A cognitive linguistic analysis of French prepositions a, dans, and en and a sociocultural theoretical approach to teaching them

Kimberly Buescher, Susan Strauss

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

16 Scopus citations


Second language (L2) learners routinely have difficulty learning prepositions and postpositions, even after years of formal L2 instruction. This is due primarily to the fact that the prepositional or postpositional system for representing spatio-temporal relations in one language overlaps in limited ways, if at all, with the system in a second language. We present a portion of the results from a large-scale on-going project on the conceptualization of French prepositions a, dans and en in grammar and discourse. The project is based on a combined application of discourse analysis and cognitive linguistic (CL) theory used in the development of a unified conceptual understanding of the three target prepositions. The project also involves a crucial pedagogical component informed by Vygotskian Sociocultural Theory (SCT) of Mind in which teachers and learners of French are presented with a graphically organized and systematic conceptual framework designed for the presentation of grammar and grammatical structures and intended for use as prospective replacements for the syntactically prescriptive, pragmatically descriptive, and arbitrarily ordered lists of rules-of- thumb, sentences and phrases. We provide samples of the symbols that were used in our student-focused pedagogical workshops, from summer and fall, 2013. Pre- and post-test results reflect increased student confidence and improved understanding of the concepts and conceptual system, designed using a CL-inspired framework together with an SCT/Concept-Based Instruction (CBI)- informed pedagogy. Students are empowered to use conceptual understandings as a tool for thinking to express concepts that are native to L2 (and do not map onto L1) and in creative and agentive ways. CL-inspired applications provide students with different views of language beyond those grounded in seemingly equivalent one-to-one correspondences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCognitive Linguistics and Sociocultural Theory
Subtitle of host publicationApplications for Second and Foreign Language Teaching
Publisherde Gruyter
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781614514442
ISBN (Print)9781501500893
StatePublished - Oct 16 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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