Idioms: The type-sensitive storage model

Julia Horvath*, Tal Siloni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Idiom surveys conducted on both English and Hebrew motivate a distinction between phrasal idioms, which are headed by a lexical head, and clausal idioms, which involve sentential functional material. The surveys show that these two types of idioms have different patterns of distribution across diathesis alternations. A verbal passive phrasal idiom necessarily shares its idiomatic meaning with the corresponding transitive, while the unaccusative, adjectival passive and transitive can head their own phrasal idioms. This behavior of phrasal idioms contrasts with the strong tendency of clausal idioms to be specific to a single diathesis. The Type-Sensitive Storage (TSS) model, which we propose, accounts for these findings, by motivating a different storage (lexical listing) strategy for each idiom-type. Phrasal idioms are argued to be stored as subentries, while clausal idioms are independent entries. Assuming the verbal passive is derived post-lexically, thus lacking its own lexical entry, the model explains why it cannot host idiomatic meanings specific to it. In contrast, the adjectival passive, unaccusative and transitive have their own lexical entries under the model, and thus can have their own idiomatic meanings. Clausal idioms are stored as independent entries, and therefore their storage does not depend on the existence of other lexical entries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)853-891
Number of pages39
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019


FundersFunder number
Goethe University
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation
Universiteit Utrecht
Universität Potsdam


    • clausal idiom
    • lexical storage
    • phrasal idiom


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