Lexicology of the English Language

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Among two-top units A.I. Smirnitsky points out the following structural types:

a) attributive-nominal such as: a month of Sundays, grey matter, a millstone round ones neck and many others. Units of this type are noun equivalents and can be partly or perfectly idiomatic. In partly idiomatic units (phrasisms) sometimes the first component is idiomatic, e.g. high road, in other cases the second component is idiomatic, e.g. first night. In many cases both components are idiomatic, e.g. red tape, blind alley, bed of nail, shot in the arm and many others.

b) verb-nominal phraseological units, e.g. to read between the lines , to speak BBC, to sweep under the carpet etc. The grammar centre of such units is the verb, the semantic centre in many cases is the nominal component, e.g. to fall in love. In some units the verb is both the grammar and the semantic centre, e.g. not to know the ropes. These units can be perfectly idiomatic as well, e.g. to burn ones boats,to vote with ones feet, to take to the cleaners etc.

Very close to such units are word-groups of the type to have a glance, to have a smoke. These units are not idiomatic and are treated in grammar as a special syntactical combination, a kind of aspect.

c) phraseological repetitions, such as : now or never, part and parcel , country and western etc. Such units can be built on antonyms, e.g. ups and downs , back and forth; often they are formed by means of alliteration, e.g cakes and ale, as busy as a bee. Components in repetitions are joined by means of conjunctions. These units are equivalents of adverbs or adjectives and have no grammar centre. They can also be partly or perfectly idiomatic, e.g. cool as a cucumber (partly), bread and butter (perfectly).

Phraseological units the same as compound words can have more than two tops (stems in compound words), e.g. to take a back seat, a peg to hang a thing on, lock, stock and barrel, to be a shaddow of ones own self, at ones own sweet will.



Phraseological units can be clasified as parts of speech. This classification was suggested by I.V. Arnold. Here we have the following groups:

a) noun phraseologisms denoting an object, a person, a living being, e.g. bullet train, latchkey child, redbrick university, Green Berets,

b) verb phraseologisms denoting an action, a state, a feeling, e.g. to break the log-jam, to get on somebodys coattails, to be on the beam, to nose out , to make headlines,

c) adjective phraseologisms denoting a quality, e.g. loose as a goose, dull as lead ,

d) adverb phraseological units, such as : with a bump, in the soup, like a dream , like a dog with two tails,

e) preposition phraseological units, e.g. in the course of, on the stroke of ,

f) interjection phraseological units, e.g. Catch me!, Well, I never! etc.

In I.V.Arnolds classification there are also sentence equivalents, proverbs, sayings and quatations, e.g. The sky is the limit, What makes him tick, I am easy. Proverbs are usually metaphorical, e.g. Too many cooks spoil the broth, while sayings are as a rule non-metaphorical, e.g. Where there is a will there is a way.


Borrowing words from other languages is characteristic of English throughout its history More than two thirds of the English vocabulary are borrowings. Mostly they are words of Romanic origin (Latin, French, Italian, Spanish). Borrowed words are different from native ones by their phonetic structure, by their morphological structure and also by their grammatical forms. It is also characterisitic of borrowings to be non-motivated semantically.

English history is very rich in different types of contacts with other countries, that is why it is very rich in borrowings. The Roman invasion, the adoption of Cristianity, Scandinavian and Norman conquests of the British Isles, the development of British colonialism and trade and cultural relations served to increase immensely the English vocabulary. The majority of these borrowings are fully assimilated in English in their pronunciation, grammar, spelling and can be hardly distinguished from native words.

: 21/06/2009