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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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This book may be seen as a continuation of the volume Widespread Idioms in Europe and Beyond from 20121 although it also clearly differs from it. While working on that book, i.e. on idioms that occur in a large number of languages in almost the same lexico-semantic structure (I call them widespread idioms), it soon turned out that the data I collected would be too extensive to be treated in a reasonable and sound way in a single book. Choices would have to be made. I had to think about how to shorten the data and which of the 300 widespread idioms I had identified by that time might be less interesting, which of them could be disregarded and excluded. Instead, I decided not to cut at any point but to write two books. After this decision was made I intensified my work on those idioms that can be derived from an identifiable text. In the previous volume (2012), a total of 190 widespread idioms were studied which can be traced back to texts from antiquity, from the Bible, from fables, fairy tales, folk narratives, and from popular and world literature.

At the same time, the search for further widespread idioms of European languages continued. My aim was to capture as many widespread idioms as possible and I hoped to achieve certain completeness. In this, however, I did not fully succeed: although I now have an inventory of more than 500 widespread ← 1 | 2 → idioms...

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