Sources and Structure of Idioms Denoting Economic Concepts
Bc. Petr Marvan Mgr. Radek Vogel, Ph.D.
I proclaim that this diploma thesis was done by my own and I used only the materials that are stated in the bibliography. I agree with the placing of this thesis in Masaryk University Brno in the library of the Department of English Language and Literature and with the access for studying purposes.
Prohlašuji, že jsem závěrečnou diplomovou práci vypracoval samostatně, s využitím pouze citovaných literárních pramenů, dalších informací a zdrojů v souladu s Disciplinárním řádem pro studenty Pedagogické fakulty Masarykovy univerzity a se zákonem č. 121/2000 Sb., o právu autorském, o právech souvisejících s právem autorským a o změně některých zákonů (autorský zákon), ve znění pozdějších předpisů.
V Brně, dne 30. března 2016 Bc. Petr Marvan
I would like to thank Mgr. Radek Vogel, Ph.D. for his guidance and valuable advice during the creation of my diploma thesis.
As the title suggests, this thesis focuses on the sources and structure of idioms denoting economic concepts regardless of their source area. The thesis is divided into a theoretical and a practical part. The main aim of the thesis is to provide an extensive overview of sources and structure of idioms dealing with economic subjects that are analyzed, compared and contrasted in the thesis. A secondary aim of the thesis is to summarize various general approaches to idiomaticity and to show how they changed over the time.
The theoretical part deals with various general approaches to the subject of idiom in linguistic literature. These approaches are analyzed, compared and connected into a larger perspective. Then, a general approach to idiomaticity within the scope of this thesis, upon which the practical part is based, is formed. To achieve a complete overview of literature dealing with idioms, theories from various eras of linguistic exploration were selected and the theoretical part focuses not only on English-speaking linguists, but also on Czech, Russian and German linguists, whose theories are deemed significant enough.
The practical part focuses on the analysis of two hundred idioms denoting economic concepts. As it has been said, the analysis of the idioms is based on my approach to idiomaticity and it contains English definitions, Czech translations/equivalents, source areas, structure and functions of the idioms. There are several charts mapping the functional, structural and source area distribution of the idioms. There is an assumption that many of the idioms will have a source area connected with the human body and nature in general, plus with business or trade (given that the thesis examines idioms denoting economic concepts). There will probably be a larger number of idioms containing either nouns, adjectives, verbs or all of these and the number of idioms containing other parts of speech, i. e., adverbs or numerals, will be significantly lower. As for the functions of the idioms, it is assumed that most of them will fulfill the role of nouns or verbs.
The results of the analysis and the veracity of the preceding assumptions will be discussed in the conclusion of the thesis.
Idioms in general
The use of idioms is an important part of everyday conversation and communication in general. Idioms are often expressions of metaphorical or metonymical character and one may claim they bring a certain level of playfulness and innovation into the language. On the other hand, some idioms are used conventionally and they became rooted in certain communication situations. Many linguists claim that it is virtually impossible to produce a universal definition of idiom that would cover all of its features and attributes. It can be due to the fact that the study of idioms can sometimes prove to be really problematic, misleading and may not yield exact answers. Andreas Langlotz (2006) claims that “idioms are peculiar linguistic constructions that have raised many eyebrows in linguistics and often confuse newcomers to a language” (p. 1).
As was said before, there is no general definition of the idiom, on which all linguists would agree, and therefore we are presented with many, to some extent different, definitions. Each of the theories I will be presenting in the thesis looks upon idioms from a different perspective, although majority of them agrees on certain points.
Definitions of idiom in dictionaries
The definition of the term idiom is an indispensable part of every linguistic dictionary. These definitions might be considered vague and simplistic, but it is essential to incorporate them into this thesis in order to fully express the wide range of idiom approaches.
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines idiom as “a phrase which means something different from the meaning of the separate words from which it is formed” (in Kavka, 2003, p. 5).
Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics gives a similar definition: “an expression which functions as a single unit and whose meaning cannot be worked out from its separate parts” (in Kavka, 2003, p. 4).
Encyclopaedia of Linguistics, Information, and Control provides somewhat longer, but in fact also a similar definition of idiom: “idiom is a habitual collocation of two or more words whose combined meaning is not deducible from the knowledge of the meanings of its component words and of their grammatical syntagmatic relations to each other” (Meetham & Hudson, 1969, p. 667).
Dictionary of English Colloquial Idioms says that “idioms are phrases which allow no element to be replaced by a synonym” (Wood & Hill, 1969, p. 4).
The Oxford English Dictionary presents idiom as “a form of expression, a grammatical construction, phrase, etc., used in a distinctive way in a particular language, dialect, or language variety; a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from the meanings of the individual words” (“Idiom;” OED, n. d.).
Merriam-Webster defines idiom as “an expression in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself either grammatically,…or in having a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its element” (“Idiom;” Merriam-Webster, n.d.).
It can be observed that the majority of the discussed dictionary definitions of idiom deal with the fact that the meaning of the idiomatic expression cannot be deduced from the meanings of the individual words, which is one of the most significant features of an idiom. Although, such definitions may generally suffice for an average English learner or speaker, in order to fully understand the nature of idiom, we have to examine other, more thorough, approaches to idiomaticity.