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Man and Culture

On the nature of the behavior of phraseological collocations and idiomatic expressions in Spanish

Рамирес Родригес Pablo

Assistant, Department of Theory and Practice of Foreign Languages, RUDN Institute of Foreign Languages

117198, Russia, g. Moscow, ul. Miklukho-Maklaya, 7, kab. 312

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Abstract: The article is devoted to the problems of identification of idiomatic expressions in the field of phraseology. Based on the concept of phraseology, she studies linguistic units characterized by fixed and reproducible combinations of words in speech. Idiomatic stable expressions in the phraseological sphere are phraseological units of the language system with the following distinctive features: internal fixation, semantic unit and external fixation. Most of the idioms that are presented in the work consist of commonly used words of the Spanish language, although some of them include diacritical words or a certain structural anomaly. It is also important to take into account the special influence of these phraseological units on the overall structure of the conversation, primarily on argumentation, as well as on their pragmatic binding function. In this paper, special attention is paid to the pragmatic component. When a speaker uses one of these phraseological units, he makes an assessment, and the consequence of this assessment is an expressive shade of phraseological units. Within a group of idioms, it is usually recognized that verbal idioms constitute a subgroup whose components differ in that they are formed by a verb and a number of fixed additions, as well as in that their behavior in speech is similar to that of simple verbs. Taking into account the formal and semantic characteristics of verbal idioms with a collocation base, it can be noted that noun + verb or article + noun + verb collocations are a productive source of verbal idioms, since in the process of metaphorization they become verbal idioms that acquire idiomatic meaning. The given comparative classification of verb stable expressions allows us to conclude that verb idioms are actually complex collocations endowed with idiomaticity, used to emphasize colloquial speech.

Keywords: Idioms, Context, idiomatic, pragmatic function, external fixation, internal fixation, phraseological units, Collocations, Meaning, Culture
This article is automatically translated. You can find full text of article in Russian here.



Words are the basic units of languages, and thanks to their combination we can form sentences and texts that are the final result of speech activity. Although all languages have rules governing word combinations, there is a certain freedom to form sentences and texts. Thus, at least in Spanish, it is possible to change the order of appearance of an adjective that is combined with a noun in a phrase, it is possible to change the order of elements in a sentence, and we can change the representation of the sequence or paragraphs that make up the text.

However, along with these possibilities, we also find the fact that there are combinations of words in languages, when using which the speaker is deprived of the freedom to change or modify the sequence of elements and change the elements that make up the combination. Thus, it can be confirmed that these combinations of words are fixed, since they have a fixed syntax. There is a discipline for studying fixed combinations of words: phraseology, similar to other disciplines of linguistics, such as phonology, which studies phonemes, morphology, which analyzes morphemes, syntax, which deals with sentences.

Idiomatic stable expressions (idioms) are phraseological units of the language system with the following distinctive features: internal fixation, semantic unit and external fixation. These units do not constitute complete sentences and function as elements of a sentence.

However, in Spanish there are a large number of verbal idioms formed as a result of collocations, that is, idioms that have inherited the lexical connection of collocations, when a process of metaphorization occurs, as a result of which collocations become idioms.

To date, there are few existing works that attempt to distinguish between idioms and collocations. This is mainly due to the complexity of compiling a linguistic corpus of this caliber for the study of formal and semantic characteristics that entail the process of metaphorization.

Most of these expressions analyzed in this paper are made up of common and modern Spanish words, although some of them include diacritical words or a certain structural anomaly. Both in the case of diacritical words and in the case of structural anomalies, this violation cannot be explained in accordance with modern synchronization laws, whether lexical, morphological or syntactic.


Materials and methodology of the study


Verbal idioms arising from collocations are idioms in which there is a link between a noun and a verb. The idiom does not lead to collocation, but vice versa. Collocations that can be converted into idioms using a metaphor. In this sense, tocar la loter?a can refer both to a verbal collocation, if we are talking about a literal meaning, and to a verbal idiom, if it has a figurative meaning. The most important characteristic of idioms that have the basis of placement is the degree of formal fixation of the word combination itself.

Lexicographer Julio Casares proposed in 1950 in the work "Introduction to modern lexicography " the definition of the term "locuci?n ", which is generally accepted in all subsequent studies of phraseology and is still relevant, also compiled a classification of Spanish idioms, which is recognized and taken into account by all those involved in phraseology as a field of research. According to Casares[1, p. 22], an idiomatic phrase is a stable combination of two or more terms that functions as an element of a sentence and whose ordinary unitary meaning cannot be justified, at least, by the sum of the normal meaning of the components.

This definition refers to the concepts of fixation or stable combination, multilingualism of two or more terms, lexical unit integrated into a sentence, and idiomaticity. As discussed in the paper, not all phrases are absolutely stable, since some allow variations or contain elements that are not fully fixed, not all stable expressions have idiomatic meaning, since in some cases the meaning of the expression is transparent, fixation and idiomaticity to a greater or lesser extent characterize idioms and, of course, pluribality and the fact that they are integrated into the discourse as if they were simple lexical parts, are the defining characteristics of this type of units.

Casares distinguishes between two large groups of idioms: connective idioms, among which there are conjunctive and prepositional, and meaningful or conceptual idioms, which include nominal, adjective, verb, participial, adverbial, pronominal and interjective. The group of verbal idioms, according to Casares, consists of those that, consisting of a verb and a complement, make up a complex predicate. In this regard, Montoro[2, p. 35] analyzed in detail the linguistic work of Casares, focusing, among other things, on his theories about idioms and pluriverbal formulas.

In 1967, Coseriu, based on the ideas of Porzig[3, p. 79], introduced the concept of lexical solidarity, akin to one of the most commonly used collocations today. In the same work in which he applies this concept to the Spanish language, he emphasizes the difference between the technique of discourse and repeated discourse.

Within the latter, he identifies three types of units, depending on whether they are equivalent to sentences, syntagmas or words, and argues that the second group, which can be switched using syntagmas (stereotypical syntagmas), should be studied not from a lexicological, but from a syntagmatic point of view. However, Coseriu[4, p. 88] also mentions verb idioms, this time with examples in Spanish, among other languages such as hacer alarde, echar en cara, hacer hincapi?, sacar de quicio, ir tirando o no dar abasto , when he talks about units of repetitive speech, which can be replaced by words that he calls lexical periphrasis.

Zuluaga[5, p. 30], devoting one chapter to fixation and the other to idiomaticity, classifies phraseological expressions based on two criteria: their internal structure and their functional value. Based on the first of them, he distinguishes between free, fixed, semi-idiomatic, idiomatic and mixed expressions with unique elements, with structural anomalies, with metalinguistic and idiomatic elements with a regular structure. As for the application of the second criterion, that is, the functional meaning of phraseological units, obviously inspired by the Casares classification, he identifies two large groups: a group of phraseological statements that can themselves make complete sentences, and a group of idiomatic expressions or idioms that are combined with other elements in a sentence. In this context, Zuluaga believes that verbal idioms are included in the second class. These subgroups belong to grammatical tools, which include prepositional, conjunctive and relative idioms; those of lexical units, which consist of nominal, adverbial and verbal idioms; and syntagms, consisting only of verbal idioms.

On the other hand, Zuluaga points out that the context analysis of idioms consists of recognizing the class of elements with which they are combined and the type of constructions they form. Finally, it should also be noted that when behaving in the grammatical context of verbal idioms, classifies them according to their general meaning, not their literal form, therefore, for example, he considers the idiom escurrir el bulto intransitive, despite the fact that it has a direct complement in its literal form.

A contemporary of this classification is the Trist? P?rez classification[6, p. 135], which, unlike Zuluaga, relies on the internal structure of phraseological units to justify its sentence and, although it mentions this, leaves aside the environment defined as "words that are syntactically related to phraseology ". Trist? looks at the presence or absence of an identifying element in a word that allows the speaker to identify the phraseology as such.

The special commitment of the Cuban Trist? y Carneado to the study of phraseology is undoubtedly the result of the traditions of the Soviet school in this field. In this regard, Carneado Mor?[7, p. 34] summarizes various proposals for the classification of phraseological units put forward in the field of Russian linguistics with special emphasis on two approaches that roughly determine the scope of phraseology: one who understands that it must deal with all combinations that have features of stability, reproducibility and non-positional meaning, including, therefore, sayings (phraseology in a broad sense), and one that believes that phraseology should be limited to the study of units that are functionally related to the word as a nominative unit of the language, which excludes combinations of words reproduced in a pre-prepared form and are semantically integral.

The first works of the Japanese Spaniard Kazumi Koike on verb collocations and idioms in Spanish were published in the early 1990s. In 1991, the author initially defined verbal idioms as those lexicalized combinations of words that, consisting of a verb and other elements, such as a noun, adjective, etc., form a complex predicate. Such a distinction between the two types of units is necessary because verbal idioms are not considered as constructions with a supporting verb, and in fact this is one of the criteria that is used to select idioms that form up to the body of work.

In this regard, Koike[8, p. 40] considers the separation between free combinations of words and collocations and, what is most interesting in connection with this work, between collocations and idioms, relying on syntactic transformations, co-occurrence and structural fixation, as well as the semantics of differences, in order to ultimately pay special attention to units, which are both collocations and idioms at the same time.

After Zuluaga, linguist Gloria Corpas[9, p. 68] stands out as a pioneer in the monographic study of phraseological units, which in itsIn the textbook on Spanish phraseology , she is re-developing part of her doctoral dissertation on the Spanish language, from which she draws a proposal to divide the universe of phraseology into three spheres: collocations are combined in the first, idioms (and, among them, verbal idioms) in the second, and phraseological statements (sayings and routine formulas) in the third. According to this author, verbal idioms express processes and manifest themselves as follows: as two verb kernels, united by a conjunction and with additional additions (llevar y traer ), through the union of a verb and a pronoun or a related particle (dar de s? ) or with more complex structures, sometimes with negative wording, of a copulative or predicative verb, accompanied by various types of additions (oler a cuerno quemado, costar un ojo de la cara, no tener vuelta de hoja ).

One of the problems that Corpas pays special attention to are the so-called prepositional idioms, which are characterized by the fact that they are formed by several syntagmas, one of which is a verb, and the fact that they need to update some actant in speech (irsele a alguien el santo al cielo ).

Leonor Ruiz Gurillo[10, p. 21], the author of the bibliographic handbook, in order not to get lost in the sea of Spanish phraseology, develops a non-discrete classification of phraseological units of the Spanish language based on a formal criterion that avoids the possible inconveniences of categorical attribution of unity, which is applied to nouns, verb and prepositional phraseological expressions.

As for the second group, in the gradation that goes from the most peripheral positions to the core of phraseology, in the outer it places verbal collocations, such as estallar una guerra orzarpar un barco , followed by constructions with a supporting verb, which she calls verb syntagmatic units, such as tomar un ba?o or ponerse en tratamiento , because they show greater cohesion between their formants, although she warns that their fixation varies depending on the unit in question, and illustrates this with numerous examples.

This classification, again, takes as a criterion the internal characteristics of phraseological units. However, a year later, the same author establishes a classification of verbal idioms, which takes into account the behavior of their constituent verbs in relation to the syntactic elements of the sentence in which they are included, and establishes two groups of idioms, depending on whether or not the valence of these verbs is rearranged in comparison with their simple form. The first group includes verbal idioms formed by the verb and the nominal syntagma, which, according to the author, in a fixed way fill the selection that the verb makes from the complement, so that this complement becomes part of the phraseology (echar un cable, echar una mano, comer el tarro ), and in the second - those formed by the verb and prepositional syntagma, and in this case the appearance of a mandatory complement led by a preposition does not restructure the verbal valence (apuntarse a un bombardeo ).

In this sense, the work Torrent [11, p. 33] stands out, which specifies various criteria for classifying Spanish idioms (in terms of their internal structure or their function) and uses syntactic characteristics - the functionality of verbal idioms (verbal inflection and the requirement of arguments or actants) to differentiate them. Based on this observation, he defends idioms such as ca?rsele la baba a alguien with an internal subject or no estar el horno para bollos , whose verb represents all internal arguments, which for some authors, such as Garc?a-Page[12, p. 20] or Corpas[9-1, p.72] offer special categories, these are just verbal idioms that do not deserve special classification.

At work "Introduction to Spanish Phraseology " Garc?a-Page[12-1, p. 23] examines the general classification of idioms that he proposed in 2004, starting with the classification of Corpas, in order to add some observations on idioms equivalent to a sentence, which he calls sentences and identifies three subgroups among them. Semi-simple idioms, which, if they were free combinations of words, would form sentences from a syntactic point of view, since they grammatically consist of a lexical subject and predicate, such as ca?rse (le) la baba or irsele el santo al cielo . Also those idioms with an autonomous grammatical structure where all actants are performed lexically, including impersonal ones, such as la profesi?n va por dentro , no est? el horno para bollos, hay moros en la costa (mainly sayings, statements of special value, proverbs, etc.) and, on the other hand, interjective idioms and pragmatic formulas such as ?Qui?n me lo iba a decir!

More recently, Inmaculada Penad?s[13, p. 12] has made an exhaustive revision of the definition of Casares in order to conclude that an idiom is a fixed combination of words that functions as an element of a sentence and whose meaning does not correspond to the sum of the meanings of their components. Penad?s then cites dar la cara as an illustrative example, and later points out that neither Garc?a-Page[12-2, p. 30] nor the latest edition of the grammarReal Academia Espa?ola (RAE and ASALE, 2009) do not define verb idioms, but are more interested in their structure.

In general, the idioms in question have a lot in common with free word combinations. In fact, this type of phraseological units differs from free combinations in its institutionalization, syntactic and semantic stability, and its denominational function. Stability is the most important characteristic that makes it possible to distinguish one phenomenon from another. This concept includes both semantic lexical aspects and syntactic morphs. Semantic cohesion is reflected in the nature of the semantic unit of the language that these units represent, regardless of whether they have a compositional meaning (hacer algo a troche y moche ) or an idiomatic meaning (meterse en un berenjenal ).

The semantic criterion is supplemented by the criterion of morphosyntactic cohesion, expressed in the application of certain tests and formal operations that check not only the formal stability of idioms, but also their semantic integrity. By substitution: This is the most important test, which consists in replacing a synonym, hyponym or hyperonym with one of the components of the unit. By way of exclusion: we are talking about suppressing one of the components so that the resulting sequence is grammatical, but does not preserve the meaning of phraseology. Additions are also not allowed. Finally, a transformative disadvantage: we are talking about the impossibility of rearranging the elements that make up phraseological units, that is, the word order cannot be subject to changes allowed by free combinations of words of similar structure and categories.

As for the taxonomy of idioms, they are traditionally divided according to the function of the sentence they perform, regardless of whether they are replaced by simple words or syntagmas. Thus, nominative, adjectives, adverbial and verb idioms are distinguished, which can form the core of nouns, adjectives, adverbs or verbs, respectively. These are endocentric constructions, the core or the main element of the phrase of which can be replaced from a strictly formal point of view with the entire structure and perform the same syntactic functions. In this classification there is a place for idioms consisting of prepositional syntagmas in which both elements have the same grammatical status. In the same way, following the model proposed by Corpas[9-3, p. 80], conjunctive idioms can be included in a separate type, since they understand that they fit perfectly into the concept of speech, although they were traditionally considered such in phraseology.

In accordance with the objectives of this work, in addition to a detailed overview of the main theoretical approaches to verbal idioms and collocations throughout the history of Spanish phraseology, we proposed to conduct a comparative phraseological analysis to determine how many verbal idioms extracted in the database created for this purpose are actually the result of the metaphorization process emanating from the verb collocations. The database consists of 325 verbal idioms of various compositions.


Research results


For the purposes of this work, we follow the definition of the verb idiom Corpas[9-3, p. 88], which believes that this term should in principle be applied to every idiomatic combination based on a verb characterized by a high degree of idiomaticity and the possibility of syntactic transformation, that is, according to the degree of its fixation.

Of the 325 expressions that make up the database, 140 verbal idioms from verbal collocations that have undergone transformation by metaphorization have been confirmed.


As shown in the graph, the most common verb idioms of collocation origin in Spanish are those formed as: verb + article + noun [VAS], for example: chuparse los dedos , followed by verb idioms: verb + preposition + article + noun [VPAS], for example: tirar de la manta and idioms [VS] or verb + noun, for example: tocar madera.

On the other hand, verb idioms like [VASPAS], [VPS] and [VASAd] are also found to a lesser extent. The first group corresponds to idioms: verb + article + noun + preposition + article + noun, for example: tener la sart?n por el mango . The second group consists of idioms formed by verb + preposition + noun, for example: deshacerse del muerto . And the last group consists of verbal idioms like: verb + article + noun + adjective, for example: dormir a pierna suelta.

Finally, to a more limited extent, verb expressions adjective + noun [VADs], such as: tener buena percha . Verb idioms: verb + preposition + article + adjective + noun [VPAAdS], for example: meter en el mismo saco . And verb idioms: verb + noun + adjective [VSAd], for example: tener cara dura.

This study reflects that, although by their nature colocations differ from idioms due to the lack of idiomaticity or semantic compositionality, there are certain types of verbal idioms that have idiomaticity, even if they originate from verbal collocations in their original state. In Spanish, idioms with a collocation base are the most common, which are formed by a simple structure typical of everyday language, and those whose lexical structure is larger are the least common.




Thus, despite the fact that phraseological expressions have been classified into numerous types and with a variety of criteria and points of view, it seems that in Spanish linguistics there is a certain degree of agreement regarding the existence of three large groups: collocations, idioms, and phraseological utterances, each with several subtypes. Within a group of idioms, it is usually recognized that verbal idioms constitute a subgroup whose components differ in that they are formed by a verb and a number of fixed additions, as well as in that their behavior in speech is similar to that of simple verbs.

Taking into account the formal and semantic characteristics of verbal idioms with a collocation base analyzed in this work, it can be noted that noun + verb or article + noun + verb collocations are a productive source of verbal idioms, since in the process of metaphorization they become verbal idioms that acquire idiomatic meaning.

The given comparative classification of verb stable expressions allows us to conclude that verb idioms are actually complex collocations endowed with idiomaticity, used to emphasize colloquial speech. In other words, idioms or idiomatic expressions are multi-valued collocations that play with double semantics: figurative and literal. It is important to emphasize that this is a complex metaphorical process that creates a problem when it comes to distinguishing the concepts of collocation and idiom, because depending on the degree of idiomaticity they represent, they will choose one of two groups.












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