The connection between language and culture ha been considered by many scholars, and at present it has become an aziom that national culture manifests itself in national language. Language, being a unique storage of the cultura heritage of the nation, serves to transmit the collected wisdom of the nation from generation to generation.
Specifically, people’s beliefs, views of life and values manifest themselves most vividly in the phraseological system which is losely connected with empirical and spiritua life of the people. Idioms and proverbs not ony accumulate and generalize the people’s nowedge and life experience, but olso convey information about the basic moral values of the nation and norms of behavior acceptedin the givn culture. They either prescribe a certain mode of behavior or criticize people’s vices ad faults.
So by studying idioms and proverbs which are a precious source of cultural informatio, one can not only learn more about customs, beliefs and values of the nation, but olso look into the “soul” of people, understand their way of thinking.
This study is devoted to investigating English and Russin idoms and proverbs representing the concepts of wealth and money. In particular it aims` to determine the role money and wealth play in the life of speakers from the both countries and thereby to rveal the peculiarities of mentality and word perception typical for both cultures.
The selcted idioms and proverbs will be submitted to etymologycal,semantic and concepual anayses in order to discern the basic concepts that underlie the sphere of wealth.
The peculiarities of mentality and world perception of the three natins under consideration il be studied on the materia of phraseological units etimologcally related to the units belonging to the semantic field of “money and wealth”.
The idioms and proverns were selected from authoritative English and Rusian dictionaries, both bilingua and monolingual( a complete list of them is given in the Bibliography at the end of the paper).
The taks of the work determine the srtructure. The paper consists of introduction, two chapters, conclusion and biblography.
The first chapter contains a theoretical survey of such linguistic problems as interrelation of language and thinking, of language and culture; conceptual and lnguage pictures of the world;cognitive and expressive functions of phraseology. It falls into to parts.
The first part deals with the interrelations between language, cognition and culture;and also the indivua, conventional and ntional pictures of the world.
The second part is dedicated to phraseology as a subsystem of the laguage which has most lose links with the national culture and mentality. Special attention is given to as specific phraseological units that possess a didactic character.
The second chapter presents a contrastive analysis of the selected Engliand, german idiomatic expressions of the semantic field od “money”.
The results of the research are summed up in the Conclusion
Conitive and Expressive Functions of Fraseology in Representing National Culture
One of the axioms of contemprorary Linguistics is the important role of natural language in human cognition and thinking. Language facilitates cognitive processes of man and, through a system of meanings, connotations and linguisic images, reflects the results of human mentl and spiritual activities, at the same time actingas intermediary between people.
The aim of this chapter is to study into the interrelation of national language, national thinking and national culture, and in particular, to look into the roe of Phraseology in representing the ntional picture of the world.
Part 1. National culture and nationl picture of the world
One of the basic notions of the theory of human cgnition is the picture of the world. The picture of the world is a generalized image of the world, a system of knowledge represented by basic notions of outer reality derived from man’s spiritua and empirical activties through generatons. On the other hand, it is haracterized by breadth and completeness of the world vision, hih icludes a multitude of notions nd categores concerning all areas of man’s life and experience. On the other hand, it is not boundless. The word model Is restricted by cognitive abilities of man who is capable of comprehending reality ony as a commensurable with his perceptive power and value orientation( 9, p.174). So it is notsurprsing that cognitive science proceeds from the anthropocentric princeple “Man is the measure of al things”.
A person cannot percieve or comprhend what les byond his vison of realty.
Ccording to Wilhlm von Humboldt the model of the world, or world outlook(Weltansicht
) in his terms, is a peci cirlcle of world comprehension whivj is possble to leave only y entrin a new one (qoated from:6, p.29)
Ognition of the surrounding world which presuppoes bothacqustion of objetive knowledge and its subjective evauation results in introducing an ideal world of notions, images and connotations. Existing as an abstraction, it requires a certain “shortage” where its eemnts are properly strucrured and logically arrnged. Ths enatl structure which “houses” and organizes hman knowledge is called conceptul picture of the world.
As man’s mental model of reality the conceptual picture of the world factually a system of conventional concepts – units of huan memory reflcting man’s genralized knowledge and experience. In other words, a concept is a certain “quantum” of information about a particular objct which comprises bsides the basic ntion all relevant dat about this object, including its eotiv ecaluaton. It is “what a person knows, supposes, thinks, imagines” in relation to an object of rality (3, p.90).
Being a global conceptual model, the conventional picture of the world represents knowledge common for all people and thus serves as a universal natural intermediary not only between people but also between various spheres of human culture which makes possibe mutual understanding and human communication as such.
However, the existence of this conventional image of relty does not at all mean that all people on Earth think and see things in the same way. Apart from being a unique personality with peculiar physical, mental, psychologica properties, each person gains specific experience in the process of cognizing and interrupting the world. As a result he creates his own, individual visual of reality and determines his place in it. The individua picture refects not only man’s personal knowledge of the world and experience, but also his inborn qualities, values, attitudes and inclinations etc, formed under the influence of his contacts with the outer world, family background, professional activities and many other factors.
Such an individual mde of realityis important not ony in itsef, as a person’s “private shell”, a kind of conceptual medium ithin whch he exists. It is also a source of and basis for creating the global picture of the world. According to V. I. Postovalov, “a really adequate global and integral model of the world can be compiled only by a collective suject in the process of all-round cognition of outer world which results in the common picture where all shades of individual perception fade away”(6, p.31).
So, the conventional model of the world is a kind of summing up of numerous individual images of reality, which provides a cognitive bassse for a unified informationa system. This common conceptul bse is necessary, as it has already been mentioned, for interconnection and harmonization of various spheres of human activity, as well as social integration of people. What is vitally important, it regulates, among other things, people’s intercourse and behavior in society as it forms man’s attitde towards himself as an integral part of the world and consequently determines the norms of man’s behavior in relation to the other constituents of this system ( other people, nature, society etc).
It shoud be pointed out that such a division of world pictures into the global and inddividual ones is fairy relative for oe cn single out as many @images@ of the world as there are peopl on Earth. Moreover, every rea of man’s mental or empirical activity (economy, scienc, philosoph, religion etc) is characterized by a specific “vision” of reality, a certain “prism” through which mn sees and perceves the outer world. So one can speak about the mythological, scientific( physica, biological etc), religious and many other models of the world whch wil reflect a specific comprehensiv of reality. These conceptual systems can be either integral (reflecting knowledge of the world as a whole) or specific (representing only a fragment). Although based on their own laws, they all have some common knowledge and are closely interconnected and, what is more important, contribute part of thir knowledge to the conventiona picture of the world, providing that information they contain is available and understandable for all the people.
The most important property of the picture of the world consists in its absoluteinner reliability and authenticity for the person – it is regarded by all its bearers not as a historically stipulated vision of reality but as meaningful doublet of the world (6,p. 46). L.V. Yatsenko points out that “world images may vary in the width and co-ordination of their parts but they al claim to be dentical with reality being based on belief that the word is just like it is reflected in the picture of the world. As a component of the leading world outlook the model of the world acquires an enormous impressive power and belief in its absolute reliability” (quoted from: 6.p. 46).
Apart from the global picture of the world comprising universal noional categories, shared by people wordwide irrespective of their nationality and cultural background, there exixts a certain amount of knowledge which varies from nation to nation. It’s a recognized fact that people, belonging to different nations have considerable differences in the system of values, moral views, beliefs and ven general idea of the world. Different scholars pointed out the existence of a peculiar mentality, “spirit” of the nation. For instance, the Russian philosopher N.A. Berdjaev (1874-1948) spke about a prely spiritual “irrational” core which determined the life of a nation.
The central notion of Wilhelm von Humboldt’s philosophy of lnguage was what he called “the soul of the nation” (he identified it with the national anguage) : “Any study of the national peculiarities without applying to the language as to an additional means woud be of no use for only in the language all the national chracter is imprinted. (…) Besides, in it as in the communicative means of the nation individual peculiarities disappear to et the universal become apparent (2, p. 303).
Information lying outside the conventional world image constitutes national
picrures of the world peculiar to different peoples and their culture. N fact, one can speak about unique, “ntionality coloured” concepts typical to one particular nation. For exmple, he concepts “health” or “sportsman” are consideres specifically English, meaning that they reflect peculiarites of the English world perception. Andthough these words can be translated into other languages, the corresponding foreigh words will hardly render the same amount of information as their English counterparts. Analogically, such concepts as «душа», «тоска», «страдание» are thought to be typically Russian (1).
In this sense, each national picture of the world is a “prism” of world perception through which the nation ses outer reality. It’s a specific interpretation of the gobal, conventional model of the world.
In contemporary cognitive studies this specifically national wy of thinking and perception of the wrld is often called national mentality
, which in The Contemporary Philosophical Dictionary is defined as “the combination of different traditions, beliefs, habits, ideas which charecterize the socety, its mode of thinking and actions of the whoe nation”. Obviously the mentality ( “spirit” or “soul”) of the nation manifesrs itself in the national culture.
Culture can be understood as the full range of acquired human behavior patterns. This dea was first introduced by the English anthropologist Edward B. Tylor (1823 – 1917). In his book “Primitive Culture” published in 1871 he stated that culture was “that complex whoe which includes knowedge, belief, art, law, morals, customs, and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a meber of society” (quoted from 16)/ So when we speak of Englsh, German, Russian or any other culture, we imply the common knowledge, belefs, language, customs and traditions that distinguish one people from another.
The famous researcher of cross-cultural dfferences, Edward Hall
distinguishes “overt” and “covert” cultur. By the former he means some outward sighns of culture like the cult, eating habits, desigh of houses, fshion – all the elements of culture that have a mterial form. By the atter he means religious beefs. Values, attitudes whch rersent the natinal metaty. Covert component of culture affects and even shapes poeole’sbehavot and lifestyle.
The problem of interrelation of language and culture has always been considered by various scholars here are different points of view on this issue.
It was Wilhelm von Humboldt
(1767- 1835 who made this connection between language and culture. For Humboldt language was something dynamic, an activity (energia
) rather than a static inventory of items as the product of activity (ergon
). At the same time language is an expression both of the cultural identity and individuality of the speaker, who perceies the world through language.
A century later, these ideas were developed in American ethnolinguistics
by Edward Sapir
and Benjamin Lee Whorf
, resulting in the Sapir- Whorf hypothesis, or principle of linguistic relativity, which maintains that thought soesnot “precede
‘ language, but on the contraryit is conditioned by it.
Like in Humboldt’s theory of language, such conclusions ere bsed on detailed study of barely accesible “exotic” languages such as those of the American Indians. Whorf maintained, for example, that the verb system in Hopi directly affected the speaker’s conception of time (13:57-64).
Similar conclusions have been reached in disciplines devoted to the study of ancient cultures: Sumerologists doing research into the civilization of Old Babylonia, for example, have put forward the principle of “Eigenbergrifflichkeit” (10). Maintaining that the scholar can only approach some understandin of that world if he deals with it in its own concepts and in its own terms, without imposing the 20 th century European concepts and values upon it. So according to this theory, each language is absolutely singular and so is each natioanl culture represented in language.
The opposite point of view also goes back to Wilhelm von Humboldt: it is the principle of language universals propagated by Chomsky
and the school of generative grammar
. Chomsky’s concept of dep structure and surface struture is a development of Humboldt’s theory of “inner” and “outer” form of language. From this point of view translation of “recording” or change of surface tructure in representation of the – non-linguistic and ultimately universal – deep structure underlying it (13). It claims that thinking process is identical in all people and language is a means of codng the results of thinking process. This principle claims that language is independent from culture.
We are faced with a dichotomy of two extremes, and the answer lies not in choosing one of the two conflicting alternatives, but n detremining the point which is valid for the case in question. Most of the modern scientists share the idea that different cultures, on the one hand, share some common cultural elements and. On the other hand, have some peculiar, individual cultural elements.
Apparently, national language, being an integral part of national culture, reflects all peculiarities of cognition and mentality of the people. The outstanding Russian linguist A.A. Potebnya
pointed out a close interconnection between the histry of the language and that of its bearers – the nation. He emphasized the necessity of studying semantics of words in connection with the development of the language and thinking in the history of the nation. He believed that sytems of word meanings referring to certain lexico-semantic spheres must be correlated with the social life of the nation, it world outlook, beliefs and traditions(7).
Natinve speakers of various languages look at the world from their qwn angle and see something special, not seen by another nation (5, p.94). This means that the natinal conceptual picture of the world as a vision of reality typical of particular nation finds its verbal manifestation in the corresponding nationl language. Through a system of meanings language represents all what is conventionally regarded as the national-cultural heritge, including not only the most important concepts inherent n the given culture, but also involves the “nai
ve”, “nationaly colored” model of the world which is reflected through various connotation, images and symbols (9, p.175-176).
Furthermre, any language can be characterized by social and regional varieties, each of which serves to convey culturl identity of the corresponding language community. R.W
states,“Let us in fact admit that every speaker has adistinct idiolect and that no speaker has even passive knowledge of ll hthe varieties spoken or all the structural features tey exhibit” (11, p.230). It is clear then, a language like English, for example, - in all its variegated compexity – cannot exist in any single mind. To be tenable. The position of individual minds has to be understood as ascriding to any one person only a portion of the total knowledge of the language, which might then be identified as the union of the specifications apprehended by individual speakers (11, p.230).
Thus, one can speak of another model of the world – linguistic, which functions to explicate verbally the conceptual picture of the world. It is through the language that experience, gained by individuals, turns into a collectve property, or collective experience. The two models coexist in a very close interaction, though, it should be pointed out, language is not so rich and varied as the conceptual model. Limited in its means of expression, language fails to convey the whole amont of inforation provided by man’s cognition, including various types of thinking. As B.A. Serebrennikov
states, “in comparison with the language, thinking is, as a rule, much widr and more flexible. (…) Words are more stable and conservative than notions and in this respect less adequatey reflect the process of world development” (8, p.104)
However, language would be unable to perform its function as means of communications, if it were not capable of conveying relevant conceptual information. So, searching for better maens of expression, language has to resort to “roundabout” ways of nomination: figurative, idiomatic, symbolic expressions and their non-conventional variants which will evoke bright, living associations with particular concepts and thus will activate all relevant knowledge connected wth them and stored in man’s memory.
Culture can be defined as a “design for living hared understandings that people use to co-ordinate their acivities”. Members of a society must share certain basic ideas about the world works, what is important in life, how technology is used, and what their artefacts and their actions mean. Whereas social structure refers to the practical/ instrumental aspects of the social relations, culture refers to the symbolic/expressive aspects of social relations.
Another definition of culture was sggested by goseriu. Culture is the historical objectivity of the spirit in shapes that last, in shapes that turn into traditions that become historc shapes describing man’s own world, man’s own universe. The spirit is nothing lse than activity capable of creation, it is creativity itself, not something that creates but the creative activity as such. Energy, that activity which is anterior to the concept of any dynamism, of any learned or experimented technique. And mman creates culture, he is a creator, he is endowed with energy to the extend to which it goes beyond what man has learnt, beyond what is gained through experience, language, art, religion. Myth. Science, and philosophy. This sum of forms is what we call culture in so far as they are achieved at in history as products of man’s creative activity.
Every language has its own linguistic style or what W. Humboldt
alled “Weltansicht”. i.e. a vision of the world. He also demonstrated that language determines thought as well as a particular vision upon the universe. Any linguistic system comprises within itself an analysis of the exterior world, an analysis which is its own and which is different from that of the other languages or from the other stages known by that particular language.
That is why it is utopia to imagine that two words from two different languages presented in the dictionary as the translation of the other one refer to exactly the same thing. Every language was formed within a definite landscape and depending on a distinct and non-repeatable experience. It is a fallacy to assume, for example, that the English expression to call a spade a spade
is to be rendered as such into other languages. We need to take into account the fact that when trying to translate, we should preserve the semantic as well as the stylistic equivalencies of what has been expressed in the source text.
The Russian school of Phraseology admits a broad interpretation of its volume and incudes idioms, semi-idioms, phraseomatic units, as well as communicative units – proverbs and sayings.
Part 2. Phraseology and its role in the representation of the collected wisdom of the nation.
Phraseology as a language system and linguistic disccipline
According to the definition suggested by Professor A.V. Kunin, Phraseology is a science that focuses on phraseological units stable word combinations with a complicated semantics which are not modeled on structural semantic patterns of free word combinatins. It is a peculiar subsystem of the language which is marked by high informative potentialities and expressive qualities, laconism and figurative character.
Due to the close relation of phraseology to national culture, its great informative and expressive value, Professor A.V. Kunin called this language system “a treasure house of the language” (4, p.5). The outstanding Russian philologist F.I. Buslaev said that where the national-cultural aspects of language, its connection with history, cognitive experience and spiritual life of peple manifest themselves most brighly is phraseology.
Phraseological units fill up lacunas in the lexica system of the language, which is never sufficient enough to name all the variety of things ever known to man, and in many cases are the only nominations of this or that thing. Action, phenomenon or situation. Thanks to their imagery and expressiveness phraseological units manage to smooth the contradictins between man’s boundless thought and and insufficency of the lexical resources. By means of a bright living image of the nominated bject they activate al relevant knowledge associated with it and stored in man’s memory. This cognitive mechanism accounts for the high dgree of informativeness of phraseology its ability to reflect people’s history, cuture and life.
Phraseological units represent the most conservative part of the language as they are not as subject to free varition in speech as exical units. Their stablity,especially semantic invariance, permits to preserv intact all knowledge related to people’s beliefs, views and valus which gave rise to phraseological units and which find manifestation in the meaning of these units. Furthermore, the semantic mechanism of compression inherent in phraseology makes phraseological units very capacious and laconic signs of the language. Praseological meaning, especially that of idioms, accumulates all relevant information concerning the original situation that brought about the corresponding unit. This information is represented in the meaning implicitly in a compressed form – the inherent quality of phraseology whch A. Potebnya called “condensation of thought” (7).
For example, the idiom the prodigal son
not only designates the notion “a repentant sinner” but also comprises the content of the biblical parable (Luke 15:11-32) which gave rise to the idiom. Though not present in the foreground of the phrasroligical meaning, this conceptua content is stored in the implicit component of the idiom and serves as its motivating factor. In the same way idioms reflect national-cultural heritage including ethnic beliefs, legends, traditions, folklore and literary works. Thus, the idiom to fight like Kilkenny cats
arose in allusion to the legend of the 17th
century conflict between the towns Kilkenny and Irishtown in Ireland which ended only after a complete destruction of both. The idiom cakes and ale
was coined by Shakespeare in his play “The Twelfth Night” and later popularized by W.S. Maugham in his novel Cakes and Ale
. So, phraseological units apparently bear a touch of national culture, so their semantics includes a cultural component: besides their phraseological (linguistic) meaning, phraseological units carry various types of extralingustic information. It comprises knowledge of the world and national culture, beliefs, moral values and stereotypes of the people.
Phraseology is anthropocentric by its nature – semantics of most units revolves around man, his activities, attitudes and traits of character. As it has already been mentioned, man tries to modulate reality as commensurable with himself, tries, so to speak. To humanize the objects of the outer world. That is why many nominations attribute human qualities to animals and unanimated objects and vice versa. A person can be descrbed as stone deaf
(absoutely deaf), hard as nails
(very cruel and selfish), or a bull in a china shop
(very awkward). It’s evident that such phraseological nominations not only designate certain qualities of man, but also do it rather expressively. Identification by means of imagery of man with an animal or a thing permits an idiom to make the nomination intensive, express a very high degree of the designated property.
Here it should be pointed out that despite their evidently important expressive function, phroseological units are in the first place nominative and highly informative signs of the language, which cannot be regarded merely as expressive equivalents of words, so the more as a “decoration”. Just like words phraseological units serve to formulate and verbalize concepts and thus play a significant role in the process of conceptualization. Only, due to the indirect (figurative) type of nomination, they create a specific model of the world which is called by many scholars “phraseological”.
Idiomatic language: linguistic and cultural aspects
Before describing the specific features of English idiomatic expressions one needs to clarify the term idiom. An idiom is a set expression (or phrase) whose meaning cannot be deduced from a literal definition of its parts, and instead refers to a non-literal or figurative meaning which is only known through conventional use.
It is likely that every human language has idioms, and very many of them; a typical English commercial idiom dictionary lists about 4,000. When a local dialect of a language contains many highly developed idioms it can be unintelligible to speakers of the parent language; a classic example is that of Cockney rhyming slang. But note that most examples of slang, jargon and catch phrases, while related to idioms, are not idioms in the sense discussed here. Also to be distinguished from idioms are proverbs, which take the form of statements such as, “He who hesitates is lost.” Many idioms could be considered colloquialisms.
In linguistics, idioms are constructs of natural language which contradict the principle of compositionality which more formal languages follow. They are typically classified as figures of speech.
For example, the colloquial English phrase to kick the bucket
means to die. A listener knowing only the meaning of the words “kick” and “bucket” would not be able to deduce what the expression actually means. Though the phrase can literally refer to the act of giving a kick to a bucket, the literal interpretation is a rarity when native speakers use the phrase, and students of a new language can often be frustrated by their use.
So the following features are essential to constitute an idiom:
1) Non-compositionality of meaning: The meaning of an idiomatic collocation cannot be totally derived from the composition of the meanings of the conjoined components.
2) Non-substitutability: We cannot freely substitute for a word or even a grammar form in an idiom with a related word or form.
3) Non-variability: We cannot freey modify an idiom or apply syntactic transformations.
The term idiom
hence tends to refer to groups of words which are overtly confusing to those not familiar with the term itself and its cultural background. Hence the cultural aspect is a matter of crucial importance for analyzing idioms, their conceptual content, for adequate understanding the realities of life they reflect.
Idioms and Culture
Language is a wonderful thing. Its semantic sphere encodes all available knowledge about the history, culture, habits and ways of a particular nation. This information is expressed through language means, mostly wods and phrases. The latter, especially idioms, possess the highest cultral value as they are flesh of the flesh of the national culture.
Nowadays it is a recognized fact that language is closely connected with the culture of the nation and can be understood through culture in the broad meaning of the term: the collected knowledge and wisdom of the people, their values and stereotypes, peculiarities of their mentality are all reflected in the language. From this point of view, Phraseology is “a treasure-house of the language” (A.V. Kunin).
Idioms are termes which require some foundational knowledge, information, or experience, to use only within a common culture where parties must have common reference. As cultures are typically localized, idioms are more often not useful for communication outside of that local context. However, some idioms can be more universally used than others, and they can be easily translated, or their metaphorical meaning can be more easily deduced.
The most common idioms can have deep roots, traceable across many langyages. To have blood on one’s hands
is a familiar example, whose meaning is obvious. Many have translations in their languages, some of which are direct. For example, get lost!
(i. e. go away or stop bothering me) is said to have originated from a Yiddish expression.
Many idiomsare in fact colloquial metaphors. According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
metahors are figures of speech in which a name or descriptive term is transferred to some object different from, but analogous to, that in which it is properly applicable. I.A. Richards quoting form Aristotle’s Poetics said that the greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor and he defined it as a ahift carrying over a word from its normal use to a new one. In a sense metaphor, the shift of a word, is occasioned and justified by a similarity or analogy between the object it is usually applied to and the new object (12).
While many idioms are clearly based in conceptual metaphors such as “time as a substance”, “time as a path”, “love as war” or “up is more”, the idioms themselves are often not particuarly essential, even when the metaphors themselves are. For example “spend time”, “battle of the sexes”, and “back in the day” are idiomatic and based on essential metaphors, but one can communicate perfectly well with or without them.
In phrases like “profits are up”, the metaphor is carried by the component “up” itself. The phrase “profits are up” is not an idiom but a free collocation. Practically any word denoting somethng measurable can be used in place of the word “profits”, for example: “crime is up”, “satisfaction is up”, “complaints are up” etc. True idioms are stable word-combinations with-combination with a complicated semantics which generally involves some cultural knowledge.
Interestingly, many Chinese characters are likewise idiomatic constructs, as their meanings are more often not traceable to a lteral (ie. pctographic) meaning of their asembled parts, or radicals. Because al characters are composed from a relatively small base of ~214 radicals, their assembled meanings follow several different models of interpretation – from the pictographic to the metaphorical to those whose original meaning has been lost in history.
Idioms are cultural references can be accommodated in a broader definition of realia, i.e. lexical items designating elements specific to a partcular culture. See for exampe the folowing definition, originally by the Bulgarian scholars Vlahov
andquoted by B. Osimo
in an online course on translation theory (14): (idioms) are words (and composed expressions) (…) representing denominatios of objects, concepts. Typical phenomena of a given geographic place, of material life or of social-historical peculiarities of some people, nation, country, tribe (sic), that for this reason carry a national, ocal or historical color; these words do not have exact matches in other languages.
Set against this definition, our examples appear to designate objects or concepts typical of a given cuture: traditional British culture – British cuisine- in the case of Christmas pudding, or American sci-fi in the case of quantum leap
. Neither of them has “exact matches” hatever this means) in other languages. Both phrases carry some “local colour”. Even more than with single-word realia, when dealing with set phrases like the ones in out examples, language professionals are keen to search for a cultural equivalent, as it witnesses for example by the many multilingual lists of idioms circulating in interpreter-training institutions.
Culture can be defined as a “design for living’ and as the “shared understandings that people use to co-ordinate their activities”. Members of a society must share certain basic ideas about the world works, what is important in life, how technology is used, and what their artefacts and their actions mean. Whereas social structure refers to the practical/instrumental aspects of the social relation, culture refers to the symbolic/expressive aspects of social relations.
Another definition of culture was suggested by Goseriu
. Culture is the historical objectivity of the spirit in shapes that last, in shapes that turn into universe. The spirit is nothing else thanactivity capable of creation, it is creativity itself, not something that creates but the creative activity as such, energy, that activity which is anterir to the concept of any dynamism, of any learned or experimented technique. And man creates culture, he is a creator, he is endowed with energy to the extend to which it goes beyond what man has leanrnt, beyond what he has gained through experience, language. Art, religion, myth, science, and philosophy. This sum of forms is what we call culture in so far as they are achieves at in history as products of man’s creative activity.
Every language has its own linguistic style or what W. Humboldt
called “Weltansicht”. i.e. a vision of the world. He also demonstrated that language determines thought as well as a particular vision upon the universe. Any linguistic system comprises within itself an analysis of the exterior word, an analysis which is its own and which is different from that of the other languages or from the other stagesknown by the particular language.
Tht is why it is a utopia to imagine that two words from two different languages presented in the dictionary as the trnslation of the other one refer to exactly the same things. Every language was formed within a definite lndscape and dependng on a distinct and non-repeatable experience. It is a fallacy to assume, for example, that the English expression to call a spade a spade
is to be rendered as such into other languages. We need to take into account the fact that when trying to traslate, we should preserve the semantic as wel as the stylistic equivalencies of what has been expressed in the source text.
The Russian school of Phraseology admits a broad interpretation of its volume and includes idioms, semi-idioms, phraseomatic units, as well as communicative units – provers and sayings.
Proverbs and idioms
play a special role in the process of verbalizng the conceptual picture of the world. Concerned mostly with the empirical side of life, they will largely represent the nation’s “naïve’ model of reality, conceptualized knowledge of common, every say life experience. As a specific type of communicative phraseological units, proverbs possess an apparent didactic chracter. Expressing generalized knowledge of life and wisdom of the nation, they sometimes allegorically, sometimes directly state the basic maral values of the nation and norms of behavior accepted in the given culture.
Idioms and proverbs convey their message allegorically, which means that their meaning is created on the basis of a trope mechanism (metaphor, simile, hyperbole etc). The main fnction of any trope is to create some new concepts, and any trope being an allegory gives rise to a net of associations, through which the reality perceived by human mand, is realzed in the language form.etaphor is the most frequently used device hich evokes bright images in man’s mind thus makes the dydactic message of a proverb more emphatic.
Since proverbs convey collective knowledge of the nation, generalized and accumulated in the national culturefor generations, thiir menaing mostly revolves around certain basic concepts which constitute the pople’s conventions, accepted norms and stereotypes. That is why many proverbs are based on a specific type of metaphor which has acquired stability in the language sustem. In othe words, representing a further stage of mtaphorization ( and probably the highest level of abstraction in imagery existing in language), a symbol verbalizes a stable concept.
Words- symbols evoke steady imaginary associations, characteristic of a given language in the consciousness of a native speaker, that is why one of the definitions of a symbol is “an image which has obtained a certain stbility”. A symbol functions as a certain emblem of a designated concept representing a “packet” of relevant information. For example, the thistle
is a symbol of Scotland, the hearth
is a symbol of home and family, the lamb
is a symbol of meek and harmless character etc. Even a single word-symbol is characterized by a very high degree of informativeness. It’s evident that as a componet of an idiomor proverb such a symbol will acquire additional expressiveness and, in its turn, will facilitate the conveyance of the conceptual content fixed in the meaning of the corresponding phraseological unit. In proverbs such symbols usually stand for particular values, or traits of human character, either praised or criticized. For example, in the proverb You can take a horse to the wter, but you can’t make him drink
the component “horse” has a symbolic meaning which stands for an independent, self-representing person.
Every nation has its own peculiar idioms and proverbs which registered the country’s historic events, customs and traditions, as well as particular reaities of the national culture, including the specifics of the people’s mentality. But at the same time many of the vocabulary units that appeared in one particular country became world-widely used because of being vivid and true to life and covering the ideas common for all the people in the world. In any case, language is not seen as an isolated phenomenon suspended in a vacuum but as an integral part of culture.
Thus, he famous English phrase to carry charcoal to Newcastle
has a corresponding analogue in many European languages: Russian- e
здить в Тулу со своим самоваром
; Greek “to carry an owl to Athens”etc. The meaning to carry something to the place where it is not needed because it is available there in reat amounts. Newcastle is the center of coal mining in England;Tula was traditionally famous for its high-quality samovars; similarly, Athens has been known since ancient times for abundance of owls. Moreover, the owl is a wide-spread symbol which stands for wisdom, and it’s known that it was used as an emblem of ancientAthens, the cultural centre of ancient Greece. However, in English the owl does not symbolize wisdom, at least in seriousness. This is manifested, for examle, in the similes as wise as an owl
and as stupid as an owl
, both denoting stupidity.
So the mantioned idioms connote peculiarities of the corresponding natonal culture.
The English proverb Poverty makes strange bedfelows back to England of the Middle Ages when separate beds were uncommon and people of the same sex had to share one bed. This tradition remained till the 17th
There’s gold in them there/thar
is a humorous expression of Amrican origin which is used in order to say that someone is making a lot of money from a situation ( often used in newspapers, on television news). This given idiom comes from the time in the late 19th
– early 2th centuris when people were looking for gold in the western US. When gold was found people were supposed to have said, “there’s gold in them/thar hills
It should be mentiomed that proverbs and syings stand out among other set phrases as having apparent evauativeand didactic character. Literal or allegorical, they all express moral judgment which comes from the peopl’s moral law, their knowledge of life and the world. Some of them arouse as a creation of the people, some were coined by some peculiar pubc figure.
Thus, never marry for money, you’ ll borrow it cheaper is a Scottish proverb.
The saying Time is money is strongly associated with the English-speaking culture with ts work ethics and common appreciation of foth time and money. However, the expression is not originally Engish. The English just borrowed the maxim which perfectly fitted in the dydtem of values.
While the famiiar maxim may seem ike an invention of out hectic and impersonal modern society, it actualy come to us with the Greeks. Antiphon, an orator who rote speeches for defendants in curt cases. Recorded the
earliestknown version of the saying in Maxim (430 BC)
As “The most costly outline is time” Centuries later, the notion of time’s value appeared in English as”Time is precious”, which was in Sir Thomas Wilson’s A Discourse UponVsurye (1572) and John Fletcher’s The Chances (1647). A century after Fletcher, Benjamin Franklin rendered the exact wording of the current version in Advice to a Young Tradesman (1748_, and the saying afterward came into wise use (Wise Words…).
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790. American scientisxt, publisher, diplomat) also coined the aphorism If you would know the value of money try to borrow some which reflected the attitude to borrowing, common in the English-speaking culture, so well that it became very popular and soon took root in the language, i.e. turned into a proverb.
The internatinal character of certain proverbs is mostly determined bt their originatng from the common source. They bear the common cultural element resulting in full correspondence of their meanings and images.
Thus, the popular saying the love of/ lust for money is the roof of all evil has an equivalent in all European anguages because it goes back to the Bible and reflects the Christian attitude to money: St. Paul wrote a letter to a young Christian, and said that the root of all evil is the love of money. (I Timothy 6:10). The King James Version faithfully expresses the thought of the passage, saying that greed is the source of all evils. However, the morale of the proverb goes contrary to the system of values current in modern consumer society with its greed for material wealth and things. So modern Bible translators have adapted this verse which, they know, might be offensive to most modern people. So the Bible society came up with an ingenious solution for the Todays’s English Version. They wrote:” The love of money is a source of all kinds of evil”, which distorts the original sense of the proverb. This is a bright illustration of the fact that proverbial language is conditioned by the historical development of aech ntion in the course of time and differences in their perception of the surrounding reality.