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Typology of Phraseological Units in English

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Typology of phraseological units in English Difference in terminology (“set-phrases”, “idioms” and “word-equivalents” [1]) reflects certain differences in the main criteria used to distinguish types of phraseological units and 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. There is a certain divergence of opinion as to the essential features of phraseological units as distinguished from other word-groups and the nature of phrases that can be properly termed “phraseological units”.

The habitual terms “set-phrases”, “idioms”, “word-equivalents” are sometimes treated differently by different linguists. However these terms reflect to certain extend the main debatable points of phraseology which centre in the divergent views concerning the nature and essential features of phraseological units as distinguished from the so-called free word-groups [2, p. 100]. The term “set expression” implies that the basic criterion of differentiation is stability of the lexical components and grammatical structure of word-groups.

The term “word-equivalent” stresses not only semantic but also functional inseparability of certain word-groups, their aptness to function in speech as single words. The term “idioms” generally implies that the essential feature of the linguistic units under consideration is idiomaticity or lack of motivation. Uriel Weinreich expresses his view that an idiom is a complex phrase, the meaning of which cannot be derived from the meanings of its elements. He developed a more truthful supposition, claiming that an idiom is a subset of a phraseological unit.

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Ray Jackendoff and Charles Fillmore offered a fairly broad definition of the idiom, which, in Fillmore’s words, reads as follows: “…an idiomatic expression or construction is something a language user could fail to know while knowing everything else in the language”. Chafe also lists four features of idioms that make them anomalies in the traditional language unit paradigm: non-compositionality, transformational defectiveness, ungrammaticality and frequency asymmetry [6, p. 1-3].

The term “idiom”, both in this country and abroad, is mostly applied to phraseological units with completely transferred meanings, that is, to the ones in which the meaning of the whole unit does not correspond to the current meanings of the components. According to the type of meaning phraseological units may be classified into: •Idioms; •Semi-idioms; •Phraseomatic units (after Ryzhkova). Idioms are phraseological units with a transferred meaning. They can be completely or partially transferred (red tape [3, p. 740]). Semi-idioms are phraseological units with two phraseosemantic meanings: terminological and transferred (chain reaction [3, p. 10], to lay down the arms [3, p. 33]). Phraseomatic units are not transferred at all. Their meanings are literal. Other types of phraseological units are also distinguished: •Phrases with a unique combination of components (born companion [3, p. 138]); •Phrases with a descriptive meaning; •Phrases with phraseomatic and bound meaning (to pay attention to [3, p. 40]); •Set expressions (cliches) (the beginning of the end [3, p. 59]); •Preposition-noun phrases (for good [3, p. 311], at least [3, p. 414]); •Terminological expressions (general ticket [3, p. 755], civil war [3, p. 121]) (after Ryzhkova).

Semantic complexity is one of the most essential qualities of phraseological units. It’s resulted from the complicated interaction of the component meanings (meaning of prototype, of semantic structure etc. ). All these components are organized into a multilevel structure [4]. Idioms contain all information in compressed form. This quality is typical of idioms, it makes them very capacious units (idiom is a compressed text). An idiom can provide such a bright explanation of an object that can be better than a sentence. We can compare idioms with fables (the Prodigal son [3, p. 571]).

Idioms based on cultural components are not motivated (the good Samaritan [5], Lot’s wife [5], the Troy horse [5]). Phraseological meaning contains background information. It covers only the most essential features of the object it nominates. It corresponds to the basic concept, to semantic nucleus of the unit. It is the invariant of information conveyed by semantically complicated word combinations and which is not derived from the lexical meanings of the conjoined lexical components [4]. According to the class the word-combination belongs to, we single out: •idiomatic meaning; idiophraseomatic meaning; •phraseomatic meaning (after Ryzhkova). The information conveyed by phraseological units is thoroughly organized and is very complicated. It is characterized by: 1) multilevel structure; 2) structure of a field (nucleus + periphery); 3) block-schema (after Ryzhkova). It contains 3 macro-components which correspond to a certain type of information they convey: •the grammatical block; •the phraseological meaning proper; •motivational macro-component (phraseological imagery; the inner form of the phraseological unit; motivation) (after Ryzhkova).

Phraseological unit is a non-motivated word-group that cannot be freely made up in speech but is reproduced as a ready made unit. Reproducibility is regular use of phraseological units in speech as single unchangeable collocations. Idiomaticity is the quality of phraseological unit, when the meaning of the whole is not deducible from the sum of the meanings of the parts. Stability of a phraseological unit implies that it exists as a ready-made linguistic unit which does not allow of any variability of its lexical components of grammatical structure.

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