Perception of formulaic and novel expressions under acoustic degradation

C. Sophia Rammell, Diana Van Lancker Sidtis, David B. Pisoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Formulaic expressions, including idioms and other fxed expressions, comprise a signifcant proportion of discourse. Although much has been written about this topic, controversy remains about their psychological status. An important claim about formulaic expressions, that they are known to native speakers, has seldom been directly demonstrated. Tis study tested the hypothesis that formulaic expressions are known and stored as whole unit mental representations by performing three perceptual experiments. Method: Listeners transcribed two kinds of spectrally-degraded spoken sentences, half formulaic, and half novel, newly created expressions, matched for grammar and length. Two familiarity ratings, usage and exposure, were obtained from listeners for each expression. Text frequency data for the stimuli and their constituent words were obtained using a spoken corpus. Results: Participants transcribed formulaic more successfully than literal utterances. Usage and familiarity ratings correlated with accuracy, but formulaic utterances with low ratings were also transcribed correctly. Phrase types differed signifcantly in text frequency, but word frequency counts did not differentiate the two kinds of expressions. Discussion: Tese studies provide new converging evidence that formulaic expressions are encoded and processed as whole units, supporting a dual-process model of language processing, which assumes that grammatical and formulaic expressions are differentially processed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-262
Number of pages29
JournalMental Lexicon
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Corpus analysis
  • Dual-process model
  • Formulaic language
  • Speech perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Perception of formulaic and novel expressions under acoustic degradation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this