Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

World Languages

Major Professor

John I. Liontas, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sanghoon Park, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sara Smith, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Sherry, Ph.D.


Challenges, Idiomatic Language, L2 VP Idioms & Proverbs, Lexical Level Types, Performance Measures, Strategies


This study was a mixed method research. The quantitative part investigated Saudi English learners’ English vivid phrasal (VP) idiom detection differences by lexical level, semi- lexical level, and post-lexical level, as well as comprehension and interpretation by zero-context and full-context conditions. It also researched the extent to which Saudi English learners differed in their scores on the measure of participants’ perceptions on the need for including VP idioms in classrooms. The qualitative part of this study investigated the challenges Saudi English learners faced while completing the detection and comprehension tasks and the strategies they used to detect and comprehend the VP idioms.

The participants in this experimental study included 166 Saudi undergraduate advance English language proficiency level students from a midwestern university randomly assigned to the zero context or full context group. Data collection was fully online using Qualtrics® to administer the five instruments: a Demographic Questionnaire, two idiomatic performance tasks (the Idiom Detection Task, the Zero Context vs. the Full Context Tasks), a Self-reflection Report, and an Idiom Needs Survey. Data analysis for this study involved within-between ANOVA and qualitative analyses of the learners’ challenges and strategies while completing the tasks.

The results indicated a clear interaction between group and lexical level supporting the Idiom Diffusion Model (Liontas, 1999). There was a difference found in detection between types of VP idioms. Qualitative analysis of responses show that Saudi learners of English reported that comprehending VP idioms was challenging. The most reported strategy used to detect and comprehend a VP idiom was context. The important implication of this research is that Saudi learners of English would benefit from instruction in strategies that help facilitate their expression of what they understood the VP idioms to mean. Targeted instruction in articulation strategies when describing observations and thought processes may indeed help increase students’ awareness of VP idiom metacognition.