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Compositionality: Evidence from Code- Switching



The storage and processing of phrasemes has been discussed many times over the past decades, with varying results. Researchers still disagree as to the degree to which phrasemes are stored and processed holistically or compositionally. This paper approaches the topic of compositionality through bilingual data, which is rarely discussed in theoretical work on phraseology. It provides a qualitative analysis of verb-based phrasemes, highlighting the structural and semantic features of code-switching patterns in and around phrasemes which serve as clues to underlying production processes. The study is based on recordings of German-English informal conversation. The language-mixing patterns are presented in the framework of the MLF model (Myers-Scotton 2002; Myers-Scotton and Jake 2017). The mixing patterns inside collocations and the resistance to mixing of more idiomatic phrasemes suggest that the surface realization of phrasemes in bilingual speech is determined both by morphosyntactic code-switching constraints and by the semantic impact of nominal and verbal phraseme components on the meaning of the phraseme as a whole. The findings support both the Superlemma Theory of phraseme processing (Sprenger et al. 2006) and the MLF model of code-switching, as they provide empirical evidence for the unitary storage of phrasemes at the conceptual level as well as for their compositional assembly in accordance with structural code-switching constraints during language production.
Open Access. © 2020 M. Keller, published by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Mareike Keller
Compositionality: Evidence from Code-
Abstract: The storage and processing of phrasemes has been discussed many
times over the past decades, with varying results. Researchers still disagree as to
the degree to which phrasemes are stored and processed holistically or composi-
tionally. This paper approaches the topic of compositionality through bilingual
data, which is rarely discussed in theoretical work on phraseology. It provides a
qualitative analysis of verb-based phrasemes, highlighting the structural and se-
mantic features of code-switching patterns in and around phrasemes which serve
as clues to underlying production processes. The study is based on recordings of
German-English informal conversation. The language-mixing patterns are pre-
sented in the framework of the MLF model (Myers-Scotton 2002; Myers-Scotton
and Jake 2017). The mixing patterns inside collocations and the resistance to mix-
ing of more idiomatic phrasemes suggest that the surface realization of phra-
semes in bilingual speech is determined both by morphosyntactic code-switching
constraints and by the semantic impact of nominal and verbal phraseme compo-
nents on the meaning of the phraseme as a whole. The findings support both the
Superlemma Theory of phraseme processing (Sprenger et al. 2006) and the MLF
model of code-switching, as they provide empirical evidence for the unitary stor-
age of phrasemes at the conceptual level as well as for their compositional assem-
bly in accordance with structural code-switching constraints during language
One of the much-discussed but still unresolved questions related to multi-word
sequences like idioms, semi-idioms and collocations (henceforth referred to as
phrasemes) concerns the way they are stored in the mental lexicon: Are they
stored and retrieved holistically or are they assembled compositionally from in-
dividual words each time they are produced? A traditional approach to composi-
tionality is the investigation of variation and modification in monolingual canon-
ical data (Moon 1998; Langlotz 2006: 175–224). Further insights have been drawn
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Mareike Keller
from the analysis of non-canonical data like language acquisition, aphasia, attri-
tion, or slips of the tongue (Häcki-Buhofer 2007; Paradis 2004; Kuiper et al. 2007).
More recently, psycholinguistic experiments have been conducted measuring
processing speed, mostly in comprehension, but also in production (Havrila
2009; Wray 2012). In this paper the subject of compositionality is approached via
a largely unexplored type of data: phrasemes in naturally occurring code-switch-
ing produced by balanced bilinguals.
The approach builds on the assumption
that language switching or mixing alongside or within phrasemes can be em-
ployed as an indicator for chunking or parsing during language processing (Ba-
ckus 2003; Wray and Namba 2003; Namba 2012). As differences between mono-
lingual and bilingual language processing concern areas like speed of access or
executive control rather than basic processing mechanisms (Paradis 2004; Bia-
lystok and Craik 2010), the conclusions are not restricted to bilingual contexts but
could also provide explanations for monolingual storage and processing of com-
plex lexical items.
Phrasemes are a highly heterogeneous group of lexicalized word-strings and
the information a phraseme can reveal with respect to language processing de-
pends on the lexical category of its syntactic head as well as on its internal syn-
tactic structure. This paper is devoted exclusively to phrasemes in the form of
syntactic constituents with a verb as syntactic head.
Verb-based phrasemes were
chosen because their comparatively complex argument structure provides more
opportunities for internal language mixing than e.g. nominal phrasemes. All ex-
amples were extracted manually from a 50-hour corpus of German-English spon-
taneous speech.
The paper provides empirical evidence of the mixing patterns in
and around phrasemes and explores the ways in which language contact phe-
nomena can be related to syntactic and semantic properties of phrasemes. The
findings provide clues to the mental representation of phrasemes, including the
1 Balanced bilingualism is defined here as a native-like level of proficiency in both languages.
2 The phraseological terminology used in this paper is based primarily on Burger (2015). The
term phraseme will be used as a cover term for idioms, semi-idioms and collocations. Verb-based
phrasemes, which are the focus of the study, fall into Burger’s category of referential phrasemes
in the form of syntactic constituents (nominative referentielle Phraseme, Burger 2015: 32).
3 The data were collected between 1999 and 2005 as part of the project “Sprachkontakt Deutsch-
Englisch: Code-switching, Crossover & Co.” funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft
(DFG) and headed by Rosemarie Tracy (University of Mannheim) and Elsa Lattey (University of
Tübingen). Further details on the speakers and data collection process are given in Tracy and
Lattey (2010). My sincere thanks go to Rosemarie Tracy for access to the recordings and the tran-
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Compositionality: Evidence from Code-Switching
level at which language selection takes place and will hopefully inspire further
research into a complex but highly promising type of data.
The structure of the paper is as follows. As most readers will be more familiar
with phraseology than code-switching, basic assumptions concerning storage
and processing of phrasemes are outlined only very briefly (section 2), before the
structural approach to code-switching is introduced in more detail (section 3).
Then the empirical data are presented and analysed (section 4). In section 5 the
findings are discussed with respect to theoretical issues concerning the composi-
tionality of phrasemes. Section 6 concludes the paper with a short summary and
suggestions for future research.
Conceptual Unity – Compositional Processing
The observation that different types of phraseme exhibit different degrees of fix-
edness or compositionality has been widely discussed among phraseologists,
and over the past decades various taxonomic approaches placing different types
of phraseme along a continuum have been proposed and refuted (Wray and Per-
kins 2000). The one characteristic uniting all types of phraseme, from true idioms
to collocations, seems to be that they are recurrently co-occurrent sequences of
lexemes which appear to be reproduced rather than creatively assembled. Some
of them express meaning beyond the sum of the meaning of their individual com-
ponents, some are peculiar in their syntactic make-up – but the vast majority do
not show any semantic or syntactic characteristics which clearly set them apart
from free combinations of words. How, then, can we tell that one string of words
is a phraseme and another one is not? One indispensable precondition for recog-
nizing phrasemes as such in actual discourse seems to be their representation as
conceptual units at some level in the mental lexicon (Backus 2003: 92). However,
unitary representation does not necessarily entail holistic storage and processing
all the way from the conceptual level to actual phonological realization. The
question that remains is: Which aspects or components of a phraseme are stored
in long-term memory, and what can be assembled online during production (see
Jackendoff 2002, 152–195)?
It is widely assumed that phrasemes have their own entries in the mental lex-
icon (Levelt 1989: 186–187; de Bot 1992: 10), but there is no agreement on what
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Mareike Keller
this entry actually looks like.
To describe the representation of a phraseme in the
mental lexicon, Levelt and Meyer (2000: 442) introduce the term superlemma,
which “represents the idiom’s restricted syntax and points to a set of simple lem-
mas.” This idea is expanded by Sprenger, Levelt and Kempen (2006) into their
Superlemma Theory. The theory supports a hybrid view of phraseme processing
(Cutting and Bock 1997) and claims that “[f]ixed expressions and idioms and lit-
eral language only differ with respect to the source of word activation: while the
words of a literal phrase are activated by their own lexical concepts, the words of
a fixed expression will benefit from a common idiom node” (Sprenger et al. 2006:
167). This means that in a phraseme, the individual lexemes are selected from the
lexicon via the superlemma entry for the phraseme. The Superlemma Theory is
attractive because it treats the production of phrasemes similarly to the produc-
tion of free combinations, and it elegantly aligns production and comprehension.
In addition, the contradiction between conceptual unity on the one hand and
syntactic compositionality on the other is resolved by postulating the superlem-
ma as a conceptual unit and the component lexemes as syntactically related but
individually accessed pieces.
As long as we are dealing with monolingual data, we can use e.g. speed of
access in experimental settings, or performance errors in spontaneous and elic-
ited speech as indicators of chunking or parsing of phraseological units. When
we look at bilingual data, the contrast between the two languages involved offers
an additional clue to the way in which conceptual units are assembled into actual
phonetic strings. One might assume that a string of words which appears as a unit
on the level of conceptual representation should be barred from internal lan-
guage mixing in order to preserve the exact meaning or pragmatic function of the
unit. The relevance of phrasemes in contrast to simplex lexemes for the study of
code-switching patterns was already noticed in a very early study by Hasselmo
(1970: 196), who writes about the data he analysed: “Purely lexical conditioning
of switching is obviously an important factor, but throughout this discourse it
appears that larger preformulated segments play a role as well.” Later code-
switching research has mentioned in passing that phrasemes are often inserted
as whole constituents (e.g. Myers-Scotton 2006: 263), supporting the view that
phrasemes are processed as units all the way from the mental lexicon/phrasicon
to the phonetic level. However, this blanket view does not hold for all types of
4 One problem with previous research on the topic is the definition of the target structures. Ear-
lier works focus mainly on pure idioms, or idioms in a narrow sense. The authors cited in the
following paragraphs may not all have had phrasemes in the wider sense in mind, but their find-
ings are applicable nevertheless.
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Compositionality: Evidence from Code-Switching
phraseme. Backus (2003) cites examples of phraseme-internal language mixing,
which suggest that under specific conditions phrasemes can be broken up into
their sub-components at some point in the production pipeline.
Furthermore, it
shows that not all phraseme components are language-specific on all levels of
language production. I believe that the propensity or resistance of a phraseme to
internal language mixing can be used as a clue to how phrasemes are assembled
during language production. The following section provides a short introduction
to the structural study of code-switching. This will serve as the theoretical back-
ground against which the behaviour of phrasemes in code-switching is analysed.
Bilingual Code-Switching
Over the past decades, code-switching has been studied from various angles,
such as sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics or syntax, with the goal of finding out
which factors influence or constrain mixed utterances. Contrary to early beliefs,
mixing languages is neither a sign of incompetence, nor does it occur randomly.
Instead, it seems to be governed by social as well as syntactic constraints, the
nature of which has not been fully understood. What we can say for sure is that
code-switching constraints, just like any other grammar rule, are probabilistic ra-
ther than absolute.
This paper focuses on the morphosyntactic aspect of lan-
guage mixing and attempts to link it to semantic factors influencing the surface
form of complex lexical items which are the object of investigation of phraseologi-
cal research. Myers-Scotton’s Matrix Language Frame Model (MLF model) (1993
and following) serves as the theoretical framework for the account of bilingual
phraseme processing developed in the following pages. For reasons of space the
account must remain somewhat superficial. Readers new to the topic are referred
to Myers-Scotton and Jake (2009) for a concise but detailed overview.
The MLF model is cognitively based and lexically driven, which means it is
focused on processes originating in the mental lexicon. It was devised in accord-
ance with basic assumptions of generative grammar and aims to explain how lan-
guage production is linked to linguistic competence (Myers-Scotton 2002: 14). At
5 Namba (2012) also deals with the topic of mixed phrasemes in code-switching. However, as
his analysis is based on bilingual acquisition data from two young children, his examples are
very few and cover only a small section of frequent phraseological structures.
6 See Mindt (2002: 210–211) who argues that any descriptive grammatical rule will have about
5% exceptions due to online processing errors, idiosyncrasies or variation/language change.
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Mareike Keller
the core of the MLF model lies the claim that the distribution of languages in bi-
lingual clauses is asymmetrical. One language, the matrix language (ML), pro-
vides the morphosyntactic frame of a bilingual clause.
Into this ML frame, ele-
ments from a second language, called the embedded language (EL), can be
inserted. The MLF model’s unit of reference is the bilingual clause (Myers-Scotton
and Jake 2017: 3).
This means that the two principles restricting the surface real-
ization of morphemes in code-switching are only applicable to bilingual clauses.
They are not aimed at syntactic units bigger than one clause. Also, the terms ML
and EL only refer to one clause at a time. According to the MLF model, the surface
realization of morphemes
in a bilingual clause is constrained by two principles.
These two principles state that in mixed-language constituents, word order and
particular grammatical morphemes (e.g. morphemes transporting information
on agreement or case) have to come from the ML:
The Morpheme-Order Principle: In ML+EL constituents consisting of singly occurring EL
lexemes and any number of ML morphemes, surface morpheme order (reflecting surface
syntactic relations) will be that of the ML.
(Myers-Scotton 1997: 83)
The System Morpheme Principle: In ML+EL constituents, all system morphemes which have
grammatical relations external to their head constituent (i.e. which participate in the sen-
tence’s thematic role grid) will come from the ML.
(Myers-Scotton 1997: 83)
The MLF model has been revised several times in order to make its predictions
more precise. One crucial step in clarifying which morphemes are affected by the
System Morpheme Principle was the introduction of the 4-M-Model (Myers-Scot-
ton and Jake 2000). Myers-Scotton and Jake (2017: 2) state explicitly that the 4-M-
Model is not itself a model of code-switching but a general model of morpheme
processing, applicable equally well to other types of data. It relates to the MLF
7 This assumption is made only about so-called classic code-switching “in which empirical ev-
idence shows that abstract grammatical structure within a clause comes from only one of the
participating languages” (Myers-Scotton and Jake 2009: 337). For mixed languages, Myers-Scot-
ton (2002: 100) proposes a composite matrix as the grammatical basis. The term ML should not
be mistaken for or confused with the dominant language of a speaker or a discourse. It is a gram-
matical abstraction, applicable only within one clause (Myers-Scotton 2002: 58).
8 In terms of generative syntax: “Our unit of analysis is the clause, or CP, the projection of com-
plementizer, or COMP” (Myers-Scotton and Jake 2015: 418).
9 The term morpheme is used for surface realizations (phonetic form in the actual utterance) as
well as for the underlying lemma entry (abstract form in the speaker’s mind) (Myers-Scotton
2002: 106).
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Compositionality: Evidence from Code-Switching
model only insofar as it can help to explain the morphosyntactic regularities ob-
served in bilingual clauses. The model assumes four different types of morpheme
(hence the name, 4-M[orpheme]-Model): 1. content morphemes, 2. early system
morphemes (e.g. plural affixes), 3. bridges (e.g. possessive markers) and 4. out-
siders (e.g. case and agreement markers).
Content and early system morphemes
together transport the meaning of an utterance. They are accessed at the concep-
tual level. The two types of late system morpheme, bridges and outsiders, make
the utterance grammatical in terms of the morphosyntactic structure projected by
the matrix language. Their exact phonological form is selected only at the level
of the formulator, once the thematic grid of the utterance has been laid out.
short, “[c]ontent morphemes and early SMs satisfy the speaker’s intentions,
while late SMs provide grammatical structure” (Myers-Scotton and Jake 2017: 3).
According to the System Morpheme Principle, only the late outsider system mor-
phemes must be supplied by the ML in bilingual constituents. Their function in a
clause lies in “disambiguating grammatical roles and providing argument struc-
10 Explanatory note: The 4-M-Model assumes an asymmetry between content and system mor-
phemes, which is crucial for language processing. In crude terms, content morphemes are con-
ceptually activated lexical items (which assign or receive theta-roles; Myers-Scotton and Jake
2015: 425), whereas system morphemes are structurally assigned functional elements. The sys-
tem morphemes are subdivided into early and late. Early system morphemes are accessed along
with content morphemes from the mental lexicon. They are functional affixes which add to the
semantic content but do not affect the grammaticality of the sentence. The sentences Paul likes
Anna’s sister and Paul likes Anna’s sisters are equally grammatical, but the plural affix on the
word sister in the second one changes the meaning of the proposition. The late system mor-
phemes are subdivided again, into bridges and outsiders. Both help to make the sentence gram-
matical. A bridge establishes a grammatical relation between lexical items within the systactic
constituent in which it occurs. In Paul likes Anna’s sister the possessive marker expresses the
grammatical relation between Anna and the sister, which in the given sentence are both compo-
nents of the same object NP. An outsider establishes a grammatical relation with a lexical item
outside the systactic constituent in which it occurs. In Paul likes Anna’s sister the agreement
marker on the verb expresses the grammatical relation between the subject NP and the verb un-
der INFL (Myers-Scotton and Jake 2017: 7). A particular grammatical morpheme is not necessarily
assigned to the same group crosslinguistically (Myers-Scotton and Jake 2017: 4). Its type depends
on the kind of grammatical information the morpheme carries. In Modern English, the article
only carries information about definiteness and is classified as an early system morpheme. In
Modern German the article also carries information about case and is thus a late outsider system
11 The processing components referred to by Myers-Scotton are based on Levelt’s model of lan-
guage processing (Levelt 1989; Levelt et al. 1999). The model was adapted to bilingual speech by
de Bot (1992) and Wei (2009); see also Myers-Scotton (2005).
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Mareike Keller
ture” (Myers-Scotton and Jake 2017: 7). The intuition that different types of mor-
pheme are accessed at different levels during language production will prove cru-
cial for understanding which types of phraseme, or which phraseme compo-
nents, are uttered in which language in code-switching discourse.
The MLF model does not make any predictions about the processing of
phrasemes. Nevertheless, the following comment shows how the model relates
to the question of phraseme storage and processing:
I also see my work as recognizing that explanations lie in linking a theory of language with
a theory of language processing in a manner similar to the views expressed in Jackendoff
(2002). Jackendoff stresses the need to consider what aspects of an utterance are in long-
term memory (content morphemes in my framework) and what aspects can be constructed
online with working memory.
(Myers-Scotton 2002: 310)
Myers-Scotton has not published any work focusing on phrasemes specifically
but in her discussion of so-called EL-islands (full syntactic constituents from the
EL inserted into an ML clause) she mentions that these islands often show phra-
seological characteristics:
Many of the Embedded Language islands can be considered collocations, combinations of
words that often appear together as a single phrase.
(Myers-Scotton 2006: 263)
[M]any Embedded Language islands are either formulaic or routine collocations, perhaps
making them similar to the activation required to access singly occurring forms.
(Myers-Scotton 2002: 162)
These comments suggest that phrasemes are likely to be inserted as chunks of
lexemes from only one language into bilingual utterances. At first glance my data
seem to confirm this. Most phrasemes are inserted as EL chunks and do not show
internal mixing at all, among them the vast majority of adverbial and nominal
(1) KL: Not anymore. And {in} einer Hinsicht it’s-äh I think it is is it’s more hygienic.
12 Most of the examples used in this paper are taken from the database compiled for the re-
search project presented in Keller (2014). Transcription conventions: “In order to ensure reada-
bility of examples, we added punctuation marks and adopted the following conventions: Ger-
man items are roman, English are italic; a slash signals a word- or sentence-break, a dash con-
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Compositionality: Evidence from Code-Switching
(2) AS: …jetzt is des Tor net zugangen. Und all of a sudden hat der g’schrien ja geh halt
rei’, du Depp!
(3) LK: Weil wenn ma’, wenn ma’ sieben Jahr’ lang nicht nicht redet/ first of all, damals
war’s no’ net so wie heut’, dass du…
(4) KL: That keeps me going. I’m pretty sure. And der gute Wille. And that’s about it.
(5) KL: Things were then better over here, too, you know? Naja. But der liebe Gott, h-he-he
evened it out.
(6) TG: ...da ham se bloß das Essen gekriegt und ’n- place to stay!
However, especially among verb-based phrasemes there is a significant number
of items that do show internal language mixing:
(7) TG: ...because- he made himself {so} wichtig, you know.
Here, the German phraseme sich wichtig machen (Engl. act the big shot, literally
‘make oneself important’) is rendered partly in English and partly in German. Ex-
amples like (7) suggest that at least verb-based phrasemes are not necessarily ac-
cessed as completely prefabricated, language-specific strings of lexemes. Maybe
they are accessed as strings of lemmas, or as superlemmas, at the conceptual lev-
el – but somewhere along the production process the superlemma must be de-
composed and reassembled drawing on lexemes/morphemes from two different
languages. This raises the question of which elements of a mixed phraseme ap-
pear in which language in a bilingual utterance. Or more precisely: Which ele-
ments of a mixed phraseme are realized in the language the phraseme is drawn
from and which elements are translated, or calqued?
nects iterated items. Curly brackets mark ambiguous language affiliation. Round brackets indi-
cate incomprehensible sections, square brackets set off meta-linguistic comments and indicate
passages left out; [...] Note that we consistently — even within English utterances — employed
German orthography for hesitation expressions, i.e. äh(m) (Tracy and Lattey 2010: 57). I added
curly brackets to mark homophonous diamorphs, i.e. elements which could be English or Ger-
man. Square brackets following examples contain file and line identification.
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Mareike Keller
In the pursuit of possible constraints regulating the language distribution in
the surface realization of phraseme components, Backus (2003: 92) suggests that
“ML morphemes will have semantically basic meanings.” Unfortunately, Backus
(2003) leaves it to the reader to decide what does and what does not qualify as
semantically basic meaning. Unrelated to the topic of phraseological units, Wei
(2009: 280–283) regards lemma congruence, i.e. the degree of similarity between
word forms from different languages expressing the same lemma, as the organi-
zational principle guiding the production of mixed utterances. For him the main
reason for inserting EL content morphemes into an ML frame seems to be insuffi-
cient semantic or pragmatic congruence between lemmas. Likewise, Myers-Scot-
ton (2002: 20) suggests that “lack of sufficient congruence may explain why cer-
tain structures are avoided or impossible in switching between specific language
pairs.” However, what is sufficient and what is insufficient congruence remains
unclear. Nevertheless, studying code-switching data might shed more light on
the question of which elements are central and which peripheral in lexical en-
tries, simplex or complex ones:
[H]ow an EL content morpheme is accommodated by an ML frame tells us something about
which features characterizing that morpheme (ultimately characterizing its supporting
lemma) are critical and which may be peripheral in lexical entries. At this stage, we only
aim to have shown the effects on CS [=codeswitching] of different aspects of lexical struc-
ture, but we do think it is clear how studying congruence in CS has implications far beyond
the nature of CS itself.
(Myers-Scotton and Jake 1995: 1019)
This is to say that the study of morphosyntactic details in code-switching data
and its implications is more than just a source for understanding more about the
possible compositionality of phrasemes. It holds valuable clues to the make-up
of entries in the mental lexicon. With this theoretical introduction in mind, the
goal of the study presented in the following section is to show how balanced bi-
linguals integrate verb-based phrasemes in their everyday conversations.
A Study of Verb-Based Phrasemes in German-
English Code-Switching
The examples presented in this paper are based on 732 utterances containing var-
ious types of phraseme of the size of a syntactic constituent, extracted manually
from 50 hours of informal interviews with seven German Americans (see footnote
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Compositionality: Evidence from Code-Switching
3). Six of the interviewees emigrated to the US as adults, one at the age of four-
teen. At the time of recording they were 65–87 years of age and had lived in an
English-speaking environment for 42–66 years. After their emigration from Ger-
many some of the speakers continued to use their variety of German on a regular
basis, others experienced phases with no or hardly any interaction with other na-
tive speakers of German.
The close typological relatedness of English and German, which might pose
an obstacle to some areas of linguistic research, is a definite advantage for an
investigation of mixing patterns targeting phraseological material, because the
high number of cognates and (near-)homophones along with the large overlap
on the morphosyntactic level provokes a variety of mixing phenomena less likely
to be found in bilingual data based on typologically more distant languages.
Phrasemes are notoriously hard to define, and the decision as to whether or
not a combination of words is phraseological or not is always to a certain degree
a subjective one (see Howarth 1998: 29). I cannot guarantee that I did not miss
items that another phraseologist would have wanted to include. To confer a cer-
tain degree of objectivity, I included only phrasemes listed in major printed and
online dictionaries of idioms and collocations.
Out of a total of 732 utterances containing phrasemes in the form of a syntac-
tic constituent (verb-based and other), 146 (i.e. about 20%) exhibit obvious traces
of the speaker’s bilingualism, either in the form of code-switching in the vicinity
of the phraseme or as phraseme-internal language mixing (table 1).
Tab. 1: The frequency of mixing vs. switching (N=146)
based phrasemes
My argumentation builds on the hypothesis that language mixing inside a
phraseme is suggestive of a compositional process. Phraseme-internal language
mixing can be observed primarily inside verb-based phrasemes. Therefore, the
present paper focuses on verb-based phrasemes (N=451) and refers to other syn-
tactic types of phraseme only for comparative reasons. Very early on during the
research process it became clear that the semantic impact of the verb itself ap-
pears to be a crucial factor in determining the mixing patterns in utterances con-
taining verb-based phrasemes. Consequently, the target utterances were divided
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Mareike Keller
into two groups. The first group consists of 236 utterances, each containing a
phraseme headed by a verb that adds a clearly discernible semantic component
to the overall meaning of the phraseme (Example: live in the lap of luxury). These
phrasemes will be referred to as VPhr. The second group consists of 215 utter-
ances, each containing a phraseme headed by a light verb. These phrasemes will
be referred to as vPhr. In a vPhr, the semantic core of the phraseme is carried by
the nominal component (Example: be sorry).
The verb does not add clearly dis-
cernible meaning to the overall meaning of the utterance but rather serves the
syntactic function of turning the expression into a predicate (Pottelberge 2007;
see also Allerton 2001; Butt 2003, 2010; Winhart 2005).
For the present paper I
included the verbs be, have, make, get from English and sein, haben, machen from
German as heads of light-verb phrasemes. The choice is undoubtedly arbitrary,
and more verbs could be included in this group.
. Phrasemes with a Semantically Salient Verbal Head
All seven informants produce phrasemes with a semantically salient verbal head
(VPhr) in both their languages with equal ease and there are hardly any cases of
transfer or interlanguage forms of the kind found in contexts of foreign language
acquisition. In monolingual English utterances the speakers use idiomatic VPhr
that do not have a word-for-word translation (8) as well as idioms which can be
expressed using the same image in German (9, Sterne sehen). In monolingual Ger-
man utterances the speakers use a wide variety of standard and dialect idioms,
some of which they may not have encountered anymore at all after settling in the
United States (10 and 11). This shows that all speakers have a well-developed ac-
tive repertoire of idiomatic expressions in both their languages.
13 The German tradition uses the term Funktionsverbgefüge mostly for combinations of light
verb + noun. As I could not find a difference in mixing behavior between light verb + noun and
light verb + adjective combinations, I have decided to treat them as one group, focusing on the
semantic lightness of the verb instead of on the syntactic category of the nominal complement.
I have also included more complex combinations like be close with s.o., containing a light verb,
an adjective, a preposition and an external valency slot.
14 The light verb constructions discussed in this paper should not be confused with the dummy
verb constructions frequently mentioned in works on language contact (Myers-Scotton and Jake
2015: 428; González-Vilbazo and Lopez 2011). Light verb constructions are lexicalized phraseo-
logical units listed in monolingual dictionaries. Dummy verb constructions are a type of contact
phenomenon where a light verb is used to integrate foreign lexical material from one language
into another.
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Compositionality: Evidence from Code-Switching
(8) KL: I’m- you know, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
(9) KL: I walked right into that door, and fast, because I was in a hurry. I saw stars.
(10) TG: En Abstecher hier und da und/ den Rahm überall abschöpfen, ne?
(11) TG: San aa die die, wo die arme Leit alle/ ois abnehme und dann leben wie Gott in
In addition to phrasemes in a monolingual context the speakers produce various
forms of overt and covert language mixing in and around VPhr. One form of cov-
ert language mixing is spontaneous or idiosyncratic calquing, where a phraseme
(mostly a collocation rather than a true idiom) is rendered as a word-by-word
(12) TG: Wenn ma nach California g’flogen san, des hat ja aa lang g’numme.
In (12) the Bavarian German hat lang g’numma is a calque of the English colloca-
tion take long. Spontaneous calques are unidiomatic in monolingual standard us-
age and are not listed in idiomatic dictionaries.
The calques that are produced
by the speakers are limited to a few recurring items which seem to have become
established within the speaker community. Apart from those few established
calques, the speakers seem to notice their own spontaneous calques and make
an effort to repair them:
(13) TG: Because, for the children’s sake you have to bring a- a little sa/ you have to sacrifice
In (13) the speaker first begins to translate the German phraseme ein Opfer bringen
(lit. bring a sacrifice). The attempt is abandoned, and the speaker starts the sen-
tence over, using the simplex verb sacrifice, thus achieving a non-phraseological
but native-like wording.
15 Traditionally the term calque refers to lexicalized items (English skyscraper
Wolkenkratzer). The spontaneous word-for-word translations described here are mostly idio-
lectal nonce formations.
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Mareike Keller
Especially if a VPhr has no translation equivalent, we could assume that it
would most likely be embedded as a whole into a clause from another language.
In her code-switching studies Myers-Scotton refers to the insertion of a full EL
constituent into an ML frame as an EL island. She assumes that phrasemes are
frequent triggers for EL islands (2002: 157, 162 and 263). From studies of lexical
borrowing we know that noun phrases and adverbials are borrowed quite easily.
The data confirm this kind of insertion for phrasemes with a noun head or in the
function of an adverbial (see examples (1)–(6) above). The borrowing of verbs is
more complex, as it usually requires the borrowed item to be adapted to the mor-
phosyntactic requirements of the recipient language (tense, word-order, etc.).
With simplex verbs, borrowing along with morphosyntactic adaptation is still
quite common (to google < etw. googeln < Er hat etwas gegoogelt). Yet, when
a verb can express its meaning only in combination with at least one lexically
predetermined argument, insertion in the form of an EL island does not occur.
What we do find is a number of code-switches which in all likelihood are antici-
pational and triggered by a VPhr (14–15):
(14) TG: Aber ich bin froh. They keep an eye on her, too. Wenn wie/ irgendwie was wär,
die würden ihr helfen.
(15) KL: ...but the situation in Osoppo, I think that really/ that- des is ma sehr nahe ge-
gangen, I mean I couldn’t understand anybody wanting to live like that.
In each case the language is switched not only for the VPhr but for the entire
clause. In (14) the switch-point coincides with the beginning of a new independ-
ent clause. Planning and production difficulties are obvious in (15), where the
anaphoric subject that of the switched clause is first uttered in the ML, repeated
in the ML and then uttered in the EL as des. The decision as to whether a language
switch was triggered by a phraseme or was due to other factors is undoubtedly
subjective. Reasonable cues are hesitation
, self-correction, hedges or metalin-
guistic comments, and maybe also the lack of a translation equivalent.
16 Code-switching per se is not concomitant with an increase in hesitation phenomena com-
pared to monolingual speech (Ehinger 2003). However, in my corpus phrasemes in bilingual ut-
terances show significantly more hesitation than those in monolingual utterances. This is par-
ticularly noticeable around verb-based phrasemes (bilingual utterances: VPhr 56% and vPhr
41%; monolingual utterances: VPhr 18% and vPhr 16%). This suggests significantly higher pro-
duction costs.
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Compositionality: Evidence from Code-Switching
The corpus contains a handful of VPhr where the phraseme as a conceptual
unit is clearly attributable to language A but some components of it are realized
through words or morphemes from language B. The result is a form of overt lan-
guage mixing which, for lack of an established term, we will for now refer to as
partial calque. This is rare and produced only by the speaker TG who, compared
to other members of her German-American social group, is most at ease with mix-
ing her languages:
(16) TG: Und dann war’s f- für Freudenmädchen. Sin’ se {in} line gestanden! Die Soldaten,
die Fl- die die Flotte, die amerikanische, war im Hafen.
(17) TG: Und mein Vater, der ging mal zur Bank in {New York} und hat sich {i-in}-äh line
ge-gestanden, to- get to the teller...
In both (16) and (17) the underlying phraseme seems to be the English stand in
line. The verb is realized in German, the perfect tense is selected in accordance
with German colloquial norm. The nominal component, line, appears in English.
It is preceded by the preposition in, which in German-English language mixing
cannot be assigned to either of the two languages. Such elements are referred to
as homophonous diamorphs (following Clyne 1967) and are often found at switch
The last example in this section is a rare and curious form of covert language
mixing which we can call bilingual contamination. Contamination is a well-docu-
mented phenomenon affecting phrasemes in monolingual contexts where two
phrasemes are merged into one (Cutting and Bock 1997; Burger 2015: 26). In our
case, one of the phrasemes comes from English, the other one from German:
(18) KL: Ah, des is nett, well, dann gibst ihr viele Grüsse.
In (18) the verb from the German phraseme jmdm. viele Grüße sagen is replaced
by a translation of the English give, which is most probably a transfer of the verbal
component from the English phraseme give s.o.’s love to s.o. The surface lexicali-
zation is entirely monolingual. What makes this example interesting in the given
context is that just as in the overtly mixed examples it is the verbal component
which is calqued.
So far, we have established that the speakers have a well-developed reper-
toire of VPhr in both their languages. They use them in monolingual as well as in
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Mareike Keller
bilingual turns. If during a turn a speaker wants to use a phraseme from the lan-
guage which is currently not the ML, he or she switches the language, possibly in
anticipation of the phraseme, for the entire clause. The use of VPhr in bilingual
clauses in the form of overt mixing is rare and often accompanied by hesitations
and repairs. In the following section we will look at verbal phrasemes with a se-
mantically light verb. These show more overt phraseme-internal mixing and thus
provide more interesting evidence with respect to the question of compositional
. Phrasemes with a Semantically Light Verbal Head
In this section we zoom in on verb-based phrasemes with be, have, make, get from
English and sein, haben, machen from German as their syntactic head. Some of
the phenomena and findings described in the section on VPhr are also applicable
to vPhr. The speakers use them with equal ease in both their languages, in mon-
olingual as well as in bilingual turns. Most vPhr occur in monolingual clauses:
(19) LK: Un’ na sag i, well, i wollt’- Mittag mit dir mache heut, un’ i hab Zeit.
(20) KL: And afterwards she was sorry that she didn’t buy it.
As with VPhr, insertions limited to a vPhr alone do not occur. However, in con-
trast to VPhr, anticipational switching is not frequent either. There are a few
switches following abandoned calques of more idiomatic vPhr:
(21) KL: Na, aber die war nicht/ She was not what we call here my cup of tea.
In (21) the entire clause is repaired and also the phraseme is flagged as an item
specific to American culture by the meta-comment what we call here. Although
there are no obvious complete calques, there are also a few cases of attempted
calquing, abandoned mid-sentence. In these cases, it is not the complete clause
that is started over; rather, the repair is limited to the nominal component of the
(22) TG: Is’ die Elsie Eigel noch in gut/ {in} good shape, Elsa?
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Compositionality: Evidence from Code-Switching
In (22) the English be in good shape
is first translated but abandoned at the point
where the speaker would have to assign a German gender-specific adjective end-
ing to gut. The repair begins with the homophonous diamorph in. In the repaired
version the verb still remains in the ML, whereas the complete NP is inserted in
the EL.
Overt phraseme-internal language mixing in the form of partial calques is
found with significant frequency (17% of 215 targets) and across speakers (6 out
of 7 speakers):
(23) LK: …und deshalb si/ bin i ja {so} close mit denen.
(24) TG: Hätt’s ihn grad’ runterschlagen können, because- he made himself {so} wichtig,
you know!
In (23) the verb of the English vPhr be close with s.o. is calqued, as is the preposi-
tion with. The semantically most salient component, the adjective close remains
in its original English form. Before the English insertion we have the intensifier
so as a homophonous diamorph. In (24) the verb of the German vPhr sich wichtig
machen is calqued, as is the reflexive pronoun sich, whereas the adjective wichtig
remains in its original language. Again, the homophonous diamorph so appears
between the calqued components and the EL insertion.
All mixed verbal phrasemes appear to follow one consistent mixing pattern:
the verb is calqued and the semantic core (mostly a noun or an adjective) appears
in the original language of the phraseme. The mixing pattern is not dependent on
the language of the phraseme, English or German. The partial calque in (25) will
now be discussed in more detail in order to relate this recurrent pattern to the
theoretical assumptions about code-switching and language processing outlined
in sections 2 and 3.
(25) LK: ...wie mer unser/ uns die Häuser angschaut ham, da wollte mer sure mache, dass
mer e Haus kriege, wo mer e Eckbank neistelle kann.
The underlying phraseme appears to be the English collocation make sure. A pos-
sible German translation equivalent is sichergehen (literally: go sure). Thus, a
conflict on the level of lexical congruence could be expected with respect to the
17 Whether or not to include the copula verb in the phraseme is a complex issue which for rea-
sons of space is not addressed in this paper (see Fix 1971: 72 and Keller 2014: 195–198).
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Mareike Keller
semantically non-congruent verb rather than the congruent adjective. However,
this is the reverse of what we actually see happening: the speaker chooses to
calque the semantically incongruent verb make as German machen and to leave
the semantically congruent adjective sure in its original form. This suggests that
in partial calques superficial lexical equivalence is not the primary force at work.
So, what exactly is motivating lexical selection during the production of mixed
If there were no morpho-syntactic constraints governing the production of
mixed utterances, one could imagine the following alternative renderings of the
phraseme make sure in a bilingual clause with German as the ML (note: for ease
of explication the dialect from the original is adapted to standard German):
(a) Da wollten wir make sure, dass…
(b) Da wollten wir sure make, dass...
(c) Da wollten wir sicher make, dass...
(d) Da wollten wir sure make-en, dass
(e) Da wollten wir sure machen, dass...
The MLF model provides arguments for why versions (a)–(c) should be dispre-
ferred by a balanced bilingual. The complete EL insertion of the phraseme as in
the hypothetical realization given in (a) violates the morpheme order principle,
which states that word order must come from the ML. According to the rules of
German word-order, the non-finite verb make should be preceded by the adjec-
tive sure. The EL insertion in (b) fixes this problem and follows ML word order.
However, it still violates the system morpheme principle: the non-finite EL verb
make doesn’t carry the ML infinitive suffix -en.
The same holds for the mixed
option in (c), which calques only the semantically congruent adjective and re-
tains the original but non-congruent light verb. Option (d) is in line with both
18 Myers-Scotton and Jake (2017: 10) refer to French infinitive suffixes as early SMs, based on
the observation that in their data French infinitives appear to be inserted along with their French
infinitive suffixes. This does not seem to be so for the inserted German and English infinitives in
the corpus I used. There are instances where the German infinitive suffix is omitted, e.g. in “Na,
let’s fahr nach England, wegen deine Geschwister und die alle” (Keller 2014: 219). Conversely,
when an English infinitive is adapted to German, an infinitive ending is added, e.g. “Zwei lan-
guages zusammen-put-en!” (Münch and Stolberg 2005: 74). Therefore, I am inclined to assume
that the German infinitive suffix is a late outsider, which – as all other outsiders – conveys gram-
matical rather than semantic information.
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Compositionality: Evidence from Code-Switching
MLF principles (word-order and outsiders from the ML) but includes word-inter-
nal language mixing.
The combination in (e), i.e. the one actually produced by
the speaker, is the one that optimally solves or integrates congruence issues on
the morphosyntactic as well as on the semantic level: word-order and the infini-
tive marker on the light verb come from the ML (German), satisfying the MLF con-
straints. The adjective, which carries the semantically salient core of the phra-
seme, is retained in its original language and inserted as an EL element into the
clause. It does not carry any late outsider system morphemes and occurs in a po-
sition which does not violate ML syntax.
The examples provided in section 4 show that the code-switching constraints pro-
posed by Myers-Scotton in her MLF model also hold for phraseological units. So,
the study of phrasemes in code-switching lends further support to the model.
However, as the subject of this paper is the processing of phrasemes rather than
the predictive power of a code-switching model, the crucial question is: what can
the behaviour of phrasemes in code-switching tell us about the internal make-up
and processing of phrasemes?
Mixed vPhr all show the same distribution of languages: The (light) verb is
calqued and produced in the ML of the clause. The nominal component is in-
serted in its original language.
The order of the elements follows the syntactic
requirements of the ML. This pattern integrates two challenges in an optimal way.
First, retaining the nominal element carrying the semantic weight of the phra-
seme in its original language serves as a cue for the language-specific multi-word
sequence stored in the mental lexicon and helps to convey the intended proposi-
tional content to the hearer. Second, calquing of the semantically light verb al-
lows integration of a phraseme from language A into a clausal frame from lan-
guage B in a manner that does not violate the grammatical rules of language B as
19 Word-internal mixing resulting from the addition of a language-B system morpheme to a lan-
guage-A content morpheme is commonly observed among early bilinguals during simultaneous
acquisition (Lanza 1997). The adult speakers who participated in our study seem to avoid word-
internal mixing and use it mainly to achieve a comic effect.
20 This distribution of languages matches findings presented by Marian (2009: 172), who, with-
out reference to phrasemes, writes that in her data verbs tend towards covert mixing (calquing),
whereas nouns are more often overtly inserted. She attributes this to the stronger syntactic rela-
tions of verbs with other syntactic constituents in a clause.
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Mareike Keller
proposed in the MLF model. The pattern is repeatedly produced by six out of the
seven speakers and is thus not an idiosyncratic feature. The mixing pattern leads
to the following hypothesis concerning the roles of semantics and syntax in the
production of mixed phrasemes in classic code-switching:
The lexeme carrying the semantic core of an EL phraseme needs to be pro-
duced in its original language as a cue to the language-specific superlemma
stored in the mental lexicon. Semantically lightweight elements can be
calqued in order to satisfy ML morphosyntactic requirements.
This hypothesis is an empirically derived synthesis of Myers-Scotton’s (2002: 240)
assumption that the primary function of an EL is to supply content morphemes
in mixed constituents and Backus’s (2003: 92 and 123) claim that in mixed con-
stituents based on conceptual units ML elements will have semantically basic
meanings. It also supports the claim that “basic vocabulary” tends to be calqued
whereas “specific vocabulary” will be inserted as an EL form (Backus and Dor-
leijn 2009: 92).
With respect to language processing, the question now is: How do we get
from a language-specific superlemma entry to a mixed phonological realization?
With no explicit reference to phrasemes, De Bot proposes the following – fairly
vague – suggestion concerning language-sensitivity or -specificity of the levels of
speech production:
[The conceptualizer] is probably partly language-specific and partly language-independ-
ent. Further it is hypothesized that there are different formulators for each language, while
there is one lexicon where elements from different languages are stored together. The out-
put of the formulator is sent to the articulator, which makes use of a large set of non-lan-
guage specific speech motor plans.
(De Bot 1992: 1)
Also without reference to phrasemes, Myers-Scotton and Jake (1995: 987) suggest
that at the conceptual level, language-specific lemmas are selected and sent to
one of the language-specific formulators, which then adds the required predi-
cate-argument structure, word-order and inflections.
Let us assume that the initial
step is the same for lemmas and superlemmas:
Guided by the intent of the speaker, a language-specific superlemma is selected
21 We can avoid the unresolved question of relative timing of the sub-processes if we adopt
Jackendoff’s Parallel Architecture model, according to which lexical/semantic and morphosyn-
tactic processes run in parallel and influence each other (Jackendoff 1998: 39).
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Compositionality: Evidence from Code-Switching
at the conceptual level. According to Sprenger et al. (2006: 167), each component
of the superlemma is accessed individually from the mental lexicon, but through
one common idiom node. This complex of individual but connected lemmas is
sent to one of the language-specific formulators. As we want to explain the lan-
guage distribution in mixed EL phrasemes, we are interested in the case where
an EL phraseme is sent to an ML formulator.
The formulator is supposed to pro-
ject ML argument structure onto the elements it receives from the conceptualizer
and to convert lemmas into lexemes and then word forms which can be sent on
to the articulator. Under the current assumption that bilinguals might have two
separate grammars but only one joint lexicon, it might not be all that surprising
that a lemma from one language could be realized by a word-form from the other
language, even if this lemma is part of a phraseme. However, the choice of surface
language does not appear to be random. Judging from the mixing patterns we
find in the data, the choice of word-forms at the formulator level appears to be
subject to two constraints, one conceptual-semantic and one morphosyntactic in
nature (Tab. 2).
Tab. 2: Assigning surface language to phraseme components
A superlemma representing a complete
specific phraseme
is selected from the mental lexicon.
(Myers-Scotton’s SMP)
Phraseme components which
host late outsider system mor-
phemes activated only at the
level of the formulator must
come from the ML
semantic constraint
Semantically salient phraseme
components must come from the
language with which the
phraseme is affiliated in mono-
lingual speech
The morphosyntactic constraint, Myers-Scotton’s System Morpheme Principle,
holds for classic code-switching in general. The semantic constraint is specifi-
cally formulated for phrasemes in code-switching. The two constraints, applica-
ble in parallel rather than consecutively, offer a theoretical explanation for the
22 If an ML phraseme is sent to the ML formulator, we will get a monolingual utterance. If an EL
phraseme is sent to the EL formulator, the result will be an EL island. An ML phraseme sent to
an EL formulator would not be an option, as it renders the basic idea of having an ML completely
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Mareike Keller
recurring overt language mixing pattern in vPhr. Also, they can help to explain
the apparent resistance of VPhr to internal mixing. When an EL vPhr is inserted
into an ML clause, the semantically salient element (mostly a noun or an adjec-
tive) must be realized in the original language of the phraseme in order to satisfy
the semantic constraint. The semantically light verb, which in the actual phonetic
string carries a late outsider, can be adapted to ML morphosyntactic require-
ments by way of calquing (or “literal translation”) to satisfy the syntactic con-
straint. However, if a speaker wants to make use of a VPhr which is not part of the
language he or she is currently using as the ML, the verb is semantically salient
and thus needs to be realized in the original language of the phraseme. But it also
carries a late outsider. Without word-internal mixing the verb cannot be adapted
to ML morphosyntactic well-formedness conditions. Therefore, the only solution
appears to be anticipational switching of the entire clause. The observed re-
sistance of VPhr to internal mixing might suggest that more idiomatic phrasemes
are processed holistically. I don’t think this is the case. Rather, the “grammar” of
classic code-switching (outsiders have to be supplied by the ML) prevents overt
mixing of idiomatic VPhr.
The few instances where the speakers start with the
production of a mixed or calqued VPhr are quite instructive: The observation that
these attempts are often abandoned and rephrased indicate that the speakers are
aware of the “unlawfulness” of such translations of phrasemes. And it suggests
that the bilingual language monitor checks for idiomaticity not necessarily before
but rather while assembling a phraseological unit from individual language-spe-
cific lexemes. The abandoned calques show that more idiomatic elements of a
phraseme can be calqued individually as well but that the result is rejected by the
language monitor.
Of 451 verb-based phrasemes analysed for the present study, 20% show overt or
covert language contact phenomena, either inside the phraseme (language mix-
ing) or in its direct vicinity (language switching). The analysis has shown that
phrasemes are subject to the same morphosyntactic constraints as free combina-
tions of words proposed in the MLF model and the 4-M-Model (Myers-Scotton
23 If we look at cases of attrited (or attriting) phrasemes, which for reasons of space have been
left out of the discussion, we can observe that in cases where an automatized production route
is no longer available, VPhr also appear to be assembled from individual components (Keller
2014: 251–253).
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Compositionality: Evidence from Code-Switching
2002; Myers-Scotton and Jake 2017): word order and late outsider system mor-
phemes, i.e. the inflectional morphemes, which only serve a grammatical func-
tion, have to be supplied by the ML of the clause. Consequently, the verb, which
in German and English carries a late outsider, has to be realized in the ML, at least
in speaker groups where word-internal mixing is dispreferred. In contrast to the
verb, nominal or adjectival complements can appear in the EL. This distribution
of languages based on word-class is reflected in a recurring mixing pattern which
is mostly found with inserted EL phrasemes containing a light verb but is also
occasionally observable in more idiomatic phrasemes: the noun or adjective
which carries the semantic core of the phraseme is realized in the EL, whereas the
verb is calqued and produced in the ML of the clause.
The observation that phrasemes in code-switching can be composed of ele-
ments from different languages also supports the Superlemma Theory (Sprenger
et al. 2006), which claims that the components of a phraseme are accessed indi-
vidually, but through one common idiom node at the conceptual level. The find-
ings suggest that at the level of the formulator, the production of phrasemes is
determined not only by morphosyntactic code-switching constraints but also by
phraseme-specific semantic considerations: The semantic core of a phraseme
must be produced in the original language of the phraseme, while functional el-
ements, including light verbs, can also be realized in a different language.
A promising next step to test the theoretical modelling of language distribu-
tion or language assignment to surface lexemes in mixed phrasemes proposed in
this paper would be an extended analysis of more utterances with semantically
light verbs as their syntactic head. But of course, there is a lot more to explore in
the context of phrasemes and code-switching, for example the status of the cop-
ula verb (included in or excluded from the phraseme) or de-automatisation as
observable in attrition of phrasemes. Also, the influence of internal and external
valency or of semantic compositionality could be analysed in more detail in order
to further enhance our understanding of storage and processing of phrasemes.
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Ayto, John (2010): Oxford dictionary of English idioms. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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con. Linguistics 41 (1), 83‒132.
Backus, Ad & Margreet Dorleijn (2009): Loan translations versus code-switching. In Barbara
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switching, 75‒93. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Bialystok, Ellen & Fergus I. M. Craik (2010): Cognitive and linguistic processing in the bilingual
mind. Current Directions in Psychological Science 19, 19‒23.
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This is a revised and updated version of Butt (2003), which noted that the study of light verbs and complex predicates is fraught with dangers and misunderstandings that go beyond the merely terminological. This chapter thus attempts to provide some clarity by addressing how light verbs and complex predicates can be identified cross-linguistically, what the relationship between the two is and whether light verbs must always be associated with uniform syntactic and semantic properties. Based primarily on both diachronic and synchronic evidence from the South Asian language Urdu, but also by taking cross-linguistic patterns into account, this chapter attempts to pull together the relevant available knowledge in order to arrive at a more definitive understanding of light verbs. Jespersen (1965, Volume VI: 117) is generally credited with first coining the term light verb, which he applied to English V+NP constructions as in (I). (I) have a rest, a read, a cry, a think take a sneak, a drive, a walk, a plunge give a sigh, a shout, a shiver, a pull, a ring The intuition behind the term ‘light’ is that although these constructions respect the standard verb complement schema in English, the verbs take, give, etc., cannot be said to be predicating fully. That is, one does not actually physically ‘take’ a ‘plunge’ but rather one ‘plunges’. The verbs therefore seem to be more of a verbal licenser for nouns.
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The present chapter approaches bilingual language interaction from a psycholinguistic perspective and considers bilingual switching and transfer within the cognitive architecture of language representation and processing. Specifically, switching (overt use of words from the other language) and transfer (covert use of linguistic structures from the other language without overt switching to that language) are discussed across syntactic and semantic constraints, across lexical class (nouns, verbs), and across concrete and abstract entities. We suggest that language architecture (e.g. semantic representation, lexical access) and linguistic environment influence the nature of cross-linguistic interaction in bilinguals.
Mehrsprachige Menschen verfügen über die Fähigkeit, mitten in einer Äußerung von einer Sprache in die andere zu wechseln. Dieses sogenannte Codeswitching wird von der Forschung inzwischen als systemhafte kommunikative Ressource anerkannt, deren Untersuchung interessante Einblicke in den Prozess der Sprachverarbeitung gibt. Diese Arbeit zeigt die Besonderheiten phraseologischer Mehrwortverbindungen im bilingualen Diskurs aus einer neuen Perspektive. Sie erläutert am Beispiel von Gesprächen deutscher Emigranten in die USA, welche Regelmäßigkeiten beim Codeswitching im Kontext von Phrasemen sichtbar werden und erklärt, wie sich Sprachmischungsphänomene an der Schnittstelle zwischen Syntax und Lexikon in die aktuelle Diskussion zu Mehrsprachigkeit und Sprachverarbeitung einbetten lassen.
It is now generally accepted that advanced learners of English need to have command of a wide range of complex lexical units, which are for a native speaker processed as prefabncated chunks, fixed, or semi-fixed expressions However, although there has been an increasing amount written about the role of phraseology in second language acquisition, there remains a lack of detailed descnption of learners' phraseological performance as the basis for understanding how phraseological competence develops This paper addresses certain current issues in the description of collocations in English, and, in discussing the major approaches to the linguistic description of prefabricated language, the need for detailed categorization is emphasized, particularly for those interested in the development of this component of proficiency in a second language Data is presented from native speaker language use, illustrating what can be revealed by one such descriptive model Finally, the findings of a number of studies of native and non-native academic writing in English are discussed