Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Telling It Straight: A Comparison of Selected English and Polish Idioms from the Semantic Field of Speaking

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Telling It Straight: A Comparison of Selected English and Polish Idioms from the Semantic Field of Speaking

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper attempts to illustrate one way of achieving greater precision in presenting idiomatic equivalents by implementing the functionally-oriented methodological instrument devised by Dobrovol'skij and Piirainen (2005). A small-scale analysis along the three parameters of semantics, syntax and pragmatics is carried out with a view to identifying and explaining all cross-linguistic contrasts and similarities between selected English and Polish near-equivalent idioms from the semantic field of speaking. The empirical data of this study includes corpus evidence, apart from the available monolingual, bilingual and phraseological dictionaries. The resultant descriptions of the idiomatic expressions attest the validity of a functional approach to contrastive idiom analysis, which, unlike judgments based on the superficial properties of idioms (i.e. their lexical components, structure), reveals that differences in images will not always prevent idioms with similar actual meaning from being regarded as equivalents. On the other hand, closeness of underlying imagery does not guarantee identity with respect to all parameters of comparison (especially pragmatics).

1. Introduction

The important question of bilingual lexicography: whether to give a verbatim translation of a source language (SL) phraseological unit or always aim at a target language (TL) phraseological unit of the same kind as the SL item, does not have an agreed upon answer. Zgusta (1971: 339) argues for the former solution in the case of proverbs, allowing for the latter only if the TL proverb itself "is absolutely clear (preferably less metaphorical than that of the source language) and really well known". Svensen (1987 [1993]: 156) definitely favours the latter option: "[i]dioms in the source language must as far as possible be paralled in the target language by idioms with the same content". Talking of fixed expressions in general, Roberts (1996: 193) recommends idiomatic translations whenever possible; only in cases where an idiomatic equivalent is clearly lacking is she willing to accept a literal translation. On the whole, the general preference for idiomatic equivalents seems clear.

So far, the issue of phraseological equivalence has not been given due attention in bilingual lexicography. (1) As Faro (2007: 84) points out, bilingual lexicographers base their judgments, more often than not, on the most superficial properties of idioms, i.e. their lexical components, structure, imagery: "Idiome losen bei Linguisten, darunter auch Lexikographen, haufig eine Art 'Bilderfetischismus' aus. In der bilingualen Lexikographie wird nicht selten mehr Wert auf Bilder als auf den Sprachgebrauch gelegt. [Idioms often evoke in linguists, among them lexicographers, a kind of "image fetishism". In bilingual lexicography, more emphasis is put on images than on language use.]". This tendency, termed by Faro (2007: 84) "der Drang des Lexikographen nach einer Art 'Bilderharmonie' [the lexicographer's urge for a sort of "image harmony"]", does not serve the communicative needs of dictionary users well and should give way to a more functional approach, based on investigating idiom properties in context (Dobrovol'skij--Piirainen 2005; Faro 2007).

This paper attempts to illustrate one way of achieving greater precision in presenting idiomatic equivalents by implementing the functionally-oriented methodological instrument devised by Dobrovol'skij and Piirainen (2005), proponents of the so-called Conventional Figurative Language Theory, which differs from the better-known Cognitive Metaphor Theory (CMT) in terms of its goals:

For the CMT, it is important to discover quasi-universal conceptual metaphors that underlie each single metaphorical expression ... For the Conventional Figurative Language Theory, however, the level of the very general metaphor is mostly of no interest. The Conventional Figurative Language Theory has to explain how the characteristics of figurativeness (above all, the image component) influence semantic and pragmatic specifics of CFUs [conventional figurative units]

(Dobrovol'skij--Piirainen 2005: 130). …

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