Volume 22, Issue 4
  • ISSN 1606-822X
  • E-ISSN: 2309-5067



Chinese Quadrisyllabic Idiomatic Expressions (henceforth QIEs) are highly productive in the modern language. They can be used to understand the cognitive processing of structure and meaning during reading comprehension, as in the patterning of [] ‘1k-A-10k-B’ (e.g. one-thousand army ten-thousand horse). However, little is known about the underlying mechanisms of QIEs during reading comprehension. Adopting the framework of Construction Grammar, in the present study, we aimed to study the convergence and divergence between native speakers and L2 learners in the processing of Chinese idiomatic constructions.

In the present study, twenty-three native university-level Mandarin speakers and twenty-three L2 learners of intermediate and advanced levels of Mandarin, all speakers of the non Sinosphere, participated in the experiment, and were instructed to make a semantic congruency judgment during the presentation of a QIE. Our results showed that, for both native speakers and L2 learners, semantically transparent idiomatic constructions elicited much shorter RTs than semantically opaque idiomatic constructions. Our behavioral results also showed that native speakers processed low frequency QIEs faster than high frequency ones, implying semantic satiation to impede the interpretation of high frequency idioms. For L2 learners, it was semantic transparency, rather than frequency, that played a more prominent role in idiom processing.

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