Main Problems of Lexicology

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Main Problems of Lexicology

Lexicology is the study of words-their menanigs and relationships. * English vocabulary is one of the most extensive amongst the world’s lang.contains an immense number of words of forerign origin. * lexicology has to study the etymology of word,e.g.their origin, their development and function * And English is lang.which had changed a lot in a short period of time * So, lexicology has to deal with all the changes in grammar and the vocabulary.


Borrowing is a consequence of cultural contact between two language communities. Borrowing of words can go in both directions between the two languages in contact, but often there is an asymmetry, such that more words go from one side to the other. In this case the source language community has some advantage of power, prestige and/or wealth that makes the objects and ideas it brings desirable and useful to the borrowing language community. For example, the Germanic tribes in the first few centuries A.D. adopted numerous loanwords from Latin as they adopted new products via trade with the Romans. Few Germanic words, on the other hand, passed into Latin.The actual process of borrowing is complex and involves many usage events (i.e. instances of use of the new word).

Generally, some speakers of the borrowing language know the source language too, or at least enough of it to utilize the relevant word. They (often consciously) adopt the new word when speaking the borrowing language, because it most exactly fits the idea they are trying to express. If they are bilingual in the source language, which is often the case, they might pronounce the words the same or similar to the way they are pronounced in the source language. For example, English speakers adopted the word garage from French, at first with a pronunciation nearer to the French pronunciation than is now usually found. Presumably the very first speakers who used the word in English knew at least some French and heard the word used by French speakers, in a French-speaking context.


Purely phonetic change involves no reshuffling of the contrasts of a phonological system. All phonological systems are complex affairs with many small adjustments in phonetics depending on phonetic environment, position in the word, and so on. For the most part, phonetic changes are examples of allophonic differentiation or assimilation, that is, sounds in specific environments acquire new phonetic features or perhaps lose phonetic features they originally had.Many phonetic changes provide the raw ingredients for later phonemic innovations. In Proto-Italic, for example, intervocalic */s/ became *[z]. This was a phonetic change, a mild and superficial complication in the phonological system only, but when this *[z] merged with */r/, the effect on the phonological system was greater.


By translation-loans (calques) we indicate borrowings of a special kind. They are not taken into the vocabulary of another language more or less in the same phonemic shape in which they have been functioning in their own language, but undergo the process of translation. It is quite obvious that it is only compound words (i. e. words of two or more stems) which can be subjected to such an operation, each stem being translated separately: masterpiece (from German Meisterstück), wonder child (from German Wunderkind), first dancer (from Italian prima-ballerina).


Derivational antonyms.

The regular type of derivational antonyms contains negative prefixes: dis-, il- /im-/in-/ir and un-. Other negative prefixes occur in this function only occasionally. Modern English prefers to form an antonym with the prefix un-; the suffix –less is old and not productive anymore. In the oppositions like hopeful – hopeless, useful –useless the suffix –less is contrasting to the suffix -ful, not to the stem (otherwise the antonyms would be: hope – hopeless). E.g. selfish – unselfish, not selfish – “selfishless”.

Derivational antonyms may be characterised as contradictory. A pair of derivational antonyms forms a binary opposition (complementary root antonyms). E.g. logical – illogical, appear – disappear. Not only words, but set expressions as well, can be grouped into antonymic pairs. E.g. by accident – on purpose.


“Broadening of meaning. This occurs when a word with a specific or limited meaning is widened. The broadening process is technically called generalization. An example of generalization is the word business, which originally meant ‘the state of being busy, careworn, or anxious,’ and was broadened to encompass all kinds of work or occupations.” Another example of the broadening of meaning is pipe. Its earliest recorded meaning was “a musical wind instrument”. Nowadays it can denote any hollow oblong cylindrical body (e. g. water pipes). This meaning developed through transference based on the similarity of shape (pipe as a musical instrument is also a hollow oblong cylindrical object) which finally led to a considerable broadening of the range of meaning. “Narrowing of meaning.

This happens when a word with a general meaning is by degrees applied to something much more specific. The word litter, for example, meant originally (before 1300) ‘a bed,’ then gradually narrowed down to ‘bedding,’ then to ‘animals on a bedding of straw,’ and finally to things scattered about, odds and ends. . . . Other examples of specialization are deer, which originally had the general meaning ‘animal,’ girl, which meant originally ‘a young person,’ and meat, whose original meaning was ‘food.'” We say that narrowing takes place when a word comes to refer to only part of the original meaning. The history of the word hound in English neatly illustrates this process. The word was originally pronounced hund in English, and it was the generic word for any kind of dog at all. This original meaning is retained, for example, in German, where the word Hund simply means ‘dog.’ 7.

Phraseological units are a kind of ready-made blocks which fit into the structure of a sentence performing a certain syntactical function, more or less as words do. EXP: We never know the value of water till the well is dry. You can take the horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink. Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

The first distinctive feature that strikes one is the obvious structural dissimilarity. If one compares proverbs and phraseological units in the semantic aspect, the difference seems to become obvious. Proverbs could be best compared with minute fables for, like the latter, they sum up the collective experience of the community. They moralize (Hell is paved with good intentions), give advice (Don’t judge a tree by its bark}, give warning (If you sing before breakfast, you will cry before night), admonish (Liars should have good memories) No phraseological unit ever does any of these things. They do not stand for whole statements as proverbs do but for a single concept. Their function in speech is purely nominative (i. e. they denote an object, an act, etc.). The function of proverbs in speech, though, is communicative (i. e. they impart certain information).


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 24 November 2016

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