The classification of phraseological units based on the semantic principle.


Paronyms are words resembling each other in form, but different in meaning and usage, e.g. ingenious ("clever"):: ingenuous ("frank", "artless)


Lecture 6. Phraseology: Word-Groups with Transferred Meanings


1. The classification of phraseological units based on the semantic principle.

2. The classification of phraseological units in accordance with their structure and their ability to perform the same syntactical functions as parts of speech.

3. The classification of phraseological units according to their functions in the acts of communication.

4. Semantic relations in phraseology.


Phraseological units, or idioms, as they are called by most western scholars, represent the most picturesque, colourful and expressive part of the language's vocabulary. Phraseology is a kind of picture gallery in which are collected vivid and amusing sketches of the nation's customs, traditions and prejudices, recollections of its past history, scraps of folk songs and fairy-tales. Phraseology is not only the most colourful but probably the most democratic area of vocabulary and draws its resources mostly from the very depths of popular speech.

Phraseological units are stable word-groups characterizedby a completely or partially transferred meaning. There exist several different classifications of phraseological units based on different principles.

According to the classification based on the semantic principle English phraseological units fall into the following classes;

1. Fusions- completely non-motivatedidiomatic word-groups, e.g. to show the white feather ("to betray one's cowardice"), to pull smb.s leg ("to deceive smb."), to hell the cat ("to take a risk for the good of others"), red tape ("bureaucratic delays"), a white elephant ("a present one can't get rid of), half seas over ("drunk"), once in a blue moon ("hardly at all" or "hardly ever"), etc.

2. Half-fusions - stable word-groups in which the leading component is literal, while the rest of the group is idiomalicaly fused, e.g. to rain cats and dogs (to rain heavily), to talk through one's hat ("to talk foolishly"), to work double tides ("to work very hard"), to buy smth. for a song ("to buy smth. very cheaply"), to pay through the nose ("to pay unreasonably much"), etc.

3. Unities - metaphorically motivated idioms, e.g. to make a mountain out of a molehill ("to become excited about trifles"), to play second fiddle ("to have a lower orless important position"), to wash one's dirty linen in public ("to tell people about one's hidden sins and faults"), a snake in the grass ("a person with harmful intentions"; "a hidden enemy"), etc.

4. Half-unities - binary word-groups in which one of the components is literal, while the other is phraseologically bound (the so-termed phrasemes), e.g. black frost ("frost without ice or snow"), small talk ("polite talk about unimportant things"), a tall story ("a lie"). Dutch courage ("courage of a drunk"),husband's tea ("very weak tea"), to talk turkey ("to talk plainly and honestly about practical matters'), etc.

5. Phraseological collocations (standardized phrases) - word-groupswith the components whose combinative power (valency) is strictly limited, e.g. to make friends (but not to do friends or to make comrades), to bear agrudge, to break silence, to make sure, to take into account, unconditional surrender, ways and means, now and then, etc.

6. Phraseological expressions - proverbs, sayings and aphoristic familiar quotations, e.g. Birds of a feather flock together (" ); Still water runs deep (= ); No pains no gains (= ); Something is rotten in the state of Denmark (= e , " , , "); Brevity is the soul of wit (= - ) (W. Shakespeare); Fools rush in where angels fear to tread (= ) (A Pope),etc.


  1. Arrange the following units into two lexical and two terminological sets. I Give them corresponding names.
  2. Classification of phraseological units and their structural types.
  3. Classification of word meaning
  5. Compare the meanings of the given words. Define what semantic features are shared by all the members of the group and what semantic properties distinguish them from each other.
  6. Derivational analysis and basic units of derivational system.
  7. Divergences in the semantic structure of words
  8. Free Word-Groups Versus Phraseological Units Versus Words
  9. Lesson 10 Branches, Services and Units of the US Armed Forces
  10. Objectively and subjectively conditioned transformations of lexical units in the process of translation.
  12. Semantic trends in grammar.

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