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Publicly Available Published by De Gruyter January 20, 2018

Idiom variation and decomposability Part I: Verbal variation

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From the journal Yearbook of Phraseology


Variant forms of idioms have been retrieved from an American English corpus of 450 million words to test the idiom decomposition hypothesis. The central claim of the hypothesis concerns the relationship between the degree of decomposability and the flexibility of idiomatic expressions: the more decomposable the idiom is, the more variable it is assumed to be. While Part I of the study is concerned with variation in the verb, Part II focuses on operations in the noun phrase constituent of the idiom. Part I compares flexibility data based on syntactic alternations pertaining to the expression as a whole and morphological variations of the verb (number, person, tense, aspect, mood, voice, negation) with one categorical and two scalar decomposability rankings. For the vast majority of verb-related variations, flexibility is not correlated with decomposability. The morphological category of voice has been found dependent on categorical decomposability, but it is not the highest decomposability class that exhibits the highest degree of variability.

Published Online: 2018-01-20
Published in Print: 2017-10-26

© 2018 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston

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