Lexicology: Linguistics and Words Essay
Lexicology: Linguistics and Words
INTRODUCTION The book is intended for English language students at Pedagogical Universities taking the course of English lexicology and fully meets the requirements of the programme in the subject.
It may also be of interest to all readers, whose command of English is sufficient to enable them to read texts of average difficulty and who would like to gain some information about the vocabulary resources of Modern English (for example, about synonyms and antonyms), about the stylistic peculiarities of English vocabulary, about the complex nature of the word’s meaning and the modern methods of its investigation, about English idioms, about those changes that English vocabulary underwent in its historical development and about some other aspects of English lexicology.
One can hardly acquire a perfect command of English without having knowledge of all these things, for a perfect command of a language implies the conscious approach to the language’s resources and at least a partial understanding of the “inner mechanism” which makes the huge language system work. In this book the reader will find the fundamentals of the word theory and of the main problems associated with English vocabulary, its characteristics and subdivisions.
The aim of the course is to teach students to be word-conscious, to be able to guess the meaning of words they come across from the meanings of morphemes, to be able to recognise the origin of this or that lexical unit. Lecture I. Working Definitions of Principal Concepts. Lexicology is a branch of linguistics, the science of language. The term Lexi c o l o g y is composed of two Greek morphemes: lexis meaning ‘word, phrase’ and logos which denotes ‘learning, a department of knowledge’. Thus, the literal meaning of the term L e x i с o l о g у is ‘the science of the word’.
The literal meaning, however, gives only a general notion of the aims and the subject-matter of this branch of linguistic science, since all its other branches also take account of words in one way or another approaching them from different angles. Phonetics, for instance, investigating the phonetic structure of language, i. e. its system of phonemes and intonation patterns, is concerned with the study of the outer sound form of the word. Grammar, which is inseparably bound up with Lexicology, is the study of the grammatical structure of language.
It is concerned with the various means of expressing grammatical relations between words and with the patterns after which words are combined into word-groups and sentences. Lexicology as a branch of linguistics has its own aims and methods of scientific research, its basic task being a study and systematic description of vocabulary in respect to its origin, development and current use. Lexicology is concerned with words, variable word-groups, phraseological units, and with morphemes which make up words.
There are two principal approaches in linguistic science to the study of language material, namely the synchronic (Gr.syn — ‘together, with’ and chronos — ‘time’) and the diachronic (Gr. dia — ‘through’) approach. With regard to S p e c i a l Lexicology the synchronic approach is concerned with the vocabulary of a language as it exists at a given time, for instance, at the present time.
It is special D e s с r i p t i v e L e x i c o l o g y that deals with the vocabulary and vocabulary units of a particular language at a certain time. A Course in Modern English Lexicology is therefore a course in Special Descriptive Lexicology, its object of study being the English vocabulary as it exists at the present time.
The diachronic approach in terms of Special Lexicology deals with the changes and the development of vocabulary in the course of time. It is special Historical Lexicology that deals with the evolution of the vocabulary units of a language as time goes by. An English Historical Lexicology would be concerned, therefore, with the origin of English vocabulary units, their change and development, the linguistic and extralinguistic factors modifying their structure, meaning and usage within the history of the English language.
Lexicology studies various lexical units: morphemes, words, variable wordgroups and phraseological units. We proceed from the assumption that the word is the basic unit of language system, the largest on the morphologic and the smallest on the syntactic plane of linguistic analysis. The word is a structural and semantic entity within the language system. Etymologically the vocabulary of the English language is far from being homogeneous. It consists of two layers – the native stock of words and the borrowed stock of words.
Numerically the borrowed stock of words is considerably larger than the native stock of words. In fact native words comprise only 30 % of the total number of words in the English vocabulary but the native words form the bulk of the most frequent words actually used in speech and writing. Besides the native words have a wider range of lexical and grammatical valency, they are highly polysemantic and productive in forming word clusters and set expressions. Borrowed words (or loan words or borrowings) are words taken over from another language and modified according to the patterns of the receiving language.
In many cases a borrowed word especially one borrowed long ago is practically indistinguishable from a native word without a thorough etymological analysis (street, school, face). The number of borrowings in the vocabulary of a language and the role played by them is determined by the historical development of the nation speaking the language. The most effective way of borrowing is direct borrowing from another language as the result of contacts with the people of another country or with their literature. But a word may also be borrowed indirectly not from the source language but through another language.
When analysing borrowed words one must distinguish between the two terms – “source of borrowing” and “origin of borrowing”. The first term is applied to the language from which the word was immediately borrowed, the second – to the language to which the word may be ultimately traced e. g. table source of borrowing – French, origin of borrowing – Latin elephant – source of borrowing – French, origin-Egypt convene – source of borrowing – French, originLatin. The closer the two interacting languages are in structure the easier it is for words of one language to penetrate into the other.
There are different ways of classifying the borrowed stock of words. First of all the borrowed stock of words may be classified according to the nature of the borrowing itself as borrowings proper, translation loans and semantic loans. Translation loans are words or expressions formed from the elements existing in the English language according to the patterns of the source language (the moment of truth – sp. el momento de la verdad).
A semantic loan is the borrowing of a meaning for a word already existing in the English language e. g. the compound word shock brigade which existed in the English language with the meaning “аварийная бригада” acquired a new meaning “ударная бригада” which it borrowed from the Russian language. Latin Loans are classified into the subgroups. 1. Early Latin Loans.
Those are the words which came into English through the language of Anglo-Saxon tribes. The tribes had been in contact with Roman civilisation and had adopted several Latin words denoting objects belonging to that civilisation long before the invasion of Angles, Saxons and Jutes into Britain (cup, kitchen, mill, port, wine). 2. Later Latin Borrowings.
To this group belong the words which penetrated the English vocabulary in the sixth and seventh centuries, when the people of England were converted to Christianity (priest, bishop, nun, candle). 3. The third period of Latin includes words which came into English due to two historical events: the Norman conquest in 1066 and the Renaissance or the Revival of Learning. Some words came into English through French but some were taken directly from Latin (major, minor, intelligent, permanent). 4. The Latest Stratum of Latin Words. The words of this period are mainly abstract and scientific words (nylon, molecular, vaccine, phenomenon, vacuum).
Norman-French Borrowings may be subdivided into subgroups: 1. Early loans – 12th – 15th century 2. Later loans – beginning from the 16th century. The Early French borrowings are simple short words, naturalised in accordance with the English language system (state, power, war, pen, river) Later French borrowings can be identified by their peculiarities of form and pronunciation (regime, police, ballet, scene, bourgeois). The Etymological Structure of the English Vocabulary: The Native element: I. Indo-European element II. Germanic element III. English proper element (brought by Angles, Saxons and Jutes not earlier than 5 th c.
A. D. ) The Borrowed Element: I. II. Celtic (5-6th c. A. D. ) Latin: 1st group: B. C. 2nd group: 7 th c. A. D. 3d group: the Renaissance period III. IV. Scandinavian (8-11 th c. A. D. ) French: 1. Norman borrowings (11-13th c. A. D. ); 2. Parisian borrowings (Renaissance) V. VI. VII. Greek Italian (Renaissance and later) Spanish (Renaissance) VIII. German IX. Indian and others Russian – English lexical correlations Lexical correlations are defined as lexical units from different languages which are phonetically and semantically related. Semantically Russian- English lexical correlations are various.
They may denote everyday objects and commonly used things; brutal -грубый, cold – холодный, ground – грунт, kettle -котел, kitchen кухня, money – монета, sister – сeстра, wolf- волк etc. For instance the word bolshevik was at first indivisible in English, which is seen from the forms bolshevikism, bolshevikise, bolshevikian entered by some dictionaries. Later on the word came to be divided into the morphological elements bolshev-ik. The new morphological division can be accounted for by the existence of a number of words containing these elements (bolshevism, bolshevist, bolshevise; sputnik, udarnik, menshevik).
Assimilation is the process of changing the adopted word. The process of assimilation of borrowings includes changes in sound form of morphological structure, grammar characteristics, meaning and usage. Phonetic assimilation comprises changes in sound form and stress. Sounds that were alien to the English language were fitted into its scheme of sounds, e. g. In the recent French borrowings communique, cafe the long [e] and [e] are rendered with the help of [ei]. The accent is usually transferred to the first syllable in the words from foreign sources.
The degree of phonetic adaptation depends on the period of borrowing: the earlier the period the more completed this adaptation. While such words as “table”, “plate” borrowed from French in the 8th – 11th centuries can be considered fully assimilated, later Parisian borrowings (15th c. ) such as regime, valise, cafe” are still pronounced in a French manner. Grammatical adaption is usually a less lasting process, because in order to function adequately in the recipient language a borrowing must completely change its paradigm.
Though there are some well-known exceptions as plural forms of the English Renaissance borrowings – datum pl. data, criterion – pl. criteria and others. The process of semantic assimilation has many forms: narrowing of meanings (usually polysemantic words are borrowed in one of the meanings); specialisation or generalisation of meanings, acquiring new meanings in the recipient language, shifting a primary meaning to the position of a secondary meaning.
Completely assimilated borrowings are the words, which have undergone all types of assimilation. Such words are frequently used and are stylistically neutral, they may occur as dominant words in a synonymic group.
They take an active part in wordformation. Partially assimilated borrowings are the words which lack one of the types of assimilation. They are subdivided into the groups: 1) Borrowings not assimilated semantically (e. g. shah, rajah). Such words usually denote objects and notions peculiar to the country from which they came. 2) Loan words not assimilated grammatically, e. g. nouns borrowed from Latin or Greek which keep their original plural forms (datum – data, phenomenon phenomena). 3)Loan words not completely assimilated phonetically.
These words contain peculiarities in stress, combinations of sounds that are not standard for English (machine, camouflage, tobacco). 4) Loan words not completely assimilated graphically (e. g. ballet, cafe, cliche). Barbarisms are words from other languages used by the English people in conversation or in writing but not assimilated in any way, and for which there are corresponding English equivalents e. g. ciao Italian – good-bye English, The borrowed stock of the English vocabulary contains not only words but a great number of suffixes and prefixes.
When these first appeared in the English language they were parts of words and only later began a life of their own as word-building elements of the English language (-age, -ance, -ess, -merit) This brought about the creation of hybrid words like shortage, hindrance, lovable and many others in which a borrowed suffix is joined to a native root.
A reverse process is also possible. In many cases one and the same word was borrowed twice either from the same language or from different languages. This accounts for the existence of the so called etymological doublets like canal – channel (Latin -French), skirt – shirt (Sc. English), balsam – halm (Greek – French).
International words. There exist many words that were borrowed by several languages. Such words are mostly of Latin and Greek origin and convey notions which are significant in the field of communication in different countries. Here belong names of sciences (philosophy, physics, chemistry, linguistics), terms of art (music, theatre, drama, artist, comedy), political terms (politics, policy, progress). The English language became a source for international sports terms (football, hockey, cricket, rugby, tennis). Lecture II. Working Definitions of Principal Concepts The word is not the smallest unit of the language.
It consists of morphemes. The morpheme may be defined as the smallest meaningful unit which has a sound form and meaning and which occurs in speech only as a part of a word. Word formation is the creation of new words from elements already existing in the language. Every language has its own structural patterns of word formation. Morphemes are subdivided into root – morphemes and affixational morphemes. The root morpheme is the lexical center of the word. It is the semantic nucleus of a word with which no grammatical properties of the word are connected. Affixational morphemes include inflections and derivational affixes.
Inflection is an affixal morpheme which carries only grammatical meaning thus relevant only for the formation of word-forms (books, opened, strong-er). Derivational morpheme is an affixal morpheme which modifies the lexical meaning of the root and forms a new word. In many cases it adds the part-of-speech meaning to the root (manage-ment, en-courage, fruit-ful) Morphemes which may occur in isolation and function as independent words are called free morphemes (pay, sum, form). Morphemes which are not found in isolation are called bound morphemes (-er, un-, -less) Morphemic analysis.
The segmentation of words is generally carried out according to the method of Immediate and Ultimate Constituents. This method is based upon the binary principle, i. e. each stage of procedure involves two components the word immediately breaks into. At each stage these two components are referred to as the Immediate Constituents (IC). Each IC at the next stage of analysis is in turn broken into smaller meaningful elements. The analysis is completed when we arrive at constituents incapable of further division, i. e. morphemes.
These are referred to as Ultimate Constituents (UC). The analysis of word-structure on the morphemic level must naturally proceed to the stage of UC-s. Allomorphes are the phonemic variants of the given morpheme e. g. il-, im-, ir-, are the allomorphes of the prefix in- (illiterate, important, irregular, inconstant). Monomorphic are root-words consisting of only one root-morpheme i. e. simple words (dry, grow, boss, sell). Polymorphic are words consisting of at least one root-morpheme and a number of derivational affixes, i. e. derivatives, compounds (customer, payee, body-building, shipping).
Derived words are those composed of one root-morpheme and one more derivational morphemes (consignment, outgoing, publicity). Derived words are those composed of one root-morpheme or more. Compound words contain at least two root-morphemes (warehouse, camera-man), Productivity is the ability to form new words after existing patterns which are readily understood by the speakers of a language. Synchronically the most important and the most productive ways of word-formation are affixation, conversion, wordcomposition and abbreviation (contraction).
In the course of time the productivity of this or that way of word-formation may change. Sound interchange or gradation (blood – to bleed, to abide -abode, to strike – stroke) was a productive way of word building in old English and is important for a diachronic study of the English language. It has lost its productivity in Modern English and no new word can be coined by means of sound gradation. Affixation on the contrary was productive in Old English and is still one of the most productive ways of word building in Modern English. Affixation is the formation of new words with the help of derivational affixes.
Suffixation is more productive than prefixation. In Modern English suffixation is a characteristic of noun and adjective formation, while prefixation is typical of verb formation (incoming, trainee, principal, promotion). Affixes are usually divided into living and dead affixes. Living affixes are easily separated from the stem (care-ful). Dead affixes have become fully merged with the stem and can be singled out by a diachronic analysis of the development of the word (admit – L. – ad + mittere). Living affixes are in their turn divided into productive and non-productive affixes.
In many cases the choice of the affixes is a mean of differentiating of meaning: uninterested – disinterested distrust – mistrust. Word-composition is another type of word-building which is highly productive. That is when new words are produced by combining two or more stems. Stem is that part of a word which remains unchanged throughout its paradigm and to which grammatical inflexions and affixes are added. The bulk of compound words is motivated and the semantic relations between the two components are transparent.
Compound words proper are formed by joining together stems of words already available in the language. Compound proper is a word, the two Immediate Constituents of which are stems of notional words, e. g. ice-cold (N + A), illluck(A+N). Derivational compound is a word formed by a simultaneous process of composition and derivation.
Derivational compound is formed by composing a new stem that does not exist outside this pattern and to which suffix is added. Derivational compound is a word consisting of two Immediate Constituents, only one of which is a compound stem of notional words, while the other is a derivational affix, e. g. blue eyed – (A+N) + ed In coordinative compounds neither of the components dominates the other, both are structurally and semantically independent and constitute two structural and semantic centres, e. g. breath-taking, self-discipline, word-formation.
Lecture III. Working Definitions of Principal Concepts Conversion is a highly productive way of coining new words in Modern English. Conversion is sometimes referred to as an affixless way of word-building, a process of making a new word from some existing root word by changing the category of a part of speech without changing the morphemic shape of the original root-word.
The transposition of a word from one part of speech into another brings about changes of the paradigm. Conversion is not only highly productive but also a particularly English way of word-building. It is explained by the analytical structure of Modern English and by the simplicity of paradigms of English parts of speech. A great number of onesyllable words is another factor that facilitates conversion. Typical semantic relations within a converted pair I. Verbs converted from noun (denominal verbs) denote: 1. action characteristic of the object ape (n) – to ape (v) butcher (n) – to butcher (v)
2. instrumental use of the object screw (n) – to screw (v) whip (n) – to whip (v) 3. acquisition or addition of the object fish (n) – to fish (v) II. Nouns converted from verbs (deverbal nouns) denote: 1. instance of the action:to jump (v) -jump (n); to move (v) – move (n) 2. agent of the action: to help (v) – help (n), to switch (v) – switch (n) 3. place of action: to drive (v) – drive (n), to walk (v) – walk (n) 4. object or result of the action: to peel (v) – peel (n), to find (v) – find (n). The shortening of words involves the shortening of both words and wordgroups.
Distinction should be made between shortening of a word in written speech (graphical abbreviation) and in the sphere of oral intercourse (lexical abbreviation). Lexical abbreviations may be used both in written and in oral speech. Lexical abbreviation is the process of forming a word out of the initial elements (letters, morphemes) of a word combination by a simultaneous operation of shortening and compounding. Clipping consists in cutting off two or more syllables of a word. Words that have been shortened at the end are called apocope (doc-doctor, mit-mitten, vetveterinary).
Words that have been shortened at the beginning are called aphaeresis (phone-telephone). Words in which some syllables or sounds have been omitted from the middle are called syncope (ma’m – madam, specs – spectacles). Sometimes a combination of these types is observed (tec-detective, frig-refrigerator). Blendings (blends, fusions or portmanteau words) may be defined as formation that combine two words that include the letters or sounds they have in common as a connecting element (slimnastics < slim+gymnasttcs; mimsy < miserable+flimsy; galumph < gallop+triumph; neutopia < new+utopia).
The process of formation is also called telescoping. The analysis into immediate constituents is helpful in so far as it permits the definition of a blend as a word with the first constituent represented by a stem whose final part may be missing, and the second constituent by a stem of which the initial part is missing. The second constituent when used in a series of similar blends may turn into a suffix. A new suffix -on; is, for instance, well under way in such terms as nylon, rayon, silon, formed from the final element of cotton. This process seems to be very active.
In present-day English numerous new words have been coined recently: Reaganomics, Irangate, blacksploitation, workaholic, foodoholic, scanorama etc. Back formation is a semi – productive type of word-building. It is mostly active in compound verbs, and is combined with word-composition. The basis of this type of word-building is compound words and word-combinations having verbal nouns, gerunds, participles or other derivative nouns as their second component (rushdevelopment, finger-printing, well-wisher).
These compounds and word-combinations are wrongly considered to be formed from compound verbs which are nonexistent in reality. This gives a rise to such verbs as: to rush-develop, to finger-print, to wellwish. Onomatopoeia (sound-imitation, echoism) is the naming of an action or thing by a more or less exact reproduction of a natural sound associated with it (babble, crow, twitter).
Semantically, according to the source of sound onomatopoeic words fall into a few very definite groups. Many verbs denote sounds produced by human beings in the process of communication or in expressing their feelings (babble, chatter, giggle, grumble, murmur, mutter, titter, whisper).
There are sounds produced by animals, birds and insects (buzz, cackle, croak, crow, hiss, howl, moo, mew, roar). Besides the verbs imitating the sound of water (bubble, splash), there are others imitating the noise of metallic things (clink, tinkle) or forceful motion (clash, crash, whack, whip, whisk). Sentence – condensation is the formation of new words by substantivising the whole locutions (forget-me-not, merry-go-round). Sound and stress interchange (distinctive stress, the shift of stress). The essence of it is that to form a new word the stress of the word is shifted to a new syllable.
It mostly occurs in nouns and verbs. Some phonetic changes may accompany the shift of the stress (export – to export, increase – to increase, break – breach, long -length). Lecture IV. Working Definitions of Principal Concepts Semasiology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the meaning of words and word equivalents.
The main objects of semasiological study are as follows: types of lexical meaning, polysemy and semantic structure of words, semantic development of words, the main tendencies of the change of word-meanings, semantic grouping in the vocabulary system, i. e. synonyms, antonyms, semantic fields, thematic groups, etc. Referential approach to meaning.
The common feature of any referential approach is that meaning is in some form or other connected with the referent (object of reality denoted by the word). The meaning is formulated by establishing the interdependence between words and objects of reality they denote. So, meaning is often understood as an object or phenomenon in the outside world that is referred to by a word. Functional approach to meaning.
In most present-day methods of lexicological analysis words are studied in context; a word is defined by its functioning within a phrase or a sentence. This functional approach is attempted in contextual analysis, semantic syntax and some other branches of linguistics. The meaning of linguistic unit is studied only through its relation to other linguistic units. So meaning is viewed as the function of a word in speech. Meaning and concept (notion). When examining a word one can see that its meaning though closely connected with the underlying concept is not identical with it.
To begin with, concept is a category of human cognition. Concept is the thought of the object that singles out the most typical, the most essential features of the object. So all concepts are almost the same for the whole of humanity in one and the same period of its historical development. The meanings of words, however, are different in different languages. That is to say, words expressing identical concept may have different semantic structures in different languages.
E. g. the concept of “a building for human habitation” is expressed in English by the word “house”, in Russian – “дом”, but their meanings are not identical as house does not possess the meaning of “fixed residence of family or household”, which is part of the meaning of the Russian word дом; it is expressed by another English word home.
The difference between meaning and concept can also be observed by comparing synonymous words and word-groups expressing the same concept but possessing linguistic meaning which is felt as different in each of the units, e. g. big, large; to die to pass away, to join the majority, to kick the bucket; child, baby, babe, infant.
Concepts are always emotionally neutral as they are a category of thought. Language, however, expresses all possible aspects of human consciousness. Therefore the meaning of many words not only conveys some reflection of objective reality but also the speaker’s attitude to what he is speaking about, his state of mind. Thus, though the synonyms big, large, tremendous denote the same concept of size, the emotive charge of the word tremendous is much heavier than that of the other word.
Meaning is a certain reflection in our mind of objects, phenomena or relations that makes part of the linguistic sign – its so-called inner facet, whereas the soundform functions as its outer facet. Grammatical meaning is defined as the expression in Speech of relationships between words. The grammatical meaning is more abstract and more generalised than the lexical meaning. It is recurrent in identical sets of individual forms of different words as the meaning of plurality in the following words students, boob, windows, compositions. Lexical meaning.
The definitions of lexical meaning given by various authors, though different in detail, agree in the basic principle: they all point out that lexical meaning is the realisation of concept or emotion by means of a definite language system. 1)The component of meaning proper to the word as a linguistic unit, i. e. recurrent in all the forms of this word and in all possible distributions of these forms. / Ginzburg R. S. , Rayevskaya N. N. and others. 2)The semantic invariant of the grammatical variation of a word / Nikitin M. V. /. 3)The material meaning of a word, i. e.
the meaning of the main material part of the word which reflects the concept the given word expresses and the basic properties of the thing (phenomenon, quality, state, etc. ) the word denotes. /Mednikova E. M. /. Denotation. The conceptual content of a word is expressed in its denotative meaning. To denote is to serve as a linguistic expression for a concept or as a name for an individual object. It is the denotational meaning that makes communication possible. Connotation is the pragmatic communicative value the word receives depending on where, when, how, by whom, for what purpose and in what contexts it may be used.
There are four main types of connotations stylistic, emotional, evaluative and expressive or intensifying. Stylistic connotations is what the word conveys about the speaker’s attitude to the social circumstances and the appropriate functional style (slay vs kill), evaluative connotation may show his approval or disapproval of the object spoken of (clique vs group), emotional connotation conveys the speaker’s emotions (mummy vs mother), the degree of intensity (adore vs love) is conveyed by expressive or intensifying connotation.
The interdependence of connotations with denotative meaning is also different for different types of connotations. Thus, for instance, emotional connotation comes into being on the basis of denotative meaning but in the course of time may substitute it by other types of connotation with general emphasis, evaluation and colloquial stylistic overtone. E. g. terrific which originally meant ‘frightening’ is now a colloquialism meaning ‘very, very good’ or ‘very great’: terrific beauty, terrific pleasure.
The orientation toward the subject-matter, characteristic of the denotative meaning, is substituted here by pragmatic orientation toward speaker and listener; it is not so much what is spoken about as the attitude to it that matters. Fulfilling the significative and the communicative functions of the word the denotative meaning is present in every word and may be regarded as the central factor in the functioning of language. The expressive function of the language (the speaker’s feelings) and the pragmatic function (the effect of words upon listeners) are rendered in connotations.
Unlike the denotative meaning, connotations are optional. Connotation differs from the implicational meaning of the word. Implicational meaning is the implied information associated with the word, with what the speakers know about the referent. A wolf is known to be greedy and cruel (implicational meaning) but the denotative meaning of this word does not include these features. The denotative or the intentional meaning of the word wolf is “a wild animal resembling a dog that kills sheep and sometimes even attacks men”.
Its figurative meaning is derived from implied information, from what we know about wolves – “a cruel greedy person”, also the adjective wolfish means “greedy”. Polysemy is very characteristic of the English vocabulary due to the monosyllabic character of English words and the predominance of root words. The greater the frequency of the word, the greater the number of meanings that constitute its semantic structure. A special formula known as “Zipf’s law” has been worked out to express the correlation between frequency, word length and polysemy: the shorter the word, the higher its frequency of use; the higher the frequency, the wider.