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Is Time A’Changin’?: A diachronic investigation of the idioms used in Time
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6481-1975
2008 (English)In: Selected Papers from the 2006 and 2007 Stockholm Metaphor Festival / [ed] Nils-Lennart Johannesson & David C. Minugh, Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, 2008, 111-130 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

A newly-available net-based corpus of 105 million words of written American English (Time Magazine, 1923–2006, at http://corpus.byu.edu/time) was investigated for the occurrence and diachronic distribution of various types of ‘pure’ idioms such as be raining cats and dogs. Idioms from the Collins COBUILD Dictionary of Idioms (2002 (1995)) were selected for four types of variation and change. Group 1, the 46 idioms labeled ‘old-fashioned’, proved to be noticeably more common before 1970. Group 2, several constructions of the type as scarce as X, exhibited considerably more variation than in more diversified corpora such as the British National Corpus. Group 3, Biblically-derived idioms, were generally less common after 1960, but with the lowest frequencies in the 1930s. The frequencies for the final group, 32 idioms focusing on deception, were relatively constant from the 1950s on, with an interesting dip in the 1970s. Changes in editorial policies may possibly have influenced these results. While not of sufficient magnitude for detailed studies of individual items over time, the Time corpus clearly is sufficient to provide us with a great deal of data and numerous valuable insights into the use of these idioms.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, 2008. 111-130 p.
Series
Stockholm studies in English, ISSN 0346-6272 ; 103
Keyword [en]
idiom, corpus, language change, variation, American English
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
English
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-106876OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-106876DiVA: diva2:740698
Available from: 2014-08-26 Created: 2014-08-26 Last updated: 2014-08-27Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Studies in Corpora and Idioms: Getting the cat out of the bag
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Studies in Corpora and Idioms: Getting the cat out of the bag
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

“Idiomatic” expressions, usually called “idioms”, such as a dime a dozen, a busman’s holiday, or to have bats in your belfry are a curious part of any language: they usually have a fixed lexical (why a busman?) and structural composition (only dime and dozen in direct conjunction mean ‘common, ordinary’), can be semantically obscure (why bats?), yet are widely recognized in the speech community, in spite of being so rare that only large corpora can provide us with access to sufficient empirical data on their use.

In this compilation thesis, four published studies focusing on idioms in corpora are presented. Study 1 details the creation of and data in the author’s medium-sized corpus from 1999, the 3.7 million word Coll corpus of online university student newspapers, with comparisons to data from standard corpora of the time. Study 2 examines the extent to which recognized idioms are to be found in the Coll corpus and how they can be varied. Study 3 draws upon the British National Corpus and a series of British and American newspaper corpora to see how idioms may be “anchored” in their contexts, primarily by the device of premodification via an adjective appropriate to the context, not to the idiom. Study 4 examines idiom-usage patterns in the Time Magazine corpus, focusing on possible aspects of diachronic change over the near-century Time represents.

The introductory compilation chapter places and discusses these studies in their contexts of contemporary idiom and corpus research; building on these studies, it provides two specific examples of potential ways forward in idiom research: an examination of the idioms used in a specific subgenre of newspapers (editorials), and a detailed suggestion for teachers about how to examine multiple facets of a specific modern idiom (the glass ceiling) in the classroom. Finally, a summing-up includes suggestions for further research, particularly at the level of the patterning of individual idioms, rather than treating them as a homogeneous phenomenon.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of English, Stockholm University, 2014. 217 p.
Keyword
Coll corpus, corpora, corpus creation, idioms, idiom variation, idiom-breaking, online newspapers, student newspapers, college newspapers
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
English
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-18029 (URN)978-91-7447-975-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-10-11, Lecture Hall 7 D, Universitetsvägen 10 D, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-09-18 Created: 2007-10-16 Last updated: 2014-12-16Bibliographically approved

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