I've tried my hand at Googling this answer through various terms, and have come up dry. Is there such a specific word for this field? If not, what would could be coined as such?

  • "The study of idioms" seems like a very specific field of study. And considering the use of them is closely tied to linguistics...is there any particular type of study you are doing for these idioms? Their origin? The entymology of the individual idioms? – Zibbobz Oct 8 '13 at 20:28
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    Idioms in which language? Since idioms are by definition irregular and non-compositional (which means you can't figure out their meaning just by the meaning of the words in them), they have nothing in common but their weirdness. And they're not the object of any particular field of linguistics, since they appear in all of them, in every language. – John Lawler Oct 8 '13 at 21:00
  • Rosamund Moon Fixed Expressions and Idioms in English ... has written the best book I've come across on the whole subject. As can be seen, she uses the topic rather than the field of study as her title. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 8 '13 at 23:18

The answer is rather simple, and quite surprising.


Which according to M-W means: the study of idiom.

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  • I am not a fan of using paid-only links, and will not sign up for the service. However, it is interesting that Stanford also offers a course by this name: gse-ldt.stanford.edu/students/ma-projects/… – Bryan Agee Oct 9 '13 at 10:09
  • I'm not either Bryan, it is weird, if you google idiomology and click on the definition link, it shows you the definition, but if click the link above apparently you go through some member thing. Same URL. Don't quite understand how that works unless they hack it based on the referrer. Anyway, I'll try to fix the link to something non paid. – Fraser Orr Oct 9 '13 at 15:14

I don't know of a specific word, but idioms fall within the range of...

Phraseology: the study of set or fixed expressions, such as idioms, phrasal verbs, and other types of multi-word lexical units.

EDIT: A follow-up in a few dictionaries, including the OED, failed to corroborate Wikipedia's information. In light of that and John Lawler's response, I'll add the far more commonly used sense of 'phraseology'. Here's the OED definition (1a):

Phraseology: The selection or arrangement of words and phrases in the expression of ideas; manner or style of expression; the particular language, terminology, or diction which characterizes a writer, work, subject, language, place, etc. Occas. also: an instance of this.

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    That's not a word linguists use, though. At least not in any sense like that. – John Lawler Oct 8 '13 at 20:58
  • @John Lawler: So is Wikipedia disingenuous in the references (eg A.P. Cowie (ed.), Phraseology) it mentions in the article userNaN links to? Is Cowie using the word in the usual 'non-ology' sense here? – Edwin Ashworth Oct 8 '13 at 22:32
  • I believe Sinclair, in Phraseology: An interdisciplinary perspective , uses 'phraseology' for the study (see examples) as well as the set of usages ('...phraseology does not make a sharp division between grammar and lexis/semantics...';'...phraseology, in sharp contrast to most grammars...'). – Edwin Ashworth Oct 8 '13 at 22:52
  • OK, let me amend that. It's not used in the United States that way; I'd forgotten about Bally &c. It's at best a minor interest here; it sort of comes with the territory in (for example) metaphors, lexical semantics, syntax, historical linguistics, and phonology in America, but in Europe there is a different tradition, and studies are done differently. But in the US, for just about everybody, phraseology is usually possessed (your phraseology), and simply means someone's choice of word usage and syntax. And thank you, Edwin. – John Lawler Oct 8 '13 at 22:57
  • It's by far the more usual sense over here, too. Just keeping you youngsters over there honest. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 8 '13 at 23:22

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