English noun-verb idioms such as spill the beans combine a verb with a noun which appears to be an argument but does not refer to an actual discourse participant. Noun-verb idioms are likely to be universal but there are two related types of idioms which are not. In the first, referred to as idiomatic noun-incorporation, the argument-like element is a noun which is incorporated into a verb. An example is the Bininj Gun-wok expression -dalk-ngun die, which combines the verb -ngun eat with the noun -dalk- grass. In the second, the argument-like element is a bound pronominal in the verb with fixed gender features. An example is the Mawng verb -marrajpu walk, which always has Land gender object agreement, although no corresponding participant can be identified. The latter type is referred to as lexicalised agreement verbs and described in some detail. It is argued that the three types of constructions, referred to as verb-argument idioms, form a valid crosslinguistic category about which typological generalisations can be made. This leads to a discussion about how less productive aspects of language might be included in language descriptions and typological research.
Walter de Gruyter