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Доклад: Idiom

Idioms involve collocation of a special kind. Consider, for instance, kick
the bucket, fly off the handle, spill the beans, red herring. For here we
not only have the collocation of kick and the bucket, but also
the fact that the meaning of the resultant combination is opaque - it is not
related to the meaning of the individual words, but is sometimes (though not
always) nearer to the meaning of a single word (thus kick the bucket 
equals die).
Even where an idiom is semantically like a single word it does not function like
one. Thus we will not have a past tense * kick-the-bucketed. Instead,
it functions to some degree as a normal sequence of grammatical words, so that
the past tense form is kicked the bucket. But there are a great number
of grammatical restrictions. A large number of idioms contain a verb and a
noun, but although the verb may be placed in the past tense, the number of the
noun can never be changed. We have spilled the beans, but not *
spill the bean and equally there is no *fly off the handles, *kick the
buckets, *put on good faces, *blow one's tops, etc. Similarly, with red
herring the noun may be plural, but the adjective cannot be comparative
(the -er form). Thus we find red herrings but not *redder
There are also plenty of syntactic restrictions. Some idioms have passives, but
others do not. The law was laid down and The beans have been
spilled are all right (though some may question the latter), but *The
bucket was kicked is not. But in no case could we say It was the -
(beans that were spilled, law that was laid down, bucket that was kicked, 
etc.). The restrictions vary from idiom to idiom. Some are more restricted or
'frozen' than others.
A very common type of idiom in English is what is usually called the 'phrasal
verb', the combination of verb plus adverb of the kind make up, give in,
put down. The meaning of these combinations cannot be predicted from the
individual verb and adverb and in many cases there is a single verb with the
same or a very close meaning - invent, yield, quell. Not all
combinations of this kind are idiomatic, of course. Put down has a
literal sense too and there are many others that are both idiomatic and not, e.
g. take in as in The conjuror took the audience in, The woman took
the homeless children in. There are even degrees of idiomaticity since one
can make up a story, make up a fire or make up one's
face. Moreover, it is nof only sequences of verb plus adverb that may be
idiomatic. There are also sequences of verb plus preposition, such as look
after and go for, and sequences of verb, adverb and preposition,
such as put up with ('tolerate') or do away with ('kill').
There are also what we may call partial idioms, where one of the words has its
usual meaning, the other has a meaning that is peculiar to the particular
sequence. Thus red hair refers to hair, but not hair that is red in
strict colour terms. Comedians have fun with partial idioms of this kind, e. g.
when instructed to make a bed they bring out a set of carpenter's
tools. An interesting set involves the-word white, for white coffee is
brown in colour, white wine is usually yellow, and white people are pink. Yet, 
white is, perhaps, idiomatic only to some degree - it could be interpreted
'the lightest in colour of that usually to be found'. Not surprisingly 
black is used as its antonym for coffee and people (though again neither are
black in colour terms), yet it is not used for wine. Thus it can be seen that
even partial idiomaticity can be a matter of degree and may in some cases be
little more than a matter of collocational restriction. On a more comic level
there is partial idiomaticity in raining cats and dogs (in Welsh it
rains old women and sticks!).
What is and what is not an idiom is, then often a matter of degree. It is very
difficult, moreover, to decide whether a word or a sequence of words is opaque.
We could, perhaps, define idioms in terms of non-equivalence in other
languages, so that kick the bucket, red herring, etc., are idioms
because they cannot be directly translated into French or German. But this will
not really work. The French for nurse is garde-malade, but while this
cannot be directly translated into English it is quite transparent, obviously
meaning someone who looks after the sick. On the ofher hand, look after 
seems quite idiomatic, yet it can be quite directly translated into Welsh 
(edrych ar o1).