Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body

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1. Rationale (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

In the 21st century, countries all over the world tend to develop basing on international cooperation. English has become crucial in the way people interact with different people around the world; not being able to communicate in English imposes what seem to be formidable limitations. Therefore, English has been adopted as one of the most important subjects in many schools in Vietnam. As an English-majored student, the similarities and differences between English and Vietnames cultures have been one of my concerns when studying at university. There are many differences between two languages, they are differences in grammar, lexicology, translation, phonetics and so on. However, there still exist plenty of similarities and differences between English and Vietnamese that can be demonstrated through metaphorical meaning especially in literature, idioms expression.

The research of English idioms has been traditionally associated with the study of literature, the use of idioms and is not restricted to this kind of language. A perfect understanding of how idioms are used in daily life language is not only important for English students to improve their vocabulary, but also to understand new and original idioms when we hear and use them in daily life.

However, what the author wants to express here is that idioms are the precious treasure of national languages that is the key to help learners know about nation, as well as custom and culture of each country all over the world. Therefore, it is the motivation for me to study idioms relating body parts that have made such a deep expression on the author for a long time that she finds it so interesting and useful. Most languages make use of idioms but the way individual words used varies from one language to another and each language has its own system and that they cannot always transfer the metaphorical use of a word from one language to another. (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

Idioms help learners see the interest, the beauty as well as the cultural color of language which help us use and understand correctly and clearly. The author hopes that learners will understand about idioms and proverbs in English, especially idioms related to people description.

2. Aims of the study

Idioms are extremely difficult topics and merely well-understood by foreign English learners and even native speakers of English who take the idioms and proverbs for granted because when they use idioms, they do not know if they are using them. However,they really appreciate the idioms associated to attitudes and behaviors of speakers, so when they hear foreigners make grammatical or pronunciation mistakes, they are quite willing to accept and understand them, they might not understand what that person means and that leads to a misunderstanding and boring conversation. Therefore, this study aims at:

Clarifying meanings of some English idioms expressions.

Helping the learners use right idioms in right situations.

3. Methods of the study (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

Considering all the characteristics, this paper made great use of qualitative method.

A qualitative approach allowed the researcher to gather non-numerical data from the supervisor, experts and friends, which provided more opportunities for explorations. Idioms were collected from dictionary and other sources of information to get valuable knowledge for this pape

4. Scope of the study

During the research process, the author sees that English idioms, proverbs and expressions about body parts are an interesting subject. Idioms and proverbs are a treasure of each country. Because of its immensity, what have known about them is very little. Due to time allowance and limited knowledge, the author cannot cover all idioms on these issues, this study only focuses on idioms describing human body parts.

5. Design of the study (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

This study is composed of three main parts:

  • Part I is the introduction which consists of rationale, aims, study methods, the scope and design of the study.
  • Part II is the development – the main part of this paper which is divided into three chapters:
  • Chapter one is theoretical background of English idioms, definitions of idioms, how different idioms versus compounds, proverbs and slangs.
  • Chapter two shows some English idioms relating to human body parts.
  • Chapter three indicates some difficulties for learners of English in studying idioms relating to human body parts, suggested solutions and exercises for practicing.
  • Part III is the conclusion which summarizes what is given in previous parts.


===>>> Viết Thuê Khóa Luận Tốt Nghiệp


CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

1. An overview

English  conversation  in  human  daily  speech  is  full  of  expressions  or phrases that are characteristics of  the  spoken  and written  language.

These phrases  make the native speakers’  language richly idiomatic and it will be a matter of puzzle to many users and students of English.

Until now, there  is no  complete  guide  to the large  number of phrases that are peculiar to everyday conversation. Any idioms, whatever its types, is deceptive. Its real meaning is not what it appears to be on the surface. Idioms provide an opaque connection between the surface sense of the words and their real individual meaning (Manser:1992).

It is important to understand the history and the use of idioms in daily life before researching in detail the use and the meaning of idioms relating to body parts. Idioms exist in every language and are one of the most magical parts of learning a language. That is because idioms, also known as idiomatic expressions, are a type of formulaic language in which the exact meaning of the expression cannot be derived from direct translation. Though different in structure, all examples of different languages have a few things in common. All are fixed expressions that cannot be translated literally or significantly altered, and are often used in everyday speech by native speakers. (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

Idioms require a moment of hesitation, to ponder their meaning. Once the underlying message behind an idiom emerges, it causes one to pause and consider the truth behind the saying. The more familiar with idiomatic expressions you become, the more likely you can incorporate them in to your own English writing and speech- should you find an appealing situation in which to use one. They are often impressive and enjoyable to share.

Idioms honestly and exactly reflect history, experience, spiritual value, religious opinion of people.

1.1. Definition of Idioms

It is important to recognize that idioms are not only colloquial expression as many people believe. Idioms as a special form of language that carries a large amount of cultural information, such as history, geography, religious, custom, thinking pattern and so on. They appear in formal style, in slang, in poetry,… To research idioms, first of all, we must understand what an idiom is? This is the old theme that we discuss it. Because to define the idiom exactly is a difficult question. In the definition of idioms, some scholars emphasize on the quantity of structure in idioms. That is to say how many language units to constitute the idioms? Is it except the phrases, words group, and words or sentences also can make up to the idioms? Others emphasize the single meanings of idioms it refers that the idiom’s meaning is arbitrary. The idiom’s meanings cannot synthesize or cut apart. Different people hold the different opinions on the definition of idioms; they have different local points on the definition of idiom. So we must understand the definition of idioms exactly through the research.

Although we are unlikely to give an ideal definition to the idioms, but we should give a better definition of idioms before the research. (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

According to Richards and Schmidt (2002, p. 246), an idiom is “an expression which functions as a single unit and whose meaning cannot be worked out from its separate parts”. Makkai (1972, p. 122) defines “idiom” as multiword expressions whose meaning is not predictable from their component parts. So, for example, although you might know the meaning of the words “storm” and “teacup”, it would be very difficult to guess the meaning of the idiom “a storm in a teacup”, which is a situation where people get very upset or angry over something that is not important.

An idiom is an expression with the following features: It is fixed and is recognized by native speakers. You cannot make up your own; It uses language in a non-literal-metaphorical- way”.

(Jon Wright: Idioms organizer:2000:9)

Idioms are phrases that do not mean exactly what they say. They have “hidden” meanings, like the idiom “to let the cat out of the bag” really means “to tell a secret”. Idioms are like sayings.

An idiom is a group of words in current usage having a meaning that is not deducible from those of the individual words. Eg:

“Behind one’s back”- which means “ when one is not present” is an idiom; and “face to face”- means “confronting each other”- is another idiom, in both cases, we would have a hard time to understand the real meaning if we did not already know these idioms.

According to online dictionary Wikipedia: (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

An idiom is an expression whose meaning is not compositional – that is whose meaning does not follow from the meaning of which it is composed” There are many definitions of idiom in our society. In short, the idioms consist of set phrases and short sentences, which are peculiar to the language in question and steeped in the national and religion, culture and ideas, thus being colorful, forcible and thought – provoking. Strictly speaking, idioms are expressions that are not readily understandable from their literal meanings of individual constituents. In a broad sense, idioms may include colloquialism, catchphrases, slang expressions, proverbs and so on.

1.2. Types of idioms (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

There are many opinions about types of idioms, according to Tim Nicolas at Essex University structural and psychological perspectives;1995;237-238), there are some kinds of idioms which are classified based on structure of sentence:

Verb + bare singular noun phrase

Ex: carry weight

Verb + non definite plural noun phrase

Ex: speak volumes

Verb + a + noun

Ex: come a cropper

Verb +the +noun

Ex: bite the dust

Verb + one’s (own)+ noun

Ex: change one’s tune

Verb + noun phrase +noun

Ex: pull somebody’s leg

Support-type verb + non definite noun phrase

Ex: make a splash

1.3. Features of idioms (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

Idiomatic expressions can be diagnosed by some properties that are extracted from its practical use in variable discourses. The features that are set below are extracted from an article labeled “Czech and English Idioms of Body Parts: A View from Cognitive Semantics, EnglishLanguage”:

  1. Idioms are conventional, i.e. they are well- established style.
  2. Idioms have paradigmatic fixity, i.e. The individual elements of idioms are unable to be substituted in the same place of its context.
  3. Idioms are transformationally anomalous, i.e. they are a unique group of words that cannot be created according to a specific pattern.
  4. From the that are language. formal viewpoint, idioms have combinatory abilities notidentical with the combinatory abilities of a regular
  5. From the semantic point of view, idioms have no compositional function, i.e. The total meaning of an idiom cannot be predicted from the meaning of its individual parts.
  6. Idioms have compositeness, i.e. an idiom is a combination of two or more words which function as a unit of meaning and that exactly what is called semantic unity.
  7. Idioms have a special nature that makes them unique; they are richer than the literal language in terms of their structure and semantic features.
  8. Idioms cause a high degree of disinformation potential, i.e. the individual parts of idioms are polysemous and can be misunderstood by the listener. (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)
  9. Idioms are institutionalized, i.e. they are conventionalized and cannot be changed.

1.4. Idioms versus proverbs

There are many differences and similarities which we can distinct idioms and proverbs.

A proverb is a short, famous saying, giving a piece of advice. A proverb generally states the general truth based on common sense or practical experience of humanity. Almost every language has their own proverbs, and some proverbs can be observed in many languages. Even if are hearing a certain proverb for the first time, it is not very difficult to interpret its meaning by looking at the context. However, different people can interpret a proverb in different ways, especially when the proverb is borrowed from a foreign culture. Given below are some proverbs in the English language.

Honesty is the best policy.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Proverbs often make use of grammatical and theoretical devices that help to make them memorable including alliteration, rhyme, parallel structure repetition of key words or phrases and strong imagery. There are some distinctions between idioms and proverbs: (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

  1. Proverbs are full statements with their correct grammar but idioms are not.

For example: True love never grows old versus kick the habit

  1. Unlike idiom, the meaning of proverbs can be deduced from the meaning of constituents.

For example:

The belly is not filled with fair word  versus Skin and bones.

According to Pham Van Binh (1999:12), proverbs are section of folklore, that is, they are a “complete words of literature”. Therefore, proverbs have all fundamental functions of literature such as the apprehension aesthetic, education and so on. On the contrary, idioms are only section of language and idioms alone cannot express an idea completely, so it equals to words only. Hence, they do not have function as proverb do and are often used to replace words so that expression effects of the sentient can be strengthened.

Idioms and proverbs are considered as special units of each language. They honestly and exactly reflect history experiences, spiritual valuable, religious option. They make people’s languages more beautiful and lifelike in literature as well as communication.

1.5.  Idioms versus compounds (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

Compound word (or just “compound” for short) is therefore a word that consists of at least two root morphemes. It is clear that the components of a compound may be either simple or derived words or even other compound words.

E.g: grapefruit juice, school teacher, sister-in-law, lady-killer

Compounds are sequences of two are more words arranged in a grammatical construction and acting as a unit in a sentence.

An idiom is (usually) a type of compound that has a meaning that may not relate to the meanings of its individual words. It is a figure of speech. Compound words have many kinds, but classification according to the meaning, compounds have two types:

Non- idiomatic compounds (motivated): the meaning of the whole word is easily deduced from the meanings of the components. (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

Ex: Goal- keeper, love story

Idiomatic compounds (non- motivated): the meaning of the whole word is not the total, sum of meanings of the components.

Ex: Lip-service, blackleg

Some idiomatic usages are compounds and some compounds that are not idioms convey idiomatic meaning also. That is all idiomatic usages are not compounds, but some compounds are idioms. The compounds with an idiomatic sense are also used to convey the undertone or sarcastic sense. This type of compounds is commonly used in newspapers to sarcastically criticize the government and the political leaders.

1.6. Idioms versus slangs

Slangs prefer to the terms that are recognizd as casual or playful. Idioms are yesterday’s slang and slang is tomorrow’s idioms which have through use and over time become acceptable to be used in the informal language. Thus, we cannot use this idiom in writing or in formal spoken English. This expression is idiomatic becasue we can not guess its total meaning form its separate parts or words.

1.7. Phrasal Verbs

A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb plus an adverb, like “make up” and “put down”. We can know its possible idiomaticity by putting those examples under specific exam. For example, we have the verb “make up” that has the meaning of the verb “invent”, we can consider it as an idiomatic verb because the totel meaning of “make up” is different from the meaning of the verb “make” and the adverb “up”. This phrasal verb is high in the ladder of idiomaticity. (Palmer:1981)

1.8. Partial Idioms (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

These are type of idioms which appear when the meaning of one of the words has its usual meaning, while the other has a meaning that is peculiar or unusual to the particular sequence; for example the idiom “red hair” refers to hair, but not the red one in strict. We have another partial idiom like “make your bed”. This idiom can be used as a comic expression by comedians when is said in a play, the reaction will be bringing a set of carpenter’s tools in order to produce a funny situation.

1.9. Syntactic Restrictions

There are some syntactic restrictions concerning the idioms for example, we cannot change the number of the nouns of idioms that is why we cannot say, ”spill the bean” instead of ”spill the beans” . In addition, we cannot give the comparative and superlative form of the adjectives in idioms. Thus, we cannot say ”redder herring” instead of ”red herring”. We have some syntactic restrictions of idioms we cannot passives some idioms like ”the bucket was kicked”. So idioms have some restriction in their use we rather use them as they are with stability and fixity (Palmer, 1981:43).

1.10. Strategies of Interpreting Idioms (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

Idioms and their interpretation depend on a conceptual theory, which is developed by the cognitive linguists who are concerned with the fact that our thinking in idiom interpretation is metaphorical and that is reflected in its use. The explanation of idioms are rendered in terms of three cognitive strategies:

  1. Conceptual metaphor,
  2. General conventional knowledge
  3. Metonymies

The general conventional knowledge refers to all the information that people have about the world around them, it is somehow unconscious, because people do not recall the general conventional knowledge when they are speaking, thus the process is usually done unconsciously.

Conceptual metaphors and metonymies are the cognitive devices which provide a link between the concrete knowledge of the world people hold in their memory and the figurative meaning of a given idiom. That means, we have an abstract area in our mind which needs to be brought into our everyday use.

From the cognitive viewpoint, idioms are considered as a product of our conceptual system. Idioms are just expressions that carry meaning which is different from the meaning of its individual parts, but it comes from our general knowledge of the world that is embodied in our conceptual system. That shows when a number of people share the same experience in life or the same culture. Those who share the same stories, traditions, and experiences can understand and interpret them easily rather than those who are not native speaker. That is because people of the same culture share the same images that are stored in their memory and that are gathered through their life. Some linguists like Tylia, Bragina, and Oparina suggest that culture is like a channel through which language is passed from one community to another and that what is called ”cultural connotation” ( (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

Idioms seem to be difficult lexical items to interpret, but if we look at the conceptual metaphors which underlie idioms, we will be much closer to understand them. It is indicated that conceptual thinking of understanding idioms is like a vehicle which connects the literal meaning of the words to their idiomatic meaning. Thus, with idioms that revolve round “head” native speakers are able to infer the idiomatic meaning because they subconsciously know what the word “head” means. So the process of interpreting idioms is conducted successfully when the three cognitive strategies, i.e. conventional knowledge, conceptual metaphors and metonymies are at work. Those can easily simplify most of the inferences about the meaning of idiomatic expressions.

Another factor that helps us to understand and infer idioms, is ”context” in the sense that the surrounding co-text has a strong effect on what we think the word means. Context helps to interpret the meaning of idiomatic phrases. We cannot infer the meaning of an idiom unless we know the context by which we can comprehend the total meaning. Context is very important for the interpretation of literal language and more important to interpret idioms, which have figurative meaning. Palmer (1981: 43) argues that misinformation and confusion often result from our inability to infer the meanings of idioms, which are contextually misplaced. (Khóa Luận: A study on English idioms related to parts of body)

Idioms have function in human discourse. Idioms focus on the massage content including actions. Idioms are interactional including greetings and farewells so that they can secure the cohesion of discourse. The discoursal cohesion seems to rely semantically on idioms. People use idiomatic expressions in order to express their opinion, feeling, emotions, evaluation of events, agreement with or rejection of, other people’s statements. Those expressions also show whether this massage can be understood, and predicted or not. Although idioms behave as semantic units, their syntactic behavior poses problems. Thus, the sentence “he kick the bucketed yesterday” sounds awkward. Thus the only correct form of past tense is ”kicked the bucket”, so we cannot consider an idiom like a single word but they are sequence of grammatical words.

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