Synonyms in Modern English
General definition of the phenomenon of synonymy in Modern English. Kinds of synonyms, their specific features. Distributional features of the English synonyms. Changeability and substitution of meanings. Semantic and functional relationship in synonyms.
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MINISTRY OF HIGHER AND SECONDARY SPECIAL EDUCATION OF THE REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN
GULISTAN STATE UNIVERSITY
The English and Literature department
Shergoziev Abror's qualification work on speciality 5220100, English philology on theme:
Supervisor: Tojiev Kh.
1.1 Aims and purposes of the work
1.2 General definition of the phenomenon of synonymy in Modern English.
II. The Main Part
2.1 Kinds of synonyms and their specific features
2.2 Distributional features of the English synonyms
2.3 Changeability and substitution of meanings
2.4 Semantic and functional relationship in synonyms
2.5 Interchangeable character of words and their synonymy
2.6 Combinability of synonyms
2.7 Peculiar features of semantics and combinability of the English verbs on the examples of the synonyms “to amuse”, “to entertain”, “to grip”, “to interest”, “to thrill”
2.8 Conceptual synonymy
2.9 Synonymy and collocative meaning
2.10 Semantic peculiarities of synonyms
3.1 Summary to the whole work
3.2 Ways of applying the work
1.1 AIMS AND PURPOSES OF THE WORK
The theme of my qualification work sounds as following: “Synonyms and their translation” This qualification work can be characterized by the following:
The actuality of this work caused by several important points. We seem to say that the problem of synonyms is one of the main difficult ones for the English language learners. It can be most clearly seen in the colloquial layer of a language, which, in its turn at high degree is supported by development of modern informational technologies and simplification of alive speech. As a result, a great number of new meanings of one and the same word appear in our vocabulary. So the significance of our work can be proved by the following reasons:
a) The problem of synonymy is one of the developing branches of vocabulary nowadays.
b)Synonymy reflects the general trend of enrichment of a language word-stock.
c)Synonymy is closely connected with the development of modern informational technologies.
d)Being a developing branch of linguistics it requires a special attention of teachers to be adequated to their specialization in English.
Having based upon the actuality of the theme we are able to formulate the general goals of our qualification work.
a)To study, analyze, and sum up all the possible changes happened in the studied branch of linguistics for the past fifty years.
b)To teach the problem of synonymy to young English learners.
c)To demonstrate the significance of the problem for those who want to brush up their English.
d)To mention all the major of linguists' opinions concerning the subject studied.
If we say about the new information used within our work we may note that the work studies the problem from the modern positions and analyzes the modern trends appeared in this subject for the last ten years. In particular, the new computer-based meanings of some habitual words were given.
The practical significance of the work can be concluded in the following items:
a)The work could serve as a good source of learning English by young teachers at schools and colleges.
b)The lexicologists could find a lot of interesting information for themselves.
c)Those who would like to communicate with the English-speaking people through the Internet will be able to use the up-to-date words with the help of our qualification work.
Having said about the linguists studied the material before we can mention that our qualification work was based upon the investigations made by a number of well known English, Russian and Uzbek lexicologists as A.I.Smirnitsky, B.A. Ilyish, N.Buranov, V.V. Vinogradov, O.Jespersen and some others.
If we say about the methods of scientific approaches used in our work we can mention that the method of typological analysis was used.
The newality of the work is concluded in including the modern meanings of habitual words to our qualification work.
The general structure of our qualification work looks as follows:
The work is composed onto three major parts: introduction, main part and conclusion. Each part has its subdivision onto the specific thematically items. There are two points in the introductory part: the first item tells about the general content of the work while the other gives us the general explanation of the lexicological phenomenon of shortening in a language. The main part bears the eight points in itself. The first point explains the shortening of spoken words in particular. The second item analyzes the phenomenon of graphical abbreviations and acronyms. In the third point we study abbreviations as the major way of shortening. In the fourth paragraph of the qualification work we deal with the secondary ways of shortening: sound interchange and sound imitation. The fifth paragraph takes into consideration the question of blendening of words. The sixth item shows us the back formation examples. The last paragraph of the main part analyzes the homonymy influence onto the appearing of shortening. The conclusion of the qualification work sums up the ideas discussed in the main part (the first item) and shows the ways of implying of the qualification work (in the second item).
Word-building processes involve not only qualitative but also quantitative changes. Thus, derivation and compounding represent addition, as affixes and free stems, respectively, are added to the underlying form. Shortening, on the other hand, may be represented as significant subtraction, in which part of the original word is taken away.
The spoken and the written forms of the English language have each their own patterns of shortening, but as there is a constant exchange between both spheres, it is sometimes difficult to tell where a given shortening really originated.
1.2 GENERAL DEFINITION OF THE PHENOMENON OF SYNONYMS IN. MODERN ENGLISH
Synonyms (in ancient Greek syn `ухн' plus and onoma `ьнпмб' name) are different words with similar or identical meanings and are interchangable. Antonyms are words with opposite or nearly opposite meanings. (Synonym and antonym are antonyms.)
An example of synonyms is the words cat and feline. Each describes any member of the family Felidae. Similarly, if we talk about a long time or an extended time, long and extended become synonyms. In the figurative sense, two words are often said to be synonymous if they have the same connotation:
“a widespread impression that … Hollywood was synonymous with immorality” (Doris Kearns Goodwin) Ginzburg R.S. et al. A Course in Modern English Lexicology. M., 1979 pp.72-82
Synonyms can be nouns, adverbs or adjectives, as long as both members of the pair are the same part of speech.
More examples of English synonyms:
baby and infant (noun)
student and pupil (noun)
pretty and attractive (adjective)
sick and ill (adjective)
interesting and fascinating (adjective)
quickly and speedily (adverb)
Note that the synonyms are defined with respect to certain senses of words; for instance, pupil as the “aperture in the iris of the eye” is not synonymous with student. Similarly, expired as “having lost validity” (as in grocery goods) it doesn't necessarily mean death.
Some lexicographers claim that no synonyms have exactly the same meaning (in all contexts or social levels of language) because etymology, orthography, phonic qualities, ambiguous meanings, usage, etc. make them unique. However, many people feel that the synonyms they use are identical in meaning for all practical purposes. Different words that are similar in meaning usually differ for a reason: feline is more formal than cat; long and extended are only synonyms in one usage and not in others, such as a long arm and an extended arm. Synonyms are also a source of euphemisms.
The purpose of a thesaurus is to offer the user a listing of similar or related words; these are often, but not always, synonyms. In a way, hyponyms are similar to synonyms.
In contrast, antonyms (an opposite pair) would be:
dead and alive (compare to synonyms: dead and deceased)
near and far (compare to synonyms: near and close)
war and peace (compare to synonyms: war and armed conflict)
tremendous and awful (compare to synonyms: tremendous and remarkable)
II. THE MAIN PART
2.1 KINDS OF SYNONYMS AND THEIR SPECIFIC FEATURES
Synonyms are words different in their outer aspects, but identical or similar in their inner aspects. In English there are a lot of synonyms, because there are many borrowings, e.g. hearty / native/ - cordial/ borrowing/. After a word is borrowed it undergoes desynonymization, because absolute synonyms are unnecessary for a language. However, there are some absolute synonyms in the language, which have exactly the same meaning and belong to the same style, e.g. to moan, to groan; homeland, motherland etc. In cases of desynonymization one of the absolute synonyms can specialize in its meaning and we get semantic synonyms, e.g. «city» /borrowed/, «town» /native/. The French borrowing «city» is specialized. In other cases native words can be specialized in their meanings, e.g. «stool» /native/, «chair» /French/.
Sometimes one of the absolute synonyms is specialized in its usage and we get stylistic synonyms, e.g. «to begin»/ native/, «to commence» /borrowing/. Here the French word is specialized. In some cases the native word is specialized, e.g. «welkin» /bookish/, «sky» /neutral/.
Stylistic synonyms can also appear by means of abbreviation. In most cases the abbreviated form belongs to the colloquial style, and the full form to the neutral style, e.g. «examination', «exam».
Among stylistic synonyms we can point out a special group of words which are called euphemisms. These are words used to substitute some unpleasant or offensive words, e.g. «the late» instead of «dead», «to perspire» instead of «to sweat» etc.
There are also phraseological synonyms, these words are identical in their meanings and styles but different in their combining with other words in the sentence, e.g. «to be late for a lecture» but «to miss the train», «to visit museums» but «to attend lectures» etc.
In each group of synonyms there is a word with the most general meaning, which can substitute any word in the group, e.g. «piece» is the synonymic dominant in the group «slice», «lump», «morsel». The verb « to look at» is the synonymic dominant in the group «to stare», «to glance», «to peep». The adjective «red' is the synonymic dominant in the group «purple», «scarlet», «crimson».
When speaking about the sources of synonyms, besides desynonymization and abbreviation, we can also mention the formation of phrasal verbs, e.g. «to give up» - «to abandon», «to cut down» - «to diminish». Grouping of words is based upon similarities and contrasts and is usually called as synonymic row. Taking up similarity of meaning and contrasts of phonetic shape we observe that every language has in its vocabulary a variety of words, kindred in meaning but distinct in morphemic composition, phonemic shape and usage, ensuring the expression of the most delicate shades of thought, feeling and imagination. The more developed the language, the richer the diversity and therefore the greater the possibilities of lexical choice enhancing the effectiveness and precision of speech.
The way synonyms function may be seen from the following example: Already in this half-hour of bombardment hundreds upon hundreds of men would have been violently slain, smashed, torn, gouged, crusted, and mutilated. (ALDINGTON)
The synonymous words smash and crush are semantic-ally very close; they combine to give a forceful representation of the atrocities of war. Richness and clearness of language are of paramount importance in so far as they promote precision of thought. Even this preliminary example makes it obvious that the still very common definitions of synonyms as words of the same language having the same meaning or as different words that stand for the same notion are by no means accurate and even in a way misleading. By the very nature of language every word has its own history, its own peculiar motivation, and its own typical contexts. And besides there is always some hidden possibility of different connotation arid which is feeling in each of them. Moreover, words of the same meaning would be useless for communication: they would encumber the language, not enrich it.
If two words exactly coincide in meaning and use, the natural tendency is for one of them to change its meaning or drop out of the language. Thus synonyms are words only similar but not identical in meaning-. This definition is correct but vague. A more precise linguistic definition should be based on a workable notion of tie semantic structure of the word and of the complex nature of every separate meaning in a polysemantic word. Each separate lexical meaning of a word has been described in Chapter VII as consisting of a denotational component identifying the notion or the object and reflecting the essential features of the notion named, shades of meaning reflecting its secondary features, additional connotations resulting from typical contexts in which the word is used, its emotional component arid stylistic coloring; connotations are not necessarily present in every word. The basis of a synonymic opposition is formed by the first of the above named components, i.e. the denotational component. It will be remembered that the term opposition means the relationship of partial difference between two partially similar elements of a language. A common denotational component brings the words together into a synonymic group. All the other components can vary and thus form the distinctive features of the synonymic oppositions.
Synonyms can therefore be defined in terms of linguistics as two or more words of the same language, belonging to the same part of speech and possessing one or more identical or nearly identical denotational meanings, interchangeable, at least in some contexts, without any considerable alteration in denotational meaning, hut differing in morphemic composition, phonemic shape, shades of meaning, connotations, affective value, style, valence and idiomatic use. Additional characteristics of style, emotional coloring and valence peculiar to one of the elements in a synonymic group may be absent in one or all of the others.
The definition is of necessity very bulky and needs some commenting upon. By pointing out the fact that synonyms belong to the same part of speech the definition makes it clear that synonymic grouping is really a special case of lexico-grammatical grouping based on semantic proximity of words.
To have something tangible to work upon it is convenient to compare some synonyms within their group, so as to make obvious the reasons of the definition. The verbs experience, undergo, sustain and suffer, for example, come together because all four render the notion of experiencing something. The verb and the noun experience indicate actual living through something and coming to know it first hand rather than from hearsay. Undergo applies chiefly to what someone or something bears or is subjected to, as in to undergo an operation, to undergo changes. Compare also the following example from L. P. Smith: The French language has undergone considerable and more recent changes since the date when the Normans brought it into England. In the above example the verb undergo can be replaced by its synonyms without any change of the sentence meaning. This may be easily proved if a similar context is found for some other synonym in the same group. For instance: These Latin words suffered many transformations in becoming French.
The denotational meaning is obviously the same. Synonyms, then, are interchangeable under certain conditions specific to each group. This seems to call forth an analogy with phonological neutralization. Now, it will be remembered that neutralization is the absence in some contexts of a phonetic contrast found elsewhere or formerly in the language, as the absence of contrast between final [s] and [z] after [t]. It appears we are justified in calling s e-m antic neutralization the suspension of an otherwise functioning semantic opposition that occurs in some lexical contexts.
And yet suffer in this meaning (`to undergo'), but not in the example above, is characterized by connotations implying wrong or injury. No semantic neutralization occurs in phrases like to suffer atrocities, to suffer heavy losses. The implication is of course caused by the existence of the main intransitive meaning of the same word, not synonymous with the group, i. e. `feel pain'. Sustain as an element of this group differs from both in shade of meaning and style. It is an official word and it suggests undergoing affliction without giving way.
A further illustration will be supplied by a group of synonymous nouns: hope, expectation, and anticipation. They are considered to be synonymous because they all three mean `having something in mind which is likely to happen'. They are, however, much less interchangeable than the previous group because of more strongly pronounced difference in shades of meaning. Expectation may be either of good or of evil. Anticipation, as a rule, is a pleasurable expectation of something good. Hope is not only a belief but a desire that some event would happen. The stylistic difference is also quite marked. The Romance words anticipation and expectation are formal literary words used only by educated speakers, whereas the native monosyllabic hope is stylistically neutral. Moreover, they differ in idiomatic usage. Only hope is possible in such set expressions as: to hope against, hope, to lose hope, to pin one's hopes on smth. Neither expectation nor anticipation could be substituted into the following quotation from T. S. Eliot: You do not know what hope is until you have lost it.
Taking into consideration the corresponding series of synonymous verbs and verbal set expressions: to hope, for anticipate, to expect, to look forward to, we shall see that separate words may be compared to whole set expressions. To look forward also worthy of note because it forms a definitely colloquial counterpart to the rest. It can easily be shown, on the evidence of examples, that each synonymic group comprises a dominant element. This synonymic dominant is the most general term of its kind potentially containing the specific features rendered by all the other members' of the group, as, for instance, undergo and hope in the above.
In the series leave, depart, quit, retire, clear out the verb leave, being general and both stylistically and emotionally neutral, can stand for each of the other four terms. The other four can replace leave only when some specific semantic component must prevail over the general notion. When we want to stress the idea of giving up employment and stopping work quit is preferable because in this word this particular notion dominates over the more general idea common to the whole group. Some of these verbs may be used transitively, e. g. He has left me... Abandoned me! Quitted me! (BENNETT). Arnold I.V. The English Word M. High School 1986 pp. 143-149 In this synonymic series therefore the dominant term is leave. Other dominants are, for instance, get, a verb that can stand for the verbs obtain, acquire, gain, win, earn; also ask, the most general term of its group, viz. inquire, question or interrogate. The synonymic dominant should not be confused with a generic term. A generic term is relative. It serves as the name for the notion of the genus as distinguished from the names of the species. For instance, animal is a generic term as compared to the specific names wolf, dog or mouse (which are not synonymous). Dog, in its turn, may serve as a generic term for different breeds such as bull-dog, collie, poodle, etc.
The definition on p. 224 states that synonyms possess one or more identical or nearly identical meanings. To realize the significance of this, one must bear in mind that the majority of frequent words are polysemantic, and that it is precisely the frequent words that have many synonyms. The result is that one and the same word may belong in its various meanings to several different synonymic groups. The verb appear in ...an old brown cat without a tail appeared from nowhere (MANSFIELD) Jespersen ,Otto. Growth and Structure of the English Language. Oxford, 1982 pp.246-249 is synonymous with come into sight, emerge. On the other hand, when Gr. Greene depicts the far-off figures of the parachutists who ...appeared stationary, appeared is synonymous with look or seem, their common component being `give the impression of. Appear, then, often applies to erroneous impressions.
Compare the following .groups synonymous to five different meanings of the adjective fresh, as revealed by characteristic contexts: To begin a fresh paragraph--fresh: another : different : new.
Fresh air -- fresh: pure : invigorating.
A freshman --fresh: inexperienced : green : raw.
To be fresh with smb --fresh: impertinent : rude.
The semantic structures of two polysemantic words sometimes coincide in more than one meaning, but never completely.
Synonyms may also differ in emotional coloring which may be present in one element of the group and absent in all or some of the others. Lonely as compared with alone is emotional as is easily seen from the following examples: ...a very lonely boy lost between them and aware at ten that his mother had no interest in him, and that his father was a stranger. (ALDEIDGE) Shall be alone as my secretary doesn't come to-day (M. DICKENS). Both words denote being apart from others, but lonely besides the general meaning implies longing for company, feeling sad because of the lack of sympathy and companionship. Alone does not necessarily suggest any sadness at being by oneself.
If the difference in the meaning of synonyms concerns the notion or the emotion expressed, as was the case in the groups discussed above, the synonyms are classed as ideographic synonyms, and the opposition created in contrasting them may be called an ideographic opposition. The opposition is formulated with the help of a clear definitive statement of the semantic component present in all the members of the group. The analysis proceeds as a definition by comparison with the standard that is thus settled. “It is not enough to tell something about each word. The thing to tell is how each word is related to others in this particular group.” 3 The establishment of differential features proves very helpful, whereas sliding from one synonym to another with no definite point of departure creates a haphazard approach with no chance of tracing the system. In analyzing the group consisting of the words glance n, look n and glimpse n we state that all three denote a conscious and direct endeavor to see, the distinctive feature is based on the time and quickness of the action. A glance is `a look which is quick and sudden' and a glimpse is quicker still, implying only momentary sight.
In a stylistic opposition of synonyms the basis of comparison is again the denotational meaning and the distinctive feature is the presence or absence of a stylistic coloring which may also be accompanied a difference in emotional coloring.
It has become quite a tradition with linguists : when discussing synonyms to quote a passage from “As You Like It” (Act V, Scene I) to illustrate the social differentiation of vocabulary and the stylistic relationship existing1 in the English language between simple, mostly native, words and their dignified and elaborate synonyms borrowed from the French. We shall keep to this time-honored convention, Speaking to a country fellow William, the jester Touchstone says: Therefore, you clown, abandon, -- which is in the vulgar leave, -- the society, -- which in the boorish is company, -- of this female, -- which in the common is woman; which together is abandon the society of this female, or, clown, thou perishes t; or to thy better understanding diets; or, to wit, I kill thee, make thee away, translate thy life into death.
The general effect of poetic or learned .synonyms when used in prose or in everyday speech is that of creating alit elevated tone. The point may be proved by the very first example in this chapter (see p. 223) Smirnitsky A.I. Synonyms in English M.1977 pp.57-59,89-90 where the poetic and archaic verb slays is-substituted for the neutral kill. We must be on our guard too against the idea that the stylistic effect may exist without influencing the meaning: in fact it never does. The verb slay not only lends to the whole a poetical and solemn ring, it also shows the writer's and his hero's attitude to the fact, their horror and repugnance of war and their feeling for its victims.
The phrases they are killed, they are slain, they are made away with may refer to the same event hut they are different ill meaning, in so far as they reveal a different attitude to the subject in question on the part of the speaker.
The study of synonyms is a borderline province between semantics and stylistics on the one hand and semantics arid phraseology on the other because of the synonymic collocations serving as_ a means of emphasis. The following example from “A Taste of Honey”, j remarkable for the truthfulness of its dialogue, shows how they are used in modern speech;
Helen: ...”The devil looks after his own,” - they say.
2.2 DISTRIBUTION FEATURES OF THE ENGLISH SYNONYMS
Synonymic pairs like wear and tear are very numerous in modern English and often used both in everyday speech and in literature. They show all the typical features of idiomatic phrases that ensure their memorable ness such as rhythm, alliteration, rhyme and the use of archaic words seldom occurring elsewhere.
The examples are numerous: hale and hearty, with might and main, nevertheless and notwithstanding, modes and manners, stress and strain, rack and ruin, really and truly, hue and cry, wane and pale, without let or hindrance, act and deed. There are many others which show neither rhyme nor alliteration, and consist of two words equally modern. They are pleonastic, i. e. they emphasize the idea by just stating it twice, and possess a certain rhythmical quality which probably enhances their unity and makes them easily remembered. These are: by leaps and bounds, to pick and choose, pure and simple, stuff and nonsense, bright and shining, far and away, proud and haughty and many more.
In a great number of cases the semantic difference between two OP more synonyms is supported by the difference in valence. Distributional oppositions between synonyms have never been studied systematically, although the amount of data collected is very impressive. The difference in distribution maybe syntactical, morphological, lexical, and surely deserves more attention than has been so far given to it. It is, for instance, known that bare in reference to persons is used only predicatively while naked occurs both predicatively and attributively. The same is true about alone, which, irrespectively of referent, is used only predicatively, whereas its synonyms solitary and lonely occur in both functions. The function is predicative in the following sentence: you are idle, be not solitary, if you are solitary be not idle. (s. JOHNSON) Akhmanova O.S. Lexicology: Theory and Method. M. 1972 pp. 59-66 It has been repeatedly mentioned that begin and commence differ stylistically, ft must be noted, however, that their distributional difference is not less important. Begin is generalized in its lexical meaning and becomes a semi-auxiliary when used with an infinitive. It follows naturally that begin and not commence is the right word before an infinitive even in formal style. Seem and appear may be followed by an infinitive or a that-claw. see whereas look which is stylistically equivalent to them is never used in these constructions. Aware and conscious are followed either by an o/-phrase or by a subordinate clause, e. g. to be aware of one's failure, to be aware that one's failure is inevitable. Their synonym sensible is preferably used with an o/-phrase.
Very often the distributional difference between synonyms concerns the use of prepositions: e. g. to answer a question, but to reply to a question. The adjectives anxious and uneasy are followed by the preposition about, their synonym concerned permits a choice and is variously combined with about, at, for, with. The misuse of prepositions is one of the most common mistakes not only with foreigners but with native speakers as well.
Lexical difference in distribution is based on the difference in valence. An example of this is offered by the verbs win and gain. Both may be used in combination with the noun victory: to win a victory, to gain a victory. But with the word war only win is possible: to win a war. We are here trespassing on the domain of set expressions, a problem that has already been treated in an earlier chapter. Here it will suffice to point out that the phraseological combining possibilities of words are extremely varied.
It has been repeatedly stated that synonyms cannot be substituted into set expressions; as a general rule each synonym has its own peculiarities of phraseological connections. The statement is only approximately correct. A. V. Koenig has shown that set expressions have special properties as regards synonymy, different from those observed in free phrases. l Some set expressions may vary in their lexical components without changing their meaning, e. g. cast (fling or throw] smth in smb's. teeth. Moreover, the meaning may remain unchanged even if the interchangeable components are not synonymous: to hang on by one's eyelashes (eyelids, eyebrows),-to bear or show a resemblance. The nouns glance, look and glimpse are indiscriminately used with the verbs give and have: to give a look (a glance, a glimpse), to have a look (a glance, a glimpse). With (he verbs “cast arid take the word glimpse is not used, so that only the expressions to cast a glance (a look) or to take a glance (a look) are possible. With the verbs steal, shoot, throw the combining possibilities are further restricted, so that only the noun glance will occur in combination with these. It goes without saying that phraseological interchangeability is not frequent.
2.3 CHANGEABILITY AND SUBSTITUTION OF MEAMINGS
Since the exact meaning of each synonym is delimited by its interrelatedness with the other elements of the same group, comparison plays an important part in synonymic research. It has already been tentatively examined in the opening paragraph of this chapter; now we offer a slightly different angle of the same problem. The interchangeability and possible neutralization are tested by means of substitution, a procedure also profitably borrowed by semasiology from phonology. 1 The values of words 2 can best be defined by substituting them for one another and observing the resulting changes. When the landlady in John Waif's “Hurry on down” says to the main personage: And where do you work? I've asked you that two or three times, Mr. Lumley, but you've never given me any answer, the verb ask has a very general meaning of seeking information. Substituting its synonyms, question or interrogate, will require a change in the structure of the sentence (the omission of that), which shows the distributional opposition between these words, and also ushers in a change in meaning. These words will heighten the implication that the landlady has her doubts about Lumley and confesses that she finds his character suspicious. The verb question would mean that she is constantly asking her lodger searching questions. The substitution of interrogate would suggest systematic and thorough questioning by a person authorized to do so; the landlady could have used it only ironically and irony would have been completely out of keeping with her mentality and habits. Observations of this sort can be supported by statistical data. Most frequent combinations such as teachers question their pupils, fudges interrogate witnesses and the like also throw light on the semantic difference between synonyms.
Synonyms have certain common ground within which they are interchangeable without alteration of meaning or with a very slight loss in effectiveness. Ask and inquire, for instance, may be used indiscriminately when not followed by any object 3 as in the following: “And where do you live now, Mr. Gillespie?” Mrs. Pearson inquired rather archly and with her head on one side. (PRIESTLEY)
To this connection some more examples may be cited. The words strange, odd, queer, though different in connotations, are often interchangeable because they can be applied to define the same words or words naming similar notions: strange feeling (glance, business)', queer feeling (glance, business), odd feeling (glance, business). E. g.: It seems the queerest set-up I ever heard of. (WYNDHAM) Canon G. Historical Changes and English Wordformation: New Vocabulary items. N.Y., 1986. p.284 Compare also: she agreed to stay : she consented to stay; she seems annoyed : she appears annoyed : she looks annoyed; to discharge an employee : to sack an employee : to fire an employee (a servant, etc.).
It should be borne in mind that substitution in different contexts has for its object not only probing interchangeability but bringing into relief the difference in intellectual, emotional and stylistic value of each word. An additional procedure suggested by Ch. Bally consists in assigning to the words suitable antonyms. The difference between firm and hard, for example, is explained if we point out that firm contrasts with hose and flabby (firm ground: loose ground, firm chin : flabby chin), whereas the opposite of hard is soft (hard ground : soft ground).
The meaning of each word is conditioned the meaning of other words forming part of the same vocabulary system, and especially of those in semantic proximity. High and tall, for instance, could be defined not only from the point of view of their valence (tall is used about people) but also in relation to each other by stating how far they are interchangeable and what their respective antonyms are. A building may be high and it may be (all. High is a relative term signifying `greatly raised above the surface or the base', in comparison with what is usual for objects of the same kind. A table is high if it exceeds 75 cm; a hill of a hundred meters is not high. The same relativity is characteristic of its antonym low. As to the word tall, it is used about objects whose height is greatly in excess of their breadth or diameter and whose actual height is great for an object of its kind: a tall man, a tall tree. The antonym is short.
The area where substitution is possible is very limited and outside it all replacement either destroys the beauty and precision, or, more often, makes the utterance vague, ungrammatical and even unintelligible. This makes the knowledge of where each synonym differs from another of paramount importance for correctness of speech.
The distinctions between words similar in meaning are often very fine and elusive, so that some special instruction on the use of synonyms is necessary even for native speakers. This accounts for the great number of books of synonyms that serve as guides for those who aim at good style and precision and wish to choose the most appropriate terms from the varied stock of the English vocabulary. The study of synonyms is especially indispensable for those who learn English as a foreign language because what is the right word in one situation will be wrong in many other, apparently similar, contexts.
It is often convenient to explain the meaning of a new word with the help of its previously learned synonym. This forms additional associations in the student's mind, and the new word is better remembered. Moreover, it eliminates the necessity of bringing in a native word. And yet the discrimination of synonyms and words which may be confused is more important. -The teacher must show that synonyms are not identical in meaning or use and explain the difference between them by comparing and contrasting them, as well as by showing in what contexts one or the other may be most fitly used.
Translation cannot serve as a criterion of synonymy; there are cases when several English words of different distribution and valence are translated into Russian by one and the same word. Such words as also, too and as well, all translated by the Russian word mooted, are never interchangeable. A teacher of English should always stress the necessity of being on one's guard against mistakes of this kind.
Contextual synonyms are similar in meaning only under some specific distributional conditions. The verbs bear, suffer and stand are semantically different and not interchangeable except when used in the negative form; can't stand is equal to can't bear in the following words of an officer: Gas. I've swallowed too much of the beastly stuff: I can't stand it any longer. I'm going to the dressing-station. (ALDINGTON)
There are some other distinctions to be made with respect to different kinds of semantic similarity. Some authors, for instance, class groups like ask : beg : implore or like : love : adore, gift : talent : genius as synonymous, calling them relative synonyms. This attitude is open to discussion. In fact the difference in denotative meaning is unmistakable: the words name different notions, not various degrees of the same notion, and cannot substitute one another. An entirely different type of opposition is involved. Formerly we had oppositions based on the relationships between the members of the opposition, here we deal with proportional oppositions characterized by their relationship with the whole vocabulary system and based on a different degree of intensity of the relevant distinctive features. We shall not call such words synonymous as they do not fit the definition of synonyms given in the beginning of the chapter.
Total synonymy, i.e. synonymy where the members of a synonymic group can replace each other in any given context, without the slightest alteration in denotative or emotional meaning and connotations, is an extremely rare occurrence. Examples of this type can be found in special literature among technical terms peculiar to this or that branch of knowledge. Thus, in linguistics the terms noun and substantive, functional affix, flections and inflection are identical in meaning. What is not generally realized, however, is that terms are a peculiar type of words, totally devoid of connotations or emotional coloring, and that their stylistic characterization does not vary? That is why this is a very special kind of synonymy: neither ideographic nor stylistic oppositions are possible here. As to the distributional opposition, it is less marked because the great majority of terms are nouns. Their irater change ability is also in a way deceptive. Every writer has to make up his mind right from the start as to which of the possible synonyms he prefers and stick to it throughout his text to avoid ambiguity. Thus, the interchangeability is, as it were, theoretical and cannot be materialized in an actual text.
The same misunderstood conception of interchangeability lies at the bottom of considering different dialect names for the same plant, animal or agricultural implement and the like as total (absolute) synonyms. Thus a perennial plant with long clusters of dotted whitish or purple tubular flowers that the botanists refer to as genus Digitalis has several dialectal names such as foxglove, fairy bell, finger/lower, finger root, dead men's bells, ladies' fingers. But the names are not interchangeable in any particular speaker's idiolect. 1 The same is true about the cornflower (Centauries yeans), so called because it grows in cornfields; some people call it bluebottle according to the shape and color of its petals. Compare also gorse, furze and whim, different names used in different places for the same prickly yellow-flowered shrub.
The distinction between synchronistic and dichromatic treatment is so fundamental that it cannot be overemphasized, but the two aspects are interdependent and cannot be understood without one another. It is therefore essential after the descriptive analysis synonymy in present-day English to take up the historical line of approach and discuss the origin of synonyms and the causes of either abundance in English.
The majority of those who studied synonymy in the past have been cultivating both lines of approach without keeping them scrupulously apart, and focused their attention on the prominent part of foreign loan words in English synonymy, e. g. freedom : liberty or heaven : sky, where the first elements arc native and the second, French and Scandinavian respectively. O. Jazzperson and many others used to stress that the English language is peculiarly rich in synonyms because Britons, Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans fighting and settling upon the soil of the British Isles could not but influence each other's speech. British scholars studied Greek and Latin and for centuries used Latin as a medium for communication on-scholarly topics.
Words borrowed from Latin to interrogate abdomen to collect vacuous to complete to ascend instruction Native English words to ask belly to gather empty to end to raise teaching Synonymy has its characteristic patterns in each language. Its peculiar feature in English is the contrast between simple native words stylistically neutral, literary words borrowed from French and learned words of Greco-Latin origin. This results in a sort of stylistically conditioned triple “keyboard” that can be illustrated by the following: Words borrowed from French to question stomach to assemble devoid to finish to mount guidance English also uses many pairs of synonymous derivatives, the one Hellenic and the other Romance, e. g.: periphery : circumference', hypothesis : supposition; sympathy : compassion; synthesis :; composition.
The pattern of stylistic relationship represented in the above table, although typical, is by no means universal. For example, the native words dale, deed, fair are the poetic equivalents of their much more frequent borrowed synonyms valley, act or the hybrid beautiful.
This subject of stylistic differentiation has been one of much controversy in recent years. It is universally accepted, however, that semantic and stylistic properties may change and synonyms which at one time formed a stylistic opposition only, may in the course of time become ideographically contrasted as well, and vice versa.
It would be linguistically naive to maintain that borrowing re-silts only in quantitative changes or those qualitative changes are purely stylistically. The introduction of a borrowed word almost invariably starts some alteration both in the newcomer and in the seminary tic structure of existing words that are close to it in meaning. When in the 13th century the word soil (For soil, soil) was hour-rowed into English its meaning was `a strip of land'. The upper layer of earth in which plants grow had been denoted since Old English by one of the synonyms: elope, land, folder. All these words had other central meanings so (hat the meaning in question was with (hem secondary. Avow, if two words coincide in meaning and use, the tendency is for one of them to drop out of the language. Folder had the same function and meaning as elope and in the fight for survival the latter won. The polysemantic word land underwent an intense semantic development in a different direction and so dropped out of this synonymic series. In this way it became quite natural for soil to fill the obvious lexical gap, receive its present meaning and become the main name for the corresponding notion, i.e. `the mould in which plants grow'. The noun earth retained (his meaning throughout its history, whereas the word ground in which this meaning was formerly absent, developed it. As a result this synonymic group comprises at present soil, earth and ground.
The fate of the word folder is not at all infrequent. Many other words now marked in the dictionaries as “archaic” or “obsolete” have dropped out in the same competition of synonyms: others survived with a meaning more or less removed from the original one. The process is called synonymic differentiation and is so current that M. Boreal regarded it as an inherent law of language development. It must be noted that -synonyms may influence each other semantically in two diametrically opposite ways: one of them is dissimilation, the other the reverse process, i. e. assimi1ation. The assimilation of synonyms consists in parallel development. An example of this is furnished by the sense development of Middle English adverbs meaning `swiftly', and subsequently `immediately'. This law was discovered and described by G. Stern. H. A. Treble and G. H. Villains give as examples the pejorative meanings acquired by the nouns wench, knave and churl which originally meant `girl', `boy' and `laborer' respectively, and point out that this loss of old dignity became linguistically possible because there were so many synonymous terms to hand. The important thing to remember is that it is not only borrowings from foreign languages hut, other sources as well that; have made increasing contributions to the stock of English synonyms. There are for instance words that come from dialects, and, in the last hundred years, from American English in particular. As a result speakers of British English may make use of both elements of the following pairs, the first element in each pair coming from the USA: gimmick : trick, dues : subscription, long distance (telephone) call : trunk call, radio : wireless. There are also synonyms that originate in numerous other dialects as, for instance, clover: shamrock, liquor ;: whiskey (from Irish), girl :; lass, lassie or charm : glamour (from Scottish).
The role of borrowings should not be overestimated. Synonyms are also created by means of all word-forming processes productive in the language at a given time of its history. The words already existing in the language develop new meanings. New words may be formed by affixation, or loss of affixes, conversion, compounding, shortening and so on, and being coined, form synonyms to those already in use.
Of special importance for those who are interested in the present-day trends and characteristic peculiarities of the English vocabulary are the synonymic oppositions due to shift of meaning, new combinations of verbs with postpositive and compound nouns formed from them, shortenings, set expressions and conversion.
Set expressions consisting of a verb with a postpositive are widely used in present-day English and may be called one of its characteristic features. l Many verbal synonymic groups contain such combinations as one of their elements. A few examples will illustrate this statement: to choose : to pick out; to abandon : to give up; to continue : to go on; to enter : to come in; to lift : to pick up; to postpone : to put off; to quarrel : to fall out; to return : to bring back. E.g. By the way, Toby has quite given up the idea of doing those animal cartoons. (PLOMER)
The vitality of these expressions is proved by the fact that they really supply material for further word-formation. Very many compound nouns denoting abstract notions, persons and events are correlated with them, also giving ways of expressing notions hitherto named by somewhat lengthy borrowed terms. There are, for instance, such synonymic pairs as arrangement : layout; conscription : call-up; precipitation : fall-out; regeneration : feedback; reproduction : playback; resistance : fight-back; treachery : sell-out.
An even more frequent type of new formations is that in which a noun with a verbal stem is combined with a verb of generic meaning (have, give, take, get, make] into a set expression which differs from the simple verb in aspect or emphasis: to laugh: to give a laugh; to sigh: lo give a sigh; to walk: to take a walk; to smoke: to have a smoke; to love: to fall in love. E.g. now we can all have a good read with our coffee. (SIMPSON) Bloomsbury Dictionary of New Words. M. 1996 стр.276-278
N. N. Amosova stresses the patterned character of the phrases in question, the regularity of connection between the structure of the phrase and the resulting semantic effect. She also points out that there may be cases when phrases of this pattern have undergone a shift of meaning and turned into phraseological units quite different in meaning from, and not synonymical with, the verbs of the same root. This is the case with to give a lift, to give somebody quite a turn, etc.
Quite frequently synonyms, mostly stylistically, hut sometimes ideographic as well, are due to shortening, e. g. memorandum : memo; vegetables : vegs; margarine : merge; microphone : mike; popular (song] : pop (song).
One should not overlook the fact that conversion may also be a source of synonymy; it accounts for such pairs as commandment: ceriman, laughter : laugh. The problem in this connection is whether such cases should be regarded as synonyms or as lexical variants of one arid the same word. It seems more logical to consider them, as lexical variants. Cf. also cases of different affixation: anxiety : anxiousness, effectively ;: effectiveness, and loss of affixes: amongst :; among or await : wait.
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