Research article
Issue: № 1 (37), 2023


Productive models of phraseological units are motivated by high emotional impact on the recipient. This is the main reason why phraseological variations and modifications always cause great interest among scientists. The main purpose of this research is to find and analyze the productive models of phraseological units with ornithonym components in contemporary English. In 2022, social networks are one of the richest sources of examples of everyday language use. The analysis showed that literalization is the most common type of modification that phraseological units with ornithonym components undergo in social media, as people mostly tend to use phraseological units to describe a picture with some kind of bird.

1. Introduction

The transformation of phraseological units, their variations and modifications is a phenomenon that indicates the continuous development of the language. Today, this topic is becoming more and more relevant in connection with the incredible development of social networks and opinion-mining methods.

Different variations of phraseological units in speech reflect the “real life” of the unit, give an idea of ​its verbal potential. That is one of the main reasons why it is necessary to study the individual author’s modifications of phraseological units, to identify their functioning features and trends in their historical development.  It also allows to identify objective laws of development of the general language phraseological system.

2. Research methods and principles

The material for this study was an extraction of phraseological units with an ornithonym component from the Instagram social network, which is the most commonly used among people with different background. To compile the extraction and determine the frequency of use of a particular phraseological unit, the automated search by tags directly on the Instagram network was used. Additionally, we used such social networks promoting applications as and, which allow to find posts by tags or words. As it turned out, these applications can be successfully applied in linguistic research, thanks to the function of detecting text or post on a social network by a given phrase. Using quantitative analysis methods helped to identify phraseological modifications of the corresponding models among all phrases selected from the Instagram network.

3. Main results

Phraseological units are endowed with associative and symbolic meanings, due to this fact they reflect the culture of the people speaking the language, which means their image is based on cultural and historical semantics

. The significance of English phraseological units is constantly successfully investigated on the material of modern English literature, press and advertising. In this study, an attempt is made to study phraseological units with the ornithonym component on the material of posts in social networks, which allows us to find such units that are used and changed in the modern language, by absolutely different people. The purpose of this study is to identify the frequency of use of certain phraseological units with the ornithonym component in English, as well as to find out different types of their variations. 

The issue of phraseological modifications and transformation has been studied by many scientists. According to Dobrovolsky D. O. "variability and transformability of phraseological units are the characteristics not only of their contextual use, but are established in the very nature of their meanings known by a native speaker"

. As sustainability is one of the key features of phraseological units, change of their structure and semantics is always related to communicative and pragmatic factors. This fact causes great interest among researchers. 

Scientists operate with the following terms talking about different variants of phraseological units: phraseological variations, phraseological transformations and phraseological modifications. The first term, phraseological variation, is used as a general term and relates to all types of changes phraseological units undergo. Thus, the terms phraseological transformation and phraseological modification should be considered as types of variations. 

Ramon M. S. distinguishes the following five types of variations: lexical substitution, lexical insertion, truncation, grammatical transformation, transcategorization. Heinonen T. R. in his turn defines three main types: grammatical, lexical, constructional variations. According to scientists, lexical variations are considered to be the most common types of transformation and lexical variants can even be found in dictionaries

Maslova N. E.  compiles a consolidated classification of transformations and identifies phonetic, morphological, lexical and syntactic variations of phraseological units. Lexical variations in their turn include the following types: double actualization, components substitution, word order change. Syntactic variations include the following: inversion, extension of the componential composition of the phraseological unit, distancing of the components, etc.


Scientists such as Alifirenko N.F., Shansky N.M., Dobrovolsiy D.O. consider the following three types of modifications:

- condensation - or compression, is a word created by contraction of phraseological combination in one word;

- literalization - use of phraseological unit in its literal meaning;

- contamination - mixing of two phraseological units


According to Gvozdarev U.A. there are also three types of modifications: lexical - phraseological, semantic, syntactic -phraseological modifications

One and the same phraseological unit can be subjected to several types of transformations, so in this research we are going to use a combination of the abovementioned classifications. 

A great number of phraseological units with an ornithonym component is used in social networks, which proves that this group of units are active and productive in the modern English language. In this research, we consider those phraseological units that undergo this or that type of phraseological transformation.

Phraseological unit get your ducks in a raw which means to be well prepared or well organized for something that is going to happen 

was used 43 983 times. Of course, not all of them are really related to the situation they were used, many of them are used without any connection to the idea presented in the picture or text posted. The most common version of this phraseological unit is ducks in a raw is an example of reduction or clipping, and this very version also undergoes literalization and is very often used in its direct meaning, for example, simply under a photo of ducks.

It feels like I have my ducks in a row...but the truth is I have no idea where my ducks even are. In this example, we can observe, firstly, the extension of the componential composition of phraseological unit, secondly, in the second part of the statement, we see a word play that is built on the word “duck” which is a key image of this unit.

One more example: I don’t have ducks, or a row… I have squirrels and they are everywhere. Syntax changes such as the extension of the componential composition and replacement of phraseological unit components are also clearly highlighted here. At the same time, this unit is perceived both as a figurative and free expression, so we can say that double actualization is implemented here.

Ducks in a disorderly row. In this variation of phraseological unit, we can observe the distancing of the components, which is a type of syntactic transformation. In addition, the extension of the componential composition by adding the word “disorderly” changes the meaning of the phrase to the exact opposite, indicating a lexical modification. Another example of a lexical modification that was made by replacing the key component is Get your donuts in a row! which also includes an example of double actualization. This form of the phraseological unit is used in an advertising post, the author wants to bring two ideas to the reader through this phrase: the first, includes figurative meaning which is endowed with the initial form of unit “to have a snack to get organized”, the second is represented by its direct meaning.

Another expression which was especially popular due to the President elections 2020 in the United States is Lame duck, which means an unsuccessful person, thing, or organization; or an elected official whose power is reduced because the person who will replace them has already been elected 

. The second meaning of the idiom is much more widespread nowadays. It was used 4985 times in the analyzed website and the following transformations were detected. 

The lamest duck is an example of morphological variation, where the grammatical form of the PU was changed in order to add the expressiveness to the utterance. 

One more interesting example is 2020 menu: Cooked goose or a lame duck. In this example, the author employs a contamination technique by combining two phraseological units in one phrase. The first one is the abovementioned lame duck, the second is cook somebody’s goose (to do something that spoils someone’s plans and prevents them from succeeding)

which was shortened to the form of the cooked goose (spoilt plans). 

One more phraseological unit which we would like to discuss is Early bird catches the worm. This unit is used to advise someone that they will have an advantage if they do something immediately or before anyone else does it

. Transformations and modifications which this unit undergoes also prove that the key image of the phrase is built on the ornithonym component. The most prevalent modification found if compression, as the unit is mostly reduced to the form of the “early bird”. Other variations found are the following: Early bird catches CAT – substituting the component “worm” the author wants to say that he had to wake up early to get his computer tomography, so uses the phrase’s figurative meaning partly. Two more examples with the similar transformations are: Early bird catches the photo; Early bird catches nothing. Both examples show the substitution of the last component of the phraseological unit. 

4. Conclusion

The analysis of the phraseological units with the ornithonym component in the social networking website as Instagram helps to find out the units which are commonly used by different people in everyday life. Using different searching techniques to analyze this type of phraseological units we came to the following conclusions: most of the phraseological units with the ornithonym component are used in their direct meaning, so people mostly omit the figurative meaning of the idiom, but still want to show their knowledge of this kind of expressions. Phraseological units which undergo different variations and modification usually consist of 4 or more words. The more words are there in the phraseological units, the more transformations are possible. The most common variations of phraseological units with the ornithonym component are double actualization, components substitution and the extension of the componential composition. The most common modifications are literalization and condensation. 

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