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Affective and sensory–motor norms for idioms by L1 and L2 English speakers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 February 2024

Mahsa Morid*
Department of Linguistics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Laura Sabourin
Department of Linguistics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Corresponding author: Mahsa Morid; Email:


In the present study, we developed affective (valence and arousal) and sensory–motor (concreteness and imageability) norms for 210 English idioms rated by native English speakers (L1) and English second-language speakers (L2). Based on internal consistency analyses, the ratings were found to be highly reliable. Furthermore, we explored various relations within the collected measures (valence, arousal, concreteness, and imageability) and between these measures and some available psycholinguistic norms (familiarity, literal plausibility, and decomposability) for the same set of idioms. The primary findings were that (i) valence and arousal showed the typical U-shape relation, for both L1 and L2 data; (ii) idioms with more negative valence were rated as more arousing; (iii) the majority of idioms were rated as either positive or negative with only 4 being rated as neutral; (iv) familiarity correlated positively with valence and arousal; (v) concreteness and imageability showed a strong positive correlation; and (vi) the ratings of L1 and L2 speakers significantly differed for arousal and concreteness, but not for valence and imageability. We discuss our interpretation of these observations with reference to the literature on figurative language processing (both single words and idioms).

Original Article
© The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press

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