From a new article that I added to Omniglot today – How to Avoid Phraseme Goofs in Other Languages, I learnt a new word, phraseme. I hadn’t encountered before, so I thought I’d find out more about it.

According to Wiktionary, a phraseme is:

An utterance, consisting of multiple words or morphemes, at least one of whose components is selectionally constrained or restricted by linguistic convention such that it is not freely chosen.

One type of phraseme is idioms, such as to hit the sack (to go to sleep), under the weather (sick, unwell). Idioms are also known as non-compositional phrasemes, as their meanings cannot be determined from the meanings of their component words.

Another example is the compositional phraseme, which consists of words that normally appear together, such as heavy rain, strong wind and bright sun (you wouldn’t usually say heavy wind).

More information about phrasemes

One thought on “Phrasemes

  1. Note that the wikitionary entry omitted a negation: “such that it is *not* freely chosen.”

    If all the components are freely chosen, then it is not a phraseme but rather a “free phrase.” (I’ve corrected the wikitionary entry just now as well.)

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