The componental analysis of phraseological units with coloronyms
Phraseological units are determined by the character of elements (components) constituting their structure. To yet unsettled questions belongs the nature of the components of phraseological units. Concerning this linguists have different points of view, and it is accounted for this problem being rather difficult and full of contradictions. Some scientists think that a component of an idiom is an extraverbal formation which has lost its lexical meaning, being dissolved in the composition of the phraseological unit. Others have an opposite viewpoint, that the components of phraseological units have verbal nature. Thus the components of an idiom may be words which are used specifically [29, p.26].
The components of the phraseological units are called lexemes. They also occur in free usage, except for the small amount of archaic elements. Lexemes are the components of separately formed unities. In many cases they can have forms of inflexion which is the index of their integral formation.
Speaking about the components of phraseological units we should mention lexical meaning of a word. Under lexical meaning of a word we understand the realization of a concept by means of a certain linguistic system together with the additional description which reflects close concepts and also by means of emotional and stylistic colouring of the word. The following factors which were pointed out by I.V. Arnold [9, p.49] can give us more distinct picture of the lexical meaning of a word:
1. A word is the necessary condition of the origin and existence of a certain concept, but not every word has a concept in its basis , although every word is characterized by a meaning.
2. Being the category of thought the concept cannot have emotional colouring. And on the contrary, the meanings of many words not only reflect the objective reality but also express attitude towards it.
3. The concepts are common for many nations, they are international; but meanings are nationally conditioned.
4. The meaning of a word can be influenced by its being this or that part of speech. The lexical meaning of a word exists in indissoluble connection with certain circle of grammatical meanings which are expressed by the grammatical forms of this word. The lexical meaning of every word is the concrete exposure of lexico-grammatical meaning of the corresponding part of speech.
The meanings of the words are stipulated by the whole lexico-semantic system of a language and appear to be the result of reflection of objective reality. Lexical meanings are formed in the conditions of concrete connections and interrelations of words of the given language. Unlike the concepts which are common for different languages, lexical meaning of a word always has a national specificity, as well as the whole lexico-semantic system of every language.
Mentioning such notions as lexeme and lexical meaning of a word in this research, it is needed also to make an accent on the notion of seme as a component of a phraseological unit.
Modern semasiology analyses a seme as a complex organization which has its own structure. A seme is understood as a semantic unit which reflects a certain feature of an object or a concept which it denotes. Several semes can be comprehended as an integral formation which is called a semantic multiplier or semantic feature. Theoretically it is possible to divide words or idioms into semes infinitely. But according to the practical aims the separation of semes is done in the limited frames depending on the purposes.
Semes can be classified depending on different reasons: on matter, on their relation towards the language system, on the psychological colouring etc. Popova Z.D. and Sternin I.A. in their book «Lexical system of language» [24, p.30] represent the concept of denotative and connotative semes.
Denotative semes. When analysing a word or a phraseological unit we distinguish basic semes, which determine the meaning of this word or an idiom, and the semes of minor importance (secondary semes), which represent secondary features. As a rule, basic semes are included to the explanation of words in dictionaries. They represent the most essential features of a word, without which the given object does not exist as such. Secondary semes reflect the minor features of the object, and in most cases are not represented in dictionaries.
To give somebody a black eye - if we give somebody a black eye, we punish him severely for something he has done, causing him very slight harm (íàäàâàòè êîìóñü òóìàê³â). The basic seme representing this meaning is to punish, and the secondary one is harm.
A bolt from the blue – if we say that an event or piece of news was like a bolt from the blue, we mean that it surprised you because it was completely unexpectedly; it is used mainly when talking about unpleasant things (ÿê ãð³ì ñåðåä ÿñíîãî íåáà). The basic seme of this meaning is to surprise, and the secondary one is unpleasant.
Basic semes play an important role in defining the meanings of the words, at comparison of synonyms or words within the frame of lexico-semantic group. Secondary semes in these cases do not play such an important role. However in communication even secondary semes can be useful.
V.G. Hak distinguishes between descriptive and relative semes [14, p.67]. Descriptive semes represent proper qualities of the object (size, form, outward appearance etc.). Relative semes reflect the connection of the object with other objects in different relations (spatial, temporal, functional). Descriptive semes reflect the person’s impressions of the reality; relative semes appear as a result of imaginary comparison of objects and establishing between them some connection.
Connotative semes. Connotative macrocomponent of a phraseological unit has in its composition in the way of microcomponents evaluative, emotional, and stylistic semes. Connotative semes also have reflective character, but unlike denotative semes, represent not the features of an object, but certain relation of a person towards it, and also characterize the situation of intercourse.
For example connotative semes can be singled out in the semantics of such phraseological units as:
The meaning of a phraseological unit a red-letter day (we refer to a day as a red-letter day when something very important or exciting happens then) is characterized by a connotative seme exciting.
Semantics of the phraseological unit until you are blue in the face (if we say that somebody can do something until he is blue in the face, we mean that however long he does it or however hard he tries, he will still fail) contains the connotative seme for a long time.
Evaluative seme expressed a positive or negative estimation of an object. But the meanings of the majority of words do not contain evaluative seme. In such a case we may speak about zero estimation.
Emotional seme conveys the concrete feeling of a person towards the object. As far as emotions are also divided into positive and negative, as well as estimations, thus emotional and evaluative semes are very closely connected, and very often it is hard to distinguish between them.
Stylistic seme indicates the belonging of a lexeme to this or that functional style of language.
It is possible to identify the nucleus of meaning and its periphery in the structure of a phraseological unit. To the nucleus, as a rule, belong basic, permanent, bright semes, and to the periphery – secondary, dispositional, weak semes.
Nuclear semes in most cases can be identified by means of a traditional componental analysis, and they are represented in the definitions of explanatory dictionaries. Peripheral semes usually cannot be identified by means of such analysis, and they are not fixed in a dictionary. However, as well as nuclear semes, they may represent psychologically and linguistically real components of meaning, and can serve as the basis for formation of figurative sense .
Different components of a word meaning are unequal in the structure of phraseological units by virtue of their nature. Some of them are expressed more strongly than others, some are basic, and some are secondary. And due to this semes are in different interrelations between themselves. It is possible to single out a few types of relations between semes:
Determinative relations. Determinative relations are observed both between macrocomponents and microcomponents of an idiom and means a presence in the meaning of a word of some semantic component that foresees the presence of other component or a group of components. Thus, if a phraseological unit has a denotative component which is concrete, then this unit also will have an empiric component, that is the interior notion of the object of nomination.
Syntagmatic relations. In the structure of word meaning semes are built up in a certain well-organized line, being in relations whith the similar syntactic relations between the parts of sentence. Syntagmatic relations between semes, which are examined from the beginning of a syntagmatic line to its end, represent a gradual transition from more abstract semes to less abstract ones.
Dominant relations. As far as semes in the structure of meaning are divided into basic and secondary, some components of meaning in the structure of phraseological unit can dominate over others. A dominant seme determines the real belonging of a unit to this or that subject group.
Hierarchical relations. Hierarchical relations of semes can be easily identified. They are very important for organization of lexical units in paradigms. As A.A. Lyvova states «hierarchy at the component level is the necessary pre-condition of the hierarchy of meanings, and in the final result of system language organization» [22, p. 58] . The integral seme (archiseme) is situated on the apex of the seme hierarchy in the structure of lexico-semantic group, and then follow more concrete semes. In spite of some differences in terminology, the authors adhere to only one understanding of the principle of seme hierarchy in the structure of phraseological unit, that is a successive submission of semantic components of different levels of abstraction.
Every meaning of the polysemantic word or a component of phraseological unit is called a sememe. As it was already mentioned, a lexeme is the component of phraseological unit. One lexeme can express a few sememes, but all of them are grouped into four types: two denotative and two connotative.
The first denotative sememe (D1) represents directly extralinguistic reality. The sememe actually represents the primary meaning of a certain lexeme.
The second denotative sememe (D2) represents a certain essence through its direct comparison with the sememe D1, for which there is already the prepared naming. The naming of sememe D1 is transferred on the sememe D2. There is a common element between the sememes D1 and D2, which is sometimes very insignificant. The sememe D2 represents a certain phenomenon of reality, which does not have other naming, but the one transferred from the sememe D1.
The first connotative sememe (C1) represents a certain essence through the mode of denotative sememe which is marked by their common lexeme. The sememe C1 is expressed only in word combinations. The lexeme which is not used in concrete connection is unable to express the sememe C1. The concrete mode of the sememe D1 is attached to the meaning of C1.
The second connotative sememe (C2) differs from C1 in the lack of a reasonable connection with the denotative sememe of the same lexeme.
Except for these four types of sememes there is one more type, that is the third connotative sememe (C3). It is expressed by the lexemes which do not have any denotative sememes in a language. This sememe can be perceived only in concrete phraseological units.
Thus, as it is known, a word appears as a complex formation in a language, because one and the same combination of morphemes under various conditions can convey several meanings, which means that a word may have a complex semantic structure. In this respect we may speak about the complexity of the semantic structure of phraseological units. That is why the components of phraseological unit meaning can be such its constituent elements which can be correlated with the features of the notion which is expressed by an idiom.
The study of meanings of phraseological units by means of dividing them into separate elementary meanings, is not only widely used in the practice of linguistic experiment, but already has a competent status as an independent direction in the method of semantic analysis. Today this direction is well-known under the name «the componental analysis».
Under the componental analysis we mean such identification of components of phraseological unit, when the meaning of a certain number of lexico-semantic variants is described by means of the limited inventory of elementary semantic units [29, p. 54].
Also there is other explanation of componental analysis : the singling out of the components of an idiom, or a linguistic unit, as differential features which can distinguish different linguistic units of one level from one another [11, p. 22].
In spite of the relatively short history of existence, this method has a certain advantage. In the course of a short perion of time it has gained many supporters among linguists. A great number of researches, where the method of componental analysis or at least some of its elements are applied, is convincing confirmation of this.
The method of componental analysis was formed in linguistics as an independent direction at the end of the 50th of the last century. It first appeared in the works of V. Goodenough and F.Lounsbery. This method is based on the identification of differential components of meaning in the analysis of phraseological units. There are different ways of componental analysis and different ways of recording the identified semantic components. It is possible to distinguish between two basic types of component analysis, namely minimal and total.
A minimal componental analysis is an elementary method of identification of the differences in semantics of phraseological units, which is used, as a rule, in those cases, when we need only to distinguish between the meanings of synonymous units. The purpose of this minimal analysis is to delimit the meanings of a small group of semantically close words. The purpose of total componental analysis, unlike minimal, consists not in delimiting the word meanings, but in the maximally sufficient identification of sememe structure. During this total component analysis all units which enter the given lexico-semantic group are taken into account. That is, in one phraseological unit all semes that can be identified are analysed.
The examples of phraseological units of high degree of polysemy (marked by orange color), phraseological units of medium degree of polysemy (marked by green color), and monosemantic phraseological units (marked by yellow colour) are illustrated in the table #1.
To the phraseological units of high degree of polysemy we refer the idioms in the meanings of which it is possible to single out from 5 to 3 semes. To these belong:
From the definition of the phraseological unit not as black as somebody is painted (when we say that somebody is not as black as he is painted, we mean that he is not so bad as he can be described or as we can imagine him) we single out three semes – not so bad, to describe, to imagine.
From the definition of the phraseological unit to bleed someone white (if a person, organization is bled white, they are made weak by being forced to use up all their money or another resources) we single out four semes – money, to force, weak, to use up.
From the definition of the phraseological unit a bolt from the blue (if we say that an event or piece of news was like a bolt from the blue, we mean that it surprised you because it was completely unexpectedly; it is used mainly when talking about unpleasant things) we single out three semes – to surprise, unexpectedly, unpleasant.
In the phrase to give somebody a black eye (if we give somebody a black eye, we punish him severely for something he has done, causing him very slight harm) we single out three semes - to punish, severely, harm.
From the definition of the phraseological unit until you are blue in the face (if we say that somebody can do something until he is blue in the face, we mean that however long he does it or however hard he tries, he will still fail) we single out five semes – to do, to try, hard, for a long time, to fail.
From the definition of the phraseological unit green as grass (if we say that somebody is green as grass, we mean that he is inexperienced or naive, or because he is yet young) we single out three semes – inexperienced, young, naive.
In the phrase to bleed red ink (if a company or organization is bleeding red ink, we mean that it has severe problems concerning money) we single out three semes – money, severe, problems.
In the idiom a red-letter day (we refer to a day as a red-letter day when something very important or exciting happens then) we single out three semes – to happen, important, exciting.
From the definition of the phraseological unit the black sheep (if we say that somebody is the black sheep, we mean that he is unordinary and very different from other people in his family or group) we single out three semes – different, unordinary, group.
From the definition of the phraseological unit black mood (if we say that somebody is in black mood, we mean that he is angry and irritable or even depressed and annoyed) we single out four semes – depressed, angry, irritable, annoyed.
In the phrase at a white heat (if we say that somebody is at a white heat, we mean that he is very anxious, nervous or even angry) we single out three semes – angry, nervous, anxious.
From the definition of the phraseological unit blue of the plum (we use it to speak about young people, beauty and charms of youth) we single out three semes – young, beauty, charms.
In the idiom the golden mean (it is used to speak about something that is very suitable for every side in some discussion or when people reach the compromise or an agreement) we single out four semes – suitable, discussion, compromise, agreement.
From the definition of the phraseological unit to have something in black and white (if we say that somebody has something in black and white, we mean that he gives you some information or explains you something very clearly so that you will not have any doubt) we single out three semes – clear, information, to explain.
To the phraseological units of medium degree of polysemy we refer phraseological units which have two semes:
From the definition of the phraseological unit a gray area (if we refer to sth as a gray area, we mean that it is unclear or it is ignorance of something, and people do not know how to deal with it) we single out such semes as unclear and ignorance.
In the phrase in the black (if a person or organization is in the black it means that they do not owe anyone any money) we single out such semes as money and not to owe.
In the idiom out of the blue (if something happens out of the blue it happens unexpectedly) we single out such semes as to happen and unexpectedly.
From the definition of the phraseological unit to have green fingers (if we say that somebody has green fingers, we mean that he is very good at gardening) we single out such semes as to be good at and gardening.
From the definition of the phraseological unit a red flag (we can refer to something as a red flag that gives warning of bad or dangerous situation) we single out such semes as warning and dangerous situation.
In the phrase white as a ghost (if somebody looks white as a ghost, he looks very pale and frightened) we single out such semes as pale and frightened.
In the phrase in the pink of health (if somebody is in the pink of health he is in excellent condition and extremely healthy) we single out such semes as excellent and healthy.
From the definition of the phraseological unit to buy a white horse (if somebody buys a white horse it means that he spends his money in vain) we single out such semes as money and in vain.
From the definition of the phraseological unit the dark hour (we refer to something as a dark hour when we speak about hard time) we single out such semes as hard and time.
To the monosemantic phraseological units belong phrases in which it is possible to single out only one seme:
From the definition of the phraseological unit blue-eyed boy (we say about a person who is somebody’s favourite pupil, student, worker etc.) only one seme favourite is singled out.
From the definition of the phrase brown as a berry (when we say that a person is brown as a berry, we mean that he is very tanned) one seme tanned is singled out.
In the phrase a red flag before a bull (it is something that makes a person very angry) the seme angry is singled out.
In the idiom to give the green light (if we give the green light to something it means that we allow somebody to do it) only one seme to allow is singled out.
From the definition of the phraseological unit once in a blue moon (something that happens once in a blue moon happens very rarely or hardly ever happens) the seme rarely is singled out.
From the definition of the phrase to see red (if somebody sees red he suddenly becomes very angry) the seme angry is singled out.
In the idiom the rub of the green (to have the rub of the green means to have good luck in some activity) one seme good luck is singled out.
From the definition of the phrase green-eyed monster (we refer it to somebody’s jealousy) the seme jealousy is singled out.
In the phrase a black bottle (we refer it to some poisonous liquid) only one seme poison is singled out.
From the definition of the phraseological unit the dark house (when we say the dark house, we mean the grave) the seme grave is singled out.
In the idiom a black-letter day (by a black-letter day we mean usual work-day) one seme work-day is singled out.
The table #2 is devoted to the semes which are more frequent in the semantics of phraseological units. They can be divided into three groups :
1) Semes which occur in the semantics of phrasseological units from 9 to 5 times (merked by orange colour).
2) Semes which occur in the semantics of phraseological units from 4 to 3 times (marked by green colour).
3) Semes which occur only once (marked by yellow colour).
.To the first group belong the following semes:
The seme money occurs in 9 phraseological units:
In the black (if a person or organization is in the black it means that they do not owe anyone any money).
To bleed someone white (if a person or organization is bled white, they are made weak by being forced to use up all their money or other resources).
To bleed red ink (if a company or organization is bleeding red ink, we mean that it has severe problems concerning money).
In the red (if a person or organization is in the red it owes money).
Golden handshake (it is a generous sum of money given to a person when he leaves and company or retires).
Black hole (if there is a black hole in financial accounts, money has disappeared).
To put more green into something (it means to spend more money or increase investments).
To buy a white horse (if somebody buys a white horse it means that he spends his money in vain).
The long green (it is used in the meaning of dollars, American money)
The seme angry occurs in 7 phraseological units:
A red flag before a bull (it is something that makes a person very angry).
To see red (if somebody sees red he suddenly becomes very angry).
To light the blue touch paper (to make person become angry).
Black mood (if we say that somebody is in black mood, we mean that he is angry and irritable or even depressed and annoyed).
At à white heat (if we say that somebody is at a white heat, we mean that he is very anxious, nervous or even angry).
As black as a thunder cloud (if a person is as black as a thunder cloud it means that he is very angry).
Black in the face (if a person is black in the face it means that he is very angry).
The seme very dark is a common seme for the following 5 phraseological units which have the same meaning very dark:
As black as a crow
As black as hell
As black as a skilled
As black as coal
As black as night
The seme pale occurs in 5 idioms:
White as a ghost (if somebody looks white as a ghost, he looks very pale and frightened).
To look off colour (if a person looks off colour it means that his face is pale).
To change colour (if somebody changes colour it means that he became very pale).
Face looses its colour (if somebody’s face looses its coolour it means that a person becomes pale).
To go white (if somebody goes white it means that he becomes pale).
To the second group belong following semes :
The seme royalty occurs in 4 idioms:
To roll out the red carpet (if we roll out the red carpet it means that we treat somebody like royalty).
To be born in the purple (if we say that a person was born in the purple we mean that he comes from rich or royal family).
To marry into the purple (if we say that somebody marries into the purple we mean that he or she marries a person from a royal family).
Red-carpet treatment (if we say that we give somebody red-carpet treatment it means that we give special or royal treatment).
The seme to deceive occurs in 3 phrases:
To sail under false colours (if we say that somebody is sailing under false colours we mean that he is deliberately deceiving people).
To buy golden bricks (if we say that somebody has bought golden bricks we mean that a person was deceived).
To do somebody brown (if we do somebody brown it means that we deceive this person).
The seme bored is singled out in 3 idioms:
To be browned off (if we say that somebody is browned off we mean that he is bored and fed up).
To have a black dog on one’s back (if we say that somebody is having à black dog on one’s back we mean that a person is bored and fed up).
To give on the blues (if we give on the blues it means that we make somebody become bored).
The seme to disrespect also occurs in 3 phraseological units:
A black mark (we can get a black mark when somebody is of à low opinion of us and doesn’t respect us).
To be in one’s black book (if you are in one’s black book it means that somebody doesn’t like and doesn’t respect you).
Black list (if you have a black list it means that there included names of people who are unpleasant to you and you don’t respect them any more).
To the third group belong following semes:
The seme honest is singled out it the phrase whiter than white (if we say that somebody is whiter than white we consider this person to be moral and honest).
The seme childhood is singled out in the idiom green years (we use it to speak about somebody’s childhood).
The seme formal is singled out in the phrase black-tie event (we call black-tie event some formal event).
The seme melancholy is singled out in the phraseological unit the blue devils (if we say that somebody is having the blue devils we mean that this person is in a state of melancholy or depressed).
Thus, by means of componental analysis we carried out the analysis of phraseological units denoting colour. We investigated the peculiarities of the semantics of the given phraseological units. We analysed the semes and their frequency in the given set expressions with coloronyms.
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
It is possible to make conclusions having investigated the peculiarities of the phraseological units denoting colour in the English language, having considered their nature and the specificity of their components, and having analyzed the peculiarities of the usage of these linguistic units.
We have investigated the semantic peculiarities of phraseological units denoting colour in the English language. We have defined the influence of the meaning of coloronym on general meaning of a phraseological unit. We discovered semantic role of these components in the field of system connections and considered to what extent psychological interpretation of colour is represented in the phraseological units. We carried out the formalized analysis of semantics of phraseological units denoting colours by the construction of matrix of semantic space of these lexical units. Such terms as “phraseological unit”, “phraseology”, “seme”, “coloronym”, “componental analysis” were defined.