Лексикология как наука. Предмет лексикологии и ее связь с другими разделами языкознания
Lexicology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the vocabulary of a language and properties of words. This term is composed of two morphemes form the Greek language: ‘lexis’ (word, phrase) and ‘logos’ (branch of knowledge, learning). Lexicology studies the vocabulary of a given language at a given stage in history. The task of lexicology is a study and systematic description of vocabulary, its origin, development, and current use. Lexicology is concerned with words, phraseological units, variable word groups, and morphemes which make up words.
The general study of words and vocabulary, irrespective of the specific features of any particular language, is known as general lexicology. Linguistic phenomena and properties common to all languages are generally referred to as language universals. Special lexicology devotes its attention to the description of the characteristic peculiarities in the vocabulary of a given language. It goes without saying that every special lexicology is based on the principles of general lexicology, and the latter forms a part of general linguistics.
A great deal has been written in recent years to provide a theoretical basis on which the vocabularies of different languages can be compared and described. This relatively new branch of study is called contrastive lexicology. The evolution of any vocabulary, as well as of its single elements,forms the object of historical lexicology or etymology. This branch of linguistics discusses the origin of various words, their change and development, and investigates the linguistic and extra-linguistic forces modifying their structure, meaning and usage. In the past historical treatment was always combined with the comparative method.
Descriptive lexicology deals with the vocabulary of a given language at a given stage of its development. It studies the functions of words and their specific structure as a characteristic inherent in the system. The descriptive lexicology of the English language deals with the English word in its morphological and semantical structures, investigating the interdependence between these two aspects.
Meaning relations as a whole are dealt with in semantics — the study of meaning which is relevant both for lexicology and grammar.
The distinction between the two basically different ways in which language may be viewed, the historical or diachronic (Gr dia ‘through’ and chronos ‘time’) and the descriptive or synchronic (Gr syn ‘together’, ‘with’), is a methodological distinction, a difference of approach, artificially separating for the purpose of study what in real language is inseparable, because actually every linguistic structure and system exists in a state of constant development. The distinction between a synchronic and a diachronic approach is due to the Swiss philologist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913).
Lexicology and other branches of science
§ Lexicology and sociolinguistics
The vocabulary of any language quickly reacts to any changes in social life and every new phenomenon is reflected in vocabulary. Every new object or notion created by the speech community gets a new name, that is why the vocabulary of any language is never rigid, stable, but always growing and changing. In this way,sociolinguistics is a branch of science which deals with correlations between the facts of social life and linguistic facts, the system of the language and its development. Lexicology also should take into account the stratification of society and find points of contact between the social life and the language. The development of science and technology, latest political reality have given rise to many new words and phraseological units. The influence of extralinguistic forces or the development of words may be traced in the content and form of many words and phraseological units. Besides, we see a lot of borrowings from other languages.
§ Lexicology and phonetics (phonology)
The points of contact between them are numerous. Words consist of sounds or phonemes which build up morphemes in their turn. Phonemes perform the distinctive function differentiating words (‘chum’ - ‘much’). A different sound sequence results in a different word. Besides, sometimes stress is used for differentiating words (parts of speech, n. ‘record’ - v. ‘record’). On the historical plane phonology helps us to differentiate between homonyms and polysemy or to explain the connection between such words as ‘history’ and ‘story’, ‘flower’ and ‘flour’, which historically were one word.
§ Lexicology and grammar
Every word belongs to some part of speech and it follows certain grammar rules. Alongside with lexical, words have grammatical meanings, and any word can perform a grammatical function or occur in certain grammatical patterns, if their lexical meaning enables them to do so. For example, words denoting substances have only one form and category of number. Objects consisting of two halves are always plural (‘scissors’). Sometimes a grammatical form becomes a basis for new word (he looks - his looks). This is called the process of lexicalisation of grammatical forms. Besides, the existence of two grammatical forms of the same word leads to their semantic differentiation: ‘brothers’ - ‘brethren’, ‘cows’ - ‘kine’. One and the same word may function as a notional word and a form word: ‘to go wrong’ - ‘to go to the cinema’.
§ Lexicology and stylistic
Lexicology is closely connected to it, and linguostylistic is defined as a branch of linguistics dealing with the investigation of the styles of speech and stylistic expressive means with relation to the contents expressed. Both lexicology and linguostylistic treat of differentiation of vocabulary to the sphere of communication, the type of transference of meaning, semantic structure of words and connotations which can be found in this structure.
Элементы семантической структуры слова. Полисемия в английском языке
The account of meaning given by Ferdinand de Saussure implies the definition of a word as a linguistic sign. He calls it ‘signifiant’ (signifier) and what it refers to — ‘signifie’ (that which is signified).
Originally this triangular scheme was suggested by the German mathematician and philosopher Gottlieb Frege (1848-1925). Well-known English scholars C.K. Ogden and I.A. Richards adopted this three-cornered pattern with considerable modifications. With them a sign is a two-facet unit comprising form regarded as a linguistic symbol, and reference which is more linguistic than just a concept. Several generations of writers, following C.K. Ogden and I.A. Richards, have in their turn taken up and modified this diagram. It is known under several names: the semantic triangle, triangle of signification, Frege semiotic triangle, Ogden and Richards basic triangle or simply basic triangle.
The scheme is still over-simplified and several things are left out. It is very important, for instance, to remember that the word is represented by the left-hand side of the diagram — it is a sign comprising the name and the meaning, and these invariably evoke one another.
Meaning and the sound complex
The sound form is not identical with the meaning and their connection is conventional. Different languages have different sound forms to convey the same meaning (“dog” - “собака” - “Hund” - “chien”). In different languages the same sound form possesses different meanings: “caught” - “кот”. Besides, homonyms exists in the language. The same sound form gives different meanings (e.g., “seal1” vs. “seal2”). Diachronically, change in the sound form does not cause a change in the meaning (e.g., O.E. “lufan” vs. M.E. “love”).
Meaning and the concept
Meaning is connected with concept, but it is not identical with it. Concept is a category of human cognition. Our concepts abstract and reflect the most common and typical features of different objects and phenomena of the world. Being the result of abstraction and generalization, concepts are almost the same for the whole humanity in one and the same period of its historical development. As for meanings, they are different in different languages. Thus, words expressing identical concepts may have different meanings and different semantical structure in different languages. E.g., some meanings of the Russian “идти” cannot be found in English (It rains; to go by bus). The difference between meaning and concept can be observed by comparing synonymous words and word-groups which are not identical in their meaning (cf.: “big” - “large” - “great”). The precise definition of a concept comes withing the sphere of logic. A word is a language unit while its concept is a unit of thinking.
Meaning and the referent
Meaning is a linguistic phenomenon while referent, or object, is an extra-linguistic one. Meaning is not identical with a referent because of the following considerations:
§ We can denote in speech the same object differently. These words have the same referent (apple - fruit - food).
§ If we take “water” and “H2O”, they are not identical.
§ Besides, words can have meaning but no actual referent, e.g. “phoenix”.
Meaning is closely connected but not identical with sound form, concept or referent.
When analysing the word-meaning we observe, however, that words as a rule are not units of a single meaning. Monosemantic words, i.e. words having only one meaning are comparatively few in number, these are mainly scientific terms, such as hydrogen, molecule and the like. The bulk of English words are polysemantic, that is to say possess more than one meaning. The actual number of meanings of the commonly used words ranges from five to about a hundred. In fact, the commoner the word the more meanings it has. In polysemantic words, however, we are faced not with the problem of analysis of individual meanings, but primarily with the problem of the interrelation and interdependence of the various meanings in the semantic structure of one and the same word.
If polysemy is viewed diachronically, it is understood as the growth and development of or, in general, as a change in the semantic structure of the word. Polysemy in diachronic terms implies that a word may retain its previous meaning or meanings and at the same time acquire one or several new ones. The terms secondary and derived meaning are to a certain extent synonymous. When we describe the meaning of the word as “secondary” we imply that it could not have appeared before the primary meaning was in existence. When we refer to the meaning as “derived” we imply not only that, but also that it is dependent on the primary meaning and somehow subordinate to it. It follows that the main source of polysemy is a change in the semantic structure of the word.
Polysemy may also arise from homonymy. When two words become identical in sound-form, the meanings of the two words are felt as making up one semantic structure. Thus, the human ear and the ear of corn are from the diachronic point of view two homonyms. Synchronically, however, they are perceived as two meanings of one and the same word. The ear of corn is felt to be a metaphor of the usual type.
Synchronically we understand polysemy as the coexistence of various meanings of the same word at a certain historical period of the development of the English language. In this case the problem of the interrelation and interdependence of individual meanings making up the semantic structure of the word must be investigated along different lines. Intuitively we feel that the meaning that first occurs to us whenever we hear or see the word table, is ‘an article of furniture’. This emerges as the basic or the central meaning of the word and all other meanings are minor in comparison. It should be noted that whereas the basic meaning occurs in various and widely different contexts, minor meanings are observed only in certain contexts. Thus we can assume that the meaning ‘a piece of furniture’ occupies the central place in the semantic structure of the word table. As to other meanings of this word we find it hard to grade them in order of their comparative value. As synchronically there is no objective criterion to go by, we may find it difficult in some cases to single out even the basic meanings since two or more meanings of the word may be felt as equally “central” in its semantic structure.
Of great importance is the stylistic stratification of meanings of a polysemantic word as individual meanings may differ in their stylistic reference. Stylistic (or regional) status of monosemantic words is easily perceived. For instance the word daddy can be referred to the colloquial stylistic layer, the word parent to the bookish. The word movie is recognisably American and barnie is Scottish. Polysemantic words as a rule cannot be given any such restrictive labels. To do it we must state the meaning in which they are used. There is nothing colloquial or slangy or American about the words yellow denoting colour, jerk in the meaning ‘a sudden movement or stopping of movement’ as far as these particular meanings are concerned. But when yellow is used in the meaning of ’sensational’ or when jerk is used in the meaning of ‘an odd person’ it is both slang and American. Stylistically neutral meanings are naturally more frequent.
From the discussion of the diachronic and synchronic approach to polysemy it follows that the interrelation and the interdependence of individual meanings of the word may be described from two different angles. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive but are viewed here as supplementing each other in the linguistic analysis of a polysemantic word. It should be noted, however, that as the semantic structure is never static, the relationship between the diachronic and synchronic evaluation of individual meanings may be different in different periods of the historical development of language. The words of different languages which are similar or identical in lexical meaning, especially in the denotational meaning are termed correlated words. The wording of the habitual question of English learners, e.g. “What is the English for стол?”, and the answer “The English for стол is ‘table'” also shows that we take the words table стол to be correlated.
Types of meaning
Word meaning is not homogeneous but is made up of various components. These components are described as types of meaning. The three main types are:
§ lexico-grammatical meaning.
The words “girls”, “winters”, “joys” have one common meaning - grammatical meaning of plurality. R.S. Ginsburg gives the following definition to grammatical meaning: Grammatical meaning is the recurrent identical sets of individual form of different words, such as in tense meaning (went, liked, will go), case meaning (a girl’s answer), aspect meaning (is going). Some linguists also distinguish part of speech meaning which presupposes that all member of a major class (nouns, adjectives and so on) share a distinguishing semantic component called part-of-speech meaning (e.g., nouns have the meaning of thingness:table, window). The grammatical aspect of part-of-speech meaning is conveyed by a set of forms (table - tables, table - table’s, etc.). E.g., a verb possesses sets of forms expressing tense meaning (work - worked), mood meaning (work - would work), aspect meaning (work - is working), person meaning (work - works).
Lexical meaning is a component which is identical in all forms of the word (e.g. go - goes - gone - going - went - would go). Though all these forms possess different grammatical meanings, in each of them we find the same semantic component denoting process of moving. This is the lexical component of the word. Lexical meaning is unchanged in all forms and distributions of the word. The interrelation between lexical and grammatical meaning varies in different parts of speech. In nouns, lexical meaning prevails and stands out very clearly, while it is vague in prepositions, conjunctions, or link-verbs. Both the lexical and the grammatical meanings are inseparable. They make up the word meaning and cannot exist without the other.
Lexico-grammatical meaning is the common denominator of all the meanings of words belonging to a lexico-grammatical class of words. It is the feature according to which they are grouped together. In fact, they are so-called generic terms. For material nouns, for example, the generic term will be “matter”; for collective nouns it will be “group”, for personal nouns - “person”, and so on.
Значение в сложных словах
It follows that the meaning of a compound is made up of the combined lexical meaning of the bases and the structural meaning of the pattern. The semantic centre of the compound is the lexical meaning of the second component modified and restricted by the meaning of the first. The semantic centres of compounds and the semantic relations embedded in the structural patterns refer compound words to certain lexico-semantic groups and semantic sets within them as, for example:
1. compound words denoting action described as to its agent, e.g. sunrise, earthquake, handshake,
2. compounds denoting action described as to its time or place, e.g. day-flight, street-fight,
3. compounds denoting individual objects designed for some goal, e.g. bird-cage, table-cloth, diving-suit,
4. compounds denoting objects that are parts of the whole, e.g. shirt-collar, eye-ball,
5. compounds denoting active doers, e.g. book-reader, shoe-maker, globe-trotter.
The lexical meanings of both components are closely fused together to create a new semantic unit with a new meaning which is not merely additive but dominates the individual meanings of the bases and is characterised by some additional semantic component not found in any of the bases. For example, a hand-bag is essentially ‘a bag, designed to be carried in the hand’, but it is also ‘a woman’s bag to keep money, papers, face-powder and the like’; a time-bombis ‘a bomb designed to explode at some time’, but also ‘after being dropped or placed in position’. The bulk of compound words are monosemantic and motivated but motivation in compounds like in all derivatives varies in degree. There are compounds that are completely motivated like sky-blue, foot-pump, tea-taster. Motivation in compound words may be partial, but again the degree will vary. Compound words a hand-bag, a flower-bed, handcuffs, a castle-builderare all only partially motivated, but still the degree of transparency of their meanings is different: in a hand-bag it is the highest as it is essentially ‘a bag’, whereas handcuffs retain only a resemblance to cuffs and in fact are ‘metal rings placed round the wrists of a prisoner’; a flower-bed is neither ‘a piece of furniture’ nor ‘a base on which smth rests’ but a ‘garden plot where flowers grow’; a castle-builder is not a ‘builder’ as the second component suggests but ‘a day-dreamer, one who builds castles in the air’.
There are compounds that lack motivation altogether, i.e. the native speaker doesn't see any obvious connection between the word-meaning, the lexical meanings of the bases and the meaning of the pattern, consequently, he cannot deduce the lexical meaning, of the word, for example, words like eye-wash — ’something said or done to deceive a person’, fiddlesticks — ‘nonsense, rubbish’, an eye-servant — ‘a servant who attends to his duty only when watched’, a night-cap — ‘a drink taken before going to bed at night’ all lack motivation. Lack of motivation in compound words may be often due to the transferred meanings of bases or of the whole word as in a slow-coach — ‘a person who acts slowly’ (colloq.), a sweet-tooth — ‘one who likes sweet food and drink’ (colloq.). Such words often acquire a new connotational meaning (usually non-neutral) not proper to either of their components. Lack of motivation may be often due to unexpected semantic relations embedded in the compound.
Sometimes the motivated and the non-motivated meanings of the same word are so far apart that they are felt as two homonymous words, e.g. a night-cap: 1) ‘a cap worn in bed at night’ and 2) ‘a drink taken before going to bed at night’ (colloq.); eye-wash: 1) ‘a liquid for washing the eyes’ and 2) ’something said or done to deceive somebody’ (colloq.); an eye-opener: 1) ‘enlightening or surprising circumstance’ (colloq.) and 2) ‘a drink of liquor taken early in the day’ (U.S.)
A source of synonymy also well worthy of note is the so-called euphemism in which by a shift of meaning a word of more or less ‘pleasant or at least inoffensive connotation becomes synonymous to one that is harsh, obscene, indelicate or otherwise unpleasant. The euphemistic expression merry fully coincides in denotation with the word drunk it substitutes, but the connotations of the latter fade out and so the utterance on the whole is milder, less offensive. The effect is achieved, because the periphrastic expression is not so harsh, sometimes jocular and usually motivated according to some secondary feature of the notion: naked : : in one’s birthday suit, pregnant : : in the family way. Very often a learned word which sounds less familiar is therefore less offensive, as in drunkenness : : intoxication; sweat : : perspiration.
Euphemisms can also be treated within the synchronic approach, because both expressions, the euphemistic and the direct one, co-exist in the language and form a synonymic opposition. Not only English but other modern languages as well have a definite set of notions attracting euphemistic circumlocutions. These are notions of death, madness, stupidity, drunkenness, certain physiological processes, crimes and so on. For example: die : : be no more : : be gone : : lose one’s life : : breathe one’s last : : join the silent majority : : go the way of alt flesh : : pass away : : be gathered to one’s fathers.
A prominent source of synonymic attraction is still furnished by interjections and swearing addressed to God. To make use of God’s name is considered sinful by the Church and yet the word, being expressive, formed the basis of many interjections. Later the word God was substituted by the phonetically similar wordgoodness: For goodness sake / Goodness gracious / Goodness knows! Cf. By Jovel Good Lord! By Gum! As in:
His father made a fearful row.
He said: “By Gum, you’ve done it now.” (Belloc)
A certain similarity can be observed in the many names for the devil (deuce, Old Nick). The point may be illustrated by an example from Burns’s “Address to the Devil":
О thou! Whatever title suit thee,
Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie ...
Euphemisms always tend to be a source of new synonymic formations, because after a short period of use the new term becomes so closely connected with the notion that it turns into a word as obnoxious as the earlier synonym.
Classification of Homonyms
§ Homonyms proper are words identical in pronunciation and spelling, like fast and liver above. Other examples are: back n ‘part of the body’ : : back adv ‘away from the front’ : : back v ‘go back’; ball n ‘a round object used in games’ : : ball n ‘a gathering of people for dancing’. The important point is that homonyms are distinct words: not different meanings within one word.
§ Homophones are words of the same sound but of different spelling and meaning: air : : heir; arms : : alms; buy : : by; him : : hymn; knight : : night; not: : knot; or: : oar; piece : : peace; rain: : reign; scent: : cent; steel : : steal; storey : : story; write : : right and many others. The difference may be confined to the use of a capital letter as in bill and Bill, in the following example: “How much is my milk bill? “Excuse me, Madam, but my name is John. On the other hand, whole sentences may be homophonic: The sons raise meat : : The sun’s rays meet. To understand these one needs a wider context. If you hear the second in the course of a lecture in optics, you will understand it without thinking of the possibility of the first.
§ Homographs аrе words different in sound and in meaning but accidentally identical in spelling: bow [bou] : : bow [bau]; lead [li:d] : : lead [led]; row [rou] : :row [rau]; sewer [’souэ] : : sewer [sjuэ]; tear [tiэ] : : tear [tea]; wind [wind] : : wind [waind] and many more. It has been often argued that homographs constitute a phenomenon that should be kept apart from homonymy as the object of linguistics is sound language.
Various types of classification for homonyms proper have been suggested. A comprehensive system may be worked out if we are guided by the theory of oppositions and in classifying the homonyms take into consideration the difference or sameness in their lexical and grammatical meaning, paradigm and basic form. For the sake of completeness we shall consider this problem in terms of the same mapping technique used for the elements of vocabulary system connected with the word sound.
Sources of synonymy
The distinction between synchronic and diachronic treatment is so fundamental that it cannot be overemphasised, but the two aspects are interdependent. It is therefore essential after the descriptive analysis of synonymy in present-day English to take up the historical line of approach and discuss the origin of synonyms and the causes of their 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 are native and the second, French and Scandinavian respectively. O. Jespersen 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.
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.
The important thing to remember is that it is not only borrowings from foreign languages but 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 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, by 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 postpositives and compound nouns formed from them, shortenings, set expressions and conversion.
Synonymy is often understood as semantic equivalence. Semantic equivalence however can exist between words and word-groups, word-groups and sentences, sentences and sentences. For example, John is taller than Bill is semantically equivalent to Bill is shorter than John. John sold the book to Bill and Bill bought the book from John may be considered semantically equivalent. As can be seen from the above these sentences are paraphrases and denote the same event. Semantic equivalence may be observed on the level of word-groups, Thus we may say that to win a victory is synonymous with to gain a victory, etc. Here we proceed from the assumption that the terms synonymy and synonyms should be confined to semantic relation between words only. Similar relations between word-groups and sentences are described as semantic equivalence. Synonyms may be found in different parts of speech and both among notional and function words. For example, though and albeit, on and upon, since and as are synonymous because these phonemically different words are similar in their denotational meaning.
Synonyms are traditionally described as words different in sound-form but identical or similar in meaning. This definition has been severely criticised on many points.
1. Firstly, it seems impossible to speak of identical or similar meaning of words as such as this part of the definition cannot be applied to polysemantic words. It is inconceivable that polysemantic words could be synonymous in all their meanings. The verb look, e.g., is usually treated as a synonym of see, watch, observe, etc., but in another of its meanings it is not synonymous with this group of words but rather with the verbs seem, appear (cf. to look at smb and to look pale).
2. Secondly, it seems impossible to speak of identity or similarity of lexical meaning as a whоle as it is only the denotational component that may be described as identical or similar. If we analyse words that are usually considered synonymous, e.g. to die, to pass away; to begin, to commence, etc., we find that the connotational component or, to be more exact, the stylistic reference of these words is entirely different and it is only the similarity of the denotational meaning that makes them synonymous.
3. Thirdly, it does not seem possible to speak of identity of meaning as a criterion of synonymity since identity of meaning is very rare even among monosemantic words. In fact, cases of complete synonymy are very few and are, as a rule, confined to technical nomenclatures where we can find monosemantic terms completely identical in meaning as, for example, spirant and fricative in phonetics.
Thus it seems necessary to modify the traditional definition and to formulate it as follows: synonyms are words different in sound-form but similar in their denotational meaning or meanings. Synonymous relationship is observed only between similar denotational meanings of phonemically different words. Thus a more acceptable definition of synonyms seems to be the following: synonyms are words different in their sound-form, but similar in their denotational meaning or meanings and interchangeable at least in some contexts.
The origin of homonyms
The intense development of homonymy in the English language is obviously due not to one single factor but to several interrelated causes, such as the monosyllabic character of English and its analytic structure.
The abundance of homonyms is also closely connected with such a characteristic feature of the English language as the phonetic identity of word and stem or, in other words, the predominance of free forms among the most frequent roots. It is quite obvious that if the frequency of words stands in some inverse relationship to their length, the monosyllabic words will be the most frequent. Moreover, as the most frequent words are also highly polysemantic, it is only natural that they develop meanings which in the course of time may deviate very far from the central one. When the intermediate links fall out, some of these new meanings lose all connections with the rest of the structure and start a separate existence. The phenomenon is known as disintegration or split of polysemy.
Different causes by which homonymy may be brought about are subdivided into two main groups:
§ homonymy through convergent sound development, when two or three words of different origin accidentally coincide in sound; and
§ homonymy developed from polysemy through divergent sense development. Both may be combined with loss of endings and other morphological processes.
The opposite process of morphemic addition can also result in homonymy. This process is chiefly due to independent word-formation with the same affix or to the homonymy of derivational and functional affixes. The suffix -er forms several words with the same stem: trail — trailer1 ‘a creeping plant’ : : trailer2 ‘a caravan’, i.e. ‘a vehicle drawn along by another vehicle’.
In summing up this diachronic analysis of homonymy it should be emphasised that there are two ways by which homonyms come into being, namely convergent development of sound form and divergent development of meaning.
Проблема мотивации слов
The term motivation is used to denote the relationship existing between the phonemic or morphemic composition and structural pattern of the word on the one hand, and its meaning on the other. There are three main types of motivation:
§ phonetical motivation,
§ morphological motivation,
§ semantic motivation.
When there is a certain similarity between the sounds that make up the word and those referred to by the sense, the motivation is phonetical. Examples are:bang, buzz, cuckoo, giggle, gurgle, hiss, purr, whistle, etc. Here the sounds of a word are imitative of sounds in nature because what is referred to is a sound or at least, produces a characteristic sound (cuckoo). Although there exists a certain arbitrary element in the resulting phonemic shape of the word, one can see that this type of motivation is determined by the phonological system of each language as shown by the difference of echo-words for the same concept in different languages. Within the English vocabulary there are different words, all sound imitative, meaning ‘quick, foolish, indistinct talk’: babble, chatter, gabble, prattle. In this last group echoic creations combine phonological and morphological motivation because they contain verbal suffixes -le and -er forming frequentative verbs. We see therefore that one word may combine different types of motivation. Words denoting noises produced by animals are mostly sound imitative. In English they are motivated only phonetically so that nouns and verbs are exactly the same.
The morphological motivation may be quite regular. Thus, the prefix ex- means ‘former’ when added to human nouns: ex-filmstar, ex-president, ex-wife. Alongside with these cases there is a more general use of ex-: in borrowed words it is unstressed and motivation is faded (expect, export, etc.). Re- is one of the most common prefixes of the English language, it means ‘again’ and ‘back’ and is added to verbal stems or abstract deverbal noun stems, as in rebuild, reclaim, resell, resettlement. Here again these newer formations should be compared with older borrowings from Latin and French where re- is now unstressed, and the motivation faded. From the examples given above it is clear that motivation is the way in which a given meaning is represented in the word. It reflects the type of nomination process chosen by the creator of the new word. Some scholars of the past used to call the phenomenon the inner word form.
In deciding whether a word of long standing in the language is morphologically motivated according to present-day patterns or not, one should be very careful. Similarity in sound form does not always correspond to similarity in morphological pattern. Agential suffix -er is affixable to any verb, so that V+-er means ‘one who V-s’ or ‘something that V-s’: writer, receiver, bomber, rocker, knocker. Yet, although the verb numb exists in English, number is not ‘one who numbs’ but is derived from OFr nombre borrowed into English and completely assimilated.
Many writers nowadays instead of the term morphological motivation, or parallel to it, introduce the term word-building meaning. In what follows the term will be avoided because actually it is not meaning that is dealt with in this concept, but the form of presentation.
The third type of motivation is called semantic motivation. It is based on the co-existence of direct and figurative meanings of the same word within the same synchronous system. Mouth continues to denote a part of the human face, and at the same time it can metaphorically apply to any opening or outlet: the mouth of a river, of a cave, of a furnace. Ermine is not only the name of a small animal, but also of its fur, and the office and rank of an English judge because in England ermine was worn by judges in court. In their direct meaning neither mouth nor ermine is motivated. As to compounds, their motivation is morphological if the meaning of the whole is based on the direct meaning of the components, and semantic if the combination of components is used figuratively. Thus,eyewash ‘a lotion for the eyes’ or headache ‘pain in the head’, or watchdog ‘a dog kept for watching property’ are all morphologically motivated. If, on the other hand, they are used metaphorically as ‘something said or done to deceive a person so that he thinks that what he sees is good, though in fact it is not’, ‘anything or anyone very annoying’ and ‘a watchful human guardian’, respectively, then the motivation is semantic.
An interesting example of complex morpho-semantic motivation passing through several stages in its history is the word teenager ‘a person in his or her teens’. The motivation may be historically traced as follows: the inflected form of the numeral ten produced the suffix -teen. The suffix later produces a stem with a metonymical meaning (semantic motivation), receives the plural ending -s, and then produces a new noun teens ‘the years of a person’s life of which the numbers end in -teen, namely from 13 to 19’. In combination with age or aged the adjectives teen-age and teen-aged are coined, as in teen-age boy, teen-age fashions. A morphologically motivated noun teenager is then formed with the help of the suffix -er which is often added to compounds or noun phrases producing personal names according to the pattern *one connected with...’.
The pattern is frequent enough. One must keep in mind, however, that not all words with a similar morphemic composition will have the same derivational history and denote human beings. E. g. first-nighter and honeymooner are personal nouns, but two-seater is ‘a car or an aeroplane seating two persons’, back-hander is ‘a back-hand stroke in tennis’ and three-decker ‘a sandwich made of three pieces of bread with two layers of filling’. When the connection between the meaning of the word and its form is conventional that is there is no perceptible reason for the word having this particular phonemic and morphemic composition, the word is said to be non-motivated for the present stage of language development.
Every vocabulary is in a state of constant development. Words that seem non-motivated at present may have lost their motivation. The verb earn does not suggest at present any necessary connection with agriculture. The connection of form and meaning seems purely conventional. Historical analysis shows, however, that it is derived from OE (ze-)earnian ‘to harvest’. In Modern English this connection no longer exists and earn is now a non-motivated word. When some people recognise the motivation, whereas others do not, motivation is said to be faded. Sometimes in an attempt to find motivation for a borrowed word the speakers change its form so as to give it a connection with some well-known word. These cases of mistaken motivation received the name of folk etymology. The phenomenon is not very frequent. Two examples will suffice: A nightmare is not ‘a she-horse that appears at night’ but ‘a terrifying dream personified in folklore as a female monster’.
Some linguists consider one more type of motivation closely akin to the imitative forms, namely sound symbolism. Some words are supposed to illustrate the meaning more immediately than do ordinary words. As the same combinations of sounds are used in many semantically similar words, they become more closely associated with the meaning. Examples are: flap, flip, flop, flitter, flimmer, flicker, flutter, flash, flush, flare; glare, glitter, glow, gloat, glimmer; sleet, slime, slush, where fl- is associated with quick movement, gl- with light and fire, sl- with mud. This sound symbolism phenomenon is not studied enough so far, so that it is difficult to say to what extent it is valid. There are, for example, many English words, containing the initial fl- but not associated with quick or any other movement: flat, floor, flour, flower. There is also nothing muddy in the referents of sleep or slender.
Types of semantic change
The development and change of the semantic structure of a word is always a source of qualitative and quantitative development of the vocabulary. M. Bréal was probably the first to emphasise the fact that in passing from general usage into some special sphere of communication a word as a rule undergoes some sort of specialisation of its meaning. The word case, for instance, alongside its general meaning of ‘circumstances in which a person or a thing is’ possesses special meanings: in law (a law suit), in grammar (e. g. the Possessive case), in medicine (‘a patient’, ‘an illness’). Compare the following: One of Charles’s cases had been a child ill with a form of diphtheria (Snow). (case = ‘a patient’) The Solicitor whom I met at the Rolfords’ sent me a case which any young man at my stage would have thought himself lucky to get (Idem), (case = ‘a question decided in a court of law, a law suit’) The general, not specialised meaning is also very frequent in present-day English. E. g.: At last we tiptoed up the broad slippery staircase, and went to our rooms. But in my case not to sleep, immediately at least...(Idem). (case = ‘circumstances in which one is’) This difference is revealed in the difference of contexts in which these words occur, in their different valency. Words connected with illnesses and medicine in the first example, and words connected with law and court procedures in the second determine the semantic structure or paradigm of the word case.
The word play suggests different notions to a child, a playwright, a footballer, a musician or a chess-player and has in their speech different semantic paradigms. The same applies to the noun cell as used by a biologist, an electrician, a nun or a representative of the law; or the word gas as understood by a chemist, a soldier, a housewife, a motorist or a miner.
In all the examples considered above a word which formerly represented a notion of a broader scope has come to render a notion of a narrower scope. When the meaning is specialised, the word can name fewer objects, i.e. have fewer referents. At the same time the content of the notion is being enriched, as it includes a greater number of relevant features by which the notion is characterised. Or, in other words, the word is now applicable to fewer things but tells us more about them. The reduction of scope accounts for the term “narrowing of the meaning” which is even more often used than the term “specialisation”. We shall avoid the term “narrowing", since it is somewhat misleading. Actually it is neither the meaning nor the notion, but the scope of the notion that is narrowed.
There is also a third and more exact term for the same phenomenon, namely “differentiation", but it is not so widely used as the first two terms.
H. Paul, as well as many other authors, emphasises the fact that this type of semantic change is particularly frequent in vocabulary of professional and trade groups. H. Paul’s examples are from the German language but it is very easy to find parallel cases in English. This type of change is fairly universal and fails to disclose any specifically English properties.
The best known examples of specialisation in the general language are as follows: OE deor ‘wild beast'>ModE deer ‘wild ruminant of a particular species’ (the original meaning was still alive in Shakespeare’s time as is proved by the following quotation: Rats and mice and such small deer); OE mete ‘food'>ModE meet‘edible flesh’, i. e. only a particular species of food (the earlier meaning is still noticeable in the compound sweetmeat). This last example deserves special attention because the tendency of fixed context to preserve the original meaning is very marked as is constantly proved by various examples. Other well-worn cases are: OE fuzol ‘bird’ (||Germ Vogel) >ModE fowl ‘domestic birds’. The old meaning is still preserved in poetic diction and in set expressions like fowls of the air. Among its derivatives, fowler means ‘a person who shoots or traps wild birds for sport or food’; the shooting or trapping itself is called fowling; a fowling piece is a gun. OE hand ‘dog’ (||Germ Hund) > ModE hound ‘a species of hunting dog’. Many words connected with literacy also show similar changes: thus,teach < OE tæcan ‘to show’, ‘to teach’;write < OE writan ‘to write’, ‘to scratch’, ‘to score’ (|| Germ reißen); writing in Europe had first the form of scratching on the bark of the trees. Tracing these semantic changes the scholars can, as it were, witness the development of culture. an increase) and arrangement of word-meanings without a single meaning disappearing from its semantic structure.
Words may be classified according to the concepts underlying their meaning. This classification is closely connected with the theory of conceptual or semantic fields. By the term “semantic fields” we understand closely knit sectors of vocabulary each characterised by a common concept. For example, the words blue, red, yellow, black, etc. may be described as making up the semantic field of colours, the words mother, father, brother, cousin, etc. — as members of the semantic field of kinship terms, the words joy, happiness, gaiety, enjoyment, etc. as belonging to the field of pleasurable emotions, and so on.
The members of the semantic fields are not synonyms but all of them are joined together by some common semantic component — the concept of colours or the concept of kinship, etc. This semantic component common to all the members of the field is sometimes described as the common denominator of meaning. All members of the field are semantically interdependent as each member helps to delimit and determine the meaning of its neighbours and is semantically delimited and determined by them. It follows that the word-meaning is to a great extent determined by the place it occupies in its semantic field.
Thus the semantic field may be viewed as a set of lexical items in which the meaning of each is determined by the co-presence of the others.
It is argued that we cannot possibly know the exact meaning of the word if we do not know the structure of the semantic field to which the word belongs, the number of the members and the concepts covered by them, etc. The meaning of the word captain, e.g., cannot be properly understood until we know the semantic field in which this term operates — the army, the navy, or the merchant service. It follows that the meaning of the word captain is determined by the place it occupies among the terms of the relevant rank system. In other words we know what captain means only if we know whether his subordinate is calledmate or first officer (merchant service), commander (‘navy’) or lieutenant (‘army’).
Semantic dependence of the word on the structure of the field may be also illustrated by comparing members of analogous conceptual fields in different languages. Comparing, for example, kinship terms in Russian and in English we observe that the meaning of the English term mother-in-law is different from either the Russian тёща or свекровь as the English term covers the whole area which in Russian is divided between the two words. The same is true of the members of the semantic field of colours (cf. blue — синий, голубой), of human body (cf. hand, arm — рука) and others.
The theory of semantic field is severely criticised by Soviet linguists mainly on philosophical grounds since some of the proponents of the semantic-field theory hold the idealistic view that language is a kind of self-contained entity standing between man and the world of reality (Zwischenwelt). The followers of this theory argue that semantic fields reveal the fact that human experience is analysed and elaborated in a unique way, differing from one language to another. Broadly speaking they assert that people speaking different languages actually have different concepts, as it is through language that we ‘"see” the real world around us. In short, they deny the primacy of matter forgetting that our concepts are formed not only through linguistic experience, but primarily through our actual contact with the real world. We know what hot means not only because we know the word hot, but also because we burn our fingers when we touch something very hot. A detailed critical analysis of the theory of semantic fields is the subject-matter of general linguistics. Here we are concerned with this theory only as a means of semantic classification of vocabulary items. Another point should be discussed in this connection. Lexical groups described above may be very extensive and may cover big conceptual areas, e g. space, matter, intellect, etc.
Words making up such semantic fields may belong to different parts of speech. For example, in the semantic field of space we find nouns: expanse, extent, surface, etc.; verbs: extend, spread, span, etc.; adjectives: spacious, roomy, vast, broad, etc.
There may be comparatively small lexical groups of words belonging to the same part of speech and linked by a common concept. The words bread, cheese, milk, meat, etc. make up a group with the concept of food as the common denominator of meaning. Such smaller lexical groups consisting of words of the same part of speech are usually termed lexico-semantic groups. It is observed that the criterion for joining words together into semantic fields and lexico-semantic groups is the identity of one of the components of their meaning found in all the lexical units making up these lexical groups. Any of the semantic components may be chosen to represent the group. For example, the word saleswoman may be analysed into the semantic components ‘human’, ‘female’, ‘professional’. Consequently the word saleswoman may be included into a lexico-semantic group under the heading of human together with the words man, woman, boy, girl, etc. and under the heading female with the words girl, wife, woman and also together with the words teacher, pilot, butcher, etc., as professionals.
It should also be pointed out that different meanings of polysemantic words make it possible to refer the same word to different lexico-semantic groups. Thus, e.g. make in the meaning of ‘construct’ is naturally a member of the same lexico-semantic group as the verbs produce, manufacture, etc , whereas in the meaning of compel it is regarded as a member of a different lexico-semantic group made up by the verbs force, induce, etc.
Lexico-semantic groups seem to play a very important role in determining individual meanings of polysemantic words in lexical contexts. Analysing lexical contexts we saw that the verb take, e.g,, in combination with any member of the lexical group denoting means of transportation is synonymous with the verbgo (take the tram, the bus, etc.). When combined with members of another lexical group the same verb is synonymous with to drink (to take tea, coffee, etc.). Such word-groups are often used not only in scientific lexicological analysis, but also in practical class-room teaching. In a number of textbooks we find words with some common denominator of meaning listed under the headings Flowers, Fruit, Domestic Animals, and so on.
Polisemy and homonymy
As is known, language is never stable: sounds, constructions, grammatical elements, word-forms and word-meanings are all exposed to alteration. Derivational affixes are no exception in this respect, they also undergo semantic change. Consequently many commonly used derivational affixes are polysemantic in Modern English. The following two may well serve as illustrations. The noun-suffix -er is used to coin words denoting
1. persons following some special trade or profession, e.g. baker, driver, hunter, etc.;
2. persons doing a certain action at the moment in question, e.g. packer, chooser, giver, etc.;
3. a device, tool, implement, e.g. blotter, atomiser, boiler, eraser, transmitter, trailer, etc.
The adjective-suffix -y also has several meanings, such as
1. composed of, full of, e.g. bony, stony;
2. characterised by, e.g. rainy, cloudy;
3. having the character of, resembling what the base denotes, e.g. inky, bushy.
The various changes that the English language has undergone in the course of time have led to chance coincidence in form of two or more derivational affixes. As a consequence, and this is characteristic of Modern English, many homonymic derivational affixes can be found among those forming both different parts of speech and different semantic groupings within the same part of speech. For instance, the adverb-suffix -ly added to adjectival bases is homonymous to the adjective-suffix -ly affixed to noun-bases, cf. quickly, slowly and lovely, friendly; the verb-suffix -en attached to noun- and adjectival bases is homonymous to the adjective-suffix -en tacked on to noun-bases, cf. to strengthen, to soften and wooden, golden; the verb-prefix -un1 added to noun- and verb-bases is homonymous to the adjective-prefix -un2 affixed to adjectival bases, cf. to unbind, to unshoe and unfair, untrue, etc.
On the other hand, there are two homonymous adjective-suffixes -ish1 and -ish2 occurring in words like bluish, greenish, and girlish, boyish. In some books on English Lexicology the suffix -ish in these two groups of words is regarded as one suffix having two different meanings. If We probe deeper into the matter, however, we shall inevitably arrive at the conclusion that we are dealing with two different homonymous suffixes: one in bluish, the other in girlish. The reasons are as follows: the suffix -ish, in bluish, reddish, etc. only modifies the lexical meaning of the adjective-base it is affixed to without changing the part of speech. The suffix -ish2 in bookish, girlish, womanish, etc. is added to a noun-base to form an adjective. Besides, the suffixes -ish1 and -ish2 differ considerably in the denotational meaning so that no semantic connection may be traced between them: the suffix -ish1 means 'somewhat like' corresponding to the Russian suffix -оват- in such adjectives as голубоватый, красноватый, etc.; the suffix -ish2 means 'of the nature of, resembling', often derogatory in force, e. g. childish — ребяческий, несерьезный (cf. childlike — детский, простой, невинный; hoggish — свинский, жадный, etc.)
In the course of its long history the English language has adopted a great many words from foreign languages all over the world. One of the consequences of extensive borrowing was the appearance of numerous derivational affixes in the English language. Under certain circumstances some of them came to overlap semantically to a certain extent both with one another and with the native affixes. For instance, the suffix -er of native origin denoting the agent is synonymous to the suffix -ist of Greek origin which came into the English language through Latin in the 16th century. Both suffixes occur in nouns denoting the agent, e.g. teacher, driller; journalist, botanist, economist, etc. Being synonymous these suffixes naturally differ from each other in some respects. Unlike the suffix -er, the suffix -ist is:
1. mostly combined with noun-bases, e.g. violinist, receptionist, etc.;
2. as a rule, added to bases of non-Germanic origin and very seldom to bases of Germanic origin, e.g. walkist, rightist;
3. used to form nouns denoting those who adhere to a doctrine or system, a political party, an ideology or the like, e.g. communist, Leninist, Marxist, chartist, Darwinist, etc. Words in -ist denoting 'the upholder of a principle' are usually matched by an abstract noun in -ism denoting 'the respective theory' (e.g. Communism, Socialism, etc.).
Sometimes synonymous suffixes differ in emotive charge. For instance, the suffix -eer also denoting the agent is characterised, in particular, by its derogative force, e.g. sonneteer — стихоплет, profiteer — спекулянт, etc.
There is also a considerable number of synonymous prefixes in the English language. Recent research has revealed certain rules concerning correlation between words with synonymous prefixes of native and foreign origin. It appears, for instance, that in prefixal-suffixal derivatives the general tendency is to use a prefix of Romanic origin if the suffix is also of Romanic origin and a native prefix in the case of a native suffix, cf. unrecognised — irrecognisable; unlimited — illimitable; unformed — informal; undecided — indecisive, etc. Though adequately reflecting the general tendency observed in similar cases this rule has many exceptions. The basic exception is the suffix -able which may often occur together with the native prefix un-, e.g. unbearable, unfavourable, unreasonable, etc. In fact, the pattern un- +(v + -able) —> A is wide-spread and productive in Modern English.
While examining the stock of derivational affixes in Modern English from the point of view of their origin distinction should first of all be made between:
§ native affixes (the suffixes -ness, -ish, -dom and the prefixes be-, mis-, un- are of native origin)
§ foreign affixes (suffixes as -ation, -ment, -able and prefixes like dis-, ex-, re- are of foreign origin)