Autumn-winter 2004


  Autumn-winter 2004

– Semantic, syntactical, linguo-stylistic and socio-linguistic features –

This article is an attempt to compare Turkish and Bosnian phrasicons in the light of their linguistically most relevant features. One of the first questions that arose was whether a comparative rather than a contrasting study of the phraseology of these two languages was indeed possible, given that they are unrelated. But since phrases are regarded as a linguistic symbol which is the lexicalized product of a mode of thought, culture, belief and many other non-linguistic factors, the cultural affinity between Turkish and Bosnian speakers prompted this approach.

Since the phraseology of this part of the world is characterized by a bewildering diversity of terms relating to this discipline, and by differences in the definition of phraseology as a category and of the items that belong to it, to say nothing of the extent and limits that researchers in this field must consider, the following definitions have been selected:

1. “Phrasicon” or phraseological lore are terms used to denote the totality of phrasal entities in the lexicon of a specific language-speaking community;
2. Phraseme or phraseological unit are terms used to denote a specific item in the phrasicon which, in formal grammatical terms, may be syntagmatic: consisting of at least two words; and clausal or pragmatic: in the form of open or closed clausal structures. Based on their semantic clarity, phrasemes are subdivided into:
a. Idioms – impenetrable units in which the referential meanings of the constituent elements are deactualized;
b. Figurative idioms – units in which one of the components retains a secondary denotation or in which one component retains its primary denotation and the other has a condensed semantic connotation;
c. Phrases – units that do not appear in transposed meaning but, given that they are multilexemes, and that they are self-reproducing and have a single meaning in their given form, are also included in the phrasicon.

The briefest definition of phraseme might read: A phraseme in the linguistic meaning of a certain number of speakers is a strong link between at least two lexical units in which the constituents lose their individual meaning to the general meaning. This definition omits the autosemanticism that others regard as an essential feature of the constituents of phrasemes; the reason for this is that in both of the languages that form the subject of this study there are phrasemes that do not contain a single semantically complete word (ni sebi ni svom; o sebi, pri sebi; sav svoj; bana ne).

The method of verification on the basis of the research corpus or of examples from everyday communication has been used to indicate that the variant features of phrasemes are as follows:
+ lexicalization
+ general use
+ reproducibility
+ syntactical and semantic stability
+/- idiomatic nature
+/- connotativity
+/- expressivity, emphasis or function of intensifier in the text
+ substitutability of phrasemes in the text (with one word/group of words/sentence, depending on the speaker’s preference; possibility of losing stylistic tone, but not meaning)

When the phrasicons of the two languages are addressed comparatively, the first question to arise is whether there are phrasemes with the same semantic constituents and the same overall meaning in the two languages. Here, international phrasemes of which the lexical calques are to be found not only in Turkish and Bosnian but also in the phrasicons of other Indo-European languages are disregarded. A large number of lexical calques were then recorded in the Turkish and Bosnian phrasicons, as well as phraseological synonyms in the two languages. However, the problems encountered in this case were those in which the lexical calque of a Turkish phraseme indicates the same referent in Bosnian, but where, because of possible stylistic suprainterpretations or subinterpretations of content, confusions of register etc., the content of the phraseme cannot be transferred by the phraseme of the other language, but resorts to translation by free collocation, retaining neutral form or introducing expressive lexical units. A particular problem is encountered in phrasemes that appear in both languages with the same components but completely different overall meanings (ekmek duşmanı – wife, spouse/dušman hljebu – a person who wolfs down bread; ayakları kesilmek (-den) – to stop coming, to stop dropping in [in Bosnian the rather more expressive phrasal equivalent is zaboraviti put do, to forget the way to]/posjeći se noge – to be very afraid). Since less than half the Turkish phrasemes in the texts studied can be seen as capable of substitution by phrasal synonyms in Bosnian, and since the content of a large number of phrasemes has been transferred by stylistically and semantically equivalent free associations of words among which a high percentage of units are of primary referential function, this has suggested the hypothesis that there is a large number of stylistically neutral phrasemes in Turkish which, regardless of the rich semantic and associative potential of their components and the visible semantic transposition in the process of phraseologization, have a primary referential function.

In the attempt to demonstrate the origins of the overall meaning of the most common examples of phrasemes from the Turkish and Bosnian phrasicons, the study indicates how the process of semantic phraseologization initiated by stylistic and semantic figures occurs. For instance, for both languages semantic phraseologization occurring by means of stylistic and semantic figures is indicated, from metaphor, personification, metonym, synecdoche, periphrase, hyperbole, euphemism and irony through antithesis, oxymoron and paradox to semantic figures of comparison such as simile and comparatio. Features common to the two languages in the process of phraseologization are also indicated, from elision or reduction of stock elements and the possibility of introducing intensifiers to the phraseme, to the compression of narrative forms to be lexicalized and accepted by the phraseme. In considering the Turkish and Bosnian phrasicons from the perspective of linguistic function, the study demonstrates that as regards their semantic potential, these units may be found in expressive (emotive), connative, factual, magical, preposterous and poetic linguistic functions. The attempt to understand the meaning of phrasemes in the linguistic meaning of native speakers remained at the level of the superficial image, in which it may be perceived that native Bosnian speakers find it difficult to recognize the semantics of certain Bosnian phrasemes, unlike Turkish native speakers who, even when a certain unit does not form part of their idiolect, recognize the overall meaning expresed by the phraseme. In regard to the absence or flawed interpretation of the meaning of Bosnian phrasemes in the linguistic knowledge of native Bosnian speakers, the question is raised of how far this is affected by the gulf between the Bosnians and the Bosniac literary heritage, the influence of linguistic variants adopted in one of the neighbouring states through the media, original and translated works of literature and scholarship, music and so on. Similarly, the question arises of how much this is affected by the fact that though it is ten years since the state regained its independence no start has yet been made on the institutionalized compilation of a comprehensive monolingual Bosnian dictionary including phrasemes. In both the Turkish and the Bosnian phrasicons, monosemic phrasemes were registered, of which the initial phraseological meaning has a wealth of semantic and associative potential, so that they are found with several meanings and can thus be regarded as polysemic, homonymous phrasemes arrived at by various routes of semantic phraseologization. The study thus indicates synonyms and antonyms of Turkish and Bosnian phrasemes. It is typical of both languages for various associations to form part of the extralinguistic reality of the speaker’s mindset, giving rise to a certain emotional charge, fear, love, hatred, disgust, condemnation; this produces a large number of synonymous phrasemes. Hence there are a good many native speakers who recognize the expressivity, emotional content or judgmental nature of phrasemes, that is the emotive or connative usage of language, as taking precedence over the referential usage, and who express the content of one phraseme by a synonymous phraseme. For example, the overall meaning of the idiom ni u mlin, ni u drva, collocated with the verbs of speech and expressed in the forms: as they say in the country, ni u kola, ni u saone; in another attempt the response that followed was s brda s dola; the content may be expressed in literary terms by the word nesuvislo (incoherent).

From the point of view of the semantic and syntactic structure of Turkish and Bosnian phrasemes, where particular attention was paid to nominal phrasemes, equivalent syntagmatic relations between the constituents were ascertained, and categories of phrasemes indicated of which the nominal or verbal constituents were subject to changes of grammatical category without alterations to the meanings of the phrasemes; changes of grammatical category may in some cases result in a given syntagma having another phraseological meaning, which may be achieved by free collocation, notwithstanding grammatical correctness, and by logically unacceptable expression. Certain phrasemes appear in the functions of typical types of word. They may appear in all syntactical functions, behaving like a “single word” regardless of formal multilexemity. The presence of phrasemes can be determined in almost all functional styles other than the administrative and legal, in which, along with periphrastic forms and decomposite predicates, there are occasional examples to be found at the boundary of the terminological and phraseological. The index of frequency of phrasemes in the academic style is also low, given that this is a metalanguage that in principle does not admit expressivity, emotionality or ambiguity, which are the essential internal features of phrasemes. Since the phraseme, as a linguistic sign, derives from speech, and is part of the “common property” of a certain speech community, it is entirely logical for it to be at its most marked and most frequent in the conversational style. In both languages, the index of frequency and density of distribution of phrasemes was observed to rise in situations of marked emotional charge, whereas the more formal the communication, the lower the index. This certainly results from the fact that in both languages there is a large number of stylistically down-marked phrasemes, jargon phrasemes and familiar phrasemes that are inappropriate to formal communication. In the literary style and its sub-styles, the introduction of phrasemes was treated by the stylogenic approach. In various genres of folk literature, phrasemes may provide a particular dynamism of expression, with the use of “verbalized images” known and familiar to a culture in the attempt to render convincing, vivid and familiar elements that are the product of the human imagination. They may be used to express powerful emotions, to mask taboos, and certainly to bring about a sense of identification between the speaker, the conveyor, and the reader or listener, as recipient.

Concision of expression, connotativity, expressivity, the stylistic tone of phrasemes are features that are freely used by the authors of literary prose works, particularly in the speech of the various characters, to assist the reader as recipient of the message of the text to see the characters in question as living beings, to share their emotions, to identify with them and see them through eyes of the author and his “verbal images,” as well as recognizing the various characters’ social standing from their speech.

The same effect, with a rather more frequent use of phrasemes, is to be found in the sub-style used in drama. In paraliterary styles such as versified texts for vocal interpretation, phrasemes are given not only their expressive content but also the effect of identification with the target group, the group about which and for which the author is writing.

In the journalistic style, in almost all media and every substyle and genre, a large number of phrasemes are registered, particularly in prominent sections of the text. In the Turkish media, particularly the air media, phrasemes are much more common than in the Bosnian media. The question is whether the frequent use of what might at first glance appear to be expressive Turkish phrasemes renders them standard, stylistically neutral units. A further question is whether the influence of the media leads to the widespread acceptance of certain phrasemes in public communication, and subsequently as part of the standard language; in other words, does the standardization of such units constitute what might be called the legalization of illicit construction, an enrichment of the language, or just a reminder of language as a living entity, subject to change.

In the Bosnian media, a very considerable use of phrasemes was observed in the genres of sports journalism, but the same impression was not gained from the Turkish media. Playing with the phraseological meaning and denotation of the constituents of a phraseme may give rise to comedy in the hands of column-writers and in humorous pieces. In commentary, reportage, critics’ reviews, travelogues and the like, which express subjective judgments, they constitute memorable images. In the rhetorical style and its sub-styles, and in material collected from the speeches (interviews) of two former presidents of the state, the phraseme was observed to be a unit used to avoid making substantive statements, to create an impression on the recipient, and to arouse a sense of belonging to the same group, a group of people who speak in the same way – this is taken to be a stylistic marketing approach on the part of political leaders. In advertising styles, too, word play with the denotation of non-phraseological and the connotation of phraseological syntagmas, concision of expression, general acceptability, and the effect of identification with the target group are decisive in the choice of phrasemes.

The research material indicated the phrasicon as a sociolinguistically relevant part of the lexicon. From their origins – the elements of culture, thought, customs and belief built into the fabric of phrasemes in their semanticization – through their actualization, which depends on the speech situation and the social relations between the interlocutors, to phrasemes that identify a specific group within a speech community, phrasemes that are typical of specific local modes of speech within a single linguistic system, a whole range of features of this component of the lexicon renders it relevant for sociolinguistic research.

A large number of phrasemes with synonymous components was observed in the phrasicons of these two languages from different families, which could be the product of half a millennium of cultural and linguistic contacts and their surviving traces in the mindset. At the textual level, where it is not a matter of phrasemes as neutral units, in the authors’ mother tongue there was a lack of phrasemes with which to convey everything that is expressed in the original. A form of linguistic awareness that recognizes only a certain range of meanings? A different reception of signs in the two linguistic systems? Incompetence on the part of translators? The absence of a phraseological dictionary in the translator’s mother tongue?

One is left mute when faced with the miracle of language – how is it that a way was found through the popular mindset to sum up numerous codes in a single semantic word; codes for which this study provides only a few indications.