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  • 1. The Linguistic Status of Idioms Part II: Three Types of Idioms Gert Webelhuth, Manfred Sailer, Sascha Bargmann University of Frankfurt Minerva Summer School, 2013 Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 1 / 42
  • 2. Introduction 3 types of idioms We assume the existence of (at least) three different types of idioms: 1 Syntactically (almost) frozen idioms (kick the bucket) 2 Mobile idioms a Syntactically connected idioms (spill the beans) b Semantically connected idioms (pull strings) General analytic strategy: 1 Frozen idioms are listed as single lexical entries in the phrasal lexicon. 2 The parts of mobile idioms have separate lexical entries. ◮ These entries each require that the linguistic representation of the clause or discourse containing their part of the idiom also contain a property that is only licensed if the other parts of the idiom are present in the structure as well. ◮ The relevant property may be syntactic or semantic. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 2 / 42
  • 3. Type I: Syntactically (almost) frozen idioms Type I: Syntactically (almost) frozen idioms kick the bucket (Fraser (1970), p. 32) saw logs (Wasow et al. (1980), p. 89) shoot the breeze (Nunberg et al. (1994), p. 497) Wasow et al. (1980), Nunberg et al. (1994), Jackendoff (1995): Syntactically invariable idiomatic expressions are analyzed in terms of (surface!) phrasal lexical entries. e.g. phrase ⇒ hd-spr-ph ∨ hd-comp-ph ∨ [VP kick+INFL the bucket] ∨ . . . Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 3 / 42
  • 4. Syntactically (almost) frozen idioms kick the bucket http://www.cornelsen.de/erw/1.c.1984516.de#1.c.1982199.de: (1) [H]e [VP kicked the bucket] at the weekend. Examples due to Dianne Jonas: (2) a. He might [VP kick the bucket]. b. . . . and [VP kick the bucket] he did. c. It was [VP kick the bucket] that he did last week. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 4 / 42
  • 5. Syntactically (almost) frozen idioms kick the bucket Fraser (1970), p. 32: (3) a. Your friend’s [VP kicking the bucket] caused great concern. b. * Your friend’s kicking of the bucket caused great concern. (4) * The bucket was kicked. Schenk (1995), p. 254: (5) a. * The bucket Pete kicked. b. * It was the bucket that Pete kicked. c. * The bucket John kicked was astonishing. d. * Which bucket did John kick? Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 5 / 42
  • 6. Mobile Idioms Mobile idioms: leading idea The pieces of mobile idioms must be connected in the larger context containing them. Present grammatical theory contains a number of concepts that connect linguistic expressions either through syntactic or semantic relations that do not require the connected expressions to be linearly adjacent or to even occur within the same clause/sentence: 1 Chains (A and A’) 2 Binding (e.g. variable binding, long distance reflexives) 3 Scope (e.g. negative polarity items) 4 Salience in context (pronominal anaphora, ellipsis) Strategy: try to capture the different degrees of mobility of the pieces of idioms by imposing different syntactic and/or semantic connectedness conditions on them within the larger linguistic context containing them. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 6 / 42
  • 7. Mobile Idioms Two case studies Idiom Analysis spill the beans syntactically connected (at least partially) pull strings semantically connected Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 7 / 42
  • 8. Mobile Idioms spill the beans: The data Descriptive generalizations covering the empirical claims in the literature: 1 An NP of exactly the form the beans must be present. 2 The NP can undergo A-movement but not A’-movement. 3 Ellipsis of the verb is possible. 4 The NP can be pronominalized. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 8 / 42
  • 9. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms Two central assumptions: 1 Each part of a mobile idiom makes a unique contribution to the LF of the larger linguistic context. 2 A part of an idiom may require the unique LF-contribution of the other parts of the idiom to be present in the LF of the larger linguistic context containing it. Assumptions about logical form Logical form is a level of representation. The logical form of a sign (word, phrase, sentence, . . . ) is an expression of some semantic representation language. The logical form is part of the representation of the sign, i.e., there can be mutual constraints on the syntactic form and logical form of a sign. Discourse: We assume a DRT-like architecture in which ◮ A semantic representation of the preceding discourse is available. ◮ The logical form of the current sentence is still set apart from that of the preceding discourse, but ◮ anaphoric relations have been resolved. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 9 / 42
  • 10. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms spill the beans (a syntactically connected idiom): The LF Theory Lexical entries Constraints V LF spillid’ spill In LF, the verb’s idiomatic argument is specified by a term of the form The y [beansid’(y)] (possi- bly after anaphor resolution). NP LF λP.The y [beansid’(y)](P(y)) D the N beans The NP heads an A-chain theta-marked by a verb with LF: spillid’. ☞ Crucial assumption: the LF constants mentioned in these lexical entries are contributed solely by these items or pronouns anaphorically licensed by them. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 10 / 42
  • 11. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms spill the beans (a syntactically connected idiom): The LF Theory Requirements of the phrasal lexical entry for idiomatic “the beans”: S 1 NP LF λP.The y [beansid’(y)](P(y)) The beans V     word LF spillid’ ARG-S . . . 1 . . .     spill θ ☞ Idiomatic “the beans” has to be the subject or object of idiomatic “spill”, perhaps mediated by raising. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 11 / 42
  • 12. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms spill the beans (a syntactically connected idiom): The LF Theory Requirements of the lexical entry for idiomatic “spill”: Discourse LF . . . The y [beansid’(y)](. . . spillid’(x,y)) NP LF λP.The y [beansid’(y)](P(y)) The beans V word LF spillid’(x,y) spill Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 12 / 42
  • 13. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms Pat spilled the beans. IP LF The x [beansid’(x)](spillid’(pat,x)) NP Pat VP V LF spillid’ spilled NP LF λP.The x [beansid’(x)](P(x)) the beans θ Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 13 / 42
  • 14. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms *Pat spilled the lima beans. IP LF The x [lima-beans’(x)](spillid’(pat,x)) NP Pat VP V LF spillid’ spilled NP LF λP. The x [lima-beans’(x)](P(x)) the lima beans θ ☞ [NP the beans] is not present: hence the verb’s idiomatic argument fails to be specified by The y [beansid’(y)] in LF. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 14 / 42
  • 15. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms The beans appeared to be spilled. IP LF The x [beansid’(x)](appear’(∃y(spillid’(y,x)))) NPi LF λP.The x [beansid’(x)](P(x)) The beans VP V appeared IP NP ti VP LF λx.∃y (spillid’(y,x)) to be spilled ti θ A-CHAIN A-CHAIN Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 15 / 42
  • 16. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms *The beans John spilled IP NPi LF λP. The y [beansid’(y)](P(y)) The beans IP NP John VP V LF spillid’ spilled NP ti θA’-CHAIN ☞ [NP the beans] does not head an A-chain θ-marked by a verb with LF: spillid’. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 16 / 42
  • 17. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms spill the beans (a syntactically connected idiom): The LF Theory Lexical entries Constraints V LF spillid’ spill In LF, the verb’s idiomatic argument is specified by a term of the form The y [beansid’(y)] (possi- bly after anaphor resolution). NP LF λP.The y [beansid’(y)](P(y)) D the N beans The NP heads an A-chain theta-marked by a verb with LF: spillid’. ☞ Crucial assumption: the LF constants mentioned in these lexical entries are contributed solely by these items or pronouns anaphorically licensed by them. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 17 / 42
  • 18. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms *The beans that Joe spilled caused us a lot of trouble. The Partee structure: IP NP D The N’ N’i beans CP NPi that IP NP Joe VP V LF spillid’ spilled NP ti VP caused us a lot of trouble ☞ [NP the beans] is not present: hence the verb’s idiomatic argument fails to be specified by The y [beansid’(y)] in LF. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 18 / 42
  • 19. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms *The beans that Joe spilled caused us a lot of trouble. The Bach-Cooper structure: IP NP NPi D The N beans CP NPi that IP NP Joe VP V LF spillid’ spilled NP ti VP caused us a lot of trouble ☞ [NP the beans] is present: but it fails to head an A-chain θ-marked by a verb with LF: spillid’. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 19 / 42
  • 20. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms Assumptions on pronouns LF theory: Pronouns are interpreted as definite descriptions that contain a copy of the semantic representation of their antecedent. (6) a. Preceding discourse: [A woman]i entered the room. Current sentence: Shei whistled. b. Preceding discourse: ∃x[woman’(x)](enter-room’(x)) Current sentence: The x[woman’(x)](whistle’(x)) Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 20 / 42
  • 21. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms We worried that Pat might spill the beans, but it was Chris who finally spilled them. We worried that Pat might spill [the beans]k, but it was Chris CP LF λy.The x [beansid’(x)](spillid’(y,x))] NP whoi IP NP ti VP V LF spillid’ spilled NPk LF λP.The x [beansid’(x)](P(x)) them Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 21 / 42
  • 22. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms I was worried that the beans might be spilled, but they weren’t. I was worried that [the beans]i might be [spilled]k, but Context-LF: worried′ (speaker′ , The x[beansid ′ (x)](∃z[spillid ′ (z, x)])) IP LF The x[beansid’(x)](¬∃z[spillid’(z,x)]) NPi LF λP.The x[beansid’(x)](P(x))] they I’ I LF λPλu.¬(P(u)) weren’t VPk LF λy.∃z[spillid’(z,y)]) e Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 22 / 42
  • 23. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms I was worried that the beans might be spilled, but they weren’t. None of the two idiomatically combining items making up the idiom is present - therefore, none of their conditions can be violated. For the interpretation of the sentence to be idiomatic, the pieces of the idiomatically combining items in the context sentence must have meanings that support anaphoric links. This condition is fulfilled. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 23 / 42
  • 24. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms pull strings: The data pull strings is more flexible than spill the beans in several respects: 1 The determiner of the NP headed by strings is not frozen. 2 The NP can undergo both A- and A’-movement. 3 Strings can occur in a main clause without pull, if another occurrence of strings did cooccur with pull in the preceding discourse. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 24 / 42
  • 25. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms pull strings Illustration of the last claim: Wasow et al. (1980), p. 93f The authors claim that strings can occur without pull if the whole idiom has been introduced in the preceding discourse: (7) Pat and Chris graduated from law school together with roughly equal records. Pat’s uncle is a state senator, and he pulled strings to get Pat a clerkship with a state supreme court justice. Chris, in contrast, didn’t have access to any strings, and ended up hanging out a shingle. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 25 / 42
  • 26. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms pull strings (a semantically connected idiom): The LF Theory Lexical entries Constraints V LF pullid’ pull In LF, the verb’s idiomatic argument is specified by a quantifier Qy that is restricted by stringsid’(y) (possibly after anaphor resolution). N LF stringsid’ strings stringsid’(y) restricts a quantifier Qy and either a. or b.: a. Qy binds the idiomatic argument of an occur- rence of pullid’ (possibly after anaphor resolution); b. stringsid’ is salient in the present discourse. ☞ Crucial assumption: the LF constants mentioned in these lexical entries are contributed solely by these items or pronouns anaphorically licensed by them. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 26 / 42
  • 27. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms spill the beans (a syntactically connected idiom): The LF Theory Lexical entries Constraints V LF spillid’ spill In LF, the verb’s idiomatic argument is specified by a term of the form The y [beansid’(y)] (possi- bly after anaphor resolution). NP LF λP.The y [beansid’(y)](P(y)) D the N beans The NP heads an A-chain theta-marked by a verb with LF: spillid’. ☞ Crucial assumption: the LF constants mentioned in these lexical entries are contributed solely by these items or pronouns anaphorically licensed by them. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 27 / 42
  • 28. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms pull strings (a semantically connected idiom): The LF Theory First case: the two pieces license each other in LF. S/Discourse LF . . . Qy[stringsid’(y) . . . ](. . . ) NP LF Qy[stringsid’(y) . . . ](. . . ) . . . strings . . . V word LF pullid’(x,y) pull Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 28 / 42
  • 29. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms pull strings (a semantically connected idiom): The LF Theory Second case: strings is licensed by a salient occurrence of itself in the context. Discourse LF . . . Qy[stringsid’(y) . . . ](. . . ) + S NP LF Qy[stringsid’(y) . . . ](. . . ) . . . strings . . . Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 29 / 42
  • 30. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms Kim’s family pulled some strings on her behalf. IP LF ∃y[stringsid’(y)](pullid’(kim-family’,y)) NP Kim’s family VP VP V LF pullid’(x,y) pulled NP LF λP.∃y[stringsid ′ (y)](P(y)) D some N strings PP on her behalf Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 30 / 42
  • 31. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms Strings seem to be pulled every time he applies for a promotion. IP LF . . . seem’(∃y[stringsid’(y)](∃x(pullid’(x,y)))) NPi Strings VP V seem IP NP ti VP VP to be pulled ti NP every time he applies for a promotion Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 31 / 42
  • 32. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms [The strings that Pat pulled ] helped Chris get the job. IP LF The y [stringsid’(y) & pullid’(pat’,y)](help’(y,chris’,get-the-promotion’) NP D The N’ N’i strings CP NPi that IP NP Pat VP V pulled NP ti VP helped Chris get the promotion Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 32 / 42
  • 33. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms Bill pulled [the same strings that Joe pulled ] to get the promotion. IP LF The y [stringsid’(y) & pullid’(bill’,y) & purpose’(get’(bill’,promotion’))] (The z [stringsid’(z) & pullid’(joe’,z) & purpose’(get’(joe’,promotion’))] (y = z)) NP Bill VP V pulled NP D the N’ AP same N’ Ni strings CP NPi that IP NP Joe VP V pulled NP ti Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 33 / 42
  • 34. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms Pat pulled [strings that Chris had no access to ]. IP LF ∃y[stringsid’(y) & ¬(access’(chris’,y)](pullid’(pat,y)) NP Pat VP V pulled NP N’ N’ strings CP NPi that IP NP Chris VP had no access to Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 34 / 42
  • 35. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms How many strings did Chris pull to get the promotion? CP LF how-many y [stringsid’(y)](pullid’(chris’,y) & purpose’(get’(chris’,promotion’))) NP How many strings C’ C did IP IP NP Chris VP V pull NP ti CP to get the promotion Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 35 / 42
  • 36. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms I was worried that strings might be pulled, but they weren’t. I was worried that [strings]i might be [pulled]k, but Context-LF: might′ (∃y[stringsid ′ (y)](∃x(pullid ′ (x, y))) IP LF The x[stringsid ′ (x)](¬∃z[pullid ′ (z, x)]) NPi LF λP.The x[stringsid ′ (x)](P(x))] they I’ I LF λPλu.¬(P(u)) weren’t VPk LF λy.∃z[pullid ′ (z, y)]) e Remember: The pronoun is interpreted as a definite NP whose restrictor is identical with that of its antecedent. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 36 / 42
  • 37. The LF-Theory of Mobile Idioms Chris didn’t have access to any strings. Pat and Chris graduated from law school together with roughly equal records. Pat’s uncle is a state senator, and he pulled stringsi to get Pat a clerkship with a state supreme court justice. Context LF: . . . stringsid’ . . . IP LF ¬∃x[stringsid ′ (x)](access′ (chris′ , x)) NP Chris I’ I didn’t VP have access to any stringsi Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 37 / 42
  • 38. Summary Summary and Conclusion 1 Idioms differ from each other in their degree of syntactic flexibility. 2 The en bloc insertion theory of idioms is thus insufficient, since it needs to be predicted which set of surface forms a given idiom can occur in. 3 Syntactically (almost) frozen idioms can be treated as entries in the phrasal lexicon (which, however, must specify surface entries.) 4 Syntactically mobile idioms (= idiomatically combining items) differ from each other in how their parts are linguistically connected. 5 We have presented a theory in which: 1 The parts of syntactically flexible idioms each have lexical entries. 2 These lexical entries make reference to some syntactic or semantic property of the other parts of the idiom. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 38 / 42
  • 39. Summary spill the beans (a syntactically connected idiom): The LF Theory Lexical entries Constraints V LF spillid’ spill In LF, the verb’s idiomatic argument is specified by a term of the form The y [beansid’(y)] (possi- bly after anaphor resolution). NP LF λP.The y [beansid’(y)](P(y)) D the N beans The NP heads an A-chain theta-marked by a verb with LF: spillid’. ☞ Crucial assumption: the LF constants mentioned in these lexical entries are contributed solely by these items or pronouns anaphorically licensed by them. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 39 / 42
  • 40. Summary pull strings (a semantically connected idiom): The LF Theory Lexical entries Constraints V LF pullid’ pull In LF, the verb’s idiomatic argument is specified by a quantifier Qy that is restricted by stringsid’(y) (possibly after anaphor resolution). N LF stringsid’ strings stringsid’(y) restricts a quantifier Qy and either a. or b.: a. Qy binds the idiomatic argument of an occur- rence of pullid’ (possibly after anaphor resolution); b. stringsid’ is salient in the present discourse. ☞ Crucial assumption: the LF constants mentioned in these lexical entries are contributed solely by these items or pronouns anaphorically licensed by them. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 40 / 42
  • 41. Summary Summary and Conclusion 1 Idioms differ from each other in their degree of syntactic flexibility. 2 The en bloc insertion theory of idioms is thus insufficient, since it needs to be predicted which set of surface forms a given idiom can occur in. 3 Syntactically (almost) frozen idioms can be treated as entries in the phrasal lexicon (which, however, must specify surface entries.) 4 Syntactically mobile idioms (= idiomatically combining items) differ from each other in how their parts are linguistically connected. 5 We have presented a theory in which: 1 The parts of syntactically flexible idioms each have lexical entries. 2 These lexical entries make reference to some syntactic or semantic property of the other parts of the idiom. 6 Our theory predicts a hierarchy of idioms in terms of the syntactic mobility of their parts: phrasal lexical entry < syntactically connected < semantically connected. Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 41 / 42
  • 42. The end Thank you for your attention! Webelhuth Sailer Bargmann Idioms 2 2013 42 / 42