Inflectability of verbs in predicate FEIsVerbs in predicate FEIs normally inflect,although there may be restrictions onnumber, tense, aspect, voice and mood.Also, other lexical items that supplysubjects, objects and prepositional objectsalmost always inflect fully. The exceptionsinvolve requirements for inserted nouns tobe plural (e.g. X+Y rub shoulders, or Xrubs shoulders with Y)
Inflectability of nouns in FEIsThe problem of inflectability mainly involves thefixed nouns and adjectives in FEIs.Nouns in non-metaphorical FEIs are more likelyto inflect than ones in metaphors.Nouns bill, conclusion, and question inflect freelyin FEIs foot the bill, a forgone conclusion, andbeg the question.The nouns in kick the bucket, bite the bullet andspill the beans do not change, but in FEIs have achip on one’s shoulder, and (have) a frog inone’s throat both nouns pluralize.
Inflectability of nouns in FEIsWhen we talk about particular FEIs, nothing systematicaccounts for the way in which words denoting parts ofthe body inflect in some FEIs, in accordance with thenumber of the grammatical subject or referent, but not inothers. The problem is at its most acute where the FEIcontains an item (often metonymic) such as eye, ear,orhand, which is singular in the FEI, but normally found inpairs in the real world. These items rarely, if ever, occurin plural in FEIs. For example, FEIs containg an item ear:a word in someone’s ear, be beaming from ear to ear,bend someone’s ear (“peglati koga”), (with) half an ear,keep one’s ear to the ground, lend someone an ear, playsomething by ear, turn a deaf ear.
Inflectability of nouns in FEIsIn terms of inflectability, there is aninteresting distinction between He haspulled our legs (which refers to separateoccasions) and He has pulled our leg(which refers to a single occasion affectingthe plural referent of our). The distinctioncan also mean that with the plural forms,the focus is on the individualexperiencers, whereas with the singular,focus is on the mass.
Inflectability of nouns in FEIs(1) Like a lot of Mt Isa old-timers, he’ll yarn to visitors, happily pulling their legs a little, becoming just a little impatient with complaints about modern living in the outback.(2) Ms Thomson is already making plans for next year’s eisteddfod: ‘It has proved so popular we must limit the number of acts but all children will take part.’ It’s a worthy cause but is Ms Thomson pulling our leg by saying the eisteddfod is part of the Excellence In Education In the Outback?
Inflectability of nouns in FEIsThere seems to be insecurity amongst speakersconcerning pluralizations – the FEIs arecomparatively infrequent, plural subjects are notthat common, and the rules are not formalized.A partial solution is suggested by the occasionaluse of an inserted plural marker: collective isused as a grammatical device in metaphoricalFEIs with plural subjects or referents andindeterminate rules for pluralization; corporateis also used in this way, although this insertion isinfluenced by management or business context.
Inflectability of nouns in FEIs In all examples, the action denoted by the FEI is a mass experience or joint action, rather than affecting people individually:1. But advertisers have since mostly seen that they have shot themselves and their viewers in their collective feet.2. Banks, building societies and other high street lenders look set to put a collective hand in their pockets to help people in debt.3. ...it is qualitatively different from the old review of the franchises where, provided the corporate nose had been kept reasonably clean, a renewal was virtually certain.4. Tobacco was carrying health warnings in the West and it seemed prudent not to put all your corporate eggs into one basket.Shoot someone in the foot = do or say sth. stupid which causes problems for youPut one’s hand in one’s pocket = give money to charityKeep one’s nose clean = keep out of trouble, esp. trouble with lawPut all one’s eggs in one basket = make everything dependent only on one thing
Distribution of proverbs in main and subordinate clauses The author did not record in her database the tenses in which FEIs occurred in her corpus; she did not record mood choices of interrogative and imperative either, except where they were fossilized and near-mandatory, nor the clause types in which FEIs occurred in her corpus. However, the distribution of proverbs in main and subordinate clauses shows some regularity. 20% of proverbs occur in subordinate clauses, typically report clauses. In this way, the selection of the proverb represents a further level of distancing or interpretation on the part of the speaker/writer, reporting and sheltering behind received wisdom.
Examples of proverbs used in subordinate clauses1. There comes a point when we have to say enough is enough.2. Dudgeon, who throughout his professional life stressed that prevention is better than cure, had the highly original idea that preliminary trials should be undertaken in closed religious communities.3. You have to accept the notion that two heads are better than one.
Polarity (positive vs negative)Negation is a very basic transformation.Around 5% of database FEIs areconventionally negative, i.e. a negative ispart of the canonical expression. Forexample: I kid you not, leave no stoneunturned, no laughing matter, not lift afinger, there is no time to lose, (thereis) nothing new under the sun.
NegationA few other FEIs typically occur innegative environments, for example: lift afinger, a red cent, at all, in the least, bethe end of the world.
Negation The proportion of positive and negative clauses as regards FEIs, more specifically proverbs: The typical case is where the canonical form is a negative imperative or modal (Don’t..., You can’t...): such examples can be transformed to positive predicates, although a negative evaluation may still be implied, e.g.:(1) He wanted to have his cake and eat it – somehow to marry Mrs. Simpson and yet to remain on the throne. = you can’t have your cake and eat it(2) Well, Mr Patten will do his best to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, and the audience will know it was not his idea. = you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear (= you cannot make a good quality product, using bad quality materials)
Negation In a few cases, proverb tokens have their conventional polarity (either negative or positive), but are then contradicted in the further text:(1) Variety, as the poet William Cowper first observed, may be ‘the very spice of life’. But in motor racing, the less the variety, the spicier the contest.
Passivization There are FEIs where passive forms are at least as common as active forms:(1) X bears something in mind something is borne in mind(2) X cuts Y short Y is cut short
Passivization There are FEIs where there is no evidence in the corpus of active forms:(1)something is cheered to the echo = shout and call a lot in order to support someone(2)X is laughed out of court = dismiss something presented in earnest as ridiculous(3)X is mentioned in dispatches = be commended for one’s actions by name in an official military report
Nonfinite uses FEIs can be used as –ing forms or infinitives:(1)Or some writers felt they had earned the right in the Seventies, and now had the duty, to participate in the reassessment of the Left, if necessary by washing dirty linen in public. Most writers have done a bit of both.(2)A much grander house, the property of firm solicitors, suffered similar treatment. Again, original, perfectly sound wooden parts were destroyed and, to add insult to injury, plastic, press-moulded doors inserted.
Embedding Embedding involves moving part of an FEI to a relative clause:(1) Another straw at which we can clutch is that if real snow arrives in the near future it will be falling on cold slopes and so will last reasonably well. = clutch at straws(2) It is not, however, easy to contemplate putting whole federations out of action. That is a bullet on which the Arthur Golds of this world have steadfastly failed to bite. = bite the bullet(3) The question begged by all those glowing predictions is whether they will ever be fulfilled. = beg the question(4) This may be a hard bullet for the left to bite, but there is no question of what families want. = bite the bullet
Nominalization There are three specific forms of nominalizations of FEIs. In the first, the FEI is truncated and reduced to one of its clausal components:(1)a new broom sweeps clean - new broom(2)every cloud has a silver lining – silver lining(3)play second fiddle to someone – second fiddle
Nominalization In the second kind of nominalization, verbs occur as verbal nouns or participial adjectives, or they are replaced by cognate nouns:(1)lose face – loss of face (loss – verbal noun)(2)stab someone in the back – a stab in the back (stab - cognate noun)(3)turn up one’s nose – upturned noses (upturned – participial adjective)(4)waste one’s breath – a waste of breath (waste – cognate noun)
Nominalization In the third kind, a different lexical item is formed, often involving the inversion of the original lexical elements:(1)keep house – housekeeper(2)pick someone’s pocket – pickpocket(3)take the mickey – mickey-taker, mickey- taking(4)twist someone’s arm – arm-twisting
Transformation to adjectives Adverbial and nominal FEIs may be transformed into adjectives. The transformations are often hyphenated, and truncation is sometimes involved:(1)(a)round the clock – round-the-clock(2)face to face – face-to-face(3)on the spur of the moment – spur-of-the- moment(4)clear as crystal – crystal-clear