ERIC Number: EJ787406
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Mar
Reference Count: 0
Formulaic Sequences: Are They Processed More Quickly than Nonformulaic Language by Native and Nonnative Speakers?
Conklin, Kathy; Schmitt, Norbert
Applied Linguistics, v29 n1 p72-89 Mar 2008
It is generally accepted that formulaic sequences like "take the bull by the horns" serve an important function in discourse and are widespread in language. It is also generally believed that these sequences are processed more efficiently because single memorized units, even though they are composed of a sequence of individual words, can be processed more quickly and easily than the same sequences of words which are generated creatively (Pawley and Syder 1983). We investigated the hypothesized processing advantage for formulaic sequences by comparing reading times for formulaic sequences versus matched nonformulaic phrases for native and nonnative speakers. It was found that the formulaic sequences were read more quickly than the nonformulaic phrases by both groups of participants. This result supports the assertion that formulaic sequences have a processing advantage over creatively generated language. Interestingly, this processing advantage was in place regardless of whether the formulaic sequences were used idiomatically or literally (e.g. "take the bull by the horns" = "attack a problem" vs. "wrestle an animal"). The fact that the results also held for nonnatives indicates that it is possible for learners to enjoy the same type of processing advantage as natives.
Descriptors: Phrase Structure, Language Processing, Native Speakers, Second Language Learning, Comparative Analysis, Figurative Language, Reading Processes
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
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