More about Spinsters and their Cats: Encyclopaedic Knowledge and Second Language Learning

  • Jeannette Littlemore


We saw in Chapter 1 that the words bachelor and spinster mean much more than ‘unmarried man’ and ‘unmarried woman’. The word bachelor connotes ideas of freedom and licentious behaviour, whereas the word spinster for many people connotes ideas of old age, loneliness, lack of desirability (and possibly the possession of lots of cats). These connotations are arguably as much part of the ‘meaning’ that these words have for a given individual as the state of celibacy, and thus reflect a person’s encyclopaedic knowledge. Encyclopaedic knowledge refers to all the information we store in our minds, which, according to Evans and Green (2006: 206) constitutes ‘a large inventory of structured knowledge’. Different areas of this inventory are triggered by the use of different words and phrases. The content of this inventory extends well beyond denotative information, and includes all the connotations that have come to be associated with those words and expressions, over the period during which we have been exposed to them. Thus ‘linguistic knowledge’ cannot be seen as being separate from ‘world’ knowledge, and ‘semantic’ knowledge cannot be seen as being separate from ‘pragmatic’ knowledge’ (ibid.). Encyclopaedic knowledge is made up of a complex network of links between ideas.


Native Speaker Language Learner Target Language Word Association Mental Lexicon 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Jeannette Littlemore 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeannette Littlemore
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BirminghamUK

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