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MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE OF UKRAINE

PEDAGOGICAL UNIVERSITY
AFTER M. P. DRAHOMANOV

NATIONAL
NAMED

INSTITUTE OF FOREIGN PHILOLOGY

COURSE PAPER ON
THE PHRASEOLOGICAL UNITS OF
ENGLISH LANGUAGE

3rd year student


32 zan group
Institute of foreign philology
Major in English language and
literature
Iryna Lymarenko

Kyiv 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Introduction......................................................................................................... 3
2. Different approaches to the classification of
phraseological units............................................................................................ 5
2.1.

Logan Pearsall Smiths thematic (etymological)


classification............................................................................................ 8

2.2.

Classification by Viktor Vinogradov.................................................... 10

2.3.

Classification by Natalya Amosova.......................................................

2.4.

Classification by Alexander Kunin........................................................

2.5.

Classification by Irina Arnold................................................................

2.6.

Formal and functional classification......................................................

3. Conclusion............................................................................................................
4. References.............................................................................................................

1. Introduction
Phraseological units reflect the wealth of a language displaying cultural paradigms of
the speakers of a particular language. They reflect cultural archetypes of an ethnolinguistic community and help to make explicit the peculiarities of its world
perception. Phraseological units as the particular units of language came into the
focus of linguists attention in the beginning of the 20th century. In the second part of
the 20th century these word-combinations became the object of scientific
investigation.
The field of phraseology in any language is so varied and fascinating that one could
spend an entire lifetime considering and analysing it from various viewpoints.
A phraseological unit is an established, universal and essential element that, if used
with care, ornaments and enriches the language.
Phraseological units or idioms are probably the most picturesque, colourful and
expressive part of the language vocabulary, which reflect nations customs, traditions
and prejudices, recollections of its past history, scraps of folk songs and fairy tales.
But it is necessary to distinguish them from other words and phrases existing in the
language. [I.V. Zykova. A practical course of English lexicology, 2006)
http://englishlexicology.blogspot.com/2011/12/phraseology.html]
Phraseological unit or idiom, as it is called by most western scholars, is a word group
with a fixed lexical composition and grammatical structure; its meaning, which is
familiar to native speakers of the given language, is generally figurative and cannot
be derived from the meanings of the phraseological units component parts. The
meanings of phraseological units are the result of the given languages historical
development.
The term phraseological unit was first introduced by the Academician Viktor
Vinogradov. Phraseological units are word-groups that cannot be made in the process
of speech; they exist in the language as ready-made units. They are compiled in

special dictionaries. The same as words, phraseological units express a single notion
and are used in a sentence as one part of it. [Nikolenko, p.272-273]
The phraseological unit is a complex phenomenon with a number of important
feature, which can therefore be approached from different points of view. Hence,
there exists a considerable number of different classification systems devised by
different scholars and based on different principles.
Semantic approach stresses an importance of idiomaticity, functional syntactic
inseparability, contextual stability of context combined with idiomacity
[Nikolenko, p.277].
2. Different approaches to the classification of phraseological units
2.1. Logan Pearsall Smiths thematic (etymological) classification
The traditional and oldest principle for classifying phraseological units is based on
their original content and might be referred to as thematic. The approach is widely
used in numerous English and American guides to idiom, phrase books, etc. \on this
principle, idioms are classified according to their sources of origin, sources referring
to the particular sphere of human activity, of life of nature, of natural phenomena, etc.
Logan Smith gives in his classification groups of idioms used by sailors,
fishmongers, hunters and associated with the conditions of their occupations. In this
classification we also find groups of idioms associated with domestic and wild
animals and birds, agriculture and cooking. This principle of classification is
sometime called etymological; however the general principle is not etymological.
Logan Smith points out that the word-groups associated with the sea and the life of
seamen are especially numerous in the English vocabulary. Most of them have long
since developed metaphorical meanings which have no longer any association with
the sea or sailors, cf.:
to sink or swim to fail or succeed;
in deep water in trouble or danger;
to be in the same boat with somebody to be in a situation in which people share the
same difficulties and dangers;

to weather / to ride out the storm to overcome difficulties.


The thematic principle of classifying phraseological units has real merit but it does
not take into account the linguistic characteristic features of the latter. [Nikolenko,
p.278]
2.2. Semantic classification by Viktor Vinogradov
Academician Viktor Vinogradov offered first classification system of the
phraseological units which was based on the semantic principle.
The classification is based on the motivation of the unit, i.e. the relationship existing
between the meaning of the whole and the meaning of its component parts.
Vinogradov classifies phraseological units into three groups: phraseological
combinations, phraseological unities and phraseological fusions.
Phraseological combinations are partially motivated; they contain one component
used in its direct meaning while the other is used figuratively: meet the demand, meet
the requirements; to take something for granted.
Phraseological unities are clearly motivated. The emotional quality is based on the
image created by the whole, cf.:
a big pot a person of importance;
to lose ones head to be at a loss what to do; to be out of ones mind;
a fish out of water a person situated uncomfortably outside his usual environment.
Phraseological fusions are completely non-motivated word-groups, representing the
highest stage of blending together. In phraseological fusions the degree of motivation
is very low, we cannot guess the meaning of the whole from the meanings of its
components, they are highly idiomatic and cannot be translated word for word into
other languages, e.g. to pull ones leg to deceive; to show the white feather to act
like a coward. [Nikolenko, p.278-279]

2.3. Classification by Natalya Amosova


Natalia Amosovas approach is contextological. She defines phraseological units as
units of fixed context. Units of fixed context are subdivided into phrasemes and
idioms.
Phrasems are always binary: one component has a phraseologically bound meaning,
while the other serves as the determining context: e.g. small talk, small change.
In idioms the new meaning is created by the whole, though every element may have
its original meaning weakened or even completely lost: e.g. in the nick of time at
the exact moment.
Idioms may be motivated or demotivated. A motivated idiom is homonymous to a
free phrase, but this phrase is used figuratively: e.g. take the bull by the horns to
face dangers without fear. In the nick of time is demotivated, because the word nick is
obsolete. Both phrasemes and idioms may be movable (changeable) or immovable.
[Nikolenko p.281]
2.4. Classification by Alexander Kunin
Kunins classification is based on the functions the units fulfil in speech.
Phraseological units are subdivided into the following 4 groups according to their
function in communication determined by their structural-semantic characteristics:
1. Nominative phraseological units are represented by word-groups, including
the ones with one meaningful word, and coordinative phrases of the type wear
and tear, well and good. The first class also includes word-groups with a
predicative structure, such as as the crow flies, and also predicative phrases of
the type see how the land lies, ships that pass in the night.
2. Nominative-communicative phraseological units include word-groups of the
type to break the ice the ice is broken, that is, verbal word-groups which are
transformed into a sentence when the verb is used in the Passive Voice.
3. Phraseological units which are neither nominative nor communicative include
interjectional word-groups (e.g. a pretty kettle of fish).

4. Communicative phraseological units are represented by proverbs and


sayings. (e.g. An apple a day keeps the doctor away; Marriage in haste).
[Nikolenko, p.281-282]
2.5. Syntactical classification by Irina Arnold
Phraseological units can be classified as parts of speech. This classification was
suggested by Irina Arnold. Here we have the following groups:
a) noun phraseological units denoting an object, a person, a living being,
e.g. bullet train, latchkey child, redbrick university.
b) verb phraseological units denoting an action, a state, a feeling, e.g. to break the
log-jam, to get on somebodys coat tails, to be on the beam, to nose out, to make
headlines.
c) adjective phraseological units denoting a quality, e.g. loose as a goose, dull as
lead.
d) adverb phraseological units, such as: with a bump, in the soup, like a dream,
like a dog with two tails.
e) preposition phraseological units, e.g. in the course of, on the stroke of
f) interjection phraseological units, e.g. Catch me!, Well, I never! etc. [I.V.
Zykova. A practical course of English lexicology, 2006)
http://englishlexicology.blogspot.com/2011/12/phraseology.html]
2.6. Formal and functional classification
Formal classification distinguishes the following set expressions:
a) nominal phrases: the root of the trouble;
b) verbal phrases: put ones best foot forward;
c) adjectival phrases: as good as gold, red as a cherry;
d) adverbial phrases: from head to foot;
e) prepositional phrases: in the course of;
f) conjunctional phrases: as long as, on the other hand;
g) interjectional phrases: Well, I never!

This classification takes into consideration not only the type of component parts but
also the functioning of the whole, thus, tooth and nail is not a nominal but an
adverbial unit, because it serves to modify a verb (e.g. fight tooth and nail).
Within each of these classes a further subdivision is as follows:
a) Set expressions functioning like nouns:
N+N: maiden name the surname of a woman before she was married; brains trust
a committee of experts;
Ns + N: cats paw one who is used for the convenience of a cleverer and stronger
person;
Ns N: ladies man a man who enjoys being with and giving attention to women
N+prep+N: the arm of the law, skeleton in the cupboard;
N+A: knight errant the phrase is today applied to any chivalrous man ready to help
and protect oppressed and helpless people.
N+and+N: lord and master husband;
A+N: high tea an evening meal which combines meat or some similar extra dish
with the usual tea;
N+subordinate clause: ships that pass in the night chance acquaintances.
b) Set expressions functioning like verbs:
V+N: to take advantage;
V+and +V: to pick and choose;
V+(ones)+N+(prep):to snap ones fingers at;
V+one+N: to give one the bird to fire smb;
V+subordinate clause: to see how the land lies to discover the state of affairs.
c) Set expressions functioning like adjectives:
A+and+A: high and mighty;
(as) +A+as+N: as old as the hills, as mad as a hatter;
d) Set expressions functioning like adverbs:
N+N: tooth and nail;
prep+N: by heart, of course;
adv+prep+A+N: once in a blue moon;

prep+N+or+N: by hook or by crook;


conj+clause: before one can say Jack Robinson.
e) Set expressions functioning like prepositions:
prep+N+prep: in consequence of
f) Set expressions functioning like interjections.
These are often structured as imperative sentences: Bless (ones soul)! God bless me!
Hang it (all)! Take your time!

[Nikolenko, p.282-283]

3. Conclusions
Phraseology is a kind of picture gallery in which are collected vivid and amusing
sketches of the nations customs, traditions and prejudices, recollections of its past
history, scraps of folk songs and fairy tales. Quotations from great poets are preserved
here alongside the dubious pearls of philistine wisdom and crude slang witticisms, for
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.
Used with care is an important warning because speech overloaded with
phraseological units loses its freshness and originality. Idioms, after all, are readymade speech units, and their continual repetition sometimes wears them out; they lose
their colours and become trite clichs. On the other hand, oral or written speech
lacking phraseological units loses much in expressiveness, colour and emotional
force.

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References

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