God, the Devil, and Christ: A corpus study of Russian syntactic idioms and their English and Finnish translation correspondences

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In any language, phrases like holy Christ/God/cow can be found. They are sometimes called syntactic idioms, because they are identified in the first place by their syntactic structure and only in the second place by their variable lexical elements. Such expressions are difficult to present in dictionaries, and for this reason they are problematic for language learners. In this paper, the structure, meanings, and use of the Russian construction Nominative + s ‘with’ + Instrumental (bog s toboj ‘god with you’, čёrt s nim ‘the devil with him’, etc.) as well as its equivalents in other languages are studied. The construction has four main meanings: ‘blessing’, ‘disagreement’, ‘permission’, and ‘acceptance with disapproval’. These meanings are determined by context, and in many cases the expressions are ambiguous. A large web corpus of Russian, ruTenTen11, was used for studying the composition of the construction, its obligatory and optional components, and its functioning in speech. To study the English and Finnish correspondences of the construction, data from parallel corpora of literary texts were used. Parallel concordances demonstrated the absence of direct equivalents for the construction in both English and Finnish. The data also show that this construction is often misunderstood by translators. This phenomenon is obviously connected to insufficient information supplied by monolingual and bilingual dictionaries. The use of the CxG methodology helps to make syntactic idioms more visible and provide better descriptions for them.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFormulaic language. Theories and methods
EditorsAleksandar Trklja, Łukasz Grabowski
Place of PublicationBerlin
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-96110-310-2
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2021
Publication typeA3 Book chapter

Publication series

NamePhraseology and Multiword Expressions
ISSN (Print)2625-3127

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2


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