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    Idiom Prediction Mechanism (Academic Research Project)

    Idiom prediction mechanism

    1. What is the definition of "idiom"?

    Idioms are fixed expressions with unpredictable meaning which most often have connection to some historical event (quite often not very significant); Also some bizarre set of words popularized by all sorts of media, because of a successful occasional use by some famous figure. (Cambridge press)

    My definition: Idioms are expressions that sound rather odd, because they are not common among certain groups of people( IDIOMS ARE CULTURE-SPECIFIC, unless they are dubbed into another language) . A broad context is required to support the expression, so that it is perceived neutrally, since the meaning can be figured out by the represented situation or/and the manner speaker says it.

    2. Tips before procceeding to work with idiomatic expressions:

    Each separate idiom should be considered a phenomenon of culture and language

    Reviewing idioms by dividing them into groups is pointless and ineffective, because both structure and form differ from one idiomatic expression to another even when there’s an implication of a similar pattern.

    "Idioms are regarded as linguistic expressions that are independent of any conceptual system and that are isolated from each other at the conceptual level. " (IDIOMS BETWEEN MOTIVATION AND TRANSLATION. Prep. univ. Oana Dugan, Universitatea “Dunărea de Jos”, Galaţi)

    Idioms is about no other than certain concept (cultural concept) that has its’ profound meaning. Looking solely at the form of the idiom might just misguide one.

    The idiom has a “semantic transparency", also known as “motivation of an idiom”

    There are 3 mechanisms that make the idiom motivated:
    -Conventional knowledge (tradition/cultural experience)

    Psychological aspect of the idiom

    Idioms are most often used to describe certain attitude towards things in society at a determined historical period of time.

    These things/traditions can still be relevant, thus applicable to people's current lives(if society has maintained certain characteristics of its' ancestors)
    Or might sound odd if society's perspective on some aspects of life has evolved far beyond what the idiom has to offer.

    "One of the most important claims of cognitive metaphor theory is that any language contains connected systems of conventional metaphorical expressions instantiating basic conceptual metaphors or root analogies, which are shared because they derive from common experience with the world and serve as ‘part of our conceptual apparatus’. (Lakoff and Turner 1989)" (IDIOMS BETWEEN MOTIVATION AND TRANSLATION. Prep. univ. Oana Dugan, Universitatea “Dunărea de Jos”, Galaţi)

    "Most idioms are products of our conceptual system and not simply a matter of language. An idiom is not just an expression that has a meaning that is somehow special in relation to te meaning of its constituting parts, but it arises from out more general knowledge of the world embodied in our conceptual system." (Metaphor: A practical introduction by Zoltán Kövecses)


    1) Read the given text

    2) If you stumble upon several expressions, highlight them and go further on.

    3) Come back to the highlighted parts of the text. Examine the context around each of these vague expressions attentively.

    4) Look at the individual words of the semantically opaque phrases, try to imagine the situation presented. Ask yourself, are they practically possible? If so, re-read the context and apply your first associations to it.(Imagination)

    5) Once you figure out you have come across idioms, look at as if it was an unseparable expression, not individual words gathered together. Try to make something out of it relying on your cultural exprience. (Cultural awareness)

    Keep in mind that many of idioms (in English) are dubbed into other languages (or vice versa), so as an ESL student your cultural awareness and familiarity with conventions of other languages is the main key to your success. (e.g. "don’t look a gift horse in the mouth" has an equivalent expression in Russian)

    6) Look for “motivation of the idiom” to understand it. "Knowledge of the world provides the motivation for the overall idiomatic meaning." (IDIOMS BETWEEN MOTIVATION AND TRANSLATION. Prep. univ. Oana Dugan, Universitatea “Dunărea de Jos”, Galaţi)

    What comprises its' motivation is 3 cognitive devices that an idiom has to deal with (metaphor, metonymy, conventional knowledge)
    Motivation is somewhere in the vicinity of prediction, it's weaker than a prediction, but it has this potential to deliver what certain idiom is supposed to mean.

    7) "Idiom follows a subconscious pattern of comparing items from different domains which have some minor but obvious characteristics." (IDIOMS BETWEEN MOTIVATION AND TRANSLATION. Prep. univ. Oana Dugan, Universitatea “Dunărea de Jos”, Galaţi)

    Try to figure out what charactersitcs of certain subject are emphasized in the idiom.

    Idiom is about comparison of similar features of different objects, your task is to know what features the idiom focuses on, and then, relying on your Knowledge and Cultural Awareness suggest your own meaning of the idiom you encountered.
    Last edited by elixor.fixor; 16-May-2016 at 18:48.

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