………... 73

III. 2. Research methodology ………………………………………………... 75

III.2.1. The aim of the research ………………………………………….. 75

III.2.2. The hypothesis of the research …………………………………... 76

III.2.3. The participants and the design of the research …………………. 76

III.2.4. The phases of the research.

Research instruments and variables …………………….77

III.2.5. Describing activities for teaching and learning

vocabulary through polysemy …………………………. 81

III.2.6. Analysis of the results obtained

by students after vocabulary testing ………………………... 94

Conclusions ……………………………………………………………………………… 99

Annexes ………………………………………………………………………………… 102

Bibliography …………………………………………………………………………….135

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INTRODUCTION

Vocabulary is essential to English learning because, without sufficient


vocabulary items, people cannot understand others or express and communicate their own
ideas and thoughts. It plays an indispensable role in the development of all four receptive
and productive skills – listening, reading, speaking, writing. Even if learning a language
cannot be reduced to only learning vocabulary, it is true that “no matter how well the students
learn grammar, without words to express a wide range of meanings, communication just
cannot happen in any meaningful way.” (McCarthy, 1991) An inadequate and poor
vocabulary may cause a complete failure to transmit a message because “without vocabulary,
nothing can be conveyed”. (Wilkins, 1984)

The reason for which I decided to write this paper on teaching vocabulary
through semantic relations is the fact that I realised that teaching vocabulary is one of the
most challenging activities in the class. Also, the idea of this paper came from the wish to
improve the process of teaching and especially help students learn vocabulary. In my
experience as a teacher, I have frequently noticed that students face difficulties while
learning new English words. They can memorise new words, but some of them are unable
to understand and produce sentences which contain frequent words of everyday language,
despite the fact that some of them have been learning English for several years. The most
basic type of problem is the inability to retrieve vocabulary that has been taught. There are
many times when I resort to traditional approaches (using definitions, translations, word
lists), but is simple memorisation of words an efficient technique? Is learning vocabulary
something more than just memorising lists of words? Will students be able to understand,
remember and use these words by simply learning them by heart? Should I try something
new in teaching vocabulary?

That is why I felt the necessity to find a solution to improving students’


performance in using English vocabulary and to investigate a variety of techniques that can
help learners achieve new words and, thus, develop their vocabulary and their ability to
master it.

The research investigates the effect of teaching vocabulary through semantic


relations versus traditional approaches and also explores the effect of this strategy on
students’ achievement of vocabulary items. So, the research is conducted in order to

5
investigate the effectiveness of teaching vocabulary through semantic relations and attempts
to answer the question: Is teaching vocabulary through semantic relations an efficient way
of enriching students’ vocabulary?

The paper is organised into three sections:

Chapter I includes some general considerations on teaching vocabulary, emphasising the


importance that vocabulary has in learning English. Vocabulary plays a very important role
in the whole process of language learning because it is a meaningful indicator of progress in
other skills, such as reading, writing, speaking, listening.

It also presents some principles of selecting words to teach, pointing out that teaching
vocabulary can seem a very discouraging activity, but teachers should know that students do
not need to produce all the words in language. There are words that learners will just need
to recognise. Teachers have to select frequent and useful words to teach according to the
needs of their students and, after choosing the words to be taught, they have to take into
account what learners need to know about these words and how they can be taught.

The numerous aspects of vocabulary knowledge are also presented in this chapter. Knowing
a word is not just knowing its meaning- it also means knowing its spelling, pronunciation,
multiple meanings depending on context, collocations, connotations.

Chapter II has as focal points the theoretical background on semantic relations and their
importance for effective vocabulary teaching and learning. This chapter is divided into
several subchapters related to types of semantic relations and their teaching implications. It
also presents some methodological aspects of teaching vocabulary: teaching techniques
(teacher-centred techniques and student-centred learning), strategies and aids for acquiring
words through semantic relations.

I will try to show that learning vocabulary is something more than memorising lists of
unrelated words. Vocabulary does not consist of a random collection of items and the
meaning of a word can be understood and learnt in terms of its relationships with other words
in the language. Semantic relations used to teach vocabulary help students learn words in a
systematised manner, build semantic networks between new words and known words,
facilitating the storage, memory and retrieval of words for actual use. According to
Thornbury (2002), learners need tasks and strategies to help them organise their mental
lexicon by building networks of associations.

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The understanding of these relations between words help students know where to use words
in a sentence, how and where to use words in a social setting, what all the meanings of a
word are, what other words might be used in their place.

Chapter III presents a research whose aim is to show that teaching new vocabulary through
polysemy (words that have multiple related meanings) enhances the students’ acquisition of
vocabulary. I decided to use this sense relation in teaching vocabulary because, during my
teaching experience, I have noticed that, even if language textbooks make use of sense
relations in presenting new words, they pay less attention to polysemy. It seems that
polysemy is the most neglected sense relation. I start from the idea that, even if polysemy is
a source of difficulty for learners, if they understand the relation between the central and
extended meanings of a polysemous word, they will enrich their vocabulary and increase
their retention of words. This way of teaching vocabulary is related to powerful cognitive
processes for learning. I believe that this is an efficient technique that improves students’
understanding of words necessary to the real knowledge and communication.

The conclusion deals with the new challenges that the teaching of English must take to
adapt to new techniques.

There are also some annexes added to this paper. They include the tests that I have given to
the students accompanied by their answer key and interpretation. The rest of the annexes
present the worksheets used in the activities and the answer keys to the exercises in these
worksheets. I hope that the activities and materials presented illustrate the way in which I
have applied polysemy in the process of teaching and learning vocabulary.

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CHAPTER I

Teaching vocabulary

There are many reasons for which people want to learn English. Some
people want to study English because they think it offers the possibility of getting a better
job. Other people have some specific reasons for learning this language. For example,
waiters may need English to serve their customers, policemen need it to guide the foreign
tourists. Even if the greatest number of students learn English only because they have to do
it, there are also some students who may study English because they want to know more
about the culture and people who speak this language. There are many other possible reasons
for learning a foreign language. Some people do it just for fun because they want to visit a
country where that particular language is spoken. In all these situations, language is essential
for communication and mastery of vocabulary is vital to learners as it provides new
possibilities for educational attainment, social development, career advancement, cultural
understanding and personal fulfilment.

Language is a means of communication, it is an instrument to express


meaning, to express ideas, feelings or information either orally or written. The components
of language, such as vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar and phonology are very important
for an efficient communication. Vocabulary plays an important role in learning process, it is
an important part of the language components like grammar, pronunciation, spelling.
Wallace argues that “there is a sense in which learning a foreign language is basically a
matter of learning vocabulary in target language”1.

II.1. The role of vocabulary in language learning

Language is a social fact, a convention shared by all the members of a nation. It


relies on a general system of signs (the sounds, letters and words of the language); the words
combine into longer stretches of language (sentences and paragraphs). The meaning of the
sentences is given by the meaning of its individual elements and by the way they combine

1
Wallace, Michael. 1982. Teaching vocabulary, Oxford, Heinemann p.9

8
to form the larger and larger stretches of discourse. Scott Thornbury states that “all languages
have words. Language emerges first as words, both historically, and in terms of the way each
of us learned our first and any subsequent languages. The coining of new words never stops.
Nor does the acquisition of words. Even in our first language we are continually learning
new words, and learning new meanings for old words”.2 Words are always considered as
building stones in a language, so if we understand words, we start to develop knowledge
about the target language. Learning new words is an important part of learning a new
language and successful learning of new words and phrases is often a way by which students
can see that they are making progress. One cannot learn a language without learning
vocabulary, cannot use the language without knowing the words of that language. In an
approach which values the ability to communicate, vocabulary is essential. It is just like
bricks of a high building. Despite quite small pieces, they are vital to the great structure.

So, language is an instrument of communication, the process in which people share


information, ideas and feelings, and learning vocabulary is basic to the learning of a foreign
language because people cannot communicate without it, they are not able to express their
wishes, thoughts and feelings and neither understand what others are trying to explain. “The
fact is that, while without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing
can be conveyed”3 and “no matter how well the student learns grammar, without words to
express a wide range of meanings, communication just cannot happen in any meaningful
way”4. Wallace has the same opinion: “it is possible to have a good knowledge of how the
system of language works and yet not able to communicate in it; whereas if we know the
vocabulary we need, it is usually possible to communicate well”5. So does Thornbury: “if
you spend most of your time studying grammar, your English will not improve very much.
You will see most improvement, if you learn more words and expressions. You can say very
little with grammar, but you can say almost anything with words”.6 Vocabulary is needed
for expressing meaning and in using the receptive (listening and reading) and the productive
(speaking and writing) skills. It should be considered as an internal part of learning a foreign
language since it leads the way to communication. Nation (1997) mentioned: “such as
writing and reading, vocabulary knowledge is one of the components of language skills”.

2
Thornbury, Scott. 2002. How to teach vocabulary, Longman, p.1
3
Wilkins, D.A. 1972. Linguistics in language teaching, Edward Arnold Ltd., London, p.111
4
McCarthy, M. 1990. Vocabulary, Oxford University Press, p.31
5
Wallace, Michael, op. cit., p.9
6
Thornbury, Scott, op. cit., p. 13

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Harmer clearly states: “if language structures make up the skeleton of language, then it is
vocabulary that provides the vital organs and flesh”. According to Nagy, “vocabulary
knowledge is fundamental to reading comprehension; one cannot understand a text without
knowing what most of the words mean”. So, words do not exist as isolated items in a
language; they are interwoven in a complex system in which knowledge of various levels of
a lexical item is required in order to achieve adequate understanding in listening or reading
or produce ideas successfully in speaking and writing.

II.2. Selecting words to teach

Language teachers have to deal with the problem of selecting words to teach.
According to Harmer, while “there is a consensus what grammatical structures should be
taught and at what levels”7, there are no rules regarding what words should be presented at
first and what words should be taught later in the classroom. Gairns and Redman state that
the teacher cannot decide which words are more useful to be taught because “every teaching
situation is different and so essential items in one context may be quite useless in another”.8
Harmer explains that more concrete words should be presented at lower levels and more
abstract words should be taught later.9

According to Adriana Vizental10, the basic criteria of selecting words to teach


are: key words (words without which the students cannot understand the text properly),
frequency (words that occur frequently in everyday communication), range (the number of
different contexts/types of discourse the word is used in), familiarity (how well-known and
widespread the word is in language) and usefulness (how useful the new word might be to
the student).

As teachers, we have to teach words that learners need for understanding messages,
reading and comprehending texts. The words to be taught can be separated into three tiers.

7
Harmer, Jeremy. 1991, The practice of English language teaching, Pearson Education Limited, England,
p.154
8
Gairns, R., Redman, S. 1998. Working with words. A guide to teaching and learning vocabulary,
Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, p.57
9
Harmer, Jeremy, op. cit., p.154
10
Vizental, Adriana. 2008. Metodica predării limbii engleze. Strategies of teaching and testing English as a
foreign language, Editura Polirom, Iaşi, p.182

10
Tier 1 words – Basic vocabulary

Tier 1 words are the words of every day speech usually learned in the early grades (e.g.
dog, happy, go). They rarely need explicit instruction since they do not have multiple
meanings and are frequently used in speaking.

Teaching tier 1 words

a) There are words that can be easily demonstrated. For example, a word like tree may
be a new word for students, but it can be easily taught by showing a picture of a tree.
b) Some words cannot be demonstrated and do not have multiple meanings, but
students need to know them. For example, the word sister can be taught by means
of a simple explanation during the text reading or a quick translation.
c) Some Tier 1 words are simple cognates (e.g. victory/victorie or family/familie) and
may not need substantial instruction due to the fact that learners may know the word
meanings in Romanian. There are also false cognates and the teacher has to provide
the correct translation (e.g. magazine/magazin and camera/cameră).

Tier 2 words – High frequency vocabulary

Tier 2 consists of high frequency words that are found in many content areas and may
be more abstract, representing challenges to students when encountering them in texts
because they contain multiple meanings. These words are important for reading
comprehension, they increase descriptive vocabulary (words that help students describe
concepts in a detailed manner). These words are the most important for direct instruction
because they indicate students’ progress in learning vocabulary.

Tier 2 words include11:

- words that are important and useful to understanding the text (e.g. character, setting,
plot, even numbers, country)
- words that have connections to other words and concepts (e.g. between, among, by,
combine, estimate)

11
http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/selecting-vocabulary-words-teach-english-language-learners

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- words for which students understand the general concept, but need greater precision
and specificity in describing a concept or a person (e.g. sets, tables – for mathematics
or science or for a table of contents -, shy, ashamed, stubborn)

Teaching Tier 2 words

Different Tier 2 words require different strategies12:

a) Some Tier 2 words can be demonstrated. These include words with multiple
meanings, such as foot, which can be taught by using pictures to show that it is part
of a leg, part of a chair, part of a mountain or hill, part of a bed.
b) Many Tier 2 words are cognates; they are high frequency words in Romanian and
low frequency words in English. This is an advantage for learners since they know
both the concept and an approximation of the label in English. Such words are
coincidence/coincidenţă, admire/admira, apostrophe/apostrof.
c) Tier 2 words that should be pre-taught include words that cannot be demonstrated
and are not cognates.

Tier 3 words

These words are low frequency words that are found mostly in the upper grades or
in specific content areas. Examples include isotope, amoeba, procrastinate or words that
cannot be demonstrated or words that are not cognates. These words are rarely encountered
in the early grades, but, if they do appear, the teacher can translate them or explain them in
English or Romanian.

Teaching Tier 3 words13:

a) Tier 3 words can be taught by means of an image that is related to the target words
because it is easier for learners to comprehend ideas better when associated with
images.

12
Ibidem
13
http://www.empoweringells.com/a18-tier-3-words

12
b) Another way to teach Tier 3 words is highlighting their features to help students form
a definition using these features. For example, if the word is photosynthesis, then a
feature might be that it is only found in plants. If an image also depicts the word’s
features, it becomes a better way to help learning.
c) Another approach is to provide a non-example, a word that does not fit the target
word’s definition. This strategy is best used when the learners have already known
the features of the target word. A comparison can be made between the target word
and the non-example when a non-example is offered.
d) Providing multiple situations, contexts in which the Tier 3 word is used is the
approach that produces the most enduring understanding of a word.

II.3. What knowing a word means

As McCarthy points out, “knowing a word involves knowing its spoken and written
context of use; its patterns with words of related meaning as well as with its collocation
partners; its syntactic, pragmatic and discourse patterns; it means knowing it actively and
productively as well as receptively”.14

Richards (1976) contends that knowing a lexical item includes knowledge of language
frequency, collocation, register, case relations, underlying forms, word association and
semantic structure.

Nation (2001) applies the terms receptive and productive to vocabulary knowledge
description covering all the aspects of what is involved in knowing a word. Form, meaning
and use are the three main parts at the most general level. Based on Nation’s example15, I
present his proposed receptive knowledge of a word. Taking the word disadvantaged as an
example, knowing a word involves:

 being able to recognise the word when it is heard (form – spoken)


 being familiar with its written form so that it is recognised when it is met in reading
(form – written)

14
McCarthy, op. cit., p. 43
15
Nation I. S. P. 2001. Learning vocabulary in another language, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
p. 26-28

13
 recognising that it is made up of the parts dis-, -advantage- and –(e)d and being able
to relate these parts to its meaning (form – word parts)
 knowing that disadvantaged signals a particular meaning (meaning – form and
meaning)
 knowing what the words means in the particular context in which it has just occurred
(meaning – concept and referents)
 knowing the concept behind the word which will allow understanding in a variety of
contexts (meaning – concept and referents)
 knowing that there are related words like poor, uneducated and deprived (meaning –
associations)
 being able to recognise that disadvantaged has been used correctly in the sentence in
which it occurs (use – grammatical functions)
 being able to recognise that words such as family, position are typical collocations
(use – collocations)
 knowing that disadvantaged is not a high-frequency word (use – constraints on use,
e.g. register, frequency)

On the other hand, the productive knowledge of a word involves:

 being able to say it with correct pronunciation including stress (form – spoken)
 being able to write it with correct spelling (form – written)
 being able to construct it using the right word parts in their appropriate forms (form
– word parts)
 being able to produce the word to express the meaning disadvantaged (meaning –
form and meaning)
 being able to produce the word in different contexts to express the range of meanings
of disadvantaged (meaning – concept and referents)
 being able to produce synonyms and opposites for disadvantaged (meaning –
associations)
 being able to use the word correctly in an original sentence (use – grammatical
functions)
 being able to produce words that commonly occur with it (use – collocations)
 being able to decide to use or not use the word to suit the degree of formality of the
situation (use – constraints on use, e.g. register, frequency)

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So, a word is acquired by a student when its meaning can be recognised and
understood, both in and out of context and it can be used naturally and appropriately to a
situation.

The numerous aspects of knowledge constitute the learning burden of a word, namely
“the amount of effort required to learn it”.16 Learners experience different levels of difficulty
in learning a word, depending on how the patterns and knowledge of the words are familiar
to them. Generally speaking, the receptive aspects and knowledge and use are more easily
to be mastered than their productive counterparts.

In conclusion, teaching vocabulary should be a central element in foreign language


teaching because vocabulary plays a very important role in the whole process of language
learning; it is a meaningful indicator of progress in other skills such as reading, writing,
speaking, listening.

16
Nation I. S. P. 2001. op. cit., p.23

15
CHAPTER II

Sense relations and vocabulary acquisition and teaching

II.1. Sense relations and their importance in teaching and learning vocabulary

According to semantic theories, in defining words, we can consider semantic


relationships, such as hyponymy, meronymy, synonymy, antonymy, homonymy.
Vocabulary is an integrated system interrelated in sense and can be divided into semantically
related sets or fields (semantic fields); words in each semantic field define one another. The
relations between words in a semantic field can cover various sense or semantic relations.

There are two different perspectives for studying the relationship between
words and their senses: semasiology and onomasiology.

Semasiology (from the Greek sema, “sign”) starts from the form of the word and “describes
what semantic values it may have”.17 Semasiology is concerned with a single semantic
category (polysemy, homonymy), involving the situation that one particular lexical item may
refer to different types of reference. It “approaches problems from the viewpoint of the
speaker, who has to choose between different names of expression”.18

Onomasiology (from the Greek onoma, “name”) starts from a given concept, a semantic
value to the various words used to name that concept. It “is concerned with sets of related
words (expressed by sense relations such as synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy)”19 and it
coincides with lexical field research. So, onomasiology deals with cases in which the same
concept or similar concepts are expressed by different words or expressions. It approaches
“problems from the viewpoint of the listener, who has to determine the meaning of the words
he hears, from all the possible meanings”.20

17
Neagu, Mariana, Pisoschi, Claudia. 2018. Fundamentals of Semantics and Pragmatics, Editura
Universitaria, Craiova, p.51
18
Ibidem, p.52
19
Ibidem, p.51
20
Ibidem, p.52

16
According to the relations existing between or among word meanings and linguistic
symbols, words are usually grouped in the following classes: synonymy, antonymy,
homonymy, hyponymy, meronymy. According to the class they belong to, they are
synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, hyponyms, meronyms.

Much of the research into the acquisition of vocabulary is concerned with the
acquisition of isolated words and is tested by whether learners remember them, not whether
they can use them. Knowing words does not mean only remembering, but also using them.
The knowledge of a word does not only imply a definition, but also implies how that word
fits into a context. According to Nagy, vocabulary development will be enhanced if students
learn to relate the new concepts to their existing concepts and background.

Seeing vocabulary in rich contexts provided by authentic texts, rather than in


isolated vocabulary drills, gets students actively engaged in using and thinking about word
meaning and in creating relationships among words, fact that produces robust vocabulary
learning. Single words are missing context, so students do not know how they are supposed
to be used in collaboration with other words. Since they are only isolated words, learners are
getting very low exposure to the target language (compared to reading or speaking, for
example). They are also difficult to memorise, because there are no other words around for
the brain to “anchor” on.

Learning vocabulary should be something more than just memorising lists of


words and looking up words in a dictionary; words should not be taught as isolated items
but in context for later use in conversation. “Vocabulary is everywhere. It connects to the
system of phonology and orthography through the actual forms of the words, to the systems
of morphology and grammar through the way that the word enters into grammatical
structures and through grammatical changes to the word’s form, and to the systems of
meaning through its range of general and specific meanings and uses”.21 Effective
acquisition of vocabulary can never be just the learning of individual words and their
meanings in isolation because “words do not exist by themselves, however, but are always
in relationship to other words. The meaning of hot relates to cold; the meaning of run to
walk, of high to low, of pain to pleasure, and so on. When we speak, we choose one word

21
Cook, Vivian. 2008. Second language learning and language teaching, Hodder Education, United
Kingdom, p 51

17
out of all those we have available, rejecting all the words we could have said: I love you
potentially contrasts with I hate you. Words function within systems of meaning”.22

Research in memory suggests that vocabulary is stored and remembered in a network


of associations (the mental lexicon), concepts are represented according to their associations
to one another. As vocabulary consists of a series of interrelating systems and not just of a
random collection of items, lexical items should be presented in a systematised manner
which will enable the learner to internalise them in a coherent way and make him aware of
the organised nature of vocabulary. So, organising the vocabulary will become an important
part of our teaching. Teachers should devise different types of activities and help students
develop different techniques (organising words in topics, groups, word maps) to facilitate
storage and retrieval of words.

The experiments conducted in this area revealed the importance of more processing
and systematic organisation as the basis for transferring information from short-term
memory to permanent long-term memory. Researchers investigated how the mental lexicon
is organised by comparing the speed at which people are able to recall items:23

Freedman and Loftus (1971) asked participants to perform two different types of tasks:

e.g. 1. Name a fruit that begins with a p.

2. Name a word beginning with p that is a fruit.

Participants were able to answer the first type of question more quickly than the second. This
seems to indicate that fruits beginning with p are categorised under the fruit heading rather
than under a word beginning with p heading. Furthermore, experimenters discovered in
subsequent tests that once participants had access to the fruit category, they were able to find
other fruits more quickly. This seems to provide further evidence that semantically related
items are stored together.

Most researchers appear to agree that items are arranged in a series of associative networks.
Forster (1976, 1979)24 put forward the theory that all items are organised in one large “master
file”. All these assertions show that “in language learning and teaching, sense relations are
of paramount importance”25. The meaning of a word can only be understood and learnt in

22
Ibidem, p. 54
23
Apud Gairns, R., Redman, S., op. cit., p. 86
24
Ibidem, p.88
25
Ibidem, p.31

18
terms of its relationship with other words in the language. Semantic relations between
concepts are the fundamental building blocks that allow words to be associated with each
other and linked together to form cohesive text. “In the classroom, grouping items together
by synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy and other types of relations will help to give coherence
to the lesson. As a means of presentation and testing, these relationships are extremely
valuable and can provide a useful framework for the learner to understand semantic
boundaries: to see where meaning overlaps and learn the meaning of an item. Their
usefulness in terms of organisation clearly extends beyond the classroom; as a coherent
record for the student they are very effective”.26

The use of synonymy is often a quick and efficient way of explaining unknown
words as long as the teacher highlights the differences between partial synonyms and the
collocational restrictions that some synonyms have.

Example:

flat = apartment (different dialect – British English vs. American English)

kid = child (different style – colloquial vs. neutral)

skinny = thin (different connotation – skinny is more pejorative)

Regarding antonymy, there is a variety of different forms of oppositeness which


are relevant to learners and teachers (complementarity, converseness, multiple taxonomy
and gradable antonymy).

Example:

male - female (complementaries or binary antonyms; they are mutually exclusive)

wife - husband (converses – a reciprocal relationship)

big - small (gradable antonyms)

Spring – Summer – Autumn - Winter (multiple taxonomy or multiple incompatibles –


using one item from the set excludes all the others in the same system)

26
Ibidem, p. 31-32

19
Hyponymy and meronymy are much used in language classrooms. Meronymy differs from
hyponymy in that, while a cow is a kind of animal, an eyebrow is not a kind of face but part
of the face.

Another type of relation is that between items commonly associated with a


specific concept (for example, words associated with the word kitchen). With this type of
relation, we are drawing on our knowledge of the world.

“One final but extremely important function of sense relations is that they help us
to make deductions about unknown items”.27 Sense relations are vital in contextual
guesswork and the following example illustrates this. The item in italics is assumed to be
unknown to the learner:

Co-educational schools (e.g. mixed sex schools) are more common than they used to be.
(synonym)

He was incredibly untidy; the bed was covered in a pile of trousers, shirts, ties, socks and
underwear. (hyponym)

I expected him to be very hard-working but in fact he was very idle. (antonym)

He passed me a knife so that I could carve the meat. (notional relation)

A clear understanding of sense relations can provide greater precision in guiding


students towards meaning and in helping them to understand the similarities and differences
in related words. This also helps students organise, systematise and consolidate their
vocabulary in order to speed up learning and facilitate the storage and retrieval of words.

In the following subchapters I will present the semantic relations.

II.1.1. Synonymy

Synonymy is a major type of sense relation between lexical items. It is context


dependent; two lexical items are synonymous in one given context or in several contexts,
but never in all contexts. Synonyms are two or more than two words in the same language

27
Ibidem, p.32

20
having different forms, but the same or very similar sense, differentiated by shades of
meanings and semantic features, connotations and idiomatic uses. According to the
definition attributed to Leibniz, two expressions are synonymous if the substitution of one
for the other never changes the truth value of a sentence in which the substitution is made
(this is a definition for absolute synonyms).28

In his Syntheses in English Lexicology and Semantics, Horia Hulban writes: “when
synonyms are considered within the framework of a synonymic series, a synonym is a word
that has the same basic sense as the another word or other words, or, more accurately, a sense
that is near to it. The words belong to the same grammatical category. In the synonymic
series, the words can be substituted for each other without changing the meaning, in spite of
the fact that through their connotations, applications and idiomatic use they usually show
important differences, and through their inversion in a given synonymic series they may alter
the artistic effect”.29

Synonymy can be total or absolute and partial.

Absolute synonymy

Starting with Ullmann (1963), all linguists agree that total synonymy is a rare occurrence in
natural languages. The conditions for total synonymy are the interchangeability in all
contexts and the identity in both cognitive and emotive meaning. Lyons (1986: 51) defined
true or absolute synonyms as “expressions that are fully, totally and completely synonyms”30
in the sense that all their meanings are identical (full synonymy), they are interchangeable
in all contexts (total synonymy), they are identical in all relevant dimensions of meaning
(complete synonymy). The idea that absolute synonyms are rare is sustained by the following
examples31:

 the words in the pair big - large are not full synonyms because big has at least one
meaning that it does not share with large (we can say my big sister, but cannot say
my large sister);
 the members in the pair liberty – freedom are not total synonyms, they do not always
have the same collocational range, there are many contexts in which they are not

28
Neagu, M., Pisoschi, C., op.cit., p.59-60
29
Hulban, Horia, Syntheses in English lexicology and semantics, Editura Spanda, Iaşi, 2002, p.206
30
Apud Neagu, M., Pisoschi, C., op.cit., p.60
31
Ibidem, p.60

21
interchangeable (for example, freedom cannot be substituted for liberty in you are
at liberty to say what you want);
 Synonymous words can differ in nature of their expressive (emotive) meaning.
Regarding the third condition for absolute synonymy (identity in all relevant
dimensions of meaning, descriptive and non-descriptive), Lyons (1986: 55)32
distinguishes descriptive synonymy (synonyms that have the same referential
meaning; for example, big can be substituted for large in I live in a big house) and
expressive synonymy (words like huge, enormous, gigantic, colossal are expressive
synonyms, that kind of synonyms by virtue of which a speaker expresses his attitude
and feelings – Lyons, 1986: 54)33.

So, absolute/total/complete synonyms are words which are identical in meaning in all
its aspects, both in grammatical meaning, including conceptual and associative
meanings, being interchangeable in every way. Examples of total synonymy can be
found among technical terms, highly specialised terms (for example, the pairs noun –
substantive, composition-compounding, scarlet-fever - scarlatina) and dialectical terms
(finger flower – finger root; these words are not interchangeable in the same idiolect –
the language spoken by one individual).

Partial synonymy

Synonymy is normally partial (partial, relative or near


synonymy) and this can be explained by the fact that synonymy is always related to
context. Partial synonyms are similar or nearly the same in denotation, but embrace
different shades of meaning or different degrees of a given quality. Each synonymic
group contains a synonymic dominant (the most general term neutral stylistically and
emotionally). “In a synonymic series, one of the terms acquires a dominant position, and
in synonymic dictionaries it becomes the headword. This dominant term expresses the
most general meaning, all the others meanings of the series adding some specific
features. In the synonymic series rest, repose, relaxation, leisure, ease, comfort, the
dominant word or headword is rest, as the most general of these terms. The words
constituted into the synonymic series have as a common meaning the idea of “freedom
from toil or strain”. Rest implies a withdrawal from any kind of labour, suggesting an

32
Ibidem, p.61
33
Ibidem, p.61

22
opposition to the term work. Repose implies only the withdrawal from motion and
mental activity that enables a man to work again, or, in other cases, it implies a release
that finally induces repose. Leisure implies a dispensation of freedom from duty,
compulsion or routine, and it often suggests the freedom to determine one’s activities.
Ease also includes freedom from toil, but, in contrast with leisure, it implies rest and
relaxation. Comfort includes only a state of mind characterised by relief from all strains
or inconveniences, suggesting a feeling of enjoyment or contentment.34 According to
Hulban, partial synonyms may be viewed as co – hyponyms of the dominant (leave –
quit – depart – retire - clear out; get – acquire – win – earn – gain).

According to the type of contrast established between the synonymic


co-hyponyms, synonyms may be ideographic and stylistic.

 Ideographic synonyms are synonyms which differ conceptually (thin – slander


– slim – lean; enclosure, fence, hedge, wall). According to Hulban35, “the
synonyms that imply differences in meaning, usually through different shades
and different degrees of a given quality are called ideographic synonyms”. For
example, in the synonymic series change-alter-vary, to change means “to put
another thing in its place”, to alter is “to make a thing different from which it
was before”, to vary is “to alter a thing in different manner at different times”.
For example, “A man changes his habits, alters his conduct, and varies his
manner of speaking”. Other synonymic series belonging to this group are: laugh-
smile-grin-chuckle-giggle-chortle-titter-snigger-guffaw-cackle-roar, idle-lazy-
indolent, strange-odd-queer, large-huge-tremendous-colossal.
 Stylistic synonyms are synonyms that differ stylistically, terms that belong to
special registers, especially dialectal, slang, poetic, archaic terms and
neologisms:
hear (neutral) – hareken (poetic), man (neutral) – cove (informal)

Partial synonyms may differ in:


 denotation (the range and intensity of meaning); some words have a wider range
of meanings than others. For example, timid has a wider range of meaning than
timorous (timid refers to the state of mind in which a person can be and to the

34
Hulban, H., Cf. Webster’s Dictionary of Synonyms, First Edition, C. & C. Merriam Co, 1967
35
Hulban, H., op.cit., p.203

23
habitual disposition, while timorous refers only to the disposition). Some words
differ in the intensity of meaning. For example, in the pair work-toil, work is a
general term which does not have special implications as light or heavy, mental
or physical, while toil suggests heavy and tiring work, associated more with
manual than mental work;
 connotation (the stylistic and emotive colouring of words); for example, the
words borrowed from French and Latin are more formal than native words:
Native French or Latin
answer respond
storm tempest
wood forest
unlike dissimilar
There are stylistically neutral, colloquial, archaic and poetic synonyms:
policeman (neutral) - bobby (colloquial) - cop (slang)
anger (standard) – ire (archaic)
dreadful (standard) – dire (archaic)
 usage; many words are synonymous in meaning but different in usage in simple
terms; they form different collocations and fit into different sentence patterns.
For example, the words lump, slice, chunk can convey the same concept piece,
but have different collocations (a lump of sugar, a slice of ham, a chunk of
wood).

Sources of synonymy

Synonyms come from different sources:

 Borrowing36 is a very important source of synonymy. As a result of


borrowing, words of native origin form many pairs with those from other
languages (French, Latin):

36
Ibidem, p.211

24
Native Latin French
ask interrogate question

fire conflagration flame

end complete finish

belly abdomen stomach

time epoch age

Native Foreign

room chamber

help aid

leave depart

weak feeble

feeling sentiment

friendship amity

 Word formation is other source of synonymy. New words may be formed by


affixation, compounding, conversion, clipping and, being coined, form
synonyms to those already in use:
a) affixation patterns: anxiety – anxiousness
effectivity – effectiveness
b) compounding (collocations): return – bring back
walk – take a walk
continue – go on
give in – surrender
c) conversion: laughter – laugh
d) shortening (clipping): microphone – mike
commandment – command
bicycle – bike
veteran – vet

25
 Dialects37 are also a source of synonymy:
railway (BrE) – railroad (AmE)
charm (BrE) – glamour (ScotE)
autumn (BrE) – fall (Am E)
tin (BrE) – can (AmE)
sweet (BrE) – candy (AmE)
lorry (BrE) – truck (AmE)
 Slang38 is also a major source of synonymy:
Standard English Slang
tobacco funk
friend chap/chum
sailor tar
bad luck ill speed
 The identification of words with various language styles39 is another frequent
source of synonymy. Some words are standard neutral, others are colloquial,
technical, poetic:
lazy (neutral) – lazybones (colloquial)
trousers (neutral) – pants (colloquial)
child (a common term) – offspring (a formal term), kid (familiar)
evening (standard word) – eve (poetic)
girl (standard) – maid (poetic)
 Euphemism40 is another important source of synonyms, in which a more
delicate word substitutes one that is taboo. Very often, euphemisms replace
notorious words in order to be less offensive (for example, drunkenness-
intoxication, sweat-perspiration). Euphemisms are attracted by notions
expressing madness, stupidity, drunkenness, certain physiological processes,
crimes, death.

37
Ibidem, p.214
38
Ibidem, p.214
39
Ibidem, p.215
40
Ibidem, p.212

26
Standard word Euphemism

to die to find eternal peace


to go to a better place

death the other side

dead over Jordan

drunk aboard, pickled

to kill to ace, to pop

to bury to plant

 Coincidence with idiomatic expressions:


win gain the upper hand
decide make up one’s mind
finish get through
hesitate be in two minds
help lend one a hand
to assume to take for granted

Teaching implications

Synonymy is important in teaching and learning English. Teachers can use


synonyms to help students enrich their vocabulary. For example, when presenting the
word glimmer, the teacher can also mention the synonyms of this word, such as glow,
beam, shine, flash, dazzle. Students are required to memorise these words together and
try to make the differences between them. In this way, learners can master the words
properly and express themselves exactly, vividly, freely. Even if “a language can
function without synonymy, language learners cannot use the language properly without
synonyms, without knowledge of all its synonymic resources”.41

41
Neagu, M., Pisoschi, C., op. cit., p.61

27
II.1.2. Antonymy

Antonymy is concerned with semantic opposition; antonyms can be defined as


words which are opposite in meaning. Antonyms can be used to define meanings of words,
for efficient expression of an opposite idea or for emphatic effect.

Antonymy reflects the general human tendency to categorise experience in terms


of binary contrasts; they do not differ in style, emotional colouring, distribution; they form
mostly pairs, not groups like synonyms.42 Lyons (1977: 276)43 states that antonymy reflects
the human tendency to think in opposites and he replaces the term antonymy in the wider
sense by “oppositeness” (of meaning) and distinguishes three types of oppositeness:

a) complementarity (binary antonymy)


b) antonymy proper
c) converseness/reversibility

These three types of oppositeness of meaning proposed by Lyons are based on


the relation of lexical implication or entailment.

Antonymy proper

Antonymy proper is also called gradable antonymy. Gradable antonymy is the


paradigmatic relation holding between gradable opposites usually referring to qualities
(good-bad) and quantities (much-little). Gradable antonymy is based on the fact that the
assertion of one lexical item implies the denial of the other44: good implies the denial of bad,
tall implies the denial of short, thick implies the denial of thin, old implies the denial of
young, deep implies the denial of shallow. But the negation of a term does not necessarily
imply the assertion of the other: not tall does not imply short. Positive terms are unmarked,
while negative terms are marked, containing a negative element that makes them special.

unmarked (+) marked (-)

tall short (- tall)

thick thin (- thick)

old young (- old)

42
Ibidem, p.62
43
Ibidem, p.62
44
Ibidem, p.63

28
deep shallow (- deep)

Antonyms of this type are best viewed in terms of a scale running between two poles.
Antonyms such as rich/poor, big/small, old/young represent two points at both ends of the
pole: old, middle-aged, young

hot, warm, cool, cold

beautiful, good-looking, plain, ugly

Complementarity

Complementarity is also called binary/contradictory antonymy. The relation of


complementarity holds over a two-term set of incompatible terms; they are so opposed to
each other that they are mutually exclusive; the assertion of one of the items implies the
denial of the other45, an entity cannot be both at once (for example, if someone is single,
he/she cannot be married):

single-married begin-end

present-absent boy-girl

male-female true-false

alive-dead same-different

accept-refuse perfect-imperfect

Complementary antonyms are non-gradable opposites. They cannot be used in


comparative degrees and do not allow adverbs of intensity like very to qualify them. For
example, it is incorrect to say very single, more single, extremely single. But Cruse 46 states
that there are instances where one member of the pair can be gradable: in the pair open-shut,
shut is less gradable than open (slightly shut, moderately shut, more shut than before vs.
wide open, slightly open, moderately open, more open than before). Other examples of more
or less fully gradable complementary adjectives are the pairs: true – false, pure – impure,
clean – dirty, safe – dangerous (moderately clean, very clean, fairly clean, cleaner, slightly
dirty, quite dirty, fairly dirty, dirtier, moderately safe, very safe, fairly safe, fairly safe,
slightly dangerous, quite dangerous, fairly dangerous, more dangerous).

45
Ibidem, p.62
46
Cruse, D.A. 1995. Lexical semantics, Cambridge University Press, London, p.202

29
Converseness (relational antonyms)

Converseness holds over two terms which presuppose one another. It indicates
such a reciprocal social relationship that one of them cannot be used without suggesting the
other. For example, John bought the car from Bill implies Bill sold the car to John and vice
versa47; the item wife presupposes husband, buy presupposes sell, above presupposes below.

Converseness is frequent in the sphere of:

a) social roles: doctor – patient


employer – employee
pope – cardinal
criminal – victim
teacher – pupil
b) family relationships: parent – child
husband – wife
sister-in-law – brother-in-law
father-in-law – mother-in-law
c) temporal and spatial relations: before – after
here – there
tomorrow – yesterday
last year – next year
now – then
this month – next month
inside – outside
left – right
background – foreground
d) reciprocal terms: buy – sell
give – receive
borrow – lend

47
Neagu, M., Pisoschi, C., op. cit., p.64

30
Directional opposites

Semanticists introduced a fourth type of antonyms, directional opposites, based on


the notion of contrary motion: up – down

come –go

arrive – depart

enter - exit

According to their form, antonyms are classified as:48

 root antonyms (also called absolute or radical antonyms) – a certain concept


immediately evokes the contrary one:
cause – effect this - that
friend – enemy here - there
life – death man - woman
hot – cold stallion - mare
light – dark he-parrot – she-parrot
over – under male-elephant – female-elephant
to remember – to forget
 derivational antonyms (also called affixal antonyms) achieve this opposition
through various affixes (negative prefixes and suffixes) attached to a common
stem:
appear – disappear
belief – disbelief
clear – unclear
equal – unequal
helpful – unhelpful
active – inactive
logical – illogical
mature – immature
rational – irrational
replaceable – unreplaceable – irreplaceable

48
Hulban, H., op. cit., p.219

31
sanitary – unsanitary – insanitary

Suffixes may be used in forming antonymic pairs: hopeful – hopeless

peaceful – peaceless

Teaching implications

In teaching, teachers can present new vocabulary by comparing and contrasting


words in order to help students grasp more lexical items quickly. This is a good way for
students to easily remember pairs of antonyms with appropriate usage. In the case of the
words which do not have a fixed antonym, the words should be presented in a context. For
example, the word fresh can make up a lot of phrases such as fresh bread, fresh flowers,
fresh air. Fresh has different meanings in each phrase and these meanings will be clear for
students if the teacher provides some corresponding opposed phrases, such as: fresh bread -
stale bread, fresh flowers - faded flowers, fresh air - stuffy air.

II.1.3. Homonymy

Homonymy refers to the relation between lexical items which have the same form,
but differ in meaning.49 Homonyms are generally defined as words different in meaning, but
either identical both in sound and spelling or identical only in sound or spelling. “Homonymy
is a major source of ambiguity in language. This ambiguity results from the coincidence in
the phonemic structure of words, or from the coincidence of their graphic representation”.50

According to their form, homonyms fall into the following classes: perfect
homonyms (also called absolute homonyms or homonyms proper), partial homonyms
(homophones and homographs).

Perfect homonyms

Perfect or absolute homonyms are words identical both in sound and spelling,
but different in meaning; they belong to the same word-class. Total homonyms are less

49
Neagu, M., Pisoschi, C., op. cit., p.53
50
Hulban, H., op. cit., p.224

32
frequent than partial homonyms; they are met only when the terms coincide in all their
paradigmatic forms:

slade – valley

slade – the sole of a plough

dam – a barrier of concrete, earth, built across a river to create a body of water

dam – the female parent of an animal

dam – a variant spelling of “damn”

bank – the edge of the river, lake

bank – an establishment for money business

sole – bottom of foot; shoe

sole – kind of fish

According to Lyons, absolute homonyms must satisfy the following conditions51:

 their forms must be unrelated in meaning;


 all their forms must be identical;
 identical forms must be syntactically equivalent (they must belong to the same
part of speech).

Partial homonyms

Partial homonyms belong to different word-classes. Homophones are words identical


only in sound, but different in spelling and meaning:

dear [diǝ] – a loved person

deer [diǝ] – a kind of animal

51
Apud Neagu, M., Pisoschi, C., op. cit., p.54

33
right [raɪt] – correct

write [raɪt] – to put down on paper with a pen

rite [raɪt] – a ceremonial procedure

son [sʌn] – a male child of someone

son [sʌn] – the heavenly body from which the earth gets warmth and light

buy (V), by (P), bye (N)

beet (N), beat (V)

eye (N), I (pron.)

floor (N), flaw (N)

hair (N), hare (N)

Homographs are words with different meanings and pronunciations, but


with identical spelling:

bow [bau] (V) – bending the head as a greeting

bow [bǝu] (N) – the device used for shooting arrows

sow [sau] (N) – to scatter seeds

sow [sǝu] (V) – female adult pig

lead [led] (N) – a soft, grey, heavy metal

lead [li:d] (V) – be a route or means of access to a particular place or in a particular direction

34
Partial homonyms share only one paradigmatic form (light-N and light-V) or they
coincide in two or several paradigmatic forms (bear, N, Nominative and Accusative singular
and bear, V, Present Tense, I, II persons singular and I, II, III persons plural on the one hand
and bears, N, Nominative and Accusative plural and bears, V, Present Tense, III person
singular, on the other hand).

Conversion also leads to partial homonymy:

broom – to broom

dog – to dog

father – to father

freeze – to freeze

Sources of homonymy

There are various sources of homonyms:

 change in sound – when two or three words of different origin coincide in sound.
Some homonyms are native by origin, derived from different earlier forms in Old
English. The change in sound and spelling gradually made them identical in modern
English:
ear (N) – an organ with which to listen and hear, from Lat. “auris”
ear (N) – the grain-bearing spike of corn or wheat, from Lat. “acus”

case (instance), from Lat. “casus”


case (box), from Lat. “capsa”
 divergent development of meaning:
flower and flour originally were one word – flour was the finest part of the wheat
 borrowing – many words of foreign origin coincide in sound and/or spelling with
those of native origin or with those of other foreign origin:
fair (N) – a market, borrowed from “feria” (Latin)
fair (A) – pretty (from OE)
ball (N) – a round object to play with, from “ballu” (OE)
ball (N) – a dancing party, borrowed from “baller” (OF)

35
 shortening – many shortened forms of words are identical with other words in
spelling or sound:
ad (N) – shortened from “advertisement”
add (V) – to cause an increase

rock (N) – shortened from rock’n’roll


rock (N) – a large mass of stone

Teaching implications

Using homonymy to teach vocabulary can facilitate students’ vocabulary learning by


decreasing the amount of new information in the mind so that there is one lexical form for
two or more semantic representations and meanings. Therefore, it is easier to learn and retain
the words.

For example, when presenting the word bat1 (an animal that lives in a cave), the
teacher can introduce the concept of homonymy and explain that there is another word bat2
(an object that you need to play baseball) which is a homonym of bat1. It has the same form,
but different meaning. So, there are two completely different words (bat1 and bat2) that are
spelled and pronounced the same, but that have unrelated meanings. Presenting sets of
homonyms and emphasising the idea that their meanings are unrelated can lead to students’
vocabulary development.

II.1.4. Polysemy

Polysemy refers to the phenomenon in which one and the same word has more than
one meaning, “a linguistic unit exhibits multiple distinct yet related meanings”.52

The distinction between homonymy and polysemy

The distinction between homonymy and polysemy has been the source of much
controversy in linguistics. The fundamental difference between homonymy and polysemy
lies in the fact that homonymy refers to two or more distinct words which happen to share

52
Neagu, M., Pisoschi, C., op.cit., p.52

36
the same form while polysemy is a property of a single word (a word which has several
distinguishable meanings).

Ullmann asserted that polysemy is a result of the language economy


principle.53 It is distinguished from homonymy by:
 etymology
 relatedness of meaning
 comparing semantic components
 the part of speech criterion

In point of etymology, homonyms are from different sources whereas a polysemous


word is from the same source which has acquired different meanings in the course of
development. This criterion is not always decisive; there are words that come from the same
source and cannot be considered polysemous, but homonyms:

sole – bottom of foot or shoe


sole – kind of fish

Relatedness of meaning refers to the fact that various meanings of a polysemous


word are correlated and connected to one central meaning to a greater or lesser degree. On
the other hand, meanings of different homonyms have nothing to do with one another. In
dictionaries, a polysemous word has its meanings all listed under one headword whereas
homonyms are listed as separate entries. So, polysemous words have the same source and
meanings related, while homonyms have different source and meanings not related.

The criterion of relatedness or similarity of meaning is sometimes associated with


another one: comparing semantic components.54 Katz (1972) proposes that, by simply
counting the semantic features that two items share, we can determine the similarity of
meaning55:

bank – bank for money (Italian origin)


bank – bank of a river (Scandinavian origin)

These two words are homonyms, but they share the features [Physical object], [concrete],
[inanimate].

53
Apud Neagu M., Pisoschi, C., op. cit., p.54
54
Ibidem, p.56
55
Ibidem, p.56

37
Two meanings of mouth – of a person and of a river – which seem to be related semantically
also share the features [Physical object], [concrete] and [inanimate]. In the case of mouth,
relatedness of meaning is based on similarity that is metaphorical. Therefore, sense
relatedness should be viewed in terms of conceptual connections rather than as a matter of
shared properties.

Polysemy and meaning extensions

Polysemy is created by two processes which contribute to the extension of the lexicon:
metaphor and metonymy.

Metaphorical extensions are based on perceptual (teeth of a comb, waves of hair) or


functional similarity to the core meaning (a coat of paint, key to answers) or involve a more
abstract kind of similarity (a supermarket chain, a body of support).

Nouns denoting parts of the body and animals develop meanings on the basis of metaphor.
For example, foot1 (terminal part of leg) was metaphorically extended to foot 2 (lowest part
of mountain). The meanings of eagle are mainly related through metaphor56:

eagle2 – image of the eagle used as an emblem (the Prussian eagle)


eagle3 – seal (the Roman eagle)
eagle4 – a device worn on the shoulder, in the shape of an eagle with outstretched
wings, indicating the rank of a colonel
eagle5 – a golden coin of the US, issued until 1933, equal to 10 dollars, having on
its reverse the shape of an eagle
eagle 6 – one of the northern constellation also-called Aquilla

Other metaphorical usages of eagle concern human characterised by the features specific to
the bird: strength, agility, boldness.

According to Mariana Neagu, in the book Categories in natural languages: the study of
nominal polysemy in English and Romanian (1999), metonymic extensions can be found in
animal terms in which the animal stands for fur or skin (beaver, fox, lizard, mink, rabbit,

56
Neagu, Mariana. 1999. Categories in natural languages: the study of nominal polysemy in English and
Romanian, Editura Alpha, Buzău, p. 153

38
skunk) and flesh (chicken, fish, hare, lobster, pheasant, turkey); there are also nouns derived
from verbs which illustrate metonymic extension:

 action for result (result meaning derived from activity sense):


writing 1 – act/activity of writing
writing 2 – product/result of the activity of writing
 action for place or time: accommodation, ascent, descent, crossing, entry, dwelling,
habitation, residence, settlement, sitting
residence1 – act of residing, settling
residence 2 – the place where one resides
residence 3 – the time during which one resides in or at a place

sitting 1 – act of sitting


sitting 2 – time during which a law court sits continuously
sitting 3 – period when a group of people eat a meal
sitting 4 – period spent by somebody being painted or photographed

 nouns with both an agent and instrument meanings:


reader 1 – person who reads, especially one who spends much time in reading
reader 2 – book intended to give students practice in reading

Teaching implications

Learning various related meanings of a single word is a good opportunity to enrich


vocabulary.

Polysemy is viewed as a category in cognitive linguistics. In fact, word meanings are


categories that are organised in a prototypical way. The senses of a polysemous word are
systematically related to one another; there is a central/core meaning to which peripheral
meanings are related in a motivated way. So, polysemous words have a basic, central sense
(the prototype of a category) which is conceptually simple, frequent, learned early by
children and conceptually connected to many other senses that are more peripheral, extended
meanings (metonymical or metaphorical extensions) of the original prototypical meaning.
The new senses of a polysemous word emerge when the word is used in new contexts. The
result of meaning extension is a “radial category” (according to Lakoff, 1987).
39
Starting from this idea, a good way to learn polysemous words is to define a word by
the core meaning of that word, by the concept that runs through all its meanings. It is easier
to learn an extended meaning of a word whose primary meaning learners already know.
Emphasising the relatedness between the multiple meanings of a polysemous word facilitates
and develops learners’ knowledge of multiple meanings.

For example, the meanings of the word head can be presented by motivating the sense
relations existing between them. They can be discussed in terms of central meaning and
extended meanings. The central meaning of head is body part. Having a closer look at the
different meanings of the word head, a transfer of meaning can be noticed: part of the body
can be extended to other objects (there is a relation between the meanings in terms of
function, structure or location): the head of a nail, the head of a hammer, a head of lettuce,
the head of a river. Other extended meanings are the beginning of something (the head of
the queue, the head of the page), someone leading an organisation - leader (the head chef),
mind and mental abilities (Use your head!). This is the semantic network of the polysemous
word head that can be used to help students understand and visualise the relations between
its core and extended meanings:

Head as mind (Use your head!)

Head as leader

Head Head as top (head of lettuce)

Head of a company Body part Head as beginning (trail head)

Head of the class

Figure II.1

Learning words with multiple meanings can lead to the development of vocabulary
since students begin to use more senses of words. Semantic networks based on word sense
connections can be beneficial for the learning of peripheral meanings in polysemous words.

40
II.1.5. Hyponymy

“Hyponymy is one of the most fundamental paradigmatic relations, corresponding to


the inclusion of one class in another”.57 It means that the meaning of a more specific word
is included in that of another more general word. For example, the meaning of tulip is
included in the meaning of flower, the meaning of dog is included in the meaning of animal.
The more general term is called the superordinate or hypernym, while the set of terms
which are hyponyms (the included items) of the same superordinate term are co-hyponyms.
For instance, tulip, daisy, daffodil, rose are hyponyms of the superordinate term flower (they
contain the meaning of flower, they are types of flowers).

“An important part of the vocabulary is linked by such systems of inclusion and the
resulting semantic networks form hierarchical taxonomies where a general term
(hypernym/superordinate term) has numerous subordinate terms (hyponyms) to fall under it.
It is the type of relation established between genus and species: house-chalet, red-scarlet,
vegetable-cauliflower, room-bedroom. The second term in each pair is included within the
first, but the relation does not hold in the reverse. A bedroom is a room, but not all rooms
are bedrooms; similarly, not all houses are chalets and there are more shades of red than just
scarlet”.58

This hierarchical semantic relationship can be shown in the form of a tree diagram,
where the more general term is placed at the top and the more specific terms are placed
underneath. The hyponym is more specific (less general) and it has more elements of
meaning. It is more marked than its superordinate; “it can be marked for age (puppy, kitten,
calf, piglet, duckling and cygnet are marked, while dog, cat, cow, pig, duck, swan are
unmarked) or for sex (bitch, drake, bull, hog, sow, cob are marked, while dog, duck, cow,
pig, swan are unmarked). We can define hyponyms in terms of the hypernym plus a single
feature, as in stallion (“male horse”), kitten (“young cat”), puppy (“young dog”), bitch
(“female dog”)”.59 The superordinate term or the hypernym is a more general term and the
subordinate term can be defined with reference to it (a tulip is a kind of flower; a horse is a

57
Neagu, M., Pisoschi, C., op. cit., p.65
58
Chiţoran, Dumitru.1973. Elements of English Structural Semantics, Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică, p.105
59
Neagu, M., Pisoschi, C., op. cit., p.65

41
type of animal). The status as superordinate or subordinate is relative to other terms.
Superordinate terms may become hyponyms in relation to a more general superordinate
term: flower is the hyponym of plant (the daffodil is a flower, therefore the daffodil is a
plant); ox, cow, bull, calf are co-hyponyms of the superordinate term (hypernym) cattle; in
turn, the word cattle is a hyponym of animal together with beast, insects; horse, dog, pig are
subordinates in relation to animal, but superordinates of mare, hound and boar. Animal itself
becomes a subordinate of creature. And creature in turn becomes a subordinate of living
things.

“Lyons suggested that the relation of hyponymy can be defined in terms of unilateral
implication in propositions of the type X is Y, therefore X is Z: the daisy is a flower, therefore
the daisy is a plant”60. It would seem reasonable that the whole of the vocabulary could be
organised in this way. Hyponymy is fundamental to the way in which we classify things,
most dictionaries relying on it in defining words (“a table is a type of furniture”, “a flute is
a type of musical instrument”). According to Crystal, “hyponymy is particularly important
to linguists because it is the core relationship within a dictionary and the most illuminating
way of defining a lexeme is to provide a hypernym along with various distinguishing
features”.

Hyponymy is fundamental to semantic analysis because it expresses basic


logical relationships which are represented widely throughout the lexicon. Certain other
kinds of meaning relationships are much less widespread, applying to restricted sets of
lexemes. One of these kinds of meaning relationships is the lexical relation of meronymy
and usually described as the “part-whole” relation.

Teaching implications

”Hyponymy offers a good principle for vocabulary learning and teaching”.61 Teachers can
help students enlarge their vocabulary and strengthen memory effect by presenting new
words in sets of hyponyms (for example, types of flowers, articles of furniture, clothes, types
of musical instruments).

For example, when presenting words that name types of instruments, teachers can give
some examples of hyponyms and then ask learners to add other words belonging to this set
of hyponyms. This type of activity promotes critical thinking, activates students’ prior

60
Chiţoran, Dumitru, op. cit., p.105
61
Neagu, M., Pisoschi, C., op. cit., p.66

42
knowledge and involves them actively in the process of learning. The teacher can ask
students to draw a tree diagram that helps them understand the relation between these words
and remember them better. This diagram can look like this:

Musical instruments

Brass Percussion Strings Woodwinds

Trombone Trumpet Drums Piano Violin Harp Flute

Figure II.2

II.1.6. Meronymy

“Meronymy is a term used to describe a part-whole relationship between lexical


items (cover and page are meronyms of book). This relationship can be identified by using
sentence frames like X is part of Y or Y has X as in a page is a part of a book or a book has
pages”.62 Meronymy reflects hierarchical classification (taxonomies): a week includes
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so we can say the
relation between week and Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and
Saturday is meronymy.

Sometimes meronymy is similar to hyponymy because “it reflects a hierarchical and


asymmetrical relationship between words, represented by the “less than” sign”.63 For
example, bonnet is a meronym of car, but car is not a meronym of bonnet. Or, violin is a
hyponym of musical instrument, but musical instrument is not a hyponym of violin.

62
Ibidem, p. 67
63
Ibidem, p.67

43
Meronymic hierarchies are less clear cut than hyponymic relations. Meronyms vary
in how necessary the part is to the whole. Some are very necessary (nose-a meronym of
face), others are not obligatory (collar-a meronym of shirt), others are optional (cellar for
house).

Hyponymy and meronymy are different “in transitivity. Hyponymy is always


transitive, but meronymy may or may not be. A transitive example is: nail is a meronym of
finger and finger of hand. We can see that nail is a meronym of hand, as we can say A hand
has nails”.64

Hyponymy is a relation of inclusion between classes, while meronymy relates to


individual referents.

Teaching implications

Teachers can use meronymy to teach new words. Thus, students’ interest can be better
cultivated and they can learn words systematically. Teachers can use diagrams, word webs
to describe this semantic relationship between words and help them understand it. For
example, when talking about cars, teachers can make use of meronymy, presenting the words
related to parts of a car by means of a graphic organiser:

Roof
Bonnet

Mirror Boot

Parts of a car
Window Bumper

Windscreen
Tyre

Door

Figure II.3

64
Ibidem, p.67

44
II.2. Semantic fields and vocabulary teaching

All the words and lexical items that a language has form the lexicon of that
language. A lexical item or lexeme in the lexicon is an abstract representation that is
instantiated as a lexical unit in language use, which has a particular form and a particular
sense. For example, highest in the phrase the highest note in the song and high in I threw the
ball high are both lexical units instantiating the lexical item high. The term lexical entry
denotes the collection of information (phonological, morphological and semantic) about a
lexeme that is included in the lexicon.

The massive word store of a language can be conceived of as composed around


a number of meaning areas, some large as philosophy or emotions, others smaller, such as
kinship or colour. This is a way of imposing order on the thousands of lexemes which make
up the English vocabulary. Viewing the total meaning in this way is the basis of field theory.
According to this theory, the vocabulary is an integrated system of lexical items, words
interrelated in sense. Therefore, the words of language can be classified or grouped into
semantically related sets or fields in which the lexical item fall under a general term. For
example, apple, pear, peach, apricot, mango, pineapple make up the semantic field of fruits.
Lettuce, celery, leek, cucumber, potato, spinach, tomato, egg-plant, carrot form the field of
vegetables. Words like red, orange, yellow, green, white, black, blue, purple, pink make up
the semantic field of colours.

According to Trier’s vision of fields, the whole vocabulary can be divided up


into fields. Roget’s Thesaurus and Longman Lexicon of Contemporary English were a good
example. In his thesaurus, Roget used a scheme of universal concepts as a framework and
listed together the words which share the same concepts. Longman Lexicon of contemporary
English describes some 15.000 items, classified into fourteen semantic fields of a practical
everyday nature, which consist in many sub-fields. For example, under family relations are
father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister and under other family relations are found
uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, cousin. There is a field concerning family in the past or future:
ancestor, forefather, forebear, descendant, generation. So, a semantic field is an area of
meaning containing words with related senses – meanings of words cluster together to form
fields of meaning, which in turn cluster into larger fields. Words in each field are
semantically related and define themselves against each other. It is a general belief that the
meaning does not exist in the word itself, but it rather must be understood in relation to other
words that articulate a given content domain. A word acquires its meaning by its opposition
45
to its neighbouring words in the pattern. So, for example, in the field of medical personnel,
part of our understanding of doctor is not nurse/surgeon/matron or orderly.65 Words can
belong to more than one field. For example, mad (insane) can also mean angry and it belongs
to the field of anger. Rose operates in contrast with tulip and dahlia in one semantic field, so
it is a flower. In contrast with red and purple in another, it becomes a kind of colour. Another
example is orange: in contrast with red, blue, yellow, it is a colour in the semantic field of
colours; in contrast with pear, apple, peach, it is a fruit in the semantic field of fruits or the
semantic field of foods; in contrast with coke, pepsi, seven-up, it is a drink.

A semantic field is divided up into terms that constitute the lexical set or lexical field
which realises the semantic field. For instance, the field of residences is divided up into
castle, maisonette, home, bungalow, flat. The meaning of anyone of them is affected by the
other terms to which it is related.

The goal of the analysis of semantic fields is to collect all the words that belong to
a field and show the semantic relationship of each of them to one another and to the general
term. The words in a semantic field are used to talk about the same general phenomenon and
they share a common semantic property. The sense relations between the words in a semantic
field are similarity relations such as hyponymy, antonymy, synonymy, polysemy. Not all
sense relationships are related to the notion of semantic field. Homonymy is not related to
the notion of semantic field because it is an accidental similarity between two words; there
is no obvious conceptual connection between the two meanings of either word (bank –
financial institution vs. the side of a river or stream).

The theory of semantic fields is illustrated by Lehrer (1974)66 with words from two
lexical fields: cooking and sounds because these sets contain many of the subtleties,
asymmetries and indeterminacies which are characteristic of other lexical fields. Cook, bake,
boil, roast, fry, broil (or grill for British English), steam (for some speakers) are the basic
words in the field of cooking. The lexical set also includes simmer, stew, poach, braise,
sauté, French fry, deep fry, barbecue and charcoal. The most general terms are cook and
bake; words such as deep-fry, sauté, parboil, plank, shirr, scallop or compounds like steam-
bake, pot-roast, oven-poach, pan-broil, pan-fry and oven-fry are considered peripheral. The
first three basic cooking terms (cook, bake, boil) have both general and specific senses (only

65
Apud Neagu, M., Pisoschi, C., op. cit., p.76
66
Ibidem, p.77-79

46
basic words show this characteristic). The lexical items in this field of cooking establish
some semantic relations. Thus, steam, boil, fry, broil, roast and bake2 are hyponyms of
cook2; French-fry and deep-fry are synonyms; barbecue and charcoal are also synonyms;
sauté and deep-fry/ French-fry are hyponyms of fry, grill and barbecue/charcoal are
hyponyms of broil; simmer and boil2 are hyponyms of boil1; poach, stew, braise are
hyponyms of simmer.

The semantic field of cooking verbs can be set up to look like a series of +/- features
as in the table below, where 0 means that the feature does not apply distinctly one way or
the other. For example, frying is a kind of cooking that involves the use of fat in contact with
a flame and is not usually gentle.

water fat oven flame gentle


cook 0 0 0 0 0
boil + - - + -
simmer + - - + +
fry - + - + 0
roast - - + - 0
toast - - - + 0
bake - - + - 0

Most of the terms in the field of cooking may have metaphorical extensions in other
semantic fields. They may be used for states of emotions (boil, burn, simmer, steam, stew)
or temperature: It’s roasting/steaming in this room.

Teaching implications

According to the semantic field theory, the lexical content of a language should be
approached as a collection of interrelating networks or relations between words rather than
a cluster of individual words. Applying semantic field theory to English vocabulary teaching
can be effective and useful. Presenting new vocabulary in semantically related sets can help
students understand, learn and retain words. This way of organising vocabulary in groups of
words related to family, colours, fruits, vegetables, clothes, animals, sports, etc. is
encountered in most language coursebooks. Words can be grouped together according to
different criteria. For example, fruits can be grouped in terms of colour, shape, physical
features or nonphysical features (taste, type, place to grow). The comprehension of semantic

47
relations between words can help students gain new words, build semantic networks between
new words and known words, master vocabulary, improve their ability of using language.

For example, when talking about hobbies, teachers can help the learners build a semantic
field of hobbies (traveling, sewing, photography, playing the piano, philately, hand-
embroidery, bird-watching, playing sports, reading, drawing, painting, riding, listening to
music, dancing) and create a diagram to help students understand the relation between these
words.

Presentation of words in lexical sets can facilitate word learning because students can
form associations between their newly and already learned words.

Sense relations are important for developing lexical networks due to their correlation
with richness and depth of vocabulary.

II.3. Teaching vocabulary through sense relations

Grammar-translation teachers requested that their students should memorise long


bilingual lists of new words. This procedure has several major shortcomings:

 translation often fails to provide the exact meaning of the words, especially in the
case of polysemous ones;
 translation cannot cope with subtleties of the language, such as stylistic appropriacy;
 memorising decontextualised lists of words is hard and boring;
 it is not important that the students should learn all the new words in a new text: some
of the unknown words may have limited circulation and occurrence (not “essential
English”).67

This is the reason for which teachers understood that learning vocabulary is easier if it is
taught within a specific linguistic context. In a text, the well-known words that precede and
follow the unknown word or phrase specify the meaning of the unknown word and make it
easier to infer. The text also provides a situational context which facilitates comprehension.
The linguistic and non-linguistic contexts also set up associative links that enhance learning:

67
Vizental, Adriana, op. cit., p.179

48
it is easier to recall a new word if we mentally associate it with other, well-known ones and
their specific environment. Teaching vocabulary is a three-level process: presentation,
practice and production/use.

II.3.1. Presentation techniques

The first stage consists in the introduction of new words, of their spelling,
pronunciation, meaning and usage. At lower levels teachers must pay special attention and
dedicate some extra time to building good spelling and pronunciation habits. Generally, the
new vocabulary is introduced during the pre-reading activities, together with the
informational content of the new lesson. The new vocabulary is introduced into a
contextualised way that facilitates the comprehension of the new text. The discussion is
guided towards the topic of the new lesson, the students activate their personal life
experience and knowledge of the social background and get interested in and prepared for
the text. Such activities are efficient as they activate several of the students’ language skills
(listening, speaking, making inferences). The teacher can choose to provide all the necessary
information (pronunciation, meaning, usage) when introducing the new vocabulary.
Acquisition of vocabulary is more efficient if the students are actively involved in the process
of decoding the new text. They may be asked to infer meanings or look up words in the
dictionary.

The meaning of a word is introduced by means of several techniques: visual


techniques, verbal techniques, techniques that focus on student-centred learning.68

II.3.1.1. Visual techniques

 Using visuals

Visuals include flashcards, photographs, blackboard drawings, wallcharts and


realia (real objects brought by the teacher in the classroom) which are used for conveying
meaning and are particularly useful for teaching concrete items of vocabulary such as food
or furniture, and certain areas of vocabulary such as places, jobs, descriptions of people,

68
Gairns, R., Redman, S., op. cit., p. 73-83

49
actions and activities (such as sports and verbs of movement). They can easily lead to
practice activities involving student interaction. For example, a set of pictures illustrating
sporting activities could be used as a means of presenting items such as skiing, sailing,
climbing. These visual aids can then be used as the basis for a guided pair work dialogue:

A: Have you ever been (skiing)?


B: Yes, I went to Austria last year.

Realistic pictures of faces or sketchy blackboard drawings can be used to introduce words
expressing feelings. In the sketchy drawings, expressions are suggested by changing the
shape of the mouth. Action can be indicated with the help of stick figures, by bending legs
and arms.

Word field diagrams, word trees, word webs are another type of visuals. They are
a helpful teaching and learning device used to develop students’ understanding of a particular
concept of word. They make sense relations explicit, highlighting the relationships between
items. They could also be used as a testing activity by omitting some of the items. Learners
could also be asked to organise their own diagram of this type. This way, they are actively
engaged in using and thinking about word meaning and in creating relationships among
words.

Learners remember better the material that has been presented by means of visual aids.
Pictures can also be a good way to introduce blocks of related words, such as nouns and
verbs related to the classroom or the house or can also be used in printable worksheets or
flashcards, where pictures are matched to the word they represent.

 Using mime and gestures

These are often used to supplement other ways of conveying meaning. When
teaching an item, a teacher might resort to paralanguage (gestures, mimicry), can build a
situation to illustrate it, using gesture to reinforce the concept. Teachers can mime out
emotions and everyday activities to teach new words. Words like jump, smile, cry, nap,
sleep, dance can be demonstrated.

50
II.3.1.2. Verbal techniques

 Use of illustrative situations (oral or written)

Using illustrative situations is more helpful when items become more abstract.
Teachers often use more than one situation or context to ensure that students understand, to
check that learners have grasped the concept. To illustrate the meaning of I don’t mind the
following context may be useful:

Ali likes Dallas and Upstairs, Downstairs equally.


Unfortunately, they are both on television at the same time. It doesn’t matter to him
which programme he watches. How does he answer this question?
Teacher: Do you want to watch Dallas or Upstairs, Downstairs?
Ali: I …

The teacher could then follow this with a check question to ensure that the concept
has been grasped: “Does he want to watch one programme more than another?” The teacher
may then encourage students to use the idiom in different contexts, for instance: “Do you
want tea or coffee?” in order to elicit “Tea, please”, “Coffee, please” or “I don’t mind”
(examples from Working with words – R. Gairns and S. Redman).

 Use of synonymy and definitions

Synonymy is often used with low level students where the teacher has to restrict the
complexity of the explanation. In a text, the signals that identify the presence of a synonym
for readers could be or, commas, dashes and colons. Definition alone is often inadequate as
a means of conveying meaning and clearly contextualised examples are generally required
to clarify the limits of the item. For example, to break out in a fire broke out has the sense
of to start, but this would be a misleading definition for a learner and might encourage him
to think that the lesson broke out was acceptable English. Synonyms may be used to help
the students to understand the different shades of meaning, if the synonym is better known
than the word being taught. Synonyms help to enrich a student’s vocabulary bank and
provide alternative words instantly. The students can make crosswords, word snakes or other
puzzles for each other using these synonyms. The teacher needs to highlight the fact that
“true” synonyms are relatively rare.

51
 Use of contrasts and opposites (antonyms)

As with synonymy, this is a technique used by students themselves. Students often


ask “What’s the opposite of …?”. A new item like sour is easily illustrated by contrasting it
with sweet which would already be known by intermediate level students. It is vital to
illustrate the contexts in which this is true. Sugar is sweet and lemons are sour, but the
opposite of sweet wine is not sour wine and the opposite of sweet tea is not sour tea. Signals
which identify the presence of the antonyms in a text are instead, although, but, yet, however.

 Use of scales

This technique is the presentation of related words in scales that include the
combination of both verbal and visual techniques. Once students have learnt two contrasted
or related gradable items, this can be a useful way of revising and feeding in new items. If
students know hot and cold for example, a blackboard thermometer can be a framework for
presenting warm and cool and later freezing and boiling. This can also be done with adverbs
of frequency:

Never
hardly ever
occasionally
I sometimes go to the cinema on
Often Sundays.
Always
(example from Working with words – R. Gairns and S. Redman)

These adverbs of frequency can also be given in a jumbled version for students to
put in an appropriate order.

The meaning of words such as the months of the year, the days of the week, the parts
of the day, the seasons of the year, cardinal numbers, ordinal numbers, that form part of well-
known series can be made clear by placing them in their natural order in the series.

52
 Use of examples of the type (hyponyms)

A common procedure to illustrate the meaning of superordinates such as vegetables,


animals, flowers, furniture, transport is to exemplify them: chair, sofa, bed, table are all
furniture. Some of these can also be introduced through visual aids.

 Use of semantic sets

Words may be grouped into different semantic sets or semantic fields which form
useful “building blocks” and can be revised and expanded as students progress and they
often provide a clear context for practice as well.

According to Gairns and Redman, the possible groupings are as follows69:

 items related by topic, one of the most common and useful groupings found in course
books (e.g. types of fruit, articles of clothing, family members, household objects
etc.)
 items grouped as an activity or process (also topic-related), e.g. steps involved in
taking a photograph, opening an account, etc.
 items which are similar in meaning (e.g. ways of walking, ways of looking, etc.)
 items which form pairs, as synonyms or antonyms
 items along a scale or cline which illustrate differences of degree (e.g. temperatures,
ages, etc.)
 derivatives – items within word families (e.g. psychology, psychologist,
psychological)
 items grouped by grammatical and notional similarity (e.g. adverbs of frequency,
prepositions of place, etc.)
 items which connect discourse (e.g. to begin with, in the second place, last of all,
etc.)
 items forming a set of idioms or multi-word verbs (e.g. ring up, call up, get through,
ring back; out of sorts, under the weather, on top of the world, etc.)

69
Ibidem, p.69-71

53
 items grouped by spelling difficulty or phonological difficulty (for instance, within
a topic area, e.g. food: recipe, vegetable, steak)
 items grouped by style (e.g. cigarette/ciggy, operation/op, vegetable/veg, etc.)
 an item explored in terms of its different meanings (e.g. different meanings of
sentence)
 items causing particular difficulties within one nationality group, such false cognates
or false friends – words that look like words in the mother tongue, but have a
different meaning (e.g. to pretend, eventually, actually, phrase)

 Use of translation

Translation can be a very effective way of conveying meaning because it can save
time that might be spent on a largely unsuccessful explanation in English and it can be a very
quick way to dispose of low frequency items that may worry the students but do not warrant
significant attention. A danger with translation is that if students continue to use the mother
tongue as a framework on which to attach L2 items, they will not develop the necessary
framework to take account of sense relations between different items in the new language.
The students are losing the atmosphere of being in a language learning classroom and are
also deprived of the exposure to listening if teachers rely too heavily on the use of translation
and give most explanations in the mother tongue.

II. 3.2. Student-centred learning

Vocabulary can be acquired intentionally through explicit instruction in specific


words and word learning strategies (teacher-centred technique) and incidentally through
indirect exposure to words (student-centred learning). Concentrating on more student-
centred activities in the classroom makes the student more responsible for his own learning
and permits greater attention to individual needs. The necessary learning strategies which
allow the learner some autonomy in learning vocabulary are:

54
 Asking others

A student can ask the teacher or another student to explain the meaning of an item
which he has just encountered or when he wants to use a particular item but he does not
know how to say in English. There are some expressions which would enable the students
to ask each other about any of the items they do not know:

e.g. It’s where you (e.g. wash dishes).

It’s the thing you (e.g. use for cleaning the floor).

What’s this called in English?

What’s the opposite of (e.g. beautiful)?

(examples from Working with words, R. Gairns and S. Redman)

The teacher will need to monitor carefully to clarify meaning, check pronunciation
and spelling and supply the correct answer where necessary, but otherwise the activity can
be entirely student-centred. The teacher may decide to have a final feed-back session with
the class to ensure that the activity has been effective in supplying accurate information.

 Using a dictionary

The use of dictionary is another technique in finding out the meaning of unfamiliar
words end expressions. In this respect, the students can make use of a variety of dictionaries
(bilingual, monolingual, pictorial, thesaurus). It was said that using a dictionary was
synonymous with laziness on the part of the student who was unwilling to use his own
resources and guess the meaning for himself. Despite this belief, there are some advantages
in the use of dictionaries. A dictionary can provide important support and be a quick way of
finding information (pronunciation, phonemic script, stress marking, spelling, grammar-for
example, what parts of speech the words are-, meaning-the items are contextualised to
illustrate usage, style, register) and it can also be an important resource to clarify the
uncertainty in contextual guesswork. Using dictionaries, students will be able to continue
learning outside the classroom, fact that gives him autonomy about the decisions he makes
about his own learning.

55
 Contextual guesswork

This involves making use of the context in which the word appears to deduce its
meaning or in some cases to guess from the word itself. The students must be encouraged
to use their global-reading skills, to use the context to get to the message of the entire text,
to use contextual clues (synonyms, antonyms) to infer the meaning of the unknown words
that are important for the understanding of the text.

II.3.3. Vocabulary practice

Introduction of new vocabulary must be followed by a second stage, that of practice


when the teacher provides more explanations concerning the new lexical items: other
meanings (for polysemous words), semantic relations (homonymy, synonymy, antonymy,
hyponymy), register and style (British or American, formal or informal, neutral or
pejorative). Then the students practise the new item in exercises to facilitate its passage into
their active vocabulary. At this stage, the new words are generally drilled with the help of
objective tasks which are practical and efficient. There are some activities that enhance the
process of practising (matching pairs, fill in the blanks or sentence completion, sorting
exercises, multiple choice, odd one out).

Games (vocabulary crosswords and puzzles, bingo games) can also be used as a
good possibility for students’ practice and revision of vocabulary and as a way to sustain the
learners’ interest. With vocabulary crosswords and puzzles, the students can practise
various sets of words (names of animals, fruits, parts of the body).

Example:

Word puzzle. Find six adjectives and write their opposites:

H A R D W O R K I N G T
P B M O Q O O S T T R U
G O O S U R N N W C U U
H W U P I S K V C C D G
M W C L E V E R O A E L
N D P A T I E N T N G Y
(from How to teach vocabulary – S. Thornbury)

These tasks are principally receptive, but they can become productive by inviting the
learners to talk about their judgements. “The more decisions the learner makes about a word,

56
the greater the degree of cognitive processing, and hence the greater the likelihood of
retention in memory”.70 The stage of practice is crucial since it gives an opportunity to check
whether students understood the items correctly, as well as it builds learner’s confidence in
using new language items.

Examples of objective exercises focusing on semantic relations:

 Identifying words

Example: Find four words connected with holiday in the text.

List all the clothes items that you find in the text.

Search for words related to weather in the word square.

 Selecting words (recognising words and making choices amongst them)

Example:

Choose the odd one out in each group:


1. plain striped checked patterned
2. jacket top jeans sweater
3. tight baggy expensive loose

 Matching words (recognising words and pairing them with a synonym, an antonym)

Example:
Match the words in column A with their antonyms in column B:
A. cheap B. noisy
dangerous expensive
exciting safe
quiet boring

 Sorting words into different categories (word fields)

70
Ibidem., p. 65

57
Example:

Put these adjectives related to personality characteristics into two groups – positive
and negative: happy, committed, arrogant, anxious, unreliable, lazy, strong, reliable,
stable, honest, hardworking, humble, disorganised, weak, effective.

 Closed gap-fills - the words are provided in the form of a list at the beginning of the
exercise or in brackets, being simply a matter of multiple choice or a matter of
deciding which word goes in which gap.
Example:
1. Fill in the sentences:
There are a lot of clouds in the sky today. It’s a ………… day.
(foggy/cloudy/rainy)

2. Choose the right answer, then fill in:


It’s a beautiful day. The sun is ……………… and the sky is light blue.
a) blowing b) raining c) shining

 Ranking - putting the words into some kind of order: arranging the words on a cline
(for example, adverbs of frequency), ranking items according to preference, ordering
items chronologically

Example:

Imagine you have just moved into a completely empty flat. You can afford to buy
one piece of furniture a week. Put the following items in the order in which you
would buy them: bed, couch, wardrobe, table, desk, chair, dresser, cupboard,
bookcase, night table, commode, armchair. Now, compare your list with another
student and explain your order.

II.3.4. Vocabulary production

Presentation and practice of the new vocabulary must be followed by production.


The students must use the new linguistic items in familiar, personal contexts; they need
practice to develop good linguistic habits and correct usage. This is the way they learn to use

58
the new items to construct grammatically and semantically well-formed sentences. The
teacher must guide the students from controlled tasks to free production of language so that
the linguistic items make part of the learners’ active vocabulary, part of their communicative
competence. For this, skill-based tasks must be set by the teacher (for example, role plays)
for the students to communicate, use the language to do things, the way people do in the real
world.

Production tasks71 require completion of sentences and texts (open gap-fills) and creation
of sentences and texts.

In the open gap-fills, the learners fill the gaps by drawing on their mental lexicon.

Example:

 Fill in the sentences, using one word:


It’s raining this morning. It’s a ………………. day.
Snowflakes are falling down from the sky. It’s a ……………. night.
The wind is blowing hard. It’s a ………… evening.

Sentence and text creation tasks require learners to create the contexts for given words,
they lead naturally into speaking activities, either reading aloud or performing dialogues to
the class or comparing and explaining sentences in pairs or small groups. “These activities
involve many of the processes that serve to promote retention in long-term memory, such as
rehearsal, repetition and explanation.”72

Examples:

1. Use each of these words to make a sentence which clearly shows the meaning of the
word: slim, tall, plump, short, skinny, fat.
2. Use each of these words to write a sentence about yourself or someone you know:
strong, hardworking, pleasant, lazy, honest, ambitious, patient.
3. Write a short narrative (or dialogue) which includes at least five words from the list:
amaze, thrill, surprise, shock, excite, horrify, frighten, worry, please.

71
Thornbury, Scott., op. cit., p.100-101
72
Ibidem, p. 101

59
II.4. Strategies and aids for acquiring vocabulary through sense relations

Wilkins realised the importance of semantic relationships existing between


words and their connections with teaching and learning vocabulary because “learning
vocabulary is learning how words relate to external reality and how they relate to one
another”73 and “acquiring a language means acquiring its semantic structure”.74

We have already seen that, according to the theory of Mental Lexicon which has implications
for vocabulary teaching, words should be introduced to students according to the links
between words (semantic relationships), as foreign students, unlike native speakers, only
have a limited time to learn a foreign language, therefore needing clues that can facilitate
their learning. Knowing the patterns in which words are organised in our mind can be of
great help to make our teaching/learning easier and more efficient. Words must be taught in
semantic fields, so learners can establish links and associations which facilitate the receptive
and productive use of new vocabulary. So, learning words in semantic sets grouped
according to sense relations (synonyms, antonyms, co-ordinates, superordinates,
subordinates) enable students recall vocabulary quickly for production.

Nation properly states that teaching vocabulary should not only consist of teaching specific
words but also aims at equipping learners with strategies necessary to expand their
vocabulary knowledge. This means that students should be actively involved in meaningful
learning activities by means of student-centred techniques. Combining vocabulary with
reading, listening, speaking or writing activities, teaching vocabulary in context, “integrating
new knowledge into existing knowledge (the learners’ existing network of word associations
or what we call the mental lexicon)”75 enhance students’ vocabulary. I will present some
vocabulary learning strategies that enable students acquire words.

73
Wilkins, op. cit., p.133
74
Ibidem., p.124
75
Thornbury, Scott, op. cit., p.93

60
Emphasising learning in context

Students need to encounter the word in a context and learn how its meanings relates
to the words around it. Learners can see how a word changes its meanings depending on the
context in which it is used. Consider the changes in the word neck, as it appears in the
following sentences:

e.g. Maria put the cork back in the neck of the bottle.

They saw a neck of land between the lake and the sea.

Although the noun neck conveys the idea of part of the human body, the meaning is different
in the two examples above: in neck of the bottle, neck refers to the narrow part of something,
usually at the top; in neck of land, neck refers to a narrow piece of land which comes out of
a wider part.

Scrivener76 presents the following ideas for teachers to help learners better understand
meanings of words in context:

 point out collocations when they occur;


 design activities that focus on the collocations of particular lexical items (e.g.
collocations with the word traffic such as traffic lights, traffic jam, heavy traffic);
 set text gap-filling exercise;
 ask learners to guess the meaning from clues in the context (synonyms, antonyms,
superordinates or subordinates).

Using graphic organisers

Graphic organisers are visual aids that can be used to teach and develop vocabulary.
Graphic organisers for creating semantic networks (lexical associations – learning words
grouped in semantic sets – words which share a common superordinate concept – headword)
can help establish meaningful semantic relationships by visually representing connections
among concepts and terms. Memory of vocabulary can be enhanced when there is an
association of new words and known ones. “The appearance of graphic organisers is based
on learning theories provided in The psychology of meaningful verbal learning published by
Ausubel in 1963. Ausubel emphasises the difference between rote learning and meaningful

76
Scrivener, J. 1994. Learning teaching, Macmillan, Heinemann, p.78

61
learning in this work. He asserts that rote learning enables keeping information in memory
for a short time but it does not include integration of new information with the existing
concepts. Knowledge which is not structured actively by the students does not have an
extensible and improvable quality. On the contrary, in meaningful learning, the emphasised
issue is about the efforts of learners to unify new concepts in an active way. In Ausubel’s
meaningful learning theory, it is asserted that learners’ cognitive structures organise new
information hierarchically and higher level concepts subsume more specific concepts in their
cognitive structures. In this theory, new information is actively internalised with the help of
thinking systems by joining to existing information.”77

Using graphic organisers is encouraged for better encoding which results in better
retrieving later. Learners should be encouraged to make their own lexical associations when
they are learning vocabulary. So, learners should be involved in integration activities, that
require brain work, making decisions about words, comparing, contrasting, combining,
matching, sorting in order to help move words into long-term memory.

Semantic maps

A semantic map is a type of graphic organiser that integrates new knowledge into the
existing knowledge, visually showing relationships between words, including synonyms,
antonyms and related words; it can be used to develop students’ understanding of a word or
a group of related words.

So, the purpose of creating a map is to visually display the meaning-based connections
between a word and a set of related words or concepts, to allow students to organise their
prior knowledge into formal relations and thus to provide themselves a basis understanding
of what they are about to read and study.

Semantic maps are referred to by different names, such as concept maps, mind maps,
word webs, word networks, word clusters and have been identified by researchers as an
excellent aid for increasing vocabulary and improving skills (such as reading
comprehension), offering a way for students to demonstrate and connect their prior
knowledge to new concepts and, at the same time, serving as a tool to categorise information.

77
http://www.researchgate.net/publication/318253303/The_Effect_of_Graphic_Organizers_on_Language_
Teaching

62
I often use the word maps as pre-reading activities to activate prior knowledge and
introduce new vocabulary and as post-reading activities when categories and new concepts
are added to the original maps to enhance understanding of new words. I will describe the
steps for semantic mapping.78

 I decide on a topic for instruction and the new words that are important to be taught.
I introduce the topic and write the key word on the center of the board. I encourage
students to find words related to the selected key word. Then, I guide the students to
make lists with the words by categories. I also write down some categories:
Under the Example category, students write words that relate to the new word
(hyponymy).
Under the What is this? category, students write the category to which the word
belongs (hyponymy).
Under the What is it like? category, students offer descriptions that focus on
particular characteristics (semantic features) of the word.
 I encourage the students to talk about the relationships between these words.

Example:
In the example below, in teaching about houses, the target words are: detached
house, semi-detached house, terraced house, mansion, average, luxurious.
I begin instruction by asking students to brainstorm words related to the concept of
houses. I list the words on the blackboard, making sure to include the targeted words.
The students discuss and define the words on the list during the brainstorming
session. They are required to group related words together to make a semantic map
such as this:

78
Simarmata, R. John Pieter, Reading comprehension skills with semantic mapping and K.W.L strategies,
p.3-7

63
Buildings

What are
houses?
Detached
houses

Semi-detached
houses

Terraced
houses

Cottages

Types of Flats
Houses
houses

Mansions

Villas

What do houses
Skyscrapers
look like?

Modern Traditional Spacious Luxurious Average Tiny

Figure II.4 – Hyponymy and co-hyponymy

64
Semantic maps are valuable because:

 they can show the key parts of a whole and their relations at a glance, thereby
allowing a holistic understanding that words alone cannot convey;
 they support vocabulary development, explicitly teaching and introducing new
words;
 they also stimulate creative and critical thinking, the cognitive skills of analysis,
categorisation, synthesis and reflection; these maps involve discussion and listening
and speaking are important tools in building and solidifying vocabulary;
 sense relations play a very important role in semantic mapping process (especially
hyponymy); this technique enables the students to be more active and participate in
the process of learning (student-centred learning), helping students to identify what
they know and what they do not.

“Words in one’s vocabulary need to be categorised, classified and stored in memory for
effective use. Word finding and word retrieval, two aspects of vocabulary use, become easier
when related words are stored in an organised way so that meaningful associations among
words can be created. A semantic web can help students see the connections. The way that
learned words are stored may be as important for an individual as how many words are
stored. If thousands of words are stored in a jumble, they will be used less effectively than
if fewer words are stored in organised networks. Thus, it is important to teach or enrich
vocabulary in categories that promote organised storage”.79

Venn Diagrams

Venn diagrams are useful for learning new words, enriching the meanings of words students
already know and comparing and contrasting terms or concepts.

Example:

I select a target word from a current text or unit of study to compare and contrast. I write the
target word in the center where the circles overlap, the antonyms on the left and the
synonyms on the right. By selecting words that are closely related, I can help students
develop a deeper understanding of words and their meanings. I use colour coding to enhance

79
Wiig, H. Elisabeth, Freedman, Evelyn and Schreiber, R. Linda. 2011. The word book. Learning words
through meaningful connections, Cognitive Press, United States of America, p. 30

65
similarities and differences between words. Students have the opportunity to discuss their
choices and share their rationale for selecting the synonyms and antonyms.

Antonyms Synonyms

Sad Joyful

Upset Pleased
Happy
Sorrowful Cheerful

Miserable Glad

Figure II.5

The following Venn diagram helps students to clarify the differences and similarities
between two related concepts. The sense relations involved here are hyponymy and
antonymy.

DIFFERENCES

SIMILARITIES

Lemons Apples

Thick skin Yel Thin skin

Sour Sweet
Fruit
Edible skin Inedible skin

Oval Round

Figure II.6 – Hyponymy and antonymy

66
List-Group-Label

List-group-label is a form of semantic mapping. This strategy encourages students to


improve their vocabulary and categorisation skills and learn to organise concepts.
Categorising listed words into related groups helps students organise new concepts in
relation to previously learned concepts.

Example:

1. List: students brainstorm words related to physical appearance.


2. Group: working in small groups, students combine their word lists and begin to sort
the words into categories.
3. Label: students determine a label (a heading) for each category.

1. List
Physical appearance
young plump oval face pointed chin
tall blue eyes middle-aged small nose
curly hair old long hair short
round face wavy hair big eyes slim

Table II.7
2. Group
Physical appearance
tall young wavy hair round face
short old curly hair oval face
plump middle-aged long hair big eyes
slim blue eyes
pointed chin
small nose
Table II.8
3. Label
Physical appearance
Height and Hair Face Age
build
tall wavy hair round face young
short curly hair oval face old
plump long hair big eyes middle-aged
slim blue eyes
pointed chin
small nose
Table II.9
67
Semantic feature analysis

The semantic feature analysis strategy uses a grid to help learners explore how sets of
things are related to one another, how words are both similar and different. By completing
and analysing the grid, students are able to see connections, relationships between words
within categories, make predictions and master important concepts. This strategy enhances
comprehension and vocabulary skills.

Example:

The category I select for the semantic feature analysis is SPORTS. The students are
given key vocabulary words and important features related to sports and they are guided
through the process of completing the grid, using plus (+) or minus (-) signs to indicate
whether each sport possesses each feature.

SPORTS Individual Team Indoors Outdoors Water Winter Contact


sport sport sport
Boxing + - + - - - +
Skating + + + + - + -
Car racing + - - + - - -
Football - + - + - - -
Snowboarding + - - + - + -
Judo + - + - - - +
Rowing + + - + + - -
Skiing + - - + - + -
Wrestling + - + - - - +
Surfing + - - + + - -

Table II.10 – Hyponymy and co-hyponymy

Word sandwiches

A related activity that also looks at synonymous variations in words is the use of word
sandwiches. When creating these, students attach new words to known words as they analyse
and review them. Both semantic feature analysis and activities such as semantic sandwiches
essentially come back to the practice of going from the known to the new. In the case of
word sandwiches, students place the new word (in a different colour) between known words.

68
Example:

HAPPY FURIOUS
BLISSFUL LIVID
CONTENT ANGRY
OVERSTATEMENT LARGE
HYPERBOLE HUGE
EXAGGERATION SPACIOUS

Table II.11 - Synonymy

Semantic gradients

Semantic gradients are a way to deepen students’ understanding of related words by


considering a continuum of words by order of degree. Semantic gradients often begin with
antonyms, or opposites, at each end of the continuum and students work to list or arrange
words in a gradient of meanings between these. The use of semantic gradients helps students
distinguish between shades of meaning, thus being able to select more precise words in
their writing.

Examples:

I select a pair of opposite words (boiling-freezing or adore-hate or always-never)


and provide some synonyms for each of the opposite words. After that, the words are
arranged in a way that make a bridge from one opposite word to the other. Students are
required to discuss their reasons for placing certain words in certain places. This is a good
chance to encourage a conversation about the subtle differences among the words.

BOILING HOT WARM TEPID COOL COLD

FREEZING

69
ADORE LOVE REALLY LIKE QUITE LIKE DON’T
MIND DON’T LIKE HATE

ALWAYS USUALLY OFTEN SOMETIMES OCCASIONALLY

SELDOM RARELY NEVER

Frayer Model80

This organiser helps students select and organise information related to a key concept
by focusing their attention on relevant details. Students learn to differentiate between
essential and nonessential characteristics, as well as identify examples and non-examples of
the concept.

Example:

The students put the key word in the center box and list essential characteristics of the
word in the upper-right hand box. In the upper-left hand box, they write a definition.
Examples of the word are listed in the lower-left hand box. Non-examples of the word are
enumerated in the lower right-hand box.

80
Klein Friedman, Esther, Pinkerton, Patricia, Bonn, Kira. 2015. Word work and word play: A practice guide
for vocabulary instruction K-12 classrooms, Office of Curriculum, Instruction & Professional Learning, p.79

70
Definition Characteristics

Wooden trunk
Wooden branches
Roots
A tree is a tall plant that lives for many Leaves
years. Gives shade
Provides home to birds

TREE
Examples Non-examples

Maple Daisy
Willow Rose
Oak Tulip
Elm Cat
Palm Horse
Chestnut Bee
Pine

Table II.12

Word Pyramid81

The word pyramid is another form of semantic network; it is a hierarchical system


in which there is a descending relationship among higher level categories (supersets), lower
level categories (subsets) and members of the subsets. The word pyramid helps students
visually see the hierarchical relationship (hyponymy) among words.

Example:

The concepts are organised in sequence on the lines in the pyramid. The word with the most
power is at the top of the pyramid:

81
Wiig H., Elisabeth, Freedman, Evelyn and Schreiber R. Linda, op. cit., p.30

71
World

Continent

Country

State

Region

City

Village

Figure II.13

Flow charts

Flow charts consist in a sequence of boxes that students fill in with words in chronological
order (for example, activities they usually do in the morning, in the afternoon and in the
evening).

Example:

In the morning:

Get up Take a shower Have breakfast Brush your teeth


sshssshowesho
wer
Walk to school

The graphic organisers presented in this chapter provide a way by which teachers can
help learners develop their general vocabulary and understand other words focusing on the
sense relations among these words. The strategy of using graphic organisers is important to
the vocabulary achievement of students who struggle to learn, understand, retain, recall and
use new words meaningfully.

72
CHAPTER III

Research on teaching and learning English vocabulary through polysemy

III.1. Introduction to research

I have already presented the reasons for which vocabulary should not be neglected
in teaching and learning a foreign language. Language is a way of expressing meanings
(ideas, feelings, information), therefore “there is a sense in which learning a foreign language
is basically a matter of learning vocabulary in target language”82. Vocabulary acquisition is
a very important task facing the language learner.

Vocabulary is not learnt in a linear manner that is only progressing without any back
sliding. Learners usually forget material as well and this forgetting is a natural reality about
learning. The most basic type of problem that students have during classes is the inability to
retrieve vocabulary that has been taught, remember words over time and recall them readily,
understand a certain word in contexts where its meaning is other than the basic meaning
learnt by the students. Their problems are bigger when they need to produce words, this
being frustrating when the store of words is limited. This problem affects the development
of other skills such as speaking, writing, reading, listening. There is a close relationship
between vocabulary development and skills development; students need vocabulary to
speak, to write, to understand written or oral messages (reading and listening
comprehension); they need to acquire words for use in both understanding and producing
language. So, by developing vocabulary, they also develop these skills (productive and
receptive skills). Retaining and expanding vocabulary lead to improving overall language
skills, being a good way to build all the major language skills. Building vocabulary boosts
skills such as communication, visualisation, memory recall and practical use. More
vocabulary means that students have more words at their disposal to use and they will
understand more of the words they hear. This is the reason for which vocabulary should not
be presented in isolation; learning vocabulary is something more than just memorising lists

82
Wallace, op.cit., p.9

73
of words; the vocabulary should be taught during reading, listening, writing, speaking
activities in order to improve these skills because vocabulary and skills are interconnected.

As vocabulary consists of a series of interrelating systems and not just of a random


collection of items, lexical items should be presented in a systematised manner which will
enable the learner to internalise them in a coherent way and make him aware of the organised
nature of vocabulary. At the same time, research in memory suggests that vocabulary is
stored in the brain in a highly organised and efficient lexicon; lexemes are stored and
remembered in a network of associations. Since vocabulary is essential in learning a
language, I have to devise meaningful activities that help students develop techniques that
facilitate the storage and retrieval of words, different systems of organising lexical items in
order to speed up learning and facilitate the retention of words and their retrieval. And, as
organisation is the key to memory, this will become an important part of my teaching. I will
get away from lists of unrelated words, random words that have no connections. I want to
teach students to speak, understand, read and write English while teaching vocabulary
because the more words a student know, the more they can apply their language in a practical
way. Each new word is a new tool to boost students’ abilities to speak, write and understand
the language.

The conclusions of the researches in memory are a good reason to think that learning
words through semantic relationships, learning vocabulary in sets of words connected
through different semantic relations (synonymy, antonymy, polysemy, homonymy,
hyponymy, meronymy) help students learn new words and, the most important, retain words,
store them in the long-term memory in order to develop their vocabulary; in language
learning, sense relations are very important because the meaning of a word can only be
understood and learnt in terms of its relationship with other words in the language. This
means that knowing a word entails knowledge of the network of associations between that
word and other words in the language.

Learning vocabulary also involves self-awareness, a thinking skill that helps students
reflect on different words and their meanings, use them in different contexts or recognise
them in different texts. The interactive strategies and modern techniques to which students
are attracted help increase interest and self-awareness.

74
IV.2. Research methodology

IV.2.1. The aim of the research

The idea of conducting a research in teaching vocabulary arose from the observation of
multiple situations in which students cope with gaps in word knowledge, cannot remember
words over time and recall them for use. So, there was a great need to help learners acquire
words in a more efficient way, using meaningful techniques and engaging activities.

During my teaching experience, I have noticed that language textbooks clearly reflect
the belief that teaching vocabulary through semantic relationships leads to an efficient
vocabulary acquisition. This is reflected in the way in which vocabulary is presented in these
textbooks. New words are introduced through semantically related sets: words belonging to
the same semantic field, pairs of synonyms, pairs of antonyms, hyponymic sets
(superordinate and subordinate terms). I have also noticed that the most neglected sense
relationship is polysemy. This is the reason for which I decided to conduct a research in
teaching vocabulary through polysemy. I start from the same idea that teaching words
through semantic relationships is effective since vocabulary development involves not just
the acquisition of the meaning of isolated words, but also learning how words relate to each
other. Learners have to understand the relationships between words and such a sense
relationship is that existing between the multiple meanings of a polysemous word, the
association of two or more related senses with a single form.

Very many words in English have multiple but related meanings and this can create
confusion. Their presence in text materials is one source of comprehension difficulty because
meaning varies with context. I think that it is helpful for the students to be aware of the
polysemous nature of some words. Students can struggle with these words that have more
than one meaning, but they can also be an economical way to enrich vocabulary. Storing in
their mental lexicon multiple related meanings under the same entry, in an organised manner
(a chain, a category of related senses), helps students remember better these meanings.
Knowing the basic meaning of a polysemous word and its different shades of meaning that
are systematically related to a central sense can help students increase their vocabulary, their
general reading comprehension, confidence with reading and retention of words. So,
polysemy facilitates vocabulary acquisition because it is easier for students to learn an
extended meaning (another meaning of a word they already know) than learn a meaning that

75
is not related to a familiar one. Learners who are aware of the relations between the central
and the extended meanings of a polysemous word connect them in a meaningfully structured
network in their memory, remembering these words better. Acquiring multiple senses of a
word, students build strong word associations and retain words. Learning words with
multiple related meanings leads to the development of vocabulary; learners begin to use
more senses of words.

The aim of the research is to show that teaching words that have multiple related
meanings enhances the acquisition of vocabulary. I will investigate the effects of teaching
vocabulary through polysemy comparing it with the traditional technique of presenting the
multiple meanings of a polysemous word through translation.

IV.2.2. The hypothesis of the research

The study focuses on the effects of teaching vocabulary through polysemy, the
relationship between two or more related senses of a single word.

The main question to be answered by this study follows as: Is teaching vocabulary by
using polysemy effective for word-learning?

I started my research from the following hypothesis: Teaching and learning


vocabulary through polysemy lead to an efficient acquisition of words and, implicitly, to the
development of students’ vocabulary.

III.2.3. The participants and the design of the research

This research was designed as an experimental research by using two equivalent


groups of students, a control group and an experimental group. The participants in this study
were students in 8th grade during the 2017-2018 school year, Intermediate level (B1-
following the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages), studying at
Nedelcu Chercea, Secondary School, from Brăila. I selected students of Intermediate level
because even these students face difficulties in expressing ideas clearly because of their poor
vocabulary. The students were randomly assigned to one of the two vocabulary instruction
conditions in the subject-design. The experimental group was given lessons based on
cognitive approach, lessons which focused on learning new vocabulary through polysemy

76
while the control group was taught using traditional techniques (presenting the meanings of
polysemous words through translation). The purpose was to investigate whether teaching
vocabulary through polysemy helps students remember the words better than the students
who learn the words through traditional techniques (presenting words through unrelated sets,
through translation).

Cognitive linguists state that the meanings of polysemous words are related in a
systematic way forming radial categories where one or more senses are more central
(prototypical meaning or core meaning) while others are less prototypical (peripheral). All
the meanings of a polysemous word derive from a central meaning, they are related to one
another. So, according to the cognitive approach, it would be easier for learners to guess and
learn extended senses of a word if they already know the primary meaning of that word (the
primary meaning refers to the sense of the word that the student has learnt first). The students
learn, comprehend and remember better the words if they know the meaning that governs all
the meanings of that word (the core meaning), extended meanings of polysemous words are
better retained when learners are given core senses as cues. The retention of words will
increase if students are aware of the connections between the multiple meanings of the same
word. I will test the validity of this idea in my research.

The experimental group included 14 students; the control group included 19 students. The
participants were composed of 15 girls and 18 boys, all in 8th grade and 14-15 years old.
However, gender and age were not of concern in the present study, nor did they have an
effect on data analysis.

III.2.4. The phases of the research. Research instruments and variables

The effects of teaching vocabulary through semantic relationships on 8th grade


students word-learning were investigated during the second semester of the school year
2017-2018. The experiment was conducted for a period of four weeks during which the
students in the experimental group received vocabulary instruction based on meaningful
strategies that focus on polysemy, the semantic relationship between two or more senses of
a single form, while the students in the control group received vocabulary instruction through
traditional techniques.

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The experiment was structured on three phases: the pre-test/pre-experimental
phase, the experimental phase and the post-test/post-experimental phase, in each of it
different types of tests were used at different times according to the objectives of the study.

In the pre-experimental phase of the research, in order to have a correct


evaluation of the students’ potentials, I gave my students a pre-test exclusively on
vocabulary problems studied in the first semester. This test was meant to assess the overall
language proficiency of the students in the two groups and their relative language level. The
vocabulary pre-test was used to assess recognition or production using gap-filling and
multiple choice exercises that are reliable (there is only one correct answer), are quick to
solve and evaluate and most learners are familiarised with these types of exercises. The full
test as well as the answer key and the interpretation of the test can be seen at the end of the
paper (Annex 1 presents the test, Annex 2 presents the answer key and Annex 3 presents the
test interpretation).

Here are the results of the pre-test, the frequent problems encountered by
students and the conclusions I reached after the pre-test:

Marks given Under 4-4.99 5-5.99 6-6.99 7-7.99 8-8.99 9-10


4
The
experimental 2 2 3 3 3 1 0
group – 14
students
The control
group – 19 2 3 5 4 4 1 0
students

Conclusions:

 Most students were able to build adjectives from verbs of emotion.


 Most students were able to choose the correct adjective expressing emotions and
feelings.
 Some students have difficulties in understanding the different meanings of the verbs
go, get and give.
 Some students have difficulties in writing correct, coherent sentences.

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The pre-test helped me to assess the overall language proficiency of the students in
the two groups and their relative language level. Students in the control and experimental
groups have relative similar language levels. This is shown by the following charts:

Pre-test
The experimental group
Marks 9-10
0%
Marks under 5
Marks 7-8.99 27%
33%

Marks 5-6.99
40%

Pre-test
The control group
Marks 9-10
0%
Marks 7-8.99 Marks under 5
26% 26%

Marks 5-6.99
48%

For the experimental phase, I chose three verbs (run, break and play) which
are frequently encountered by students. The students are familiar with their primary senses.

79
Despite this, students always face some difficulties when these words have other meanings
than those they already know, depending on the context in which they are used. Students in
both groups were familiar with the basic meanings of these words. Examples of these basic
meanings were also included in the teaching and testing process because the other meanings
that are targeted in this experiment are related to these meanings, derive from them.

Procedure for the experimental group

During the experimental phase (the implementation and monitoring of the


experimental treatment), the students in the experimental group were given lessons focused
on learning vocabulary through polysemy. The vocabulary activities were integrated in
lessons covering receptive and productive language skills because I started from the idea
that vocabulary should not be taught in isolation, since there is a strong connection between
vocabulary development and skills development. The best way to teach polysemous words
is within a context since words are not isolated most of the time, they are parts of a complex
web of connections and communication is enhanced by acquiring more meanings of the same
word.

The students were taught in accordance with the cognitive linguistic approach
to polysemy. I underlined the prototypical meanings of the targeted words by writing
keywords on the blackboard which explained the usage and extended meanings of the verbs.
For example, I explained that the most meanings of break involve the idea of interrupting
something. So, the use of break in break up was motivated to the learners by telling them
that, when people break up, they interrupt, end a relationship. I tried to make them aware of
the relation between the central and the extended meanings of these polysemous verbs. I
started from the idea that making connections between the basic meaning of a word they
already know and other extended meanings of that word gives students the opportunity of
getting involved more actively in acquiring new vocabulary. The cognitive energy they
spend during learning, the deep processing by getting students to think about the connections
between the senses of the same word enhance vocabulary learning.

Procedure for the control group

The difference between the experimental and the control group was in the manner of
presentation of the material to be taught. The students in the control group were taught

80
vocabulary through traditional techniques (lessons that follow the typical lesson pattern
where students listen while the teacher explains a new word to them; the teacher presents
random unrelated words in lists, students read a text and then answer comprehension
questions, students do an exercise from the students’ book or given by the teacher). Several
senses of run, break and play were presented on the blackboard alongside their Romanian
equivalents without underlining the connections between the meanings of these words, the
relation they have with a central meaning from which they derive. This is a teacher-centred
lesson, since it is the teacher who gives all the information in presenting a new item, without
involving the students too much in the process.

The experimental phase was followed by the post-test phase when the students in
the experimental and control groups were given a test on the vocabulary notions taught
during the experimental treatment. The results of the two groups were compared in order to
reveal whether there were differences between the performances of the students taught with
the traditional techniques and of those who were taught vocabulary through polysemy.

The variables of the research are the independent variable which is the use of polysemy to
teach vocabulary and the dependent variable which is the vocabulary knowledge of the
students.

III.2.5. Describing activities for teaching and learning vocabulary through polysemy

I will go on to present the activities done with my students during the experimental
phase of my research. They are activities based on the course book used in classroom
(Snapshot Intermediate, Longman) and other materials and worksheets that I devised for
presenting and practising the polysemous verbs I chose. A very helpful aid is represented by
some monolingual dictionaries: Collins Cobuild Intermediate Dictionary, Dictionary of
Contemporary English, Longman, Macmillan English Dictionary.

81
Activity 1. Target word: break

Objectives:

By the end of the activity:

- students will review the concept of polysemous words;


- students will clarify the meanings of the polysemous verb break using their prior
knowledge and the central meaning of this verb;
- students will differentiate between the senses of break;
- students will use context (examples, definitions) as a clue to the meaning of break;
- students will write sentences to demonstrate correct use of the polysemous verb
break in context;
- students will improve vocabulary and word meaning skills.

The aim of this activity is to introduce the multiple related meanings of the verb break and
to enable students to understand the connection between the meanings of this verb in order
to use it appropriately later and, implicitly, develop their vocabulary. For this, I am going to
use their prior knowledge, their understanding of the primary meaning of this verb to which
all the other senses are related.

Step 1: Introduce in context

I begin the activity by bringing into the classroom some pictures illustrating several
meanings of the verb break. I tell the students that these pictures are connected and ask them
to say how. The students recognise the word break. I write it on the blackboard and ask the
students to tell me the meaning they think of when they encounter this word. I guide the
students and elicit a definition, the basic meaning of the verb break that is interrupt the
regularity, uniformity or arrangement of something. I write it on the blackboard. I explain
that it is a polysemous verb, a verb with many related meanings and what I have written on
the blackboard is its primary/central meaning.

Step 2:

I give the students a handout with some sentences (Annex 4). I explain that the verb
break is used with different meanings, depending on the context in which it appears. The
students read the sentences and try to guess the meanings of the verb having in mind its
primary meaning. I help them by making a word web to illustrate the multiple meanings of
the verb break and pointing to the motivation for the usage and meaning extensions of break.
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This word web is a way to visualise the relation between the various meanings of a
polysemous word. I explain the new meanings of break to the students by emphasising the
relation these meanings have with the basic, central meaning of the verb, I try to define the
word by the concept that runs through all its senses. For example, the use of break in break
up is motivated to the students by telling them that, when people break up, they interrupt,
end a relationship, they separate each other, they break some kind of connection. Break down
and break a glass involve the separation into pieces, the interruption of the uniformity and
regularity of something. Break out refers to breaking the limit of a container to get out, while
break in refers to breaking the limit of a container in order to get in. Break law or rules and
break an agreement involve the idea of interrupting the agreement of something. In war
breaks out or storm breaks out there is a figurative meaning, the excess of tension breaking
the limit of a virtual container producing war/ storm.

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Break your
word, break
the law=not end
have a rest to keep a something
promise

destroy,
BREAK
separate
give change for
into pieces Interrupt the a bank note
regularity,
uniformity or
arrangement of

break in = something

enter by force
or illegally;
interrupt
break down

break up =
end a
relationship, break out

separate

get upset
stop

to begin working

suddenly (of
escape
war, fire,
from a
unpleasant
place
situations)

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Step 3: Controlled practice

The students are given a handout with the pictures they have already seen and are asked to
write a sentence about each picture in order to highlight the main word.

The students practise the meanings of break in several exercises - gap-filling exercises,
matching exercises- which are good for getting practice in producing phrases accurately
(Annex 5, exercises I-III).

Step 4: Free practice

The students are involved in communicative activities that promote interaction and
communication. The goal is to help students go from the controlled exercises to using the
meanings of the verb break on their own. They have to answer some questions and discuss
the answers with a partner (Annex 5, exercise IV).

Activity 2. Target word: run

Objectives:

By the end of the activity:

- students will review the concept of polysemous words;


- students will clarify the meanings of the polysemous verb run using their prior
knowledge and the central meaning of this verb;
- students will differentiate between the senses of run;
- students will use context (examples, definitions) as a clue to the meaning of a word;
- students will compose their own sentences using various meanings of the verb run.

The aim of this activity is to introduce the multiple related meanings of the verb run
and to enable students to understand the connection between the meanings of this verb in
order to use it appropriately later and, implicitly, develop their vocabulary. For this, I am
going to use their prior knowledge, their understanding of the primary meaning of this verb
to which all the other senses are related.

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Step 1: Lead-in

I begin the activity by using a dialogue from the students’ book containing some
meanings of the verb run. In order to introduce the students into the topic of the text, I ask
them the following question: Have you ever acted in a play? The students answer the
question.

Step 2:

The students read a dialogue between two teenagers who have a problem with a part in their
play. After reading the dialogue, the students work a comprehension exercise (Annex 6).

Step 3:

The students are required to read the dialogue again and find two sentences containing the
verb run. The students find the two sentences: We’ve run out of coffee and I’ll run through
the main scenes with you if you like.

In order to clarify the meaning of run in these sentences and introduce other meanings of
the verb run, I will start from the students’ prior knowledge. The students are asked to give
a definition for the verb run. The first meaning of run that students think of is move quickly.
This is the meaning that they are familiar with. I explain that run is a polysemous verb and
it has several related meanings and most of these meanings involve the idea of movement.
So, they are related.

I explain the new meanings of run by emphasising the relation these meanings have with the
basic, central meaning of the verb. For example, the use of run in A tap is running was
motivated to the students by telling them that, when a tap runs, it means that water is flowing
out of it; so, the meaning of run involves the movement or flow of a liquid.

The central or core sense (move quickly) is also identified in the following senses of the verb
run: run (hurry) to get to work in time, run in a marathon, run away, run somebody home, a
path running through the forest, run the engine (make it move, function, work).

The students are told that there are also some extended meanings which are figurative
meanings because they do not involve physical movement: run for elections involves
performing an energetic activity and competition, but it is a figurative meaning since it does
not involve physical movement.

86
We can identify other figurative meanings of run in: run a computer (operate), run an
organisation (manage), run through (rehearse, review), run out of (have none left), run into
(meet accidentally).

I write the central meaning of run (move quickly) on the blackboard and make a word web
to illustrate the meanings of run. There is a central meaning (move quickly) around which
some peripheral meanings cluster, being related to the central meaning or to each other.

Step 4: Controlled practice

The students practise the meanings of run in several exercises - gap-filling exercises,
matching exercises- which are good for getting practice in producing phrases accurately
(Annex 7, exercises I-III).

Step 5: Free practice

The students are involved in communicative activities that promote interaction and
communication. The goal is to help students go from the controlled exercises to using the
meanings of the verb run on their own. They have to imagine they are on holiday and write
an e-mail to a friend or a family member using five meanings of the verb run (Annex 7,
exercise IV).

87
go in one direction/go from one place to another:

The path runs through the woods.

make some liquid flow:

I ran a warm bath.

hurry:

I should run. I will miss the movie.

to get away:

You can run, but you cannot hide.

function, work:
RUN
The camera was still running.
move quickly
drive somebody somewhere in your car:
He ran a mile.
He offered to run me home after the party.

run for an office, candidate, compete:

He announced he would run for president.

run a business, manage (as a director or manager), be


responsible for:

Mark runs a hotel.

run a computer program = operate, start and let continue

This program runs on a standard personal computer.

run out of =have none left

We have run out of milk.

run into somebody/something = meet unexpectedly

I ran into George yesterday.

run through something = rehearse, review, repeat

This scene needs rehearsing more. Can we run through it again?

run away = leave unexpectedly, escape


88
We let the rabbit out of its cage for a moment and it ran away.
run
away=escape

run through hurry

smth.=review

run out make a


of=have liquid
none left flow
RUN

move quickly
function,
work
run into
smb.=meet
unexpectedly

run a
drive smb.
business=
in your car
manage

run for an
office=candidate,
compete

89
Activity 3. Target word: play

Objectives:

By the end of the activity:

- students will review the concept of polysemous words;


- students will understand the multiple meanings of the verb play using their prior
knowledge and the central meaning of this word;
- students will differentiate between the senses of play;
- students will write sentences to demonstrate correct use of the meanings of play in
context.

The aim of this activity is to introduce new vocabulary, the multiple related meanings of the
verb play, in order to improve their vocabulary knowledge.

Step 1: Activate prior knowledge

I tell the students that I am going to play a short video made of some transitional clips and
they have to pay attention to what the clips describe (some children playing in the park,
actors playing on the stage, playing music on a CD, etc.).

Step 2:

I ask the students to write the verb that characterises the clips they have already watched. I
tell them that these clips represent the same verb. The students work in pairs.

Step 3:

Once the students are sure of the word described by these clips, they are asked to write a
phrase or sentence representing one of the clips they have watched and then highlight the
main word. Students share answers. They use the verb play with its primary meaning (for
example, I am playing in the park) because this is the meaning they learned first and are
familiar with. I help them, explaining the meanings that they do not understand.

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Step 4:

I bring into attention the concept of polysemy and signal the central meaning of play by
writing keywords on the blackboard (doing activities for fun) which point to the motivation
for the use and meaning extensions of play. For example, I tell them that the multiple
meanings of the verb play involve the idea of doing pleasant activities, doing activities for
fun (play games/sports, play a record/CD/tape).

There are some figurative meanings extended from this central meaning; for example, play
tricks on somebody, play about, play up imply the idea of behaving badly, in a silly and
irresponsible way, not taking things seriously. Play a role, play along, play up have in
common the idea of pretending to be a certain person.

I present the meanings of the verb play with the help of example sentences on the blackboard
to help them figure out and understand the meanings, beyond the mere memorisation of a
definition. In addition, I use a word web to illustrate the meanings of this verb.

91
perform sports, act, perform as
games, matches a character in
a film or play
play play a musical
tennis/cards play a role instrument

play the piano


PLAY ABOUT

behave in a silly,
irresponsible way PLAY

doing things for fun play a


record/CD/tape

PLAY UP

behave badly in
a way you think
funny PLAY DOWN
PLAY ALONG
make a problem
To pretend to seem less
agree with important
someone

PLAY AT

pretend to be a certain
person while playing
a game

play at being pirates

92
Step 5: Controlled practice - drills for getting practice in producing the target
vocabulary

The students practise the meanings of play in several exercises - gap-filling exercises,
matching exercises (Annex 8, exercises I-III).

Step 6: Free practice - communicative activities to promote interaction and


communication

Students get intensive practice using the targeted language on their own. They have to
imagine they have just made a new friend and make a conversation with a partner about what
they like doing in their free time. They are required to use five meanings of the verb play
and then act out their dialogue (Annex 8, exercise IV).

Activity 4: Consolidation

Objective:

By the end of the activity the students will review their knowledge of the multiple related
meanings of the verbs break, run and play.

Procedure:

The three activities, developed at different times (in different lessons), are followed by a
revision lesson in which the students get intensive practice using the target vocabulary (the
multiple related meanings of the verbs break, run and play). These activities would expand
and reinforce the new vocabulary. Providing students with multiple opportunities to
encounter the new vocabulary and its various meanings helps them remember better the new
information.

Students receive tasks in which they have to recognise and produce the target vocabulary
and there are also some games that motivate them and increase their confidence in learning,
they also being a good excuse to revise vocabulary (Annex 9).

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III.2.6. Analysis of the results obtained by students after vocabulary testing

In the post-test phase of the research, the students in the experimental and control
groups were given a test on the vocabulary notions taught during the experimental treatment.
The results of the two groups are compared in order to reveal whether there are differences
between the performances of the students taught with the traditional techniques and of those
who were taught vocabulary through polysemy. The full test as well as the answer key and
the interpretation of the post-test can be seen at the end of the paper (Annex 10 presents the
post-test, Annex 11 presents the answer key, Annex 12 presents the test interpretation).

The test is devised to measure the students’ vocabulary knowledge acquired in


the experimental phase of the research (the polysemous verbs break, run and play). It is
divided into two parts: the first part contains three objective test items (gap-filling, multiple
choice and matching exercises) whereas the second part contains a subjective test item. The
test items have the following objectives:

O1: Given a gap-filling exercise with five items, the students should be able to complete all
the sentences using the verbs run, break, run through, break out and play down.

O2: Given a matching exercise with five items, the students should be able to associate the
underlined verbs in column 1 with their meanings in column 2.

O3: Given a multiple-choice exercise with five items, each consisting of three options, the
students should be able to choose the only correct answer.

O4: Given five questions, the students should be able to answer them, making use in their
answers of some underlined expressions.

Here are the marks given:

Marks given Under 4-4.99 5-5.99 6-6.99 7-7.99 8-8.99 9-10


4
The
experimental 1 1 1 2 5 3 1
group – 14
students
The control
group – 19 2 3 6 5 2 1 0
students

94
Conclusions regarding the results of the students in the experimental group:

 Most students were able to fill in the blanks in exercise I.


 Most students were able to match the verbs with their meanings in exercise II. So,
the students were able to differentiate between the senses of the target polysemous
verbs, which was the primary aim of the instruction.
 Most students were able to choose the correct expressions in exercise III.
 Most answers in exercise IV proved that students recognised the meanings of the
polysemous words used in the questions; the students were able to use them in
sentences of their own.
 The final remark is that, if students acquire the motivation of the meanings of
polysemous words, they will learn, remember and use them more easily. If students
are conscious of the core/central meaning of a given polysemous word, they can
comprehend other meanings of that word, learning them easily than those students
who were not taught this way.

Conclusions regarding the results of the students in the control group:

 There were students who encountered problems in choosing the appropriate verb to
fill in the sentences, some of them could not remember the meanings of the
polysemous verbs. The multiple senses of the same verb were mixed up, the
overlapping meanings created confusion. So, they were not able to differentiate
between the senses of the target polysemous verbs. I think that a cause of this problem
is the fact that the meanings were presented through translation, under the form of
lists, not in a systematic way, focusing on the semantic relations between them. This
observation is available for each exercise.
 The final remark is that students will forget the majority of meanings since their
explanations are entirely based on lists without explaining the systematic relation
between the senses.

95
Post-test
The experimental group
Marks 9-10
Marks under 5
7%
14%

Marks under 5

Marks 5-6.99 Marks 5-6.99


22% Marks 7-8.99
Marks 9-10

Marks 7-8.99
57%

Post-test
The control group
Marks 9-10
Marks 7-8.99 0%
16%
Marks under 5
26%

Marks under 5
Marks 5-6.99
Marks 7-8.99
Marks 9-10

Marks 5-6.99
58%

The charts below show a comparative analysis of the pre-test and final-test given to the
experimental group and control group.

96
6

5
The experimental group
4

0
Marks 9- Marks 8- Marks 7- Marks 6- Marks 5- Marks 4- Marks
10 8.99 7.99 6.99 5.99 4.99 under 4
Pre-test 0 1 3 3 3 2 2
Post-test 1 3 5 2 1 1 1

5
The control group

0
Marks 9- Marks 8- Marks 7- Marks 6- Marks 5- Marks 4- Marks
10 8.99 7.99 6.99 5.99 4.99 under 4
Pre-test 0 1 4 4 5 3 2
Post-test 0 1 2 5 6 3 1

The results presented clearly favour the teaching of vocabulary through semantic relations
(polysemy). The two ways of presenting vocabulary were:

97
1.Using the cognitive approach to teach polysemous verbs by pointing to the central meaning
of each word from which the other meanings derive, highlighting the meaning relatedness,
the connections between the multiple senses of the same word. The understanding of the
connections between the multiple meanings of the same words helps students to remember
better these words and develop their vocabulary.

According to research in the field of cognitive semantics, the multiple related meanings of a
word are contained in networks that allow learners to recognise meaning relationships
between the senses of a word because the word’s senses are located within a single lexical
item based on the core meaning of the word.

2.Presenting the polysemous words through the Romanian equivalents of their multiple
meanings, without bringing into attention the systematic relations between the various
meanings of the target word, the relations between the central meaning and the other
meanings of the words.

The two ways of presenting vocabulary are not equally effective, students in the
experimental group being able to retain words presented through polysemy better than the
students in the control group who were taught polysemous words through translation without
focusing on the relations between the multiple meanings of the same word.

The comparisons above showed that students in the experimental group improved their
marks and level of knowledge by the time I applied the post-test. The experimental treatment
was very useful because it helped students to understand how to learn and retain the
meanings of the polysemous words, focusing on the relations between central meanings and
extended meanings, meanings derived from the central meaning. It was easier for them to
learn extended meanings of words they were familiar with since they knew the primary
meaning of those words, the primary meaning referring to the meaning they learnt first. The
students proved a positive attitude towards the problems discussed during classes, being
involved in the activities, acquiring new language structures, using them in communicative
situations. The positive results show that teaching vocabulary making use of the semantic
relationships between words helps students acquire new words and develop their vocabulary.

98
CONCLUSIONS

The idea of conducting this study came from the wish to find a solution to students’
struggle to remember and use words in speaking and writing. They are often unable to
express their thoughts and opinions because of their lack of vocabulary knowledge. Not
being able to find the words you need to express yourself is the most frustrating experience
in speaking a foreign language. The improvement of students’ language competence depends
on the enrichment of their vocabulary. The process of learning a foreign language is a hard
work which needs constant effort, energy and determination in order to be able to
communicate in that language.

Although vocabulary teaching is a very important part of language teaching, it has


been neglected for a long time under the traditional teaching methodology. Teachers have
sometimes tended to forget the importance of vocabulary by overemphasising grammar. But
this situation has changed greatly and teaching vocabulary is of tremendous importance in
learning a foreign language. Due to the fact that language teaching has continuously
developed, there is a need to replace the old, traditional techniques with new instructional
strategies.

Vocabulary development involves not just the acquisition of the meaning of


isolated words, but also learning how words relate to each other. Learners have to understand
the relationships between words and such a sense relationship is that existing between the
multiple meanings of a polysemous word, the association of two or more related senses with
a single form. This is the reason for which I decided to investigate the effectiveness of
teaching vocabulary through polysemy by comparing it with teaching vocabulary through
traditional techniques. The two ways of presenting vocabulary were:

1. In the experimental group, I used the cognitive approach to teach polysemous verbs
by pointing to the central meaning of each word from which the other meanings
derive, highlighting the meaning relatedness, the connections between the multiple
senses of the same word. The conclusion is that the understanding of the connections
between the multiple meanings of the same words helps students remember better
these words and develop their vocabulary.
2. In the control group, I presented the polysemous words through Romanian
equivalents of their multiple meanings, without focusing on a familiar meaning of

99
that word and bringing into attention the relations between the various meanings of
the target word (the relations between the central meaning and the other meanings of
the words).

The results of the experiment support the teaching of vocabulary through polysemy and
prove the hypothesis that teaching and learning vocabulary through polysemy lead to an
efficient acquisition of words and, implicitly, to the development of students’ vocabulary.

The two ways of presenting vocabulary are not equally effective, students in the
experimental group being able to retain words presented through polysemy better than the
students in the control group who were taught polysemous words through translation without
focusing on the relation between the multiple meanings of the same word.

Storing in their mental lexicon multiple related meanings under the same entry, in
an organised manner (a chain, a category of related senses), helps students remember better
these meanings. Nation (2001) suggests that a good way to learn polysemous words is to
define a word by the concept that runs through all its senses.

Knowing the basic meaning of a polysemous word and its different shades of
meaning that are systematically related to a central sense can help students increase their
vocabulary, their general reading comprehension, confidence with reading and retention of
words.

So, polysemy facilitates vocabulary acquisition because it is easier for students to


learn an extended meaning (another meaning of a word they already know) than learn a
meaning that is not related to a familiar one.

Learners who are aware of the relations between the central and the extended meanings of a
polysemous word connect them in a meaningfully structured network in their memory,
remembering these words better. Acquiring multiple senses of a word, students build strong
word associations and retain words. Learning words with multiple related meanings leads to
the development of vocabulary; learners begin to use more senses of words in their own
contexts.

The students proved a positive attitude towards the problems discussed during
classes, being involved in the activities and interested in independent word-learning
strategies, acquiring new language structures and using them in communicative situations.
The positive results show that teaching vocabulary through sets of related meanings of a

100
word, using a diversified range of activities and teaching materials according to the learners’
level and specific needs, helps students acquire new words and develop their vocabulary and
also motivates them into becoming self-conscious language learners. Teaching polysemy
enables the learners to distinguish between the different meanings of a word with closely
related meanings. Learners are more likely to retain words if they are actively involved in
meaningful activities that require some kind of semantic processing and provide a unifying
topic to facilitate organisation and storage in the long-term memory.

In conclusion, teachers should not only find appropriate techniques and types of
tasks to convey meaning, but also help students develop different systems of organising
lexical items in order to facilitate the learning, storage and retrieval of words so as to give
them the opportunity to become independent from the teacher and classmates, which is a
necessary step towards learner autonomy.

101
ANNEXES

Annex 1

Test Paper

I. Complete the sentences with the correct part of speech from the verbs in brackets.
(4p. x 5 = 20 p.)

1. It’s a bit ……………………….. that Emma hasn’t arrived home yet. (worry)
2. The Sky Ride was an ……………… end to the day. (excite)
3. I was ………………. to see how thin she was. (shock)
4. You really gave me a …………………. just then. (frighten)
5. It was ………………. to see so many empty seats. (surprise)

II. Choose the correct adjective to describe emotions and feelings in the following
sentences. (4p. x 5 = 20p.)

1. As she was walking in the street at that late hour of the night, Tessa couldn’t
distinguish if the noise was coming from her own steps on the pavement or it
was from someone else, following her closely; she must have felt
……………… relaxed/terrified/proud.
2. It was the last exam he had to take and he wasn’t able to prepare them all as
thoroughly as he should have, so he failed that one and felt …………………
worried/disappointed/excited.
3. Both parents were …………………… scared/annoyed/thrilled to see their
son receive the first prize in the painting competition.
4. The little girl stood up and started reciting the poem in a weak voice that
could be hardly heard at the back of the classroom, as she felt so ……………
proud/intimidated/furious.
5. The family had been driving for hours and were ………………
tired/anxious/bored to reach their destination: the grandparents’ house.

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III. Complete the sentences with the following verbs: go on, gave up, got, go over,
give in. Write a synonym for each verb. (4p. x 5 = 20 p.)

1. My father …………. smoking two years ago.


2. The boys …………… very bored yesterday.
3. Our team are tough and they won’t ……………..easily.
4. I’ll ……………. the instructions if you like.
5. John, could you please …………….. reading the paragraph?

IV. Write a half page composition about your favourite character in a film or a book
using at least five adjectives that describe moral features.
30 p.

TOATE SUBIECTELE SUNT OBLIGATORII.


TIMP DE LUCRU: 50 MINUTE
10 PUNCTE DIN OFICIU

103
Annex 2

Test Paper
Key

I. 20 points (4 points x 5)
1) worrying
2) exciting
3) shocked
4) fright
5) surprising

II. 20 points (4 points x 5)


1) terrified
2) disappointed
3) thrilled
4) intimidated
5) anxious

III. 20 points
2 points x 5 (for completing the sentences with the correct verbs):
1) gave up
2) got
3) give in
4) go over
5) go on
2 points x 5 (for writing a synonym for each verb):
1) stopped
2) became
3) surrender
4) repeat
5) continue

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IV. 30 points
Task achievement (12 p.)
Grammar (6 p.)
Vocabulary accuracy (6p.)
Coherence and cohesion (6 p.)

105
Annex 3

Test Paper interpretation

Teacher: Onosă Iuliana-Dorina

School: Şcoala Gimnazială Nedelcu Chercea

Grade: 8th

Level of students: Intermediate

Number of students in the control group: 19

Number of students in the experimental group: 14

Type of assessment: pre-test in the experimental study

Objectives:

The test is devised to measure the students’ vocabulary knowledge acquired in units
1-4 (words derived from verbs of emotion, adjectives describing emotions, feelings and
moral features, the verbs give, got and go). It is divided into two parts: the first part contains
three objective test items (gap-filling and multiple choice exercises) whereas the second part
contains a subjective, integrative test item. The test items have the following objectives:

O1: Given a gap-filling exercise with five items, each containing a verb that expresses
emotions, the students should be able to complete all the sentences with the correct part of
speech from the verbs in brackets.

O2: Given a multiple-choice exercise with five items, each consisting of three options (three
adjectives describing emotions and feelings), the students should be able to choose the only
correct answer.

O3: Given a gap-filling exercise with five items, the students should be able to complete all
the sentences using the verbs gave up, got, give in, go over, go on and write a synonym for
each verb.

O4: Given a topic, the students should be able to write a half page composition using at list
five adjectives describing moral features.

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The marks given

Marks given Under 4-4.99 5-5.99 6-6.99 7-7.99 8-8.99 9-10


4
The
experimental 2 2 3 3 3 1 0
group – 14
students
The control
group – 19 2 3 5 4 4 1 0
students

Conclusions:

 Most students were able to build adjectives from verbs of emotion.


 Most students were able to choose the correct adjective expressing emotions and
feelings.
 Some students have difficulties in understanding the different meanings of the verbs
go, get and give.
 Some students have difficulties in writing correct, coherent sentences.

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Annex 4

HANDOUT

The polysemous verb break

1. He broke the glass.

2. My brother broke his leg while playing football.

3. Tom had a break for coffee.

4. He broke his word and never called me again.


Anyone who breaks the law should be punished.

5. The meeting was broken by a man who started singing.

6. Can you break a fifty pound note for me, please?

7. I cannot do the project because my computer broke down yesterday.


He broke down when he heard the terrible news.

8. Their attempt to break out from prison was foiled.


She needed to break out from her daily routine.
The fire broke out during the night.

9. They broke up after ten years of marriage.


I broke up with my friend yesterday.

10. The burglars broke in by smashing a window.

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Annex 5

Worksheet
The verb BREAK

I. In the blank spaces, give a synonym or a definition for the bold words:

a) On the way home, my car broke down.


……………………………………….
b) When she heard that her husband had been killed in accident, she broke
down.
……………………………………….
c) During his absence the thieves broke into his house.
………………………………………..
d) My sister broke my mother’s watch.
………………………………………..
e) He was hungry, so he broke for lunch.
………………………………………..
f) The talk-show was broken by some important news.
………………………………………..

II. Find the appropriate verb to fill in the blanks. Pay attention to the form of the
verb and mention the meaning of the verb in each sentence.

a) If you …………………… the speed limit, the penalties are severe.


meaning-
b) Shake the snow of the branches to prevent them from ……………. .
meaning-
c) We used to have a toaster, but it …………….. .
meaning-
d) People were throwing stones and several windows …………………. .
meaning-

109
e) We got married a month before the war ………………. .
meaning-
f) Someone ……………………. through the bedroom window last night.
meaning-
g) The car ………………….. just outside Winchester.
meaning-
h) He has just ………………… with his girlfriend.
meaning-
III. Match the beginnings with the endings:

1) Three men have …


2) Dad would occasionally break in …
3) The printing machines …
4) The couple …
5) The cameras catch …
6) Why don’t we break now …

a) … are always breaking down.


b) … broke up last year.
c) … broken out of a top security jail.
d) … motorists who break the speed limit.
e) … and meet again tomorrow?
f) … with an amusing comment.

IV. Answer the following questions. Discuss your answers with your partner.

a) When was the last time you broke your word?


b) Have you ever broken your neighbours’ windows?
c) When was the last time your father’s car broke down?
d) Have you ever broken your leg/arm?

110
Key to exercises
I.
a) On the way home, my car broke down.
break down=stop functioning
b) When she heard that her husband had been killed in accident, she broke
down.
break down=cry, be overcome with emotion
c) During his absence the thieves broke into his house.
break into=enter by force
d) My sister broke my mother’s watch.
break=separate into pieces
e) He was hungry, so he broke for lunch.
break=stop for a short time
f) The talk-show was broken by some important news.
break=end or interrupt something

II.
a) If you break the speed limit, the penalties are severe.
break=fail to obey (a rule or law), misbehave, misconduct, disobey
b) Shake the snow of the branches to prevent them from breaking.
break=separate into pieces
c) We used to have a toaster, but it broke.
break=stop functioning
d) People were throwing stones and several windows were broken.
break=destroy, separate into pieces
e) We got married a month before the war broke out.
break out=begin suddenly
f) Someone broke in through the bedroom window last night.
break in=enter by force
g) The car broke down just outside Winchester.
break down=stop functioning
h) He has just broken up with his girlfriend.
break up=end a relationship

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III. 1. Three men have broken out of a top security jail.
2. Dead would occasionally break in with an amusing comment.
3. The printing machines are always breaking down.
4. The couple broke up last year.
5. The cameras catch motorists who break the speed limit.
6. Why don’t we break now and meet again tomorrow?

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Annex 6

Worksheet

Read the dialogue and answer T (true), F (false) or DK (don’t know).

1. Zoe isn’t well enough to play her part.


2. Adam would like to cancel the performance.
3. Sarah refuses to take Zoe’s part.
4. She is not sure that she can remember the lines.
5. Adam encourages her.

Sarah: We’ve run out of coffee, Adam. I’m just going to get some more.

Adam: Hang on, Sarah. I’ve just heard from Matt. In the end he and Zoe got home safely

last night but we’ve got a problem.

Sarah: What sort of a problem?

Adam: Zoe has lost her voice.

Sarah: Oh, no! Will she be able to do the performance tonight?

Adam: I don’t think so.

Sarah: Can’t we cancel it?

Adam: I’m afraid not. You’ll have to play the part of her.

Sarah: But …

Adam: Come on, Sarah. You’re the understudy. This is your big break. This is what you’ve

been waiting for, isn’t it?

Sarah: Yes, I suppose so.

Adam: Don’t worry. You know you can do it. I’ll run through the main scenes with you if

you like.

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Sarah: Thanks, Adam. That’s really sweet of you.

Adam: I know you’ll be fine.

Sarah: I hope so!

Adam: In a few hours’ time you’ll be wondering what all the fuss was about!

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Annex 7

Worksheet

The verb RUN

I. In the blank spaces, give a synonym or a definition for the bold words:

a) I ran into an old friend in the park yesterday.


……………………………………………….
b) He ran away from home last year.
……………………………………………….
c) Don’t leave the car engine running.
………………………………………………..
d) Did you leave the tap running?
………………………………………………..
e) Salinas is running for a second term as President.
………………………………………………..
f) You’ll have to run if you want to catch the bus.
………………………………………………...

II. Find the appropriate verb to fill in the blanks. Pay attention to the form of the
verb and mention the meaning of the verb in each sentence.

a) I …………….. down the stairs as fast as I could.


meaning-
b) The hotel ………………. by a very rich man.
meaning-
c) She …………………………….. a mail-order business for ten years.
meaning-
d) She got out of the car and left the engine …………………….. .
meaning-
e) I often …………………. the washing machine more than once a day.
meaning-

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f) Briefly, she …………………… details of the morning’s events.
meaning-
g) Guess who I …………….. this morning?
meaning-
h) Many hospitals ……………………….. of money.
meaning-

III. Match the beginnings with the endings:

1. Courses are currently …


2. The hotel is …
3. Several people ran …
4. You shouldn’t keep the engine …
5. Try running the …
6. We must act now …

a. … because time is running out.


b. … being run in London and Edinburgh.
c. … running when the car is standing still.
d. … to help her when she fell.
e. … well-run and extremely popular.
f. … the program again and see if it works.

IV. Imagine you are on holiday. Write an e-mail to a friend or a family member. Use
five meanings of the verb run.

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Key to exercises
I.
a) I ran into an old friend in the park yesterday.
run into=meet unexpectedly
b) He ran away from home last year.
run away=leave unexpectedly
c) Don’t leave the car engine running.
run=work, function
d) Did you leave the tap running?
run=flow
e) Salinas is running for a second term as President.
run=candidate, try to be elected
f) You’ll have to run if you want to catch the bus.
run=move quickly

II.
a) I ran down the stairs as fast as I could.
run = move quickly, hurry
b) The hotel is run by a very rich man.
to be run = to be managed
c) She has been running a mail-order business for ten years.
run = be responsible for…, manage
d) She got out of the car and left the engine running.
run = function, work
e) I often run the washing machine more than once a day.
run = use
f) Briefly, she ran through details of the morning’s events.
run through = repeat, review
g) Guess who I ran into this morning?
Run into = meet unexpectedly
h) Many hospitals are running out of money.
run out = have none left

117
III. 1. Courses are currently being run in London and Edinburgh.
2. The hotel is well-run and extremely popular.
3. Several people ran to help her when she fell.
4. You shouldn’t keep the engine running when the car is standing still.
5. Try running the program again and see if it works.
6. We must act now because time is running out.

118
Annex 8

Worksheet

The verb PLAY

I. In the blank spaces, give a synonym or a definition for the bold words:

a) I don’t like the children who play up.


…………………………………..
b) She felt she had to play along with his idea or risk losing her job.
…………………………………..
c) Don’t play about and do your homework.
…………………………………..
d) Gloria plays the violin in the London Philarmonic.
…………………………………...
e) He was asked to play in a new version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
…………………………………...
f) Alain was playing cards with his friends.
…………………………………...

II. Find the appropriate verb to fill in the blanks. Pay attention to the form of the
verb and mention the meaning of the verb in each sentence.

a) Children ……………………….. and chasing each other.


meaning -
b) Karen began …………………… basketball when she was six.
meaning-
c) He is learning to ……………….. the piano.
meaning-
d) Meryl Streep ……………….. a shy, nervous woman.
meaning-

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e) The White House spokeswoman sought to …………………… the
significance of the event.
meaning-
f) Mike’s teachers say that he …………………. in school.
meaning-
g) When the teacher wasn’t looking, we used to ………………….. a lot.
meaning-
h) All you have to do is to ……………………. with what he wants.
meaning-

III. Match the beginnings with the endings:

1. The children …
2. The role of the mother …
3. The orchestra …
4. Mike and Tom have …
5. He played down …
6. He played about instead of …

a) …been really playing up this evening.


b) …doing his homework.
c) …the results of the final tests.
d) …were playing football in the park.
e) …played beautifully tonight.
f) …was played by one of Australia’s finest actresses.

IV. Imagine you have just made a new friend. Make a conversation with your partner
about what you like doing in your free time. Use five meanings of the verb play.
Act out your dialogue.

120
Key to exercises

I. a) I don’t like the children who play up.


play up=behave badly
b) She felt she had to play along with his idea or risk losing her job.
play along=pretend to agree to do what someone wants
c) Don’t play about and do your homework!
play about=behave in a silly way
d) Gloria plays the violin in the London Philharmonic.
play=use an instrument to make music
e) He was asked to play in a new version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
play=to act, to perform as a character in a play or film

f) Alain was playing cards with his friends.

play=perform a game

II. a) Children were playing and chasing each other.


play=do things for fun, with other people or with toys
b) Karen began playing basketball when she was six.
play=perform a sport
c) He is learning to play the piano.
play=to perform a piece of music on a musical instrument
d) Meryl Streep plays a shy, nervous woman.
play=perform as a character in a film
e) The White House spokeswoman sought to play down the
significance of the event.
play down=make something seem less important than it is
f) Mike’s teachers say that he plays up in school.
play up=behave badly
g) When the teacher wasn’t looking, we used to play about a lot.
Play about=behave in a silly way, waste time when you should be
121
doing something else
h) All you have to do is to play along with what he wants.
play along=pretend to agree to do what someone wants

III. 1. The children were playing football in the park.


2. The role of the mother was played by one of Australia’s finest
actresses.
3. The orchestra played beautifully tonight.
4. Mike and Tom have been really playing up this evening.
5. He played down the results of the final tests.
6. He played about instead of doing his homework.

122
Annex 9

Worksheet

I.

Give a definition for the underlined word:

a) I think he plays along in order to be promoted.

b) Does your car run on petrol or diesel?

c) Shall I run you home?

d) Many people don’t care who runs the country.

e) We took turns driving in order to try and break the monotony.

f) Polly was playing with her teddy bear.

g) I never break my promises.

h) The marriage broke up just a few years later.

i) When the little boy heard that he would be sent to a boarding school he broke down.

j) During last night he broke in and killed a policeman.

II.

Fill in the gaps with the appropriate verb. Choose from these verbs: play down, run through,
break, play about, break in, run out, run away, break up, play. Use the correct tense of each
verb.

a) Let’s just …………………… the piece one more time.

123
b) Thieves …………………….. and stole the computer equipment.

c) Stop …………………… and get on with doing your homework.

d) They returned home from South Africa when their money …………………. .

e) He lost his job and his marriage ………………. .

f) Managers …………………… reports that many jobs could be lost.

g) We were keen to get back to the hotel before the storm …………….. .

h) He …………………….. for AC Milan before he was transferred to Arsenal.

i) Toby…………………… from home at the age of 14.

III.

Match the beginnings with the endings:

1. A mountain range …
2. I had to break …
3. I had to play along with her …
4. They have started drilling for oil in the region, …
5. She’s been running …
6. There is a classical music …
7. Elliot claims that …
8. Firefighters are to run 500 km …

a. … a mail-order business for ten years.


b. … his business partner broke the contract.
c. … a window to get into the house.
d. … breaking an agreement made five years ago.
e. …runs parallel to the Western border.
f. … and pretend that we really were happy.
g. … to raise money for a children’s charity.
h. … playing in the background.

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IV.

Answer these questions:

1. Have you run into old friends recently?


2. When was the last time you broke something?
3. Do you usually run through your notes the night before a test?
4. Do you like playing chess?
5. Name something you have run out of recently and you haven’t bought yet.
6. Do you usually play about instead of doing your duties?
7. What is the first thing you do when you break up for summer?
8. Do you know somebody who runs a business?

V.WORD SEARCH

Find words in the grid that have the following meanings:

a) separate into pieces


b) pretend to be a different person while playing a game
c) behave in a silly way
d) stop working
e) manage a business
f) end a relationship
g) have none left
h) do enjoyable activities
i) meet unexpectedly
S O B G I W J V A U W A E U
R G R U N O U T T T T S R I
C D E Z P L A Y A R O U N D
I V A W B R E A K G A W T A
J I K C R U K D F M R A H E
W P D O E N D X V O G G R T
L I O R A Z S T C T S V I Y
O A W Y K A E O F E C D Z W
P Q N N U I S R M D I J F F
A T R S P L A Y N I O O X D
Q E E E Q E Y W I B E L G E
P L A Y A T F D G U D I K I
E O L W R H D A I F H T Q M
I A R U N I N T O T G U T O

125
VI.BINGO GAME

Teacher’s card

CANDIDATE NOT KEEP A STOP, MEET


PROMISE REST UNEXPECTEDLY

ACT IN A FILM ESCAPE FROM BE OVERCOME BEHAVE IN A


PRISON WITH SILLY WAY
EMOTIONS

HAVE NONE
END A USE A MUSICAL BEHAVE BADLY LEFT
RELATIONSHIP INSTRUMENT

Example of a student’s card

RUN BREAK AN BREAK FOR RUN INTO


AGREEMENT LUNCH

PLAY UP PLAY AROUND BREAK OUT PLAY THE


GUITAR

PLAY A PART BREAK UP BREAK DOWN RUN OUT OF


COFFEE

126
Key to exercises

I.

a) I think he plays along in order to be promoted.


play along=pretend to agree to do what someone wants
b) Does your car run on petrol or diesel?
run=work, function
c) Shall I run you home?
run=take somebody in your car
d) Many people don’t care who runs the country.
run=control, organize something
e) We took turns driving in order to try and break the monotony.
break=end something
f) Polly was playing with her teddy bear.
play=do things for fun
g) I never break my promises.
break a promise=not keep a promise
h) The marriage broke up just a few years later.
break up=end a relationship
i) When the little boy heard that he would be sent to a boarding school he broke down.
break down=get upset, cry
j) During last night he broke in and killed a policeman.
break in=enter by force

II.

a) Let’s just run through the piece one more time.


b) Thieves broke in and stole the computer equipment.
c) Stop playing about and get on with doing your homework.
d) They returned home from South Africa when their money ran out.
e) He lost his job and his marriage broke up.
f) Managers played down reports that many jobs could be lost.
g) We were keen to get back to the hotel before the storm broke.
h) He played for AC Milan before he was transferred to Arsenal.

127
i) Toby ran away from home at the age of 14.

III.

1. A mountain range runs parallel to the Western border.


2. I had to break a window to get into the house.
3. I had to play along with her and pretend that we really were happy.
4. They have started drilling for oil in the region, breaking an agreement made
five years ago.
5. She’s been running a mail-order business for ten years.
6. There is a classical music playing in the background.
7. Elliot claims that his business partner broke the contract.
8. Firefighters are to run 500 km to raise money for a children’s charity.

V.

S O B G I W J V A U W A E U
R G R U N O U T T T T S R I
C D E Z P L A Y A R O U N D
I V A W B R E A K G A W T A
J I K C R U K D F M R A H E
W P D O E N D X V O G G R T
L I O R A Z S T C T S V I Y
O A W Y K A E O F E C D Z W
P Q N N U I S R M D I J F F
A T R S P L A Y N I O O X D
Q E E E Q E Y W I B E L G E
P L A Y A T F D G U D I K I
E O L W R H D A I F H T Q M
I A R U N I N T O T G U T O

a) separate into pieces = break


b) pretend to be a different person while playing a game = play at

128
c) behave in a silly way = play around
d) stop working = break down
e) manage a business = run
f) end a relationship = break up
g) have none left = run out
h) do enjoyable activities = play
i) meet unexpectedly = run into

129
Annex 10

Test Paper

I. Choose the appropriate verb to fill in the blanks: run, break, run through, break
out, play down.
(4p. x 5 = 20 p.)

a) If you ……………………. the rules, you will be punished.


b) Jackson announced his intention to ………………. for President.
c) The government tried to …………………… the threat to public health.
d) She felt the need to ………………………. of her daily routine.
e) Do you want me to …………………… through the details with you?

II. Match the following underlined verbs to their meanings:


(4 p. x 5 = 20 p.)
a) On the way home my car broke down.
b) They ran out of money and had to abandon the project.
c) I am exhausted! The children have been really playing up this afternoon.
d) Fire broke out in our office last night.
e) I ran into an acquaintance of yours last night.

1. begin suddenly
2. meet unexpectedly
3. stop functioning
4. have none left
5. to behave badly

III. Choose the correct expression:


(4p. x 5 = 20 p.)
1. If someone breaks into your home, he:
a) visits you.
b) leaves a message for you.
c) enters by force.
130
2. To run into someone is to:
a) run over him.
b) run up to him.
c) meet him unexpectedly.

3. If you play about, you:


a) behave in a silly way.
b) take part in a sport.
c) behave in the right way.

4. If somebody breaks for lunch,


a) he stops working in order to eat.
b) he goes shopping during lunch break.
c) his lunch break ends.

5. If somebody runs a restaurant, he:


a) works in a restaurant.
b) manages a business.
c) moves fast to get to the restaurant.

IV. Answer the questions, making use in your answers of the underlined expressions:
(6p. x 5 = 30 p.)
1. Have thieves ever broken into your home or apartment?
2. Whom did you run into yesterday?
3. Have you ever run away from home?
4. Have you ever broken something?
5. Do you usually play about instead of doing your homework?

TOATE SUBIECTELE SUNT OBLIGATORII.


TIMP DE LUCRU: 50 MINUTE
10 PUNCTE DIN OFICIU.
131
Annex 11

Test Paper
Key

I. 20 points (4p. x 5)

a) break
b) run
c) play down
d) break out
e) run through

II. 20 points (4p.x 5)

a–3
b–4
c–5
d–1
e–2

III. 20 points (4p. x 5)

1–c
2–c
3–a
4–a
5–b

IV. 30 points (6p. x 5)

Task achievement: 15 points


Vocabulary accuracy: 10 points
Grammar: 5 points

132
Annex 12

Test Paper interpretation

Teacher: Onosă Iuliana-Dorina

School: Şcoala Gimnazială Nedelcu Chercea

Grade: 8th

Level of students: Intermediate

Number of students in the control group: 19

Number of students in the experimental group: 14

Type of assessment: pre-test in the experimental study

Objectives:

The test is devised to measure the students’ vocabulary knowledge acquired in the
experimental phase of the research (the polysemous verbs break, run and play). It is divided
into two parts: the first part contains three objective test items (gap-filling, multiple choice
and matching exercises) whereas the second part contains a subjective test item. The test
items have the following objectives:

O1: Given a gap-filling exercise with five items, the students should be able to complete all
the sentences using the verbs run, break, run through, break out and play down.

O2: Given a matching exercise with five items, the students should be able to associate the
underlined verbs in column 1 with their meanings in column 2.

O3: Given a multiple-choice exercise with five items, each consisting of three options, the
students should be able to choose the only correct answer.

O4: Given five questions, the students should be able to answer them, making use in their
answers of some underlined expressions.

133
The marks given

Marks given Under 4-4.99 5-5.99 6-6.99 7-7.99 8-8.99 9-10


4
The
experimental 1 1 1 2 5 3 1
group – 14
students
The control
group – 19 2 3 6 5 2 1 0
students

Conclusions regarding the results of the students in the experimental group:

 Most students were able to fill in the blanks in exercise I.


 Most students were able to match the verbs with their meanings in exercise II.
 Most students were able to choose the correct expressions in exercise III.
 Most answers in exercise IV proved that students recognized the meanings of the
polysemous words used in the questions; the students were able to use them in
sentences of their own.

Conclusions regarding the results of the students in the control group:

 There were students who encountered problems in choosing the appropriate verb to
fill in the sentences, some of them could not remember the meanings of the
polysemous verbs. The multiple senses of the same verb were mixed up, the
overlapping meanings created confusion. I think that a cause of this problem is the
fact that the meanings were presented through translation, under the form of lists, not
in a systematic way, focusing on the semantic relations between them. This
observation is available for each exercise.

134
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138
Declaraţie de autenticitate

privind lucrarea metodico-ştiinţifică pentru obţinerea gradului didactic I

Subsemnata, Onosă Iuliana-Dorina, cadru didactic la Şcoala Gimnazială


,,Nedelcu Chercea”, din localitatea Brăila, judeţul Brăila, cu domiciliul în Brăila, Strada
Tărgovişte, nr. 2, bl. D3, sc. 1, ap. 19, act de identitate CI, seria XR, nr. 520866, tel
0768943209, e-mail onosaiuliana@yahoo.com, înscrisă în seria 2017-2019 pentru examenul
de acordare a gradului didactic I, cunoscând dispoziţiile articolului 292, Cod penal, cu privire
la falsul în declaraţii, declar pe propria răspundere următoarele:

a) Lucrarea metodico-ştiinţifică cu tema ,,TEACHING AND LEARNING


ENGLISH VOCABULARY THROUGH SEMANTIC RELATIONS IN
SECONDARY SCHOOL” a fost elaborată personal şi îmi aparţine în
întregime;
b) Nu am folosit alte surse decât cele menţionate în bibliografie;
c) Nu am preluat texte, date sau elemente de grafică din alte lucrări sau din alte
surse fără a fi citate sau fără a fi precizată sursa preluării, inclusiv dacă sursa
o reprezintă alte lucrări ale subsemnatei Onosă Iuliana-Dorina.
d) Lucrarea nu a mai fost folosită în alte contexte de examen sau de concurs.

Dau prezenta declaraţie fiindu-mi necesară la predarea lucrării metodico-ştiinţifice


pentru obţinerea gradului didactic I, în vederea evaluării şi a acceptării pentru susţinerea
finală.

Data, Semnătura,

139