4. “Drugs, traffic, and many other dirty interests”

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Existing empirical research into the role of metaphor in the foreign language learning process focuses primarily on comprehension and recall. Yet students’ ability to produce conventional metaphor in their speech and writing is considered one of the measures of advanced proficiency in a foreign language. While Danesi (1994) argues that “conceptual fluency” is fundamental if students are to achieve naturalness in their language production, Charteris-Black (2002) and others stress that conceptual knowledge does not necessarily lead to the production of acceptable linguistic forms. There is a gap to be bridged between learning the concepts and learning how they are realized linguistically. In this chapter, figurative language produced by advanced learners of English is examined with reference to general language corpora, both for the students’ mother tongue, Italian, and their foreign language, English. This mode of investigation makes it possible to identify when unusual phraseology can be ascribed to language transfer alone, and when other factors appear to be involved. The data presented in this chapter illustrate how conceptual knowledge formed in the mother tongue can interfere with the acquisition of foreign language conceptualisations, and highlight the importance of phraseology in fixing conceptual meaning.


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