Fixed expressions and the production of idioms
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RU Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, 16 juni 2003
Promotores : Levelt, W.J.M., Kempen, G.A.M.
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This PhD-thesis explores the mental representations of Fixed Expressions (FEs). Chapter 1 gives an introduction to the field of FEs and provides an overview of Chapters 2-5. In Chapter 2, research on the frequency of Dutch FEs is reported. The results suggest that about 7% of written Dutch language use is related to FEs. The most frequent of these FEs are likely to be restricted collocations, like for example 'met name' ('with-name', namely). In Chapter 3, current models of FE processing/production, are discussed. Three experiments are presented that test assumptions about the internal structure of idioms and the involvement of 'nomal' lexical items during production. Idiom production can be primed with words that are identical to one of the idiom's elements, indicating that idioms are not frozen phrases. The assumption that idioms are represented by their own lexical entry in the mental lexicon is supported by an interaction between priming and sentence type (idioms vs. compositional phrases). The effect of priming is stronger for idioms, suggesting spreading activation from the primed word to the remaining elements of an idiom, via a common representation. The resulting Superlemma model of idiom processing is can accommodate for the fact idioms are unitary and compositional at the same time. Chapter 4 presents two experiments that explore the activation of the semantic representations of the words of an idiom. The first experiment shows that words that are semantically related to the noun of an idiom can speed up idiom production. The second experiment shows that the preparation of an idiom includes activating the conceptual representations of its words. Priming can be observed when subjects produce words that are semantically related to a word that is part of a to-be-prepared idiom. In Chapter 5 the different findings are summarized and discussed
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