An ELT Glossary : Bottom-up Processing

  • Definition : decoding text (whether written or spoken) by recognising and combining the smaller components into larger chunks
  • Example : The word cat, if heard, would be processed by perceiving the phonemes /k/ /æ/ and /t/, and then recognising that, combined, they signify a small domestic feline animal.
  • Contrasts with top down processing, where the listener/reader uses knowledge from outside the text to process meaning. Eg if I hear /kæt/ and know the speaker knows I'm allergic to small domestic felines, I'll interpret the utterance of having the function of warning.