During World War I and after it the custom became very popular not only in English-speaking countries, but in other parts of the world as well, to call countries, governmental, social, military, industrial and trade organisations and officials not only by their full titles but by initial abbreviations derived from writing. Later the trend became even more pronounced, e. g. the USSR, the U.N., the U.N.O., MP. The tendency today is to omit fullstops between the letters: GPO (General Post Office). Some abbreviations nevertheless appear in both forms: EPA and E.P.A. (Environment Protection Agency). Such words formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts of a phrasal term have two possible types of orthoepic correlation between written and spoken forms.
§ 1. If the abbreviated written form lends itself to be read as though it were an ordinary English word and sounds like an English word, it will be read like one. The words thus formed are called acronyms. This way of forming new words is becoming more and more popular in almost all fields of human activity, and especially in political and technical vocabulary: U.N.O., also UNO ['ju:nou] — United Nations Organisation, NATO — the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, SALT — Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. The last example shows that acronyms are often homonymous to ordinary words; sometimes intentionally chosen so as to create certain associations. Thus, for example, the National Organisation for Women is called NOW. Typical of acronymic coinages in technical terminology areJATO, laser, maser and radar. JATO or jato means jet-assisted take-off; laser stands for light amplification by stimulated emission radiation; maser — for micro-wave amplification and stimulated emission radiation; radar — for radio detection and ranging.
Acronyms present a special interest because they exemplify the working of the lexical adaptive system. In meeting the needs of communication and fulfilling the laws of information theory requiring a maximum signal in the minimum time the lexical system undergoes modification in its basic structure: namely it forms new elements not by combining existing morphemes and proceeding from sound forms to their graphic representation but the other way round — coining new words from the initial letters of phrasal terms originating in texts.
§ 2. The other subgroup consists of initial abbreviation with the alphabetical reading retained, i.e. pronounced as a series of letters. The examples are well-known: B.B.C. ['bi:'bi:’si:] — the British Broadcasting Corporation; G.I. ['dзi: ‘ai] — for Government Issue.
Other examples of initial abbreviations with the alphabetical reading retained are: S.O.S. ['es'ou'es] — Save Our Souls, a wireless code - signal of extreme distress, also figuratively, any despairing cry for help; T.V. or TV I'tir'vi:] — television; Y.C.L. ['wai’sir'el] — the Young Communist League. The term abbreviationmay be also used for a shortened form of a written word or phrase used in a text in place of the whole for economy of space and effort. Abbreviation is achieved by omission of letters from one or more parts of the whole, as for instance abbr for abbreviation, bldg for building, govt for government. The part or parts retained show some alteration, thus, oz denotes ounce and Xmas denotes Christmas. Doubling of initial letters shows plural forms as for instance ppl, p.p. forpages, ll for lines or cc for chapters. These are in fact not separate words but only graphic signs or symbols representing them.
A specific type of abbreviations having no parallel in Russian is represented by Latin abbreviations which sometimes are not read as Latin words but substituted by their English equivalents. A few of the most important cases are listed below: ad lib (Lat ad libitum) — at pleasure’, a.m. (Lat ante meridiem) — in the morning’, cf. (Lat conferre)
An interesting feature of present-day English is the use of initial abbreviations for famous persons’ names and surnames. Thus, George Bernard Shaw is often alluded to as G.B.S. ['dзi:'bi:'es], Herbert George Wells as H.G.
These regular developments are in some cases combined with occasional jocular or accidental distortions. The National Economic Development Council is facetiously termed Neddy. Elementary education is colloquially referred to as the three R’s — reading, (w)riting and ‘rithmetic. Some kind of witty folk etymology is at play when the abbreviation C.B. for construction battalions in the navy is respelt into sea bees.
A specifically English word pattern almost absent in the Russian language must be described in connection with initial abbreviations in which the first element is a letter and the second a complete word. The examples are: A-bomb for atomic bomb, V-sign — a sign made by holding the hand up with the first two fingers spread with the palm facing forward in the shape of a V used for expressing victory or the hope for it.
It will have been noted that all kinds of shortening are very productive in present-day English. They are especially numerous in colloquial speech, both familiar colloquial and professional slang. They display great combining activity and form bases for further word-formation and inflection.
Историческая изменчивость структуры слова
Neither the morphemic nor the derivational structure of the word remains the same but is subject to various changes in the course of time. Changes in the phonetic and semantic structure and in the stress pattern of polymorphic words may bring about a number of changes in the morphemic and derivational structure. Certain morphemes may become fused together or may be lost altogether. As a result of this process, known as the process of simplification, radical changes in the structure of the word may take place: root-morphemes may turn into affixational or semi-affixational morphemes, polymorphic words may become monomorphic, compound words may be transformed into derived or even simple words. There is no doubt, for instance, that the Modern English derived nounfriendship goes back to the Old English compound frēōndscipe in which the component scipe was a root-morpheme and a stem of the independently functioning word. The present-day English suffixes -hood, -dom, -like are also known to have developed from root-morphemes. The noun husband is a simple monomorphic word in Modern English, whereas in Old English it was a compound word consisting of two bases built on two stems hus-bond-a.
Sometimes the spelling of some Modern English words as compared with their sound-form reflects the changes these words have undergone. The Modern English word cupboard judging by its sound-form ['kAbэd] is a monomorphic non-motivated simple word. Yet its spelling betrays its earlier history. It consisted of two bases represented by two monomorphic stems [kAр] and [bo:d] and was pronounced ['kAp,bod]; it signified 'a board to put cups on’; nowadays, however, having been structurally transformed into a simple word, it denotes neither cup nor board as may be seen from the phrases like boot cupboard, a clothes cupboard. A similar course of development is observed in the words blackguard ['blæg-a:d] traced to ['blæk,ga:d], handkerchief ['hæŋkэt∫if] that once was ['hænd,kэ:t∫if], etc.
In the process of historical development some word-structures underwent reinterpretation without radical changes in their phonemic shape; there are cases when simple root-words came to be understood as derived consisting of two ICs represented by two individual items, e.g. beggar, chauffeur, editor. The reinterpretation of such words led to the formation of simple verbs like to edit, to beg, etc.
Сочетаемость и валентность слов
It is an indisputable fact that words are used in certain lexical contexts, i.e. in combination with other words. The noun question, e.g., is often combined with such adjectives as vital, pressing, urgent, disputable, delicate, etc. This noun is a component of a number of other word-groups, e.g. to raise a question, a question of great importance, a question of the agenda, of the day, and many others. The aptness of a word to appear in various combinations is described as its lexical valency or collocability.
The range of the lexical valency of words is linguistically restricted by the inner structure of the English word-stock. This can be easily observed in the selection of synonyms found in different word-groups. Though the verbs lift and raise, e.g., are usually treated as synonyms, it is only the latter that is collocated with the noun question. The verb take may be synonymically interpreted as ‘grasp’, ’seize’, ‘catch’, ‘lay hold of, etc. but it is only take that is found in collocation with the nouns examination, measures, precautions, etc., only catch in catch smb. napping and grasp in grasp the truth.
There is a certain norm of lexical valency for each word and any departure from this norm is felt as a literary or rather a stylistic device. Such word-groups as for example a cigarette ago, shove a question and the like are illustrative of the point under discussion. It is because we recognise that shove and question are not normally collocable that the junction of them can be effective.
Words habitually collocated in speech tend to constitute a cliché. We observe, for example, that the verb put forward and the noun question are habitually collocated and whenever we hear the verb put forward or see it written on paper it is natural that we should anticipate the word question. So we may conclude that put forward a question constitutes a habitual word-group, a kind of cliché. This is also true of a number of other word-groups, e.g. to win (or gain) a victory, keen sight (or hearing).
The lexical valency of correlated words in different languages is not identical. Both the English word flower and its Russian counterpart — цветок, for example, may be combined with a number of other words all of which denote the place where the flowers are grown, e.g. garden flowers, hot-house flowers, etc. (cf. the Russian садовые цветы, оранжерейные цветы, etc.). The English word, however, cannot enter into combination with the word room to denote flowers growing in the rooms (cf. pot flowers — комнатные цветы).
One more point of importance should be discussed in connection with the problem of lexical valency — the interrelation of lexical valency and polysemy as found in word-groups.
Firstly, the restrictions of lexical valency of words may manifest themselves in the lexical meanings of the polysemantic members of word-groups. The adjectiveheavy, e.g., is combined with the words food, meals, supper, etc. in the meaning ‘rich and difficult to digest’. But not all the words with more or less the same component of meaning can be combined with this adjective. One cannot say, for instance, heavy cheese or heavy sausage implying that the cheese or the sausage is difficult to digest."
Secondly, it is observed that different meanings of a word may be described through the possible types of lexical contexts, i.e. through the lexical valency of the word, for example, the different meanings of the adjective heavy may be described through the word-groups heavy weight (book, table, etc.), heavy snow (storm, rain, etc.), heavy drinker (eater, etc.), heavy sleep (disappointment, sorrow, etc.), heavy industry (tanks, etc.), and so on.
From this point of view word-groups may be regarded as the characteristic minimal lexical sets that operate as distinguishing clues for each of the multiple meanings of the word.
Words are used also in grammatical contexts. The minimal grammatical context in which words are used when brought together to form word-groups is usually described as the pattern of the word-group. For instance, the adjective heavy discussed above can be followed by a noun (e.g. heavy storm or by the infinitive of a verb (e.g. heavy to lift), etc. The aptness of a word to appear in specific grammatical (or rather syntactic) structures is termed grammatical valency.
The grammatical valency of words may be different. To begin with, the range of grammatical valency is delimited by the part of speech the word belongs to. It follows that the grammatical valency of each individual word is dependent on the grammatical structure of the language. This is not to imply that grammatical valency of words belonging to the same part of speech is necessarily identical. This can be best illustrated by comparing the grammatical valency of any two words belonging to the same part of speech, e.g. of the two synonymous verbs suggest and propose. Both verbs can be followed by a noun (to propose or suggest a plan, a resolution). It is only propose, however, that can be followed by the infinitive of a verb (to propose to do smth.); The adjectives clever andintelligent are seen to possess different grammatical valency as clever can be used in word-groups having the pattern: Adjective-Preposition at+Noun (clever at mathematics), whereas intelligent can never be found in exactly the same word-group pattern.
Specific linguistic restrictions in the range of grammatical valency of individual words imposed on the lexical units by the inner structure of the language are also observed by comparing the grammatical valency of correlated words in different languages. The English verb influence, for example, can be followed only by a noun (to influence a person, a decision, choice, etc.). The grammatical valency of its Russian counterpart влиять is different. The Russian verb can be combined only with a prepositional group (cf. влиять на человека, на выбор, . . ., etc.).
No departure from the norm of grammatical valency is possible as this can make the word-group unintelligible to English speakers. Thus e.g. the word-groupmathematics at clever is likely to be felt as a meaningless string of words because the grammatical valency of English nouns does not allow of the structureNoun+at+Adjective. It should also be pointed out that the individual meanings of a polysemantic word may be described through its grammatical valency. Thus, different meanings of the adjective keen may be described in a general way through different structures of the word-groups keen+N, — keen sight(hearing, etc.), keen + on + N — keen on sports (on tennis, etc.), keen+V(inf.) — keen to know (to find out, etc.).
From this point of view word-groups may be regarded as minimal syntactic (or syntagmatic) structures that operate as distinguishing clues for different meanings of a polysemantic word.