Phraseology

1. The definition of the term ‘phraseology’.

2. Difference between phraseological units and free groups.

3. Proverbs, sayings and quotations.

4. Polysemy and synonymy of phraseological units.

5. Sources of phraseological units.

1. The definition of the term ‘phraseology’.

Speaking about phraseology we should say that it is a branch of linguistics studying word–groups consisting of two or more words whose combination is integrated as a unit (structure is stable) with a specialized meaning of the whole (with a transferred meaning), such as: ups and downs, for love or money, up to the mark, give a green light to, red–letter day, sleep like a log, pull somebody’s leg, that’s a horse of another colour, can the leopard change his sports? It goes without saying and so on. By the term ‘phraseology’we also mean the sum total of the mentioned expressions in the language.

Continued (intelligent) devotion to the problems of phraseology of such scholars as N.N. Amosova, A.V. Koonin and many, many others has turned phraseology into a full–fledged linguistic discipline. It is included into this course of lexicology only because so far this is where it belongs according to the curriculum.

The word ‘phraseology’ has very different meanings in this country and in Great Britain or the United States. Linguists in our country apply different criteria to phraseology. In English and American linguistics no special branch of study exists and the term ‘phraseology’ is a stylistic one, meaning ‘mode of expression, peculiarities of diction, i.e. choice and arrangement of words and phrases characteristic of some author or some literary work’.

Units of phraseology or phraseological units or idioms, as they are called by western scholars, represent the most expressive part of the language’s vocabulary.

Phraseological units or idioms are characterized by a double sense: the current meanings of constituent words build up a certain picture, but the actual meaning of the whole unit has little or nothing to do with this picture, in itself creating an entirely new image. So, a mare’s nest is actually not a nest, because a mare ‘a female horse’ has obviously no nest, it is ‘nonsense, a discovery which exists only in the imagination of the finder’.



A dark horse is not a horse of a dark colour, but ‘any mysterious person about whom little is known’ and so on.

The ambiguousness of these interesting word groups may lead to misunderstanding, especially for children who are apt to accept words at their face value.

Puns are frequently based on the ambiguousness of phraseological units.

So, together with synonymy and antonymy, phraseology represent expressive resources of vocabulary.

Phraseological units ornament and enrich the language. But we should remember not to overload our speech with them, because it can lose its freshness and originality. On the other hand, the speech lacking idioms loses much in expressiveness, colour and emotional force.

In modern linguistics there is considerable confusion about the terminology associated with these word–groups. Most Russian scholars use the term ‘phraseological unit’ (фразеологическая единица - ФЕ), introduced by academician V.V. Vinogradov. The term ‘idiom’ is widely used by western scholars. In Russian phraseology the term ‘idiom’ is applied only to a certain type of phraseological units (with completely transferred meaning).

Other terms denoting the same linguistic phenomenon are: set expressions, set phrases, fixed word–groups, collocations.

The confusion in the terminology reflects insufficiency of wholly reliable criteria by which phraseological units can be distinguished from free word–groups.

Free word–groups are so called not because of any absolute freedom in using them but simply because they are each time built up anew in the speech process whereas idioms are used as ready–made units with fixed and constant structures.


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