Verbal multiword expressions: Idiomaticity and flexibility

Livnat Herzig Sheinfux, Tali Arad Greshler, Nurit Melnik, Shuly Wintner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Verbal multiword expressions are generally characterized by their formal rigidity,
yet they exhibit remarkable diversity in their flexibility. Our primary research question is whether the behavior of idioms is an idiosyncratic property of each idiom
or a consequence of more general constraints. We challenge Nunberg et al.’s (1994)
proposal, attributing decomposability as the determining factor regarding idioms’
flexibility/rigidity, first due to the fuzziness of the notion of decomposability, and
second, in light of empirical investigations in English and in other languages that
revealed flexibility within idioms previously classified as non-decomposable. We
propose an alternative classification that builds on the notions of transparency
and figuration. We hypothesize that the more transparent and figurative an idiom is, the more likely it is to be “transformationally productive”. We put this hypothesis to the test by conducting an empirical corpus-based study of a set of idioms of varying degrees of transparency and figuration, using a large corpus of
Modern Hebrew.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationRepresentation and parsing of multiword expressions
Subtitle of host publicationCurrent trends
EditorsYannick Parmentier, Jakub Waszczuk
Place of PublicationBerlin
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2019

Publication series

NamePhraseology and Multiword Expressions
PublisherLanguage Science Press


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