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Phraseology as a linguistic discipline Theory of phraseology by Balli
Lecture 1. Phraseology as a linguistic discipline. Levels of studying phraseology.
Phraseology is a comparatively young field of linguistics which has only relatively recently become established as a self-contained linguistic discipline. Phraseology is pervasive in all language fields. The phraseology literature represents it as a subfield of lexicology dealing with the study of word combinations.
Along with the term “phraseological unit” generally accepted in our country there exist a lot of other terms, such as: set phrases, word equivalents, idioms. Numerous English dictionaries of idioms contain a wealth of proverbs, sayings, various expressions of all kinds, but, as a rule, they do not seek a reliable criterion to distinguish between free word-groups and phraseological units. The complexity of the problem may be largely accounted for by the fact, that the borderline between free word-groups and phraseological units is not clearly defined.
In linguistics, phraseology is the study of set or fixed expressions, such as idioms, phrasal verbs, and other types of multi-word lexical units (often collectively referred to as phrasemes), in which the component parts of the expression take on a meaning more specific than or otherwise not predictable from the sum of their meanings when used independently. For example, ‘Dutch auction’ is composed of the words Dutch ‘of or pertaining to the Netherlands’ and auction ‘a public sale in which goods are sold to the highest bidder’, but its meaning is not ‘a sale in the Netherlands where goods are sold to the highest bidder’. Instead, the phrase has a conventionalized meaning referring to any auction where, instead of rising, the prices fall.
In present-day the concepts of phraseologic unit and phraseologism are seriously challenged, on different levels, by the structures stable syntactic groups, phraseologic groups, constant word combinations, fixed word combinations, fixed syntagms, syntagmatic units.
Phraseology is a scholarly approach to language which developed in the twentieth century. It took its start when Charles Bally's notion of locutions phraseologiques entered Russian lexicology and lexicography in the 1930s and 1940s. The concept of phraseologic unit (unité phraséologique), first used by Charles Bally, in Précis de stylistique, was taken by V.V. Vinogradov and other Soviet linguists, who translated it as «фразеологічна одиниця», which led to the term frazeologhizm, with the same meaning, and then subsequently borrowed by different languages belonging to the European culture.
The earliest English adaptations of phraseology are by Weinreich (1969) within the approach of transformational grammar, Arnold (1973), and Lipka (1992, 1974). In Great Britain as well as other Western European countries, phraseology has steadily been developed over the last twenty years. The activities of the European Society of Phraseology (EUROPHRAS) and the European Association for Lexicography (EURALEX) with their regular conventions and publications attest to the prolific European interest in phraseology.
However, it is due to the expansive research of soviet school of linguists that phraseology has been established as a branch of linguistic science in its own right. The term phraseology designates the discipline as well as its object, the set or totality of phraseologic units in a given language. According to the origin of phraseologisms, a line has been drawn between two areas of investigation, namely, linguistic phraseology understood as “a community’s means of expression” and literary phraseology including “aphorisms, witticism, word combinations with an accidental character, belonging to certain writers, outstanding people”.
There are different definitions of the notion ‘phraseology’ and ‘phraseological unit.’ According to Prof. Kunin A.V., phraseological units are stable word-groups with partially or fully transferred meanings ("to kick the bucket", “Greek gift”, “drink till all's blue”, “drunk as a fiddler (drunk as a lord, as a boiled owl)”, “as mad as a hatter (as a march hare)”).
According to Rosemarie Gläser, a phraseological unit is a lexicalized, reproducible bilexemic or polylexemic word group in common use, which has relative syntactic and semantic stability, may be idiomatized, may carry connotations, and may have an emphatic or intensifying function in a text.
English and American linguists collect various words, word-groups, other units presenting some interest and describe them as idioms. 'Idioms are one of the most interesting and difficult parts of the English vocabulary. They are interesting because they are colourful and lively and because they are linguistic curiosities. At the same time, they are difficult because they have unpredictable meanings or collocations and grammar, and often have special connotations. Idioms are frequently neglected in general dictionaries and in classroom teaching, because they are considered marginal items which are quaint but not significant. Yet research into idioms shows that they have important roles in spoken language and in writing, in particular in conveying evaluations and in developing or maintaining interactions’, says Collins COBUILD Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs.
As an autonomous discipline, the object of research of phraseology consists in phraseologic units of a given language (or a group of languages).
While the notion of phraseology is a very widespread concept, different authors define it differently, sometimes do not provide a clear-cut definition, or conflate several terms that many scholars prefer to distinguish. Stefan Gries identifies a set of parameters that are typically implicated in phraseological research:
1. the nature of the elements involved in a phraseologism (lexical and grammatical items);
2. the number of elements involved in a phraseologism;
3. the number of times an expression must be observed before it counts as a phraseologism;
4. the permissible distance between the elements involved in a phraseologism (immediately adjacent elements, discontinuous phraseologisms);
5. the degree of lexical and syntactic flexibility of the elements involved (completely inflexible patterns, standardly quoted as by and large, relatively flexible patterns such as kick the bucket,which allows different tenses but, e.g., no passivization));
6. the role that semantic unity and semantic non-compositionality / non-predictability play in the definition (function as a semantic unit in sentence or clause).
According to these criteria Stefan Gries defines a phraseologism as the co-occurrence of a form or a lemma of a lexical item and one or more additional linguistic elements of various kinds which functions as one semantic unit in a clause or sentence and whose frequency of co-occurrence is larger than expected on the basis of chance. While this definition is maximally explicit with respect to the above-mentioned parameters, it follows that the range of phenomena regarded as phraseologisms is very large.
Phraseological units or idioms, as most Western scholars call them, represent the most colorful and expressive part of the English language vocabulary.
If synonyms may be figuratively referred to as the tints and colors of the vocabulary, then phraseology is a kind of picture gallery, in which are collected bright and amusing sketches of the nation’s customs, traditions, recollections of its past history, folk songs, fairy tales, quotations from the great poets, crude slang witticisms, etc. Phraseology is not only the most colorful, but probably the most democratic area of vocabulary and it drowse its resources mostly from the very depths of popular speech. Thus, together with synonymy and antonymy, phraseology represents expressive sources of vocabulary.
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