Idiomatic versus literal interpretations of ditropically ambiguous sentences

D. Van Lancker, G. J. Canter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


'Ditropically' ambiguous sentences (each having both a literal and an idiomatic interpretation) were prepared for listener's discrimination judgments, and for silent readers' rankings on an 'idiomaticity' scale. Listeners were unable to discriminate the literal from the idiomatic versions when presented with randomized single sentences excised from paragraph contexts. There was a bias toward interpreting the sentences as idioms, which correlated with the rankings of each sentence for its likelihood of idiomatic use. Listeners were easily able to identify the literal and the idiomatic versions of the same ditropic sentences presented in pairs or singularly, when speakers sought purposively to convey the contrasting meanings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-69
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Speech and Hearing Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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