Michael Wagner


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Characterizing Idioms: Conventionality and Contingency
Michaela Socolof | Jackie Cheung | Michael Wagner | Timothy O’Donnell
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Idioms are unlike most phrases in two important ways. First, words in an idiom have non-canonical meanings. Second, the non-canonical meanings of words in an idiom are contingent on the presence of other words in the idiom. Linguistic theories differ on whether these properties depend on one another, as well as whether special theoretical machinery is needed to accommodate idioms. We define two measures that correspond to the properties above, and we show that idioms fall at the expected intersection of the two dimensions, but that the dimensions themselves are not correlated. Our results suggest that introducing special machinery to handle idioms may not be warranted.