Knowledge of Formulaic Sequences as a Predictor of Language Proficiency

Vahid Rafieyan


Formulaic sequences are assumed to play a vital role in foreign language learners' speech fluency and language proficiency as they constitute a major part of foreign language learners' linguistic repertoire. In this respect, the current study examined the relationship between knowledge of formulaic sequences and language proficiency to scrutinize the significance of knowledge of target language formulaic sequences in determining target language proficiency. The participants of the study were 45 Japanese learners of English as foreign language at three different levels of language proficiency: low-intermediate (18 participants), intermediate (12 participants), and high-intermediate (15 participants) at the Intensive English Program of International College of Liberal Arts, Yamanashi Gakuin University. The instrument used for data collection consisted of a 30-item oral-production discourse completion task to test language learners’ knowledge of formulaic sequences. The analysis of Spearman rank-order correlation coefficient (rho) revealed a strong positive relationship between language learners’ knowledge of target language formulaic sequences and their level of language proficiency. The pedagogical implications of the study suggested incorporation of target language formulaic sequences in every foreign language classroom instruction.


English as Foreign Language, Formulaic Sequences, Language Proficiency, Multiple-Word Strings, Speech Fluency

Full Text:



Alali, F. A., & Schmitt, N. (2012). Teaching Formulaic Sequences: The Same as or Different from Teaching Single Words? TESOL Journal, 3(2), 153-180.

Bardovi-Harlig, K., Rose, M., & Nickels, E. L. (2008). The Use of Conventional Expressions of Thanking, Apologizing, and Refusing (Selected Proceedings of the 2007 Second Language Research Forum, ed. Melissa Bowles et al., 113-130). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Bardovi-Harlig, K., Mossman, S., & Vellenga, H. E. (2015). The Effect of Instruction on Pragmatic Routines in Academic Discussion. Language Teaching Research, 19(3), 324–350.

Biber, D. (2009). A Corpus-Driven Approach to Formulaic Language in English: Multi-Word Patterns in Speech and Writing. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 14(3), 275–311.

Biber, D., Conrad, S., & Cortes, V. (2004). If You Look at ...: Lexical Bundles in University Teaching and Textbooks. Applied Linguistics, 25(3), 371–405.

Boers, F., Eyckmans, J., Kappel, J., Stengers, H., & Demecheleer, M. (2006). Formulaic Sequences and Perceived Oral Proficiency: Putting a Lexical Approach to the Test. Language Teaching Research, 10(3), 245–261.

Boers, F., & Lindstromberg, S. (2012). Experimental and Intervention Studies on Formulaic Sequences in a Second Language. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 32, 83–110.

Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Conklin, K., & Schmitt, N. (2012). The Processing of Formulaic Language. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 32, 45–61.

Cowie, A. P. (1992). Multiword Lexical Units and Communicative Language Teaching. In P. Arnaud, & H. Bejoint (Eds.), Vocabulary and Applied Linguistics (pp. 1-12). London: MacMillan.

Durrant, P., & Schmitt, N. (2009). To What Extent Do Native and Non-Native Writers Make Use of Collocations? International Review of Applied Linguistics, 47(1), 157–177.

Erman, B., & Warren, B. (2000). The Idiom Principle and the Open Choice Principle. Text, 20(1), 29–62.

Forsberg, F. (2010). Using Conventional Sequences in L2 French. IRAL, 48, 25–51.

Foster, P. (2001). Rules and Routines: A Consideration of their Role in the Task-Based Language Production of Native and Non-Native Speakers. In M. Bygate, P. Skehan, & M. Swain (Eds.), Researching Pedagogical Tasks: Second Language Learning, Teaching and Testing (pp. 75–93). Harlow, UK: Longman.

Grami, G. M. A., & Alkazemi, B. Y. (2016). Improving ESL Writing Using an Online Formulaic Sequence Word-Combination Checker. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 32(2), 95–104.

Gravetter, F. J., & Wallnau, L. B. (2013). Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences. Belmont, C A: Wadsworth Publishing.

Laufer, B., & Waldman, T. (2011). Verb-Noun Collocations in Second Language Writing: A Corpus Analysis of Learners’ English. Language Learning, 61(2), 647–672.

Levitzky-Aviad, T., & Laufer, B. (2013). Lexical Properties in the Writing of Foreign Language Learners over Eight Years of Study: Single Words and Collocations. In C. Bardel, C. Lindqvist, & B. Laufer (Eds.), L2 Vocabulary Acquisition, Knowledge and Use (pp. 127-148). Eurosla Monographs, Series 2. Creative Commons.

McCrone, J. (1999). States of mind. New Scientist, No. 2178 (20 March), 30-33.

Nesselhauf, N. (2003). The Use of Collocations by Advanced Learners of English and Some Implications for Teaching. Applied Linguistics, 24(2), 223–42.

Pallant, J. (2013). SPSS Survival Manual: A Step by Step Guide to Data Analysis Using SPSS Program (5th ed.). Australia: Allen & Unwin.

Pawley, A., & Syder, F. H. (1983). Two Puzzles for Linguistic Theory: Nativelike Selection and Nativelike Fluency. In J. C. Richards & R. W. Schmidt (Eds.), Language and Communication (pp. 191–226). London: Longman.

Peters, E., & Pauwels, P. (2015). Learning Academic Formulaic Sequences. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 20, 28-39.

Qi, Y., & Ding, Y. (2011). Use of Formulaic Sequences in Monologues of Chinese EFL Learners. System, 39(2), 164-174.

Rafieyan, V. (2015). Effect of National Cultural Distance as Predictor of Pragmatic Competence on Writing Proficiency. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, 5(18), 122-129.

Rafieyan, V. (2016a). Effect of Pragmatic Instruction versus Educational Sojourn on Knowledge of Conventional Expressions. International Journal of Learning and Development, 6(2), 1-12.

Rafieyan, V. (2016b). Effect of ‘Focus on Forms’ versus ‘Focus on Forms’ Pragmatic Instruction on Development of Pragmatic Comprehension and Production. Journal of Education and Practice, 7(20), 41-48.

Raichle, M. E. (1998). The Neural Correlates of Consciousness: An Analysis of Cognitive Skill Learning. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B, 353, 1889-1901.

Schmitt, N. (2010). Researching Vocabulary: A Vocabulary Research Manual. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Schmitt, N., & Carter, R. (2004). Formulaic Sequences in Action: An Introduction. In N. Schmitt (Ed.), Formulaic Sequences: Acquisition, Processing and Use (pp. 1–22). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Serrano, R., Stengers, H., & Housen, A. (2015). Acquisition of Formulaic Sequences in Intensive and Regular EFL Programmes. Language Teaching Research, 19(1), 89–106.

Staples, S., Egbert, J., Biber, D., & McClair , A. (2013). Formulaic Sequences and EAP Writing Development: Lexical Bundles in the TOEFL iBT Writing Section. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 12(3), 214–225.

Stengers, H., Boers, F., Housen, A., & Eyckmans, J. (2011). Formulaic Sequences and L2 Oral Proficiency: Does the Type of Target Language Influence the Association? International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching (IRAL), 49(4), 321–343.

Wray, A., & Perkins, M. R. (2000). The Functions of Formulaic Language: An Integrated Model. Language & Communication, 20(1), 1-28.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.