UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 15 (2003)

Relevance Theory and the construction of idiom meaning


This paper proposes that the meaning a speaker intends in using an idiom on a certain occasion is pragmatically (re)constructed on-line by relevance-driven inferential mechanisms which take as input a set of highly accessible encyclopaedic assumptions from the concepts encoded by the idiom string and its constituent words. The depth to which the encoded concepts are processed, in arriving at the (ad hoc) concept the speaker intends as a component of the explicature of her utterance, is  constrained at every stage by the search for an optimally relevant interpretation.

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