Idioms and Formulaic Language

Raymond W. Gibbs

in The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199738632
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Idioms and Formulaic Language

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Speaking a language with any degree of fluency requires a knowledge of idioms, proverbs, slang, fixed expressions, and other speech formulas. A traditional view of idioms and related speech formulas sees these phrases as bits and pieces of fossilized language. Yet idiomatic/proverbial phrases are not mere linguistic ornaments, intended to dress up a person's speech style, but are an integral part of the language that eases social interaction, enhances textual coherence, and, quite importantly, reflect fundamental patterns of human thought. There are major debates and numerous proposals on how best to define idiomaticity and formulaic language. One working definition suggests that formulaic language is “a sequence, continuous or discontinuous, of words or other meaning elements, which is, or appears to be prefabricated: that is, stored and retrieved whole from memory at the time of use, rather than being subject to generation or analysis by the language grammar.” The empirical study of idioms, proverbs, and related speech formulas in cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics provides considerable evidence against the idea that idioms are fixed expressions or “dead” metaphors.

Keywords: idioms; formulaic language; proverbs; fixed expressions; speech formulas; cognitive linguistics; psycholinguistics; idiomaticity

Article.  11767 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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