Typology of fixed expressionsFixed expressions are not a unifiedphenomenon, no generally agreed set ofcategories, no generally agreed set of terms, sono clear classifications are possible.This typology is based on reasons why eachpotential FEI might be regarded lexicographicallyas a holistic unit, i.e. whether the string isproblematic and anomalous on grounds oflexicogrammar, pragmatics , or semantics.This led to three macrocategories of FEIs.
3 macrocategoriesAnomalous collocations – problematic interms of lexicogrammarFormulae - problematic in terms ofpragmaticsMetaphors - problematic in terms ofsemantics
Anomalous collocationsAnomalous collocations are problematicin lexicogrammatical terms – they aresyntagmatically or paradigmaticallyaberrant. Therefore, they cannot bedecoded purely compositionally norencoded freely.
Subclassification of anomalous collocations Anomalous collocations are subdivided according to the nature of the anomaly into:(1) Ill-formed collocations – break the conventional grammatical rules of English (e.g. at all, by and large, of course, stay put)(2) Cranberry collocations – include items that are unique to the string and not found in other collocations (e.g. in retrospect, kith and kin, on behalf of someone/something, short shrift, to and fro)(3) Defective collocations – cannot be decoded purely compositionally mostly because a component item has a meaning not found in other collocations or contexts, although it has other compositional meanings; or because one or more of the component items is semantically empty (e.g. at least, a foregone conclusion, in effect, beg the question, in time)(4) Phraseological collocations – consist of cases where there is a limited paradigm in operation and other analogous strings may be found, but where the structure is not fully productive (e.g. in action, into action, out of action; on show, on display; to a ____ degree, to a ____ extent)
FormulaeFormulae are problematic because oftheir discoursal functions: they arespecialized pragmatically. They generallyconform to lexicogrammatical conventionsof English, and are generallycompositional semantically, althoughsome similes and proverbs are obscure ormetaphorical.
Subclassification of formulae(1) Simple formulae – routine compositional strings; nevertheless, they have some special discoursal function or are iterative or emphatic, as well as syntagmatically fixed (e.g. alive and well, I’m sorry to say, not exactly, pick and choose, you know)(2) Sayings – include formulae such as quotations, catch-phrases and truisms (e.g. curiouser and curiouser, don’t let the bastdards grind you down, that’s the way the cookie crumbles)(3) Proverbs – metaphorical proverbs (e.g. you can’t have your cake and eat it, every cloud has a silver lining), non-metaphorical proverbs (enough is enough, first come first served)(4) Similes – institutionalized comparisons that are typically transparent, but not always, and are signalled by as or like (e.g. as good as gold, as old as the hills, like lambs to the slaughter, live like a king)
Subclassification of formulaedon’t let the bastdards grind you down = Oftengiven in the Latin version - nil carborundumillegitimi. The phrase originated during WorldWar II. Lexicographer Eric Partridge attributes itto British army intelligence very early in the war .The phrase was adopted by US Army general"Vinegar" Joe Stillwell as his motto during thewar. It was later further popularized in the US by1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwatercuriouser and curiouser = from Alice inWonderland by Lewis Carroll
MetaphorsMetaphors are strings that are non-compositional because of theirsemantics: they include pure idioms.Sublassification of metaphors reflectsdegrees of transparency.
Subclassification of metaphors(1) Transparent metaphors – are those that are institutionalized but the image or vehicle of the metaphor is such that the reader/hearer can be expected to decode it successfully by means of his real-world knowledge (e.g. alarm bells ring, behind someone’s back, breathe life into something, on someone’s doorstep, pack one’s bags)(2) Semi-transparent metaphors – require some specialist knowledge in order to be decoded. Not all speakers of a language may understand the reference. If the institutionalized idiomatic meaning is unknown, there may be two or more possible interpretations (e.g. grasp the nettle, on an even keel, the pecking order, throw in the towel, under one’s belt). Grasp the nettle – means ‘tackle something difficult with determination and without delay’, but someone not knowing the metaphor might easily interpret it as ‘do something foolish which will have unpleasant consequences’.(3) Opaque metaphors – are pure idioms, and in them compositional decoding and interpretation of the image are practically impossible without knowledge of the historical origins of the expression (bite the bullet, kick the bucket, over the moon, red herring, shoot the breeze)
CollocationLanguage is strongly patterned: manywords occur repeatedly in certainlexicogrammatical patterns.Psycholinguistic research – language isprocessed in chunks. The basic unit forencoding and decoding may be the group,set phrase, or collocation, rather thanortographic word.
Collocation - definition‘Collocation is the occurrence of two ormore words within a short space of eachother in a text.’ (J.M. Sinclair, Corpus,Concordance, Collocation, OUP, 1991)Collocation denotes frequently repeated orstatistically significant co-occurrences,whether or not there are any specialsemantic bonds between collocatingitems.
CollocationCollocation – simple co-occurrence ofitemsAnomalous collocation – designates aclass of FEIs, with subtypes (ill-formedcollocation, cranberry collocation,defective collocation, phraseologicalcollocation)
Kinds of collocationCollocations are the lexical evidence that words do not combine randomlybut follow rules, principles, and real-world motivations. Different kinds ofcollocation reflect different kinds of phenomenon.The simplest kind arises through semantics: co-occurrence of co-membersof semantic fields, represenring co-occurrence of the referents in the realworld, e.g. word jam co-occurs with other words from the lexical set ‘food’,such as tarts, butty, doughnuts, marmalade, apricot, strawberry.A second kind of collocation arises where a word requires association witha member of a certain class or category of item, and such collocations areconstrained lexicogrammatically as well as semantically, e.g. word rancid,adj. is typically associated with butter, fat, and foods containing butter or fat.In other cases, a word has a particular meaning only when it is in collocationwith certain other words, e.g. face the truth/facts/problem. Also, selectionrestrictions on verbs may specify certain kinds of subject or object, e.g. theverb drink normally requires a human subject and a liquid as object.
Kinds of collocationA third kind of collocation is syntactic,and arises where a verb, adjective, ornominalization requires complementationwith, for example, a specified particle.Such collocations are grammatically wellformed and highly frequent, but notnecessarily holistic and independent, e.g.to be, one of, had been, you know, thankyou very much, are going to be, etc.
Two principles underlying language The open choice principle The idiom principle These two principles are diametrically opposed,and both are required in order to account for language. The open choice principle – a way of seeing language text as a result of a very large number of complex choices. At each point where a unit is completed (a word or a phrase or a clause) a large range of choices opens up, and the only restraint is grammaticalness. The idiom principle – a language user has available to him a large number of semi-prestructured phrases that constitute single choices. Thus at a point in text where the open choice model would suggest a large range of possible choices, the idiom principle restricts it over and above predictable semantic restraints that result from topic or situational context. A single choice in one slot may be made which dictates which elements will fill the next slot/s, and prevents the use of free choice.
Two principles underlying language Example: of course – orthography and the open choice model suggests that this sequence comprises two different choices: one at the of slot, and one at the course slot. – the idiom principle suggests that it is a single choice which coincidentally occupies two word spaces.
The idiom principleThis principle is seen not only in fixed strings (e.g. ofcourse) but also in other kinds of phraseological unit,e.g. greetings and social routines demonstrate the idiomprinciple. Sociocultural rules of interaction restrictchoices within an exchange which may be realized infairly fixed formulations.Sayings, similes, and proverbs also represent singlechoices, even when they are truncated or manipulated,and they may be prompted discoursally as stereotypedresponses, e.g. (every cloud has) a silver lining; no newsis good news – these are predictable comments oncommon experiences.
The idiom principleThere are also recurrent clauses andother units that demonstrate the idiomprinciple, e.g. from can I come in?, are youready? to it’s as easy as falling off a log.Memorized clauses and clause sequencesform a high proportion of the fluentstretches of speech heard in everydayconversation.
Psycholinguistic aspects of chunkingResearch into language acquisition –suggests that language is learned, stored,retrieved, and produced in multi-worditems, not just as individual words orterms.
Processing of FEIsResearch into the psycholinguistic processing of FEIs adresses questionssuch as: how FEIs are recognized; how they are stored in the mentallexicon; whether idiomatic meanings are retrieved before, after, orsimultaneously with literal meanings; how variations and inflections arehandled.In attempting to find out how FEIs are processed, the notion of the ‘idiomlist’ has been incorporated into the hypothesis that idioms are storedseparately in the mental lexicon. The analysis of the literal meaning occursseparately from the idiomatic meaning. The literal meaning is normallyprocessed first, and when the processing fails to yield an interpretation forthe context, the ‘idiom list’ is accessed.According to another hypothesis, idioms are stored and retrieved like singlewords and idiomatic and literal meanings are processed simultaneously.The experiments show that subjects decode idiomatic meanings faster thanliteral ones.There is a third hypothesis, which introduces the notion of the ‘key’ word,which is a component word in an FEI that triggers recognition of the whole.
LexicalizationWith respect to FEIs, lexicalization is the process bywhich a string of words and morphemes becomesinstitutionalized as part of the language and develops itsown specialist meaning or function.Lexicalization of FEIs results from a three-way tensionbetween quantitative criterion of institutionalization, thelexicogrammatical criterion of fixedness, and thequalitative criterion of non-compositionality, but there areproblems with all these criteria: institutionalization andfrequency are not enough on their own, fixedness can bemisleading (there is instability of forms), non-compositionality is dependent on the ways in which themeanings of individual words are analysed both indictionaries and notional lexicons.
Diachronic considerationsInstituationalization is a diachronic process – much of the lexical,syntactic and semantic anomalousness of FEIs results fromhistorical processes. Cranberry collocations such as to and fro andkith and kin contain lexical items that were formerly current.The ill-formed collocation through thick and thin is an ellipsis ofthrough thicket and thin wood, and of course is an ellipsis of amatter of course, or of course and custom, or of common course.FEIs disappear, and others emerge.Metaphors, initially transparent, come in from sporting, technical,and other specialist domains, e.g. business metaphors such asthere’s no such thing as a free lunch. As neologisms becomeinstitutionalized and divorced from their original contexts of use, theexplanation or motivation for the metaphor may become lost orobscure.
Diachronic considerationsSome metaphorical FEIs and proverbs may betraced back to classical or Biblical sayings orhistorical events, e.g.better late than never, allroads lead to Rome, an eye for an eye, burnone’s bridges/boats.Catchphrases drawn from cinema, television,politics, journalism and so on becomeinstitutionalized as sayings and other kinds offormula – this is an obvious way in which Englishfixed expressions realize intertextuality:
Diachronic considerationsAnd now for something completely differentDidn’t she do wellGo ahead, make my dayI think we should be toldI’ll be backI’ll have what she’s havingPass the sick bag, AliceThat will do nicelyThere is no alternative (abbreviated as TINA)This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendshipThe white heat of this revolutionWe wuz robbedIt takes two to tango (song by Hoffman and Manning)When the going gets tough, the tough get going (popularized by JosephKennedy)The opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings (Dan Cook)
Diachronic considerationsThe catchphrases above are associated with a memorable event orfilm sequence, or consistent media use, they are repeated ascommentary devices, greetings and so on, and become situationallyor culturally bound.In other cases, FEIs become established as pithy ways ofexpressing or referring to concepts; hyphenation is an indicator ofthe process of institutionalization and lexicalization. The catenationof strings into quasi-single words signals the writer’s intention toconsider a string as a unit, e.g.:on a first-come-first-served basishis charity-begins-at-home appeala don’t-take-no-for-an-answer messageSix months ago it (sc. a hotel) changed owners, but remained in thehello-how-may-I-help-you-realmThe chaos might amuse the man who belonged to the live-fast-die-young-have-a-good-looking-corpse school.