Free word groups. Phraseological units

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ng (sematic).

When the connection between the meaning of the word and its form is conventional (there is no perceptible reason for the word having this phonemic and morphemic composition) the word is non-motivated (for the present state of language development). Words that seem non-motivated now may have lost their motivation: earn is derived from earnian to harvest, but now this word is non-motivated.

As to compounds, their motivation is morphological if the meaning of the whole is based on the direct meaning of the components, and semantic if the combination is used figuratively: watchdog a dog kept for watching property (morphologically motivated); a watchful human guardian (semantically motivated).

Every vocabulary is in a state of constant development. Words that seem non-motivated at present may have lost their motivation. When some people recognize the motivation, whereas others do not, motivation is said to be faded.

Semantically all word-groups may be classified into motivated and non-motivated. Non-motivated word-groups are usually described as phraseological units or idioms.

Word-groups may be described as lexically motivated if the combined lexical meaning of the groups is based on the meaning of their components. Thus take lessons is motivated; take place occur is lexically non-motivated.

Word-groups are said to be structurally motivated if the meaning of the pattern is deduced from the order and arrangement of the member-words of the group. Red flower is motivated as the meaning of the pattern quality substance can be deduced from the order and arrangement of the words red and flower, whereas the seemingly identical pattern red tape (official bureaucratic methods) cannot be interpreted as quality substance.

Seemingly identical word-groups are sometimes found to be motivated or non-motivated depending on their semantic interpretation. Thus apple sauce, e.g., is lexically and structurally motivated when it means a sauce made of apples but when used to denote nonsense it is clearly non-motivated

Word-groups like words may be also analyzed from the point of view of their motivation. Word-groups may be called as lexically motivated if the combined lexical meaning of the group is deducible from the meaning of the components. All free phrases are completely motivated.

It follows from the above discussion that word-groups may be also classified into motivated and non-motivated units. Non-motivated word-groups are habitually described as phraseological units or idioms.

Investigations of English phraseology began not long ago. English and American linguists as a rule are busy collecting different words, word-groups and sentences which are interesting from the point of view of their origin, style, usage or some other features. All these units are habitually described as idioms, but no attempt has been made to describe these idioms as a separate class of linguistic units or a specific class of word-groups.

Difference in terminology (set-phrases, idioms and word-equivalents) 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.

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. Ray Jackendoff and Charles Fillmore offered a fairly broad definition of the idiom, which, in Fillmores 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.

Great work in this field has been done by the outstanding Russian linguist A. Shakhmatov in his work Syntax. This work was continued by Acad. V.V.Vinogradov. Great investigations of English phraseology were done by Prof. A. Cunin, I. Arnold and others.

Phraseological units are habitually defined as non-motivated word-groups that cannot be freely made up in speech but are reproduced as ready-made units; the other essential feature of phraseological units is stability of the lexical components and grammatical structure.

Unlike components of free word-groups which may vary according to the needs of communication, member-words of phraseological units are always reproduced as single unchangeable collocations. E.g., in a red flower (a free phrase) the adjective red may be substituted by another adjective denoting colour, and the word-group will retain the meaning: the flower of a certain colour.

In the phraseological unit red tape (brokratik metodlar) no such substitution is possible, as a change of the adjective would cause a complete change in the meaning of the group: it would then mean tape of a certain colour. It follows that the phraseological unit red tape is semantically non-motivated, i.e. its meaning cannot be deduced from the meaning of its components, and that it exists as a ready-made linguistic unit which does not allow any change of its lexical components and its grammatical structure.

Grammatical structure of phraseological units is to a certain degree also stable:

red tape a phraseological unit;

red tapes a free word-group;

to go to bed a phraseological unit;

to go to the bed a free word-group.

Still the basic criterion is comparative lack of motivation, or idiomaticity of the phraseological units. Semantic motivation is based on the coexistence of direct and figurative meaning.

Taking into consideration mainly the degree of idiomaticity phraseological units may be classified into three big groups. This classification was first suggested by Acad. V.V.Vinogradov. These groups are:

phraseological fusions,

phraseological unities,

phraseological collocations, or habitual collocations.

Phraseological fusions are completely non-motivated word-groups. Themeaning of the components has no connection at least synchronically with the meaning of the whole group. Idiomaticity is combined with complete stability of the lexical components and the grammatical structure of the fusion.

Phraseological unities are partially non-motivated word-groups as their meaning can usually be understood through (deduced from) the metaphoric meaning of the whole phraseological unit.

Phraseological unities are usually marked by a comparatively high degree of stability of the lexical components and grammatical structure. Phraseological unities can have homonymous free phrases, used in direct meanings.

  1. to skate on thin ice to skate on thin ice (to risk);
  2. to wash ones hands off dirt to wash ones hands off (to withdraw from participance);
  3. to play the first role in the theatre to play the first role (to dominate).

There must be not less than two notional wordsin metaphorical meanings.

Phraseological collocations are partially motivated but they are made up of words having special lexical valency which is marked by a certain degree of stability in such word-groups. In phraseological collocations variability of components is strictly limited. They differ from phraseological unities by the fact that one of the components in them is used in its direct meaning, the other in indirect meaning, and the meaning of the whole group dominates over the meaning of its components. As figurativeness is expressed only in one component of the phrase it is hardly felt.

  1. to pay a visit, tribute, attention, respect;
  2. to break a promise, a rule, news, silence;
  3. to meet demands, requirement, necessity;
  4. to set free; to set at liberty;
  5. to make money, journey;
  6. to fall ill.

The structure V + N (дополнение) is the largest group of phraseological collocations.

Phraseological units may be defined as specific word-groups functioning as word-equivalents; they are equivalent to definite classes of words. The part-of-speech meaning of phraseological units is felt as belonging to the word-group as a whole irrespective of the part-of-sp