Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 8 : 11 November 2008
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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A Study of Idiomatic Expressions in Lurish and Persian

Kolsoum Ghaffari Touran
Maruti R. Talawar, Ph.D.


Phraseology and idiomatic expressions are branches of linguistics that are closely related and deal with proverbs and idioms respectively. Seale's advice that we " speak idiomatically unless there is some special reason not to" (Seale, 1979, 50). However, in Spain, a group of linguists claims that the use of proverbs and idioms is not advisable. The reason for this counsel is that they are generalizations of both knowledge and linguistic expression, which may be contradictory. In relation to other languages, ?ermák (1998) says that proverbs have a high index of use and that 80% of them are prototypical, since they are used as general statements expressing accepted truth and shared experience.

Phraseology represents a field of lexicology dealing with grammaticalized lexis which has only recently been recognized as a branch of study in its own right. The problems in establishing the limits of phraseology are related, on the one hand, to its synchronic and diachronic variations (Moon R.1998; Giegerich. 2004), and, on the other hand, to the most opaque and fixed ones and, also, to the most transparent and variable ones (Cowie 1998:4-7; Howarth 1998: 168-171; Gross 1996:78) in relation to teaching, and especially to second language learning.

Idioms form a large part of each language and sometimes are created according to individual's world view and express their perception of the society and the world. However, there are many other reasons for the formation of items like, idioms, simile, metaphor, etc. So, in view of the seriousness of the case, because the nations may not be able to perceive each other's speech, understanding of the idioms is necessary. It is evident that without understanding idioms, perception of speech may become difficult.

Persian Language and Its Subgroups

Persian language and its sub-groups are filled with idioms and proverbs, and it is better for the learners of this language to understand them. Research in Iranian languages, as an important branch of Indo-European languages, is very necessary. Till now, a lot of work has been done on Iranian languages, their lexicography, phonetics, and grammatical and structural systems.

The first investigation in this field is from the middle ages. Many of the western, eastern and also Iranian researchers studied historic works in Persian such as Avesta and Old Iranian Inscriptions (Oranskij, 1959). By the spread of historical and comparative linguistics, in the 19th century, the importance of Iranian languages became manifest more than in the past.

Iran is a multilingual and diverse cultural society, and the majority of the population is extremely young. Nearly one-half of the people speak Farsi (Persian), and another one- fourth speaks some other Indo-European languages or dialects, like: Azæri, Kordi, Gilæki, Mazændærani, Bæluchi, Læki, and Luri. There are also several sub-dialects and many accents throughout this country. These are descendants of the Aryan tribes, whose origins are lost in antiquity. With due attention to the works and researches in this background, we introduce a part of the Lurish dialect in this article. Lurish is as an important Iranian dialect which has more than 4,000,000 speakers. However, this work is not exhaustive.

The Lurish Studies

The linguistic and cultural studies prove that Lurish has a very profound relationship with other Aryan language. Examination of its structure, phonology, morphology, and also selection of the words reveals this. This dialect is not only a sub-dialect of Persian language, but also is a dialect of the Old Persian Language, which can be placed on the same plane with the new Persian Language. On the other hand, according to Kalbasi's opinion, the Iranian dialects are not branches of Persian language, but both of Iranian dialects and Persian language have separated from a whole language that she called it "First (Old) Iranian Language" (Kalbasi, 2007). This language is the same that is classed under Indo-European and Indo-Iranian languages. So all of Iranian languages have some similarities because they have separated from a single mother and have some differences because they have parted with each other over the time.

In contrast to this, in the last part of this article you can see some similarities and differences existing between Persian and Lurish idioms. In the current study, we focus on the following hypothesis:
Idioms are expressed similarly by Persian and Lurish speakers.

What is an Idiom?

An idiom is a term or phrase whose meaning cannot be deduced from the literal definitions and the arrangement of its parts. An idiom refers to a figurative meaning that is known only through common use. In linguistics, idioms are widely assumed to be figures of speech that contradict the principle of compositionality; however, this has been shown to be a subject of debate. It may be better to refer to idioms as John Saeed has said: words collocated together happen to become fossilized, becoming fixed over time. This collocation, words commonly used in a group, changes the definition of each of the words that form the collocation. As an expression, the word-group becomes a team, so to speak. That is, the collocated words develop a specialized meaning as a whole and thus an idiom is born.

In other words an idiom is a combination of words that has a meaning that is different from the meanings of the individual words themselves. It can have a literal meaning in one situation and a different idiomatic meaning in another situation. It is a phrase which does not always follow the normal rules of meaning and grammar.

In the English expression to kick the bucket, for example, a listener knowing only the meaning of kick and bucket would be unable to deduce the expression's actual meaning, which is to die. Although it can refer literally to the act of striking a specific bucket with a foot, native speakers rarely use it that way. It can not be directly translated into other languages .The same expression in Persian is "Ghæzæl-e xoda hafezi ra xand-æn" (to recite the goodbye lyric poem), which is entirely different from the English expression.

Idiom is defined as a set and a multi-elemental group of words. It can also be defined as a lexical entity with the following characteristics: The complete meaning cannot be derived from the meaning of the individual element, e.g., to have a crush on someone that means to be 'in love with someone'. And the substitution of any one of the elements does not often bring about a systematic change of its meaning e.g. to have a smash on someone.

Many idioms have similar to expressions in other languages and can be easily understood by a learner. But frequently, there is a diachronic connection between the literal readings and the idiomatic readings, and idioms come from older phrases which have changed over time. For example, to hold one's horses means 'to stop and wait patiently for someone or something'. It comes from a time when people rode horses and would have to hold their horses while waiting for someone or something. In such cases, the treatment of the idiom whose meaning can not derived from the meanings of individual elements can be untenable.

The Different Forms of Idiom

Depending upon the theoretical preconception, various kinds of sayings, figures of speech, nominal constructions, and twin formulas are all subsumed under idioms.

Sometimes, the meaning of an idiom is similar to the meaning of a simple word, e.g., kick the bucket, means 'die'. See here how the idiomatic phrase gives its meaning in one word.

There are also some expressions that are named partial idiom. In such idioms, one of the words has its common and formal meaning but the other has a figurative sense as a result of special sequence. E.g. white wine that is in fact yellow. Comedians use such idioms as a joke. For example, when asked them to speak frankly (openly) they immediately remove the room curtains.

Metaphors are another kind of idiom, i.e., the word that has one or several figurative meanings in addition to its literal meaning. "He knew he was cooked when he saw his boss standing at the desk". Cooked means either caught or responsible for the wrong doings prior to being caught, one is finished or unfinished.

One of the common idioms is verbal phrase that includes a verb and an adverb, like: put down, give in, make up and there are often simple words that are synonymous with such verbs like: quell, yield, invent. As an example, in the present dialect take bær ?amædæn means tolu? (Rising), foru- nešandæn means sær- kubi or tæskin dadæn (quell).

Proverbs are the most common idioms, with some difference in form, structure and function. The short speech or sentences that are generally known by many people, usually contains words of wisdom, truth or morals that are based on common sense or practical experience. They are often the description of a basic rule of conduct that all people generally follow or should follow. Proverbs are found in all languages.

What is the Difference between Idiom and Proverb?

If you say: "The cat is out of the bag" instead of "The secret is given away," you're using an idiom. But "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is a proverb. Proverbs are old but familiar sayings that usually give advice unlike idioms.

Friedrich Seiler (1939) presented an important definition for proverb. He defined proverb as follows: "The prominent, articulated, advisory, and free speeches that are current in people's language."

The proverb is a complete sentence with a firm structure that is based on an unchangeable foundation, like" xast-æn tævanest-æn?æst", 'where there's a will there's a way', or "juy-ændeh yab-ændeh bovæd", 'one who seeks will find'. Proverbs represent a complete piece of information because they can occur as a sentence. They are meaningful by themselves. In contrast, idioms are not syntactically independent because they can not always occur as full sentences, but as a part of a sentence.

As it was said, the difference between proverb and idiom pertains to their form, structure, and function. Contrary to the proverbs, idioms are the general and current phrases that must be substituted in sentences so as to obtain a complete sense. These phrases can change according to time adverb, subject, and object. Explanation of an idiom is possible in the sentence with some additions like: "dæst-e kæs-i ra kutah kærd-æn", to curtail a person's hand (to curtail a person's power) or "gelim-e xod ra ?æz ?ab kešid-æn", to bring out from water one's own coarse carpet (to [be able to] manage one's own affairs; the concept and communication of these idioms don't have any physical relation with hand and coarse carpet. In other words the meaning of sentence is not perceived from its component words. The idioms carry the substance of speech. They must be used in a complete sentence to indicate their concept.

What is the Difference between Dialect and Accent?

The linguists have different definitions for language and propounded them necessarily before describing the difference between dialect and accent.

From a dialectological view, language may have two features: firstly, it would be the official language of a country, like the Persian language in Iran.

Secondly, as compared with other languages and dialects around its own, it would have been derived from another original tongue. The Modern Persian Language is a continuation of Middle and Ancient Persian. If you say that the first Persian language separated from Indo-Iranian language long time back, so all of Iranian languages, whether ancient or modern, have some similarities because they have separated from one mother, and have some differences because they have parted with each other in a long time. But, in order to express the difference between dialects and accent one must say that they are not only to be cognate, derived, but elicited as standard from a single language with a common origin.

The most essential reason for the appearance of dialects is geographical distance. Among the effective factors which contribute to dialect and accent are cultural and regional customs, social and economic class, the scale of literacy, etc. In addition to these, factors like the number of speakers, availability of written literature and lingual relationship interfere in the trio, language-dialect-accent. In fact, accent is a subset of dialect and a language will have some dialects. In the same way a dialect can have different accents. Sometime, the same dialects are different not only in accent but also in some words and terms, and they have sometime a little grammatical difference too.

If we accept that accent is contained in all the phonetic characteristics or accent is a manner of pronunciation in both at the individual and collective levels, so we have numerous differences and change of pronunciations, equal to the number of individuals. But, sometimes the differences are beyond pronunciations. Then it means that the differences are pertaining to lexical and grammatical expression of the language, this phenomenon is called dialect.

Research Method

Studying six months several books and articles about idioms, proverbs and their structure and function, paved the way for the present researchers to present this paper to shed some light on the blurred issue of idiomatic expressions. Meanwhile, to proceed with Lurish dialect, proposed definitions of dialect and accent were necessary. So as a component of this paper, accent and dialect are compared. The research is based on this approach.

1-Fieldwork: In this phase thirty Lurs informants have been interviewed and studied carefully.

2- Library reference: Theoretical discussions about idiom, proverb, dialect and related topics have been covered.

3- Surfing the Internet to find out what is going on in the world in this regard.


Thirty numbers of Lurs, male and female, were used as informants in this research. Fifteen out of thirty were young, between thirteen and twenty and the other fifteen of were middle aged, between thirty and forty five. The informants all were educated from the high school degree to master degree.


A Study of Auxiliaries in the Old and the Middle Tamil | Content Analysis of "Disability Communication" in the Daily Newspaper DNA (Daily News Analysis) - A Short-term Study Report | Authority: What Is It? | The Trading Community in Early Tamil Society Up To 900 AD | The Use of Setswana as a Medium of Instruction, A Core Subject and A National Language: Is It Not A Negation Of Affirmative Action? A Study of Botswana Linguistic Situation | The Auxiliary Verb POO in Tamil and Telugu | A Study of Idiomatic Expressions in Lurish and Persian | A Survey of Factors Contributing to Language Change in English With Special Reference to Lexical Change | Sarojini Naidu as a Nature Poet | HOME PAGE of November 2008 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Kolsoum Ghaffari Touran
Department of Linguistics
University of Mysore
Mysore 570 006, India

Maruti R. Talawar, Ph.D.
Central Institute of Indian Languages
Mysore 570 006, India

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