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Forum » Test category » English language forum » English Lexicology (Г.Б. Антрушина, О.В, Афанасьева, Н.Н. Морозова)
English Lexicology
BakhtiyorDate: Sunday, 2012-06-03, 8:20 AM | Message # 46
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purely acoustic phenomena. Some scholars suggest that words may imitate through their sound form certain unacoustic features and qualities of inanimate objects, actions and processes or that the meaning of the word can be regarded as the immediate relation of the sound group to the object. If a young chicken or kitten is described as fluffy there seems to be something in the sound of the adjective that conveys the softness and the downy quality of its plumage or its fur. Such verbs as to glance, to glide, to slide, to slip are supposed to convey by their very sound the nature of the smooth, easy movement over a slippery surface. The sound form of the words shimmer, glimmer, glitter seems to reproduce the wavering, tremulous nature of the faint light. The sound of the verbs to rush, to dash, to flash may be said to reflect the brevity, swiftness and energetic nature of their corresponding actions. The word thrill has something in the quality of its sound that very aptly conveys the tremulous, tingling sensation it expresses.
Some scholars have given serious consideration to this theory. However, it has not yet been properly developed.
Reduplication
In reduplication new words are made by doubling a stem, either without any phonetic changes as in bye-bye (coll, for good-bye) or with a variation of the root-vowel or consonant as in ping-pong, chit-chat (this second type is called gradational reduplication).
This type of word-building is greatly facilitated in Modern English by the vast number of monosyllables. Stylistically speaking, most words made by reduplication represent informal groups: colloquial-isms and slang. E. g. walkie-talkie ("a portable radio"), riff-raff ("the worthless or disreputable element of society"; "the dregs of society"), chi-chi (sl. for chic as in a chi-chi girl).
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In a modern novel an angry father accuses his teenager son of doing nothing but dilly-dallying all over the town.
(dilly-dallying — wasting time, doing nothing, loitering)
Another example of a word made by reduplication may be found in the following quotation from The Importance of Being Earnest by O. Wilde:
Lady Bracknell. I think it is high time that Mr. Bun-bury made up his mind whether he was going to live or to die. This shilly-shallying with the question is absurd.
(shilly-shallying — irresolution, indecision)
Back-Formation (Reversion)
The earliest examples of this type of word-building are the verb to beg that was made from the French borrowing beggar, to burgle from burglar, to cobble from cobbler. In all these cases the verb was made from the noun by subtracting what was mistakenly associated with the English suffix -er. The pattern of the type to work — worker was firmly established in the subconscious of English-speaking people at the time when these formations appeared, and it was taken for granted that any noun denoting profession or occupation is certain to have a corresponding verb of the same root. So, in the case of the verbs to beg, to burgle, to cobble the process was reversed: instead of a noun made from a verb by affixation (as in painter from to paint), a verb was produced from a noun by subtraction. That is why this type of word-building received the name of back-formation or reversion.
Later examples of back-formation are to butle from butler, to baby-sit from baby-sitter, to force-land from forced landing, to blood-transfuse from blood-transfuing sorry
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BakhtiyorDate: Sunday, 2012-06-03, 8:20 AM | Message # 47
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for everybody who isn't a girl and who can't come here, I am sure the college you attended when you were a boy couldn't have been so nice.
My room is up in a tower. There are three other girls on the same floor of the tower — a Senior who wears spectacles and is always asking us please to be a little more quiet, and two Freshmen named Sallie McBride and Julia Rutledge Pendleton. Sallie has red hair and a turn-up nose and is quite friendly; Julia comes from one of the first families in New York and hasn't noticed me yet. They room together and the Senior and I have singles.
Usually Freshmen can't get singles; they are very few, but I got one without even asking. I suppose the register didn't think it would be right to ask a properly brought up girl to room with a foundling. You see there are advantages.
(From Daddy-Long-Legs by J. Webster)
 
BakhtiyorDate: Sunday, 2012-06-03, 8:21 AM | Message # 48
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CHAPTER 7
What Is "Meaning"?
Language is the amber in which a thou-sand precious and subtle thoughts have been safely embedded and preserved.
(From Word and Phrase by J. Fitzgerald)
The question posed by the title of this chapter is one of those questions which are easier to ask than answer. The linguistic science at present is not able to put forward a definition of meaning which is conclusive.
However, there are certain facts of which we can be reasonably sure, and one of them is that the very function of the word as a unit of communication is made possible by its possessing a meaning. Therefore, among the word's various characteristics, meaning is certainly the most important.
Generally speaking, meaning can be more or less described as a component of the word through which a concept is communicated, in this way endowing the word with the ability of denoting real objects, qualities, actions and abstract notions. The complex and somewhat mysterious relationships between referent (object, etc. denoted by the word), concept and word are traditionally represented by the following triangle [35]:
Thought or Reference

Symbol Referent

5. «Лексикология» 129


By the "symbol" here is meant the word; thought or reference is concept. The dotted line suggests that there is no immediate relation between word and referent: it is established only through the concept.
On the other hand, there is a hypothesis that concepts can only find their realisation through words. It seems that thought is dormant till the word wakens it up. It is only when we hear a spoken word or read a printed word that the corresponding concept springs into mind.
The mechanism by which concepts (i. e. mental phenomena) are converted into words (i. e. linguistic phenomena) and the reverse pro-cess by which a heard or a printed word is converted into a kind of mental picture are not yet understood or described. Probably that is the reason why the process of communication through words, if one gives it some thought, seems nothing short of a miracle. Isn't it fantastic that the mere vibrations of a speaker's vocal chords should be taken up by a listener's brain and converted into vivid pictures? If magic does exist in the world, then it is truly the magic of human speech; only we are so used to this miracle that we do not realise its almost supernatural qualities.
The branch of linguistics which specialises in the study of mean-ing is called semantics. As with many terms, the term "semantics" is ambiguous for it can stand, as well, for the expressive aspect of lan-guage in general and for the meaning of one particular word in all its varied aspects and nuances (i.e. the semantics of a word = the mean-ing(s) of a word).
As Mario Pei puts it in The Study of Language, "Semantics is 'lan-guage' in its broadest, most inclusive aspect. Sounds, words, gram-matical forms, syntactical constructions are the tools of language. Semantics is language's avowed purpose" [39]
 
BakhtiyorDate: Sunday, 2012-06-03, 8:21 AM | Message # 49
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The meanings of all the utterances of a speech community are said by another leading linguist to include the total experience of that community; arts, science, practical occupations, amusements, per-sonal and family life.
The modern approach to semantics is based on the assumption that the inner form of the word (i. e. its meaning) presents a structure which is called the semantic structure of the word.
Yet, before going deeper into this problem, it is necessary to make a brief survey of another semantic phenomenon which is closely connected with it.
Polysemy. Semantic Structure of the Word
The semantic structure of the word does not present an indissolu-ble unity (that is, actually, why it is referred to as "structure"), nor does it necessarily stand for one concept. It is generally known that most words convey several concepts and thus possess the corresponding number of meanings. A word having several meanings is called polysemantic, and the ability of words to have more than one meaning is described by the term polysemy.
Two somewhat naive but frequently asked questions may arise in connection with polysemy:
1. Is polysemy an anomaly or a general rule in English vocabu-lary?
2. Is polysemy an advantage or a disadvantage so far as the pro-cess of communication is concerned?
Let us deal with both these questions together.
Polysemy is certainly not an anomaly. Most English words are poly-semantic. It should be noted that the wealth of expressive resources of a language largely depends on the degree to which polysemy has developed in the language. Sometimes people who are not
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very well informed in linguistic matters claim that a language is lack-ing in words if the need arises for the same word to be applied to sev-eral different phenomena. In actual fact, it is exactly the opposite: if each word is found to be capable of conveying, let us say, at least two concepts instead of one, the expressive potential of the whole vocabulary increases twofold. Hence, a well-developed polysemy is not a drawback but a great advantage in a language.
On the other hand, it should be pointed out that the number of sound combinations that human speech organs can produce is limited. Therefore at a certain stage of language development the production of new words by morphological means becomes limited, and polysemy becomes increasingly important in providing the means for enriching the vocabulary. From this, it should be clear that the process of enriching the vocabulary does not consist merely in adding new words to it, but, also, in the constant development of polysemy.
The system of meanings of any polysemantic word develops gradually, mostly over the centuries, as more and more new meanings are either added to old ones, or oust some of them (see Ch. 8). So the complicated processes of polysemy development involve both the appearance of new meanings and the loss of old ones. Yet, the general tendency with English vocabulary at the modern stage of its history is to increase the total number of its meanings and in this way to provide for a quantitative and qualitative growth of the language's expressive resources.
When analysing the semantic structure of a polysemantic word, it is necessary to distinguish between two levels of analysis.
On the first level, the semantic structure of a word is treated as a system of meanings. For example, the
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BakhtiyorDate: Sunday, 2012-06-03, 8:21 AM | Message # 50
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semantic structure of the noun fire could be roughly presented by this scheme (only the most frequent meanings are given):
Fire, n.
I
Flame

II

III

IV

V


An instance of destructive burning; e. g. a forest fire. Burning material in a stove, fire-place, etc.; e. g. There is a fire in the next room. A camp fire. The shooting of guns, etc.; e. g. to open (cease) fire. Strong feeling, passion, enthu-siasm; e. g. a speech lacking fire.


The above scheme suggests that meaning I holds a kind of domi-nance over the other meanings conveying the concept in the most general way whereas meanings II—V are associated with special circumstances, aspects and instances of the same phenomenon.
Meaning I (generally referred to as the main meaning) presents the centre of the semantic structure of the word holding it together. It is mainly through meaning I that meanings II—V (they are called secondary meanings) can be associated with one another, some of them exclusively through meaning I, as, for instance, meanings IV and V.
It would hardly be possible to establish any logical associations between some of the meanings of the noun bar except through the main meaning:1
1 We give only a fragment of the semantic structure of bar, so as to illustrate the point.
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II I Bar, n III
The profession of barrister, law e. g. go to the Bar read for the Вar

(In a public house or hotel) a counter or room where drinks are served; e. g. They went to the bar for a drink.
i
,

Any kind of barrier to prevent people from passing.

Meanings II and III have no logical links with one another where-as each separately is easily associated with meaning I: meaning II through the traditional barrier dividing a court-room into two parts; meaning III through the counter serving as a kind of barrier between the customers of a pub and the barman.
Yet, it is not in every polysemantic word that such a centre can be found. Some semantic structures are arranged on a different principle. In the following list of meanings of the adjective dull one can hardly hope to find a generalised meaning covering and holding together the rest of the semantic structure.
Dull, adj.
I. Uninteresting, monotonous, boring; e. g. a dull
book, a dull film.
II. Slow in understanding, stupid; e. g. a dull student.
III. Not clear or bright; e. g. dull weather, a dull day,
a dull colour.
IV. Not loud or distinct; e. g. a dull sound.
V. Not sharp; e. g. a dull knife.
VI. Not active; e. g. Trade is dull. VII. Seeing badly; e. g. dull eyes (arch.). VIII, Hearing badly; e. g. dull ears (arch.),
Yet, one distinctly feels that there is something that all these seemingly miscellaneous meanings have in
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BakhtiyorDate: Sunday, 2012-06-03, 8:21 AM | Message # 51
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common, and that is the implication of deficiency, be it of colour (m. III), wits (m. II), interest (m. I), sharpness (m. V), etc. The implication of insufficient quality, of something lacking, can be clearly dis-tinguished in each separate meaning.
In fact, each meaning definition in the given scheme can be sub-jected to a transformational operation to prove the point.
Dull, adj.
I. Uninteresting > deficient in interest or excitement.
II. ... Stupid > deficient in intellect.
III. Not bright > deficient in light or colour.
IV. Not loud > deficient in sound.
V. Not sharp > deficient in sharpness.
VI. Not active > deficient in activity.
VII. Seeing badly > deficient in eyesight.
VIII. Hearing badly > deficient in hearing.
The transformed scheme of the semantic structure of dull clearly shows that the centre holding together the complex semantic structure of this word is not one of the meanings but a certain component that can be easily singled out within each separate meaning.
This brings us to the second level of analysis of the semantic structure of a word. The transformational operation with the meaning definitions of dull reveals something very significant: the semantic structure of the word is "divisible", as it were, not only at the level of different meanings but, also, at a deeper level.
Each separate meaning seems to be subject to structural analysis in which it may be represented as sets of semantic components. In terms of componential analysis, one of the modern methods of se-mantic research, the meaning of a word is defined as a set of elements of meaning which are not part of the vocabulary of the language itself, but rather theoretical elements, postulated in order to
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describe the semantic relations between the lexical elements of a giv-en language.
The scheme of the semantic structure of dull shows that the se-mantic structure of a word is not a mere system of meanings, for each separate meaning is subject to further subdivision and possesses an inner structure of its own.
Therefore, the semantic structure of a word should be investigated at both these levels: a) of different meanings, b) of semantic components within each separate meaning. For a monosemantic word (i. e. a word with one meaning) the first level is naturally excluded.
Types of Semantic Components
The leading semantic component in the semantic structure of a word is usually termed denotative component (also, the term referen-tial component may be used). The denotative component expresses the conceptual content of a word.
The following list presents denotative components of some Eng-lish adjectives and verbs:

Denotative components
lonely, adj. » [ alone
, without company ] . . .
notorious, adj. » [ widely
known ]
celebrated, adj. » [ widely
known ]
to glare, v. » [ to look ]
to glance, v. » [ to look ]
to shiver, v. » [ to tremble ]
to shudder, v. » [ to tremble ]
It is quite obvious that the definitions given in the right column only partially and incompletely describe the meanings of their corre-sponding words. To give a more or less full picture of the meaning of a word, it is
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BakhtiyorDate: Sunday, 2012-06-03, 8:22 AM | Message # 52
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necessary to include in the scheme of analysis additional semantic components which are termed connotations or connotative compo-nents.
Let us complete the semantic structures of the words given above introducing connotative components into the schemes of their semantic structures.

Denotative components Connota-tive com-ponents
lonely, adj. ===> alone, without company + melancholy, sad Emotive con-notation
notorious, adj. ===> widely known + for criminal acts or bad traits of char-acter Evaluative connotation, negative
celebrated, adj. -- widely known + for special achievement in science, art, etc. Evaluative connotation, positive
to glare, v. — | to look | + steadily, lastingly
in anger, rage, etc. 1. Connota-tion of dura-tion
2. Emotive connotation
to glance, v. ===> | to look | + briefly, passingly Connota-tion of duration
to shiver, v. — | to tremble + [ lastingly ]
+
(usu) with the cold 1. Connota-tion of dura-tion
2. Connota-tion of cause
to shudder, v. — [ to tremble | + [ briefly |
with horror, disgust, etc. 1. Connota-tion of dura-tion
2. Connota-tion of cause 3. Emotive connotation
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The above examples show how by singling out denotative and connotative components one can get a sufficiently clear picture of what the word really means. The schemes presenting the semantic structures of glare, shiver, shudder also show that a meaning can have two or more connotative components.
The given examples do not exhaust all the types of connotations but present only a few: emotive, evaluative connotations, and also connotations of duration and of cause. (For a more detailed classification of connotative components of a meaning, see Ch. 10.)
Meaning and Context
In the beginning of the paragraph entitled "Polysemy" we dis-cussed the advantages and disadvantages of this linguistic phenome-non. One of the most important "drawbacks" of polysemantic words is that there is sometimes a chance of misunderstanding when a word is used in a certain meaning but accepted by a listener or reader in another. It is only natural that such cases provide stuff of which jokes are made, such as the ones that follow:
Customer. I would like a book, please. Bookseller. Something light? Customer. That doesn't matter. I have my car with me.
In this conversation the customer is honestly misled by the poly-semy of the adjective light taking it in the literal sense whereas the bookseller uses the word in its figurative meaning "not serious; enter-taining".
In the following joke one of the speakers pretends to misunder-stand his interlocutor basing his angry retort on the polysemy of the noun kick:
The critic started to leave in the middle of the second act of the play.
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BakhtiyorDate: Sunday, 2012-06-03, 8:22 AM | Message # 53
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"Don't go," said the manager. "I promise there's a terrific kick in the next act."
"Fine," was the retort, "give it to the author."-1
Generally speaking, it is common knowledge that context is a powerful preventative against any misunderstanding of meanings. For instance, the adjective dull, if used out of context, would mean different things to different people or nothing at all. It is only in combination with other words that it reveals its actual meaning: a dull pupil, a dull play, a dull razor-blade, dull weather, etc. Sometimes, however, such a minimum context fails to reveal the meaning of the word, and it may be correctly interpreted only through what Professor N. Amosova termed a second-degree context [1], as in the following example: The man was large, but his wife was even fatter. The word fatter here serves as a kind of indicator pointing that large describes a stout man and not a big one.
Current research in semantics is largely based on the assumption that one of the more promising methods of investigating the semantic structure of a word is by studying the word's linear relationships with other words in typical contexts, i. e. its combinability or collocability.
Scholars have established that the semantics of words character-ised by common occurrences (i. e. words which regularly appear in common contexts) are correlated and, therefore, one of the words within such a pair can be studied through the other.
Thus, if one intends to investigate the semantic structure of an adjective, one would best consider the adjective in its most typical syntactical patterns A + N -adjective + noun) and N + l + A (noun + link verb +
kick. n. -- 1 thrill, pleasurable excitement (inform.); 2. a blow with the foot

adjective) and make a thorough study of the meanings of nouns with which the adjective is frequently used.
For instance, a study of typical contexts of the adjective bright in the first pattern will give us the following sets: a) bright colour (flower, dress, silk, etc.). b) bright metal (gold, jewels, armour, etc.), c) bright student (pupil, boy, fellow, etc.), d) bright face (smile, eyes, etc.) and some others. These sets will lead us to singling out the meanings of the adjective related to each set of combinations: a) intensive in colour, b) shining, c) capable, d) gay, etc.
For a transitive verb, on the other hand, the recommended pattern would be V + N (verb + direct object expressed by a noun). If, for instance, our object of investigation are the verbs to produce, to create, to compose, the correct procedure would be to consider the semantics of the nouns that are used in the pattern with each of these verbs: what is it that is produced? created? composed?
There is an interesting hypothesis that the semantics of words regularly used in common contexts (e. g. bright colours, to build a house, to create a work of art, etc.) are so intimately correlated that each of them casts, as it were, a kind of permanent reflection on the meaning of its neighbour. If the verb to compose is frequently used with the object music, isn't it natural to expect that certain musical associations linger in the meaning of the verb to compose?
Note, also, how closely the negative evaluative connotation of the adjective notorious is linked with the negative connotation of the nouns with which it is regularly associated: a notorious criminal, thief, gangster, gambler, gossip, liar, miser, etc.
All this leads us to the conclusion that context is a good and relia-ble key to the meaning of the word. Yet, even the jokes given above show how misleading this key can prove in some cases. And here we are faced with
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BakhtiyorDate: Sunday, 2012-06-03, 8:22 AM | Message # 54
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two dangers. The first is that of sheer misunderstanding, when the speaker means one thing and the listener takes the word in its other meaning.
The second danger has nothing to do with the process of commu-nication but with research work in the field of semantics. A common error with the inexperienced research worker is to see a different meaning in every new set of combinations. Here is a puzzling ques-tion to illustrate what we mean. Cf.: an angry man, an angry letter. Is the adjective angry used in the same meaning in both these contexts or in two different meanings? Some people will say "two" and argue that, on the one hand, the combinability is different (man — name of person; letter — name of object) and, on the other hand, a letter can-not experience anger. True, it cannot; but it can very well convey the anger of the person who wrote it. As to the combinability, the main point is that a word can realise the same meaning in different sets of combinability. For instance, in the pairs merry children, merry laugh-ter, merry faces, merry songs the adjective merry conveys the same concept of high spirits whether they are directly experienced by the children (in the first phrase) or indirectly expressed through the merry faces, the laughter and the songs of the other word groups.
The task of distinguishing between the different meanings of a word and the different variations of combinability (or, in a traditional terminology, different usages of the word) is actually a question of singling out the different denotations within the semantic structure of the word.
Cf.: 1) a sad woman,
2) a sad voice,
3) a sad story,
4) a sad scoundrel (= an incorrigible scoundrel)
5) a sad night (= a dark, black night, arch, poet.)
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CHAPTER 8
How Words Develop New Meanings
It has been mentioned that the systems of meanings of polyse-mantic words evolve gradually. The older a word is, the better devel-oped is its semantic structure. The normal pattern of a word's seman-tic development is from monosemy to a simple semantic structure encompassing only two or three meanings, with a further movement to an increasingly more complex semantic structure.
In this chapter we shall have a closer look at the complicated pro-cesses by which words acquire new meanings.
There are two aspects to this problem, which can be generally de-scribed in the following way: a) Why should new meanings appear at all? What circumstances cause and stimulate their development? b) How does it happen? What is the nature of the very process of devel-opment of new meanings?
Let us deal with each of these questions in turn.
Causes of Development of New Meanings
The first group of causes is traditionally termed historical or ex-tra-linguistic.
Different kinds of changes in a nation's social life, in its culture, knowledge, technology, arts lead to
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BakhtiyorDate: Sunday, 2012-06-03, 8:23 AM | Message # 55
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gaps appearing in the vocabulary which beg to be filled. Newly creat-ed objects, new concepts and phenomena must be named. We al-ready know of two ways for providing new names for newly created concepts: making new words (word-building) and borrowing foreign ones. One more way of filling such vocabulary gaps is by applying some old word to a new object or notion.
When the first textile factories appeared in England, the old word mill was applied to these early industrial enterprises. In this way, mill (a Latin borrowing of the first century В. С.) added a new meaning to its former meaning "a building in which corn is ground into flour". The new meaning was "textile factory".
A similar case is the word carriage which had (and still has) the meaning "a vehicle drawn by horses", but, with the first appearance of railways in England, it received a new meaning, that of "a railway car". -
The history of English nouns describing different parts of a thea-tre may also serve as a good illustration of how well-established words can be used to denote newly-created objects and phenomena. The words stalls, box, pit, circle had existed for a long time before the first theatres appeared in England. With their appearance, the gaps in the vocabulary were easily filled by these widely used words which, as a result, developed new meanings.1
New meanings can also be developed due to linguistic factors (the second group of causes).
Linguistically speaking, the development of new meanings, and also a complete change of meaning, may
1 It is of some interest to note that the Russian language found a different way of filling the same gap: in Russian, all the parts of the theatre are named by borrowed words: партер, ложа, амфитеатр, бельэтаж.
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be caused through the influence of other words, mostly of syno-nyms.1
Let us consider the following examples.
The Old English verb steorfan meant "to perish". When the verb to die was borrowed from the Scandinavian, these two synonyms, which were very close in their meaning, collided, and, as a result, to starve gradually changed into its present meaning: "to die (or suffer) from hunger".
The history of the noun deer is essentially the same. In Old Eng-lish (О. Е. deor) it had a general meaning denoting any beast. In that meaning it collided with the borrowed word animal and changed its meaning to the modern one ("a certain kind of beast", R. олень).
The noun knave (О. Е. knafa) suffered an even more striking change of meaning as a result of collision with its synonym boy. Now it has a pronounced negative evaluative connotation and means "swindler, scoundrel".
The Process of Development and Change of Meaning
The second question we must answer in this chapter is how new meanings develop. To find the answer to this question we must inves-tigate the inner mechanism of this process, or at least its essential features. Let us examine the examples given above from a new angle, from within, so to speak.
1 Most scholars distinguish between the terms development of meaning (when a new meaning and the one on the basis of which it is formed coexist in the semantic structure of the word, as in mill, car-riage, etc.) and change of meaning (when the old meaning is com-pletely replaced by the new one, as in the noun meat which in Old English had the general meaning of "food" but in Modern English is no longer used in that sense and has instead developed the meaning "flesh of animals used as a food product").
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BakhtiyorDate: Sunday, 2012-06-03, 8:23 AM | Message # 56
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Why was it that the word mill — and not some other word — was selected to denote the first textile factories? There must have been some connection between the former sense of mill and the new phe-nomenon to which it was applied. And there was apparently such a connection. Mills which produced flour, were mainly driven by water. The textile factories also firstly used water power. So, in general terms, the meanings of mill, both the old and the new one, could be defined as "an establishment using water power to produce certain goods". Thus, the first textile factories were easily associated with mills producing flour, and the new meaning of mill appeared due to this association. In actual fact, all cases of development or change of meaning are based on some association. In the history of the word carriage, the new travelling conveyance was also naturally associated in people's minds with the old one: horse-drawn vehicle > part of a railway train. Both these objects were related to the idea of travelling. The job of both, the horse-drawn carriage and the railway carriage, is the same: to carry passengers on a journey. So the association was logically well-founded.
Stalls and box formed their meanings in which they denoted parts of the theatre on the basis of a different type of association. The meaning of the word box "a small separate enclosure forming a part of the theatre" developed on the basis of its former meaning "a rec-tangular container used for packing or storing things". The two ob-jects became associated in the speakers' minds because boxes in the earliest English theatres really resembled packing cases. They were enclosed on all sides and heavily curtained even on the side facing the audience so as to conceal the privileged spectators occupying them from curious or insolent stares.
The association on which the theatrical meaning of stalls was based is even more curious. The original meaning was "compart-ments in stables or sheds for the
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accommodation of animals (e. g. cows, horses, etc.)". There does not seem to be much in common between the privileged and expensive part of a theatre and stables intended for cows and horses, unless we take into consideration the fact that theatres in olden times greatly differed from what they are now. What is now known as the stalls was, at that time, standing space divided by barriers into sections so as to prevent the enthusiastic crowd from knocking one other down and hurting themselves. So, there must have been a certain outward resemblance between theatre stalls and cattle stalls. It is also possible that the word was first used humorously or satirically in this new sense.
The process of development of a new meaning (or a change of meaning) is traditionally termed transference.
Some scholars mistakenly use the term "transference of meaning" which is a serious mistake. It is very important to note that in any case of semantic change it is not the meaning but the word that is being transferred from one referent onto another (e. g. from a horse-drawn vehicle onto a railway car). The result of such a transference is the appearance of a new meaning.
Two types of transference are distinguishable depending on the two types of logical associations underlying the semantic process.
Transference Based on Resemblance (Similarity)
This type of transference is also referred to as linguistic metaphor. A new meaning appears as a result of associating two objects (phenomena, qualities, etc.) due to their outward similarity. Box and stall, as should be clear from the explanations above, are examples of this type of transference.
Other examples can be given in which transference is also based on the association of two physical objects. The noun eye, for instance, has for one of its meanings
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"hole in the end of a needle" (cf. with the R. ушко иголки), which also developed through transference based on resemblance. A similar case is represented by the neck of a bottle.
The noun drop (mostly in the plural form) has, in addition to its main meaning "a small particle of water or other liquid", the mean-ings: "ear-rings shaped as drops of water" (e. g. diamond drops) and "candy of the same shape" (e. g. mint drops). It is quite obvious that both these meanings are also based on resemblance. In the compound word snowdrop the meaning of the second constituent underwent the same shift of meaning (also, in bluebell). In general, metaphorical change of meaning is often observed in idiomatic compounds.
The main meaning of the noun branch is "limb or subdivision of a tree or bush". On the basis of this meaning it developed several more. One of them is "a special field of science or art" (as in a branch of linguistics). This meaning brings us into the sphere of the abstract, and shows that in transference based on resemblance an association may be built not only between two physical objects, but also between a concrete object and an abstract concept.
The noun bar from the original meaning barrier developed a fig-urative meaning realised in such contexts as social bars, colour bar, racial bar. Here, again, as in the abstract meaning of branch, a con-crete object is associated with an abstract concept.
The noun star on the basis of the meaning "heavenly body" de-veloped the meaning "famous actor or actress". Nowadays the mean-ing has considerably widened its range, and the word is applied not only to screen idols (as it was at first), but, also, to popular sportsmen (e. g. football, stars), pop-singers, etc. Of course, the first use of the word star to denote a popular actor must have been humorous or ironical: the mental picture created by the use of the word in this new meaning was
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a kind of semi-god surrounded by the bright rays of his glory. Yet, very soon the ironical colouring was lost, and, furthermore the asso-ciation with the original meaning considerably weakened and is grad-ually erased.
The meanings formed through this type of transference are fre-quently found in the informal strata of the vocabulary, especially in slang (see Ch. 1). A red-headed boy is almost certain to be nicknamed carrot or ginger by his schoolmates, and the one who is given to spying and sneaking gets the derogatory nickname of rat. Both these' meanings are metaphorical, though, of course, the children using them are quite unconscious of this fact.
The slang meanings of words such as nut, onion (= head), saucers (= eyes), hoofs (== feet) and very many others were all formed by transference based on resemblance.
Transference Based on Contiguity
Another term for this type of transference is linguistic metonymy. The association is based upon subtle psychological links between different objects and phenomena, sometimes traced and identified with much difficulty. The two objects may be associated together because they often appear in common situations, and so the image of one is easily accompanied by the image of the other; or they may be associated on the principle of cause and effect, of common function, of some material and an object which is made of it, etc.
Let us consider some cases of transference based on contiguity. You will notice that they are of different kinds.
The Old English adjective glad meant "bright, shining" (it was applied to the sun, to gold and precious stones, to shining armour, etc.). The later (and more modern) meaning "joyful" developed on the basis of the
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usual association (which is reflected in most languages) of light with joy (cf. with the R. светлое настроение; светло на душе).
The meaning of the adjective sad in Old English was "satisfied with food" (cf. with the R. сыт(ый) which is a word of the same In-do-European root). Later this meaning developed a connotation of a greater intensity of quality and came to mean "oversatisfied with food; having eaten too much". Thus, the meaning of the adjective sad developed a negative evaluative connotation and now described not a happy state of satisfaction but, on the contrary, the physical unease and discomfort of a person who has had too much to eat. The next shift of meaning was to transform the description of physical discomfort into one of spiritual discontent because these two states often go together. It was from this prosaic source that the modern meaning of sad "melancholy", "sorrowful" developed, and the adjective describes now a purely emotional state. The two previous meanings ("satisfied with food" and "having eaten too much") were ousted from the semantic structure of the word long ago.
The foot of a bed is the place where the feet rest when one lies in the bed, but the foot of a mountain got its name by another associa-tion: the foot of a mountain is its lowest part, so that the association here is founded on common position.
By the arms of an arm-chair we mean the place where the arms lie when one is setting in the chair, so that the type of association here is the same as in the foot of a bed. The leg of a bed (table, chair, etc.), though, is the part which serves as a support, the original meaning being "the leg of a man or animal". The association that lies behind this development of meaning is the common function: a piece of furniture is supported by its legs just as living beings are supported by
theirs.
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The meaning of the noun hand realised in the context hand of a clock (watch) originates from the main meaning of this noun "part of human body". It also developed due to the association of the common function: the hand of a clock points to the figures on the face of the clock, and one of the functions of human hand is also that of pointing to things.
Another meaning of hand realised in such contexts as factory hands, farm hands is based on another kind of association: strong, skilful hands are the most important feature that is required of a per-son engaged in physical labour (cf. with the R. рабочие руки).
The adjective dull (see the scheme of its semantic structure in Ch. 7) developed its meaning "not clear or bright" (as in a dull green col-our; dull light; dull shapes) on the basis of the former meaning "deficient in eyesight", and its meaning "not loud or distinct" (as in dull sounds) on the basis of the older meaning "deficient in hearing". The association here was obviously that of cause and effect: to a person with weak eyesight all colours appear pale, and all shapes blurred; to a person with deficient hearing all sounds are indistinct.
The main (and oldest registered) meaning of the noun board was "a flat and thin piece of wood; a wooden plank". On the basis of this meaning developed the meaning "table" which is now archaic. The association which underlay this semantic shift was that of the material and the object made from it: a wooden plank (or several planks) is an essential part of any table. This type of association is often found with nouns denoting clothes: e. g. a taffeta ("dress made of taffeta"); a mink ("mink coat"), a jersy ("knitted shirt or sweater").
Meanings produced through transference based on contiguity sometimes originate from geographical or proper names. China in the sense of "dishes made of porcelain" originated from the name of the country which was believed to be the birthplace of porcelain.
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Tweed ("a coarse wool cloth") got its name from the river Tweed and cheviot (another kind of wool cloth) from the Cheviot hills in Eng-land.
The name of a painter is frequently transferred onto one of his pictures: a Matisse — a painting by Matisse.1
Broadening (or Generalisation) of Meaning.
Narrowing (or Specialisation) of Meaning
Sometimes, the process of transference may result in a considera-ble change in range of meaning. For instance, the verb to arrive (French borrowing) began its life in English in the narrow meaning "to come to shore, to land". In Modern English it has greatly widened its combinability and developed the general meaning "to come" (e. g. to arrive in a village, town, city, country, at a hotel, hostel, college, theatre, place, etc.). The meaning developed through transference based on contiguity (the concept of coming somewhere is the same for both meanings), but the range of the second meaning is much broader.
Another example of the broadening of meaning is pipe. Its earliest recorded meaning was "a musical wind instrument". Nowadays it can denote any hollow oblong cylindrical body (e. g. water pipes). This meaning developed through transference based on the similarity of shape (pipe as a musical instrument is also a hollow oblong cylindrical object) which finally led to a considerable broadening of the range of meaning.
The word bird changed its meaning from "the young of a bird" to its modern meaning through transference based on contiguity (the association is obvious). The second meaning is broader and more general.
It is interesting to trace the history of the word girl as an example of the changes in the range of meaning in the course of the semantic development of a word.
1 Also: see Supplementary Material, p. 279.
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In Middle English it had the meaning of "a small child of either sex". Then the word underwent the process of transference based on contiguity and developed the meaning of "a small child of the female sex", so that the range of meaning was somewhat narrowed. In its further semantic development the word gradually broadened its range of meaning. At first it came to denote not only a female child but, also, a young unmarried woman, later, any young woman, and in modern colloquial English it is practically synonymous to the noun woman (e. g. The old girl must be at least seventy), so that its range of meaning is quite broad.
The history of the noun lady somewhat resembles that of girl. In Old English the word (ОЕ hlæfdiZe) denoted the mistress of the house, i. e. any married woman. Later, a new meaning developed which was much narrower in range: "the wife or daughter of a baron-et" (aristocratic title). In Modern English the word lady can be applied to any woman, so that its range of meaning is even broader than that of the OE hlæfdiZe. In Modern English the difference between girl and lady in the meaning of woman is that the first is used in col-loquial style and sounds familiar whereas the second is more formal and polite. Here are some more examples of narrowing of meaning:
Deer: \ any beast] > [ a certain kind of beast ]
Meat: [ any food] > | a certain food product [
Boy: | any young person of the male sex [ > [ servant of the male sex ]
It should be pointed out once more that in all these words the se-cond meaning developed through transference based on contiguity, and that when we speak of them as examples of narrowing of mean-ing we simply imply that the range of the second meaning is more narrow than that of the original meaning.
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CHAPTER 9
Homonyms: Words of the Same Form
Homonyms are words which are identical in sound and spelling, or, at least, in one of these aspects, but different in their meaning.
E. g. J bank, n. — a shore
bank, n. — an institution for receiving, lending, ex-changing, and safeguarding money
ball, n. — a sphere; any spherical body ball, n. — a large dancing party
\
English vocabulary is rich in such pairs and even groups of words. Their identical forms are mostly accidental: the majority of homo-nyms coincided due to phonetic changes which they suffered during their development.
If synonyms and antonyms can be regarded as the treasury of the language's expressive resources, homonyms are of no interest in this respect, and one cannot expect them to be of particular value for communication. Metaphorically speaking, groups of synonyms and pairs of antonyms are created by the vocabulary system with a particular purpose whereas homonyms are accidental creations, and therefore purposeless.
In the process of communication they are more of an encum-brance, leading sometimes to confusion and
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misunderstanding. Yet it is this very characteristic which makes them one of the most important sources of popular humour.
The pun is a joke based upon the play upon words of similar form but different meaning (i. e. on homonyms) as in the following:
"A tailor guarantees to give each of his customers a perfect fit."
(The joke is based on the homonyms: I. fit, n. — perfectly fitting clothes; II. fit, n. — a nervous spasm.)
Homonyms which are the same in sound and spelling (as the ex-amples given in the beginning of this chapter) are traditionally termed homonyms proper.
The following joke is based on a pun which makes use of another type of homonyms:
"Waiter!" "Yes, sir." "What's this?" "It's bean soup, sir."
"Never mind what it has been. I want to know what it is now."
Bean, n. and been, Past Part, of to be are phones. As the example shows they are the same in sound but different in spelling. Here are some more examples of homophones:
night, n. — knight, n.; piece, n. — peace, n.; scent, n. — cent, n. — sent, v. (Past Indef., Past Part, of to send); rite, n. — to write, v. — right, adj.; sea, n. — to see, v. — С [si:] (the name of a letter).
The third type of homonyms is called homographs. These are words which are the same in spelling but different in sound.
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