Hanna Kędzierska, Joanna Błaszczak, Dorota Klimek-Jankowska, Piotr Gulgowski, Wojciech Witkowski
October 31, 2020
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.