PART A: INTRODUCTION
In the world today, there are 5,000 to 6,000 living languages, of which English is by far the most widely used. Approximately 350 million people speak English as their first language. About the same number use it as a second language. It is the English language that is used as the language of aviation, international sport and pop music. 75% of the world's mail is in English, 60% of the world's radio stations broadcast in English and more than half of the world's periodicals are printed in English. It is also the English language that is used as an official language in 44 countries, and as the language of business, commerce and technology in many others. English is now an effective medium of international communication. In Vietnam, English has long been considered as a tool of international communication, and together with its rising importance, the need of learning English is becoming more and more urgent. It can't be denied that all foreign learners in general and Vietnamese learners in particular desire to master English as the native speakers; however, they usually face a lot of difficulties that prevent them from gaining successful conversations. One of the reasons for these problems lies in the way people perceive and use idioms. Each nation's language lies in itself similar and different concepts on many fields of life such as humane values, ways of thinking, behavior standards, religious beliefs, customs and traditions, social conventions, etc. Words and expressions including idioms have formed the vocabulary system of a language. Idioms are considered as special factors of a language's vocabulary system because they reflect cultural specific characteristics of each nation, including material and spiritual values. Therefore, a lot of researchers have long shown their concerns for idioms. Idioms are used to express ideas in figurative styles. They bring the vividness and richness to the speakers' speeches. This is the reason why the more skillfully a person use idioms in his conversations, the more effectively he can establish his communicative relationship. One more important thing is that the general present tendencies are towards idiomatic usage; therefore, knowing how to use idioms effectively in the right situations is becoming essential. Moreover, the most distinguished advantage of idioms is that they do provide users with a whole new way of expressing concepts linguistically. It can be said that idioms are the color and vitality of a language. Several linguists have given a lot of definitions about an idiom basing on its fixed characteristics. For example, "An idiom is a fixed group of words with a special different meaning from the meaning of several words" (Dictionary of English Idioms, 1979). Sharing the same point of view, Hoang Van Hanh (1994) considered an idiom as a fixed group of words which is firm in terms of structure, complete and figurative in terms of meaning, and is widely used in daily speaking. The fixed characteristics of an idiom are as follows: - Form: The words of an idiom are generally fixed. It means that the components forming an idiom are unchanged in using. - Structure: The fixed characteristic of structure of an idiom is expressed by the fixed order of the components forming an idiom. In fact, we can see a lot of idioms violating the principles of their fixed characteristics such as to swear like a bargee and to swear like a trooper, to die a dog’s death and to die like a dog in English, nước đổ đầu vịt and nước đổ lá khoai (like water off a duck’s back), giãi gió dầm mưa and dầm mưa giãi gió (to be exposed to the sun and socked with dew) in Vietnamese. This gives us some questions as follows: Are the idioms above the idiomatic variants or synonymous idioms? What kinds of idioms allow us to use the violation about their fixed...
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