‘Loud suits’ and ‘sharp cheese’: Motivated Language and Second Language Learning

  • Jeannette Littlemore


One of the things that all humans do when faced with new input of any kind, is to search for meaning. Although recent approaches to language teaching, such as the lexical approach (LA), have emphasized the arbitrary nature of language, work in cognitive linguistics has shown that many aspects of language are in fact meaningful or motivated. Cognitive linguists use the term ‘motivated’ in a different way from mainstream applied linguists. In applied linguistics, the term is usually used to refer to keen and enthusiastic learners, whereas in cognitive linguistics, the term is applied to the language itself; it is used to refer to the fact that some aspects of language are not arbitrary and that there are sometimes reasons why we say things the way we do. For instance, as we have already seen in Chapter 7, some form-meaning connections are not as arbitrary as people claim, especially if we are aware of the types of processes (such as metaphor, metonymy and embodied cognition) that link form and meaning in language. Using these findings, teachers can explain, in theory, to their students why it is that certain expressions mean certain things, instead of simply telling them ‘that’s just the way it is’ and expecting them to learn expressions by heart. This engages learners in a search for meaning, which is likely to involve deeper cognitive processing which, according to Craik and Lockhart (1982), leads to deeper learning and longer retention.


Target Language Language Teacher Meaning Connection Language Classroom Cognitive Linguistic 
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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