Classification of Idioms

July 16, 2017 | Author: Branescu Oana | Category: Idiom, Linguistics, Semiotics, Grammar, Style (Fiction)
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Classification of idioms Idiomatic expressions form an important part of the English vocabulary and an active tool to conceptualize the social environment and reality around us. Grammarians and linguists have made many attempts over the time to categorize idioms. The categorization of idiomatic expressions might be a complex linguistic process. Idioms classification according to their spectrum of idiomacity It is one of the most important classification of idioms. The main characteristic feature that differentiates between the different kinds of idioms is the degree of idiomacity that an idiomatic expression carries. By this criterion , idioms may be classified in : •

transparent idioms: are those idiomatic string which are easy to comprehend and translate

and their meaning can be inferred from the significance of their constituents (one- to- one semantic relations between the idiom constituents and components of the idiom’s meaning) e.g to fight a loosing battle, back and forth, to see the light •

Semi-transparent idioms: Semi-transparent idioms are idiomatic expressions which usually carry a metaphorical sense

and their constituents have a small role in comprehending the overall meaning of the expression. e.g to break the ice ( to reveal the tension) •

Semi-opaque idioms: This group of idioms refers to those idiomatic expression in which the figurative sense is

not related to that of the constituent words of the expression e.g to pass the buck ( to pass responsibility) to know the rope (to know how a particular job should be done) •

Opaque idioms This type of idioms are the most difficult type of idiomatic expression because the relation

between idiom’s constituents and its maning may be opaque and the senses of individual words can be nevertheless constrain both interpretation and use ( e.g to burn one’s boat- to make retreat imposible) Moon (1998:3) claimed that “ an idiom is - a particular lexical collocation or phrasal lexeme, peculiar to a language”. In narrow terms, idiom is restricted to – fixed and semantically opaque or metaphorically lexical units (Moon 1998:4). Generally, idiom denote many kinds of multiword expressions. Semantic classification of idioms

Semantic classification in the field of categorization of idioms refers to the degree of noncompositionality of the idiomatic expressions. Idioms are frequently perceived as non-compositional expressions. According to the level of compositionality idioms can be classified into : figurative idioms , semi-idioms groups and pure idioms. •

Figurative idioms are non-compositional idioms with a clear figurative meaning as a whole ( transparent metaphors); for example, the underlying sense of futility in the phrase “ to carry coals to Newcastle ” is comprehensible by placing the action in a literal context Another relevant example for this type of idiomatic expressions: to add fuel to the fire, break the ice, fill the sink

Semi-idioms usually comprise of at least one literal and one figurative component, which gives them an overall partially compositional meaning (semi-transparent metaphors); the translator needs some specialist knowledge in order to understand their signification e.g bumper to bumper to skate on thin ice

Pure /opaque idioms

This type of idioms cannot be translated or interpreted compositionally. A relevant example of a pure idioms is “ to kick the bucket” as it is an opaque expression. The combination of these characteristics places pure idioms at the top of the scale of idiomaticity. Another signified example: over the moon, in a nutshell, etc. The classification of idioms according to the grammatical functions According to their grammatical or syntactic function in the text, idiomatic expression can be divided into: nominal idioms; verbal idioms; adjectival idioms ; adverbial idioms and sentence idioms. a) Nominal idiomatic expressions – are those idioms that perform the function of the noun in the sentence. The most typical grammatical patterns of this group are: noun+ conj+ noun : chapter and verse adjective+ noun : a small fortune; funnybone; grey matter noun+noun noun+conj+noun + noun noun+prep+noun b) Verbal idioms are the most frequent ones. They consists of 9 units: V+ N : to mark time; to take place; to break the news V+ prep: to look on; to water down; to show up (to appear)

V+prep+ N : to read between the lines; to fish for information V+N+ prep : to cast an eye over V+ pronoun+ Past Part: to keep someone posted V+ pronoun+ prep+ N: to put someone in the picture V+adj + N: to have a good press V+ adv+ N: to spread like wildfire V+ N: to ring a bell; to hit the headlines Adjectival idioms: are those groups of idioms that perform adjectival function in the sentence. They usually contain one or more adjectives. The adjectives appear mostly with another element, a noun or a verb, which makes then a nominal or verbal phrase. The most important feature of adjectival idioms is related to the adjectival pairs of words, which are usually connected by alliteration such as in safe and sound (safe), spick and span (very tidy), through thick and thin (always, whenever, in good or bad, here it is a figure of speech called an oxymoron- combination of two contradictory terms, at the same time), but this is not a rule, e.g . high and low (desperately). c) Adverbial idiomatic expressions are those groups of idioms that function as adverbs in the sentence. They usually contain one or more adverbials. Most of English idioms in this group follow patterns like: b) Prep+adj c) Prep+ noun (with or without an article): e.g in the doghouse (in disfavor) d) Adv+ prep+noun+noun c) Sentence (clause) idioms The most common sentence idioms are: I. II.

To have sharp ears for any gossip To have one’s lips sealed


Music to one’s ears


With a sting in its tail

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