Cross-linguistic Influence of Conceptual Fluency in the L2: A Case Study for English and Hungarian


  • Csenge E Dr Aradi University of Szeged Hungary



metaphor, idiom, recognition, conceptual transfer


The goal of this paper is to investigate whether native language (L1) metaphorical fluency and competence (Danesi 1992; 2016) have a detectable influence on the processing of idiomatic expressions in a foreign language (L2). The initial hypothesis is that conceptual transfer is manifest at all levels of L2 figurative language processing, but its degree may vary in function of learners’ language proficiency, task and input type (Hall 2002; Dijkstra 2007). Based on earlier research in psycholinguistics and applied cognitive linguistics, preliminary research was conducted to reveal the extent to which L1 (Hungarian) metaphorical fluency influences the judgement of L2 (English) idioms at both the semantic and the conceptual level. The participants of the research were second-year teacher trainees studying at the University of Szeged (n=38). They were given a questionnaire in which they had to choose the L2 idiom that fits best each example sentence. Out of the four options they were provided, one was the correct L2 idiom and another one was the mirror translation of the corresponding L1 idiom. The example sentences were constructed in a way that they evoked the cultural setting of the target language. Following Grosjean’s idea of “language modes” (2008) it was assumed that such contextualization can potentially trigger the stronger activation of the L2, thereby minimizing the effect of the L1. Results suggest that conceptual transfer is detectable already at the level of recognition, along with other related factors, such as cross-linguistic lexical interference. 

Author Biography

Csenge E Dr Aradi, University of Szeged Hungary

Institute of English and American Studies (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences) 


Abel, B. (2003). English idioms in the first language and second language lexicon: A dual representation approach. Second Language Research, 19(4), 329–358.

Beck, S. & Weber, A.(2016). L2 Idiom Processing: Figurative Attunement in Highly Idiomatic Contexts. Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 2016 (pp. 1817-1822). Austin, Texas: Cognitive Science Society.

Boers, F. et al. (2004). Etymological Elaboration as a Strategy for Learning Figurative idioms. In P. Bogaards, B. Laufer (Eds.), Vocabulary in a Second Language: Selection, Acquisition and Testing (pp.53-78).

Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Cieślicka, A. B. (2006). Literal salience in on-line processing of idiomatic expressions by L2 speakers. Second Language Research, 22, 115–144.

Cieślicka, A. B. (2010). Formulaic language in L2: Storage, retrieval and production of idioms by second language learners. In M. Pütz and L. Sicola (Eds.), Cognitive processing in second language acquisition (pp. 149-168). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Cieślicka, A. B. (2015). Idiom acquisition and processing by second/foreign language learners. In R. R. Heredia and A. B. Cieślicka (Eds). Bilingual Figurative Language Processing (pp. 208-244). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Danesi, M. (1992). Metaphorical Competence in second language acquisition and second language teaching. In J.E. Alatis (Ed.): Georgetown University Round Table on Language and Linguistics (pp. 489-500). Washington, D.C.: Georgetown UP.

Danesi, M. (2016). Conceptual Fluency in Second Language Teaching; An Overview of Problems, Issues, Research Findings, and Pedagogy. International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature, 5(1), 145-153. doi: 10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.5n.1p.145

Dijkstra, A. (2007). Task and context effects in bilingual processing. In I. Kecskés, L. Albertazzi (Eds.). Cognitive Aspects of Bilingualism (pp. 213-235). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Ferreira, L.C. (2008). A psycholinguistic study on metaphor comprehension in a foreign language. ReVEL, 6 (11), 1-23.

Francis, W. S. (2005). Bilingual Semantic and Conceptual Representation. In J. F. Kroll, A. M.B. DeGroot, (Eds). Handbook of Bilingualism: Psycholinguistic Approaches (pp.251-267). New York: Oxford University Press.

Grosjean, F.(2008). Studying Bilinguals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hall, C. (2002). The automatic cognate form assumption: Evidence for the

parasitic model of vocabulary development. IRAL, 40, 69–87.

Heredia, R.R. & Cieślicka, A. B. (2016). Metaphoric Reference: An Eye Movement Analysis of Spanish–English and English–Spanish Bilingual Readers. Frontiers in Psychology, 7:439. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00439.

Jankowiak, K., Rataj, K., & Naskręcki, R. (2017). To electrify bilingualism: Electrophysiological insights into bilingual metaphor comprehension. PLOS ONE, 12(4), e0175578.

Kharkhurin, A.V.(2007).The role of cross-linguistic and cross-cultural experiences in bilinguals' divergent thinking. In I. Kecskés, L. Albertazzi (Eds). Cognitive Aspects of Bilingualism (pp.175-210). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer

Kövecses, Z. (2010). Metaphor: A Practical Introduction. Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kövecses, Z. & Benczes, R. (2010). Kognitív nyelvészet. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó.

Lakoff, G., Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Lakoff, G., Johnson, M. (1989). More than Cool Reason: a Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. Chicago, Chicago University Press.

Littlemore, J. & Low, G.D. (2006). Figurative Thinking and Foreign Language Learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

McCarthy, M., O’Dell, F. (2002). English Vocabulary in Use Advanced. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Odlin, T. (1989). Language Transfer: Cross-Linguistic Influence in Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Paivio, A., & Desrochers, A. (1980). A dual-coding approach to bilingual memory. Canadian Journal of Psychology/Revue canadienne de psychologie, 34(4), 388-399.

Pritchett, L. K., Vaid, J., & Tosun, S. (2016). Of black sheep and white crows: Extending the bilingual dual coding theory to memory for idioms. Cogent Psychology, 3(1). doi : 10.1080/23311908.2015.1135512

Schmitt, N. (2000). Vocabulary in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Selinker, L. (1972). Interlanguage. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 10, 209–231.

Sprenger, S. A., Levelt, W. J. M., & Kempen, G. (2006). Lexical access during the production of idiomatic phrases. Journal of memory and language, 54, 161-184.

Yu, Ning. (2008). The relationship between metaphor, body, and culture. In F. Roslyn, R. Dirven, T. Ziemke, and E. Bernández (Eds). Body, Language and Mind(Vol.2): Sociocultural Situatedness (388-408). Berlin and New York, Mouton de Gruyter.