“IT IS A THING THAT GIVES YOU…”: THE LEXEME THING AS THE SERBIAN EFL ‘TEDDY BEAR’
This paper aims to explore a case of most overused ‘teddy bear’ in the Serbian component of the ICLE corpus (version 3), the lexeme thing, which appears about four times more frequently in the Serbian subcorpus than in the reference native corpus used in the study (LOCNESS). The research follows the quantitative-qualitative design, thus combining the applicable software tools with the qualitative analysis. The results clearly indicate that Serbian learners of English are in favour of exploiting the lexeme thing in various roles.
Firstly, if the thing ‘teddy bear’ is used on its own, it can denote a number of concepts the meaning of which may be recovered from the context: life in general, ideas, physical objects, achievements. This role of the thing ‘teddy bear’ is the result of the cognitive strategy of generalisation.
Secondly, if the thing 'teddy bear' is pre- and/or postmodified, the structural head is less dominant than its modifiers. In actual fact, modifiers direct NP functions in the four distinct directions: the organisational function, the propositional function, the attitudinal function estimating relative importance, and the attitudinal function of evaluation. The organisational function is used in a modified (essentially syntactic) manner by Serbian EFL learners: it serves the student writer more than the putative reader. The propositional function, where modifiers are semantically dominant, also uses the syntactic potential of thing, to form complex phrases instead of simple ones. Both attitudinal functions, of relative importance and evaluation, exploit superlatives, expressing no real comparison at all, but emphasizing, or inflating student writers’ arguments.
Further research should be carried out to explore reasons for such diversified and frequent use of the thing ‘teddy bear’ in Serbian EFL writing, L1 transfer certainly ranking high among them.