On the Awareness of English Polysemous Words by Arabic-Speaking EFL Learners

Sulafah Abdul Salam Alnamer


This study measures the extent to which Arabic-speaking EFL learners are aware of polysemy in English. It also investigates whether the English proficiency level of Arabic-speaking EFL learners plays a role in their ability to distinguish between the various meanings of English polysemous words, and whether they face problems when they encounter these words in unusual contexts (i.e. the contexts that employ the extended meanings of the target polysemous words). To these ends, a translation test in which the participants were asked to give full Arabic translation for fifteen English sentences was designed. The words open, run, and make were the target polysemous words in this study. The Results show that Arabic-speaking EFL learners have little awareness of polysemy in English, and their English proficiency level does play a role in their ability to distinguish between the different meanings of English polysemous words. It was also found that Arabic-speaking EFL learners have no problems guessing the primary meaning of the English polysemous words. However, they face difficulty guessing the extended meanings of polysemous words in unusual contexts. Moreover, some Arabic-speaking EFL learners can guess the extended meanings of the polysemous words they encounter in familiar contexts, or when they understand some cues provided to disambiguate these words. This study concludes with some pedagogical implications and recommendations for further studies.


Polysemy, second language acquisition, Arabic-speaking EFL Learners, the primary meaning, the extended meanings

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.alls.v.8n.2p.112


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