DFG-funded Research Training Group Dimensions of Constructional Space (GRK 2839) – Project: Representation and Acquisition of Idiomatic Constructions in L1 and L2

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Thorsten Piske, Prof. Dr. Lutz Edzard, doctoral candidate: Aria Rastegar

Aria Rastegar and Thorsten Piske

Linguists and cognitive scientists, particularly those with a background in construction grammar, find idiomatic constructions to be fascinating because they pertain to how words and phrases are put together and how humans process the form and meaning relations in these linguistic constructions. However, there is debate among scholars about the nature of idiomatic constructions and how they are processed and understood. Some argue that they are stored and processed as a single unit and have a unified mental representation (Conklin and Schmitt, 2008), while others take a compositional approach and argue that the individual elements of idioms play an important role in understanding them (Siyanova-Chanturia et al., 2011). Additionally, some scholars suggest a dual parallel representation of idioms, where there is a level that considers the individual elements and a level that deals with the overall meaning of the idiomatic construction (Yeganehjoo and Thai, 2012).

Furthermore, it has been suggested that idiomatic constructions can fall on a continuum of analyzability, with some idioms being more easily understood based on their individual elements and others being more difficult to grasp (Bortfeld, 2003). Bortfeld (2003) also argues that the elements and metaphorical meaning of idioms can vary from general conceptual structures to more specific cultural and historical references. In the cross-linguistic analysis of idiomatic constructions and their learnability, some scholars claim that there are features that enable translatability and the transition of idioms from L1 to L2 (Beck and Weber, 2016). However, others argue that the transfer of idioms from L1 to L2 is limited to the conceptual level (Wasserscheidt, 2014).

The main objectives of this project are a) to investigate the extent to which the processing of idiomatic expressions in a second language is influenced by the presence of similar idioms in the first language and b) to examine if and how factors such as age of learning, typological similarity, frequency and context of use contribute to the establishment of idioms in both the first and second languages. Additionally, this project aims to contribute to the application of Construction Grammar in the field of foreign language teaching. Naturally, insights gained in this project are expected to make a contribution towards applying Construction Grammar to foreign language teaching.