Marko Hladnik, Norbert Corver and Sterre Leufkens (Utrecht University)
Title: Da’s dezelfde koek?/It’s the same kettle of fish? Phasehood, Referentiality, and the Syntax of Idioms
Abstract: We present the joint NWO/FWO project on the syntax of idioms carried out in Utrecht and Leuven, its setup and results, including the database of Dutch idioms currently in construction. The talk then examines idiomatic expressions in light of the hypotheses that (i) the vP-phase boundary defines a size limitation for verbal idioms and that (ii) idioms are built by the same regular structure-building mechanisms of syntax. We offer new evidence for the latter, based on collected data from Dutch dialects exhibiting cross-dialectally rare properties that are also found in the idioms from those same dialects. Concerning the former, a problem emerges when one considers that the most canonical verbal idioms contain a DP-object. Given that DPs are also claimed to be phases, the question arises of why verbal idioms can straddle the DP- but not the vP-phase boundary. Our solution to this problem is twofold. We show first that not all verbal idioms are actually confined to a single phase: whilst idiomatic phrases (IdPs) are restricted to the vP-phase, idiomatically combining expressions (ICEs) are not. Hence, the DP phase problem is only relevant for the first type, idiomatic phrases. Secondly, we note that the object lacks a direct discourse referent in the case of IdPs, and that DP referentiality has been linked to phasehood in various previous approaches. If the DP-object of an IdP is non-referential, it follows that it does not project a phase. This explains why idiomatic phrases seem to be able to straddle the DP-phase boundary: there simply is no DP-phase boundary to begin with.