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Ministry of Science and Education of Ukraine

Lviv Polytechnic National University


Institute of Computer Sciences and Information Technologies

Course Paper
in Contrastive Lexicology and Phraseology
of English and Ukrainian
“The Contrastive Analysis of English and Ukrainian Idioms
Expressing Positive Emotions”
Contents

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Introduction
The subject of this course paper is the contrastive analysis of idioms in
English and Ukrainian.
The object of the course paper are idioms expressing positive emotions, which
are going to be analysed by means of contrastive methods.
The aim is to find differences and similarities in the translation of idioms
expressing positive emotions, to consider some general problems of contrastive
analysis. It has been assumed that most idioms are absolute parallels, although in
reality they are far from being equivalent.
There are some explanations to this phenomenon. The first one is that the
more progress in semantic analysis is achieved, the more items of the lexicon turn
out to be language-specific, because every language draws semantic distinctions
which other languages do not [4, 34]. Parallels in the “core meaning” do not
necessarily mean perfect equivalence in language use.
The second explanation towards idiosyncratic configurations in the semantic
structure of idioms is that the image component of idioms' plane of content. “As an
essential part of the conceptual structure, mental images evoked by idioms
influence their actual meanings. Furthermore, the image component is often
responsible for relevant restrictions in the usage of idioms. On the other hand, it
should be emphasized that it is not possible to predict the actual meaning of an
idiom on the basis of its image, i.e. its literal meaning. The same image can often
be traced back to different conceptual metaphors, that is to say, the lexical
structure of an idiom does not tell us which conceptual metaphor has to be taken as
the framework within which this idiom has to be interpreted.” [2, 6].
From the views mentioned above it can be assumed that semantic differences
between idioms (both within the same language and cross-linguistically) cannot be
predicted. Those differences should be revealed empirically, as they can be
discovered only by an investigation of their frequency of use. Hence, “given an
L1-idiom and some L2-idioms which are considered near-equivalents to the L1-
idiom, the only way to find out possible differences between them is to inquire into

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their functioning in authentic texts” [2, 8]. This accounts not only for cross-
linguistic non-parallelism in the meaning of idioms in question (idiom semantics),
but also for relevant differences in their combinatorial and transformational
properties (idiom syntactic) as well as for specifics of the situation in which they
can be used (idiom pragmatics).
A systematic empirical search for relevant cross-linguistic differences in
idiom semantics, syntactics and pragmatics needs certain theoretical guidelines,
which would ensure its systematic character. To provide these guidelines is a task
of the theory of contrastive idiom analysis which has to elaborate parameters and
procedures of comparison.

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Theoretical Part
The Contrastive Analysis
The contrastive analysis grew as a result of practical demands of language
teaching methodology where it was empirically shown that errors which are made
recurrently by foreign language students can be often traced back to the
differences in the structure of the target language and the learner's mother tongue.
It is common knowledge that one of the major problems in learning a foreign
language is the interference caused by the difference between the learner's mother
tongue and the target language. All the problems of foreign language teaching will
certainly not be solved by Contrastive Linguistics alone. There is no doubt,
however, that the contrastive analysis has a part to play in evaluation of errors, in
predicting typical errors and thus must be seen in connection with overall
endeavours to rationalize and intensify foreign language teaching.
Linguistic scholars working in the field of Applied Linguistics assume that the
native language of the target language carefully compared with a parallel
description of the most effective teaching materials are those that are based upon a
scientific description of the learner.
They proceed from the assumption that the categories, elements, etc. on the
semantic as well as on the syntactic and other levels are valid for both languages,
i.e. are adopted from a universal inventory. For example, linking verbs can be
found in English, French, Ukrainian, etc. Linking verbs having the meaning
"change, become" are differently represented in each of the languages. In English,
e.g., become, come, fall, get, grow, run, turn, wax, in German — werden, in
French — devenir, in Ukrainian – ставати.
The task set before the linguist is to find out which semantic and syntactic
features characterize:
1. the English set of verbs (cf.: grow thin, get angry, fall ill, turn traitor, run
dry, wax, eloquent);
2. the French (Ukrainian, German, etc.) set of verbs;

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3. how the sets compare. Cf.: e.g., the English word-groups grow thin, get
angry, fall ill and the Ukrainian verbs схуднути, розсердитися, захворіти.
The contrastive analysis can be canted out at three linguistic levels:
phonology, grammar (morphology and syntax) and lexis (vocabulary). In what
follows we shall try to give a brief survey of the contrastive analysis mainly at the
level of lexis.
The contrastive analysis is applied to reveal the features of sameness and
difference in lexical meanings and semantic structures of correlated words in
different languages.
It is commonly assumed by non-linguists that all languages have vocabulary
systems in which words themselves differ in sound-form but refer to reality in the
same way. From this assumption it follows that for every word in the mother
tongue there is an exact equivalent in the foreign language. It is a belief which is
reinforced by small bilingual dictionaries where single word translations are often
offered. Language learning, however, cannot be just a matter of learning to
substitute a new set of labels for the familiar ones of the mother tongue.
It should be borne in mind that, though the objective reality exists outside
human beings and irrespective of the language they speak, every language
classifies this reality in its own way by means of vocabulary units. In English, e.g.,
the word foot is used to denote the extremity of the leg. In Ukrainian there is no
exact equivalent for foot. The word нoгa denotes the whole leg including the foot.
Classification of the real world around us provided by vocabulary units of our
mother tongue is learned and assimilated together with our native language.
Because we are used to the way in which our own language structures experience,
we are often inclined to think of this as the only natural way of handling things,
whereas, in fact, it is highly arbitrary. One example is provided by the words
watch and clock. It would seem natural for Ukrainian speakers to have a single
word to refer to all devices that tell us what time it is; yet in English they are
divided into two semantic classes depending on whether or not they are
customarily portable. We also find it natural that kinship terms should reflect the

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difference between male and female: brother or sister, father or mother, uncle or
aunt, etc. Yet in English we fail to make this distinction in the case of cousin (cf.:
Ukr. — двоюрідний 6pam, двоюрідна cecmpa).
The contrastive analysis also brings to light what can be labelled as problem
pairs, i.e. the words that denote two entities in one language and correspond to two
different words in another language. Compare, for example, годинник in
Ukrainian and clock, watch in English, художник in Ukrainian and artist, painter
in English.
Each language contains words which cannot be translated directly from this
language into another. For instance, favourite examples of untranslatable German
words are gemutlich (something like 'easy-going', 'humbly pleasant', 'informal')
and Schadenfreude ('pleasure over the fact that someone else has suffered a
misfortune'). Traditional examples of untranslatable English words are
sophisticated and efficient.
This is not to say that the lack of word-for-word equivalents implies also the
lack of what is denoted by these words. If this were true, we should have to
conclude that speakers of English never indulge in Schadenfreude, that there are
no sophisticated Germans or there is no efficient industry in any country outside
GB or the USA.
If we abandon the primitive notion of word-for-word equivalence, we can
safely assume, firstly, that anything which can be said in one language can be
translated more or less accurately into another; secondly, that correlated
polysemantic words of different languages are not, as a rule, coextensive.
Polysemantic words in all languages may denote very different types of objects
and, yet, all the meanings are considered by the native speakers to be obviously
logical extensions of the basic meaning. For example, to an Englishman it is self-
evident that one should be able to use the word head to denote the following:
head of a person head of a match
of a bed of a table
of a coin of an organisation
of a cane

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Whereas in Ukrainian different words have to be used: голова, узголів’я,
сторона, головка, etc.
The very real danger for the Ukrainian language learner here is that (having
learned first that head is the English word which denotes a part of the body) he will
assume that it can be used in all the cases where the Ukrainian word голова is used
in Ukrainian, e.g., голова цукру ('a loaf of sugar’), міський голова ('mayor of the
city'), він хлопець з головою ('he is a bright lad'), поринати в щось з головою ('to
throw oneself into smth.'), etc., but will never think of using the word head in
connection with 'a bed' or 'a coin'. Thirdly, the meaning of any word depends, to a
great extent, on the place it occupies in the set of semantically related words: its
synonyms, constituents of the lexical field the word belongs to, other members of
the word-family which the word enters, etc.

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The definition of an idiom
In modern linguistics there is a considerable confusion about terminology.
Our linguists prefer the term “phraseological units”, and Western linguists scholars
use the term “idiom”.
Phraseological units presents the most picturesque, colourful and expressive
part of language vocabulary. While synonyms are colours of vocabulary,
phraseology is a picture gallery in which are collected vivid and amusing sketches
of the nation’s customs and tradition, e.g. dark horse, bull in a china shop.
Together with synonyms and antonyms, phrasepological units are expressive
resources of vocabulary. Phraseological units should be used with care. In this case
they enrich the vocabulary. Speech overloaded with idioms looses its freshness.
Idioms are ready made speech units.
The term “phraseological unit” was introduced by Vynogradov.
Kunin gives such definition of “phraseological unit”:
“A phraseological unit is a stable word group characterised by a completely or
partially transferred meaning”.
According to Kunin phraseological units differ in their functions in the acts of
communication and therefore fall into four classes:
1.Nominative phraseological units of various patterns which correlate with
words belonging to different parts of speech, e.g. ships that pass in the night, quick
on the trigger;
2.Communicative phraseological units represented by proverbs and sayings,
e.g. all one’s geese are swans;
3.Nominative-communicative phraseological units which include nominative
verbal idioms that can be transformed into a sentence (communicative) structure
when the verb is used in the Passive Voice, e.g. to put the cart before the horse –
the cart was put before the horse;
4. Pragmatic phraseological units (interjectional idioms and response
phrases), e.g. My aunt!; Bless your heart!
As it was mentioned above Western scholars use the term “idiom”.

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In his classic piece on idioms, the American satirist James Thurber, enters the
mind of a child who is unable to understand the actual meaning of idioms. The
child wonders, for example, about the man who left town under a cloud.
Sometimes I saw him all wrapped up in the cloud, and invisible, like a cat in a
burlap sack. At other times it floated, about the size of a sofa, three or four feet
above his head, following him wherever he went. One could think about the man
under the cloud before going to sleep; the image of him wandering around from
town to town was sure soporific. [6, 32].
Many have compared a foreign-language learner to a child learning his first
language. The learner must deal with new vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation,
pragmatics, etc. One area bound to cause problems is idioms. What exactly are
idioms? Idioms are a part of what R.Moon calls "fixed expressions" which are
arguably "the most difficult part of the vocabulary of a language for learners to
acquire fully" [5, 15] as shall become evident from the following paragraphs.
However, being able to provide an exact definition of "idiom" is quite challenging.
In an attempt to define this term one should look at Moon's division of "fixed
expressions" into three categories.
The first category is "anomalous collocations" which is made up of
combinations which are "different" either because the form is grammatically off
(e.g. in "through thick and thin" the adjectives "thick" and "thin" are used as nouns
or in "at large" we have a collocation made up of a preposition and an adjective [5,
23]) or one part of the collocation is fossilised within the collocation and never
found outside it (e.g. the word "afar" in "from afar" will never be used outside this
collocation [5, 23]).
The second category is proverbs, slogans, quotations, catchphrases, gambits
and closed- set turns: institutionalised or conventionalised stretches of language
which are almost certainly stored and produced holistically, and which can be
decoded compositionally, word by word, but which may be considered idiomatic
because of a mismatch between their compositional values and their overall
pragmatic function. [5, 24].

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An example of this [5, 24] is "half a loaf is better than none". This proverb is
stored as a unit, can easily be understood by knowing the literal meanings of all the
words but is used only idiomatically.
The third category is the "pure idiom" which Moon considers to be a frozen or
fossilised metaphor. Interestingly, not all agree that idioms are frozen or dead
metaphors.
Some of these metaphors are considered retrievable. An example would be
"skate on thin ice"; one can understand that skating on thin ice is dangerous hence
this idiom means to be in a dangerous situation. Others are opaque e.g. "spill the
beans" because one cannot deduce that spilling beans means revealing a secret [5,
25]. Interestingly, not all would agree that "spill the beans" is opaque and that its
meaning cannot be deduced. This point will also be discussed.
This work will generally deal with Moon's three categories of idioms.
Knowledge of idioms is essential if an L2 learner is to be able to understand
native-speaker language and not textbook language since a native speaker's
language is full of idiomatic expressions. In fact, the average native speaker of
English produces about 3,000 metaphors a week. Moon brings examples from
newspapers to show how widespread idioms are in journalism. One would have
great difficulty understanding an English-language newspaper without knowledge
of idioms.
The second-language learner, however, unlike the child learning his first
language, is not starting from "point zero"; he has his first language to turn to. This
brings us to "contrastive analysis" which is the comparison of two languages to
determine their similarities and differences. Can we compare two languages and
what exactly can we learn from this comparison?

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Principles of classification
Idioms and phraseological units are stable word-groups characterixed by a
completely or partially transferred meaning.
There exist several different classifications based on different principles [3,
94-99].
Semantic classification.
According to the classification based on the semantic principle English
phraseological units fall into the following classes:

1. Fusions – completely non-motivated idiomatic word-groups, e.g. to bell


the cat (“to take a risk for the good of others”), a white elephant (“a present one
can’t get rid of”);

2. Half-fusions – stable word-groups in which the leading component is


literal, while the rest of the group is idiomaticaly fused, e.g. to talk through one’s
hat (“to talk foolishly”), to work double tides(“to work very hard”);

3. Unities – metaphorically motivated words, e.g. to play second fiddle (“to


have a lower or less important position), a snake in the grass (“a hidden
enemy”);
4. Half-unities – binary word-groups in which one of the components is
literal, while the other is phraseologically bound, e.g. a tall story (“a lie”),
husband’s tea (“very weak tea”);
5. Phraseological collocations – word-groups with the components whose
combinative power is strictly limited, e.g. to make friends, to take into account;
6. Phraseological expressions – proverbs, sayings and aphoristic familiar
quotations, e.g. Still water runs deep (=Тиха вода греблю рве), No pains no
gains (=Без труда нема плода).
Structural classification.
The structural principle of classifying phraseological units is based on their
ability to perform the same syntactical functions as parts of speech. This
classification distinguishes the following classes:

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1. Verbal, e.g. to sit pretty, to lose one’s head.
2. Substantive, e.g. calf love, a maiden speech.
3. Adjectival, e.g. safe and sound, as busy as a bee.
4. Adverbial, e.g. high and low, by a long chalk.
5. Interjectional, e.g. My God!, good heavens!
Among adjectival, adverbial and verbal phraseological units stable idiomatic
similes of two semantic types are distinguished:
a) figures of likeness and degree, e.g. sober as a judge, better than nothing;
b) figures of intensification, e.g. like sixty, as (like)hell.
The classification systems are based on truly scientific and modern criteria
and represent an earnest attempt to take into account all the relevant aspects of
phraseological units and to combine them within the borders of one classification
system.

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Practical Part
List of Idioms
In the practical part of this course paper I will try to classify English idioms
expressing positive emotions according to R. Moon.
Anomalous collocations:
♦ be big on sth
Meaning: to like sth very much
Translation: дуже любити; зациклитися (розм.)
Example: He was big on Latin culture.
♦ love sb to bits (also love sb to pieces)
Meaning: to love someone very much
Translation: обожнювати
Example: Mark's a darling, I love him to bits .
♦ thrilled to bits (also thrilled to pieces)
Meaning: very excited & pleased that sth happened
Translation: радий, у піднесеному настрої
Example: I've always wanted a car, so I'm thrilled to bits.
♦ bright-eyed & bushy-tailed
Meaning: full of energy & ready to start doing sth
Translation: на сьомому небі (розм.)
Example: Christie was there, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, at 6:30 a.m.
♦ hold sb/sth dear
Meaning: to love someone or sth
Translation: любити
Example: Worst of all, I’ve lost the respect of the person I hold most dear.
♦ be tickled pink
Meaning: to be very pleased
Translation: бути дуже задоволеним
Example: The kids were tickled pink to see you on TV!
♦ be on an up

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Meaning: to feel happy & cheerful
Translation: бути щасливим
Example: It seemed that whenever I was on an up, he felt down.
Proverbs, sayings:
♦ like the cat that got the cream (also like the cat that got the canary)
Meaning: very pleased
Translation: дуже задоволений; як кішка, що з’їла сало
Example: He’s like the cat that got the cream tonight – he won thousands at the
race.
♦ get on like a house on fire
Meaning: to like each other very much
Translation: ладнати між собою
Example: She understands me – we’ve always got on like a house on fire.
Pure idiom:
♦ be walking on air
Meaning: to feel extremely happy, often so that you do not notice anything else
Translation: землі не чути під собою
Example: On my first day, I earned $190, and I was walking on air.
♦ be the apple of sb’s eye
Meaning: to be loved very much by someone, especially by an older member of
your family
Translation: улюбленець; щось дороге
Example: Ben was always the apple of his father's eye.
♦ give yourself a pat on the back
Meaning: to feel pleased with yourself because of sth you have done
Translation: висловлювати схвалення, заохочення
Example: You can pat yourselves on the back for a job well done.
♦ get a buzz (from)
Meaning: to get a strong feeling of pleasure
Translation: отримати задоволення

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Example: Though modest, Lucy admits she gets a buzz from seeing the characters
she creates come to life on the screen.
♦ be on cloud nine
Meaning: to be extremely happy
Translation: бути на сьомому небі
Example: Adam was on cloud nine after the birth of his son.
♦ make sb’s day
Meaning: to make someone very happy
Translation: зробити когось щасливим
Example: Hearing her voice on the phone really made my day.
♦ feel like a million dollars
Meaning: feel very well and attractive
Translation: чудово почуватися і виглядати
Example: Darling, you look like a million dollars in that outfit.
♦ have a good run for your money
Meaning: be satisfied with what you had or achieved
Translation: бути задоволеним своїм досягненням
Example: I have had a good run for my money and plan to retire next spring.
♦ worship the ground sb walks on (also worship the ground under sb’s feet)
Meaning: to admire or love someone very much so that you think everything they
do is right
Translation: сліпо любити,
Example: She worships the ground you walk on, though it may not be obvious.
♦ hang loose
Meaning: to stay calm & relaxed
Translation: спокійний, розслаблений
Example: Just hang loose until we find out what’s going on.
♦ fall head over heals (in love)
Meaning: to feel a strong romantic love for someone;
Translation: по вуха закохатися (розм.)

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Example: It wasn't just the usual liaison: the two of them fell head over heels in
love.
♦ loose your heart
Meaning: fall in love with someone
Translation: закохатися
Example: Nicholas lost his heart and knew for certain that at last he had fallen in
love.
♦ have a heart of gold
Meaning: to be very kind even though you may not appear to be
Translation: золоте серце
Example: Poor Ryan, he had had a heart of gold.
♦ your heart goes out to sb
Meaning: you feel great sympathy for another person
Translation: симпатизувати
Example: Our hearts go out to the victim's family.
♦ be in seventh heaven
Meaning: to be in a very happy situation
Translation: на сьомому небі
Example: He was in seventh heaven, so excited.
♦ love at first sight
Meaning: to fall in love with sb from the first time you see each other
Translation: любов з першого погляду
Example: Only cheap novelists romantic idiots believe in love at first sight.
♦ over the moon
Meaning: very happy about sth that has happened
Translation: бути на сьомому небі
Example: I was so over the moon I walked all the way home to Streatham with this
huge smile on my face.
♦ sth is music to your ears
Meaning: you are very pleased to hear sth

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Translation: звучить як музика
Example: That was music to their ears as they counted up to twenty-two
explosions.
♦ be nuts about sb/sth
Meaning: to like someone/sth very much
Translation: бути захопленим до нестями (розм.)
Example: My wife is nuts about kids.
♦ a ray of sunshine
Meaning: someone or sth that makes you feel happier & makes your situation
seem better
Translation: промінь сонця
Example: He was the only ray of sunshine in her life.
♦ come out of your shell
Meaning: to become less shy & more confident
Translation: подолати соромливість
Example: She's started to come out of her shell a little.
♦ be sold on sth
Meaning: to like sth very much
Translation: захоплюватися чимось
Example: Local merchants aren't sold on banning car traffic from Market Street.
♦ have a soft spot for
Meaning: to like someone or sth very much
Translation: любити, тепло ставитися
Example: I do have a soft spot for Britain's best-selling car, the Ford Fiesta.
♦ cause a stir
Meaning: to make everyone interested & excited
Translation: зацікавити, схвилювати
Example: The new paintings at the library have created quite a stir.
♦ strike (it) lucky
Meaning: to suddenly have good luck

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Translation: щастити
Example: We struck it lucky in Bangkok, where we were told there were some
extra seats on the plane that night.
♦ have the time of your life
Meaning: to enjoy yourself a lot
Translation: тішитися; насолоджуватися життям
Example: Julie went to a wedding at the weekend and had the time of her life.
♦ be laughing all the way to the bank
Meaning: to be very happy because you are making a lot of money
Translation: бути щасливим отримати гроші
Example: She inherited three decaying old houses in the centre of town, and now
she’s laughing all the way to the bank.
♦ do sb the world of good
Meaning: to make someone feel much better
Translation: допомогти
Example: A bit of fresh air and exercise will do her a world of good.
♦ on top of the world
Meaning: extremely happy
Translation: надзвичайно щасливий
Example: When I heard she'd been released I felt on top of the world!
♦ think the world of sb
Meaning: to admire, respect, or like someone very much
Translation: любити, високо цінувати
Example: I used to think the world of her when she came to stay.
♦ mean the world to someone
Meaning: love sb very much, be fond of him/her
Translation: дуже любити
Example: She means the world to me. That’s why I’ve got to try, even though it
looks hopeless.

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Contrastive Analysis
English Idioms
The first diagram shows the classification of English idioms expressing
positive emotions according to R. Moon.

Anomalous
17,50%
collocations
5% Proverbs, sayings

77,50% Pure idioms

Diagram 1. Classification of English idioms expressing positive emotions


according to R. Moon

The first category is "anomalous collocations" which is made up of


combinations which are "different" either because the form is grammatically off
(e.g. "be on an up") or one part of the collocation is fossilised within the
collocation and never found outside it (e.g. “love sb to bits”).
The second category is proverbs, sayings (e.g. “like the cat that got the
cream”).
The third category is the "pure idiom" which Moon considers to be a frozen or
fossilised metaphor (e.g. “a ray of sunshine”).

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Ukrainian Translation of English Idioms
The second diagram shows the classification of Ukrainian translation of
English idioms expressing positive emotions according to R. Moon.

0%
Anomalous
0%
collocations
30% Proverbs, sayings

Pure idioms
70%
Non-idiomatic units

Diagram 2. Classification of Ukrainian translation of English idioms expressing positive


emotions according to R. Moon
Pure idioms in the Ukrainian language are represented by “бути на сьомому
небі”, “золоте серце”, etc.
To non-idiomatic units belong expressions that cannot be considered
idiomatic and are only translated English idioms (e.g. “your heart goes out to sb -
симпатизувати”, “have a soft spot for - тепло ставитися”).

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Conclusions
The aim of my investigation was to consider some general problems of
contrastive analysis of idioms expressing positive emotions.
The main problem is that many people think that there is no great difference
between idioms of different languages, and moreover, people think that most
idioms are absolute parallels, although in reality they are far from being equivalent.
I have tried to prove this phenomenon during my investigation.
I have selected forty idioms and performed their contrastive analysis.
I classified English idioms into three groups: anomalous collocations,
proverbs and sayings, pure idioms. Trying to classify idioms translated into
Ukrainian I had to take into account that not all the equivalents were idiomatic, so I
added one more group - non-idiomatic units.
I have discovered that most idioms expressing positive emotions are mostly
non-idiomatic units when translated into Ukrainian. And only few are translated as
pure idioms.
So I may claim that Thurber’s comparison of a foreign-language learner to a
child, who is unable to understand the actual meaning of idioms, was more than
successful, as we cannot rely on our background knowledge of idioms while
learning a foreign language.

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List of References
[1] Баранцев К.Т. Англо – український фразеологічний словник. – К.:
„Радянська школа”, 1969.
[2] Добровольский Д.О. Концептуальная модель значения идиомы. - Тверь,
1991.
[3] Квеселевич Д.І., Сасіна В.П. Modern English Lexicology in Practice. – К.:
„Нова книга”, 2001.
[4] Лисиченко Л. І. Лексикологія сучасної української мови: Семантична
структура слова. – Харків: Вища школа, 1977.
[5] Moon R. Textual Aspects of Fixed Expressions in Learners' Dictionaries.
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[10] Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 1995.

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