The prosody of formulaic language: Multimodal discourse perspectives

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic research


Formulaic language subsumes all types of lexicalised word combinations including idioms (e.g., raining cats and dogs, my ears are burning), proverbs (e.g., a stitch in time saves nine, too many cooks spoil the broth), speech formulae (e.g., believe you me, let’s hear it for X) and so on. Previous studies have shown that formulaic language demonstrates fixedness not only in terms of its composition, but also its prosodic patterns (Ashby, 2006; Lin, 2012, 2013, 2018).
In this seminar, I will argue, with evidence from the literature for the existence of a distinctive prosody of formulaic language that cannot be explained by general English prosodic rules. I will also present three recent studies which explored the interfaces between formulaic language, speech prosody and gestures. The first study (Lin, 2018) examined how a university lecturer strategically manipulated the prosodic patterns of formulaic expressions to realise discourse and contextual functions, including signposting and highlights. The second study (Lin & Chen, 2020) investigated how subtle differences in the discourse and pragmatic functions of the epistemic expression I think can be distinguished by drawing upon speech prosody and gestural cues. The study was conducted using a simple web-based tool (Lin, 2017) developed for concordancing YouTube as a multi-billion-word English multimodal corpus. The third study seeks to develop a new computer-assisted language learning (CALL) tool for facilitating the learning of the prosodic patterns of formulaic language. Being part of IdiomsTube (, the new tool allows users to practice English speech prosody using their self-chosen YouTube videos and provides automatic feedback on the success of their elicited imitation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusNot published / presented only - 14 Nov 2022
EventThe Japan Association for College English Teachers Discourse and Pragmatics Special Interest Group - University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
Duration: 14 Nov 202214 Nov 2022


Forum/SymposiumThe Japan Association for College English Teachers Discourse and Pragmatics Special Interest Group


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