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Rigor Mortis: Identify Multi-Word Expressions

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

This blog is based on Rigor Mortis, a game in which participants annotate multi-word expressions (MWEs) in French. To play, head to Lingo Boingo and click on the Rigor Mortis icon.

Start page of Rigor Mortis

Rigor Mortis is a game in which participants evaluate and analyze multi-word expressions (MWEs) in French corpora. The game takes place in a "pyramid" and by correctly annotating sentences, participants move through corridors and complete different phases. In the game, points are earned by correctly annotating sentences. By playing the game, participants can become familiar with multi-word expressions and how to create meaningful annotations that will help strengthen the development of natural language processing technologies. Before the development of Rigor Mortis there were almost no other language games that focused on annotating multi-word expressions. Developers of this game took inspiration from other games which are also available on Lingo Boingo that involve annotation such as JeuxDeMots (in which participants create a lexical network for French), Phrase Detectives (in which participants annotate coreference relations) and Zombiludik (in which participants annotate dependency relations).

Multi-word expressions (MWEs) are linguistic units made up of at least 2 words. These expressions can also sometimes represent syntactic or semantic irregularities and have specific rules when used in speech. There are different examples of MWEs. Fixed expressions are expressions that can't be modified in terms of word order, tense, or plurality, and are always used to represent the same idiomatic meaning. Some examples include: "In short", "Highs and lows", and "In spite of". Semi-fixed expressions must keep the same word order but can be changed to reflect tense or plurality. Examples include: "peanut butter" (can be changed to 'peanut butters') and "kick the bucket" (can be changed to 'kicked the bucket'). Syntactically flexible expressions can consist of decomposable idioms (multi-word idioms in which the literal meaning of the individual words contributes to the overall figurative meaning), verb-particle constructions, and light verb constructions (phrases where a verb is combined with a noun and as a result, the verb has less semantic context than the noun). Examples include: "sweep under the rug", "have a nap", and "call up". Institutionalized phrases are phrases whose individual parts are grouped together to form a commonly used saying in society, but whose individual parts can be used on their own and still make sense. Examples include: "salt and pepper", "water bottle", and "potato chip".

Phases of the Game

There are three phases in the gameplay of Rigor Mortis. In the first phase, participants are asked to identify MWEs based on only a few examples and otherwise no prior knowledge or training. In this phase, participants annotate ten short and simple sentences taken from an existing French corpus. Participants do not receive feedback on each annotation, but after they have completed the ten sentences, they can view their results. In the second phase, participants choose from five different "corridors" of a pyramid, and annotate the sentences with different types of MWEs within that "corridor" to get used to the process. The final phase of the game presents a variety of sentences for participants to annotate, and can only be unlocked once the first and second phases have been completed.

Screenshot of a sentence in the second phase of Rigor Mortis


Head to Lingo Boingo to play Rigor Mortis and other fun language games, and make sure to check out Lingo Boingo's Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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