Representing idioms: syntactic and contextual effects on idiom processing

Author: Holsinger, Edward

Description: Recent work on the processing of idiomatic expressions argues against the idea that idioms are simply big words. For example, hybrid models of idiom representation, originally investigated in the context of idiom production, propose a priority of literal computation, and a principled relationship between the conceptual meaning of an idiom, its literal lemmas and its syntactic structure. We examined the predictions of the hybrid representation hypothesis in the domain of idiom comprehension. We conducted two experiments to examine the role of syntactic, lexical and contextual factors on the interpretation of idiomatic expressions. Experiment I examines the role of syntactic compatibility and lexical compatibility on the real-time processing of potentially idiomatic strings. Experiment 2 examines the role of contextual information on idiom processing and how context interacts with lexical information during processing. We find evidence that literal computation plays a causal role in the retrieval of idiomatic meaning and that contextual, lexical and structural information influence the processing of idiomatic strings at early stages during processing, which provide support for the hybrid model of idiom representation in the domain of idiom comprehension.

Subject headings: Humans; Linguistics; Idioms; Processing; Comprehension

Publication year: 2013

Journal or book title: Language and Speech

Volume: 56

Issue: Pt 3

Pages: 373-394

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Serial number: 3789

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