Spring 2017



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Bonnie Swierzbin

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Feride Erku

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Dinorah Sapp


An investigation was completed to identify and define abstraction that occurs within abstract nouns in biology terminology in the Mississippi high school biology subject area practice test in order to determine conceptual language patterns in biology terms to teach to high school English Learners. The conceptual metaphors that dominate biology concepts in major scientific theories of the text exemplar examined are ORGANISMS ARE MACHINES, ECOSYSTEMS ARE COMMUNITIES, DNA IS A TEMPLATE, and DESIRED TRAITS ARE VALUABLE. The most prevalent common conceptual metaphors found within abstract nouns in biology of the text examined are MATTER IS A STRUCTURE, PROCESS IS A FUNCTION, and MATTER IS A FUNCTION. A systematic method was devised by the author to analyze the quantity and description of conceptual metaphors present in abstract nouns in biology terminology following a descriptive analysis guided by methods used with Lakoff and Johnson’s Theory of Conceptual Metaphor. Results suggest that PROCESS and MATTER are mapped onto most FUNCTION and STRUCTURE concepts embedded in a majority of the biology terminology. Definition of group membership to the MATTER category is also identified to be on a continuum of abstraction and more clearly defined by identifying the mapping of either PROCESS or MATTER onto the FUNCTION, DESTINY, LOCALIZATION or STRUCTURE. The results of the common conceptual metaphors identified indicate that FUNCTION AND STRUCTURE are extremely important to comprehend in order to understand basic concepts of biology. The author also suggests that the abstraction that occurs within abstract nouns in the MATTER category that are defined by FUNCTION or DESTINY would equate to the abstraction that occurs in abstract nouns in the PROCESS category. Grouped together as one category these abstract nouns that map abstraction onto abstraction account for 55% of the abstract nouns analyzed. This amount suggests that most of the abstract nouns in biology within this study do not follow the directionality of the Theory of Cognitive Metaphor or of previous Cognitive Linguistics studies that have examined scientific vocabulary, y

Research Methodology

Curriculum Development, Grounded Theory, Text Analyses


ESL/ ELLs, International Teaching, Science, Teachers/ Teaching

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