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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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15 Conclusions and Main Results


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One of the primary goals of the present study—and its predecessor, “Widespread Idioms Volume I”—was to identify as many widespread idioms as possible. The first step was systematic investigations into the figurative lexicon of many individual languages by reference to various idiom dictionaries in order to discover potential WIs (“widespread idiom candidates”) while the second step consisted of an evaluation of these “candidates” by a large number of experts for their native languages. The next aim was to investigate the origin of the idioms and present the newly collected empirical data fully before conclusions about commonalities of the figurative lexicon of European languages may be drawn. Completeness could not be achieved.

The first section of this chapter, 15.1 Suggestions for Future Work briefly touches on this subject. In some areas, for example somatisms, similes and other complex constructions, more systematic studies are needed. The second section, 15.2 Widespread Idioms from an Areal Perspective deals with peculiarities of the idioms’ distribution, i.e. gaps in the otherwise Europe-wide dissemination and particularly far-reaching spread. The extent to which widespread idioms of this book are also associated with existing texts is the topic of the subsequent section, 15.3 Source Domains and Intertextuality. Finally, Section 15.4 Possible Causes of the Wide Dissemination of Idioms focuses—with ← 667 | 668 → all due caution—on the issue of whether any regularities or reasons for the wide spread can be recognized, now based on the total material of more than 470 widespread...

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