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Phraseological units vs. free word-combinations. Criteria of distinction
Vinogradov – semantic classification based on the degree of the cohesion of the phraseological units. He classified them into 3 groups
1) Phraseological combinations / collocations. They are motivated – we can deduce the meaning knowing the meaning of the words of the phrase, one word having the transfer of meaning (“to have lunch”).
2) Phraseological unities – motivated but the components’ meanings are not direct (not all of them), the metaphore being slight and transparent (“to lose one’s head”).
3) Phraseological fusions – non-motivated word-combinations. One can’t deduce the whole meaning with the help of the components. Full transfer of meaning occurs (“white elephant”).
Structural classification – according to the key word of the phrase:
Classification by Smirnitsky.
1) one-summit units (phraseological units with one meaningful part) – phrasal verbs, verbal, adverbial phrases (“to be tired of”);
2) multi-summit units (more than one meaningful part) – attributive substantive, verbal, adverbial (“white lie”).
Communicative classification by Kunin.
1) idioms – stable word-groups characterized by complete or partial transfer of meaning;
3) phraseological units;
4) communicative phraseological units (proverbs, sayings).
Phraseological unitsare word-combinations characterized by semantic unity and complexity as well as structural inseparateability and invariability.
The term itself phraseological units to denote a specific group of phrases was introduced by Soviet linguists and is generally accepted in our country.
Attempts have been made to approach the problem of phraseology in different ways. Up till now, however, there is a certain divergence of opinion as to the essential feature of phraseological units as distinguished from other word-groups and the nature of phrases that can be properly termed phraseological units.
The complexity of the problem may be largely accounted for by the fact that the border-line between free or variable word-groups and phraseological units is not clearly defined. The so-called free word-groups are only relatively free as collocability of their member-words is fundamentally delimited by their lexical and grammatical valency which makes at least some of them very close to set-phrases. Phraseological units are comparatively stable and semantically inseparable. Between the extremes of complete motivation and variability of member-words on the one hand and lack of motivation combined with complete stability of the lexical components and grammatical structure on the other hand there are innumerable border-line cases.
However, the existing terms, e.g. set-phrases, idioms, word-equivalents, reflect to a certain extent the main debatable issues of phraseology which centre on the divergent views concerning the nature and essential features of phraseological units as distinguished from the so-called free word-groups. The term set-phrase implies that the basic criterion of differentiation is stability of the lexical components and grammatical structure of word-groups. The term idiom generally implies that the essential feature of the linguistic units under consideration is idiomaticity or lack of motivation. This term habitually used by English and American linguists is very often treated as synonymous with the term phraseological unit universally accepted in our country. The term word-equivalent stresses not only the semantic but also the functional inseparability of certain word-groups and their aptness to function in speech as single words.
Thus differences in terminology reflect certain differences in the main criteria used to distinguish between free word-groups and a specific type of linguistic units generally known as phraseology. These criteria and the ensuing classification are briefly discussed below.
Free word-combinations are those whose components are in their direct meaning and they can form new word-combinations. Also they are relatively free, but this freedom is restricted by grammar, combinability, & common sense.
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