Phraseology. Lexicography. American English
Phraseology: word-groups with transferred meanings.
Phraseological units, or idioms, represent the most expressive part of the language's vocabulary, because amusing sketches of the nation's customs, traditions and prejudices, recollections of its past history, fairy-tales are collected here. In modern linguistic there is a certain confusion about the terminology connected with these word-groups. The term "phraseological unit" ("фразеологическая единица") was introduced by academician V.V. Vinogradov. The theory of English phraseology was also worked out by our scientists. Western scholars prefer the term "idioms". There are some other terms used to denote this phenomenon: set-expressions, set-phi ses, fixed word-groups.
It's rather difficult to differenciate between a set-expression and a free word-group. The terms given above show that the basic criteria of differenciation stability of the lexical components and grammatical structure. Phraseological units (ph.u.) are habitually defined as non-motivated word-groups, that cannot be freely made up in speech but are reproduced as ready-made units, they are not created at the very moment of speeking, unlike free word-groups which components can change according to the needs of speakers. Ex.: a blue flower (a free word-group) vs. a blue-stocking (a ph. u.).
The traditional and oldest principle of classification ph.u-s. is based on their original content ('thematic principle), i.e. particular sphere of human activity or natural phenomena. So L.Smith gives groups of idioms either used by sailors, hunters, etc. or associated with domestic and wild animals, agriculture, cooking, sports, arts, etc. Smith points out that ph.u-s associated with the sea and the life of seamen are especially numerous in English: to be all at sea (to be unable to understand), to sink or swim (to fail or succeed), in deep waters (in trouble or danger), in low water, on the rocks (in strained financial circumstances).
By origin the greatest number of ph.u. is connected with traditions and customs of England: to cut with a shilling (лишить наследства), night cup (a drink before going to sleep); the next source is Shakespeare's works : to give the devil his due (отдать должное), the green-eyed monster (ревность), smth. is wrong in the state of Danmark, etc.
Due to the structural principle, i.e. their semantic and grammatical inseparability phraseological units can be classified into nominal and communicative. This structural principle is based on the ability of a ph.u. to perform the same syntactical functions as words. To nominal belong substantive (noun), verbal , attributive and adverbial ph.u-s.
Substantive ph.u. denote 'thingness' and are used to denote everyday activities of people, their meaning can be easily deduced or be wholly idiomatic: dog's life, cat-and-dog life, call love, white lie, red tape (бюрократия), backnumber (ретроград, отсталый человек), babies in the wood (простаки, наивные люди), Fleet street (английская пресса), hot dogs (сосиски), a hearty oak (каменное сердце), mamma's darling (маменькин сынок). Some linguists admit some structural change in a ph.u.: 'the promised land' = ''the land of promise'.
Verbal ph.u. fulfil the functions of verbs in sentence: to smell the rat (чувствовать что-то недоброе), tо run for one's life (спасать жизнь), to talk through one's hat (мямлить).
Attribute ph.u. describe qualities of objects: high and mighty, safe and sound, brand new, etc. In this group the so called comparative word-groups are particularly expressive and amusing in their unexpected associations: (as) cool as a cucumber, (as) nervous as a cat, (as) weak as a kitten, (as) good as gold (usu. about children), (as) large as life, (as) slippery as an eel, (as) drunk as ah owl, (as) mad as a hare in March, etc.
Adverbial ph.u. perform the function of an adverb in a sentence and have firm stability: between the devil and the deep sea (меж двух огней), neither here nor there (ни к месту), by heart (наизусть), by hook or by crook (ни шитьем, так катаньем), in cold blood (хладнокровно).
Interjeclional ph.u.: my god! Goodnew gracious! Good heavens!
Communicative ph.u-s make sentence themselves. These are various sayings and proverbs. They mау bе classified according to the type of sentence they form: declarative (It's all Greek to me - китайская грамота). Queen Ann is dead - (это не новость), interrogative (Can the lapper change his spots? How do you do?), imperative -(Hold your horses - Осторожно на повороте).
Academician Vinogradov's classification is based on the degree of semantic cohesion (связность) betweeh the components of ph.u-s:
-phraseological combinations with a partially changed meaning which can be deduced: to take smth for granted to be good at smth, bosom friends, to have a bite, to stick to one's word, etc.;
- phraseological unities with a completely changed meaning which can be deduced from the meaning of the constituent parts: to catch at a straw, to lose one's head, to lose one's heart to smb, the last drop, etc.
- phraseological fusions with completely changed meaning which cannot be deduced from the meaning of the constituent parts (denominated units): to come a cropper (~ to come to disaster), at sixes and sevens (~ in confusion), to set one's cap at smb. (~ to try and attract a man), to show the white feather (~ to show one's cowardice).
The classificaiton of ph.u-s suggested by prof. A.Kunin is based on the combined structural-semantic principle and also considers the degree of stability of ph.u. Acc. to Kunin there are 4 classes of ph.u:
- nominative, including one meaningful word: well and good, wear and tear, as the crow flies, etc;
- nominative-communicative: to break the ice - the ice is broken;
- ph.u. which are neither nominative nor communicative and include interjectional word-groups;
- communicative ph.u. represented by proverbs and sayings.
Thus phraseological units differ from word-groups in the lack of motivation, structural stability, word-equivalent function, idiomaticity.