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LINGUIST List 25.2814

Sat Jul 05 2014

Qs: Idiom formation via transliteration

Editor for this issue: Alex Isotalo <alxlinguistlist.org>

Date: 01-Jul-2014
From: Israel Cohen <cohen.izzygmail.com>
Subject: Idiom formation via transliteration
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A Google Scholar search retrieved 2 journal articles about the transliteration of Buddhist Sanskrit words/phrases to Chinese idioms:

http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-KDSK200501027.htm

and

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/jbp/bab/2003/00000049/00000004/art00003

My query is: Has anyone else researched or discussed the formation of idioms via transliteration into languages other than Chinese?

I have found these patterns of (English) idiom formation. In essence they involve the transformation of a (usually) foreign homophone into a native homograph.

L1, transliterated > L1 pun, translated > L2...Ln idioms
Job 19:20 BQoSHi (barely) > B3or SHinai >by skin of my teeth

L1, transliterated > L2 idiom [, translated > L3...Ln idioms]
Latin recollectare > Fr cloche/Ger Glock > ring a bell?
Penn Dutch acht(ung) Grund(be aware+reason)>US axe to grind
cf German Beweggrund (motive)
Latin sopor quies > Heb SPoR KeVeS > count sheep! (re sleep)
> modern Hebrew LiSPoR KVaSiM to count sheep (plural)

L1 & transliterated L1, transliterated & translated > L2 idiom
Heb/Yiddish BRaKHa (blessing) + BeReKH (leg) > Break a leg!
cf HatSLakha(success)+BeReKH+BRaKHa >Ger Hals und Beinbruch!

L2 word/phrase, transliterated > L1, translated > L2 idiom
secret > Heb miSGeReT (framework, skeleton) + SoGeR (close)
> skeleton in the closet

The second column of Origen's Hexapla
http://jts.oxfordjournals.org/content/XXI/1/17.extract
is the Old Testament in the Hebrew language written with Greek letters. This may have facilitated the formation of Greek idioms whose meaning is that of the Hebrew source. Cf the etymology of ''idiom'' from Greek idioma ''peculiarity, peculiar phraseology,'' from idioumai ''to appropriate to oneself.''

Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories

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