The affective nature of formulaic language: A right-hemisphere subcortical process

Diana Van Lancker Sidtis, John J. Sidtis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Formulaic expressions naturally convey affective content. The unique formal and functional characteristics of idioms, slang, expletives, proverbs, conversational speech formulas, and the many other conventional expressions in this repertory have been well-described: these include unitary form, conventionalized and non-literal meanings, and reliance on social context. Less highlighted, but potent, is the intrinsic presence of affective meaning. Expletives, for example, signal strong emotion. Idioms, too, inherently communicate emotional connotations, and conversational speech formulas allow for empathetic bonding and humor. The built-in affective content of formulaic expressions, in combination with their other unique characteristics, is compatible with the proposal that brain structures other than those representing grammatical language are in play in producing formulaic expressions. Evidence is presented for a dual process model of language, whereby a right hemisphere-subcortical system modulates formulaic language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number573
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Issue numberJUL
StatePublished - Jul 24 2018


  • (LH) damage
  • Formulaic language
  • Neurolinguistic
  • PET
  • RH damage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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