Incorporating Cognitive Linguistic Insights into Classrooms: the Case of Iranian Learners’ Acquisition of If-Clauses

Document Type: Research Paper


Allameh Tabataba’i University


Cognitive linguistics gives the most inclusive, consistent description of how language is organized, used and learned to date. Cognitive linguistics contains a great number of concepts that are useful to second language learners.  If-clauses in English, on the other hand, remain intriguing for foreign language learners to struggle with, due to their intrinsic intricacies. EFL grammar books are paying focal attention to present explanations of if-clauses in terms of their form not meaning, hence not giving attention to their contextual meaning usage. Cognitive linguistic insights on if-clauses discuss their complexity in such a way that could be very beneficial for L2 learners. This study aims to investigate the effect of two different ways of teaching (cognitively-oriented and task-oriented) on learning English if-clauses. A sample of 60 non-English postgraduate students in three groups, two experimental groups (cognitively-oriented and task-oriented) and one control group participated in our study. The results indicated that participants from the cognitively-oriented group performed better than those in task-oriented and control groups and proved a higher degree of comprehending English if-clauses in different contexts. The findings have implications for curriculum and materials developers, as well as the English language teachers in incorporating insights from cognitive linguistics in second language materials.


Achard, M. (2008). Teaching construal: Cognitive pedagogical grammar. In P. Robinson & N. Ellis (Eds.), Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition (pp. 432-455). New York: Routledge.

Cadeirno, T. (2008). Learning to talk about motion. In P. Robinson & N. Ellis (Eds.), Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition (pp. 239-275). London: Routledge.

Cadeirno, T., & Robinson, P. (2009). Language typology, task complexity and the development of L2 lexicalization patterns for describing motion events. Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics, 6, 245–277.

Celce-Murcia, M., & Larsen-Freeman, D. (1999). The grammar book: An ESL/EFL teacher’s course. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Dancygeir, B., & Sweetser, E. (2005). Mental Spaces in Grammar: Conditional Constructions. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Dirvn, R. (2001). English phrasal verbs: Theory and didactic application. In M. Putz, S. Neimeier, & R. Dirvn (Eds.), Applied cognitive linguistics II: Language pedagogy (pp. 3-28). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Ellis, R. (2004). The Definition and Measurement of L2 Explicit Knowledge. Language Learning, 54 (2), 227-275.

Ellis, R. (2009). Task-based language teaching: Sorting out the misunderstandings. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 19 (3), 222-246.

Ellis, N., & Cadeirno, T. (2009). Constructing a second language: Introduction to the special section. Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics, Special Section: Constructing a Second Language, 7(1), 111-139.

Han, Y., & Ellis, R. (1998). Implicit knowledge, explicit knowledge and general language proficiency. Language Teaching Research, 2(1), 1-23.

Holm, R. (2009). Cognitive linguistics and language teaching. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Neimeier, S., & Rief, M. (2008). Applying cognitive grammar to tense-aspect teaching. In S. D. Knop &T. D. Rycker (Eds.), Cognitive Approaches to Pedagogical Grammar: A Volume In honour of Rene Dirvn (pp. 325-356). New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Norris, J., & Ortiga, L. (2000). Effectiveness of L2 instruction: A research synthesis and quantitative meta-analysis. Language Learning, 50 (3), 417-528.

Robinson, P., & Ellis, N. (Eds.) (2008). Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition. New York: Routledge.

Tyler, A. (2010). Usage-based approaches to language and their applications to second language learning. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 30(3), 270-291.

Tyler, A. (2012). Cognitive Linguistics and Second Language Learning: Theoretical Basics and Experimental Evidence. New York & London: Routledge.

Tyler, A., & Evans, V. (2004). Applying cognitive linguistics to pedagogical grammar: The case of over. In M. Achard, & S. Neimeier (Eds.), Cognitive linguistics, second language acquisition, and foreign language teaching (pp. 257-280). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Tyler, A., Mualler, C., &Hu, V. (2010). Applying cognitive linguistics to instructed L2 learning: The English modals. AILA Review, 23(1), 30-49.

Tyler, A., Mualler, C., & Hu, V. (2011). Applying cognitive linguistics to learning the semantics of English to, for, and at: An experimental investigation. Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 8(2), 181-205.

Verspour, M., & Hung, N. (2008). Cognitive grammar and teaching English articles to Asian students. In J. R. Lapaire (Ed.), From grammar to mind: Grammar as cognition (pp. 249-268). Bordeaux: Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux.