Phraseology (from Greek phrasis - expression, logos - studies) is a field of linguistics, which studies phraseological units, that is stable combinations of words. Phraseological units belong in the sphere of research of phraseology. In different sources phraseological units are refered to as either «inseparable units», «stable combinations» or “set expressions”, that is the unities in the structure of which there are several words which express a single integral concept.
Phraseological units fill up the spaces in the lexical system of language, which are unable to provide the designation of the objects of reality to full extent. And in many cases such set expressions appear to be the only denotation for objects, qualities, processes etc.
Phraseology is a treasury of the language. History of people, peculiarities of nation’s culture and the way of life are reflected in phraseological units. Idioms very often bear vividly expressed national character. Along with purely national phraseological units there is a plenty of international phraseological units in English phraseology. The English phraseological fund is a complicated conglomerate of the native and adopted idioms. Even archaic elements are saved in some phraseological units.
In the formation of phraseological units human factor plays an important role, as far as an overwhelming part of set expressions is related to the human being and various spheres of activity. The factor of addressee is the major element of communication. Besides, a man often wants to attach to the objects of the outer world human features.
Phraseological units are highly informative units of language. They should not be analysed as «decorations» or something superfluous. Such interpretation of phraseological units occurs in some works but it is considered out of date in modern linguistics. Phraseological units may be considered as unique objects of linguistics. English phraseology is very rich and has centuries-old history.
Phraseology is a very complicated phenomenon, the study of which requires its own method of research, as well as the data of other sciences such as lexicology, grammar, phonetics, history of language, etc.
We can define some features of phraseology. First, phraseological units need exact systematization and classification. Secondly, it is impossible to fully understand the essence of phraseological units and to define exactly their meaning and usage in a language not taking into account the way of their historical development. It is also necessary to clarify the regularities of their origin in a language and their correlation with other linguistic means of expression.
The study of phraseological units is a necessary constitutive part of research of linguo-mentality of certain nation. Phraseological units reflect the experience accumulated during a thousand year’s period and demonstrate the conceptual layer of people’s consciousness. Performing a nominative function in a language, phraseological units differ substantially from words and ordinary word combinations. At the lexical level of linguistic system phraseological units are examined in relation to words with an emphasis on common features such as nominative character and an integral form in the language; and different features such as formal division of components and semantic complication in comparison with words. When comparing phraseological units with word combinations the attention is paid to close semantic connection between components, which is the pre-condition of syntactic peculiarities of phraseological units: they are syntagmatically connected, being one member of a sentence and fulfilling one syntactic function. Besides, word combinations are constructed according to certain syntactic models, and phraseological units are reproduced in speech.
Phraseological unit as a linguistic phenomenon can be examined not only in a linguistic but also in psychological context. The works of V.Gumbolt, F. de Saussure and O.O.Potebnja witness, that the nature of the linguistic phenomena should be found in the mentality of a human being. They state that connection of linguistics with psychology on the one hand gives the possibility to search the decisions of linguistic problems in psychology, and on the other hand to expect from linguistic researches new discoveries in the field of psychology.
Examining a language as a system of signs, F. de Saussure states that a linguistic sign is double-sided mental essence, and that both sides of a linguistic sign are mental being connected by means of associative connection.
The study of phraseological units as linguistic ones is the prerogative of phraseology, the status of which is not clearly outlined yet. As a rule, the phraseological level is examined in the language as an intermediate. One occupies an intermediate position between lexico-semantic and syntactic levels. The vagueness of the status of phraseology is connected with an unsettled question of the equivalence of phraseological units and a word, vagueness of the term itself and the subject of the given science. To the scientists who do not consider phraseology a separate discipline belong Charles Bally , V.V.Vinogradov , O.I.Smirnitskiy . Some other linguists refer phraseology to a separate hierarchical level of language. To them belong V.L.Arkhangel'skiy , M.F.Alefirenko , O.V.Kunin  and others.
Disputable is the question when phraseology originated. Some linguists are inclined to believe that Swiss linguist Charles Bally was the founder of this science. It is known that in his works on French stylistics he described word combinations. He examined phraseology as a part of lexicology. Other linguists consider that phraseology originated when V.V.Vinogradov defined its basic terms and outlined the tasks of phraseology.
We should not ignore the term “phraseological unit”, as far as it is the object of phraseology as a science. Different linguists use various terms (phraseological unit, phraseme, idiom, set expression, stable combination of words) for designation of the same concept.
Within the limits of set expressions O.I.Smirnitskiy, for example, distinguishes phraseological units (stylistically neutral constructions which are devoid of metaphorical meaning) and idioms (which are based on the figurative meaning, on a metaphor) [25, p.120] . N.M.Amosova defines phrasemes and idioms. Idioms, in her opinion, are characterized by the integral meaning which unlike phrasemes, are units of permanent context [7, p.115] .
In Englo-American linguistics the term “phraseological unit ” is not used at all. Linguist L.P.Smith applies the word “idiom”, which is used in its narrow meaning.
M.F.Alefirenko prefers the term “phraseme” [1, p.44]. V.M.Mokienko understads phraseological unit as a relatively stable, expressive connection of lexemes, which has an integral meaning.
Investigating phraseological units and coloronyms (that are included in their structure), we deal with different types of linguistic signs.
Phraseological units appear in speech and represent those phenomena and objects which surround people directly. People in their turn, ascribe to them this or that description. Consequently, it is naturaly, that in some phraseological units, which underline vividness in speech, colour is a component part. Colour helps to create bright visual images out of dry abstractions. It makes speech more colourful, rich and emotionally coloured.
As far as phraseological units are linguistic universals, it can be assumed that there are phrases having colours in their structure in any language, as phraseological units represent the life realities. Undoubtedly, for every language the psychological interpretation of colours is different, and this will be obvious during translation of phraseological units. The divergences in perception of the surrounding world by a certain nation will influence the amount of phrases with one and the same colour in different languages.
The names of colours, being a part of a phraseological unit, in some cases may lose their primary meaning (the feature of color) and acquire quite another semantic shade. It is possible to define the meaning of the component in some idioms, but it is impossible in some other, because the co-operation of all components of the unit creates its meaning. The semantics of each component becomes apparent differently in different types of phraseological units. For the discovery of certain regularities within one type of phraseological units one has to divide them in such a way that it would be possible for the deactualization of the component to be shown through clearly. As far as deactualization of a word in the structure of an idiom is directly connected with reinterpretation of the meaning of the phrase, the phraseological units with the name of colour in their structure are to be classified due to the types of reinterpretation.
The special accent is to be made on the interpretation of the meaning of the phraseological units. This phenomenon is complicated enough. It is conditioned by specific attitude towards the objects or phenomena of reality, by the character of internal vivid basis, by dependence between the lexical components of phraseological unit and their fully or partly reinterpreted meaning.
Some authors are inclined to ascribe lexical meaning to phraseological unit or to examine a phraseological meaning at the lexical level. L.G.Avksentyev states that an idiom and a word can be close semantically, that is to express a similar concept, however such similarity is relative. A phraseological unit and a word differ much. This difference is the result of their different natural basis.
If on the earliest stages of study of phraseological units the structure, origin and functioning were put forward, then in the last decades the interest of linguists was concentrated on the semantic peculiarities of phraseological units.
Under the semantic system of a language we understand the system of elementary linguistic signs, which have a certain form and matter, unlike the phonetic system which units do not express any concept, and unlike the syntactic system which units are the schemes of combination of the semantic system units. The units of the semantic system can be named semantemes.
The term «semanteme» is used in linguistic literature in different meanings. The scientists use it to name the smallest unit of the plane of content, which correlates with the correspondent element of the plane of expression. Also a semanteme is understood as a part of a word which is the bearer of its lexical meaning, unlike a morpheme which is considered to be the bearer of grammatical meaning. All these conceptions are one-sided and do not take into account that simple meaningful unit of language consists of two sides, that is the form and content, and only this unity can be regarded a semanteme.
Semantemes in language can be used as relatively independent and a dependent values. Relatively independent are those semantemes that can be the independent components of a message. Dependent semantemes cannot perform such function. However, their certain unity can acquire independence in the form of a word and function as the component of utterance. Consequently, dependent semantemes are morphemes and to a certain extent auxiliary words, and independent semantemes are the so called notional words of a language.
One of the major problems, related to the semantic system of language, is the problem of linguistic meanings.
Linguistic meanings are studied within the metalinguistics by means of a method which has not yet got the generally accepted name. In literature such names occur as cognitive linguistics, conceptual linguistics, contensive linguistics. The subject of this method is the research of the linguistic meanings and their relations towards logical and psychological categories, their universal and specific properties in some ethnic languages, and the establishment of types and varieties of linguistic meanings.
The meaning of a word is a cerebral psycho-physiologic connection between the reflection of physical part of a word and the reflection of the reality marked by this word. It is the connection which is set in a human psyche. But on the other hand there is a functional determination of a lexical meaning as the totality of potential typical combinations in which the area of usage of a given word is fixed.
There is a certain success in the study of semantic structure of phraseological units by means of componental analysis. Words may be monosemantic and polysemantic. A separate meaning of a word is called a sememe. Even the semantic structure of a monosemantic word appears to be difficult enough, as it is formed of different types of semantic features or semes. General semantic features (semes) unite different words in one semantic group.
The method of componental analysis of semantics allows to describe almost unlimited amount of lexical units by means of comparatively small number of semantic features. In such case the set of semantic features can apply on description of the concept system of human consciousness.
Semes are not discrete values and not material objects. There is no universal inventory of semantic features, which can be applied to describe the meanings of words. The problem what in thinking really corresponds to the semantic features as units of component analysis has not been solved yet. It is not clear yet, whether the set of semes of a certain phraseological unit has well organized character. Even if well organized character of the inner structure of meaning is determined, it still remains unknown whether it is random or not random order of semes, and also whether the order is predetermined by semantic regularities of the system of meanings of a given language.
An important value has the study of not only the proper semantics of linguistic units but also that semantics which is created by their combinability in texts, that is by a context. As it is known, a context is the segment of speech chain, which forms the surrounding of the linguistic unit which is analysed. As a language is notable for a linear character then every unit being used in speech has a context. Under the contextual lexical meaning of a word we understand realization of a concept in speech, or realization of a concept in communication, or expression of emotions, or pointing of the object of reality.
As it has already been mentioned, the object of our research are phraseological units, that is stable expressions which contain the combination of a few words. Thus to accomplish the componental analysis of a phraseological unit it is necessary to define a seme (or even a few semes) of an idiom. Usually a seme is one notional word which gives the key to the whole idiomatic expression. Thus to determine the specific character of the semantic system of the English language and semantic peculiarities of phraseological units, it is necessary to define the notion of semantic structure of a word. The semantic structure can be presented as a multitude with internal dependencies and oppositions, unlike the contextual lexical meaning which is analysed as complex unity.