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“Bread and butter” or “butter and bread”? Nonnatives’ processing of novel lexical patterns in context

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 June 2022

Suhad Sonbul*
Umm Al-Qura University, Saudi Arabia
Dina Abdel Salam El-Dakhs
Prince Sultan University, Saudi Arabia
Kathy Conklin
University of Nottingham, UK
Gareth Carrol
University of Birmingham, UK
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


Little is known about how nonnative speakers process novel language patterns in the input they encounter. The present study examines whether nonnatives develop a sensitivity to novel binomials and their ordering preference from context. Thirty-nine nonnative speakers of English (L1 Arabic) read three short stories seeded with existing binomials (black and white) and novel ones (bags and coats) while their eye movements were monitored. The existing binomials appeared once in their forward (conventional) form and once in their reversed form. The novel binomials appeared in their experimentally defined forward form in different frequency conditions (two vs. four encounters) and once in the reversed form. Results showed no advantage for existing binomials over their reversed forms. For the novel binomials, the nonnative speakers read subsequent encounters significantly faster than initial ones for both frequency conditions. More importantly, the final reversed form also led to faster reading, suggesting that L2 speakers process the reversed form of a novel binomial as another encounter, ignoring the established order.

Research Article
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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