Leveraging distributed representations and lexico-syntactic fixedness for token-level prediction of the idiomaticity of English verb-noun combinations

Milton King, Paul Cook

Verb-noun combinations (VNCs) - e.g., blow the whistle, hit the roof, and see stars - are a common type of English idiom that are ambiguous with literal usages. In this paper we propose and evaluate models for classifying VNC usages as idiomatic or literal, based on a variety of approaches to forming distributed representations. Our results show that a model based on averaging word embeddings performs on par with, or better than, a previously-proposed approach based on skip-thoughts. Idiomatic usages of VNCs are known to exhibit lexico-syntactic fixedness. We further incorporate this information into our models, demonstrating that this rich linguistic knowledge is complementary to the information carried by distributed representations.