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33. Lexical syntagmatics. Free word-groups vs phraseological units.

A word-group is a combination of at least two meaningful words joined together according to the rules of a particular language.

Words in word-groups are not “free” because their syntagmatic relationships are governed, restricted and regulated, on the one hand, by requirements of logic and common sense and, on the other, by the rules of grammar and combinability.

Distribution is the range of positions in which a linguistic unit can occur, e.g. the noun issue can appear in various combinations:

Adj. + issue: burning, central, critical, crucial, key, vital; controversial, difficult, thorny; economic, moral, political, social, technical, theoretical;

V. + issue: raise; debate, discuss; decide, settle; address, consider, deal with, examine; clarify; focus on; highlight; avoid, evade.

Semantic combinability of words is based on the meanings of words. It is conditioned by the nature of the denotata of words, i.e. it reflects the connections, relations and associations between objects, properties or events in reality. Semantic links between the combining words serve as a basis for free word-groups.

Semantic agreement is the presence of common semantic features (semes) and the absence of contradictory semantic features in the combining words; it is the basic law of semantic combinability. Consider the example below:

*The yellow idea cut the tree.

*Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.


Constructed in speech

Substitution is possible

individual meanings of the components (motivated)

each notional word functions as a separate syntactic unit


Phraseological units:


as a rule, no substitution

meaning is non-motivated (idiomatic)

the whole expression functions as a single syntactic unit


34. Free word-groups. Definition. Classifications.

A word-group is a combination of at least two meaningful words joined together according to the rules of a particular language.

According to the head-word:

Nominal, verbal, adjectival, statival, numerical, pronominal, adverbial

According to the type of connection:





According to the criterion of distribution, word-groups are classified into:

-exocentric, i.e. having the distribution different from either of its members, e.g. side by side, to grow smaller, kind to people etc.

-endocentric, i.e. having one central member functionally equivalent to the whole word-group, e.g. a red flower, bravery of all kinds etc.

Endocentric word-groups are further subdivided into:

-coordinative if they have the same distribution as two or more of its members, e.g. bread and butter; coffee, tea, and milk;

-subordinative if they have the same distribution as one of their members, e.g. fresh milk; very fresh.

This classification was elaborated by the American linguist Leonard Bloomfield in the book Language (1933).

35. Phraseological units: a variety of terms and the problem of definition. Characteristic features of phraseological units.

Origin of the term

Greek: phrásis ‘expression’ and lógos ‘study, department of knowledge’

Approaches to the definition

European tradition: a branch of linguistics that studies stable word-groups with partially or fully transferred meanings (Ye. D. Polivanov, V. V. Vinogradov, A. V. Kunin etc.)

Anglo-American tradition: a form of expression peculiar to a language including separate words and word-groups (R. Glaeser, G. Knappe etc.)

Charles Bally

F. de Saussure’s disciple, the Geneva School of Linguistics;

introduced the term phraséologie in his book Précis de stylistique (1905);

considered phraseology a branch of stylistics.

Yevgeniy Polivanov

one of the founders of the Society for the Study of Poetic Language (ОПОЯЗ);

defined phraseology as a separate linguistic discipline.

A phraseological unit is a non-motivated word-group that cannot be freely made up in speech but is reproduced as a ready-made unit






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