Publication details [#2738]

Bortfeld, Heather. 2003. Comprehending idioms cross-linguistically. Revista Chilena de Literatura 50 : 217–230. 14 pp.
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Speakers of three different languages (English, Latvian, and Mandarin) rated sets of idioms from their language for the analyzability of the relationship between each phrase's literal and figurative meaning. For each language, subsets of idioms were selected based on these ratings. Latvian and Mandarin idioms were literally translated into English. Across three experiments, people classified idioms from the three languages according to their figurative meanings. Response times and error rates indicate that participants were able to interpret unfamiliar (e.g., other languages') idioms depending largely on the degree to which they were analyzable, and that different forms of processing were used both within and between languages depending on this analyzability. Results support arguments for a continuum of analyzability (Bortfeld & McGlone, 2001), along which figurative speech ranges from reflecting general conceptual structures to specific cultural and historical references. (H. Bortfeld)