Similarity and Difference between a Set-Expression and a Word
The point of difference between a word and a set expression is the divisibility of a phraseological unit into separately structured elements VS the structural integrity of words. A set expression can be resolved into words - words are resolved into morphemes.
In phraseological units it is possible to make syntactic transformations without destroying their meaning: The chairman broke the ice // Ice was broken by the chairman.
Classification of pharaseological units
I. The most popular classifications of phraseological units belong to Russian linguists. A synchronic classification of Academician V.V. Vinogradov based on the views of the Swiss linguist Charles Bally takes into consideration the degree of motivation of the unit, i.e. the relationship existing between the meaning of the whole and the meaning of its component parts.
Phraseological fusions demonstrate the highest degree of idiomaticity: the meaning of components is completely absorbed by the meaning of the whole; it is impossible to find full equivalents to them in other languages.
To be sent to Coventry - Піддатися бойкоту, ізоляції. Coventry was a parliamentary stronghold in the Civil War, and troublesome royalist prisoners were sent there for safe keeping;
To kick the bucket - Зіграти в ящик;
Cock-and-bull story - небилиця, баляси на колесах;
The king's picture - фальшива монета;
To be on tenter hooks - мучитися невідомістю, бути як на голках (гачки для натягування полотна)
Phraseological unities are motivated through the image created by the whole construction; it is possible to sometimes replace them with synonyms:
To dot the i's and cross the t's - поставити всі крапки над i, to round the thing off, to complete;
To go through fire and water - пройти вогонь і воду;
To flog a dead horse - даремно витрачати силу;
To skate on thin ice - ризикнути.
Phraseological combinations are motivated, semantically transparent; one of their components is used in its direct meaning while the other can be used figuratively:
to get in touch with, to take effect, to take revenge, to hold office, to lose one's way.
II. In the classification suggested by a representative of the linguistic school of St. Petersburg's university prof. N.N. Amosova the accent is made on context.
Phraseological units are units of fixed context which is characterized by a specific and unchanging sequence of definite lexical components, and a peculiar semantic relationship between them.
Phrasemes (which are always binary) contain one component which is phraseologically bound, the second serves as the determining context:
green eye (Ревнивий погляд), green years (Юні роки), green wound (Незагоєна рана), green hand (Недосвідчений працівник), green finger (Садівниче мистецтво), green wood (Невитримана деревина).
Idioms possess the meaning which is created by the whole; individual meanings of the components may either be retained or lost: to know the ropes (Володіти досконало), to pin one's heart on one's sleeve (Не приховувати своїх почуттів). A knight in the "brave old days", went into combat with his lady's favour pinned to his sleeve.
To play the wrong card (Зробити невірний крок).
III. Prof. A.V. Koonin considers phraseology to be an independent linguistic science and bases his classification of phraseological units on the functions they fulfill in speech. He distinguishes:
1) Nominative phraseological units:
A grass widow (Солом'яний вдова), Indian summer (бабине літо), maiden speech (Перша мова нового члена парламенту), pin-up girl (Фотографія красуні), sheet anchor (Останній притулок, єдина надія).
2) Interjectional phraseological units:
By George! Come, come! Like hell! My foot! (чорта з два). Bless me! Draw it mild! (не перебільшуй!)
3) Communicative phraseological units:
(Do not) teach your grandmother to suck eggs (Не вчи вченого! Яйця курку не вчать!)
That's all Hookey Walker! (Все це дурниця);
Walls have ears (І стіни мають вуха);
You can not serve God and Mammon (Syrian "mamona" mean "riches").
4) Nominative-communicative phraseological units:
To carry the day - Взяти верх, вийти переможцем;
To put one's foot in the mouth - Влипнути, зганьбитися;
To hand smb. a lemon - Обдурити, обдурити кого-небудь;
To set the Thames on fire - Зробити що-небудь незвичайне.
We should not confuse with phraseological units stable combinations of words that have their literal meaning, and are not of phraseological character: the back of the head, the blue sky, to read a book.
In these word-combinations we can change every element, any substitution is permitted. E.g. to go early - "go" may be preceded by any noun or followed by any adverbial. In semi-fixed combinations we deal with certain limitations (to go to bed, to go to school, to give a smile).
If substitution is only partial and the elements are constant (fixed) we deal with a set expression.
In: "As busy as a bee", "time and again", "green love" we see the extreme of restrictions. Here no substitution is possible because it can destroy the integral meaning of the whole, to say nothing of stylistic and emotional colouring. The expression "A square head", For example, is a derogatory name, for a Scandinavian. Thus, "To cut bread" and "To cut a poor figure" are entirely different: the substitution of "cut" and "figure" are impossible. Only "poor" may be substituted for "miserable", "grand", "ridiculous".
IV. A peculiar classification of phraseological units in the English language belongs to A.I. Smirnitsky. He classifies phraseological units from the point of view of semantic relationship between the components, from the point of view of their structure into one-summit and many-summit phraseological units. One-summit phraseological units are composed of a notional and a form word, as in "In the soup" - у складному становищі, "In the pink" - В розквіті, "On the rocks" - В фінансовому краху.
Many-summit phraseological units are composed of two or more notional words; "To take the bull by the horns", "To wear one's heart on one's sleeve", "to know which side one's bread is buttered".
A.I. Smirnitsky classifies phraseological units into traditional phraseological units (фразеологічні одиниці) and idioms. Phraseological units ( "To fall in love", "to take to drinking") Are stylistically neutral and devoid of metaphorical expressiveness when compared to idioms ( "To take the bull by the horns", "to pay through the nose", "to be born on the wrong side of the blanket").
V. The traditional and oldest principle for classifying phraseological units is thematic.
It is widely used in numerous English and American guides to idiom, phrasebooks, collections of "unusual" word-combinations. Thus, L.P. Smith gives in his classification groups of idioms used by sailors, fisherman, soldiers, hunters, etc.
In some cases the origin of these units is given though the general principle and is not etymological. This principle of classification deserves attention but it does not take into consideration the linguistic characteristics of these units.
Proverbs, sayings, Familiar Quotations, Cliches
They are excluded from phraseology by J. Casares and N.N. Amosova because they are independent communicative units and not fragments of other sentences and because the meaning of component parts does not show any changes when compared to the meaning of the same words in free combinations.
Proverbs express national wisdom, they are instructive and didactic sentences with a traditional and mostly figurative meaning:
The proof of the pudding is in the eating;
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush;
People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
They have much in common with phraseological units due to the stability of their components and ready-made reproduction in speech. I.V. Arnold, A.V. Koonin, V.V. Vinogradov think that proverbs must be studied together with phraseological units. Set expressions are very often built on their bases:
A drowning man will clutch at a straw;
To clutch at a straw.
Familiar quotations have a literary character and constitute the cultural treasure of the language testifying to the richness of one's background knowledge, especially those from classical sources, Shakespeare, other celebrities. Sometimes we may preserve the original form:
Cum grano salis (With a pinch of salt), O tempora, o mores! Cherche la femme! Ordnung mu? sein!
Cliches are phrases which became habitual and lost their original expressiveness: the irony of fate, to break the ice, the sleep of the just.
Sayings are communicative phraseological units of colloquial character expressing positive and negative evaluation which are devoid of didactic force:
Does you mother know you are out? (У вас молоко на губах не обсохло)
Put that in your pipe and smoke it (Зарубайте це на носі)
Paradigmatic treatment of phraseological units must be completed by the study of their actual usage in speech where they undergo grammatical and lexical changes and determined by the context.
"I am always thinking of the bricks they may drop during my absence".
"Everybody knows him belonging to the apple of his uncle's eye".
Various lexical modifications are more interesting: we may insert a word to intensify and concretize the meaning, making it applicable to this particular situation. "I was not keen on washing this kind of dirty linen in public". (C.P. Snow).
To make the utterance more expressive one of the components of the idiom may be replaced by some other;
"You're a dog in the manger [MeInGq], are not you dear? And it was true enough: indeed she was a bitch in the manger " (A. Christie).
One or more components of the idiom may be left out, but the integrity of the meaning of the whole idiom is retained, eg: "I've never spoken to you or anyone else about the last election. I suppose I've got to now. It's better to let it lie, "Said Brown. (C.P. Snow).
In the idiom "Let the sleeping dogs lie" two of the elements are missing, and "it" refers to the preceding text.
"Bundle wondered vaguely what it was that Bill had or thought he had - up in his sleeve. (A. Christie)
(To have a card up one's sleeve).
"She does not seem to think you are a snake in the grass, Though she sees a good deal of grass for a snake to be in. (E. Bowen)
(A snake in the grass)