EFL majors' knowledge of metalinguistic terminology : a comparative study


Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Two hundred and ninety-six English majors at universities in Poland, Austria and Hong Kong were given a 50-item questionnaire designed to evaluate their knowledge of grammatical terminology. The main aim was to identify whether the three populations were subject to differing 'terminological cultures'. This was found to be substantially the case; for example, the term indefinite article was known by 95% of Polish students but only 29% of the Hong Kong ones, whereas imperative was known by 71% of the Austrians but only 5% of the Hong Kongers. Some differences were attributed to a lack of use of the related concept in teaching; others were explained by the use of a synonymous term (e.g. reported speech was preferred in Poland and Hong Kong but indirect speech in Austria). A significant correlation between terminological knowledge and language proficiency was found for the Hong Kong students. Qualitative findings included confusion between pairs of complementary terms and those with similar forms; unknown terms being treated as transparent with functional reference where possible; and the prototypical use of words as examples of grammatical categories (e.g. 'beautiful' for adjective). Implications for teachers, writers and researchers are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-128
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage Awareness
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2009


  • Explicit knowledge
  • Metalanguage
  • Terminology


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