Publication details [#6565]

Kemper, Susan. 1986. Inferential processing and the comprehension of idioms. Bakhtiniana: Revista de Estudos do Discurso 1 (1) : 43–55. 13 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language


Two experiments investigated the processing of familiar and novel idiomatic expressions such as "spilled the beans" and "taking it out of the loop." The figurative expressions were matched to literal controls (Experiment I) or to literal uses of the expressions (Experiment II) and were embedded in short vignettes. The vignettes were either causally coherent or causally abridged. The research investigated whether factors known to affect sentence integration processes would affect reading times for sentences containing figurative expressions. The result demonstrated that the causal coherence of a text and the saliency of contextual cues to figurative usage affect the processing of figurative meaning. Familiar idioms are understood more rapidly than matching literal expressions when they occur in causally coherent texts; novel idioms, particularly those in causally abridged texts, are understood more slowly than literal expressions. (Susan Kemper)