Upload Опубликованный материал нарушает ваши авторские права? Сообщите нам.
Вуз: Предмет: Файл:
28. Set phrases and language creativity.doc
34.82 Кб

Set phrases and language creativity.

The chief focus of previous chapters has been the meaning of single words, whether simple (like book) or complex (like bookish or bookseller). But lexical meaning is not only expressed by single words. It is also conveyed by well-established combinations of words-by set phrases. All phrases are of course made up of two or more words, but those we are now concerned with are not the kind that are put together to fit the needs of the moment, for example, our striped wallpaper, his purple shirt, or her weekend job, but the sort that are repeated and, through constant repetition, stored in our memories as more or less frozen units, for instance, a shrinking violet, pass the buck, gain entry, a narrow escape. So we are entering not so much the field of lexical creativity as the domain of the ready-made.

Which means that we are faced with a difficulty. If our concern is chiefly with phrases that are memorized as wholes, how can they be said to relate to semantics? The answer can be found in two crucial points of contact between semantics and the study of phrases (phraseology). The first is that while set phrases form a separate part of the lexicon (and in fact have specialized dictionaries devoted to them) there are, between words on the one hand, and phrases on the other, many individual connections of the kind we described in the previous chapter as 'meaningful relations'. So, for example, in focus has as its synonyms sharp and clear, while in the open has as its one-word equivalents revealed or disclosed. And just as fashionable is the synonym of in fashion, so unfashionable (the opposite of fashionable, of course) is the synonym of out of fashion. Such meaningful linkages between words and set phrases are commonplace.

A second point of contact between phraseology and lexical semantics concerns the way that phrases with literal meanings develop into idioms. As we saw in Chapter 3, a device commonly used in developing new word-meanings is metaphor. The meanings of a great many phrases evolve in the same way, except that here the whole expression is involved. Take the phrase play one's cards right: to a card-player, this means 'to play one's cards appropriately, to the best advantage'. But by a metaphorical shift it has come to mean 'make the best use of one's assets and opportunities' generally. The literal phrase has become an idiom. When the verb play, incidentally, or the noun card, have to do with card games, there is an array of phrases with developed figurative senses: play one's trump card, for instance, play one's cards close to one's chest, and not be playing with a full deck (a US equivalent of not having all one's marbles.)

Set phrases and set sentences

To carry the discussion a stage further, it will be helpful to set up a simple framework to account for the various types of set expression found in the language. Despite differences over terminology, specialists broadly agree in recognizing a basic division between 'set phrases' which have just been briefly introduced, and which are divided into collocations and idioms, and set sentences, which can be divided into a number of traditional categories, typically of sentence length, including proverbs (make the punishment fit the crime), catchphrases (round up the usual suspects), and slogans (Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach).

Set phrases and set sentences differ not only because the latter are potentially longer and more complex – look again at the examples just given and compare turn up the heat (idiom) and if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen (catchphrase) – but because they have different uses and convey different kinds of meanings. Set phrases are word-combinations, more or less fixed in form, that function as parts of simple sentences, as can be seen from: a sacred cow, a noun phrase that can function as a subject or object; on the loose, a prepositional phrase that can be an adverbial; and rush one's fences, which fits a verb + object-noun pattern. Set sentences, by contrast, have meanings that largely reflect the way they function, as wholes, in spoken or written communication. The advertising slogan all we do is drive by you, for instance, combines two claims – that we make the car you drive, and that we are always motivated by our customers’ wishes – in a succinct and witty form. But the range of sentence categories we regularly use goes to convey a speaker’s reactions to other people and their messages, which include Are you with me?, You know what I mean, and You must be joking! These are called speech formulae, or ‘gambits’.

Тут вы можете оставить комментарий к выбранному абзацу или сообщить об ошибке.

Оставленные комментарии видны всем.