Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter (A) October 31, 2020

Idioms in Context: Evidence from a Time Cloze-Response Study

Hanna Kędzierska, Joanna Błaszczak, Dorota Klimek-Jankowska, Piotr Gulgowski and Wojciech Witkowski

Summary

This article reports on two timed cloze-response experiments which examine the impact of context on idiom recognition. Study 1 presented participants with the beginnings of Polish VP idioms without any prior context. Cloze probabilities and response times for idiom continuations were measured to establish the idiom recognition point (IRP) for each idiom. In Study 2, we used the same idioms in two kinds of contexts: (i) supporting a figurative meaning and (ii) supporting a literal meaning. Cloze probability and response times were measured at the IRP and one word before and after it. The figurative meaning of idioms was automatically activated at the IRP independently of the type of context. Additionally, the figurative context did not move the IRP to an earlier position, whereas in the literal context the responses were significantly slower at the IRP as compared to the figurative context condition. Such a finding indicates that, irrespective of the literal context, the comprehenders automatically activated the figurative meaning of an idiom at the IRP, but they had to discard it later. The literal meaning was computed from the literal meanings of idiom constituents stored in idiom lexical representation, which was computationally costly.

Acknowledgements

This research has been conducted within the DAAD Programme for Project-Related Personal Exchange, as part of the research project “Linguistic predictions in context: Collocations and selection from a psycholinguistic and corpus linguistic perspective”, 2017–2018, University of Wrocław and Humboldt University of Berlin.

References

Bobrow, Samuel A. & Susan M. Bell. 1973. On catching on to idiomatic expressions. In Memory and Cognition 1(3). 343–346.10.3758/BF03198118Search in Google Scholar

Boersma, Paul. 2001. Praat, a system for doing phonetics by computer. In Glot International 5(9/10). 341–345.Search in Google Scholar

Cacciari, Cristina & Paola Corradini. 2015. Literal analysis and idiom retrieval in ambiguous idioms processing: A reading-time study. In Journal of Cognitive Psychology 27 (7). 797–811.10.1080/20445911.2015.1049178Search in Google Scholar

Cacciari, Cristina, Roberto Padovani & Paola Corradini. 2007. Exploring the relationship between individualsʼ speed of processing and their comprehension of spoken idioms. In European Journal of Cognitive Psychology 19 (3). 417–445.10.1080/09541440600763705Search in Google Scholar

Cacciari, Cristina & Patrizia Tabossi. 1988. The comprehension of idioms. In Journal of Memory and Language 27 (6). 668–683.10.1016/0749-596X(88)90014-9Search in Google Scholar

Camblin, Christine C., Peter C. Gordon & Tamara Y. Swaab. 2007. The interplay of discourse congruence and lexical association during sentence processing: Evidence from ERPs and eye tracking. In Journal of Memory and Language 56 (1). 103–128.10.1016/j.jml.2006.07.005Search in Google Scholar

Cieślicka, Anna & Roberto R. Heredia. 2011. Hemispheric asymmetries in processing L1 and L2 idioms: Effects of salience and context. In Brain and Language 116 (3). 136–150.10.1016/j.bandl.2010.09.007Search in Google Scholar

Cieślicka, Anna, Breffni O’Rourke & David Singleton. 2009. Salience or context in the processing of L1 and L2 multi-word units? In Maria Wysocka (ed.), On Language Structure, Acquisition and Teaching, 293–304. Katowice: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego.Search in Google Scholar

Cutting, J. Cooper & Kathryn Bock. 1997. That’s the way the cookie bounces: Syntactic and semantic components of experimentally elicited idiom blends. In Memory and Cognition 25 (1). 57–71.10.3758/BF03197285Search in Google Scholar

Dobrovol’skij, Dmitrij. 1982. Zum Problem der phraseologisch gebundenen Bedeutung. In Beiträge zur Erforschung der deutschen Sprache 2. 52–67.Search in Google Scholar

Dobrovol’skij, Dmitrij. 2004. Semantische Teilbarkeit der Idiomstruktur: zu operationalen Kriterien. In Christine Palm-Meister (ed.), EUROPHRAS 2000, 61–68. Tübingen: Stauffenburg Verlag.Search in Google Scholar

Dwivedi, Veena D., Natalie A. Phillips, Stephanie Einagel & Shari R. Baum. 2010. The neural underpinnings of semantic ambiguity and anaphora. In Brain Research 1311. 93–109.10.1016/j.brainres.2009.09.102Search in Google Scholar

Federmeier, Kara D. & Marta Kutas. 1999. A rose by any other name: Long-term memory structure and sentence processing. In Journal of Memory and Language 41 (4). 469–495.10.1006/jmla.1999.2660Search in Google Scholar

Filik, Ruth, Hartmut Leuthold, Katie Wellington & Jemma Page. 2014. Testing theories of irony processing using eye-tracking and ERPs. In Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition 40 (3). 811–828.Search in Google Scholar

Friederici, Angela D., Axel Mecklinger, Kevin M. Spencer, Karsten Steinhauer & Emanuel Donchin. 2001. Syntactic parsing preferences and their on-line revisions: A spatio-temporal analysis of event-related brain potentials. In Cognitive Brain Research 11 (2). 305–323.10.1016/S0926-6410(00)00065-3Search in Google Scholar

Gibbs, Raymond W. Jr. 1980. Spilling the beans on understanding and memory for idioms in conversation. In Memory and Cognition 8 (2). 149–156.10.3758/BF03213418Search in Google Scholar

Gibbs, Raymond W. Jr. & Gayle P. Gonzales. 1985. Syntactic frozenness in processing and remembering idioms. In Cognition 20 (3). 243–259.10.1016/0010-0277(85)90010-1Search in Google Scholar

Giora, Rachel. 1997. Understanding figurative and literal language: The graded salience hypothesis. In Cognitive Linguistics 8 (3). 183–206.10.1515/cogl.1997.8.3.183Search in Google Scholar

Giora, Rachel. 2003. On our mind: Salience, context and figurative language. New York: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195136166.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Gouvea, Ana C., Colin Phillips, Nina Kazanina & David Poeppel. 2010. The linguistic processes underlying the P600. In Language and Cognitive Processes 25 (2). 149–188.10.1080/01690960902965951Search in Google Scholar

Havrila, Marek. 2009. Idioms: Production, storage and comprehension. In Philologica.net: An Online Journal of Modern Philology.http://philologica.net/studia/20091107224500.htm. Last accessed 2 November 2019.Search in Google Scholar

Holsinger, Edward. 2013. Representing idioms: Syntactic and contextual effects on idiom processing. In Language and Speech 56 (3). 373–394.10.1177/0023830913484899Search in Google Scholar

Laurent, Jean-Paul, Guy Denhières, Christine Passerieux, Galina Iakimova & Marie-Christine Hardy-Baylé. 2006. On understanding idiomatic language: The salience hypothesis assessed by ERPs. In Brain Research 1068 (1). 151–160.10.1016/j.brainres.2005.10.076Search in Google Scholar

Libben, Maya R. & Debra A. Titone. 2008. The multidetermined nature of idiom processing. In Memory and Cognition 36. 1103–1121.10.3758/MC.36.6.1103Search in Google Scholar

Marslen-Wilson, William & Pienie Zwitserlood. 1989. Accessing spoken words: The importance of word onsets. In Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 15 (3). 576–585.10.1037/0096-1523.15.3.576Search in Google Scholar

Molinaro, Nicola, Paulo Barraza & Manuel Carreiras. 2013. Long-range neural synchronization supports fast and efficient reading: EEG correlates of processing expected words in sentences. In NeuroImage 72. 120–132.10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.01.031Search in Google Scholar

Molinaro, Nicola & Manuel Carreiras. 2010. Electrophysiological evidence of interaction between contextual expectation and semantic integration during the processing of collocations. In Biological Psychology 83 (3). 176–190.10.1016/j.biopsycho.2009.12.006Search in Google Scholar

Molinaro, Nicola, Manuel Carreiras & Jon Andoni Duñabeitia. 2012. Semantic combinatorial processing of non-anomalous expressions. In NeuroImage 59 (4). 3488–3501.10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.11.009Search in Google Scholar

Mueller, Rachel A. G. & Raymond W. Gibbs Jr. 1987. Processing idioms with multiple meanings. In Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 16 (1). 63–81.10.1007/BF01067751Search in Google Scholar

Peirce, Jonathan W. 2007. PsychoPy–Psychophysics software in Python. In Journal of Neuroscience Methods 162 (1–2). 8–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneumeth.2006.11.01710.1016/j.jneumeth.2006.11.017Search in Google Scholar

Peirce, Jonathan W. 2009. Generating stimuli for neuroscience using PsychoPy. In Frontiers in Neuroinformatics 2.8. https://doi.org/10.3389/neuro.11.010.200810.3389/neuro.11.010.2008Search in Google Scholar

Pickering, Martin J. & Steven Frisson. 2001. Processing ambiguous verbs: Evidence from eye movements. In Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition 27 (2). 556–573.Search in Google Scholar

Pinheiro Jose, Douglas Bates, Saikat DebRoy, Deepayan Sarkar & R Core Team. 2017. Package ‘Nime’: Linear and Nonlinear Mixed Effects Models. In R package version 3. 1–137.Search in Google Scholar

Polich, John. 2012. Neuropsychology of P300. In Steven Luck & Emily S. Kappenman (eds.), The Oxford handbook of event-related potential components, 159–188. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

R Core Team. 2017. R: A language and environment for statistical computing (Version 3.4.3) [Computer software]. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.Search in Google Scholar

Ripley, Brian, Bill Venables, Douglas Bates, Kurt Hornik, Albrecht Gebhardt & David Firth. 2017. MASS: Functions and datasets to support Venables and Ripley. In Modern Applied Statistics with S (4th edition). New York: Springer-Verlag.Search in Google Scholar

Roehm, Dietmar, Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, Frank Rösler & Martin Schlesewsky. 2007. To predict or not to predict: Influences of task and strategy on the processing of semantic relations. In Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 19 (8). 1259–1274.10.1162/jocn.2007.19.8.1259Search in Google Scholar

Romero-Rivas, Carlos, Clara D. Martin & Albert Costa. 2016. Foreign-accented speech modulates linguistic anticipatory processes. In Neuropsychologia 85. 245–255.10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.03.022Search in Google Scholar

Rommers, Joost, Ton Dijkstra & Marcel Bastiaansen. 2013. Context-dependent semantic processing in the human brain: Evidence from idiom comprehension. In Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 25 (5). 762–776.10.1162/jocn_a_00337Search in Google Scholar

Seidenberg, Mark S., Michael K. Tanenhaus, James M. Leiman & Marie Bienkowski. 1982. Automatic access of the meanings of ambiguous words in context: Some limitations of knowledge-based processing. In Cognitive Psychology 14 (4). 489–537.10.1016/0010-0285(82)90017-2Search in Google Scholar

Simpson, Greg B. 1994. Context and the processing of ambiguous words. In Morton A. Gernsbacher (ed.), Handbook of psycholinguistics, 359–374. San Diego: Academic Press.Search in Google Scholar

Simpson, Greg B. & Curt Burgess. 1985. Activation and selection processes in the recognition of ambiguous words. In Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 11 (1). 28–39.10.1037/0096-1523.11.1.28Search in Google Scholar

Siyanova-Chanturia, Anna, Kathy Conklin & Walter J. B. van Heuven. 2011. Seeing a phrase ‘time and again’ matters. In Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition 37 (3). 776–784.10.1037/a0022531Search in Google Scholar

Sprenger, Simone A., Willem J. M. Levelt & Gerard Kampen. 2006. Lexical access during the production of idiomatic phrases. In Journal of Memory and Language 54 (2). 161–184.10.1016/j.jml.2005.11.001Search in Google Scholar

Staub, Adrian, Margaret Grant, Lori Astheimer & Andrew Cohen. 2015. The influence of Cloze Probability and item constraint on close task response time. In Journal of Memory and Language 82. 1–17.10.1016/j.jml.2015.02.004Search in Google Scholar

Swinney, David A. 1979. Lexical access during sentence comprehension: (Re)consideration of context effects. In Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour 18. 645–643.10.1016/S0022-5371(79)90355-4Search in Google Scholar

Swinney, David A. & Anne Cutler. 1979. The access and processing of idiomatic expressions. In Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 18. 523–534.10.1016/S0022-5371(79)90284-6Search in Google Scholar

Van Berkum, Jos J. A., Colin M. Brown, Pienie Zwitserlood, Valesca Kooijman & Peter Hagoort. 2005. Anticipating upcoming words in discourse: Evidence from ERPs and reading times. In Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 31 (3). 443–467.Search in Google Scholar

Van Berkum, Jos J. A., Peter Hagoort & Colin M. Brown. 1999. Semantic integration in sentences and discourse: Evidence from the N400. In Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 11 (6). 657–671.10.1162/089892999563724Search in Google Scholar

Vespignani, Francesco, Paolo Canal, Nicola Molinaro, Sergio Fonda & Cristina Cacciari. 2010. Predictive mechanisms in idiom comprehension. In Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 22 (8). 1682–1700.10.1162/jocn.2009.21293Search in Google Scholar

Wlotko, Edward & Kara D. Federmeier. 2007. Finding the right word: Hemispheric asymmetries in the use of sentence context information. In Neuropsychologia 45 (13). 3001–3014.10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.05.013Search in Google Scholar

Appendix

Idioms used in the study followed by their literal translations and the collected results for idiom cloze probabilities (CPs) and response times (RTs) in the three PROMPT LOCATION conditions (i. e., IRP-1, IPR, IRP+1).[6]

Idiom in PolishLiteral trans-lation in EnglishFIGURATIVE CONTEXTLITERAL CONTEXTNO CONTEXT
budować zamki na piasku‘to build castles in the sand’IRP-1: CP 20, RT: 1200

IRP: 60, RT: 1400
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: 50, RT: 1400
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: 71.4, RT: 900
chować głowę w piasek‘to hide your head in the sand’IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 100, RT: 1100

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 800
IRP-1: CP 100, RT: 900

IRP: CP 100, RT: 900

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 900
IRP-1: CP 29, RT: 1000

IRP: CP 100, RT: 1000

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 1000
chwycić byka za rogi‘to take the bull by the horns’IRP-1: CP 80, RT: 1500

IRP: CP 80, RT: 700

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 600
IRP-1: CP 100, RT: 1100

IRP: CP 100, RT: 900

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 600
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 100, RT: 700

IRP+1: CP 86, RT: 600
dolewać oliwy do ognia‘to add olive to the fire’IRP-1: CP 100, RT: 1000

IRP: CP 80, RT: 600

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 800
IRP-1: CP 40, RT: 1100

IRP: CP 100, RT: 1000

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 700
IRP-1: CP 17, RT: 800

IRP: CP 100, RT: 600

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 600
dzielić włos na czworo‘to split a hair into four parts’IRP-1: CP 50, RT: 800

IRP: CP 40, RT: 600
IRP-1: CP 80, RT: 1100

IRP: CP 80, RT: 1500
IRP-1: CP 43, RT: 1000

IRP: CP 100, RT: 700
kuć żelazo póki gorące‘to forge the iron while it is hot’IRP-1: CP 80, RT: 1300

IRP: CP 100, RT: 600

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 600
IRP-1: CP 60, RT: 1200

IRP: CP 100, RT: 800

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 800
IRP-1: CP 29, RT: 800

IRP: CP 86, RT: 900

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 600
kupować kota w worku‘to buy a cat in a sack’IRP-1: CP 40, RT: 1600

IRP: CP 100, RT: 800

IRP+1: CP 80, RT: 600
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 75, RT: 800

IRP+1: CP 80, RT: 800
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 83, RT: 900

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 700
mieć asa w rękawie‘to have an ace up a sleeve’IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 100, RT: 800

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 600
IRP-1: CP 60, RT: 1200

IRP: CP 100, RT: 800

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 500
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 100, RT: 800

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 600
mieć głowę na karku‘to have a head on the neck’IRP-1: CP 100, RT: 1300

IRP: CP 100, RT: 700
IRP-1: CP 25, RT: 1100

IRP: CP 60, RT: 900
IRP-1: CP 57, RT: 800

IRP: CP 100, RT: 700
mieć klapki na oczach‘to have blinkers on one’s eyes’IRP-1: CP 80, RT: 1200

IRP: CP 100, RT: 1000

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 900
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 100, RT: 900

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 800
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 86, RT: 900

IRP+1: CP 86, RT: 600
postawić kropkę nad i‘to put a dot above an iIRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 100, RT: 1100

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 900
IRP-1: CP 20, RT: 1600

IRP: CP 100, RT: 900

IRP+1: CP 75, RT: 900
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 100, RT: 700

IRP+1: CP 83, RT: 700
prowadzić kogoś za rękę/ rączkę‘to lead somebody by their hand’IRP-1: CP 20, RT: 1400

IRP: CP 100, RT: 1000

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 1000
IRP-1: CP 75, RT: 1500

IRP: CP 60, RT: 1000

IRP+1: CP 80, RT: 700
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 83, RT: 1000

IRP+1: CP 86, RT: 900
rozstawiać kogoś po kątach‘to order somebody into a corner’IRP-1: CP 50, RT: 1100

IRP: CP 80, RT: 1000

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 700
IRP-1: CP 20, RT: 1600

IRP: CP 100, RT: 1100

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 800
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 71, RT: 1000

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 1200
szukać dziury w całym‘to look for a hole in the whole’IRP-1: CP 60, RT: 1100

IRP: CP 100, RT: 800

IRP+1: CP 80, RT: 700
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 25, RT: 800

IRP+1: CP 60, RT: 1000
IRP-1: CP 14, RT: 700

IRP: CP 86, RT: 800

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 600
trzymać coś w garści‘to hold something in the palm of one’s hand’IRP-1: CP 0IRP-1: CP 40, RT: 900IRP-1: CP 14, RT: 900
trzymać język za zębami‘to hold one’s tongue behind one’s teeth’IRP-1: CP 40, RT: 1000

IRP: CP 60, RT: 1300

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 600
IRP-1: CP 80, RT: 1300

IRP: CP 40, RT: 1200

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 700
IRP-1: CP 16, RT: 2000

IRP: CP 100, RT: 800

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 500
trzymać kogoś pod kloszem‘to hold somebody under a cloche’IRP-1: CP 80, RT: 1200IRP-1: CP 25, RT: 800IRP-1: CP 57, RT: 1500
urabiać ręce po łokcie‘to mould one’s hand up to the elbows’IRP-1: CP 50, RT: 1100

IRP: 100, RT: 1000
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: 100, RT: 1700
IRP-1: CP 43, RT: 1500

IRP: 83, RT: 700
wrzucić coś na ruszt‘to throw something onto the grill’IRP-1: CP 100, RT: 600IRP-1: CP 100, RT: 700IRP-1: CP 50, RT: 700
wsadzić kij w mrowisko‘to put a stick into an anthill’IRP-1: CP 60, RT: 1900

IRP: CP 100, RT: 900

IRP+1: CP 80, RT: 700
IRP-1: CP 50, RT: 1100

IRP: CP 100, RT: 900

IRP+1: CP 80, RT: 600
IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 83, RT: 900

IRP+1: CP 71, RT: 800
wyłożyć karty na stół‘to lay one’s cards on the table’IRP-1: CP 0

IRP: CP 100, RT: 1200

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 900
IRP-1: CP 20, RT: 1900

IRP: CP 100, RT: 800

IRP+1: CP 100, RT: 700
IRP-1: CP 17, RT: 1500

IRP: CP 71, RT: 800

IRP+1: CP 86, RT: 800
zadać cios poniżej pasa‘to punch somebody below the belt’IRP-1: CP 40, RT: 1000

IRP: 100, RT: 700
IRP-1: CP 20, RT: 1100

IRP: 100, RT: 700
IRP-1: CP 14, RT: 800

IRP: 100, RT: 700
Published Online: 2020-10-31
Published in Print: 2020-10-30

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Scroll Up Arrow