How Long Are Sayings? Cover Image

How Long Are Sayings?
How Long Are Sayings?

Author(s): Anneli Baran
Subject(s): Customs / Folklore
Published by: Eesti Kirjandusmuuseum
Keywords: literary language; metaphorical meaning; phraseological expressions; saying; semantics

Summary/Abstract: We talk, communicate, chat, speak, and make utterances – all thesesynonymous verbs signify verbal communication and mark the same action. The action may also be expressed by means of set expressions, or more precisely, phrases or idioms. Words, phrases and syntactic units, or the sc. microtexts, are at our disposal. The issue may be also considered at another angle – namely, how short can a phrase be for it to preserve its contents? Compared to other short forms (proverbs, riddles), phrases are generally characterised as being shorter. It has been determined that the minimum length of a phrase is a combination of at least two fully semantic words. According to a common claim aphrase characterises a specific situation. Therefore, a phrase can only exist as a set expression in a context. Conceptualising phraseologisms, however, prompts the question of the ‘obligatory’ and ‘facultative’ constituents of a phraseologism, i.e. the issue of its form and, more importantly, of its defining. While discussing the motivation of phrasal expressions, scholars often refer to their opacity vs. transparency. But what would the ideal form be for which people possess sufficient background knowledge, including phraseological competence, which is required for understanding a given expression? What is the smallest number ofwords necessary for understanding an expression? Whether and to which extent can we find help in metalanguage framing a set phrase? In the article I will discuss the issues related to the study of phrasal semantics on the example of set phrases connected with the image of talking, narration, words, etc. The discussion will rely on material from the database of Estonian phrases.

  • Issue Year: 2007
  • Issue No: 35
  • Page Range: 99-110
  • Page Count: 12
  • Language: English