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4179214

4179214

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Published by Borivoje Petrovic

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Published by: Borivoje Petrovic on Jun 30, 2012
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On the Systematic Aspect of IdiomsAuthor(s): Martha McGinnisReviewed work(s):Source:
Linguistic Inquiry,
Vol. 33, No. 4 (Autumn, 2002), pp. 665-672Published by:
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SQUIBSANDDISCUSSION
665
ON THE SYSTEMATIC ASPECT OFIDIOMS
Martha McGinnisUniversityof CalgaryIt has traditionallybeen assumedthatthemeaningofsomeorall phrasal dioms is noncompositional.However,I willarguehere thatthe aspectual meaningofidiomsiscompletely systematic:there areno special aspectualrestrictionson idioms,andmoreover,the aspect of an idiom is compositional,combiningtheaspectualpropertiesofitssyntacticconstituentsn theusualway.I will show that his observationsupports the theoryofDistributedMorphology (Halleand Marantz1993).1Aspectual Classes of IdiomsFirst, itisworth notingthat allaspectualclasses contain idiomaticVPs.Inwhatfollows I will assume the familiar Vendlerianclasses(states, activities, achievements,andaccomplishments),dentifiedbyanarrayof testsfromthe literatureseeVendler1967, Dowty 1979,Mittwoch 1991, among manyothers).However,theaspectualparallel-ism between idiomaticandnonidiomaticVPs isindependentof this
classification.
Statesand activities areatelicpredicates,whichcan be modifiedby adverbialPPs with for, but notbyadverbialPPs within,at leastnot with the sensethatthe stateofaffairs denotedbythe VPendsinthetimespecified.(1) a. Harryknew thetruthfor years/#in an hour. (atelic)b. Hermionepushed the cart for an hour/#in an hour.(atelic)The crosshatch #) indicates theavailabilityof an alternativeeading. Fornstance,heexampleswithin-phrasesn(1)aremarginally ccept-able on theinterpretationhatthestateof affairsdenotedbythe VPbegins,rather hanends,when an hourhaselapsed.InEnglish,statesandactivities can bedistinguished using theprogressive:statesgenerallycannot occurintheprogressive,whileactivities can.(2)a.*Harrysknowingthetruth.(state)b.Hermionespushingthe cart.(activity)The sameclassescanbe identifiedinidiomatic VPs. Theidio-matic state be the cat'spyjamas('be terrific')canoccur with afor-phrase,butnot with anin-phrase3a)-excepton themarginal eadingnoted above-or with theprogressive(3b).(3)a. Hermione was the cat'spyjamasforyears/#inanhour.(state)b.*Hermione sbeingthecat's pyjamas.Ontheotherhand,the idiomaticactivity jump through hoops ('try
ThanksgotoDanny Fox, HeidiHarley,NorbertHornstein,Alec Marantz,OraMatushansky,andtwoLIreviewers for usefuldiscussionofthis work.
 
666
SQUIBSANDDISCUSSION
to meetexacting expectations')can occurwith afor-phraseandtheprogressive, but notwith anin-phrase.(4)a.Harryumped throughhoopsforyears/#inan hour.(ac-tivity)b.Harrys jumpingthroughhoops.Unlike states andactivities,accomplishmentsandachievementsare telic:theyallow modificationby in-phrases. 5a)is true ifHarryfinished climbing the mountainwithin anhourafter hestarted.Theeventin(5b)bothbeginsand ends in an instant.(5)a.Harryclimbed the mountaininanhour.(accomplish-ment)b. Hermione noticed thepaintingin aninstant.(achieve-ment)Several tests have been used todistinguishachievements fromaccomplishments.Forexample, accomplishments(6a),butnotachievements6b), generallyallow modificationbyafor-phrase.Theexamplein(6b)may marginallyallowaniterativereading,inwhichHermionekeptnoticingthepainting againandagain.(6)a.Harryclimbed the mountain or anhour.(accomplish-ment)b.#Hermione noticed thepainting for an hour.(achieve-ment)Another difference isthat accomplishments,but not achieve-ments,can be halted inmidstream.fVP is anachievement,thenXstopped VPingentailsthatXVPed. IfVPis anaccomplishment,hisentailmentdoesnothold:instead,Xstopped VPingcanmean that theeventstoppedbefore itwascompleted.Forexample,(7a)couldmeanthatHarrydidnot climbthemountain,while(7b)entailsthatHermione noticed thepainting. Moreover, if VP isanachievement,XstoppedVPingcarriesaniterativemplicature.Forexample,(7b) suggeststhatHermione noticed thepaintingseveral times.(7)a.Harry stoppedclimbingthemountain.(accomplish-ment)b.#Hermionestoppednoticingthepainting.(achievement)Idiomatic VPs can alsoshow thecharacteristics f accomplish-mentsand achievements.Forexample,the idiomaticaccomplishmentpayone's dues('earnone'srighttosomething') can be modifiedbyanin-phrase (8a),as canthe idiomaticachievement strikepaydirt('gain somethingvaluable') (8b).(8)a.Hermionepaidher dues intenyears.(accomplishment)b.Harrystruckpaydirtnanhour.(achievement)Idiomatic achievementsand idiomaticaccomplishmentscan also bedistinguishedfrom eachother,asillustratedn(9)-(10).Ileave thedetailsforthe reader overify.

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