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Lexicon of Common Figurative Units

Widespread Idioms in Europe and Beyond. Volume II


Elisabeth Piirainen

The book continues the work of Widespread Idioms in Europe and Beyond (2012) and also brings new insights into the similarities of the European languages. Using comprehensive data from 78 European and some non-European languages, another 280 “widespread idioms” have been analyzed in terms of their distribution and origins. They are arranged according to their source domains (for example, performing arts, sports, history, war, technology, money, folk belief, medical skills, gestures, and nature). Among them are very modern layers of a common figurative lexicon, including quotes of personalities of recent times. Thorough research on the sources of these idioms goes beyond the entries in relevant reference works and brings new and unpredictable results. All of the data in this book adds new knowledge to the fields of language and culture. We now know which Europe-wide common idioms actually constitute a “Lexicon of Common Figurative Units” and which chronological and cultural layers they may be assigned to. The question about the causes of the wide spread of idioms across many languages now can partly be answered.

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4 Intellectual and Technical Achievements


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4.1 Intellectual Skills and Technology as Source Domains: Introduction

The topic of this chapter is widespread idioms that have their origin in source domains such as cultural techniques, technical inventions and modern technology. The idioms are rooted in intellectual skills and achievements from early eras up to modern times. Idioms from these source domains allowed a subdivision in two main sections: 4.2 Writing, Reading, Counting: Basic Cultural Techniques (I 1 – I 7) and 4.3 Inventions and Technology (I 8 – I 19). These source domains have left clear traces in the “Lexicon of Common Figurative Units”. As my research shows, source domains of each of the three basic skills and achievements can be found to underlie figurative units of various languages but have contributed only a small number of widespread idioms to the “Lexicon of Common Figurative Units”. ← 135 | 136 →

4.2 Writing, Reading, Counting: Basic Cultural Techniques (I 1 – I 7)

Traditionally, the skills of WRITING and READING (LITERACY) as well as the ability of COUNTING—conveyed to a majority of people through compulsory education—are grouped under the term cultural techniques. Reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic regarded as fundamentals of elementary education are called in English the three Rs. Starting from the images that underlie several figurative units of European languages, the source domains WRITING and READING can be divided into two subdomains, namely that of WRITTEN/PRINTED DOCUMENTS or BOOKS, and that of SPECIAL LETTERS OF THE ALPHABET. Both subdomains...

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