Fixed Expressions and Idioms in English: A Corpus-Based Approach

Fixed Expressions and Idioms in English: A Corpus-Based Approach

Fixed Expressions and Idioms in English: A Corpus-Based Approach

Fixed Expressions and Idioms in English: A Corpus-Based Approach

Synopsis

This is a text-based study of fixed expressions, or idioms. Rosamund Moon's central argument is that fixed expressions can only be fully understood if they are considered together with the texts in which they occur. She provides an overview of this area of lexis in current English. Writing from a lexicologicalrather than a computationalpoint of view, she gives a detailed, descriptivist account of the findings of research into several thousand fixed expressions and idioms, as evidenced in the corpus text, including information about frequencies, syntax, lexical forms and variations, and metaphoricality. The author argues that examination of corpus text raises questions about many received ideas on fixed expressions and idioms, and suggests that new or revised use-centred models are required. Later chapters of the book demonstrate the ideological and discoursal significance of idioms, paying particular attention to the ways in which they convey evaluations and have roles with respect to the information structure and cohesion of texts. Series information Series ISBN: 0-19-961811-9 Series Editors: Richard W. Bailey, Noel Osselton, and Gabriele Stein Oxford Studies in Lexicography and Lexicology provides a forum for the publication of substantial scholarly works on all issues of interest to lexicographers, lexicologists, and dictionary users. It is concerned with the theory and history of lexicography, lexicological theory, and related topics such as terminology, and computer applications in lexicography. It focuses attention too on the purposes for which dictionaries are compiled, on their uses, and on their reception and role in society today and in the past.

Excerpt

This is a text-based account of English fixed expressions and idioms. It sets out to describe the characteristics, behaviour, and usage of fixed expressions and idioms as observed in text, in particular in corpus text. My central contention is that such items can only be properly described and understood if they are considered together with the contexts in which they occur: I take it for granted that this should involve corpus evidence. I will report on the frequencies, forms, and functions of fixed expressions and idioms, drawing data from a database of several thousand such items, which I investigated by means of an 18 million-word corpus of contemporary English, the Oxford Hector Pilot Corpus. Discussions will be augmented as appropriate from other text sources, in particular The Bank of English. I will then explore use and function further, in order to ascertain the discoursal behaviour and roles of fixed expressions and idioms: this discussion will also centre on data from corpora and other texts.

This study of fixed expressions and idioms is essentially descriptive, not theoretical, but I will make reference to relevant discussions in the literature, and I will begin by examining in the first two chapters some of the theoretical issues involved. The field of phraseology has of course been extensively researched, and Cowie and Howarth (1996) provide a recent select bibliography. Traditional approaches in phraseology have been theory driven, often concerned with typology, semantics, and syntactic behaviour: the chief exceptions have been sociolinguistic studies. Corpus data provides the opportunity to corroborate or modify theoretical models, but detailed corpus-driven studies are still few and far between. Many earlier ones have focused on combinatorial aspects of lexis, as evidenced in lexicogrammatical patterning, and the statistics of collocation, or on the problems of automatically processing multi-word lexical items; more recent studies have tended to focus on particular kinds of item or on particular problems. I aim to be broader in scope, providing an overview and benchmarking data.

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