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Acta Psychologica Sinica
Dominant Units of Idioms Processing: Evidence from Word Segmentation
MA Lijun;ZHANG Jijia
(1 Department of Psychology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China) (2 School of Economy and Management, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou 510006, China)
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Idiomatic language is special in the way of understanding its meaning. The entire meaning of an idiomatic phrase is commonly different from a simple combination of the meaning of its constituents, because the entire meaning of an idiomatic phrase arises from but means more than the literal meaning. Idioms were traditionally viewed as separate lexical units; later on, however, Gibbs and Nayak (1989) proved that individual word also actively contributed to the processing of the whole idioms. Models of idioms comprehension differ in their predictions concerning compositionality: some claimed that idiomatic meaning was the result of compositional analysis initiated at the earliest stage of comprehension, whereas others claimed that compositional analysis occurred only at late stage of comprehension process, subsequent to direct retrieval. Since there is space between words in written English, could there be the possibility that the morpheme segmentation affects the processing of idioms? Existed evidence showed that morpheme segmentation played a role in reading Chinese sentences and passages; we are interested in investigating what role does morpheme segmentation play in understanding Chinese idioms. The morpheme segmentation research paradigm was used in the present research to explore the dominant units within idioms comprehension processing. The results showed that: morpheme segmentation produced various influences on idioms with different semantic decomposabilities. Within the space segmentation format, morpheme segmentation as well as non-morpheme segmentation inhibited the access to adverb-verb structure idioms with high semantic decomposability, but the inhibition was not found in those idioms with low semantic decomposability. We also observed the decrease of reaction accuracy on idioms with high semantic decomposability, which was possibly reduced from segmentation. Within the shadow segmentation format, non-morpheme segmentation inhibited the access to adverb-verb structure idioms with high semantic decomposability, but not to adverb-verb structure idioms with low semantic decomposability. The present research showed that morpheme and whole idiom co-existed in understanding Chinese adverb-verb idioms, but whole idiom manifested large priority in this process.

Keywords idiom      morpheme segmentation      adverb-verb structure      psychological representation     
Corresponding Authors: ZHANG Jijia   
Issue Date: 30 June 2014
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MA Lijun,ZHANG Jijia. Dominant Units of Idioms Processing: Evidence from Word Segmentation[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.00754
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