Dissertation > Language, writing > FOREIGN > English > Language teaching > Teaching method

A Study on Polysemy Teaching in College English from the Perspective of Prototype Category Theory

Author WangZuoFan
Tutor GuoHongYan
School Ningxia University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords polysemy prototype category theory metaphor metonymy empirical study
CLC H319.3
Type Master's thesis
Year 2014
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Vocabulary is one of the basic components of language and plays an indispensable role in language learning and communication. Polysemy is a common phenomenon of language and the research of polysemy is a crucial topic of language study. Polysemy refers to a word which has two or more than two senses and the multiple meanings of it are connected with each other. There exists large amount of polysemous words in English and polysemy acquisition is one of the important and difficult points in vocabulary learning.The traditional study of linguistics emphasizes on the significance of the structure of language which ignores the relations between different meanings of polysemy and make polysemy learning inefficient. With the development of cognitive linguistics, the study of prototype category theory becomes the top concern in the cognitive linguistics. Meanwhile, it is also a hot topic in language teaching. The theory of categorization and prototype has proved a very powerful approach to explain polysemy. According to Wang Yin (2007), each member is the core of a category and those members expand according to Family Resemblances continuously, which is the same to the meaning of a word. Several meanings of a word begin to expand based on the core meaning to form a meaning chain so as to form a semantic network. Moreover, many scholars try to analyze the form and meaning extension of polysemy from the perspective of prototype category theory and understand the connections between different senses by means of metaphor and metonymy. However, until now, many scholars focus on the explanation for the extension of multiple senses of polysemous words with the help of prototype category theory. Few studies concentrate on the study of the helpful role of prototypical meaning in the acquisition of peripheral senses from the perspective of an empirical study. This is why the author chooses to study the application of prototype theory in language acquisition.This paper tries to explore the effectiveness of prototype category theory in polysemy teaching with the help of an empirical study and aims to find out an efficient way in polysemous words teaching and simulate students’ interest in polysemous words learning to enlarge students’ vocabulary. An empirical study is conducted to100non-English major freshmen of two natural classes of the School of Economics and Management and School of Materials in Beifang University of Nationalities in2012. One class is randomly chosen as the experimental class (EC) and the other is the controlled class (CC). The prototype theory guided teaching was conducted with prototype theory while the traditional method is applied in CC. All the words are selected from the Innovation College English (Book1) and (Book2). After15week’s empirical teaching, all the data collected from two questionnaires and seven vocabulary tests are analyzed with the help of Excel2007and SPSS13.0.Based on the experiment study, three conclusions can be drawn as follows:1) there are some changes of the learners’ strategies toward polysemous words acquisition after the experiment;2) the application of prototype theory on polysemous words teaching outperforms the traditional method;3) prototypical meaning helps the acquisition of peripheral sense of words.All the data obtained can testify that the prototype theory plays a positive role in polysemy teaching and learning. The application of prototype category theory can help learners change the learning process from rote memorization to flexible learning. Moreover, prototype category theory can improve the efficiency of polysemous words teaching and thus give some implications to the language teaching.

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