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SENTENTIA. European Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Cognitive Strategies of Transformational Use of English Phraseological Euphemisms in Linguistic Experiment

Arsentyeva Yuliya Svyatoslavovna

ORCID: 0000-0002-0214-7642

PhD in Philology

Docent, the department of Romano-Germanic Philology, Kazan Federal University

420008, Russia, respublika Tatarstan, g. Kazan', ul. Kremlevskaya, 18

Other publications by this author










Abstract: Cognitive strategies of occasional transformational use of English phraseological euphemisms in linguistic experiment are subject to consideration. The purpose of the study is to determine the cognitive strategies of the occasional use of phraseological euphemisms. The subject of the research: the types of cognitive strategies, which are used in ocasional transformations of English phraseological euphemisms, the study of which was performed after the literature survey and a brief description of the linguistic experiment. Research methods: the method of phraseological analysis developed by A.V. Kunin, which exists in two forms - phraseological identification and phraseological description, contextual analysis method, definitional analysis, component (seme) analysis. The novelty of the study: as a result of the linguistic experiment, for the first time, cognitive strategies of the transformational use of English phraseological euphemisms, combining the characteristic features of both phraseological and euphemistic nominations, were determined. Results of the study: two cognitive strategies were identified that are characteristic of all types of occasional use Ц informing strategy and the strategy of expressivization. Evaluation strategy is defined when using the addition of a component / components, insertion and replacement of a component / components; objectification strategy is revealed in the cleft use of euphemistic units; accentualization strategy when using phraseological reiteration, permutation and phraseological saturation of context. For the first time, we have singled out the strategy of cognitive deployment of the image, which is characteristic of the most complex types of occasional use of phraseological euphemisms, namely, phraseological pun, extended metaphor and phraseological allusion.


phraseological euphemism, occasional transformational use, linguistic experiment, cognitive strategies, informing strategy, strategy of expressivization, evaluation strategy, objectification strategy, strategy of accentualization, strategy of deployment of the image

The study of cognitive strategies of the transformational use of phraseological euphemisms is based on the concept of a cognitive strategy that takes into account the intentions of the speaker [6; 7]. At the same time, there are several interpretations of this concept. Thus, a few scientists consider knowledge about the processes of cognition as a cognitive strategy [3], other researchers understand this concept as a way of obtaining, storing and using information [2]. D.N. Pavlov considers cognitive strategies to be "... regularities in the choice of methods for solving cognitive problems in order to achieve certain goals" [5].

The hierarchy of types of cognitive strategies is quite well developed for various types of discourse. Scientists distinguish various types of these strategies, such as: the strategy of evasion, localization, contrast, evasion, correction, cognitive-conceptual strategy, etc. As L.A. Linnik notes: "A cognitive strategy, like any other, is implemented by a set of strategic and tactical moves, which are single speech actions (speech techniques) focused on achieving cognitive goals. The order, placement and type of relationships between speech actions form a cognitive tactic" [4].

Since the intentions of the speaker are the basis of cognitive strategies, their identification is also relevant when studying the contextual use of phraseological units, in general, and phraseological euphemisms, in particular. Phraseological euphemization is considered to be a replacement of words and expressions that are rude, unacceptable for one reason or another with phraseological units of a softer or veiled nomination. The distinctive features of phraseological euphemisms include: transference of meaning, separability, stability (lexical and grammatical) with the possibility of contextual transformations, figurativeness and high significance of connotational components in the structure of phraseological meaning [1]. The results of the study were obtained in the linguistic experiment, which was conducted during the spring, autumn and early winter of 2021, 3rd and 4th year students of the Department of Romance and Germanic Philology of the Institute of Philology and Intercultural Communication of Kazan Federal University, specializing in the field of linguistics, acted as informants. Initially, the students attended the specialization course "Fundamentals of English Phraseology", which introduces future specialists and translators to the peculiarities of the occasional use of phraseological units, the types of occasional transformations of phraseological units and the mechanisms of their creation. The tasks of the informants included the creation of nine types of occasional transformations of twelve phraseological euphemisms in the English language. Thus, the informants acted as non-native speakers of English, but having a high level of English proficiency. In general, the linguistic experiment was a complex experiment, including open, natural, mental and transformative types of experiments. The procedure for conducting such an experiment was already described earlier [8].

It is quite clear that the informing strategy, which is a macro-strategy, the purpose of which is the selection and form of presenting information to the reader / listener in order to increase knowledge, will be present when using all the types of transformation of phraseological units under study. The cognitive strategy of expressivization will also be common when using all types of transformations of Russian and English phraseological euphemisms due to the characteristic features of the euphemistic units themselves as language units with a fairly high degree of emotiveness and expressivity.

A detailed study of the cognitive strategies identified by scientists allows us to put forward a hypothesis about the most characteristic types of cognitive strategies used in various types of transformations of phraseological euphemisms.

Thus, an evaluation strategy that also implies the strategy of expressivization can be identified while using the addition of a component / components, insertion, replacement of a component / components and phraseological allusion. The evaluation strategy is understood as a reflection of the evaluative nature of human knowledge of the world. Added, inserted components or lexemes that replace the components of phraseological euphemisms show a personal, evaluative judgment of the creator of the context, in our case, the participant in the experiment, from the standpoint of ameliorative or pejorative assessment, thus increasing the intensity of the assessment.

So, to implement the strategy of evaluation and expressivization when using insertion, most often high-quality adjectives were selected, which expanded and updated the image of phraseological euphemisms, and also gave a qualitative assessment to the described phenomenon. For example, in the structure of the euphemistic expression "to bring one's heart to its final pause" with the meaning "to be at death's door", the component "weak" was added, which justifiably and colorfully testifies to the possible cause of a person’s death, and the phraseological euphemism "down among the dead men", meaning "in a state of deep drunkenness", an additional characteristic of drunken people, metaphorically designated as "dead men", was supplemented by the adjectives "staggering" and "numerous":

This situation brought his weak heart to its final pause.

Yesterday he was down among the staggering dead men.

When using the complex cognitive process of phraseological allusion, the image of the original phraseological euphemism arises in the mind of the recipient based on the key component / components, and the full, dictionary form of the phraseological unit and its meaning are recreated without loss, while the key components / component may have an evaluative character. The merit of the informants was the creation of contexts that allow to restore the original image of phraseological euphemisms in the minds of the recipients and to understand their meaning without any loss.

Interesting examples have been obtained with the euphemistic unit "to angle with a silver hook" with the meaning "to indicate willingness to offer a bribe":

1. The employee bought expensive whiskey for his boss. It was a silver hook.

2. He tried to convince them with everything he had including a silver hook to participate in this project.

3. – It’s impossible! He managed to solve all the problems.

– With the help of a silver hook.

The ameliorative image of the "silver hook" helps to recreate the dictionary form of the phraseological euphemism and its meaning in the minds of the recipients, while the informants were able to create a clear and precise context that helps to realize phraseological allusion.

The objectification strategy can be observed in the cleft use of phraseological euphemisms, since the use of parenthesis characteristic of this type of transformation of euphemistic units indicates either a specific source of information ("as he called it"), or the absence of such a source of information, i.e. the prototypicality of the statement, which is objectified by the seme "any", which is observed in the second example with the phraseological euphemism «to fall off the back of a lorry» – «to be stolen»:

I told him about the gift that I presented to my boss, and he said it was a kind of angling with, as he called it, a silver hook.

When I lost my wallet he suggested that it might have fallen, as they say, off the back of a lorry.

The cognitive strategy of accentualization can be used to create such types of transformation of phraseological euphemisms as phraseological reiteration, permutation and phraseological saturation of context. Accentualization implies the selection of individual elements of context as the most important ones. That is why it is most clearly manifested in phraseological reiteration by drawing the recipient’s special attention either to the entire phraseological euphemism, or, when repeating some individual component or components of a phraseological euphemism, to this component / components that convey the main intention of the creator of phraseological reiteration. The rearrangement of components of phraseological euphemisms as a type of inversion, which is noted by researchers of cognitive strategies as a traditional actualizer of the accentualization strategy, demonstrates this type of cognitive orientation without any problem. Phraseological saturation of context can also serve as an example of this cognitive strategy, since it allows us, both implicitly and explicitly, to focus the attention of the recipient of the created context on the described phenomena that are significant and important from the point of view of the creator of the context.

Let us give an example of using the cognitive strategy of accentualization in the process of using phraseological reiteration. The informants quite often resorted to the repetition of several components of English phraseological euphemisms during the experiment. In the following two examples, the well-used context makes us understand that the second interlocutor required a few moments to perceive the euphemism phrase as an expression with transferred meaning, and the partial repetition of a part of the euphemistic unit gives him this time:

1. – Did you angle with a silver hook again?

With a silver hook? Yes, I think so.

2. –Do not drink so much alcohol! It may bring your heart to its final pause.

Final pause? No way! It is not going to happen.

When studying a sufficiently large number of cognitive strategies identified by scientists, we did not find strategies that could be applied when creating such complex types of occasional use of phraseological euphemisms as phraseological pun and extended metaphor. Since these types require well-developed logical and figurative thinking from the creators of the phraseological context, the ability to adequately perceive the image underlying the phraseological and euphemistic rethinking, and deploy it into a system of sub-images, as well as simultaneously comprehend the direct and transferred meaning of a phraseological euphemism, we believe it is necessary to add one more cognitive strategy that has not previously been singled out by researchers, namely, the strategy of cognitive unfolding of the image. The dual perception of the meaning of a phraseological euphemism and its prototype makes it possible to reproduce a similar cognitive mechanism in the human mind, creatively play with the image, and when using an extended metaphor, also create a sub-image or sub-images grouped around the base metaphor. It should also be noted that phraseological allusion, being a complex mental process, involves in the sphere of its creation not only evaluative expressivization, but also the strategy of cognitive unfolding of the image in the mind of the recipient with the help of key components / component.

Let us turn to the consideration of extended phraseological metaphor. The mechanism of extended metaphor was first considered in detail by the Latvian scientist A.Naciscione in her monograph in 2001, the study of this type of occasional use of phraseological units was continued in a further major publication of the author [9; 10]. According to the terminology of the author, extended phraseological metaphor is characterized by the use of additional images, which are grouped around the base metaphor of the transferred language unit, thus, the imagery embedded in the phraseological unit is deployed. By calling additional images sub-images, A. Naciscione draws the attention of researchers to the fact that these sub-images are based on associative metaphors, which leads to the use of both base and associative metaphors within the phraseological context.

An interesting example of the use of extended metaphor of the phraseological euphemism "to angle with a silver hook" with the meaning "to indicate willingness to offer a bribe" shows us that the main attention was paid to the material from which the fish hook was made. Being a precious metal, silver is highly valued, it was on this property that the euphemistic metaphorical rethinking of phraseological euphemism was based. However, according to the informant, the silver turned out to be fake, causing the rod to break quickly. Thus, in the example, the sub-images of fake silver and a broken fishing rod are consistently created, at the same time, the image of the phraseological euphemism itself is ameliorative in nature, and the strategy of cognitive deployment of the image gets its vivid embodiment:

He tried to angle with a silver hook but the silver was counterfeit and the hook broke very quickly.

Thus, the study of the literature on the issue of the use of cognitive strategies, as well as the analysis of the obtained examples of the linguistic experiment, showed that two cognitive strategies characteristic of all types of occasional use of English phraseological euphemisms are the strategies of informing and expressivization. The evaluation strategy can be identified using such types of phraseological euphemism transformation as addition of a component / components, insertion and substitution of a component / components. The cognitive strategy of objectification manifests itself in the presence of parenthesis in the cleft use of euphemistic units. The accentualization strategy is typical when using phraseological reiteration, permutation and phraseological saturation of context. The strategy of cognitive deployment of the image that we have identified is inherent in the most complex types of occasional use of English phraseological euphemisms, namely, phraseological pun, extended metaphor and phraseological allusion.

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