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# Idiomi, lecture 07, 12 13

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### Idiomi, lecture 07, 12 13

1. 1. Variation 1
2. 2. Variations in FEIsFixedness is a key property of FEIs, yetaround 40% of database FEIs havelexical variations or stronglyinstitutionalized transformations , andaround 14% have two or more variationson their canonical forms. 2
3. 3. FEIs with variations, according to idiomaticity type Proportion of Proportion of all Proportion of all FEIs in FEIs with any FEIs with 2 or database variations more variationsanomalous 45.3% 47% 46%collocationsformulae 21.3% 18% 19%metaphors 33.4% 35% 35% 3
4. 4. Fixedness vs. variationAlthough we started from the assumptionthat FEIs have fixed or canonical formsand that variations are to some extentderivative or deviant, variation is fairlyconsistent across FEIs types.However, even in extreme cases ofvariation there still remains some kind offixedness, symmetry, or integrity: it is justthat it is not always lexical fixedness. 4
5. 5. Variation IMPORTANT: Variant forms of an individual expression should be considered as variations rather than as separate expressions with coincidentally the same meaning and with some lexis in common. For example: hit the roof = to become extremely angry hit the ceiling champ at the bit = to be eager and not willing to wait to do sth. chafe at the bit represent two expressions, each with an institutionalized variation, not four different expressions. 5
6. 6. Variation The problem is particularly acute with American/British pairings such as: the shoe is on the other foot (AmE) = the situation is now opposite of what it was, esp. because someone who was weak now has power the boot is on the other foot (BrE) blow off steam (AmE) = to do or say sth. that helps you to get rid of strong feelings or energy let off steam (BrE) We can consider such pairings as variations of each other, but also as equivalent lexical items which are as discrete (separate) as gasoline/petrol or apartment/flat. 6
7. 7. VariationWe will take the line that broadly synonymouspairs or sets of FEIs with common or parallellexis represent single FEIs or FEI clusters.This view allows newly encountered variantforms to be renconciled with those forms alreadyfound, providing further evidence of instability,rathe than enforcing either their categorizationas completely new items or else their dismissalas deviant. 7
8. 8. VariationAlso important: the matter of identifying the ‘canonical’ form of anFEI. There are two ways of considering a case such as:have an axe to grind = have private interests to servehave no axe to grindwith an axe to grindwith no axe to grind(1) Either this represent sa variable FEI cluster, where there areseveral possible related forms(2) Or, this represents a frozen, unvarying FEI nucleus axe to grindwhich collocates with preceding have/with/without and a/no. 8
9. 9. VariationThe crucial point - very large numbers ofFEIs do not have fixed forms. Forexample, kick the bucket is often cited asa prime example of an FEI where the lexisis completely frozen. However, there areinstances of kick the pail and kick thecan meaning ‘die’, both in AmE. The mainpoint is that frozenness and stability cannever be assumed, and change over time. 9
10. 10. VariationTo be truly systematic – categories ofvariation need to have some predictivepower, and this is not always the case.What can be predicted – FEIs, especiallymetaphorical ones, are likely to vary. 10
11. 11. Types of lexical variationVerb variationNoun variationAdjective and modifier variationParticle variationConjunction variationSpecificity and amplificationTruncationVariations between British and American English 11
12. 12. Verb Variation Verb variation is the commonest type. While in many cases the meaning of the whole is barely affected by variation, other variations reflect important syntacto- semantic distinction. In the following, the verb varies, but there is no real change of meaning of the FEI, although there may be register distinctions. For example:1. stick/stand out like a sore thumb2. throw/toss in the towel3. look/shoot daggers at someone4. say/kiss goodbye to sth.5. twist/wrap someone around one’s little finger 12
13. 13. Noun Variation Variation of nouns is only slightly less common than variation of verbs. In the simplest cases, the varying nouns are broadly synonymous:1. a skeleton in the closet/cupboard2. hold a gun/pistol to someone’s head3. a cat on a hot tin roof/a cat on hot bricks In metaphorical FEIs, the nouns are often the focus of the metaphor. Variations do not have changed meanings, but mental images of the metaphor may differ considerably, for example, the images generated by burn one’s boats and burn one’s bridges. The distinctions are therefore greater than those between many verb variations. 13
14. 14. Adjective and Modifier Variation Variation of adjectives in FEIs is considerably less common that that of verbs or nouns, probably because there are fewer component adjectives than nouns in FEIs. For example:1. a bad/rotten apple2. the best/greatest thing since sliced bread3. a different/another kettle of fish 14
15. 15. Particle Variation Variation of a prepositional or adverbial particle, for example:1. on/along the right lines2. go round/around in circles3. in touch/into touch/out of touch4. in keeping with sbd./sth./out of keeping with sbd./sth. 15
16. 16. Conjunction Variation For example:1. when/if push comes to shove2. when/while the cat’s away, the mice will play3. hit and/or miss 16
17. 17. Specificity and Amplification There are many cases of FEIs where the variation consists broadly of some inserted or suppressed material. Amplification is inserting additional material into a FEI. One version is simply a fuller version of the other, adding emphasis or precision. The extra data is often adjectival (1, 2), adverbial (3); there may be an optional PP (4, 5, 6), or expanded nominal group (7, 8):1. have a (good) laugh2. in (full) bloom3. turn (over) in one’s grave4. go to hell (in a handbasket)5. twist the knife (in the wound)6. up the creek (without a paddle)7. at all hours (of the day and night)8. put flesh (and bone) on something 17
18. 18. Truncation Truncation is cutting off material from a FEI. Amplification and truncation are two sides of the same coin, but in the majority of cases listed below, the fuller versions are attested as the original forms. Many are traditional proverbs and sayings, downgraded from their canonical or earliest forms to lower-level grammatical units: a compound clause to a single clause, or a clause to a group. For example:1. a bird in the hand (is worth two in the bush)2. birds of a feather (flock together)3. don’t count one’s chickens (before they’re hatched)4. make hay (while the sun shines) 18
19. 19. TruncationThe reduced forms can be seen in terms ofellipsis, since in many cases an allusion to theoriginal and fuller form remains. However, theyare institutionalized, and many can be regardedas lexical items in their own right.A rolling stone gathers no moss iscomplicated in that both the nominal the rollingstone and the VP gather moss areinstitutionalized as individual items. 19
20. 20. Truncation In the following examples:1. a drowning man will clutch at a straw2. clutch/grasp at straws (truncated form)1. it’s the (last) straw that breaks the camel’s back2. the last straw/final straw (truncated form) the truncated forms themselves have variations. 20
21. 21. Truncation In a few cases, the original fuller form has almost disappeared from the lexicon. Here, the reduced forms have become fossilized as the canonical forms. For example:1. finders keepers (loser weepers)2. happy the bride that the sun shines on (and blessed are the dead that the rain falls on)3. (speech is silver but) silence is golden4. butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth (but cheese wouldn’t choke her) 21
22. 22. Truncation Truncation can also occur on an ad hoc basis. For example:1. My mother was hysterical and my father called me a lot of unpleasant names. I stood it for a bit and then I’m afraid I said to him that what was sauce for the goose and at least I wasn’t married.Whats sauce for the goose (is sauce for the gander) = something that you say to suggest that if a particular type of behaviour is acceptable for one person, it should also be acceptable for another person2. In one audacious move, D & B sent a questionnaire to Geoff Croughton, secretary of the Bank of England. After all, nothing ventured and all that.Nothing ventured, nothing gained = something that you say which means that it is necessary to take risks in order to achieve something 22
23. 23. Variations between British and American English There are comparatively few cases where the verb varies. For example:1. cut a long story short (BrE), make a long story short (AmE)2. flog a dead horse (BrE), beat a dead horse (AmE)3. kick one’s heels (mainly BrE), cool one’s heels (mainly AmE)4. touch wood (BrE), knock wood, knock on wood (AmE) 23
24. 24. Variations between British and American English Far more common is variation of a noun or noun modifier. These sometimes reflect standard distinctions between British and American English. For example:1. in the driving seat (BrE), in the driver’s seat (AmE)2. red as a beetroot (BrE), red as a beet (AmE)3. wear the trousers (BrE), wear the pants (AmE) 24
25. 25. Variations between British and American English While catch someone with their trousers down is only British, catch someone with their pants down is found in both varieties: arguably, a British speaker’s mental image might involve underwear, not outerwear. A few cases reflect other cultural distinctions:1. like turkeys voting for Christmas (mainly BrE), like turkeys voting for Thanksgiving (AmE)2. turn on sixpence (BrE), turn on a dime (AmE) 25
26. 26. Variations between British and American English In the majority of cases, the distinctions may now seem idiosyncratic, although there may be historical explanations:1. have green fingers (BrE), have a green thumb (AmE)2. keep one’s hair on (BrE), keep one’s shirt on (AmE)3. not see the wood for the trees (BrE), not see the forest for the trees (AmE)4. rub shoulders with (BrE), rub elbows with (AmE) 26
27. 27. Variations between British and American English About with spatial meaning or reference is largely a Briticism: Americans prefer around. It is therefore predictable that (not) beat about the bush is mainly British, (not) beat around the bush mainly American, although both forms are found in both varieties. Other cases of prepositional variation are more idiosyncratic:1. at a pinch (BrE), in a pinch (AmE)2. lead someone up the garden path (BrE), lead someone down the garden path (AmE) 27
28. 28. Variations between British and American English There are a few cases where British and American English have parallel idioms, with similar meanings, usages, and even source domains for the metaphors, but different lexis altogether:1. a storm in a teacup (BrE), a tempest in a teapot (AmE)2. have one’s hand/fingers in the till (BrE), have one’s hand in the cookie jar (AmE)3. in inverted commas (BrE), quote unquote (BrE and AmE), quote end quote (AmE) 28
29. 29. Variations between British and American EnglishWhile many of these distinctions are wellestablished, the situation in general is complex.The influence of American culture and media inBritain means that Americanisms and Americanvariations become established in BrE, or at leastin certain registers or genres of BrE. Forexample, the mainly American FEI beat thebushes ‘try hard to obtain or achieve sth.’occurs in British journalism, nevertheless withrespect to American or international topics. 29