The Problem of English Spatial, Non-spatial and Idiomatic Adpositions in Iranian EFL Environment: A Prototypical Approach

Document Type : Research Paper


Islamic Azad University, Shiraz Branch, Shiraz, Iran


Several studies of L2 learners’ interlanguage have addressed the complexity of the English adpositional system due to several reasons like L1 transfer, lack of knowledge in L2 and the strong collocational relations of prepositions with other elements of the English language. The major purpose of the present study is to evaluate the performance of Iranian students in dealing with three broad categories of spatial, non-spatial and idiomatic adpositions in English. To achieve the inclinations of the research project, 60 students majoring in TEFL at Roudehen University were selected. A paper-based TOEFL test of English Proficiency was administered to obtain some information about the participants’ general language proficiency. Three completion tasks with the division of spatial, non-spatial (nominal, adjectival and verbal) and idiomatic adpositions were administered. The obtained results represented the fact that the Iranian participants were considerably inclined to transfer their L1 adpositional patterns to their L2 production. The correlational analyses indicated that whereas the scores related to adposition task in general, non-spatial as well as the idiomatic subtests were strongly correlated with the scores obtained from the TOEFL test, there was a moderate correlation between the spatial subtest and the TOEFL one. The independent sample t-test results between the freshmen and sophomores dealing with spatial, nominal and adjectival subtests were considered to be significant.  However, in reference to the verbal subtest, the difference between the two groups was not significant. The results obtained from the independent sample t-test indicated no significant differences between the freshmen and sophomores in their performance on idiomatic adpositions. Finally, the result of the correlation coefficients showed high correlation coefficients between the whole adposition test and the three subtests of spatial, non-spatial and idiomatic ones. Moreover, high and moderate correlations were reported among the three subtests with the highest correlation between the spatial and non-spatial subtests and the lowest between the idiomatic and spatial ones. 


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