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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There are two more problems of defining compounds in English. Should we consider combinations like a stone wall, a rose garden to be compounds, like a railway, etc.? Besides, should phrasal verbs be treated as compounds or not? Besides, English compounds as compared to the similar words of other languages have two specific features:

1. their elements can almost always function in speech as free forms (compare to Russian руководство, where the second element of the word never functions separately);

2. English compound words are typically two-stem structures with a very small number of exceptions, like mother-in-law, man-o'-war, forget-me-not. The tendency of the 20th century is to construct larger compound structures from out of sentences, like mister-know-it-all, mister-what's-your-name, "she gave me a very severe get-out-of-this-room-as-soon-as-possible-look". we've done last-minute changes before .

Classification of compounds

There have been quite a number of attempts to classify the English compounds. The most successful ones were the ones based on the principle of:

1) the type of composition,

2) the linking element,

3) the part of speech.

Within the part of speech compounds may be classified according to the definite structural pattern. As for the type of composition, we have:

1) mere juxtaposition without connecting elements (like hearty, heartbroken, hand-made);

2) with a vowel or a consonant sound/letter as a linking element (e.g. electromotive, speed-o-meter, Afro-American, statesman; such examples are few in English);

3) with some linking elements represented by prepositions or conjunctions (e.g. matter-of-fact (adj.), up-to-date, up-and-coming, rock'n'roll, forget-me-not). down-and-out n, matter-of-fact a, son-in-law n, pepper-and-salt a, wall-to-wall a, up-to-date a, on the up-and-up

One additional structural classification is that according to the structure of the constituence:

1) simple stems (filmstar);

2) with one element being a derivative stem (chain-smoker);

3) with one element being a clipped stem (X-mas, h-bag, T-shirt whodunit);

4) with one element being a compound stem itself (a wastepaper basket).

According to the part of speech, the first class is that of nouns. All compound nouns are split into:

a) endocentric compounds - those in which the referent is named by one of the elements and further characterized by the other one (e.g sunbeam, maid-servant, looking-glass, blackboard);

b) exocentric compounds - the referent is not named at all and only the combination as a whole names the referent; exocentric compounds can be compared to set expressions (e.g. scarecrow, lickspittle (блюдолиз), hangover, makeup, go-between (проныра; посредник));

c) bahuvrihi - its scheme is as follows: adjectival stem + noun stem, metonymically naming someone or something by some striking feature, possessed by the referent (bigwig (большая шишка), blackshirt (устар. фашист), fathead (тупица, ср. air-headed), high-brow (неодобр. интеллектуал), lazybones (лежебока)).

Compound words may be classified in different ways, so, in spite of all the arguments among scholars, there are generally three types of compounds in modern English:

1) To outgrow, to overflow, to look for, to stand up, etc. - concerning these verbs, the opinions may be different. Some consider them compounds (e.g. Henry Marchant), others treat as phrases.

2) To blackmail, to honeymoon, to nickname - in fact, these are nothing but cases of typical conversion from endocentric nominal compounds.

3) To stage-manage, to house-keep, to proof(-)read, to hijack - these have been formed from compound nouns stage-manager, house-keeper, proof-reader, hijacker.

Derivational compounds

This type of words, also named compound derivatives, is distinguished as a separate group of compounds due to their second element which is never a free stem. E.g. long-legged. The presence of a suffix at the end emphasizes the structural integration of the whole unit. Several types distinguished within this group are as follows:

1) any stem + any stem + -er (honeymooner, lefthander, latecomer, etc.);

2) adjectival stem + noun stem + -ed (longhaired, absent-minded, blue-eyed, ill-mannered);

3) noun stem + noun stem + -ed (bow-legged);

4) numeral stem + noun stem + -ed (three-colored).

Often derivational compounds become the basis for further derivation, e.g. absent-mindedness, do-it-yourselfism, schoolboyishness, Romeo-and-Julietness.

Reduplications in English

There is a special highly productive process of word-building in almost every modern language, which results in a large number of words based on the principle of repetition or reduplication of sounds and the appropriate letters. Reduplications are mentioned among compound words, because some scholars consider them as a special type of compounds. However it may be easily seen, that at least one element in the words of this kind has no independent meaning, cannot be used in isolation and should be called a free morpheme.

The reduplicative principle may be different in such words. As a result they may be based on full (complete) reduplication or, on the other hand, they may contain definite alterations of sounds. Depending on this or that type of repitition, all reduplications may be subdivided into:

1) full reduplication: reduplicative compounds proper, consisting of repeated sound-imitative elements (e.g. a hush-hush (a secret), murmur (шепот), bla-bla, pooh-pooh (expression of contempt), quack-quack, choo-choo (a two-way train)), but those also may be simple repeated words (never-never, goody-goody, row-row);

2) combinations with altered reduplication:

a. ablaut combinations

i. i-a sounds (chit-chat, riff-raff (отбросы общества), to shilly-shally (колебаться)),

ii. i-o sounds (ding-dong, sing-song (монотонный), tip-top, ping-pong);

b. rhyme combinations, where altered are the two initial consonants (hurdy-gurdy (шарманка), helter-skelter (беспорядок), lovey-dovey (влюбленный), willy-nilly (волей-неволей), hokus-pokus);

Reduplicative compouinds belong to different styles of speech, but most commonly occur in colloquial discourses. Their expressive character is mainly due to the effect of rhythm, rhyme and sound suggestingness. Like other words, reduplications may take suffixes y, sie, ty, etc.

The important semantic feature which unites all reduplicative words is the sem of plurality that is expressed in an iconical way.

The historical development of English compounds

Compounding is among the oldest methods of wordbulding, occurring in practically all the European languages. However, compounding is especially well-developed in modern Germanic languages.

English has built compound words during all periods and stages of its development. The two most productive types of English compounds have been the following:

1) noun stem + noun stem (rainbow, snowflake, headache), derived from free combinations of words,

2) adjectival stem + noun stem (holiday, sweetmeat).

One interesting historical example is manslaughter (человекоубийство), derived from old English mann slжht with the diverbal noun stem as its second element.

Some of the older historical compounds preserve this type in present-day English. Others have undergone significant phonetic changes, so that their compound nature is not perceived anymore, because they long turned into root words.

Russian linguists call this latter process simplification of stem (опрощение основы), while English grammarians name these words disguised compounds. E.g. daisy (derived from old English dagas eye meaning "day's eye"), woman (from OE wifman meaning "woman person"), gossip (from OE God siepbe).

Demotivation of compounds is in many cases connected with simplification but not identical to it. Demotivation may be viewed as etymological isolation, when the word loses its former ties with other words with which it was originally connected and associated, e.g. to kidnap originally meant "to cease a yeanling (козленок)".

The word lady originated from hlefdige with hlef meaning "bread" and dige "to knead"; lord from hleflord ("breadkeeper").

New wordforming patterns in composition

During the last several decades new patterns appeared in ME as a result of influence of some extra-linguistic reasons. E.g. the civil rights movement of the 1960s which took place in the USA produced such words as ride-in meaning "to ride in prohibited places", kneel-in meaning "to kneel and pray in segregated churches", swim-in meaing "to visit segregated swimming pools", teach-in meaning "to give lectures in segregated schools". A lot of such \structures appeared during the years of the hippy generation, e.g. lie-in (block the traffic by lying on the road), love-in (show your affection towards someone in the street to show the protest), bed-in.

VII. Shortening in Modern English word-building

By the example of compound words, we have seen that the word-building process involves not only qualitative, but also quantitative changes. For example, derivation and compounding represent addition in word-building. Shortening is another process manifested as a quantitative change, though it means subtraction of words. The same as with compounding, shortening also has its own patterns. There are several forms, by which this process is named in linguistics and these are: shortening clippment and curtailment.

Shortening was first fixed in the English language as far back as in the 15th century, but today and especially after the I World War, this process is considered to be especially intensive.

Authors name such an extra-linguistical course of shortening as the strain of modern life. The factor, belonging to pure linguistics is the demand of rhythm in speech, stipulated by the predominantly mono-syllabic nature of the English language. The phenomenon of the mono-syllabic character is best of all traced by the example of those loan words, which are assimilated in Modern English.

Example: "van":

1) a large covered vehicle, and later a railway carriage, shortened "caravan".

2) the front of the army, shortened French "avangard".

3) a lawn tennis term, shortened for "advantage".

All the 3 homonyms sound like the majority of English words, compare to man, ban, tan, etc.

Shortening - is a reduction of an existing full word to one of its parts. The part remaining typically does not change its pronunciation. Yet, it has to change the spelling.

Example: to dub - means "to double"

mike -microphone

trank -tranquillizer

However, we may find here some exclusions like: bike - bicycle.

But such cases are few. In the process of shortening the word may use its initial or middle, or final part. Shortening may also be regarded a kind of good creation, because originally, shortened words begin to behave in sentence as though they were full-forms or root-stems: bike - bikes, fancy - fantasy, to fancy, a fancier, etc.

There are 2 types of correlation between the curtailed word and its full prototype:

1) the curtailed form is a variant or synonym of the full-form differing from its prototype quantitatively, stylistically, sometimes emotionally: doc - doctor, Japs - Japanese. The connection between the shortened and full form in such cases is not yet entirely lost.

2) the above said connection is mainly lost and can only be established through the etymological analysis: a fan - a fanatic, miss - mistress, chap - chapman (syn: peddler; странствующий торговец)

In most cases, the curtailed words represent only one meaning of their full prototypes, at least, during the initial stage of the shortened word's existence. For example, to double has at least 3 meanings: 1) to multiply by two; 2) to increase twofold; 3) to amount to twice as much. To dub means to make a film or a soundtrack in a different language.

Unlike conversion, shortening produces new words in the same part of speech. The structural classification of shortened words is as follows:

1) final clipping or apocope [?'p?k?(u)p?] (апокопа):

ad - advert - advertisement, ed - editor, fab - fabulous, vegs - vegetables, mac - mackintosh.

2) initial clipping or aphesis ['afisis]:

puter - computer, cute - acute, fend - to defend, mend - to amend, cello - violoncello, phone - telephone.

Sometimes we can come across the combination of 1st and 2nd, that is apocopy+aphesis: flu - influenza, fridge - refrigerator, tec - detective.

3) medial clipping or syncope: maths - mathematics, specs - spectacles, ma'am - madam.

Clippings mainly arise in colloquial speech and initially have a vivid stylistic covering, but when their links with their prototypes are lost, the shortened words become stylistically neutral: exam, challow, cab, etc.

Many shortened words are characteristic of slang and the only varieties of clipping which belong to strictly bookish language are forms like: ne'er - never, e'en - even, o'er - over.


Blending in Modern English is manifested by some special cases, where both curtailment and compounding are combined together. The resulting words are named blends or blendings or fusions or, according to the word invented by Louis Carrol, portmanteau [p??t'mжnt?u] words: sheepau - sheep-like people, to chortle - to chuckle (to snort, at the same time), frenglish - French+English, Oxbridge. An interesting example here is the word snob presumably originated from the Latin phrase: sine nobilitate, written after the name in the registry of fashionable English school to indicate that the bearer of the name did not belong to nobility. The recent examples of blends are bloodalyzer and breathalyzer denoting devices making special medical test.

Sometimes the second or right constituent of such a blend may turn into a traditional suffix: nylon - нейлон, sylon, rayon - вискоза. All these words denote fabrics. The constituent -on coming from the word cotton.

The 2 basic types of blends are:

1) `additive words - consisting of the elements once making a combination of 2 complete stems with a conjunction "and" between them: smog - smoke and fog, frenglish - French and English, Pakistan - Punjab, Aphgania, Cashmere, sing+Baluchistan. Tanzania - Tanganyika + Zanzibar. Other examples are: dancathon - dancing marathon, camcorder - camera recorder, cellphone (cellophone) - cellular telephone.

2) restrictive type - represented by the words originating from attributive phrases in which the 1st element is the modifier of the 2nd one: cinerama - cinematographic panorama, tellycast - television broadcast, slanguage - slang+language, motel - motorists' hotel.

Graphical abbreviations

Due to the extremely close connection between the oral and written speech it may sometimes be difficult to differentiate the clippings, formed in oral speech, from graphical abbreviations. The latter are often first introduced in writing and only after that penetrate into the oral speech. This process intensively begun during I World War and in the years after it became especially popular in the English-speaking countries. Such words formed from the initial letter or letters have 3 possible types of relations between the written and spoken forms:

1) acronyms - are abbreviations, landing themselves to be read as ordinary words:

SALT - Strategic Arms Limitation Talks,

NOW - National Organization for Women,

WHO - World Health Organization,

JATO - Jet-Assisted Take Off (взлёт на реактивном двигателе),

UFO - Unidentified Flying Object,

SARS - Severe Acture Respiratory Arrest.

2) initial abbreviation with an alphabetical reading retained:

BBC - British Broadcasting Cooperation,

M.P. - Member of Parliament (Br.), Military Police (Am.),

P.M. - Prime Minister



Types 1 and 2 may also be combined in such abbreviations as:

POSSLQ ['p?s(?)l,kju:] - Partner of the Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters.

3) shortened forms typically used in specialized texts to economize space, but always pronounced in full:

abbr - abbreviation

bldg - building

LTD - limited

B.A. - Bachelor of Arts

NY - New York

LA - Los Angeles

4) a specific English type of abbreviations having no analogues in Russian, are Latin shortenings in many cases read in English:

e.g. - for example (exempli gratia)

pm - post meridiem

et al. - and others (et alii)

etc. - et cetera

i.e. - id est

VIII. Conversion in Modern English word-building

- Are you training for a race?

- No, I'm racing for a train.

The process of coining a new word in a different part of speech and with a different set of characteristics, but without adding any derivative elements is named conversion. However, one should always bear in mind that these are only the basic forms of the original and derived words, which coincide and are homonymous.

The basic form of the word is the one that expresses the notion in the most abstract way. For nouns it's the common case singular, for adjectives - the positive form, for verbs - the infinitive, etc.

Being a special type of word formation, conversion exists in many languages, but in Modern English it develops with special intensity.

The main reason here is the absence of morphological elements which could serve as classifying signals or formal signs, denoting the part of speech to which the word belongs. Here are some examples:

back (noun-спина, verb-обратный процесс, adj-задний, adv-снова, заново)

home (noun, verb, adj, adv)

silence (noun, verb)

round (noun, verb, adj, adv)

Apart from this, many affixes are homonymous in English. So, the general sound pattern doesn't contain any information on the possible part of speech.

whiten - verb

maiden - noun

wooden - adj.

often - adv.

The historical development of conversion in English

The causes that make conversion widely-spread in English, as Otto Jesperson stated, are to be approached diachronically. Nouns and verbs became identical in their form firstly due to the loss of their endings.

Old English Modern English

caria(n)-verb care(verb, noun)


drincan-verb drink(verb,noun)

drinca, drinc-noun

slepan-verb sleep(verb,noun)


More rarely it was the prefix that became dropped in Modern English.

рemund - mind(verb, noun)

A certain homonymy in the borrowing from French of numerous pairs of words of the same route, belonging in French to different parts of speech, resulted in the appearance of conversives in Modern English. Such words used the existing pattern of the loss of affixes and became phonetically identical:

Old French Modern English

eschequer(v) check(v/n)


crier(v) cry(v/n)


Conversive processes in Modern English

Scientific research suggests that conversion is regular or patterned homonymy. Being such it has a number of characteristic features, i.e. though the conversion of suffixed and prefixed words is possible and exists in Modern English, it's still rather uncommon.

commission - v/n

This seems natural, because a word, which can be divided into morphemes, is already a member of certain structural correlations. Thus, we can hardly form a verb from the noun arrival, because there exists a verb of the same root - to arrive.

It should be remembered, that conversion is a combined morphological and syntactical way of word-building.

e.g. If one struck lucky, one had a good buy.

"buy" - noun, because it occupies the position of a noun, is preceded by an indefinite article and is modified by an adj.

However, it's hardly possible to tell the part of speech if we observe an isolated form, even if this form has an evident suffix with it.

e.g. buys - v/n

Semantic relationships in conversion

Alongside with conversion, when the latter takes place, a number of changes occur to the word in its syntactic functions, paradigm, distribution and meaning. It may even at times seem that the semantic relationships between the two identical forms are quite chaotic.

e.g. to dust - to remove the dust/to cover with smth dustlike (to dust a cake with sugar-powder)

A closer investigation shows rather patterned relationships, i.e. the lexical meaning of the verb may point out the instrument, the agent, the place, the cause, the result and the time of the action.

Examples of instrumental meaning of verbs:

to eye - to watch carefully with the eyes

to finger - to touch smth with fingers

to elbow - to push one's way with elbows

to knife, to pump, to sandpaper (обрабатывать наждачной бумагой), to saw

All these verbs have a common element of meaning - to work with some definite articles, as with tools.

e.g. agent of action

to crowd - толпиться

to herd - сбиваться в стаю

Metaphorical agential verbs based on the names of animals:

to ape - to imitate smb in a foolish ape-like way

to wolf(down) - to eat hungrily like a wolf

Locative meaning can be traced in the verbs, denoting places:

to bag - to put smth into the bag

to corner - to set smb in a difficult position

to floor - to bring smb on the floor

Verbs with adjectival stems:

to blind, to calm, to idle, to lame

When used intransitively, these verbs mean to become blind, calm, idle, lame, etc.

If used as transitive verbs, they denote to make smb blind, etc.

Diverbal nouns may show the process:



the result:



the place:

drive-дорожка для проезда

a stand-место для стоянки

All these are connected with the verbs by the several meaning and naming of the appropriate action.


It has always been a question whether words with adjectival stems put a paradigm of a noun can also be referred to the cases of conversion (a private, a captive, a grown-up, a male, a neutral, a native, a radical, an intellectual, a mechanic, a red, etc.) At the same time it should be realized that there is a great difference between the words, formed by pure conversion and substantivated adjectives, whereas conversives make regular pairs of homonyms with the words, from which they are derived, no such regular pattern of homonymy is possible in case of substantivation.

All cases of substantivation in English can show various degrees of this word-forming process:

1) complete substantivation- "a private" - here the meaning of the substantivated form changes crutially.

2) partial substantivation-in the words, denoting groups of people: the blind, the dead, the English, the poor, etc.

Such cases are considered partially substantivated, because they never change.

And thus show complete resemblance with the appropriate adjectives. They are also used only with definite articles. There is a strong opinion among linguists, that the so-called "partially substantivated adjectives" are nothing more than cliptisized phrases, originally consisting of an adjective (Participle II) + a noun, out of which combination excluded was the right or the second element.

Set expressions in modern English

A set expression, being the object of study, is a group of words, not less than two in number (but typically more), characterized by a single, indivisible, specialized meaning, thus each set expression can be viewed as a separate unit and can be equalized to a separate word.

The number of set expressions in any modern language with a developed history is great, and the nature of such units is immensely versatile. It is a common mistake to think, that a set expression characterizes by its presence colloquial speech and always carries in its semantic structure an element of connotation, like emotionality, evaluation, intensity, etc. - this is a mistake. Set expressions may be stylistically neutral, they may be terms, though many of them are highly colloquial by nature. Typical examples in English are in front of, not for the world, a red letter day, to sleep like a log, it goes without saying, etc.

The starting problem with set expressions is that of naming them, and the options here are phraseology, phraseological units and idioms. However, the terms phraseology and phraseological unit are recognized in Russian linguistics. Besides, the term phraseology also denotes the branch of linguistics that studies the word groups of the said kind.

We should also bear in mind that the phraseological section of the national vocabularly was best of all studied in Russian linguistics, while such units are still very poorly and non-systematically learnt in modern western linguistics. The linguists of the western countries mostly apply the tern idioms to both groups of words and single word units. This is done on the ground of the figurative meaning, manifested in this or that unit.

In reality all these units are highly heterogeneous (variative). Here we may find:

a) expressive colloquialisms (to know the ropes (знать все ходы/выходы));

b) demotivated units (tit for tat (зуб за зуб));

c) terminology (direct object, blank verse, Adam's apple);

d) polytical clichй (a summit meeting, Cold War);

e) emotionally neutral combinations (to give up, a lot of, a great deal of, to be looking forward to, as well as).

Set expressions should not be confused with free phrases and semi-fixed combinations.

A free phrase easily permits substitution of any of its elements without the resuling semantic change in the remaining elements, e.g. to go early can be changed to to go late, and the meaning of go doesn't change, as well as we can change it to to start early, etc.

In semi-fixed combinations substitutes also exist, but their boundaries are fixed by the semantic properties of words, which may be used for substitution. For example, there exists a pattern, consisting of the word to go + preposition + noun without an article, e.g. to go to school. The said pattern, however, is only used with the nouns of place, e.g. to go to hospital, to go to court, to go to lecture, to go to market, etc.

In this respect, if any substitution of elements within a phrase is restricted to only a few synonyms for one element, which is normally not basic, or such substitution is impossible, that is if the elements of the phrase are always the same, that is are used in the same grammar form with the same word order, making a fixed context, then the group is a set expression.

The naming set expression, unlike phraseological unit or phraseological entity or idiom, is most neutral, hence most acceptable. This way we do not change anything in such structures as first night, to gild the pill (подсластить горькую пилюлю), on the other hand, calf love (детская любовь, юношеское увлечение), to and fro.

Classification of set expressions

Many various lines of approach have been used to classify these units. However, the boundaries of the whole group, its classification and place in the national vocabularly are controversial issues in present-day linguistics. Among English scholars named can be W. Bowl, who gave a more or less detailed grouping of the English set expressions. However, as this groups of units are similar in different languages, it would be right for us to observe as the basic example those classifications given to the idioms of other languages. Such classifications may naturally be applied to the scope of english idioms.

What concerns the Russian material, those were Fortunatov, Shakhmatov and later Larin and Vinogradov, who all tried to classify the Russian phraseology. V.V. Vinogradov's classification can be applied to the English examples and illustrated by them:

1) Phraseological fusions (фразеологические сращения), which show the highest degree of blending between two or more completely non-motivated elements. Example: tongue in cheek (to speak with hidden irony).

2) Phraseological unities (фразеологические единства), which consist of non-motivated elements again, however allowing a possibility of synonymic substitution. For example: to stick to one's guns (стоять на своем), which can be to stand to one's guns.

3) Phraseological combinations (сочетания), which consist of motivated components, one used in its direct meaning, others in figurative. E.g. to meet the demands/requirements, to enter the details.

There also exists a classification of idioms in the German language, where only unities and combinations are distinguished, and fusions are included into unities, because the criterion of motivation/demotivation may seem different to different speakers, thus being a subjective element of meaning.

A well-known classification of English idioms from different viewpoints was given by the Russian linguist Alexander Kunin, and the basis for the grouping being the grammatical or syntactical function of the unit. This means that every set expression can be equal or rather equalized to a separate word, and each separate word belongs to this or that part of speech. Hencewhere:

1) Nominal phrases:

a) noun + noun - maiden name (девичья фамилия);

b) noun's + noun - cat's paw (рябь на воде);

c) nouns' + noun - ladies' man;

d) noun + preposition + noun - a skeleton in the cupboard;

e) noun + adjective - knight errant (странствующий рыцарь);

f) noun + and + noun - lord and master (husband).

2) Verbal phrases:

a) verb + noun - to take advantage;

b) verb + and + verb - to pick and choose;

c) verb + one's + noun + preposition - to snap one's fingers at smb (to neglect smb);

d) verb + one + noun - to give one the sack/bird (to fire smb);

e) verb + subordinate clause - to see how the land lies

3) Adjectival phrases:

a) adjective + and + adjective - high and mighty;

b) as + adj + as + noun - as mad as a hatter.

4) Adverbial phrases:

a) noun + noun - tooth and nail (изо всех сил);

b) preposition + noun - of course, by heart;

c) preposition + noun + or + preposition + noun - by hook or by crook (всеми способами);

d) conjunction + clause - before one can say Jack Robinson.

5) Prepositional phrases: preposition + noun + preposition - on the ground of, in case of, in the event of.

6) Interjectional phrases: God bless me, bless my soul, holy cow.

The origin of set expressions in modern English

The sources of modern English phraseology are extremely versatile, which means that the language is characterized by a strong tendency of forming newer and newer collocations alongside with the figuralization of the meanings of the meanings, of their lexical elements. In accordance with their etymology, all English set expressions can be subdivided into two large groups:

1) those of the English origin (native English set expressions);

2) borrowings, which are further subdivided into:

a. interlingual,

b. introlingual.

A special group comprises those units, which may be named foreign phraseological insertions. As a result a more detailed classification of idioms may consist of 4 principal groups:

1) idioms of the English origin:

a. idioms reflecting English customs (baker's dozen - first appeared in the language of bakers because according to the old English tradition bread-sellers received from bakers 13 loafs instead of 12, the 13th one being their profit, which wasn't considered honest),

b. idioms, associated with the peculiarities of English life (bluestocking - a Blue Stocking Meeting was a literary society of the 18th century London because the scientist Benjamin Spellingflith always appeared in it in blue stockings),

c. idioms, where personal names are used (a good jack makes a good jill ("у хорошего мужа и жена хороша"),

d. idioms, associated with beliefs and prejudices (a black sheep - in old times a black sheep in a herd was believed to be marked by devil),

e. idioms, associated with astrology (to curse one's stars, to be born under a bad star, etc.),

f. idioms, associated with the real historical events (as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb ("если суждено быть повешенным за овцу, почему бы не украсть ягненка") - according to an old English law the theft of a sheep was punished by hanging),

g. idioms of terminological origin (to cut the painter ("обрубить канат") - originates from the marine terminology; to hit below the belt - from the boxer's language),

h. Shakespeare's idioms (many modern English idioms from the writings of the past, but their majority are linked with the name of the greatest English playwright: a fool's paradise, the green-eyed monster (jealousy), to one's heart content);

2) interlingual borrowings:

a. Biblical loans (sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, a millstone about somebody's neck, a wolf in sheep's clothes and many more),

b. foreign loans, coming from Antique mythology (the apple of discord, a labour of Sisyphus, the thread of Ariadne),

c. French borrowings (after us the deluge, appetite comes with the eating, the fair sex, the game is not worth the candle),

d. German borrowings (blood and iron, speech is silvern, silence is golden, storm and stress),

e. Spanish borrowings (the fifth column, to tilt at windmills),

f. Russian borrowings (the sick man of Europe - a European country in a financial crisis);

(Apart from the above the English phraseology contains some borrowings from Danish, Dutch, Italian, Chinese and Arabic.)

3) introlingual borrowings (mainly from the American English: time is money (comes from "Advice to the young tradesman" by B. Franklin), to sell like hot cakes, to sit on the fence, to spill the beans, to look (feel) like a million dollars);

4) foreign insertions (mainly Latin and French phrases, which are never translated or modified: terra incognita, ad hoc, status quo, curriculum vitae (c.v.), enfant terrible).

The principal way of borrowing idioms is translation or calking, whose cases may be:

a. direct translation (make believe, vicious circle from French, divide and rule from Latin),

b. semi-translation (on the qui vive)

c. idioms, imitating the foreign semantic structure (by all that's blue ("черт возьми"), May Day (from French m'aider -- "help me")

English proverbs, sayings, familiar quotations*, clichйs

*familiar quotations крылатые выражения

The status of the utterances named in the title of the lecture with respect to set expressions is a controversial issue. However, the association between them and as an example set expressions can be traced in the fact that many proverbs in the course of their long use in speech are split into smaller parts and turn into sayings. If this process continues, a saying may result in an idiom due to its further curtailment. The common feature uniting the above said utterances and set expressions is 1) that these are not isolated words but word combinations and 2) that all of them employ figurative meanings of some of their parts or of themselves as a whole.

A proverb is traditionally defined as a short familiar statement expressing a popular wisdom, a truth or a moral lesson in a concise and typically imaginary way. Many proverbs from the formal standpoint are rhythmically organized, which facilitates their memorization and spontaneous use in speech. Proverbs have much in common with set expressions, e.g. their lexical components are constant, their structure is unchangeable, and the meaning of the components - figurative. They are introduced into speech ready-made and show evident resistance towards modification. Like set expressions, proverbs may be associated through their origin with some definite source or author, which are usually forgotten by the speaking community.

Due to all these common features some scholars, especially in the west, do not separate these types of phrases. Still others believe that proverbs can be hardly included into the lexical system, because they stand too far from the central lexical unit, which is the word, and are independent units of communication. The further classification of such units would embrace structures like riddles, children's counting rhymes, nursery rhymes, etc., which are already texts. But this viewpoint can hardly be approved.

Proverbs often serve as the basis for the formation of idioms, e.g. the last straw breaks the camel's back (proverb) < the last straw (idiom); a drowning man will clutch at a straw (proverb) < to clutch at a straw (idiom). Both set expressions and proverbs can sometimes be split and changed for stylistic purposes.

all is not gold that glitters (proverb) + the Golden Age (idiom) = it will be the age perhaps not of not but at least of glitter

Aldous Huxley used the set expressions to marry into money in the characteristics of a woman who was described as the one who married herself into conversation, since she was unusually talkative and married someone who listened to her.

Lexicology does not show the great interested in proverbs, as the latter are mainly studied by folklorists. Among the most distinctive features of proverbs is that they are always grammatically complete sentences, e.g. the proof of the pudding is in the eating. However, ellipsis may often occur with the proverbs omitted may be even some principles members of the sentence, like the predicate, e.g. one law for the rich and another for the poor. As proverbs are sentence, their classification is also normally based on the classification of sentences, e.g.:

1) affirmative sentences, simple: Homer sometimes nods; pride goes before a fall;

2) negative sentences, simple: you can't eat your cake and have it;

3) complex sentences: he that dies, pays all debts; he laughs best who laughs last;

4) imperative sentences

a. with affirmation: let sleeping dogs lie;

b. with negation: don't count your chickens before they are hatched;

c. complete sentences: do in Rome as the Romans do;

5) interrogative sentences: can the leopard changes his spots?

Such questions are naturally rhetorical and do not need any answer.

Sayings, in contrast to proverbs, usually do not contain any moral lesson and are colloquial in their essence, but sayings usually express positive or negative evaluation, e.g. more power to your elbow, does your mother know you're out?. As sayings may also be compared to sentences, although ellipticized, their classification may basically be the same as that of proverbs. Both proverbs and sayings employ in their structure a number of expressive means like repetition (forewarned is forearmed), juxtaposition, euphony (rhyme, alliteration, etc.: birds of a feather flock together).

Familiar quotations, different from proverbs and sayings by their origin and mainly coming from literature, may gradually become part of the language. The speaking community usually tends to forget their sources and give their alternated variants. This process is named anonymisation of quotations. Among such utterances we may find a lot of bibleisms, Shakespeare's phrases (uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, give every man thy ear but few thy voice).

The term clichй comes from the French term of printing. Such phrases are so frequently used that it resulted in the loss of their original expressive power, so that now they are recommended for avoidance. The acid test, the arms of Morpheus, to break the ice, the irony of fate, a sigh of relief, swan song, to sleep the sleep of the just, to stand shoulder to shoulder, to walk arm in arm, etc.

Although clichйs should be avoided, they nevertheless play a very important role in everyday communication and in different types of speech. Some types of communication are highly clichйd by their nature, e.g. scientific literature and documentation, and are highly formalized. On the other hand, such informal communication types as colloquial speech and fiction are also abundant in clichйs used in principally different purposes, e.g. for the creation of humorous effect.


Of all the saws I ever saw saw, I never saw a saw that saw like that saw saw.

From out of the three types of interrelations between the separate units of the lexical systems which are synonymy, antonymy and homonymy, the latter may seem least interesting and deep from the viewpoint of the linguistics, because homonymy may only be taken as a mere coincidence of units in their outer form. However, a deeper view of homonymy reveals quite a number of problems, which are:

1) interrelations and difference between polysemy and homonymy, that is the search of the point where polysemy stops and homonymy starts;

2) the "distance" between the meanings of two homonyms, which may be interrelated, interdependent and historically linked together;

3) the ways homonyms come into being and the reasons they are preserved in the language;

4) the reasons why homonyms not only exist, but function in one national language;

5) the stylistic value of the usage of homonyms.

Each sound or letter group in a status of a word possesses only one meaning, and each one meaning is associated with only one sound or letter group. But these one to one relationship is never actualized in natural languages, where several related but different meanings are associated with the same group of sounds within one part of speech. If such meanings are interrelated, we call the word polysemantic; when the meanings are unrelated, then we have homonyms. When two or more different forms are associated with the same, nearly the same or analogous meanings, then such words are called synonyms.

Homonymy in English as compared to other languages is particularly well-developed and frequent, especially among monosyllabic words.

We eat what we can and we can (консервируем) what we can't.

There have been several attempts to classify homonyms, from which the following classification is most commonly accepted:

1) homonyms proper - words identical in both pronunciation and spelling (e.g. fast (быстро), fast (поститься); ball (мяч), ball (бал)); can be further subdivided according to their feature of difference or likeness in their

a. lexical meaning,

b. grammar meaning.

c. grammar paradigm,

d. basic form;

2) homophones - words identical in pronunciation, but not spelling (air - heir, by - buy - bye, rain - reign, him - hymn);

3) homographs - words with the same spelling but different pronunciation (lead - lead, read - read, wind - wind, tear - tear, row - row, bow - bow).

spring - прыжок; пружина; источник (воды); весна

All these words are only different in their lexical meanings, but identical grammatically, as they all belong to the same class of nouns.

before - до; раньше

Here we have different grammar meanings against the background of very similar semantic characteristics.

brother - brothers, brethren

The same lexical and grammar meanings, but different grammar paradigms.

The cases of full incoincidence are also numerous. E.g. to can be a preposition or may be used as a particle before the Infinitive.

A special case of homonymy is the words with an accentual shift in their pronunciation. E.g. export and (to) export, record and (to) record, conflict and (to) conflict, etc. The difference in the sound images of such pairs is grammatically relevant, because this or that type of pronunciation refers the form to one or another part of speech.

To understand the phenomenon of the homonymy better, we should show the cases, where homonymy ceases to be. Thus we can't consider homonyms the following words: petrol and patrol - these are not homonyms, because they do not reveal similarity in either sound, or letter form, or grammar, or lexical meanings. Another example is air, ear and year.

The origin of homonyms in English

All the different causes by which homonymy is brought about can be subdivided into two main groups:

1) Sound development, due to which two or three words of different origins accidentally coincide in sound, e.g. the word gamaner in Old English meant "common", the Latin word medianus means "average", and the OE unit manon meant "to think". As a result the Modern English form sounds and looks like mean, e.g. the mean age and what do you mean?.

2) Disintegrated meaning or split of polysemy, which reason is much more common. The OE cest turned into chest meaning "a large box" and chest being a part of the human body. The Latin word silentium turned into silence in ME as a noun and to silence as a verb.

The problems of homonymy, if treated synchronically, may be shown as follows:

1) There is no universal criterion for the distinction between polysemy and homonymy, and the problem is always faced by the dictionary compilers, who each time have to decide whether to include two identical forms into one entry or create two different entries for them, e.g. the form work being both a noun and a verb is included under one entry by Muller, while Apresian's dictionary makes two entries for them.

2) This is a problem of patterned homonymy, that is of the invariant lexical meaning, present in the homonyms that have developed from one common source, but belong to various parts of speech. The case is best of all illustrated by the examples of grammatical conversion, e.g. war and to war, father and to father.

3) The phenomenon of homonymy may refer not only to words, but to their parts, e.g. affixes or to the auxiliary forms, which may also be perceived as morphemes.

4) Relevant in modern linguistics is the problem of interlingual homonymy.


The richer the language, the more developed its lexical diversity and therefore the greater the possibilities of lexical choice, and the more developed synonymy it has. Typically synonyms are words only similar, but rarely identical in their meanings and usage. Speaking about synonymy we should remember that each separate meaning is a complex structure, consisting of:

a. the denotational component, which reflects the most essential features of the notion named,

b. the shades of meaning reflecting the secondary features,

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