Word power: Phrasal verbs and compounds: A cognitive approach

Word power: Phrasal verbs and compounds: A cognitive approach. By Brygida Rudzka-Ostyn. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2003. Pp. 206. ISBN 3110177048. $109 (Hb).

Reviewed by Nina Rojina, University of Geneva

It is well known that English phrasal verbs have always been one of the most difficult parts of English grammar in foreign language learning. Therefore it is not surprising that even advanced learners understand them poorly and tend to use them rarely. This book aims to provide necessary information (from both a syntactic and a semantic point of view) about phrasal verbs and compounds in English, and thus to expand students’ knowledge of vocabulary in general and of phrasal verbs in particular.

The book is written as a textbook (in a framework of cognitive linguistics), intended primarily for guided self-learning for postintermediate or advanced learners; however, it can also be used in a classroom setting. Brygida Rudzka-Ostyn provides some suggestions for home and oral creative classroom activities. Working individually, the students can access the meaning of the phrasal verbs (a) by filling in verbs or nouns that are arranged alphabetically on top of each exercise, (b) by matching the expressions with the phrasal verbs (the first letters of each are indicated to the right of the sentence), or (c) in the key at the end of the chapter. R-O provides glosses at the end of each exercise in order to explain less frequently used expressions in a given context. The book is written in clear and lively language, supported by a glossary and a variety of schemas, tables, and examples.

In the introduction, R-O provides an overview of phrasal verbs, looking into their meanings and syntactic frames. She addresses the problem of understanding phrasal verbs and gives the examples of ‘spatial, prototypical or basic meanings’ of prepositions and particles (e.g. to run up a hill) and ‘metaphorical or extended meanings’ of the particles (e.g. Business is picking up, i.e. improving, becoming better). R-O employs a lot of schemas showing a mental representation of spatial relations. The book contains approximately 1,100 phrasal verbs and provides detailed study of seventeen particles/prepositions: out, in, into, up, down, off, away, on, over, back, about, (a)round, about/(a)round, across, through, by, along. These are combined with some 500 different verbs, adjectives, and nouns. The book is divided into seventeen chapters, where each chapter describes the peculiarities of a particular particle/preposition, such as its meaning or use. Each chapter is supported by exercises (with keys) and schemas that are focused on improving the understanding of the particles.

Clear language, good explanations, and well-constructed exercises make this book suitable for those who wish to understand phrasal verbs and thus expand their vocabulary.