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The syntactic flexibility of semantically non-decomposable idioms

Bargmann, Sascha; Sailer, Manfred

Nunberg et al. (1994) caused a shift in perspective from a monolithic view of all
idioms towards a word-level approach for semantically decomposable idioms. We
take that idea one step further and argue that a semantically non-decomposable
idiom of syntactically regular shape can also be analyzed in terms of individual
word-level lexical entries. We suggest that these entries combine according to the
standard rules of syntax and that the restrictions on the syntactic flexibility of a
semantically non-decomposable idiom follow exclusively from the interaction of
the special semantics of these entries with the semantic and pragmatic constraints
of the relevant syntactic constructions in a particular language. In our analysis, the
words constituting a non-decomposable idiom make partially identical semantic
contributions. We formulate our analysis in Lexical Resource Semantics (Richter
& Sailer 2004).

 

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