Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Syntactic Features of English Idioms

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Syntactic Features of English Idioms

Article excerpt


Idioms are the expressions the elements of which cannot be changed or replaced by other elements. They are called fixed expressions. However, some changes are possible within idioms. These changes may be both lexical and grammatical.

The acticle deals with the syntactic features of idioms, possible transformations within idioms. Besides, the essential point in the article is to understand why some idioms undergo transformations, while the others don't. Semantics and syntax are taken as a whole in the system of the English language, and the research is carried as to the mutual relationship between them. Different linguistic and cognitive approaches by different scholars have been analyzed in the article, and the proper conclusions have been made.

Keywords: syntactic features, form and meaning, unity of semantics and syntax, idioms and non-idiomatic expressions, idioms in the passive voice, transformation within idioms

1. Introduction

"Language is a source of misunderstandings" (Antoine de Saint Exupery). People express and share their thought and emotions, their wish and intentions by using the language. Syntax combines words in a sentence; however knowledge of grammar is not good enough to know a language as a whole because language contains lots of idiomatic constructions which require both theoretical and practical knowledge.

The main goal of the article is to seek out ways of understanding the possibility of transformations in some idioms and stability of the others which do not undergo any changes. Different viewpoints have been considered in writing the article some of which have found their reflections in a variety of scientific publications. We have come to the conclusion that the unity of semantics and syntax helps to understand and analyze idioms efficiently. Attempts have been made to discover the relation between form and meaning and define the possible syntactic changes, transformations within idioms. Moreover, the syntactical analyses are carried out from the cognitive point of view.

2. Research Methodology

The paper aims at investigating syntactic features of idioms in which the ties between syntax and semantics are essentially focused. As a method of investigation transformational approach is highlighted. Transformations within idioms are considered and explained not only grammatically, but also from the cognitive point of view.

2.1 The Unity of Form and Meaning in Idioms

Unless any grammatical form predicts of what a meaning consists, it means that the very grammar form differs from the language rules which we establish a sentence, and the one not corresponding to the grammar rules turns to an exceptional form. In this case it should be learned and investigated as a whole construction. Existence of such constructions is the main condition of the existence of combinations which we call idioms.

We should mark that syntax establishes the coordinated system of form and meaning. Any thought in the language can be expressed in different forms. Sometimes two semantic descriptions in a sentence appear: real or concrete, idiomatic or figurative. Without depending on the sameness of the syntactic structure, the carried out analysis in the same sentence basing on the context shows itself differently. As a result of this, the same form, the same syntactic structure attains different meanings. We may describe the connection of form and meaning in syntax on the example of the idiom He kicked the bucket ("to die") as follows:

As it is obviously seen, within the sentence (He kicked the bucket) depending upon the form the words possess distinctive syntactic functions.

While describing an idiom its internal specific features must be taken into consideration. The element of idioms cannot be regarded as lexical units. The function which an idiom carries out within a sentence is equal to the function of a single word in the sentence. As an ordinary word an idiom can't be broken into parts in a sentence, neither can be changed. …

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