Found in translation: the influence of the L1 on the reading of idioms in a L2

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Formulaic language represents a challenge to even the most proficient of language learners. Evidence is mixed as to whether native and non-native speakers process it in a fundamentally different way, whether exposure can lead to more nativelike processing for non-natives, and how L1 knowledge is used to aid comprehension. In this study we investigate how advanced non-native speakers process idioms encountered in their L2. We use eye-tracking to see
whether a highly proficient group of L1 Swedes show any evidence of formulaic processing for English idioms. We also compare translations of Swedish idioms and congruent idioms (items that exist in both languages) to see how L1 knowledge is utilised during online
processing. Results support the view that L1 knowledge is automatically used from the earliest stages of processing, regardless of whether sequences are congruent, and that exposure and advanced proficiency can lead to nativelike formulaic processing in the L2.


External organisations
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Nottingham
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • Idioms, formulaic language, L1 influence, language transfer, eye-tracking, high proficiency bilinguals
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-443
JournalStudies in Second Language Acquisition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Aug 31
Publication categoryResearch

Related projects

Henrik Gyllstad

Swedish Research Council


Project: ResearchIndividual research project

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