The Processing of Congruent and Incongruent Prepositional Collocations: Empirical Study of Arab-English Bilinguals

Zenah Dajem


Learning and teaching formulaic sequences such as collocation and idioms, is an increasingly important issue for L2 language learners in the field of language teaching, psycholinguistics and applied linguistics. The aims of the present study are twofold: first, to investigate the effect of congruent and incongruent prepositional collocations on twenty Saudi Arab-English bilinguals in the UK; and secondly to examine the influence of frequency on the processing of these formulaic sequences. Twenty native speakers of English were involved as a baseline for comparison. In the present study, the psycholinguistic software E-Prime was used to measure the reaction time and the accuracy of Saudi Arab-English bilinguals’ responses while they are reading 80 sentences on a computer screen to judge their grammatical acceptability, that is, whether they are correct English or not. The results in general indicate that for both groups there was no processing effect in terms of the reaction time of collocation types, but there was a significant difference within the non-native speakers in terms of accuracy. However, regarding the influence of frequency, there was a significant effect of high frequent collocations in both native and non-native speakers of English. This may indicate that similarities and differences between L1 and L2 prepositional combinations are not necessarily due to processing effect, but may be due to high frequency.

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