Repeated Discourse

Drd. Adel Antoinette JUCAN Universitatea “Babeş-Bolyai” Cluj-Napoca The growing interest regarding the second term of the dichotomy language-speech gave birth to the ‘speech linguistics’ or ‘discourse linguistics’. Idioms, as elements of the repeated discourse, would rather belong to the norm (tradition) of a language, than to its expressiveness. There is yet another opposition inside the language: the opposition between the ‘technique of the discourse’, and the ‘repeated discourse’. The first belongs to the system of the language, because it contains the words, and the rules to modify and combine them during acts of speech. Repeated discourse includes those units the elements of which can neither be recombined according to the valid rules of the language nor replaced. They usually are known as: “idioms”, “set-phrases”, and “expressions”. The units of the repeated discourse can be classified into three categories, according to the structural level at which they can be combined with others, and to the levels at which they are commutable: equivalents of the discourse, of syntagms, and of words. This approach relies on the belief that the study of idioms can find full theoretical acknowledgement and, consequently, a thorough scientific basis within the framework of current research on discourse analysis or text linguistics. As elements of the repeated discourse, integrated into the linguistic tradition of a community, idioms would rather belong to the norm1 (tradition of a language), than to the phenomenon of stylistic expressiveness, which they usually were assigned to, for study. There is a significant difference between these two fields of study, as the stylistic expressiveness is precisely defined as being an exception to or deviation from the norm. The situation becomes even more complicated when it comes to the comparative study of idioms in two different languages. Comparative stylistics now competes with ethno linguistics, and both are surpassed by the study of mentality or, extensively, by the study of interferences, equivalences and cultural contrasts. Having already made these theoretical points of view clear, one could state that the study of idioms cannot be circumscribed to the synchronic study of the language system. Idioms definitely belong to the norm, that is, to the tradition of a language. Resuming the discussion on the system of oppositions inside the language, specifically the system/norm opposition, it is necessary that we point out another distinction inside the language: the


Lingvistica integrală, Interviu cu Eugenio Coseriu realizat de Nicolae Saramandu, Bucureşti, Editura Fundaţiei Culturale Române, 1996.

The meaning of the latter is ‚good-for nothing (fellow). Gredos.a trage la aghioase (to drive one’s hogs to the market. we may consider that poamă is an inseparable element of the expression poamă bună that belongs to the repeated discourse. While several combinations such as: “poamă dulce-acră”. and they pre-eminently belong to tradition. The initial meaning of aghios was ‘religious hymn’. Ibidem. 2 3 Eugenio Coseriu. fruct copt/necopt. fruct bun (‘sweet/sour fruit. All languages are historic technique of the discourse. ‘phrase’. and it integrates into the linguistic tradition of the Romanian language. ‘expression’. ‘to sleep soundly’)4. and that are present only in idioms. English also preserves such words that are absent from the current use of the language. those units whose elements cannot be combined according to the valid rules of the language. The combination a trage la ode/imnuri would be entirely inappropriate to the norms of present-day Romanian. In this respect. fragments of ready-made discourse that can be re-used. We may have combinations such as: . as would be its English equivalent: to drive one’s sows/boars to the market. during acts of speech3. salată de fructe. „Îi mersese vestea că e poamă bună. combinations like „poamă exotică”. and also the rules to modify and combine these. we could quote some other Romanian idioms: . as a consequence. underlined words mark the elements that have been commuted. because it contains the lexical and grammatical units. and by the current rules of the language. namely. . The meaning of the combination fruct bun (‚good fruit’) corresponds to the meaning of the expression poamă bună. 1975. good fruit’). The technique of the discourse belongs to the system.a o aduce din condei (to be equal to the task in hand. also meaning ‘fruit’. The substitution of one of its elements doesn’t produce an expression that could be integrated into the repeated discourse: a o aduce din pix/stilou is an impossible combination in the linguistic tradition of Romanian. as well as to be equal to the assignment/job/chore are impossible combinations in English. The archaism poamă.fruct dulce/acru.g. ripe/unripe fruit. the word fruct (‘fruit’) belongs to the technique of the discourse of present-day Romanian. fruit salad. ’to manage somehow’). ‘locution’. It can participate in several combinations allowed by its meaning. the instruments. cannot be replaced. page 113. and the lexical and grammatical procedures. For example. appears in an idiom : poamă bună. Tradition does not include only the mechanics of speech but also language already spoken. the ‘words’. Madrid. that is. . „poamă coaptă-necoaptă” (‚sweet-sour fruit’. The repeated discourse contains everything known as ‘idiom’. Principios de semantica estructural. e. and which. ripe-unripe fruit’) might be accepted as archaisms. imoral woman’. ‘set-phrase’. As a conclusion.” (‘She acquired the reputation of a bright article’).distinction between the technique of the discourse and the repeated discourse2. the meaning of the word/expression appears between single quotes. 4 Idioms are written in italic. fruct exotic. „salată de poame” are definitely unacceptable in the current mechanics of the Romanian language.

hither and tither (’here and there’).to know one’s mind (‘to be firm. . in the Romanian idiom a nu şti nici o iotă (not to have the faintest notion. there is no such combination as to know one’s purpose.time out of mind (‘a long time ago’). The current meaning of blush is ‘redness’. ‘memory’. e. ‚not to have an owner’). by a certain portion of their constituent elements. therefore the expression would be a nu şti+o iotă.g. kith and kin (‚relatives or relatives and acquaintances togeher).to be at pains to (‘to make every effort to do something’) . ‘contact’. The elements of fixed expressions cannot be structured. intellect. Under no circumstances shall we accept the expression at first redness. ‚to ruin something’) can be conjugated. Anul trecut nu ştiam o iotă de franceză. For instance. ‚to die’). to gossip’). Many idioms in Romanian contain elements that are incomprehensible from the point of view of the current mechanics of the language: . dar am învăţat destul de repede (‘Last year I didn’t have the faintest notion of French. unflinching’).to and fro (‚back and forth’). . but also with ‘effort. I made a pretty mess of it. Mind also meant ‘purpose’. somebody. ‚to be envious of somebody’). Its archaic meaning. As a fact. the word mind means ‘intelligence. the tense of the verbs can be make up one’s mind (‘to decide’). Also. ‚to examine somebody. the verb to make in the expression to make a pretty mess of it (‚not to succeed in doing something’.a cânta popa aghiosul ( to turn up one’s toes to the daisies. only the tehnique can be subject to structuring. These expressions are made up according to rules long disappeared. a great deal (‚a lot of’. the expressions cannot be analysed. but I learned quite fast’). it becomes clear that only the manifestations of the technique of the discourse can be analysed from a synchronic call to mind (‘to remember something. .to get for one’s pains (‘ to be rewarded for one’s efforts’) Some expressions are partially adaptable. because they are not commutable.For instance. ‘not to know anything’) the verb can be conjugated. to change one’s purpose. In the expression at first blush (‘ at first sight/contact’) the word blush retains the meaning ‘sight’. Pain was synonym with ‘punishment’. In English. .’). There are similar situations in English as well: . in the literal sense. a trece prin ciur şi prin dârmon (to go through the test of adversity. because they do not realize free oppositions with other expressions. a-i crăpa cuiva rânza de ciudă (to burst with envy. endeavor’ in expressions such as: . a fi de izbelişte (to be in abeyance. understanding. ‚a large portion of’). and they represent a survival of diachrony inside synchrony. However. They are functioning as . can be retrieved in expressions such as: .under the pain of death (‘awaiting the death punishment/sentence’).to keep in mind (‘to remember). reason’. Therefore. a meaning that survived in idioms like: .

adages. that have been preserved as such. they are texts. The meaning of the expression cannot be inferred from the meaning of its elements.inseparable units. „literary” documents. cit. Even when the elements of the repeated discourse seem perfectly identifiable with elements of the technique of the discourse. according to the structural level at which they combine with one another. This is a case of „false ethymology”. Op. from the perspective of the structural grammar. „false” from a historic perspective. that is. even if the „ethymology” might be obvious for the speaker himself. being left outside synchronic grammar and lexicology. respectively. Equivalents of words. both in English and in Romanian: as sure as eggs is eggs – fără cea mai mică umbră de îndoială. In fact. in fact. These units can be subject to interpretation only at the level of the discourse. 9 Ibidem. can be partially combined according to the rules of the technique of the discourse. The speaker can rapidly notice that the ethymology of an idiom is not obvious. „This is how the elements of fixed expressions can escape structuring.. Ibidem. one cannot say that the words chat and gris appear in their literal meaning in the French idiom la nuit tout les chats sont gris (when candles are out all cats are grey). fără doar şi poate. β . The connection between these words and this idiom is an ethymological connection. The expression does not mean that ‚at night time all cats are grey’ or that ‚at night time only grey cats are out’. taken as wholes. Equivalents of syntagms. Metaphorical expressions.8 We can give many examples in this respect. and according to the levels where they are commutable. speaking from the historic point of view. γ . extensively speaking) that was included in the linguistic tradition of a language and passed over unchanged9.”6 *** The units of the repeated discourse. the cause of their commutability5. In fact. 8 Ibidem. The units of the repetead discourse have to be classified in order to render evident the possibilities of their combination. or fragments of texts. units of the repeated discourse „are commutable with other discourses or whole texts only at the level of the discourse or text”. there are more ways to kill a dog than by hanging – asta nu e singura cale. that’s like putting the cat near the godfish bowl – ca şi cum ai pune lupul cioban la stână. a diachronic connection. The words charrue and bœufs. It is a kind of “literature” (we could also call it ideology. Equivalents of discourse. page 115. „wellerisms”. page 114. α . morals. 7 Ibidem . . cart and horse. there are lees to every wine – nu există pădure fără uscături. and from their combination.7 α . la Sfântu-aşteaptă. or that an apparently „obvious” ethymology is. one cannot take into consideration. proverbs. The same situation is encountered in the idiom mettre la charrue devant les bœufs (to set the cart before the horse). Eugenio Coseriu identifies three such classes. Proverbs could be considered a kind 5 6 Eugenio Coseriu. are not used with their literal meaning. at latter Lamas – la Paştele cailor.

lest ye die. except that they are anonymous..” 16 The Bible. The Tragedy of Hamlet (I. 12 The Bible.. or a spiritual phrase. but to be cast out. Editura Academiei Republicii Populare România.of folk literature. The Tragedy of Hamlet (III. and a tooth for a tooth”.pdf 20 Wilbur 10 Al.” 15 The Bible. The well-known Shakespearean „to be or not to be” 20 has become a usual phrase. and to be trodden under foot of men. Its present-day meaning is ‚vacillate between alternatives. Matthew 5:13: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour. 1993. signifying doubt or suspicion. to the wicked”. to fall from grace16 – a cădea din graţiile cuiva. Tucker Brooke(editors). sour grapes13 – strugurii sunt acri. the salt of the earth14 – sarea pământului. The speaker who uses these idioms does not have in mind the myths that have generated peace.. saith my God. Funcţia stilistică a izolărilor livreşti în limba vorbită. dintre pentru dinte: forbidden fruit12 – fructul oprit. he led him about. the expression „there is something rotten in the state of Denmark”22 is used ironically in current speech. and in the waste howling wilderness. historically identifiable. 4. in a nutshell19. 14 The Bible. Used in the The Bible. The Complete Works. 1. Deuteronomy 32:10: “He found him in a desert land. From this point on quotes circulate with the same value as any idiom10.” 18 The Koran . ‘Let there be light’. Op. Ye shall not eat of it. New York. . Isaiah 57:21: ” . Sure II. in all countries where Shakespeare’s plays were represented on stage. 40 apud Andriescu. Cross. whosoever of you are justified by the law. Andriescu. even if not always accurately. Barnes &Noble Books. that include most of the time a fling. [Bucureşti].” 13 The Bible. and there was light. Funcţia stilistică a izolărilor livreşti în limba vorbită. Some speakers. the apple of his eye15 – lumina ochilor/ochiului. Editura Academiei Republicii Populare România. wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing. God hath said. and some of them have completely lost their religious significance. în Omagiu lui Iorgu Iordan cu prilejul împlinirii a 70 de ani. Genesis 3:3: “But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden. 11 From the Code of Hammurabi. Famous fragments from well-known literary creations. Sometimes these expressions acquire ironical or humorous meanings by their idiomatic use. or The Koran: an eye for an eye. Cross. It is not a rare fact that these texts were actually fragments of well-known texts. Also inspired from Shakespeare’s work. 21 Al. losing its tragic-thoughtfull value. Matthew 5:38: “Ye have heard that it hath been said. belonging to famous authors. neither shall ye touch it. are easily remembered. [Bucureşti]. regardless of the situation at hand’21. he instructed him. 1958. în Omagiu lui Iorgu Iordan cu prilejul împlinirii a 70 de ani. An eye for an eye. 19 www. Genesis 1:3: .Then God said. regardless of their original context. as the ones in The Bible. cit. and. ye are fallen from grace. let there be light17 – să se facă lumină! to be in seventh heaven18. Andriescu. therefore. would use them until they become irreversibly fixed as common goods in the spoken language. 90).a fi în al nouălea cer. There are not many differences between these texts and the texts of famous authors. page 30. 1958. 17. The phrase acquired a general meaning. page 30.” 17 The Bible. Some of them are very old.într-un cuvânt. 22 Wilbur L. Galatians 5:4: “Christ is become of no effect unto you. 56-61). a tooth for a tooth11 – ochi pentru ochi. won by these constructions. Tucker Brooke (editors). he kept him as the apple of his eye. The Yale Shakespeare.readskill.

7).) magától erthetõ (Hun.) –– elérni egy holt pontig (Hun. β . he suggests the name textemes or phrasemes for these expressions. Therefore.. .early start makes easy stages – early bird catches the worm.„All the world’s a stage” 25. 1. Their true nature is closer to the nature of text than to the nature of words (lexemes). even if these are not related languages: Hier liegt der Hund begraben (Germ. therefore they are interpretable at the syntagmatic level.).) – itt van elásva a kutya (Hun.) .get one’s way – go one’s gait. 141). Romanian also offers such examples: 23 24 Ibidem.a apuca pe un drum greşit (Rom. 2.„Oh.fight with one’s back to the wall – fight back to the ropes. Lingustics is only an auxiliary.Shakespeare’s work seems to be an inexhaustible source of such expressions. 28 Ibidem. and they can be found in more than one language. to laugh in one’s sleeve(Engl. Julius Caesar (I. and this is the reason why Coseriu thinks they should be studied by text linguistics.) – mettre la charrue devant les bœufs (Fr. I am fortune’s fool”26. 139-143).) – a cumpăra mâţa-n sac(Rom. that goes without saying (Engl.) – rossz útakra tért (Hun. there are times when idioms appear to be translations. . come to a dead end (Engl.a pune căruţa în faţa boilor(Rom.) . Coseriu calls them stereotipical syntagms29 and advises on their study by syntagmatics. page 116. King Richard III (V. they are commutable with other expressions.„Et tu Brute?”23 . 2.) . As Eugenio Coseriu observed. to set the cart before the horse (Engl. Ibidem. .) – rire sous cape(Fr. As a result of all these arguments. not by into a (fit of) temper – get into a tantrum.faire fausse route(Fr.) – ça va sans dire (Fr. 26 Ibidem. As You Like It (II. 77). The second category is constituted by elements of the repeated discourse that can be combined during acts of speech. to buy a pig in a poke(Engl.) – kacag a köpenyeben (Hun. 27 Ibidem. . 29 Eugenio Coseriu. to take the wrong turning (Engl. 4.).) – acheter chat en poche (Fr.) (‘this is the problem’). or in order to depict situations or attitudes similar to those who have generated them: .„What a piece of work is man"27.„Beware of the ides of March” 28.) . . . Romeo and Juliet (III.) . Eugenio Coseriu considers the study of these expressions by lexicology a mistake. . 7. An explanation to this fact might be that they are used by speakers either ironically. 1.a ajunge într-un punct mort (Rom.„A horse! a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”24 .). 33).cit.) . Hamlet (II. 25 Ibidem. There are some examples in this respect: . Op. Julius Caesar (III.).) – se înţelege de la sine (Rom.) .) – zsákba macska (Hun.a râde în barbă (Rom. 115-117).

therefore. Finally. their study might belong to lexicology. de-a buşilea – pe brânci (‘to crawl’). 32 Mircea. As Coseriu himself emphasizes. All three categories of the repeated discourse have the following two components: 1. too. nip. He considers these expressions as equal to compound words. meaning2=sens. Only the third category. are not functioning separately. The current functional analysis of Romanian or English cannot identify the words făt. that consists of expressions equivalent to the discourse. flimsy. it is important that we see the impossibility of establishing a firm boundary between the lexical periphrases and the stereotipical syntagms. They can be combined at the level of the discourse but they can also be replaced by words. a nu fi în apele lui – a fi prost dispus (to be in a bad mood). a significant difference between the syntagms that can function as simple words. 33 To avoid any misunderstandings we shall give here the Romanian equivalents: signification = semnificat. is the category of lexical periphrases30. are commutable with simple words. page 117. the meaning232. has a third level. and not to the system. 3rd semester. or insubstantial’). and vice versa. doubtless. but elements that are perfectly identifiable inside the current technique of the discourse. such as: Făt-Frumos (Prince-Charming). a fi la cheremul cuiva – a se afla la dispoziţia cuiva (to be at somebody’s beck and call). The important thing is that the lexical structurability both of the elements of the repeated discourse. Ibidem. Master studies course: “Lingvistică integrală”.- a o tuli . represented by the imagistic associations. because whole units are functioning as lexical units. there are more than enough syntagms which are commutable with simple words. esp. the category of textemes is quite heterogenous. Coseriu explains thus. and of the elements of the textemes (the first category of the repeated discourse) were recognized31. and cob. a nu avea para chioară – a fi pe drojdie – a fi pe jantă (to be broke). it is difficult to clarify this issue at the present stage of studies in structural lexicology. These expressions are functioning as lexemes. γ . Nevertheless. This has little relevance where the structural lexicology is concerned. 30 31 Ibidem. This means that the first two components become signification for a global significant of these microtexts33. cobweb (‚a web. by Coseriu’s classification. While the categories of stereotipical syntagms and lexical periphrases are rather homogenous categories. The lexical periphrases may include both unidentifiable elements. commutability is not enough to distinguish these two categories. the stereotipical syntagms and the lexical periphrases could be included in the same category. page 118. as they were established by Professor Borcilă in his course. Borcilă. The third category of expressions. anything finespun. Inside the discourse. 2. and “falsely” identifiable elements. which can be identified by their meaning. . Their components. why he considers inappropriate recording them in dictionaries: they are made up of words that do not exist as lexemes. spun by a spider. They use the term locution or idiomatic expression/idiom to designate two completely different things. a level of the language. that belongs to the norm. significant semnificant. There are also units of the repetead discourse that alone are commutable with syntagms which. june-prim (juvenile lead).a o lua la sănătoasa/la picior – a-şi lua călcâiele la spinare (‚to run’). june. in their turn. or the English catnip (‚plant of the mint family’). the category of textemes. For the time being. a semantically designational level. There is. when irregular. and those which are constantly functioning as such. Researchers do not make any difference among the three categories identified by Eugenio Coseriu. Probleme de lingvistică integrală.

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