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Widespread Idioms in Europe and Beyond

Toward a Lexicon of Common Figurative Units


Elisabeth Piirainen

This groundbreaking book in theoretical and empirical phraseology research looks at Europe’s linguistic situation as a whole, including 74 European and 17 non-European languages. The occurrence of idioms that actually share the same lexical and semantic structure across a large number of languages has never been demonstrated so clearly before Widespread Idioms in Europe and Beyond. This book answers significant questions regarding hitherto vague ideas about the phraseological similarities between European languages and their cultural foundation, ranging from intertextuality, aspects of European mental, material, and social culture, to culturally based perception of natural phenomena. This inventory, which analyzes 190 out of a total of 380 widespread idioms and includes maps, is valuable for academic teaching and further research in the fields of phraseology and figurative language, areal and contact linguistics, and European cultural studies.


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3 WIDESPREAD IDIOMS IN EUROPE AND BEYOND: THEORETICAL APPROACH The term Widespread Idioms in the title of this book is a term that is being newly introduced to linguistics, and it thus requires some explication. In this chapter, I will expound the theoretical foundation of this study, including the metalanguage used in this book. In the first section, I will create a definition of the term widespread idiom and develop a catalogue of criteria by which these Europe-wide figurative units can be distinguished from other types of idioms that are found in more than one language. Section 2 provides relevant examples for each of the criteria to illustrate the theoretical approach, togeth- er with more detailed explanations. 3.1 Criteria and Working Definition of Widespread Idioms This book is a result of the large-scale project “Widespread Idioms in Europe and Beyond”. As this project has broken new ground in linguistics, I would like to elaborate on its theoretical foundation in more detail, especially on the central term widespread idiom (or WI for short). As has been pointed out in Section 1.4, terms like Europeanism, Euroversal, internationalism or inter- phraseologism are not appropriate for our purposes. Instead, the working term widespread idiom is suggested for idioms that have equivalents in many different languages across Europe and even outside of it. Because the term widespread idiom is being newly introduced to linguistics, we need to create a working definition of it first. This definition must be based on criteria by which actual widespread...

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