Typology of Idiomatic and Set Expressions

The idiomatic and set expressions, i.e. lexically and often structurally stable units of lexicon present a universal phenomenon. Structurally, they may be in all languages 1) Sentence idioms (time and tide wait for no man, на козаку нема знаку); 2) Word-group idioms (Ten Commandments, to be or not to be, десять заповідей, бути чи не бути);

3) Metaphorically generalised proper names (sometimes geographical names) as Jack Ketch (hangman), Tom Pepper(great Her), Tom Tailor (tailor), Tom Thumb (a small man, a Liliputian), Mrs. Grundy, Tom, Dick, and Harry (перший-ліпший), Nosy Parker (людина, що втручається/суне ніс не в свої справи). Similarly in Ukrainian: Макар Касян, i.e. (ненажера), Чалий (підступна, зрадлива людина); Герострат, Ксантипа (сварлива Сократова дружина), язиката Хвеська, сердешна Оксана and many others. Their transparent metaphorical meaning is indisputable in the contrasted languages.

Presumably common in all languages are also the paradigmatic classes of idioms which may be substantival(the Trojan horse, the sword of Damocles; троянський кінь, дамоклів меч); verbal(to have one's heart in one's mouth, to take the bull by the horns; брати бика за роги, пекти раків); adverbial(by and again, tit for tat; no всіх усюдах, тут і там, скрізь і всюди), etc. Idiomatic expressions in English and Ukrainian and in all other languages may perform common functions in the sentence, namely, that of a) the subject (Hobson's choice is an idiom); b) the predicate/predicative (That was a Hobson's choice for him); c) the object (He translated correctly the idiom "Hob-son's choice " into Ukrainian); d) the adverbial modifier (He will do it by hook or by crook). Similarly in Ukrainian: дамоклів меч ~ ідіома; він утре їм носа; вона не хоче пекти раків; кров з носа, а зроблю це.

Besides, idiomatic expressions exist in all languages either as 1) absolute equivalents having all components the same and absolutely identical or slightly different meaning in some languages of a historically, culturally and mostly geographically close region, as is the case with the idiomatic expressions of the European area as the heel of Achilles ахіллесова п'ята, the Trojan horse троянський кінь, the tree of knowledge дерево/древо пізнання, thirty pieces of silver тридцять срібняків, etc. 2) Idiomatic expressions may also exist as near equivalents, i.e. when having in some (usually different) languages one or more components missing or different as in other (contrasted) languages. For example: to kiss the post поцілувати замок, as pale as paper блідий як стіна', grass widow — солом'яна вдова, measure twice, cut once сім раз одміряй, а раз одріж; to know smth. as one knows

his ten fingers знати щось, як своїх п'ять пальців. Or in Japanese: to live like dog and monkey, i.e. to live as cat and dog; 3) The third common class of idiomatic expressions and not only in the contrasted languages constitute genuine and approximate idiomatic analogies. The latter have in English and Ukrainian similar meaning but different componental structures. Cf. a fly in the ointment, make haste slowly; ложка дьогтю в бочці меду, тихіше їдеш — далі будеш.

National idiomspresent a separate universal feature pertained to all languages. These idioms are formed on the basis of the component parts/ images characteristic of a definite national community and its language. Thus, only in English exist such idioms as to dine with Duke Humphry, to cut off with a shilling, or to accept the Chiltern Hundreds, and only in Ukrainian such idioms as передати куті меду, впіймати облизня, ставити на карб, пекти раків,утерти носа, etc.

Typologically relevant is also the identification of the group of regular international idioms,which are common, however, only in some groups of geographically closer languages (cf. European, South-Asian, Far Eastern). Nevertheless there scarcely exist universal idioms of the same lexical meaning and the same component structure. This is the result of the historical development of languages which were exerted in different geographical/racial areas to different cultural, religious and other influences. Thus, all European nations and their languages have been influenced by Greek and Roman cultures and by Christianity. As a result, there are many not only words but also idioms borrowed from Greek, Hebrew and Latin (cf. Pandora's box, Herculean pillars, Gordian knot, between Scylla and Charybdis, to cross the Rubicon; 1 came, I saw, I conquered; the Ten Commandments, wise Solomon, prodigal son/to be in (the) seventh heaven and many others). These and the like idiomatic expressions, including several proverbs and sayings, have usually absolute or near equivalents in languages of one culturally and geographically common area. Such common historical, semantic, componental and sometimes even structural equivalents can be seen on the following few examples given below.

It must be pointed out that these and many other international idioms are alien, however, to Chinese, Japanese, Aleutian, Indonesian and other

Ukrainian English German Italian
блудний син prodical son der verlorene Sohn il figlio prodigo
куй залізо доки гаряче strike the iron while it is hot schmiede das eisen solange es heiss ist battere il ferro quando e caldo
крокодилячі сльози crocodile's tears Krokodilstränen le lacrime di coccodrillo
нема диму без вогню no smoke without fire wo Rauch ist, da ist auch Feuer non ce fumo senza fuoco
гратися з вогнем to play with fire mit dem Feuer spielen scherzare col fuoco

languages whose peoples have been brought up in other historic, cultural and religious (Moslem, Buddhist, etc.) conditions. As a result, there exist no universally equivalent idioms of identical semantic, componental, picturesque or syntactic structure. And yet, because of the existence of many common vital needs of all humans the world over and to a great measure due to many common natural conditions of life, and not in a smaller measure due to common living working conditions, which people practically experience during their everyday activities in different parts of the world, there appeared some correlating/relevant idiomatic expressions of semantically similar/analogous or even common nature even in genealogically and culturally non-related languages. These idiomatic expressions comprise apart from some regular idioms also proverbs/sayings and stable/set expressions. A most fitting language for the рифове would naturally be the one standing farthest from the European languages as, for example, the Japanese language. It has undoubtedly several grammatical and other peculiarities of its own that are not available in all other European languages. Because of this it was found apt enough for contrasting some of its idiomatic expressions with the English and Ukrainian ones. The material for our contrastive analysis was found in the four languages dictionary by Taiji Takashima* containing 800 Japanese idiomatic and stable expressions and their English, German, French and in some cases even Latin semantically correspondent idiomatic and set counterparts. The result came out as was naturally expected: only some seven to eight idiomatic and set expressions

' See: Taiji Takashima. Fountain of Japanese Proverbs. The Hokuseido Press: Tokyo, 1981, 377 pages.

out of 800 coincide in their componental structure and meaning, i.e. are complete equivalents in these four languages. This makes only about 0,01% of their total number in the dictionary. These equivalents are as follows:


In English In Ukrainian In Japanese transcription
1 . The more the better 2. Time is money 3. There is no rule without exception 4. History repeats itself 5. A drowning man will catch at a straw 6. If you run after two hares, you will catch neither Чим більше, тим краще Час - це гроші Правил без винятків не буває Історія повторюється І за соломинку вхопиться, хто топиться Побіжиш за двома зайцями, не впіймаєш жодного Tata masu-masu benzu Toki wa kane nari Reigai no nai kisoku wa nai Rekishi wa kurikaesu Oborum mono wa wara ото tsukama Nito о ou-mono wa, itto ото ezu
7. Rome was not built in one day 8. Money begets money Рим був побудований не за один день Гроші йдуть до грошей Roma wa ichi-nitchi ni shite nasaru Kane ga kane о umu

Some of the above-given stable and idiomatic expressions are undoubtedly direct borrowings from the European languages. The first and most evident of them is, of course, Rome was not built in one day, time is money, if you run after two hares you will catch neither and some others. Therefore, their Japanese origin can in reality be doubted. Still more doubted can be their wide circulation in spoken/colloquial Japanese.

There exist, however, a comparatively larger number of near equivalents in the three contrasted languages. These are idiomatic expressions, proverbs or sayings containing one or more common component and having close to identical or similar meaning in English, Ukrainian and Japanese. For example, the English and Ukrainian idiom habit is a second nature has in Japanese a somewhat different semantic and componental equivalent: Habit becomes nature Narai sei to naru. Therefore, one component (the second] is missing in Japanese. Similar omissions or non-coincidences can be observed in some other near equivalents of the contrasted languages. Cf. the Japanese idiomatic expression shiro hire to in which means to call white black (as in Ukrainian називати біле чорним), whereas in English one says to talk black into white. Similar slight differences are observed in other Japanese and European idiomatic expression. Cf. in Japanese: Migi no mimi kara hideri no mimi — to go in at the right ear and out at the left or in English go in at one ear and out at the other, which is in Ukrainian в одне вухо влітає, а з другого вилітає.

All in all, therefore, the number of absolute or nearly absolute idiomatic expressions, having in each of the contrasted languages the same or almost the same semantic and componental structure, may rise to ten or even to a few more. Nevertheless, it gives scarcely any ground for a serious assumption as to the existence of universal idiomatic expressions of the same meaning, nothing to say about their componental and structural identity.

And yet the environmental and social conditions of life and regular vital needs may define and even predetermine not only the behavior of people, but also their ways of thinking in different parts of the world. Consequently, it may be assumed that some near idiomatic equivalents and analogies may still come to being (and exist) in absolutely different languages. Moreover, one can come across some near equivalents and still more across genuine idiomatic analogies, which are sense units similar only in sense in genealogically not related languages.

As has been pointed out, near or incomplete idiomatic equivalents have usually one or more components common in the counter-opposed idioms/stable expressions in each of the three contrasted languages. One can easily ascertain this when comparing the few examples below of some closest componentally and semantically idiomatic near equivalents of the English, Ukrainian and Japanese languages.


In English In Ukrainian In Japanese (as presented in English componental translation)
1 . To lead a cat and dog life 2. To cut ones coat according to one's cloth 3. Love and reason do not go together 4. The early bird catches the worm 5. As clear as day light Жити як кіт із собакою По своєму ліжку простягай ніжки Любов сліпа (сліпа любов) Хто рано встає, тому Бог дає Ясно, як Божий день (Live) like dog and monkey The crab digs a hole according to his shell Love is beyond consideration The early riser gains three mon (money unit) Clearer than seeing fire

The examples above prove the existence in the Japanese language (and certainly in other languages of the world) of two main types of common near equivalents: 1) those having common component parts and 2) those being very close semantically. The former are presented in four of the above-given examples (their common components are in bold type). Cf. the English to lead a cat and dog life with the Japanese to live

like dogand monkeyand the Ukrainian жити як кітіз собакою.

The semantically close near equivalents which constitute a considerable number of idiomatic expressions in the above-mentioned Japanese and English dictionary are presented in column 2 above. They are: to cut one's coataccording to one's clothпо своєму ліжку простягати ніжкиand in Japanese (in English translation) The crab digs a holeaccording to his shell.The number of near equivalents of both types is about 80, which corresponds to ab. 10% of their total number of the above-mentioned Japanese, English, German and French dictionary. Therefore, the correlation of the universal near equivalents can certainly be supposed to be larger as compared with the scarce number of absolute idiomatic equivalents presented not only in English and Ukrainian (in comparison to the Japanese ones), but also including the corresponding German and French examples given in the above-mentioned dictionary of Taiji Takashia.

According to the typological calculation, the number of genuine and approximate idiomatic analogies in genealogically non-related languages by far exceeds the number of absolute and near equivalents in them. The three contrasted above languages are no exception of this rule. Most of semantic correspondences in English, Ukrainian and Japanese are also genuine or approximate analogies. This can be seen from the following few examples presenting the overwhelming majority of analogies as compared with the correlated number of the few near and absolute equivalents that were found in the above-named dictionary of Japanese idiomatic and stable expressions. Here are some of them:


In English In Ukrainian Japanese analogies in English translation
1 . To take a musket to kill Стріляти з гармати по Why use a meat cleaver
a butterfly горобцях to cut up a chicken?
2. Shut the stable-door Замкнути конюшню, як To see a thief and make a
after the horse is stolen коня вкрали rope
3. The higher the ape goes, Далі в ліс, більше дров (що The knight jumps too far
the more he his tail shows далі в ліс, то більше дров)  
4. To grease somebody's "Позолотити" руку (дати To apply nose ointment
palm хабаря)  
5. Let sleeping dogs lie Не чіпай лиха, поки тихо Gods left alone do not
(Wake not a sleeping lion) (поки воно спить) curse
6. All cats are grey in the Уночі що сіре, то й вовк At night, at a distance,
dark   wearing a hat

As could be seen from the above listed examples, genuine idiomatic

analogies even in genealogically not akin languages are semantically more transparent than the approximate phraseological/idiomatic analogies. This can be seen from the so-called Japanese idiomatic expressions listed under number 1, 2,5 and 6. Thus, №1 Why use a meat cleaver to cut up a chicken? corresponds to the English To take a musket to kill a butterfly or to the Ukrainian стріляти з гармати по горобцях. Similarly in the Japanese No 2: to see a thief and make a rope which corresponds to the English to shut the stable-door after the horse is stolen and to the Ukrainian замкнути конюшню, як коня вкрали and others.

Approximate analogies, naturally, are still more obscure due to their componental parts/images which are mostly very different in non-related/far distant, as in case of the Japanese languages. Sometimes they are hardly recognizable for the Europeans in general. Cf. for example, the one listed under №3: The knight jumps too far that corresponds to the English Let sleeping dogs lie and to the Ukrainian idiom He чіпай лихо, доки тихо. Similarly in № 4: To apply nose ointment which corresponds to the English To grease somebody's palm and in Ukrainian "позолотити руку " (дати хабаря).

Therefore, typologically relevant universal idiomatic expressions may presumably be found only among the group/class of idiomatic near equivalents and among the so-called genuine and approximate idiomatic analogies, which are stable expressions having different componental parts/ images but a similar/analogous lexical meaning.

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