Idioms have generally played a supporting rather than a leading role in research on figurative language. In Cognitive Linguistics for instance idioms have been understood against how they are embedded in conceptual metaphors (Lakoff 1987, Women, fire, and dangerous things. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Clausner and Croft 1997, Productivity and schematicity in metaphors. Cognitive Science 21. 247–282) while in the experimental psycholinguistic tradition their role has been to challenge the basis of conceptual metaphor in “priming” figurative language (Glucksberg et al. 1993, Conceptual metaphors are not automatically accessed during idiom comprehension. Memory and Cognition 21. 711–719; McGlone 2007, What is the explanatory value of a conceptual metaphor? Language and Communication 27. 109–206). It is, moreover, broadly assumed that criteria defining grammatical properties of idioms are limited to their morphological and syntactic behavior (Nunberg et al. 1994, Idioms. Language 70. 491–538). While the pragmatic properties of idioms have been described informally (Glucksberg 2001. Understanding figurative language: From metaphors to idioms (Oxford psychology series 36). Oxford: OUP), there are few studies which systematically contrast the behavior of nouns in literal vs. idiomatic expressions in discourse. Using a battery of criteria which has been developed to study discourse properties of subjects in spoken Arabic (Owens et al. 2013. Subject expression and discourse embeddedness in Emirati Arabic. Language Variation and Change 25. 255–285), we show that keyword nouns in Nigerian Arabic are significantly different according to whether they are idiomatic or literal. The basis of the conclusion is the statistical analysis of 1403 tokens derived from a large corpus of natural Nigerian Arabic texts. Nouns in idiomatic expressions are opaque to discourse in a way those in literal ones are not. To explain the statistical results we argue that idioms partake in a ‘semantic mapping’ which incorporates the noun and its collocate in the idiom into a word-like unit, rendering it largely invisible to subsequent discourse. Since Nigerian Arabic idiomatic nouns, as is shown, display no clause-internal syntactic constraints, exhibit no cross-clausal syntactic dependencies, and show no significant interactions with possessive pronouns which ostensibly appear to mark the discourse argument of the keyword they are suffixed to, it is concluded that the mapping is of semantic nature. Other than exemplifying basic facts obtained via elicitation, the entire argument hinges on an examination of nouns in actual spoken discourse. The article establishes that large corpora coupled with multivariate statistical treatment contribute directly to understanding semantic factors difficult to evaluate via direct elicitation or examination of individual examples, in this case the sensitivity of cross-clausal referentiality to idiomatic contextualization.
Funding source: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Council)
Award Identifier / Grant number: OW 5/5-1/3
Funding statement: Research was generously supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Council) under grant OW 5/5-1/3, Idiomaticity and lexical realignment in spoken Arabic.
The authors would like to thank Prof. Jidda Hassan, Prof. Sherif Abdulahi, Ibrahim Adamu, Kellu Ibrahim and Prof. Bosoma Sherif for their persistent support in the research on Nigerian Arabic.
Ackermann, Lars, Lutz Lukas, Jonathan Owens & Bernhard Volz. Forthcoming. A morphological segmenter for Arabic. Proceedings of the tenth international conference on Arabic dialectology, Doha, November 2013.Search in Google Scholar
Ariel, Mira. 1990. Accessing noun phrase antecedents (Croom Helm linguistics series). London: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar
Brown, C. 1983. Written English. In Talmy Givón (ed.), Topic continuity in discourse: A quantitative cross-language study, 317–341. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Search in Google Scholar
Brugman, Claudia & George Lakoff. 1988. Cognitive topology and lexical networks. In Steven L. Small, Garrison W. Cotrell & Michael Tannenhaus (eds.), Lexical ambiguity resolution, 477–507. San Mateo, CA: Morgan Kaufman.10.1016/B978-0-08-051013-2.50022-7Search in Google Scholar
Cacciari, Christina & Patrizia Tabossi (eds.). 1993. Idioms: Processing, structure and interpretation. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Search in Google Scholar
Chafe, Wallace. 1994. Discourse, consciousness, and time. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Search in Google Scholar
Enfield, Nick. 2002. Semantic analysis of body parts in emotion terminology: Avoiding the exoticisms of “obstinate monosemy” and “online extension”. Pragmatics and Cognition 10. 85–106.10.1075/pc.10.1-2.05enfSearch in Google Scholar
Geeraerts, Dirk. 1997. Diachronic prototype semantics: A contribution to historical lexicology (Oxford studies in lexicography and lexicology). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar
Gibbs, Raymond. 1993. Why idioms are not dead metaphors. In Christina Cacciari & Patrizia Tabossi (eds.), Idioms: Processing, structure and interpretation, 57–78. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Search in Google Scholar
Givón, Talmy (ed.). 1983. Topic continuity in discourse: A quantitative cross-language study (Typological studies in language 3). Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.10.1075/tsl.3Search in Google Scholar
Glucksberg, Sam. 1993. Idiom meanings and allusional content. In Christina Cacciari & Patrizia Tabossi (eds.), Idioms: Processing, structure and interpretation, 3–26. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Search in Google Scholar
Glucksberg, Sam, Mary Brown & Matthew McGlone. 1993. Conceptual metaphors are not automatically accessed during idiom comprehension. Memory and Cognition 21. 711–719.10.3758/BF03197201Search in Google Scholar
Heine, Bernd. 1997. Possession: Cognitive sources, forces, and grammaticalization (Cambridge studies in Linguistics 83). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511581908Search in Google Scholar
Johnson-Laird, Philip. 1993. Foreword. In Christina Cacciari & Patrizia Tabossi (eds.), Idioms: Processing, structure and interpretation, vii-x. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Search in Google Scholar
Kavka, Stanislav. 2011. Compounding and idiomatology. In Rochelle Lieber & Pavol Stekauer (eds.), The Oxford handbook of compounding (online version). Oxford: OUP.10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199695720.013.0002Search in Google Scholar
Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Search in Google Scholar
Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson. 1999. Philosophy in the flesh. New York: Basic Books.Search in Google Scholar
Levinson, Steven. 1987. Pragmatics and the grammar of anaphora: A partial pragmatic reduction of binding and control phenomena. Journal of Linguistics 23. 379–434.10.1017/S0022226700011324Search in Google Scholar
McGlone, Matthew. 2001. Concepts as metaphor. In Sam Glucksberg (ed.), Understanding figurative language: From metaphors to idioms, 90–107. Oxford: OUP.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195111095.003.0006Search in Google Scholar
Owens, Jonathan. 2007. “Close encounters of a different kind: Two types of insertion in Nigerian Arabic codeswitching”. In Catherine Miller, Dominique Caubet, Janet Watson & Enam Al-Wer (eds.), Arabic in the city, 249–274. London: Curzon Routledge.Search in Google Scholar
Owens, Jonathan, Robin Dodsworth & Mary Kohn. 2013. Subject expression and discourse embeddedness in Emirati Arabic. Language Variation and Change 25. 255–285.10.1017/S0954394513000173Search in Google Scholar
Owens, Jonathan, Robin Dodsworth & Trent Rockwood. 2009. Subject-verb order in spoken Arabic: Morpholexical and event-based factors. Language Variation and Change 21. 39–67.10.1017/S0954394509000027Search in Google Scholar
Owens, Jonathan, Bill Young, Trent Rockwood, David Mehall & Robin Dodsworth. 2010. Explaining Ø and overt subjects in spoken Arabic. In Jonathan Owens & Alaa Elgibali (eds.), Information structure in spoken Arabic (Routledge Arabic Linguistics series), 20–60. London: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar
Prince, Ellen F. 1981. Toward a taxonomy of given–new information. In Peter Cole (ed.), Radical pragmatics, 223–255. New York: Academic Press.Search in Google Scholar
Riemer, Nick. 2005. The semantics of polysemy. Reading meaning in English and Warlpiri (Cognitive Linguistics research 30). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Search in Google Scholar
Robert, Stéphane. 2008. Words and their meanings. In: Martine Vanhove (ed.), From polysemy to semantic change, 55–92. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.10.1075/slcs.106.05robSearch in Google Scholar
Swinney, David & Anne Cutler. 1979. The access and processing of idiomatic expressions. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 18. 522–534.10.1016/S0022-5371(79)90284-6Search in Google Scholar
Tabossi, Patrizia & Francesco Zardon. 1993. The activation of idiomatic meaning in spoken language comprehension. In Christina Cacciari & Patrizia Tabossi (eds.), Idioms: Processing, structure and interpretation, 145–162. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Search in Google Scholar
Titone, Debra & Cynthia Connine. 1999. On the compositional and noncompositional nature of idiomatic expressions. Journal of Pragmatics 31. 1655–1674.10.1016/S0378-2166(99)00008-9Search in Google Scholar
Online data corpus:
Owens, Jonathan and Jidda Hassan. In their own voices, in their own words: A corpus of spoken Nigerian Arabic. http://www.neu.uni-bayreuth.de/de/Uni_Bayreuth/Fakultaeten/4_Sprach_und_Literaturwissenschaft/islamwissenschaft/arabistik/en/Idiomaticity__lexical_realignment__and_semantic_change_in_spoken_arabic/Nigerian_Arabic/index.html
This appendix adds further examples illustrating the parameters defined in Section 3.2, showing that nouns in literal and idiomatic expressions occur in parallel contexts.
Literal non-body part noun qalla ‘grain’, referred to by object pronoun in two following clauses.
Literal body part noun ʔeen ‘eye’, referred to by object pronoun in two following clauses.
Noun in idiomatic expressions referred to by object pronoun in following clause.
Note that this has an ambiguous reference. The object pronoun bišiilha is feminine, as is ʔeen ‘eye’, so grammatically –ha can be seen as anaphoric to ʔeen. However, the subject noun ‘paper’, katkada, is also feminine, so it could be that –ha refers only to this noun.
© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston