Investigating Iranian Language Learners’ Use of Circumlocution for Culture-Specific Referents

Document Type: Research Article


1 Sama Technical and Vocational Training College, Islamic Azad University, Mahshahr Branch

2 Islamic Azad University, Khuzestan Science and Research Branch, Ahvaz


This study investigated Iranian English language learners’ use of circumlocution for culture-specific referents. A discourse completion test (DCT) was designed in English and Persian, consisting of items dealing with Iranian culture-specific notions and distributed among 3 groups. The Persian language group received the Persian version, whereas the English language learners, divided into high and low, received the English version of the DCT. Data were analyzed according to Salazar’s (2006) categorization of circumlocution, namely description, function, superordination, location, and combination. Results revealed that the high group had a stronger tendency to use circumlocution, in general, and in terms of its categories of description, function, and combination, in particular, as compared to the low group. Furthermore, cross-linguistic analysis suggested signs of linguistic transfer with regard to circumlocution. Our findings revealed that it is not so much the familiarity of learners with cultural concepts as it is their knowledge of linguistic and communicative strategies that enables them to overcome communicative problems. Finally, this study points to the facilitative role of compensatory strategies, particularly circumlocution, as a tool to cope with communication breakdowns in an L2.