cSCAN Rounds

Representation and Processing of Idiomatic Expressions

Idioms belong to the vast family of formulaic expressions, and their main characteristic is that their figurative meaning does not result from combining the meanings of the constituent parts. For example, kick, plus the, plus bucket do not produce “to die”. Another important characteristic of idioms is that they are syntacticly defective, i.e. they do not enter all the operations as literal expressions of the same form. For example, “The bucket was kicked by John” is interpreted by most English speakers literally, as kick the bucket loses its figurative interpretation in the passive. How speakers/listeners deal with the syntax of idioms is at present unclear. Experiments testing current alternative hypotheses will be presented. A new theoretical working hypothesis will also be introduced and tested. Finally, the implications of the different approaches will be discussed.