Idioms usually contain two layers of meaning

Idioms usually contain two layers of meaning. One is called the literal meaning; the
other is called the extended meaning. Literal meaning can be directly obtained from
the literal meaning of constituent parts of the idioms, while extended meaning is ge-
neralized and abstracted on the basis of literal meaning.
Cognitive Linguistics has managed to successfully create a system in idioms. Cognitive linguists (Kövecses 2000, Lakoff 1986) have grouped idioms and created a system based on their common concepts. As an example, expressions such as spark off and fan the flame have one common concept: fire. The idioms can be considered as motivated conceptually by general knowledge of the world, which entails a systematic structure that characterises a corresponding coherent system of the idiomatic structure (Lakoff & Johnson 1999). Chen and Lai (2013: 15) have brought an example of fire-related idioms used to describe the emotion anger, by using FIRE as the source domain and ANGER as a target domain and the connection made between the two ANGER IS FIRE. This means that idioms can in fact be considered as motivated rather than arbitrary. Moreover, the connection between the concepts is called conceptual metaphor (Lakoff 1986: 381-340) and it illustrates the connection between fire and anger. Conceptual metaphors are usually represented in capital letters (Deignan, Gabrys & Solska 1997: 352). According to Chen and Lai (2013: 15) EFL students can develop an understanding of the meaning of idioms through the awareness and knowledge of the conceptual metaphors behind them. However, according to Gibbs (2007: 2-4) conceptual metaphors are not fixed, but rather created by the linguists following their intuition. In other words, cognitive linguists follow their intuition to uncover language-mind links, image schemas and conceptual metaphors. Image schema is considered to be an abstract conceptual representation of the embodied experience of the everyday interaction and the observation of the world around us (Evans 2007:106). Gibbs (2007) questions cognitive linguists’ intuition-based approach because it focuses too heavily on introspection about matters of linguistic structure and behaviour, but agrees that intuition is a 13 necessary source for constructing hypotheses and suggests caution in creating conceptual metaphors, experiments etc. Stöver (2011: 81-82) states that in order to have metaphoric understanding and not experience tension between the literal and non-literal while encountering a metaphor, learners should be made aware of metaphoricity (Moon 2009) and what it contains. In other words, using conceptual metaphors while teaching figurative language is not useful if the learners have not been familiarised with the concept and how it can be used.


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