L2 Idiom Processing: Figurative Attunement in Highly Idiomatic Contexts


Using cross-modal priming, we investigated the processing of idioms in non-native listeners in varying experimental contexts. As idiomatic processing models have presented evidence for an idiomatic mode of processing that can be activated for non-native speakers in highly figurative contexts (Bobrow & Bell, 1973), this experiment revisits those claims while also examining access to figurative meaning in addition to the literal meaning of individual words within an idiom. This experiment showed increased priming for visual targets related to the figurative meaning of an idiom when the experimental list contained a large proportion of idiomatic sentences compared to when the list contained only a small proportion of idiomatic sentences. Non-native speakers not only showed online access to figurative meaning but were also sensitive to highly idiomatic contexts; though, responses to the targets related to literal meaning of the final word of the idiom were faster in all instances than figuratively-related targets.

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