General problems of lexicology

Lexicology as a branch of linguistics. Factors determining the importance of modern English lexicography. Common problems of lexicology: connotation, stylistic synonymy, functional differentiation of vocabulary. Morphological structure of English words.

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General problems of lexicology. Lexicology as a branch of linguistics

The term lexicology is dervied from two Greek words: lexis ("word") and logos ("theory", "learning"). Lexicology is a separate branch of linguistics which deals with two objects of investigation:

1) words as comparatively autonomous language units, their properties, their structure and, on the other hand,

2) vocabulary as a system, consisting of the above said units.

However, a study of this kind may deal with the words and vocabularies irrespective of a particular language. In this case this theory shall be named general lexicology.

Special lexicology devotes its attention to the words and vocabulary of some given language: as an example there is modern English lexicology.

Historical lexicology, sometimes also called etymology or etymological theory, is a separate branch of linguistics, which studies the origin of different words and the ways in which the semantic structure of such words changes in the course of time.

Descriptive lexicology deals with the vocabulary of the given language at a given stage of its development. Descriptive lexicology is also named synchronic lexicology.

Unlike descriptive, we may single out diachronic lexicology, which naturally studies the historical development of the word system.

Hence the full naming of our course sounds as "Special descriptive lexicology of the modern English language". The complete course may be subdivided into two unequal parts according to two separate subjects of studies:

1) the theory of English word as a complex structure;

2) the study of the English vocabulary as a complex system.

Within the first part of the course the word is not only studied as a linguistic phenomenon, but also as a philosophical notion too, because included here is the semantic structure of words that is the word in the complexity of its notion that is in its permanent development.

Besides the morphological structure of the words is to be given special attention, as morphemes are also considered to be meaningful units of the language (as well as words).

All the above said phenomena are referred to the word-building theory. As the vocabulary system does not only consist of separate words, but includes any other meaningful units, the study of the English words is to be finished with the scrutiny of the English set expressions.

Anyone who studies lexicology should clearly imagine the value of the word theory. A number of factors determine the importance of modern English lexicology, which are:

1) English is among the most widespread languages on the globe today. It has the status of the global language. English is spoken as a second language by the greatest number of people in the world;

2) lexicology is one of the three basic aspects of language studies alongside with the sound system and grammar taking the intermediate between these two. So it may be named the linking element within the whole theory of language;

3) great is the philosophical and psychological singificance of such studies, as they touch upon the problems of meaning and its change and thus contact of the general theory of sign, so lexicology is linked with semasiology and onomasiology

4) lexicology came into being to meet the demands of applied linguistics, so it may have, apart of its theoretical aspect, a definite practical singnificance, which may be traced to lexicography, theory of terms, vocabulary standardization, etc.;

5) the deep knowledge of lexicology is making an important basis in teaching of the English language. The word can hardly be taught if it's separated from the other words, from the sentence, the context, the text and the speech flow. The word may only exist and function within the system of complex connections with all other units of language. Finally the word becomes valid only when it enters various relations with other words, which relations may be synonymic, antonymic, those of omonymy.

The course of modern English lexicology has versatile connections with a number of other language disciplines. It cannot be observed in isolation from them. In reality in any living language, irrespective of its historical development, words are comprized of smaller elements, which are meaningful morphemens and meaningless phonemes. On the other hand words form greater structures, which are word combinations (that is set expressions and free combinations), as well as sentences.

Words and speech always stand in definite relations with each other, hence it is cocluded that lexicology is connected with phonetics and syntax.

Another branch of linguistics showing connetions with lexicology, though from a different viewpoint, is stylistics. Stylistics also deals with some general problems of lexicology, like connotations, stylistic synonymy, functional differentiation of vocabulary, etc.

Interconnections between lexicology and general grammar are also obvious: words may be studied separately from each other, but only for experimental purposes and for the sake of analysis. They never occur in speech in complete isolation.

Besides differentiation between two kinds of meaning, which coexist in every word, that is lexical and grammatical meanings, should be observed in semasiology. In words of the natural language these two types of meaning are typically combined.

So defining in most general terms the object of study of lexicology we may say that this object is a lexical unit. Meanwhile we should bear in mind that such lexical units are extremely versatile.

An important thing is that the word occupies the central position among all other lexical units and is forming the bulk of the vocabulary. Paradoxically, however, the notion of word has not yet received any universally satisfying definition.

Morphemens, being the smallest meaningful units of languages, unlike words, are unable to form sentences.

The third type of lexical units, alongside with morphemes and words, are set expressions. Unlike free word combinations, they contain meanings which cannot be split into smaller elements, and in this way set expressions can be brought together with words.

Sintagmata may divide a sentence into several parts which express separate ideas.

One of the most complicated problems in lexicology is that of the vocabulary. A word is a system; a vocabulary should also be viewed as a complex system. Its complexity can be seen in the fact that up to our days the vocabulary of any separate language cannot be studied as a whole, but only if subdivided into quite a number of definite groups or subsystems, compiled in accordance with this or that basic principle.

Another reason for the complexity of a national vocabulary is that it is not a chaotic sum of units, but an everchangeable unity of elements, associated and functioning together, according to certain and rather rigid laws. These laws, at least some of them, may be common to quite a number of languages or the majority of languages, but sometimes they may also be specific for the given language, that is why any national vocabulary can be named an adaptive system, because it is constantly adjusting itself to the everchanging requirements and conditions of human communication and the surrounding of the speaking community.

The above said conditions may stretch far beyond the language itself and refer to this fears(?) of culture, education, technology, sports, entertainment and everyday life. Word as the basic unit of language

What's in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.

W. Shakespear ("Romeo and Juliette", act 2, scene 2)

It has always been clear that the word is the basic unit of any language, irrespective of the national affinity of this language, stage of its development, form of expression (oral or written), natural or artificial character. At the same time the problem of defining the notion of a word appeared to be one of the most complicated questions, both in linguistics as well as beyond its boundaries. The main obstacle here was in giving a laconic and exhaustive definition of this basic term. Each attempt to define a word has always started with a try to describe it. This is the way we shall follow in our case as well.

To begin with, the word itself can be readily split into smaller units of two kinds: meaningful (morphemes) and meaningless (phonemes). The main complexity here is the fact that the units of these three language levels (phonological, morhpological and lexical) may all conicide in fluent speech. Moreover, such auxiliary forms as articles and prepositions may historically be turned into morphemes and in many cases become morphemes and start to function as such.

The complexity still rises if we take into account the fact that a separate word may also coincide with a sentence, the latter being a unit of an opposite higher lingual level. When used in sentences, that is together with other words, the word becomes syntactically organized. In the course of development of linguistics quite a number of definitions can be proposed, each reflecting a different approach and viewpoint of its author.

1. We will start with the highest linguistic levels, which are syntax and semantics. So the word was syntactically defined by Henry Sweet and Leonard Bloomfield as "a minimum free form". That means that a word can form a sentence.

2. A synatcical plus semantic definition of words was given by Edward Sapir, who called the word "one of the smallest completely satisfying bits of isolated meaning, into which a sentence resolves itself". Sapir was also the first to point out such an important characteristics of the word as its indivisibility (a lion - an African lion (divisibility of a word combination), alive (indivisible)). A split of one word into separate elements will inevitably result in the distortion and disturbance of the meaning (alive - a live performance (change of meanings)).

3. On the other hand the English language knows quite a number of transitive forms which take the middle position between separate words and word combinations which sound the same way. A purely semantic treatment of the problem can be found in Stephen Ullman's explanation: "A connected discourse will fall into a number of meaningful segments, which are ultimately composed of meaningful units. These meaningful units are called words".

4. The eminent French scholar of the 20th century Antoine Meillet combined several approaches, which were the semantic, the phonological and the grammatical criteria, and worked out the following formula: "A word is defined by the association of a particular meaning with a particular group of sounds, capable of a particular grammatical employment".

All the rest of the definitions used in the modern linguistics are either the variations of the above or combinations of the same.

The general complexity of the problem of word treatment is stimulated by the fact that the word is traditionally understood as a linguistic phenomenon, meanwhile we do not fully understand the phenomenon called the language. The greatest problem here is the nature of the relations between the word and its referent, that is the thing (object, phenomenon, etc.) it denotes. What we know today is:

1) the word includes a total number of sounds or letters;

2) the word is a complex structure, possessing several characteristics, referred to both its form and content;

3) the word is making the basis of verbal communcation.

Thus the external structure of the word is its morphological complexity, studied by the word-building theory. The internal structure of the word is reflected in its meaning. It is making the semantic organization of the lexical unit and is studied by semasiology.

Among the aspects of the word structure is its unity, both formal and semantic. This unity may be treated as the integral indivisibility of words. Example:

There may be two words like broad sword and broadsword. The meanings of both are different. We may also say the broadest sword, by which having two words, yet no such process can take place with the word broadsword, because it may only permit addition of suffixes at its end (e.g. broadswording).

Summing the problem up we may say that the word is the fundamental unit of language, a dialectal unit of form and contents, manifested so in the course of verbal communication. The word is both a language and a speech unit, used in and for human communication.

From the material viewpoint it is represented by a group of sounds or letters, which possess a meaning, which can be grammatically employed and characterised by formal and semantic indivisibilty.

A written word is a unity of letters, separated by two spaces.

The semantic triangle

The word may be treated as the best illustration of other langugage signs. From this point the structure of words is comparatively complicated. Ferdinand de Saussure was the first to state that the word is two-fold, as it consists of a concept and a sound or letter form. This simple scheme was further accepted and developed by the German scholar Gotlieb Frege.

The semantic triangle consists of: the concept, the sound/letter form and the referent. There are words that don't have referent (God), there are words without concept (proper names, etc.). The triangle is a simplified form, representing the links between the three triangle apexes, while in reality it is much more complicated.

The triangle is actually not enough. There must be at least 6 coinciding apexes, i.e. triangles in the heads of two interlocutors. Besides, we don't have sounds and referents in our heads, we have ideas of sounds and ideas of referents, which doubles the number of apexes again.

The problem of the semantic triangle can be considered more or less solved only if we observe the question of motivation of words. The term motivation denotes the relationship, existing between the structural pattern of the word and its meaning. There are three basic types of motivation:

1. phonetic type (e.g. the iconic signs, illustrated by co-words or sound imitating words);

2. morphological motivation (reflected in the morphological structure of words, e.g. film star, driver, to rewrite, an ex-wife, a teenager, etc.);

3. semantic motivation (the case, when the connection between the meaning of the word and its form is purely conventional, such words are called non-motivated, and their number in the language is the greatest).

There is a phenomenon of loss of motivation in such cases there is fortnight, which was derived from the expression fourteen nights, or спичка which is actually derived from спица. In addition to this Charles Spears and Roman Jacobson distinguished word indexes such as this, that, today, tomorrow, you, we, etc. Pure forms of this or that sign patter are rarely found in actual languages. They are always mixed in one and the same word, although one type is always dominating.

Lexical meaning and the semantic structure of English words

There's a separate branch of linguistics, concerned with the meaning of words and named semasiology from old Greek semasia (`singnification') + logos (`learning'). The main objects of semasiological studies are the semantic development of words, as well as different types of lexical meaning. The relations between the words which bear alike meanings is polysemy. The notion of the meaning as a complex structure, that is the semantic structure of words. The semantic groupings and connections between such groups within the vocabulary system.

It should be born in mind that apart from its lexical meaning, every word has another type of meaning, which is called grammatical. The grammatical meaning of every word exists due to the fact that all words belong to this or that grammatical class or category and possesses a definite grammatical paradigm.

Lexicology treats the problem of the lexical meaning of words and starts with this meaning's definition. The most common and universally accepted definition sounds as follows: "Lexical meaning is the actualization of a concept or emotion by means of a definite language system."

The complexity of the word meaning is manyfold. Therefore, the most important types of such semantic complexity may be described as follows:

1) Every word has a simultaneous combination of its lexical and grammatical meanings. E.g. "'father' is a personal noun" - in this statement the first word "father" can be replaced by many others, thus its lexical meaning is ignored.

2) Many words not only name the given object, but also reflect certain associations, which in their turn express the attitude of the speaker to the named object. These associations, all taken together, make the connotative element or simple connotation of the word meaning. E.g. daddy is a colloqual form, showing endearment.

3) The denotational meaning of the word can be segmented into smaller semantic components, named sems. E.g. "father" is a male parent - the word is opposed to female parent or to child, etc.

4) A word may be and the majority of words are polysemantic. E.g. "father" is a) male parent, b) ancestor, c) founder, d) priest.

It should be pointed out that the grammatical meaning is defined, as an expression or in speech, of those relationships between words, which are based on certain contrastive features of the arrangements in which these words occur. In natural fluent speech it is of course difficult, if at all possible, to separate the lexical and grammatical meanings from each other within the single semantic structure of the word. That is why considered also should be the lexico-grammatical meaning of words, which is an integrative denominator of all possible meanings of the words belonging to one lexico-grammatical class. The lexico-grammatical meaning is a feature, according to which words are most easily and primarily grouped together.

The conceptual content of the word is expressed in its denotational or denotative meaning (i.e. the object named). The information based on complex associations, which originated in habitual contexts, these contexts being either verbal or situatinal and of which both the speaker and the listener are aware, is named connotational meaning.

The interaction between the denotation and connotation elements in the meaning of one word is no less complicated than in case of combination of lexical and grammatical meanings. The connotative component is considered to be optional, and even in those cases when it is present in the semantic structure of the unit, its proportion with respect to denotation may vary greatly.

The expressive function of the language with its orientation towards the speaker's emotions and the pragmatic function dealing with the predetermined effect of the utterance on the listener are both contained in and rendered through connotations. Scholars point out for principle types of connotations:

1. stylistic connotations

When associations concern the situation in which the word is uttered and percieved, or the social circumstances (which may be either formal or familiar) or the relationship between the interlocutors (which may be poilte or rough, etc.) or the type of purpose of communication (which may be official, poetical, etc.) then the con notation is stylistic.

2. emotional connotations

The emotive connotation, also named effective, is acquired by the word as a result of the word's frequent use in the contexts, corresponding to different emotional situations.

3. evaluative connotations

The evaluative connotation expresses only two types of evaluation, which are positive and negative, so such a connotation may be regarded as either approval is disapproval of the object of speech.

4. expressive or intensifying connotations

The intensifying connotation may be roughly characterized as general exaggeration of the basic meaning.

Linguists also point out some defninte variations of meaning which may be highlighted in accordance with the style and sphere of usage of words. From this viewpoint we may have:

1. colloquial meaning,

a. literary colloquial,

b. familiar colloquial,

c. slang,

d. vulgar;

2. bookish meaning,

a. general bookish,

b. poetic bookish,

c. scientific bookish (learnid).

From the point of view of its diachronic or historical perspective, the meaning may be:

1. present-day (current) - is in the use;

2. obsolescent (выходящий из употребления) - being in the process of getting out of use;

3. obsolete - presently out of use.

Speaking about different types of connotation, one should not confuse them with the phenomenon of polysemy, characterizing the majority of words in modern developed languages. The fact that constantly attracts the attention of scholars is that the English word, as compared to the word of other national languages, such as e.g. Russian, has developed and still develops much greater polysemy, which is due to a number of reasons:

1. the long life of modern English,

2. the monosyllabic character of the English word and the language in general and the predominance of root words in this language.

Each word has special structural singnals denoting the differences in the meanings of these lexical units. Alongside with structural there are also contextual signals of this type, although lexical and lexico-grammatical variations of the word, taken together, form the semantic structure, also named the semantic paradigm of this word.

For example, the word youth distinguishes all in all three of its lexico-grammatical variants: 1) an abstract uncountable noun, having no plural form (юность); 2) a countable personal noun, possessing both the singular and the plural forms (молодой человек); 3) a collective noun denoting a group of people and typically devoid of its plural form (молодежь).

There are mainly two types of lexical meaning, distinguished by the majority of scholars: 1) direct, 2) figurative. The direct meaning is usually conveied with the help of a minimum context. It is attached to the word, even when this word is taken in isolation. The figurative meaning is perceived when the object is not only named, but also characterized through its comparison to some other object. The figurative meaning of words is only created by means of context or situation and appears that is manifests itself in the same.

Other oppositions pointed out by linguists in the meaningful structures of words are concrete meaning - abstract, main (primary) - secondary, central - peripheral, narrow - extended, general - special, etc.

Semantic change: its types and causes

A living language is an everchanging entity. These changes are stimulated by the dynamic character of the life conditions of the speaking community. Generally every principal comparison between the new and the older meanings of the semantic structure of words is based upon the historical aspect of the language. In this case we speak about the out-of-date and present-date meanings of the given word.

The study of the semantic change of words is not only directed backwards that is within the historical parameters of the word, but may also be added by a forecast for the future changes, which are based on the previous semasiological experience. French scholar Michel Breal was the first to emphasize the fact that many lexemes pass a standard way from their general usage into a special or specialized sphere of communication. On this way the word as a rule is subject to the process of specialization of meaning, otherwise named the semantic narrowing. E.g. the word case has a general meaning of circumstances in which someone or something finds him/her/itself. This is, however, only the general meaning of the lexeme and this meaning is narrowed in a law (дело), grammar (падеж), medicine (случай).

At the same time it should be realized that the general meaning, unlike the specialized or narrowed one, is normally perceived without the help of the context, while the narrowed meanings need a minimum context or situation to be realized as such. E.g. the Possessive Case is the minimum context for case in grammar.

The word cell denotes different meanings for biologists (клетка), electrician (элемент), nun (келья), prisoner (камера). These meanings create the semantic paradigm. It is also important that the semantic paradigm embraces only the meanings and meaning shades which are interconnected, and these should be perceived synchronically. Hence the word case meaning портфель stands beyond the boundaries of the basic semantic paradigm, although historically it shows its connection with the same.

The phenomenon of specialization of meaning may be viewed both as a final result and a dynamic process. The result is manifested through a more or less developed paradigm, while the process is in fact a diachronic development of the above paradigm.

Some examples of diachronic specialization of meaning are:

1. Reds and mice and such small deer (W. Shakespeare). In OE (old English) deer meant any wild animal.

2. OE mete meant any food, but was modified in ME (modern English) meat, which means edible flesh that is a particular sort of food.

3. OE fuзol (compare Germal Vogel), was modified in ME fowl meaning domestic birds only.

In the above examples the new meaning superseded all the possible old ones. However, there are cases, when both meanings, general and narrow, coexist within the semantic structure of one word, which is this time polysemantic. E.g. ME token came into being from OE tacen (compare to German Zeichen), but later the word sign appeared in the English language, and both these forms were brought into mutual competition. As a result token in its use became restricted to only few cases, manifesting themselves in only fixed contexts, e.g. a token of love, a token of respect, a token payment, a token vote, etc. Thus in ME token means something small, unimportant or cheap, which represents something big, important, valuable and perhaps spiritual.

Other vivid examples of this type are room, the old meaning being "space" and the new one being "комната", though both coexist nowadays. Corn has old meaning of any grain, new maize in American English (as the corn was found in America, raised by Indians, and colonists called it corn, as they thought it was a special kind of corn).

Above shown were the cases of specialization of meaning, which takes place within the boundaries of one national language that is modern English. But there also is an alike process, though possessing its own specific features, which may take place between two different languages, when a lexical form is borrowed by one language from another. In this latter case the semantic change may be much deeper and reach the level of complete modification and alteration of the original meaning.

A process reverse to specialization is named by the scholars generalization of meaning or widening of such. Here the scope of new notions becomes much greater than the scope within the original form. The regularity is such that generalization is combined with a much higher degree of abstraction of the original notion, e.g.:

1. ME ready meaning prepared (for practically anything) was a derivative of OE redan which in its term was a derivative of ridan meaning to ride a horse, so initially ready meant ready for a horse ride.

2. The word fly originally meant to move through the air with the help of wings only, but these days it means any movement through the air.

3. The word person is another vivid example here. It was borrowed into Middle English from old French, where it was persone, where it came from Latin persona meaning the mask used by an actor and, at the same time, metonymycally the actor himself, who wears that mask and plays that part, that is the character in a play. The mask was called persona, per meaning "through" and sonare meaning "to sound", so the mask was used as a special instrument amplifying the actor's voice. The term was first metonymycally transferred to the charater and then, due to the generalization of meaning, attached to any human being without any reference to the theatrical terminology.

Thus the word person belongs to the category of generic terms, that is non-specific words, applicable to a greater class of members of some larger group.

The two other types of the regular transfer of the name from one object to another are metaphor, based on the association of similarity or contiguity, and metonymysation based on the partial character of objects in metonymy.

Examples of metaphors are: a lioness (woman), a cat (nice guy).

Examples of metonymy: a skirt (woman (in a skirt)), a white collar (clerk).

There are also non-stylystic language metaphors: a foot of a mountain, an eye of a needle, the teeth of a saw, the back of a book (cover), the stone of a fruit, etc.

Examples of anthropomorphic metaphors: the head of an army, the arms and the mouth of a river, the tongue of a bell, etc.

Such a metaphoric transition may also include proper names and thus form cases of antonomasia, like a don juan (less rude for womanizer), an adonis (self-loving person), a jesebel (shameless woman, from the femitian wife of biblician Ahab), hunns, etc.

Linguistic causes of change

An important linguistic cause is differentiation of synonyms within the language. This differentiation is often based on the assimilation of loanwords. E.g. the words time and tide used to be synonyms in English and later tide began to denote shifting waters, and the word time is still used in its general sense. The word beast was borrowed into English from Latin (bestia) and displaced the English word deer, but it was later in its term displaced by another Latin loanword animal (animus), so as a result of a double-borrowing the two earlier words deer and beast, narrowed their meanings.

Another linguistic phenomenon, responsible for the semantic change, is ellipsis, which takes place in case of the most frequently used phrases: cut-price sale turned into sale, mass media is often used as media, ice may mean icecream. The word starve (compare to German sterben) once meant "to die", but it is now used in the meaning "to be dying\ of hunger".

Extra-linguistic causes of change

These causes are much more numerous and versatile than the linguistic ones and they are also better studied. The point here is that any language is powerfully affected by social, political, economic, cultural, and technical changes in people's lives. The influence of these factors upon linguistic phenomena is studied by sociolinguistics. Life may influence not only the vocabularly, but also the inner language structure. For example, terms being words of science in quite a number of cases behave differently from the words of everyday communication.

The extra-linguistic change of meaning often occurs in the course of history. For example, the OE eorde meant "ground under people's feet" and "the world of men" as opposed to heaven, inhabited by Gods. But with the progress of science it began to denote "the third planet from the Sun", and with the discovery of electricity "a connection of a conductor with the earth". The process of conversion brought forth the verb to earth meaning "заземлять".

Another technical term is chain reaction, in which the word chain is used metaphorically. Sometimes we may face a reverse process, when terms start to be used in everyday life in their non-terminological meaning. E.g. to be going full steam ahead, to be governized into action.

Morphological structure of English words

A morpheme is an association of a definite meaning, at times rather abstract with a definite sound pattern. All morphemes fall under quite a limited number of models, so morphemes are patterned language units. However, the same is true in the description of words. The difference between these two types of units is that a morpheme is never autonomous in speech, while the word is. A morpheme cannot be a sentence, a single word can. A morpheme is never a finished utterance. It can only be used with other morphemes, thus forming words.

There are many cases, when one morpheme can make one word or a word can consist of one morpheme. This happens with root morphemes, but this is a case of coincidence, when one and the same form acquires two different functions. E.g. the word housing consists of two morphemes: "house" + "ing". The "ing" morpheme can never function separately, but the morpheme "house" can neither function separately. Every time we have the form house in speech, it changes its function, stops being a morpheme and starts being a word. As a result, there are no cases, where morphemes can be confused with words.

From out of all units having meanings, morphemes are the smallest. There have been many attempts to classify morphemes into various functional groups. The first subdivision states, that morphemes may be bound, that is never used in isolation as words, and on the other hand free, that is homonymous to words.

By their essential characteristics morphemes are divided into two large groups: roots and affixes. Affixes in their term are split into prefixes, suffixes and infixes in accordance with their position in the word structure.

Another subdivision of all affixes is functional, and here affixes may be derivational and functional (in English also named endings, don't mix with Russian term "окончание").

Besides we should single out a stem, which is the part of the word always staying unchanged throughout the whole grammatical word paradigm. So a stem may not be limited to the root. E.g. in the paradigm heart, hearts and heart's the stem is "heart", it's unchangeable. In another case hearty, heartier, the heartiest the stem is "hearty". An example of a bound stem is in the word cordial, where "cordi-" cannot be used in isolation (compare to "hearty", which is a derived stem, able of being used in isolation.

If we view the problem from the standpoint of etymology of words, then we may see that bound stems are especially characteristc of loanwords (заимствованные слова), which have English affixes. E.g. arrogance, where "arrog-" is a bound stem. Another example is charity, the stem "char-" is bound. Coward - "cow-", distort - "tor-", involve - "volv-".

A root is the element common for quite a number of words, which all make a word family. Thus, if we take the example of heart, being a root word, we may derive the following from it:

1) to hearten смягчать, to dishearten разочаровывать, heartily, heartless, hearty, heartiness - all these examples show the single process of affixational derivation;

2) sweetheart, heartshaped, heartbroken, etc. - this being the process of word compounding;

3) kind-hearted - the combination of derivation and compounding.

Roots which are capable of producing new words are named productive roots.

A suffix is a derivational morpheme following the stem (which may include suffixes too).

A prefix is another derivational morpheme, placed before the root and modifying the basic meaning of the word, sometimes turning that meaning into the opposite one.

An infix is placed withing the word structure. This type of affixes shows an extremely low productivity in modern English. E.g. in the word stand the infix is "n" (of course, it's a historicam morpheme, these days being a root).

The historically viewed process of word building may be schematically shown as follows:

Step 1. Separate words start to be regularly used together with some other words and at fixed positions. In the course of time they become free morphemes, united in one word. E.g. policeman, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, etc. "Man" and "berry" are not roots, they are almost suffixes, or at least semi-affixes.

Step 2. They stop being used autonomously and become morphemes, however, still preserving their initial meaning.

Step 3. They are now never used separately, partially or totally lose their initial meaning and can be determined as morphemes by etymologists only.

Derivational and functional affixes

Functional affixes serve to convey grammatical meaning, because they create different forms of the same word. An example can be found in any grammatical paradigm, e.g. near [zero affix], nearer [-er- affix], nearest [-est- affix]. Son [zero], sons [-s-], son's [-`s], sons' [-s'].

Derivational affixes are used to supply the stem with components of lexical and lexico-grammatical meaning. Derivational affixes, unlike functional ones, create different words representing different parts of speech. E.g. stone, stony. However, one and the same affix may have one grammatical meaning, but different lexical ones, e.g. "-y-": cloudy means full of something (e.g. clouds), stony means heaving the quality of or composed of some material (stone), baggy means resembling something (bag), hairy means covered with something (hair), bossy means boss + emotional component.

The above said two types of affixes differ not only semantically, but also positionally, thus a functional affix marks the word boundary, as it may only follow the root or the affix of derivation in the stem. A functional affix may only come last in the word and make any further derivation of that word completely impossible. That is why Eugen Nider calls functional affixes outerformatives, while derivational affixes are called by him innerformatives.

Another problem is that of valency of affixes and the derivational patterns in which the affixes occur. A good example is negative prefixes. We have vocabularly fixed forms unhappy, untrue, unattractive, though similar *unsad, *unfalse, *unpretty do not exist.

The possibility of a particular stem to take a particular affix may also depend on such outer factors as the formal morphological structure of the given word. E.g. the suffix "-ance-/-ence-" may only occur after letters b, t, d, v, l, r: disturbance, insistance, independence, etc. But this suffix can never occur after z or s: condensation, organization, etc.

The whole system of valency of morphemes is a complex problem which should be studied separately and given special concern. The term a word-building patter or a derivational patter denotes a meaningful combination of stems and affixes which regularly occur to indicate:

a. the part of speech,

b. the lexico-semantic category,

c. the semantic peculiarities, which are common to most words with this or that particular arrangement of morphemes.

Thus all the words with the negative prefix "un-" form the following four patterns:

1) un + adjective/part.I/part.II meaning "not" without the opposite of something (unhuman)

2) un + verbal stem meaning to reverse the action (to unpack, to unbend)

3) un + verbal stem derived from a noun stem meaning to release from something (to unhook, to unlock)

4) un + noun stem meaning the lack of some quality (unpeople)

The last pattern is comparatively rare in modern English.

Affixes can be classified according to their origin, the part of speech they serve, the frequency of usage and the productivity. Within parts of speech they may be subdivided semantically, e.g. there are noun forming, adjectival, numeral, verb and adverb forming suffixes (auntie, nighty, etc.). The same approach can take place in the relation of prefixes.


The term allomorph originated from two Greek elements: allo ("other") + morph ("form"). Allomorphs are variations of one and the same morpheme, which do not differ in meaning or function, but show a slight difference in either spelling, or sometimes pronunciation, depending on the final phoneme of the preceding stems. Such are the forms "ion", "sion", "tion", "ation", "ssion", which are not different suffixes, but a single suffix, manifesting itself in a number of allomorphs. Allomorphs are also defined as positional variants of the same morpheme, occuring in a specific environment. E.g. the stems ending in consonants typically take the "ation" suffix (liberation), the stems ending in p typically only take "tion" (corruption, where the final t becomes fused with the suffix).

Compound words in modern English

A compound word is a unit consisting of at leat two stems, both of them occuring in speech as free forms. In a sentence any compound word functions as a separate lexical unit. There's a definite set of the formal features by which English compounds can be distinguished and separated from other lexical units:

1) solid or hyphenated spelling;

2) unity of stress, always falling on the first element or syllable (a `green `house - a `greenhouse);

3) semantic unity;

4) the unity of morphological and syntactical functioning of a compound word.

Among the most importan features of compounds is their indivisibility, which can be treated as the impossibility to make any insertions between the two components. Thus if we wish to characterize the word sunbeam we can only say a bright sunbeam and never put bright after sun. The components of a compound word are usually named a determinant, which occupies the left or the initial position, and a determinator, occupying the final position. This opposition is due to the synactical nature of compounds, because in the English sentence determinants usually precede the determined element.

The subdivision of compounds in determinants and determinators was first introduced by English scholar Henry Marchant, who said that the determinator is the basic stem in both grammatical and semantic respects. This is the element taking all possible inflections, e.g. sunbeams.

From the viewpoint of their semantic nature, all compounds can be subdivided into non-idiomatic compounds (also named transparent units) and idiomatic ones. The meanings of the transparent compounds can be easily understood through the meanings of their components, thus a seaman is a man who works at sea, a spaceship is a metaphorical naming of a vehicle travelling through outer space. One can we even create such words with accordance with a pattern without including them in the dictionary and introducing into the living vocabulary.

The meaning of idiomatic compounds may be misleading for those who don't know the language. E.g. a blackboard may not be black. A wheelchair is a chair for invalids which has wheels, but a pushchair is a special chair for the infants who cannot walk yet, and the trick here is that not every chair which has wheels is for invalids.

The relations between the two elements also prove to be different. This fact may be easily proved by the example of several compounds all based upon one and the same determinant ear: earache (an ache in the ear), earmark (a mark on an animal's ear), earlobe (a lower part of the ear), eardrops (drops for ears), earring (a ring for the ear). The English language knows quite a large number of tautological compounds, which consists of the elements whose semantic structures partially overlap, e.g. a troutfish, an egineerman, a tumblerglass. An important fact that even in these latter cases the first element specifies the meaning of the second one.

Another approach to studying the semantic structure of compounds is the relation between the compound word on the one hand and the phrases consisting of their elements on the other. E.g. we may draw comparison between an ashtray and a tray for ashes or a hairbrush, a brush for hair, a paperknife and a knife for paper. These relations make scholars think of the existence of definite grammatical patterns of compound words which may be quite unexpectedly violated and broken, thus a bookseller is a person who sells books, a bookbinder is he who binds books, but a bookmaker is not the one who makes books, but who makes his living by taking bets at horse races. These days it also a business term.

The criteria of compounds separating them from the other words of the language are another important problem in modern linguistics. In fact, it is not a question of private interest concerned with the spelling standards of the language, but the problem of the word as a linguistic unit in general.

How can a compound word like a broadsword be distinguished from two separate words a broad sword in fluent speech? Different linguists proposed different approaches to this question which were phonological, morphological, syntactical and graphical criteria. The least scientific of these all is, of course, the last one, because it is natural that those two stems which are written down together or through a hyphen should form one word. The objections to the graphical criterion may be:

a. Written speech is always secondary as compared to oral and it only attempts to reflect the oral presentation.

b. In quite a number of cases that is in different dinctionaries we often come across various types of spelling, e.g. a headmaster and a head-master, a loudspeaker and a loud speaker. As compared to Russian authography, English spelling is very poorly standardized.

The phonological criterion. It is true that all English compounds are stressed on the first syllable. However, this rule loses its validity with the compound adjectives which have two equal stresses, e.g. grey-green, newborn, easy-going, deep-purple, etc. Besides the forestress may occur with those combinations of words in which the second element is repeated in a single utterance, e.g. it was a dining table, not a writing table is pronounced as if there are two compound words. Here the neglection of the word table shows the contrast between the two determining elements - dining and writing.

The morphological criterion shows by a number of examples like sometimes the plural forms of such compounds are built in quite non-standard ways. From the course of practical grammar it is known that the plural form of life is lives, but the plural form of the compound still-life is still-lifes. Some connective elements are quite unique in compounds, e.g. Anglo-Saxon, socio-psychological, handiwork, craftsman, etc. However, such examples are quite few in modern English.

The syntactical criterion is traced in the fact that a free combination a black bird may only be used with the element very before it, while with the compound blackbird this can not be done at all. However, in absolutely the same way we cannot modify the first element of such idioms as black market, black list, etc.

The summary is that not a single type of criteria is normally required to establish whether the unit is a compound word or a free phrase. For this purpose all units should first be treated individually and second not less than two of the above said criteria should be applied.

Still another problem is that of distinguishing a compound word from a derivative one. Some historical or etymological roots are so frequently used in compounds that they begin to resemble affixes and turn into semi-affixes, although they are used independently in the language. Such elements are: -man, -berry, -land, etc. Within words such elements begin to lose their semantic and formal characteristics. They lose stress and are frequently pronounced as reduced variants. Such words also undergo the process digendering. We can call a man and a woman policeman, but in the modern USA there's a very strong tendency to separate them, e.g. a businessman and a businesswoman and even a businesslady. One of such semi-affixes is -like: godlike, ladylike, unladylike. Semi-affixes may not only occur in postposition, but in preposition as well, e.g. minibus, miniskirt, etc.

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