The in Webster New World is an expression that

The Conceptual Meaning of Tongue Idioms in Arabic



1. The

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Tongue is indispensable
part of our everyday language. It is literally and metaphorically used and
understood by different kinds of people. People usually tend to use the
non-literal meanings of tongue or tongue idioms to describe people and to
express how they see the behavior of different people.                                                                                               

idiom as it is defined in Webster New World is an expression that is unusual to
itself.  Grammatically, it cannot be
understood from the individual meanings of its elements e.g. A hot potato – Speak of an issue (mostly current) which many people
are talking about and which is usually unclear. Culture plays an
important role in the course of the idiom interpretation. Idioms have been
defined in various ways by English linguists, grammarians and educators. To
take just a few of these definitions.

according to Bolinger (1975:63), are “groups of words with set meanings
that cannot be calculated by adding up the separate meanings of the parts”
(as cited in Lattey, 1986:219). Thus, with idioms a user cannot normally change the order of the
words in them,
delete a word from them,
replace a word with another For example, kick
the bucket cannot occur as kick the pot.
 Or change their grammatical
structure unless he or she is intentionally making a joke or trying a play on
words. The old man kicked the bucket. ? the
bucket was kicked (by the old
man). For example, the phrase ” have a word with somebody” means “to
speak with him” but by using the plural” have words with somebody” the meaning
changes to “to quarrel with somebody”. Therefore, Lattey (1986:219) points out
that “as far as the form of idioms is concerned, we have groups of words,
and in terms of meanings, and we can say that we are dealing with new, not
readily apparent meanings when we confront idioms”.                                                                                   

his attempt to coin a comprehensive definition, Ghazala (2003:204) defines
idioms as “special, metaphorical, fixed phrases whose meanings and forms
are not negotiable”. Idioms, like any other aspect of a given language,
are of two types in terms of their meanings: universal and language or
culture-specific. That is, they may have universal meanings which are common to
many languages, or specific meanings which are, due to linguistic and/or
cultural restrictions, confined to the speakers of that particular language and
cannot be easily understood by speakers of other languages.                               

 Cognitive linguistics, which is a relatively
modern school of linguistics, has originally emerged in the early 1970s. It has
been assumed by cognitive linguists that language reflects our conceptual
structure and organization. They further argue that there exists a common
conceptualizing capacity, which derives from shared aspects of human cognition.
Lakoff and Johnson (1980:59) maintain that people generally conceptualize the
‘nonphysical’ in terms of the ‘physical’, and the main source of our physical
experience in the world is our body and its interaction with the environment.
Such view proposes that one of the most predominant source domains by which we
understand target domains is the human body.

 The phenomenon of idiomaticity and idiomatic
expressions in the Arabic language has been exclusively tackled in the Arabic
rhetoric by many ancient and modern Arabic writers. Rhetoric is defined by
Arabic linguists as “a science by which the stating of a single meaning in
different ways, with a clear indication to it is
known”. This science studies the figurative expressions which means,
saying something and meaning something else and the original meaning of the
expression is not related to what is meant. For example

 “For you or for the wolf?”                            ??? ??? ?????

to the wolf’.??? ?????                                            

claim in the Cognitive Linguistics is that there is a relationship between the
conceptual system and the linguistic system. The same principles and
motivational forces operate in both. Motivation is a central phenomenon in
cognitive linguistics. We can talk about the motivation of something in
language or thought when that thing is neither arbitrary nor predictable:
“The relationship between A and B is motivated just in case there is an
independently existing link, L, such that A-L-B ‘fit together’. L makes sense
of the relationship between A and B (Lakoff l987:448). The reason for its
centrality is that “It is easier to learn something that is motivated than
something that is arbitrary. It is also easier to remember and use motivated
knowledge than arbitrary knowledge” (Lakoff l987:346).  


Arabic is a wonderfully expressive, visual language.
Many terms used throughout the Arab world would not make much sense out of
context. Idioms are the hardest part of a language for a foreigner to
understand, as they are so deeply rooted in the culture. This
paper aims at studying the idiomatic meaning of the word tongue in Arabic
idioms to answer the following questions: What does the word tongue means in
different contexts? Does the word tongue have different meaning from those in
the dictionaries? Are
tongue idioms arbitrary or motivated?


Literature review

 Aldahsheh (2013) concluded that Arabic and
English speakers depend on the idiomatic expressions in all aspects of their
communications, spoken or written. And in both languages Idioms are culture
specific. Al-Amoudi (2013) proposed that a systematic conceptual meaning
motivated a good number of Arabic idioms on the basis of conventional images
that gave links between the idioms and their meaning. Benzes (2002) studied the
conceptualization of the head in English idioms. She also examines how the
various idioms stand in close relation.


The significant of the study                                                           

 It is worth
pointing out that despite the existence of numerous studies on metaphorical
idioms, Arabic idioms particularly tongue idioms have not been the focus of
much research. So it is a good chance to focus on some of them.


4. Data collection                                                                                                                      

The researcher will employ a set of Arabic idioms to be discussed.
A deep study will be carried out on the target idioms. The
researcher used resources from Arabic language such as encyclopedias, library
references books specially Mu’jam  Lisan
AL-Arab, Al-Mu’jam AL-Waseet, Amthal Al-Arab, Jamharat Al-Amthal, and Mu’jama’
Al-Amthal Al-Arabiyah, web sites and ICA corpus 
to collect data of tongue idioms under discussion.


5. Data
analysis and results                                                                                                                           

 As mentioned above this study has to do tongue
and its influence in language. Through my intensive research in Arabic
language, I found out that ‘the tongue’ in particular has enjoyed a lot of
interest in Quran Kareem, Hadith Sharif and different branches of Arabic
literature. The tongue is used in Arabic idioms, both metonymically and
metaphorically, in relation to its shape, size, and function. Its use in these
idioms is based on our conventional knowledge about its function as well as its
gestures. In Arabic, the word al-lisan stands for “the tongue”. The tongue is the fleshy muscular organ
in the mouth of a mammal, used for tasting, licking, swallowing, and (in
humans) articulating speech.  The
basic function of the tongue is speaking; consequently, many idioms in Arabic
are mainly based on this function, represented in the metonymy the tongue
stands for speaking. This function is hence used metaphorically to imply
abstract concepts such as disrespect, respect, hypocrisy, silence, reputation,
etc. This paper intends to throw some light on some of tongue-related idioms, the
occasions they were said in and literal and idiomatic meanings as can be seen


1. The Semantic Extensions of the idioms

Semantic extensions



“His tongue is long” (Lisanu
?awil / ????? ????)
“His tongue is
dirty” (Lisanu wesekh/????? ???)
tongue is snippy” ( Saleetu al-lisan/ ???? ??????)

Kindness and respect

 “His tongue
is sweet” (Lisanu helo/????? ???)


 “Has two tongues” (Dho al-lisanayn/ ?????????)


 “His Tongue was arrested” (o?teqela lisanu/????? ?????)
  “Cut his tongue” (Qata? lisanu/ ??? ?????)


 “The government’s tongue” (Liasan al-hokoma/
???? ???????)


 “Truth tongue” (Lisan sedq/???? ???)


 “Free tongue” (taliqu al-lisan/??? ?????)


by tongues” (Talokohu al-alsun/ ????? ??????)


 “On his tongue” (?ala lisan fulan??? ???? ????/ )


tongue is a soan” (lisanu sheber/ ????? ???)


tongue is ripe date and his hand is a piece of wood” (lisanu min rotab
wa yaduhu min khashab/????? ?? ??? ???? ?? ???)





“His tongue is long” (lisanu ?awil /
????? ????) which idiomatically means that you think
someone is rude, dirty, foulmouthed and disrespectful. This idiom is said when
talking about someone who keeps on cursing and does not respect anyone anywhere
and no matter who he/she is speaking to. The tongue stands
for speaking and the tongue stands for the person. Other idioms with same
metaphorical meaning is “His tongue is dirty” (Lisanu wesekh/ ????? ???)
and “His tongue is snippy” (Saleetu al-lisan/ ???? ??????).


Kindness and respect

“His tongue is sweet” (Lisanu helo/????? ???). This
idiom describes a person who speaks to people kindly and cheerfully the tongue
stands for the person. The tongue stands for speaking motivates the figurative
meaning of this idiom.


two tongues” (Abu al-lisanayn/ ?????????). This
idiom describes the person who is dishonest and hypocrite. That lies and never
tells the truth. In front of people says something and in their back says the
opposite. Our conventional knowledge about the function of the tongue and
the tongue stands for speaking motivates the figurative meaning of this idiom. The use of two tongues stands for different speeches.


5.4. Representation                                                                                               

government’s tongue” (Liasan al-hokoma/ ???? ???????). This
idiom describes the person who represents the government in public speeches.
The tongue stands for speaking as well as the person motivates the figurative meaning
the idiom.



tongue” (Lisan sedq/???? ???). This
idiom describes a person who has a good reputation and the others praise
him/her. The idiom pictures those people as tongues the tongue stands for
the persons to emphasize that they are mainly occupied in speaking the tongue
stands for speaking.


5.6 Fluency

tongue” (taliqu al-lisan/??? ?????). This idiom describes a person who is articulate and knows how to
speak in public. Fluency is attributed to the tongue and not to the person
because the intention is their fluent speech where the tongue is modified by
the adjective taliq fluent?. The tongue stands for speaking, as well as stands
for the person.


5.7. Backbiting

by tongues” (Talokohu al-alsun/ ????? ??????). This
idiom describes a person who is gossiped about by other people. The idiom
pictures those people as tongues the tongue stands for the persons to emphasize
that they are mainly occupied in speaking, the tongue stands for speaking and
also stands for the person.


5.8. Reference

his tongue” (?ala lisan fulan??? ????
????/ ). This idiom describes a speech which is reported by another
person with referring to the one who said it in the beginning. It means that
the speaker reports something as he hears it form another person. The tongue
stands for the speaking and also stands for the person. 


5.9 Talkativeness

“His tongue is a soan” (lisanu sheber/ ????? ???).
This idiom describes a person that talks a lot in any situation. The tongue
stands for speaking.


5.10. Deception

“His tongue is ripe date and his hand is a piece of wood” (lisanu
min rotab wa yaduhu min khashab/????? ?? ??? ???? ?? ???).
This idiom describes a person that always promises the good, but in fact this
person does nothing of what he/she promises. The tongue stands for speaking.

























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(2016). Webster New
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Arabic references


??? ?????.(1993)
???? ?????. ?????:
?????? ??????.

            ?????? ?????? ?? ????. (2009). ?????
?????. ?????: ??? ?????? ??????.

            ???????? ????? ?? ??? ????. (1988).
???? ????? ???????. ?????: ??? ????? ???????        

               ????? ????? ???????? ???? ????? ??? ?????? ?????? ????
??????. (1992). ???? ???????

            ???????. ?????:????? ?????.        


 ???? ?????
??????? ????????. (2011). ?????? ??????. ???????: ????? ?????? ???????.