Pragma-linguistic Difficulties in the Recognition of Phrasal Verbs by Iraqi EFL University Learners

Mohanad A. Amret, Sinan A. Yousif


The purpose of this paper is to recognize the level of pragma-linguistic difficulties Iraqi EFL university learners face when handling phrasal verbs. Despite the fact that phrasal verbs are easy to understand by native speakers of English, non-native speakers usually encounter some difficulties in understanding the meaning of a phrasal verb depending on the meaning of the root verb, or different phrasal verbs of the same root. The problem might be attributed to pragma-linguistic knowledge. However, culture gap could be the reason behind such difficulties. The aim of the study is (1) to evaluate the pragma-linguistic level of interpreting phrasal verbs as understood and used by Iraqi EFL university learners, (2) to check the level of difficulty they experience while recognizing phrasal verbs, and (3) to find out reasons behind such misinterpretations. It is hypothesized that (1) the pragma-linguistic interpretation of phrasal verbs tends to play an important role in understanding the message conveyed by the speaker; (2) cultural gap could be the reason that EFL learners recognize phrasal verbs incorrectly, and (3) mother tongue language might make it difficult for EFL learners to understand phrasal verbs. To verify the aforementioned hypothesis, a test has been constructed and administered to a sample of 100 fourth-year Iraqi EFL university learners, morning classes at the department of English Language and Literature, College of Arts, in Mustansiriyah University, during the academic year 2017 – 2018. The responses of the students have been collected and linguistically analyzed according to a model given by Richards and Schmidt (2010). It has been found that Iraqi students’ lack of cultural norms of the target language makes it difficult for them to understand phrasal verbs. The lack of this knowledge is considered as a factor of confusion and then failure. The influence of the first language culture on the recognition of phrasal verbs may be seen as a negative first language transfer. The reason behind this negative transfer is that the norms and principles of first language are different from the norms and principles of the target language. It has been concluded that Iraqi EFL university learners have difficulties in pragma-linguistic knowledge as far as phrasal verbs are concerned. Iraqi EFL university learners face great difficulties in using phrasal verbs while communicating with other people. While using phrasal verbs, Iraqi EFL university learners have been highly influenced by their mother tongue language.


Phrasal Verbs, Recognition, Particles, Prepositions, Prepositional Particles, Collocation, Culture

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