Wirag, Andreas

The Construction and Efficiency of Prototype Definitions for the EFL Learner’s Dictionary

An Empirical Study in Applied Cognitive Linguistics




As a new, emerging field in L2 teaching and learning, Applied Cognitive Linguistics employs models and theories from Cognitive Linguistics and Psychology for the instruction of foreign languages, hoping to create more effective L2 teaching materials, methods and activities. In the past, EFL learner’s dictionaries, such as the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, have used a definition style that relies on a Feature-Based Semantics. Here, defined words are treated as sum of their semantic features (e.g., “cactus” as “plant that grows in hot dry regions, with a thick stem and spines”). In contrast, this book suggests a novel definition style for the EFL learner’s dictionary that makes use of a usage-based Prototype Semantics – i.e., “Prototype Definitions”. Here, definitions are based on the most typical usage events (i.e., actual utterances that contain a given word) for the defined word. The first part of the book, to introduce the novel definition style, discusses a Feature-Based Semantics, Prototype Semantics in Eleanor Rosch’s tradition, and a recent, usage-based Prototype Semantics. In its second part, it introduces a quantitative learner study with sixth-form EFL students at eight German secondary schools. The study shows that “Prototype Definitions”, in direct comparison to OALD definitions, lead to a higher outcome in correct L2 word understanding.

Contents (PDF)



ISBN 978-3-86821-908-1 264 S., 15 Abb., 25 Tab., kt., € 34,50 (2021)

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