Cognitive mechanisms reflect the work of human consciousness and give an idea of the ways of analysis, structuring and conceptualization of specific objects and abstract entities. Particular attention is paid to the study of the metaphor by cognitivists, believing that it occupies a central place in the cognitive model of speech. Idioms are a necessary unavoidable cognitive and linguistic tool in English. They usually contain two layers of meaning. One is the literal meaning; the other is called the extended meaning.
Literal meaning can be directly obtained from the literal meaning of constituent parts of the idioms, while extended meaning is generalized and abstracted on the basis of literal meaning.In accordance to Kövecses and Chen & Lai in cognitive linguistic view majority of idiomatic expressions are based on conceptual metaphors and metonymies, which means that they are “conceptually motivated” by metaphors and metonymies. Cognitive linguistics views metaphor and metonymy as helping mechanisms to structure the human conceptual system.The human conceptual system is largely metaphorical and controls systematic metaphorical mappings between abstract and concrete conceptual domains. Abstract structures are meaningful only indirectly, and can be understood due to their systematic relationship to directly meaningful structures. Conceptual metaphors and metonymies that help import structure to certain abstract domains of our experience, are motivated by, and grounded in, our bodily experience.
This grounding provides the experiential basis of metaphor and metonymy. Idioms, which make use of parts of the human body, are more predictable than other idioms, simply because as human beings, we are completely familiar with our perceptions of the shape, size, and functions of individual parts of our own bodies, and we experience them every day. This is why it is easier for us to interpret the meaning of idiomatic expressions containing parts of the human body than, for example, idioms which contain names of animals.CONCEPTUAL METHAPHORA conceptual metaphor is not used in language, but is rather a conceptual idea in our minds that allows us to create a multitude of metaphorical linguistic expressions based on this metaphor.
Kövecses (2010) summarises this relationship efficiently: “We can state the nature of the relationship between the conceptual metaphors and the metaphorical linguistic expressions in the following way: the linguistic expressions (i.e., ways of talking) make explicit, or are manifestations of, the conceptual metaphors (i.e.,ways of thinking)” . Metaphors are conceptual ideas in our minds, and they underlie the linguistic expressions that we use when talking. In his discussion on idioms, Kövecses (2010) claims that “idioms are products of our conceptual system and not simply a matter of language … hence the meanings of idioms can be seen as motivated and not arbitrary”. According to him, it is no accident that idioms look the way they do; they have been motivated by conceptual mechanisms when they were coined.
Kövecses (2010) goes on to list the three most common conceptual mechanisms behind idioms: “The kinds of mechanisms that seem to be especially relevant in the case of many idioms are metaphor, metonymy, and conventional knowledge” . These three aspects of our conceptual system seem to play a vital role in the formation of idioms, and it is important to understand what is understood by these terms.CONCEPTUAL METAPHOR THEORYConceptual metaphor theory is one of the most important ones in cognitive linguistics. It holds that metaphor is not a mere matter of words, but also an important way of categorization and conceptualization of human beings; the aim of conceptual metaphor is to realise and experience one thing or entity in terms of another; metaphor is both linguistic and conceptual phenomenon; our thoughts, languages and action are constructed based on conceptual metaphors; metaphorical expressions are the representation of metaphorical thoughts; the essence of our thoughts is metaphorical, and the essence of metaphor is conceptual; metaphorical mapping operates between two different conceptual domains; the direction of mapping is from the source domain to the target domain, and the basis of metaphorical mapping is abstract image schema structures . Conceptual metaphor is an important cognitive mechanism, which plays a major role in the meaning extension of the idioms.COGNITIVE APPROACH For instance, idioms can be approached in a cognitive linguistic way, which suggests that some idioms have analysable characteristics and the meanings can in fact be derived from the components .
A comparative-contrastive description of the idioms is as necessary as useful since it allows a better understanding of their behaviour and of the boundaries conditioning their appropriate use. It becomesobvious that Cognitive Linguistics, with its experiential theory, has brought a completely new alternative analysis to the study of idiomatic language. Moreover, the cognitive linguistic approach is often thought of as one of the most useful methods in teaching idioms since the aim is to teach how to use the idioms and not only to learn them by heart .?ognitive linguistics divides metaphors into two: conceptual metaphors and image metaphors . Image metaphors are conceptually simpler and are based on resemblance between two entities, whereas conceptual metaphors involve the mapping of rich knowledge and inferential structure which gives rise to a larger number of linguistic expressions .
Besides, the cognitive semantic view can facilitate the learning and understanding of idioms for non-native speakers.Cognitive linguistics claim that most idioms are motivated, where motivation arises from conventional images, conceptual metaphors and conceptual metonymies, which provide the link” between the idiom and its meaning.SYSTEM OF IDIOMS Cognitive Linguistics has managed to successfully create a system in idioms. Cognitive linguists have grouped idioms and created a system based on their common concepts. As an example, expressions such as spark off and fan the flame have one common concept: fire. The idioms can be considered as motivated conceptually by general knowledge of the world, which entails a systematic structure that characterises a corresponding coherent system of the idiomatic structure .
Chen and Lai (2013: 15) have brought an example of fire-related idioms used to describe the emotion anger, by using FIRE as the source domain and ANGER as a target domain and the connection made between the two ANGER IS FIRE. This means that idioms can in fact be considered as motivated rather than arbitrary. Moreover, the connection between the concepts is called conceptual metaphor and it illustrates the connection between fire and anger. Conceptual metaphors are usually represented in capital letters . According to Chen and Lai it is easy to develop an understanding of the meaning of idioms through the awareness and knowledge of the conceptual metaphors behind them. However, according to Gibbs conceptual metaphors are not fixed, but rather created by the linguists following their intuition .
In other words, cognitive linguists follow their intuition to uncover language-mind links, image schemas and conceptual metaphors. Image schema is considered to be an abstract conceptual representation of the embodied experience of the everyday interaction and the observation of the world around us . Gibbs (2007) questions cognitive linguists’ intuition-based approach because it focuses too heavily on introspection about matters of linguistic structure and behaviour, but agrees that intuition is a 13 necessary source for constructing hypotheses and suggests caution in creating conceptual metaphors, experiments etc.
Stöver states that in order to have metaphoric understanding and not experience tension between the literal and non-literal while encountering a metaphor, learners should be made aware of metaphoricity (Moon 2009) and what it contains . In other words, using conceptual metaphors while teaching figurative language is not useful if the learners have not been familiarised with the concept and how it can be used.METHOD OF IDIOM ANALYSISA comparative analysis of idioms is based on a confrontation of a source and a target language with the aim of finding parallel lexical items. According to Kvetko (Frazeológia 101), idioms of two different languages can be approached either from the systematic linguistic point of view (contrastive approach) or from the point of view of translating idioms in literary texts (translation approach).
In the contrastive approach idioms of L1 are compared with idioms of L2, the focus being placed on the mutual equivalence and language interference. Differences may occur in the form, content, meaning and usage of individiual words and expressions. Contrastive phraseology reveals that when comparing idioms of two different languages, two types of equivalents are recognized – phraseological or non-phraseological (word, collocation or periphrasis). An idiom either has its idiomatic counterpart in the target language or an idiomatic equivalent is not available because it either does not exist or the reality described by the idiom is not known in the target language. Such an idiom can be then substituted by a non-idiomatic counterpart, periphrasis or calque. As far as the degree of equivalence is concerned, Kvetko proposes three basic types (Lexicology 109) : absolute equivalence – idioms that literally correspond in several languages and come from the same source allowing for some variations, however, mutual correspondence prevailsrelative equivalence – idioms have identical or very close meaning but different lexical itemsnon-equivalence – idioms that do not have their idiomatic equivalent and need to be substituted by a word, collocation or descriptionWithin the spheres of absolute and relative equivalents Kvetko further distinguishes between the identical and close equivalents on the one hand, and partially and totally differentiated equivalents on the other (Frazeológia 103).
Based on Kvetko’s broad distinction and with regard to the continuum of absolute and relative equivalents, the degree of similarities and differencies between the idiomatic expressions will be in this thesis explored and sorted into the following categories:Absolute equivalence – the idioms in both languages are identical in terms of semantic, lexical and formal levelClose equivalence – in this group belong idioms with a certain extent of varieties, however, these are not considered as substantial, such as morphological deviation (different grammatical case or preposition, use of singular in one idiom and plural in the other, use of compounds as opposed to single words)Partial equivalence – the idioms are semantically equivalent but realized with different constructions (use of different lexical means, different body lexeme, different syntactic structure, holonyms or meronyms, etc.)Non-equivalence – these idioms do not have any equivalents and are expressed non-idiomaticallyThe above listed categories will be more elaborated on in the practical part of this thesis. A number of example sentences will be given where the idioms are being used in real life so that the definition presented could be verified.