An ELT Glossary : Bottom-up Processing

  • Definition : decoding text (whether written or spoken) by recognising and combining the smaller components  into larger chunks - in spoken texts phonemes are decoded and interpreted as words while in written text alphabetical letters are deoded and interpreted as words. in both cases, these words are then interpreted as phrase components, the phrases are interpreted as clause components etc.
  • 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 decode (BUP) /kæt/ and know the speaker knows I'm allergic to small domestic felines, I'll interpret the utterance of having the function of warning.