PUBLISHED AMONG THE PAPERS OF THE FIFTH INTERNATIONAL
CONFERENCE OF LANGUAGE, WRITING AND STYLISTICS, JUNE 2005,
ISTANBUL, TURKEY, BY: MARMARA UNIVERSITY
ACQUISITION OF THE FRENCH PERCEPTION VERBS BY TURKISH FRENCH L2
Department of English Linguistics
In this study I aim to find out at what stage of French L2 (second language) acquisition
the Turkish students begin to use the correct forms of several perception verbs, among which
there are voir (to see), entendre (to hear), écouter (to listen, to hear), regarder (to look), and
sentir (to feel).
Thus, I distributed a sense & meaning judgment test of fifty questions with uses of
these verbs with different meanings in different contexts. I examined the eleven meanings of
the verb voir (to see), the ten meanings of the verb entendre (to hear), the four meanings of the
verb écouter (to listen, to hear), the five meanings of the verb regarder (to look), and the nine
meanings of the verb sentir (to feel). Five intermediate, five upper-intermediate and five
advanced level Turkish French students participated to my test. I analyzed whether they used
the verbs with their appropriate meanings. I calculated the rate of the correct and the incorrect
uses of all of these verbs by each group of students with a Chi-square test.
Additionally, I wish to answer the question how one can distinguish diverse senses
from diverse modulations of the same sense in a foreign language in terms of Frame Semantics
(Fillmore 1976; Fillmore 1982 ; and Fillmore & Atkins 1992), and other theories of cognitive
linguistics (Lakoff 1987; Langacker 1987, 1990, 1991, etc.). Here I propose that we can use
“Interlanguage Transitions’ Reinforcement Method” that I develop for teaching languages
within the framework of cognitive linguistics. I refer to the frame and attention approach of
cognitive linguistics for discussing how the best teaching method for the semantic
categorization of the words of a language of a different culture should be, and how L2 learners
can perceive culturally different concepts.
This paper is concerned with the acquisition of the French perception verbs voir (to see),
entendre (to hear), écouter (to listen), regarder (to look), and sentir (to feel). First, I’ll explain
different meanings of these verbs, second, I’ll deal with the errors of the L2 learners, and
finally I will present a new method of language teaching, called “The Interlanguage
Transitions’ Reinforcement Method.”
2. DIFFERENT MEANINGS OF THE FRENCH PERCEPTION VERBS
2. 1. DIFFERENT MEANINGS OF THE VERB VOIR (TO SEE)
The French verb voir (to see) has many different meanings. The French verb voir (to see) can
mean (1) ‘to see with one’s eyes’, (2) ‘to visit’, (3)‘to understand’, and (4) ‘to try’.
Additionally, the verb has some phraseological meanings, when it is used as in the following
phrases from (5) to (11).
In order to discover the meaning of (5) we must identify all of its constituents. The verb
voir (to see) is used with “le jour” (the day). It is really hard to understand its meaning for
someone, who does not know that it means ‘to be born.’
(5) il a vu le jour
he has seen the day
“he has ssen the day”
“he was born”
In (6) we see two different sentences, one of which is indicated within parentheses. But for a
person who has no schema for (6), it is difficult to guess that here one talks about a crazy thing.
(6) qu’est-ce qu’ il ne faut pas voir! (on aura tout vu)
what is this that it not is necessary neg. to see (we will have all seen)
“What is not necessary to see! (we’ll have seen all)”
“what a crazy thing”
In (7) the verb voir (to see) with the auxiliary verb pouvoir means ‘not to dare to see
(7) je ne peux pas voir
I not can neg. to see
“I cannot see it”
“I cannot dare to see it”
Though, in (8) the verb avoir (to have) with the preposition à (to) indicates the
intention of a person, and when the verb voir (to see) is added to this verb, the phrase indicates
that someone has nothing to see, with the adverb rien (nothing).
(8) tu n’ as rien à voir là-dedans!
You not have nothing to see there-inside
“You have nothing to see inside”
“these are not your affairs”
Moreover, in (9) “que” (than) can be regarded as an important mental concept, as it
implies that there was nothing other than the fire:
(9) n’ y voir que de feu
not there to see than some fire
“not to see there anything else other than fire”
“not to notice anything”
The sentence in (10) has the meaning that the duty of the implicit pronoun, which is the
subject, is not that of telling stories.
(10) il faudrait voir à ne pas me raconter d’ histoires!
It would be necessary to not neg. to me to tell some stories
“It would be necessary not to tell me stories!”
“pay attention not to tell me stories!”
At the end (11) requires a cultural schema to derive its meaning, since at first sight, it
can be regarded as a positive judgment, concerning a person; though, it is not.
(11) “il m’ en a fait voir de toutes les couleurs”
it to me from them has made see of all the colors
“he made me to see all the colors”
“to make some one to see all kinds of mischief”
2. 2. DIFFERENT MEANINGS OF THE VERB ENTENDRE (TO HEAR)
The French verb entendre (to hear) can mean the following (1) to hear with one’s ears, (2) to
listen to, (3) to understand, and (4) to aim at, to intend, to want. The context assigns the
meaning to every sentence.
In addition, in (5) entendre (to hear) means to behave in such a way that you prefer.
(5) fais comme tu l’entends
make order, 2nd
Pers. Sg.order how you it hear
“make it how you hear it”
“make it your way”
In (6) the verb entendre means simply to hear; but, the meaning of the whole proverb
must be interpreted correctly in order to understand this meaning:
(6) “qui n’entend qu’une cloche n’entend qu’ un son”
who not hears than a bell not hears than a sound
“who doesn’t hear anything other than a bell doesn’t hear anything other than a sound”
“we have to listen to both parts”
The interpretation of (7) is similar to that of (11) in the previous chapter; the main
element is “de” (of) and the image schemata to be activated obligatorily are “bonnes” (good)
and “toutes les couleurs” (all the colors):
(7) en sentir de belles (de bonnes / de toutes les couleurs)
of it to hear of beautifuls (of goods / of all the colors)
“hearing about the good colors and all the colors of some one”
“to make some one to hear all kinds of mischief”
In (8) we have to set the image schema where exists the behaviors of the two animals
towards each other; it is this schema that contributes to the understanding of the sentence:
(8) s’ entendre comme chien et chat
oneself to hear as dog and cat
“to get on well as dogs and cats”
“to quarrel always”
In (9) the preposition contributes to the interpretation of the meaning to the sentence,
being a preposition of mood. The phrase “air entendu” (heard air) receives its meaning
through this preposition.
(9) se regarder d’ un air entendu
oneself to look of an air heard
“to see oneself with a heard air”
“to understand each other”
Finally, in (10) the reflexive pronoun “se” (himself) gives the meaning of the sentence;
one can guess that somebody is so famous that all may hear his name somewhere around:
(10) il s’ entend en peinture (to know, to be talented at)
he himself hears in painting
“he hears himself in painting”
“he is good at painting”
2.3. DIFFERENT MEANINGS OF THE VERB ÉCOUTER (TO LISTEN)
The verb écouter means simply (1) ‘to listen’, but it has also other three meanings, as given in
the consequent sentences:
(2) Elle écoute de toutes ses oreilles
She listens of all her ears
“She listens with all of her ears”
“She listens very carefully”
(3) Marie n’ écoute personne
Marie not listens nobody
“Marie doesn’t listen to anybody”
“Marie does whatever comes into her mind without considering the others’ thoughts”
(4) Si je m’ écoutais, je ferias mon dévoir.
If I me were listening I would do my homework.
“If I listened to myself, I would do my homework”
“If it depended on me, I would do my homework.”
2.4. DIFFERENT MEANINGS OF THE VERB REGARDER (TO LOOK)
The basic meaning of the verb regarder is (1)‘to look’, though, it means also (2), (3), (4), and
(2) Je regarde cette enterprise comme dangereuse
I look this enterprise as dangerous
“I regard this enterprise as dangerous”
“I consider / regard this enterprise as dangerous”
(3) Ça regarde mon ami (concern)
That looks my friend
“That regards my friend”
“That concerns my friend”
(4) Regardons-y deux fois avant de parler
We look –there two times before speaking
“Let’s look at there twice before speaking”
“Let’s think about it twice, before speaking”
(5) Vos fenêtres se regardent
Your, pl. windows themselves look
“Your windows look at themselves”
“Your windows are in front of each other.”
2.5. DIFFERENT MEANINGS OF THE VERB SENTIR (TO FEEL)
The verb sentir means (1) to feel, though it has several other meanings, as in the following
(2) des reproches bien sentis
some rebukes very felt
“some extremely felt rebukes”
“ extremely merited reprimands / rebukes”
Above in (2) the past participle form of the verb gives the meaning of the whole sentence, and
below in (3) the object of the sentences leads to the interpretation of the sentence in a different
way from that of its original meaning:
(3) sentir la beauté de la poésie
feeling the beauty of the poetry
“feeling the beauty of the poetry”
“perceiving the value of the poetry”
(4) can be misinterpreted easily by the Turkish students, as ‘listening to the music’. An
excellent frame is needed to explain the differences of meaning, and the hearer must be very
careful at not confusing the two meanings of the sentence:
(4) sentir la musique
feeling the music
“feeling the music”
“being talented at music”
In (5), (6), (7) and (8) the phenomena of anaphora and cataphora are crucial; without them the
sentences can be misunderstood:
(5) Ils sentent leurs superiorité
They,masc feel, pres their superiority
“They feel their superiority”
“They are conscious about their superiority”
(6) Ça sent le roussi
that feels the burnt
“that feels burnt”
“that smells burnt”
(7) Il ne peut pas le sentir
He not can, pres NEG it feel
“He cannot feel it”
“He cannot bear it”
(8) Ça sent mauvais
That feels bad
“That feels bad”
“That smells bad”
Finally, we encounter the most difficult meaning of the verb, as it is hard to guess the meaning
of this use of the verb
(9) Tu ne te sens plus!
You not you feel no more
“You don’t feel yourself anymore!”
“You are crazy!”
It is always difficult to guess the diverse meanings of the French verbs without having the
appropriate schemata in our minds.
3. THE ERRORS OF THE TURKISH FRENCH L2 LEARNERS
It is inevitable that the students who learned French as their second language make several
errors, concerning the different uses of the French perception verbs, mentioned in the previous
chapter, as they may not have or activate the appropriate schemata for different meanings of
I tested five intermediate, five upper-intermediate, and five advanced level Turkish
students, who have learned French as a second language in France, and today live in Turkey.
The following Chi-square test results in fig. 1 show their overall performance in this sense &
meaning judgment test:
Fig. 1. Responses of students
Correct 18 27 38 83
Incorrect 32 23 12 67
Total 50 50 50 150
Degrees of freedom: 2
Chi-square = 16.2380866750584
p is less than or equal to 0.001.
The distribution is significant.
4. HOW TO COPE WITH DIFFERENT MEANINGS OF PERCEPTION VERBS:
“INTERLANGUAGE TRANSITIONS’ REINFORCEMENT METHOD”
As we have observed, Turkish students may make a lot of mistakes in the interpretation of the
different meanings of the French perception verbs; nor did the entire advanced level students
manage to guess the correct meanings of the perception verbs referring to the context.
Therefore, what is remarkable is that we need a method that makes us activate the
appropriate cultural schemata in two diverse cultural environments. Fillmore (1976: 28)
proposed Frame Semantics, as a concept, assuming the goal of a uniform representation for the
meanings of words, sentences, and texts; later he (1985) suggested also a representation of
grammatical constructions in the grammatical framework, thus, the Construction Grammar, in
which the semantic frame associated with a lexical item provides some parts of the semantic
information required for the semantic interpretation of the sentences. Words and texts, with
their semantic descriptions request frames for background information about the scene
schematized by the construction. The frame notion is required for the semantics of
understanding (U-semantics), contrasting with the truth conditional semantics (T-semantics)
(Fillmore, 1985: 225 – 230). U-semantics’ knowledge consists of the knowledge of words to
be constructed, and the truth is identified from the bottom up, referring to symbolic operations
(Fillmore 1982: 230 – 232).
Besides, Fillmore and Atkins (1992) propose a dictionary model, which provides the
user with the frames related to the definition of a word, and further information about the other
related conceptual frames, and the categories descending from these frames. As Langacker
(1991) defends, only nouns and NPs designate things, and only other categories designate
relations, much emphasis should be given to lexical meanings of the words, thus, the NPs.
Moreover, Langacker (1987: 47) argues that “lexicon and grammar are storehouses of
conventional imagery, which differ substantially from language to language,” and that
“humans have the capacity to construe conceptual content in alternate ways (Langacker, 1990:
5). Therefore, a teaching method should activate this imagery. Lakoff’s (1987) “idealized
cognitive model”, shows the importance of image schemas. An ideal language teaching
method must lead students to activate these in contexts of the source language (one’s native
language) and the target language (one’s second language), and compare the uses of the same
words with different meanings in both languages.
Therefore, a language must be taught to students, implying the different frames
associated with the different meanings of the words, and their attention must be controlled by
representing two different cultural contexts, one of their native country, and another of the
country whose language they learn, and requesting them to make contrastive analysis of the
grammatical constructions and words they learn. As a result, within the ‘frame and attention
approach’ they can learn their second language perfectly. A frame associated with each
meaning of these verbs must be represented to the students, for example, [MUSIC EVENT]
captures the sense of the verb ‘entendre à’, taking into account the different contexts in which
the verb is used. This is a type of form or content divisions. As Ungerer (1997: 273)
mentions, the liberation from the form / content division may be the most important
contribution of cognitive linguistics to pedagogical grammar and language teaching.
To conclude, we may say that the best method for the teaching of the different meanings of the
French verbs to the L2 learners should be the “Interlanguage Transitions’ Reinforcement
Method”, as it may be cognitively more effective than any other methods. What is important
in communicating with others from diverse cultures in different cultural contexts is the ability
to activate the appropriate cultural schemata, existing in our minds; this schemata can be
acquired by being exposed to different modes of use of the perception verbs, in our case, and a
teaching method, making us live the same experiences as those in real situations in different
cultures, could help us to activate the appropriate schemata outside the classroom, when we
communicate with people from another country.
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