Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-zlj4b Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-28T14:14:24.297Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

The Processing of Formulaic Language

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2012

Abstract

It is generally accepted that we store representations of individual words in our mental lexicon. There is growing agreement that the lexicon also contains formulaic language (How are you? kick the bucket). In fact, there are compelling reasons to think that the brain represents formulaic sequences in long-term memory, bypassing the need to compose them online through word selection and grammatical sequencing in capacity-limited working memory. The research surveyed in this chapter strongly supports the position that there is an advantage in the way that native speakers process formulaic language compared to nonformulaic language. This advantage extends to the access and use of different types of formulaic language, including idioms, binomials, collocations, and lexical bundles. However, the evidence is mixed for nonnative speakers. While very proficient nonnatives sometimes exhibit processing advantages similar to natives, less proficient learners often have been shown to process formulaic language in a word-by-word manner similar to nonformulaic language. Furthermore, if the formulaic language is idiomatic (where the meaning cannot be understood from the component words), the figurative meanings can be much more difficult to process for nonnatives than nonidiomatic, nonformulaic language.

Type
SECTION A: COGNITIVE PERSPECTIVES ON FORMULAIC LANGUAGE
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arnon, I., & Snider, N. (2010). More than words: Frequency effects for multi-word phrases. Journal of Memory and Language, 62, 6782.

Our article underscores the important role of phrasal frequency on the speed of processing and ultimately on entrenchment in memory. This article is a good complement because it highlights the role of frequency in the processing of formulaic sequences. However, the statistical analysis section is not for the fainthearted.

Siyanova-Chanturia, A., Conklin, K., & Schmitt, N. (2011). Adding more fuel to the fire: An eye-tracking study of idiom processing by native and non-native speakers. Second Language Research, 27, 122.

This article presents an accessible eye-tracking study, which is a useful methodology for studying reading of units larger than single words. It provides a comparison of processing by native and nonnative speakers of idioms used literally and figuratively, as well as novel control phrases.

Siyanova-Chanturia, A., Conklin, K., & van Heuven, J. B. (2011). Seeing a phrase “time and again” matters: The role of phrasal frequency in the processing of multiword sequences. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37, 776784.

Like Arnon and Snider's (2010) article, this focuses on the increasingly hot topic of phrasal frequency. Crucially, this article shows that something above and beyond the simple frequency of formulaic phrases is represented and strongly supports the idea of entrenchment. Another useful aspect of the article is the comparison of native and nonnative speakers.

Tabossi, P., Fanari, R., & Wolf, K. (2009). Why are idioms recognized fast? Memory and Cognition, 37, 529540.

This recent article is very useful because it looks at the different theories of idiom processing. Basically, it shows that knowing an expression, rather than its idiomaticity or whether its meaning is transparent, is what leads to faster processing.

Van Lancker, D., & Kempler, D. (1987). Comprehension of familiar phrases by left- but not by right-hemisphere damaged patients. Brain and Language, 32, 265277.

Evidence from impaired populations can provide strong evidence for formulaic language being processed differently (or at least by different areas of the brain) from nonformulaic language. This article is a good example of such processing differences.

Wray, A. (2002). Formulaic language and the lexicon. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Wray's volume provides a comprehensive overview of the acquisition, use, and attrition of L1 and L2 formulaic language. It provides a useful complementary perspective to the mainly psychology-based studies reviewed in this article.

REFERENCES

Abbot-Smith, K., & Tomasello, M. (2006). Exemplar-learning and schematization in a usage-based account of syntactic acquisition. Linguistic Review, 23, 275290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Arnon, I., & Snider, N. (2010). More than words: Frequency effects for multi-word phrases. Journal of Memory and Language, 62, 6782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Badecker, W. (2001). Lexical composition and the production of compounds: Evidence from errors in naming. Language and Cognitive Processes, 16, 337366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Badecker, W., & Allen, M. (2002). Morphological parsing and the perception of lexical identity: A masked priming study of stem homographs. Journal of Memory and Language, 47, 125144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bannard, C., & Matthews, D. (2008). Stored word sequences in language learning: The effect of familiarity on children's repetition of four-word combinations. Psychological Science, 19, 241248.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., & Finegan, E. (1999). Longman grammar of spoken and written English. Harlow, UK: Longman.Google Scholar
Bley-Vroman, R. (2002). Frequency in production, comprehension, and acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 24, 209–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bobrow, S., & Bell, S. (1973). On catching on to idiomatic expressions. Memory and Cognition, 1, 343346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bod, R. (2000,). The storage vs. computation of three-word sentences. Paper presented at AMLaP2000, University of Leiden, Leiden, the Netherlands.Google Scholar
Bod, R. (2001,). Sentence memory: Storage vs. computation of frequent sentences. Paper presented at CUNY 2001, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.Google Scholar
Bod, R. (2006). Exemplar-based syntax: How to get productivity from exemplars. Linguistic Review, 23, 291320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bybee, J. (1998). The emergent lexicon. Chicago Linguistic Society, 34, 421435.Google Scholar
Cacciari, C., & Tabossi, P. (1988). The comprehension of idioms. Journal of Memory and Language, 27, 668683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Christiansen, M., & Chater, N. (1999). Toward a connectionist model of recursion in human linguistic performance. Cognitive Science, 23, 157205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cieslicka, A. (2006). Literal salience in on-line processing of idiomatic expressions by second language learners. Second Language Research, 22, 115144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Conklin, K., & Schmitt, N. (2008). Formulaic sequences: Are they processed more quickly than nonformulaic language by native and non-native speakers? Applied Linguistics, 29, 7289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dechert, H. (1983). How a story is done in a second language. In Faerch, C. & Kasper, G. (Eds.), Strategies in interlanguage communication (pp. 175195). London, UK: Longman.Google Scholar
Ellis, N. C. (2002a). Frequency effects in language acquisition: A review with implications for theories of implicit and explicit language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 24, 143188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ellis, N. C. (2002b). Reflections on frequency effects in language acquisition: A response to commentaries. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 24, 297339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elman, J. (1990). Finding structure in time. Cognitive Science, 14, 179211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Erman, B., & Warren, B. (2000). The idiom principle and the open choice principle. Text, 20, 2962.Google Scholar
Foster, P. (2001). Rules and routines: A consideration of their role in the task-based language production of native and non-native speakers. In Bygate, M., Skehan, P., & Swain, M. (Eds.), Researching pedagogic tasks: Second language learning. Teaching and testing (pp. 7593). Harlow, UK: Longman.Google Scholar
Gibbs, R. (1980). Spilling the beans on understanding and memory for idioms in conversation. Memory and Cognition, 8, 449456.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gibbs, R., & Gonzales, G. (1985). Syntactic frozenness in processing and remembering idioms. Cognition, 20, 243259.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gibbs, R., Nayak, N., & Cutting, C. (1989). How to kick the bucket and not decompose: Analyzability and idiom processing. Journal of Memory and Language, 28, 576593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goldberg, A. (2006). Constructions at work: The nature of generalization in language. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Howarth, P. (1998). The phraseology of learners’ academic writing. In Cowie, A. (Ed.), Phraseology: Theory, analysis, and applications (pp. 161186). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jiang, N., & Nekrasova, T. M. (2007). The processing of formulaic sequences by second language speakers. Modern Language Journal, 91, 433445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Juhasz, B. (2007). The influence of semantic transparency on eye movements during English compound word recognition. In van, R. Gompel, Fischer, M., Murray, W., & Hill, R. (Eds.), Eye movements: A window on mind and brain (pp. 374389). Amsterdam, Elsevier Science.Google Scholar
Jurafsky, D. (1996). A probabilistic model of lexical and syntactic access and disambiguation. Cognitive Science, 20, 137194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kuiper, K. (1996). Smooth talkers. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Kuiper, K. (2004). Formulaic performance in conventionalised varieties of speech. In Schmitt, N. (Ed.), Formulaic sequences (pp. 3754). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kuiper, K., & Haggo, D. (1984). Livestock auctions, oral poetry, and ordinary language. Language in Society, 13, 205234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Libben, G. (1998). Semantic transparency in the processing of compounds: Consequences for representation, processing, and impairment. Brain and Language, 61, 3044.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
McDonald, S., & Shillcock, R. (2003b). Eye movements reveal the on-line computation of lexical probabilities during reading. Psychological Science, 14, 648652.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Mondini, S., Jarema, G., Luzzatti, C., Burani, C., & Semenza, C. (2002). Why is “red cross” different from “yellow cross”?: A neurophysiological study of non-adjective agreement within Italian compounds. Brain and Language, 81, 621634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mondini, S., Luzzatti, C., Saletta, P., Allamano, N., & Semenza, C. (2005). Mental representation of prepositional compounds: Evidence from Italian agrammatical patients. Brain and Language, 94, 178187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oppenheim, N. (2000). The importance of recurrent sequences for non-native speaker fluency and cognition. In Riggenbach, H. (Ed.), Perspectives on fluency (pp. 220240). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
Pawley, A., & Syder, F. H. (1983). Two puzzles for linguistic theory: Nativelike selection and nativelike fluency. In Richards, J. C. & Schmidt, R. W. (Eds.), Language and communication (pp. 191225). London, UK: Longman.Google Scholar
Pierrehumbert, J. (2001). Exemplar dynamics: Word frequency, lenition, and contrast. In Bybee, J. & Hopper, P. (Eds.), Frequency and the emergence of linguistic structure (pp. 137157). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pinker, S. (1999). Words and rules: The ingredients of language. New York, NY: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
Pinker, S., & Ullman, M. (2002). The past and future of the past tense. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 6, 456463.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Pollatsek, A., Hyona, J., & Bertram, R. (2000). The role of morphological constituents in reading Finnish compound words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 26, 820833.Google ScholarPubMed
Rayson, P. (2008). Software demonstration: Identification of multiword expressions with Wmatrix. Paper presented at the Formulaic Language Research Network (FLaRN) conference, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.Google Scholar
Rumelhart, D., & McClelland, J. (1986). On learning the past tenses of English verbs. In Rumelhart, D. & McClelland, J. (Eds.), Parallel distributed processing: Explorations in the microstructure of cognition (pp. 216271). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schmitt, N. (2010). Researching vocabulary: A vocabulary research manual. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schmitt, N., & Carter, R. (2004). Formulaic sequences in action: An introduction. In Schmitt, N. (Ed.), Formulaic sequences (pp. 122). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schmitt, N., Grandage, S., & Adolphs, S. (2004). Are corpus-derived recurrent clusters psycholinguistically valid? In Schmitt, N. (Ed.), Formulaic sequences (pp. 127151). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Siyanova-Chanturia, A., Conklin, K., & Schmitt, N. (2011). Adding more fuel to the fire: An eye-tracking study of idiom processing by native and non-native speakers. Second Language Research, 27, 122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Siyanova-Chanturia, A., Conklin, K., & van Heuven, J.B. (2011). Seeing a phrase “time and again” matters: The role of phrasal frequency in the processing of multiword sequences. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37, 776784.Google ScholarPubMed
Sorhus, H. (1977). To hear ourselves—Implications for teaching English as a second language. English Language Teaching Journal, 31, 211221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sosa, A., & MacFarlane, J. (2002). Evidence for frequency-based constituents in the mental lexicon: Collocations involving the word of. Brain and Language, 83, 227236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Swinney, D., & Cutler, A. (1979). The access and processing of idiomatic expressions. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 18, 523534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tabossi, P., Fanari, R., & Wolf, K. (2009). Why are idioms recognized fast? Memory and Cognition, 37, 529540.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Tabossi, P., & Zardon, F. (1993). The activation of idiomatic meaning in spoken language comprehension. In Cacciari, C. & Tabossi, P. (Eds.), Idioms: Processing, structure, and interpretation (pp. 145161). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Tomasello, M. (2003). Constructing a language: A usage-based theory of language acquisition. Cambridge, MA & London, UK: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Tremblay, A., & Baayen, R. H. (2010). Holistic processing of regular four-word sequences: A behavioral and ERP study of the effects of structure, frequency, and probability on immediate free recall. In Wood, D. (Ed.), Perspectives on formulaic language: Acquisition and communication (pp. 151173). London, UK: Continuum International.Google Scholar
Tremblay, A., Derwing, B., Libben, G., & Westbury, C. (2011). Processing advantages of lexical bundles: Evidence from self-paced reading and sentence recall tasks. Language Learning, 61, 569613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Underwood, G., Schmitt, N., & Galpin, A. (2004). The eyes have it: An eye-movement study into the processing of formulaic sequences. In Schmitt, N. (Ed.), Formulaic sequences. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
Van Lancker, D., Canter, G., & Terbeek, D. (1981). Disambiguation of ditropic sentences: Acoustic and phonetic cues. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 24, 330335.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Van Lancker, D., & Kempler, D. (1987). Comprehension of familiar phrases by left- but not by right-hemisphere damaged patients. Brain and Language, 32, 265277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Lancker-Sidtis, D. (2003). Auditory recognition of idioms by first and second speakers of English. Applied Psycholinguistics, 24, 4557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Lancker-Sidtis, D., & Postman, W. A. (2006). Formulaic expressions in spontaneous speech of left- and right-hemisphere damaged subjects. Aphasiology, 20, 411426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wray, A. (2002). Formulaic language and the lexicon. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wray, A. (2008). Formulaic language: Pushing the boundaries. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar