Lexicology of the English Language


i) they can be formed by using expressions of writers or polititions in everyday life, e.g. corridors of power (Snow), American dream (Alby) locust years (Churchil) , the winds of change (Mc Millan).

Secondary ways of forming phraseological units are those when a phraseological unit is formed on the basis of another phraseological unit; they are:

a) conversion, e.g. to vote with ones feet was converted into vote with ones f eet;

b) changing the grammar form, e.g. Make hay while the sun shines is transferred into a verbal phrase - to make hay while the sun shines;

c) analogy, e.g. Curiosity killed the cat was transferred into Care killed the cat;

d) contrast, e.g. cold surgery - a planned before operation was formed by contrasting it with acute surgery, thin cat - a poor person was formed by contrasting it with fat cat;

e) shortening of proverbs or sayings e.g. from the proverb You cant make a silk purse out of a sows ear by means of clipping the middle of it the phraseological unit to make a sows ear was formed with the meaning .

f) borrowing phraseological units from other languages, either as translation loans, e.g. living space (German), to take the bull by the horns ( Latin) or by means of phonetic borrowings meche blanche (French), corpse delite (French), sotto voce (Italian) etc.

Phonetic borrowings among phraseological units refer to the bookish style and are not used very often.


Phraseological units can be classified according to the degree of motivation of their meaning. This classification was suggested by acad. V.V. Vinogradov for Russian phraseological units. He pointed out three types of phraseological units:

a) fusions where 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. on Shanks mare - (on foot), at sixes and sevens - (in a mess) etc;

b) unities where the meaning of the whole can be guessed from the meanings of its components, but it is transferred (metaphorical or metonymical), e.g. to play the first fiddle ( to be a leader in something), old salt (experienced sailor) etc;

c) collocations where words are combined in their original meaning but their combinations are different in different languages, e.g. cash and carry - (self-service shop), in a big way (in great degree) etc.


Prof. A.I. Smirnitsky worked out structural classification of phraseological units, comparing them with words. He points out one-top units which he compares with derived words because derived words have only one root morpheme. He points out two-top units which he compares with compound words because in compound words we usually have two root morphemes.

Among one-top units he points out three structural types;

a) units of the type to give up (verb + postposition type), e.g. to art up, to back up, to drop out, to nose out, to buy into, to sandwich in etc.;

b) units of the type to be tired . Some of these units remind the Passive Voice in their structure but they have different prepositons with them, while in the Passive Voice we can have only prepositions by or with, e.g. to be tired of, to be interested in, to be surprised at etc. There are also units in this type which remind free word-groups of the type to be young, e.g. to be akin to, to be aware of etc. The difference between them is that the adjective young can be used as an attribute and as a predicative in a sentence, while the nominal component in such units can act only as a predicative. In these units the verb is the grammar centre and the second component is the semantic centre;

c) prepositional- nominal phraseological units. These units are equivalents of unchangeable words: prepositions, conjunctions, adverbs , that is why they have no grammar centre, their semantic centre is the nominal part, e.g. on the doorstep (quite near), on the nose (exactly), in the course of, on the stroke of, in time, on the point of etc. In the course of time such units can become words, e.g. tomorrow, instead etc.

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