Webelhuth et al: Idioms in LInguistics Theory, Part I


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Webelhuth et al: Idioms in LInguistics Theory, Part I

  1. 1. The Linguistic Status of IdiomsPart I: The Empirical Domain and Previous ApproachesGert Webelhuth, Manfred Sailer, Sascha BargmannUniversity of FrankfurtMinerva Summer School, 2013Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 1 / 39
  2. 2. Introduction and OutlineOutline of the coursePart 11 Characterizing the phenomenon2 Idioms in Generative Grammar3 Decomposable vs. non-decomposable idioms4 Theory 1: An inference-based theory5 Theory 2: A constructional theory6 Theory 3: A denotational theory7 Summary of part 1Part 28 Idioms and collocations9 The lexical identifier (LID) theory10 The LF theory11 SummaryWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 2 / 39
  3. 3. Introduction and OutlineWhat is an idiom?Idiom: phraseologism, phraseme, phraseological unit, multiword expression,. . .Prototypical properties:phrasalidiomatic: non-literal meaning; holistic meaningfixed: words cannot be exchanged; restricted syntactic flexibilitylexicalized: conventionalized combination; represented as one unitWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 3 / 39
  4. 4. Introduction and OutlineSome examples(1) kick the bucket (‘die’)a. idiomatic: okb. lexically fixed: = kick the pail; = throw the bucketc. syntactically fixed: *The bucket was kicked.d. lexicalized: okWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 4 / 39
  5. 5. Introduction and OutlineSome examples cont.(2) spill the beans (‘reveal information’)a. idiomatic: okb. lexically fixed: = spilled the pulse; = sling down the beansc. syntactically fixed?:The beans were spilled.The beans appeared to be spilled.* The beans, Pat spilled.d. lexicalized: okWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 5 / 39
  6. 6. Introduction and OutlineSome examples cont.(3) make headway (‘make progress’)a. idiomatic: no? (cranberry word/bound word)b. lexically fixed: ??achieve headwayc. syntactically fixed?Considerable headway was made.How much headway did they make on the job?*That much headway I’m sure they made on the job. (Postal, 1998,p. 31)d. lexicalized: okWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 6 / 39
  7. 7. Introduction and OutlineSome examples cont.(4) brush one’s teeth (‘clean one’s teeth’)a. idiomatic: no? (collocation, idiom of encoding)b. lexically fixed?I brushed my choppers.I cleaned/polished my teethc. syntactically fixed?The teeth were brushed.Those teeth he hadn’t brushed in ages.d. lexicalized?Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 7 / 39
  8. 8. Idioms in Generative Grammar Historical overviewPhrasal lexical entries in Chomsky (1965)Consider, for example, such phrases as ‘take for granted’, which abound inEnglish. From a semantic and distributional point of view, this phrase seemsto be a single lexical item, and it therefore must be entered in the lexicon assuch, with its unique syntactic and semantic features. On the other hand itsbehavior with respect to transformations and morphological processesobviously shows that it is some sort of Verb-with-Complement construction.Once again we have a lexical item with a rich internal structure (Chomsky,1965, p. 190)Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 8 / 39
  9. 9. Idioms in Generative Grammar Historical overviewHistorical overviewChafe (1968): Four problems of idioms:◮ non-compositional◮ transformationally defective◮ (sometimes) syntactically ill-formed◮ idiomatic reading of a combination is more frequent than literal meaning.Weinreich (1969):◮ Phrasal lexical entry lists all possible transformations.Fraser (1970):◮ Idioms inserted with structure in D-Structure◮ Classification according to syntactic flexibility.Jackendoff (1975): Phrasal lexical entries with only partial specification,for syntactically regular idioms: structure follows from syntactic rules aslexical redundancy rule.Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 9 / 39
  10. 10. Idioms in Generative Grammar Historical overviewIdiom arguments in Principles and Parameters(Nunberg et al., 1994)Idiom inserted en bloc at D-StructureTransformations apply to DS trees, even if of idiomatic origin.More recently: Compositional aspects of idioms used to motivatefunctional projections (X gave Y the boot — Y got the boot from X,Richards (2001))Predictions:◮ Idioms have a regular syntactic structure.◮ Idioms can have only canonical form, or canonical and transformed form; butnever: only transformed form◮ Only the idiom as a whole has a meaning, idiom parts are not assignedmeaning.Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 10 / 39
  11. 11. Idioms in Generative Grammar Problems for the generative approachesImportant publications to change our view on idiomsHiggins (1974): Critique of en bloc insertion, attempt for a more semantictheory; unpublishedErnst (1981): Modifiers inside idioms as argument against monolithicsemantics of idiomsMcCawley (1981): Paradoxical predictions for idioms in relative clausesWasow et al. (1983); Nunberg et al. (1994): Two classes of idiomsdistinguished by decomposability (also: Langacker (1987))Ruwet (1991): List of arguments against the traditional en bloc insertionviewWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 11 / 39
  12. 12. Idioms in Generative Grammar Problems for the generative approachesArguments: Regular syntactic shapeChafe (1968); Nunberg et al. (1994):(5) trip the light fantastic (‘dance’)(6) kingdom come (‘paradise’)(7) easy come easy goWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 12 / 39
  13. 13. Idioms in Generative Grammar Problems for the generative approachesArguments: No “transformed-only” idiomsNunberg et al. (1994):(8) passive only: (be) cast in stone(9) Wh-moved only: what the hell(10) inverted only: Is the pope catholic?(11) imperative only: Break a leg!Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 13 / 39
  14. 14. Idioms in Generative Grammar Problems for the generative approachesArguments: Idiom parts are meaninglessModification (Ernst, 1981)(12) External modification:a. Pat kicked the social bucket. (= Socially Pat kicked the bucket.)b. Pat pulled some economic strings. (= Pat pulled some strings ineconomy.)(13) Internal modification:a. Katz and I had by then become good friends, having long beforeburied the old hatched (L. Melamed, Escape to the Future)b. My girls should’ve buried the damn hatchet when they were intheir prime. (www; expressive modifier)c. Pat pulled some important strings. (= Pat used some importantconnections.)The existence of internal modification readings is strong evidence that idiomparts can be meaningful.Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 14 / 39
  15. 15. Idioms in Generative Grammar Problems for the generative approachesArguments: Idiom parts are meaninglessDeterminer variation:(14) Pat kicked the/*a bucket.(15) I have buried many hatchets with my parents but this still burns me up.(www)(16) Pat pulled the/many stringsDeterminer variation supports the observations on modification.Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 15 / 39
  16. 16. Idioms in Generative Grammar Problems for the generative approachesAdditional problem: McCawley’s transformationalparadoxIf the idiom pull strings must be inserted as one VP unit from the lexicon,there is a paradox:(17) The strings that Pat pulled got Chris the job.bad if strings originates in the surface positionok if strings originates inside the relative clause(18) Pat pulled the necessary strings that got Chris the job.ok if strings originates in the surface positionbad if strings originates inside the relative clauseWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 16 / 39
  17. 17. Two classes of idiomsTwo classes of idiomsWasow et al. (1983); Nunberg et al. (1994): decomposabilityIdiomatically combining expressions (ICE): spill the beans, keep tabs ons.o., make headway, bury the hatchet◮ idiom parts can occur in positions/constructions that require content◮ for example: internal modification→ expect: syntactic flexibilityIdiomatic phrases (IPh): kick the bucket, saw logs (‘snore/sleep’), trip thelight fantastic (‘dance’)◮ idiom parts cannot occur in positions/constructions that require content◮ for example: no internal modification→ less/no syntactic flexibilityWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 17 / 39
  18. 18. Two classes of idiomsTests for ICEsIf an idiom part can occur in a position/construction that must have somemeaning, the idiom is decomposable.Internal modification possibleDeterminer change possibleWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 18 / 39
  19. 19. Two classes of idiomsTests for ICEs cont.If an idiom part can occur in a position/construction that must have somemeaning, the idiom is decomposable.Fronting possible:(19) The strings Pat has pulled.(20) * The bucket Pat has kicked.Pronominalization possible:(21) Eventually they spilled the beans, but they didn’t spill themdeliberately.(22) Kim’s family pulled some strings on her behalf, but they weren’tenough to get her the job. (Nunberg et al., 1994)(23) * Pat kicked the bucket and Chris kicked it too.(24) * Pat tripped the light fantastic but Alex didn’t want to trip it.Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 19 / 39
  20. 20. Two classes of idiomsTests for ICEs cont.If an idiom part can occur in a position/construction that must have somemeaning, the idiom is decomposable.Relative clause:(25) Partially inside a RelC:The strings that Pat pulled got Chris the job.*The bucket that Pat kicked was unexpected.(26) Internal modification by a RelC:Pat pulled the strings that got Chris the job*Pat kicked the bucket that nobody expected.often also considered: Passive, raising possible:(27) The strings have been pulled.(28) * The bucket has been kicked.Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 20 / 39
  21. 21. Two classes of idiomsDecomposability problematic/circular?Decomposability is taken as a purely semantic notion. Not to be confusedwith:= transparency of the expression as a whole:saw logs (‘snore’) (transparent, non-decomposable)spill the beans (‘divulge information’ (non-transparent, decomposable)shoot the breeze (‘chat’) (non-transparent, non-decomposable)= plausible paraphrasability:kick the bucket = end one’s life (non-decomposable)Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 21 / 39
  22. 22. Example AnalysesTwo classesDecomposability is defined via semantic flexibility criteria.An expression that meets some of these criteria is decomposable, allothers are non-decomposable.Nunberg et al. (1994) see a strong connection between semanticdecomposability and syntactic flexibility. The relation might be looser(Webelhuth and Ackermann, 1994).Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 22 / 39
  23. 23. Example AnalysesAims of a formal analysisWhat we want:Varying syntactic flexibilitySemantics of the well-formed stringsWhat we won’t talk about:Relation between the literal and the non-literal meaningCognitive basis of idiomsWord playText-constituting potential of idiomsWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 23 / 39
  24. 24. Example AnalysesExamples of formal analysesPulman (1993): Inference-based analysisAbeillé (1995): Constructional analysisGazdar et al. (1985): Denotational analysisWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 24 / 39
  25. 25. Example Analyses Inference-based AnalysisInference-based analysis: SketchRepresentatives: Pulman (1993), Egan (2008)Literal parse mapped to idiomatic interpretation:◮ Pulman (1993): sem.repr. → sem.repr. (special inference rules)◮ example: The y [bucket’(y)](kick’(x,y)) → die’(x)(applies if the literal reading is inconsistent in the context)Syntax non-holistic, meaning holisticIdiom is stored as a special inference rule, different from lexical entries.Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 25 / 39
  26. 26. Example Analyses Inference-based AnalysisInference-based analysis: Strengthsno idiomatic words necessaryliteral meaning available; necessary for “extended uses”(29) If you let this cat out of the bag, a lot of people are going to getscratched.possibly: relation to other cases of figurative languageWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 26 / 39
  27. 27. Example Analyses Inference-based AnalysisInference-based account of idiom propertiesIdiomaticity: mapping between lexical and idiomatic readingLexical fixedness: inference rule can rely on word-specific semanticcontributionsSemantic fixedness: possible, if syntactic structure correlates withdifferent semantic representationWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 27 / 39
  28. 28. Example Analyses Inference-based AnalysisInference-based analysis: ProblemsProblems (Wearing, 2012)◮ processing: idiomatic sense sometimes faster than literal sense.◮ vague predictions on degree of syntactic flexibility:(30) Jane had a bone to pick with Susan, and Anne had one to pickwith Ian.(have a bone to pick with s.o. (‘X has s.th. to discuss where Yannoyed X’)(31) * Tony shot the breeze with Junior, and Paulie shot it with Silvio.(shoot the breeze (‘chat’))Other problems◮ Idioms with bound words? (make headway, the whole (kit and) caboodle(‘everything’))◮ idioms with syntactic peculiarities? (trip the light fantastic)◮ Pulman (1993): type of inference required elsewhere?◮ Egan (2008): admits possible stronger lexicalization for many idiomsWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 28 / 39
  29. 29. Example Analyses Constructional AnalysisConstructional analysis: SketchRepresentative: Abeillé (1995), Tree Adjoining GrammarIdiom is represented as a syntactic tree (elementary tree)Nodes in the tree can, but need not have semantic annotation.IPh:Ssem: die’(x)NPsem: xVPsem: die’(x)VkickNPDtheNbucketWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 29 / 39
  30. 30. Example Analyses Constructional AnalysisConstructional analysis: SketchRepresentative: Abeillé (1995), Tree Adjoining GrammarIdiom is represented as a syntactic tree (elementary tree)Nodes in the tree can, but need not have semantic annotation.ICE:Ssem: The y [info’(y)](reveal’(x,y))NPsem: xVPsem: λ x.The y [info’(y)](reveal’(x,y))Vsem: reveal’spillNPsem: λP.The y [info’(y)](P(y))DtheNbeansWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 29 / 39
  31. 31. Example Analyses Constructional AnalysisConstructional approach: FlexibilityTransformations: each elementary tree belongs to a “tree family”, whereall possible derived trees are included (such as for passive etc.)Modification: Possibility to mark in the structure whether modifiers arepossible.Internal modification: available if attachment node has meaningPronominalization: unclearWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 30 / 39
  32. 32. Example Analyses Constructional AnalysisConstructional approach: StrengthsAccount of syntactically ill-formed idioms (trip the light fantastic), idiomsin transformed form only (Get lost!), or idioms with bound words ((make)headway).All idioms are represented as units.Parts of an idiom can have an idiomatic meaning, but only if the rest ofthe idiom is present.Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 31 / 39
  33. 33. Example Analyses Constructional AnalysisConstructional account of idiom propertiesIdiomaticity: done via ambiguity.Lexical fixedness: lexical items and word forms are included into theelementary trees.Syntactic fixedness: via diacritic markingWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 32 / 39
  34. 34. Example Analyses Constructional AnalysisConstructional approach: ProblemsMarking for applicable transformations not grounded in semanticsAnalysis of pronominalization not clearWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 33 / 39
  35. 35. Example Analyses Denotational AnalysisDenotational Approach: SketchRepresentatives: Gazdar et al. (1985)Hybrid approach:◮ Idiomatic phrases: fixed tree with meaning is in the lexicon◮ ICE: co-occurrence of idiom parts by special denotationsWords in idioms are ambiguous:◮ spill reveal-idiom’◮ beans secret-idiom’◮ Pat spilled the beans: The x [secret-idiom’(x)](reveal-idiom’(pat’,x))semantic constants as partial functions:[[reveal-idiom’]]([[beans’]]): undefined.[[spill’]]([[secret-idiom’]]) undefinedWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 34 / 39
  36. 36. Example Analyses Denotational AnalysisDenotational Approach: Sketch cont.Passive: The beans had been spilled.The x [secret-idiom’(x)](∃y (reveal-idiom’)(y,x))Strengths:◮ attempt to encode Nunberg et al. (1994)◮ internal modification ok◮ syntactic flexibility related to semanticsWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 35 / 39
  37. 37. Example Analyses Denotational AnalysisDenotational account of idiom propertiesIdiomaticity: by ambiguityLexical fixedness: via the denotation of special, lexeme-specificpredicate-symbols.Syntactic fixedness: fixed tree (for IPh) vs. syntactically free combination(for ICE).Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 36 / 39
  38. 38. Example Analyses Denotational AnalysisDenotational account: ProblemsPhrasal lexical entry for non-decomposable idioms not well defined inGazdar et al. (1985)Evidence for lexical ambiguity?Complicated underlying denotationsDifference between various types of decomposable idioms?(32) * The beans, they didn’t spill.(33) The strings, they didn’t pull.Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 37 / 39
  39. 39. Summary(At least) 3 types of idioms1 Idiomatic phrases: Syntactically (almost) frozen idioms, kick the bucket2 Idiomatically combining expressions: Mobile idiomsa Syntactically connected idioms, spill the beansb Semantically connected idioms, pull stringsWebelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 38 / 39
  40. 40. SummaryMost promising analysisNon-decomposable idiom: as completely fixed treeDecomposable idiom: normal syntactic combination; semantic constantsrather than denotations.On Thursday: Detailed look at three idioms and outline of such a theory.Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 39 / 39
  41. 41. LiteraturReferencesAbeillé, Anne (1995). The Flexibility of French Idioms: A Representation with Lexical TreeAdjoining Grammar. In M. Everaert, E.-J. v. d. Linden, A. Schenk, and R. Schreuder (Eds.),Idioms. Structural and Psychological Perspectives, pp. 15–42. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,Hillsdale.Chafe, Wallace (1968). Idiomaticity as an Anomaly in the Chomskyan Paradigm. Foundations ofLanguage 4, 109–127.Chomsky, Noam (1965). Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MITPress.Egan, Andy (2008). Pretense for the Complete Idiom. Noûs 42(3), 381–409.Ernst, Thomas (1981). Grist for the Linguistic Mill: Idioms and ‘Extra’ Adjectives. Journal ofLinguistic Research 1, 51–68.Fraser, Bruce (1970). Idioms within a Transformational Grammar. Foundations of Language 6,22–42.Gazdar, Gerald, Klein, Ewan, Pullum, Geoffrey, and Sag, Ivan (1985). Generalized PhraseStructure Grammar. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.Higgins, Francis Roger (1974). On the Use of Idioms as Evidence for Movement. A CautionaryNote. Unpublished manuscript of a talk given at LSA 1974, New York.Jackendoff, Ray (1975). Morphological and Semantic Regularities in the Lexicon.Language 51(3), 639–671.Langacker, Ronald W. (1987). Foundations of Ccognitive Grammar. Stanford: Stanford UniversityPress.Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 39 / 39
  42. 42. SummaryMcCawley, James D. (1981). The Syntax and Semantics of English Relative Clauses. Lingua 53,99–149.Nunberg, Geoffrey, Sag, Ivan A., and Wasow, Thomas (1994). Idioms. Language 70, 491–538.Postal, Paul M. (1998). Three Investigations of Extraction. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.Pulman, Stephen G. (1993). The Recognition and Interpretation of Idioms. In C. Cacciari andP. Tabossi (Eds.), Idioms: Processing, Structure, and Interpretation, Chapter 11, pp. 249–270.Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Richards, Norvin (2001). An Idiomatic Argument for Lexical Decomposition. LinguisticInquiry 32(1), 183–192.Ruwet, Nicolas (1991). On the Use and Abuse of Idioms in Syntactic Argumentation. In Syntaxand Human Experience, pp. 171–251. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press. Editedand translated by John Goldsmith.Wasow, Thomas, Sag, Ivan A., and Nunberg, Geoffrey (1983). Idioms: An Interim Report. InS. Hattori and K. Inoue (Eds.), Proceedings of the XIIIth International Congress of Linguistics,pp. 102–115.Wearing, Catherine (2012). Metaphor, Idiom, and Pretense. Noûs 46(3), 499–522.Webelhuth, Gert and Ackermann, Farrell (1994). German Idioms: An Empirical Approach.Studies in the Linguistic Sciences 24, 455–471.Weinreich, Uriel (1969). Problems in the Analysis of Idioms. In Weinreich (1980), S. 208–264.Weinreich, Uriel (1980). On Semantics. University of Pennsylvania Press.Webelhuth/Sailer/Bargmann (Ffm) Idioms 1 2013 39 / 39