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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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8.1 Widespread Idioms and Post-classical Literary Works: Introduction The greater part of those widespread idioms that go back to already existing texts come from sources of ancient times, as was shown in Chapters 5, 6 and 7. The contributions of classical antiquity and the Bible (with its subsequent Christian exegeses) to this total of 115 widespread idioms are very similar in degree. Things are different with post-classical works of world literature, which have so often been postulated to be sources of so-called “international phrasemes”. In fact, among our large number of pre-tested idioms, we could identify only a very small number of widespread idioms that stem from fa- mous literary works. The inventory of WIs now clearly shows which works of literature and which details of passages in a text have contributed to the “Lexicon of Common Figurative Lexicon” and which well-known works of world literature are not represented at all in this lexicon. Various idioms to be discussed here take up where the previous chapter left off: their origins or traces of them reach back to antiquity or the Bible. These idioms could have been treated in Chapter 7 as well, but because they owe their dissemination mainly to other literary works we decided to include them in this chapter. We divide this chapter into two sections, according to the time of origin and the type of the underlying literary work: 8.2 Novels and Dramas of World Literature (D 1 – D 11) and 8.3 Literary Works of Modern Times,...

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