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Volume 18 Number 4, Winter 2021, Pages 1071-1525   


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Processing of English Formulas by L1, L2, and Bilingual English Speakers Based on Formulaicity and Formula Type

    Gwanhi Yun


This study explores how native English speakers, non-native English speakers, and bilingual speakers process formulaic phrases compared to non-formulaic phrases and investigates whether processing different types of formulaic sequences gives a comparative advantage or incurs processing costs. Three groups of speakers performed grammaticality judgment tasks: L1 native English speakers (ES), English bilingual speakers (EB), and Korean speakers learning English as an L2 (KS). For the type of stimuli under consideration, English idioms, phrasal verbs and collocations were used for psycholinguistic experiments. First, for all three groups, our results show that formulaic phrases are processed more rapidly and accurately than similar nonformulaic phrases. We suggest that for all three speaker groups, formulaic phrases are represented as whole units as if they are single lexical items and processed as holistically as other morphologically complex words. Second, each formula type is processed with different response times and accuracy for all three groups. This suggests that different formulas are stored, retrieved and organized in a distinct manner in each group's mental lexicons, reflected in response latency, conceivably due to different formulaicity or semantic opacity. Furthermore, we show that conventionalized phrases, such as idioms and collocations, are processed more quickly and accurately by L1 English or English bilingual speakers, compared to Korean L2 English speakers. This implies that these formulas are problematic for L2 learners' acquisition or vocabulary expansion. Finally, this study shows that the n-gram frequency or length of the formulas mediate the processing by all three groups, suggesting the possibility of frequency being encoded as part of lexicalized formulas.

Keywords: English, formulas, processing, idioms, phrasal verbs, collocations, formulaicity, grammaticality, response time, accuracy, ES, EB, KS