Abstract

According to the most common definition, idioms are linguistic expressions whose overall meaning cannot be predicted from the meanings of the constituent parts Although we agree with the traditional view that there is no complete predictability, we suggest that there is a great deal of systematic conceptual motivation for the meaning of most idioms Since most idioms are based on conceptual metaphors and metonymies, systematic motivation arises from sets of ‘conceptual mappings or correspondences’ that obtain between a source and a target domain in the sense of Lakoff and Koiecses (1987) We distinguish among three aspects of idiomatic meaning First, the general meaning of idioms appears to be determined by the particular ‘source domains’ that apply to a particular target domain Second, more specific aspects of idiomatic meaning are provided by the ‘ontological mapping’ that applies to a given idiomatic expression Third, connotative aspects of idiomatic meaning can be accounted for by ‘epistemic correspondences’ Finally, we also present an informal experimental study the results of which show that the cognitive semantic view can facilitate the learning of idioms for non-native speakers

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