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Two Approaches to Language Study 6 страница



Another approach to the classification of vocabulary items into lexico-semantic groups is the study of hyponymic relations between words. By hyponymy is meant a semantic relationship of inclusion. Thus, e.g., vehicle includes car, bus, taxi and so on; oak implies tree;

1 See, e. g., Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, London, 1973.

2 See ‘Methods ... ‘, § 6. p. 216.

3 See ‘Semasiology’, § 41, p. 48.

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horse entails animal; table entails furniture. Thus the hyponymic relationship may be viewed as the hierarchical relationship between the meaning of the general and the individual terms.

The general term (vehicle, tree, animal, etc.) is sometimes referred to as the classifier and serves to describe the lexico-semantic groups, e.g. Lexico-semantic groups (LSG) of vehicles, movement, emotions, etc.

The individual terms can be said to contain (or entail) the meaning of the general term in addition to their individual meanings which distinguish them from each other (cf. the classifier move and the members of the group walk, run, saunter, etc.).

It is of importance to note that in such hierarchical structures certain words may be both classifiers and members of the groups. This may be illustrated by the hyponymic structure represented below.

Another way to describe hyponymy is in terms of genus and differentia.

The more specific term is called the hyponym of the more general, and the more general is called the hyperonym or the classifier.

It is noteworthy that the principle of such hierarchical classification is widely used by scientists in various fields of research: botany, geology, etc. Hyponymic classification may be viewed as objectively reflecting the structure of vocabulary and is considered by many linguists as one of the most important principles for the description of meaning.

A general problem with this principle of classification (just as with lexico-semantic group criterion) is that there often exist overlapping classifications. For example, persons may be divided into adults (man, woman, husband, etc.) and children (boy, girl, lad, etc.) but also into national groups (American, Russian, Chinese, etc.), professional groups (teacher, butcher, baker, etc.), social and economic groups, and so on.

Another problem of great importance for linguists is the dependence of the hierarchical structures of lexical units not only on the structure of the corresponding group of referents in real world but also on the structure of vocabulary in this or that language.

This can be easily observed when we compare analogous groups in different languages. Thus, e.g., in English we may speak of the lexico-semantic group of meals which includes: breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper,

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snack, etc. The word meal is the classifier whereas in Russian we have no word for meals in general and consequently no classifier though we have several words for different kinds of meals.

§ 47. Semantic Equivalence and Synonymy

Lexical units may also be classified by the criterion of semantic similarity and semantic contrasts. The terms generally used to denote these two types of semantic relatedness are synonymy and antonymy.

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.1 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. 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). The number of synonymic sets of a polysemantic word tends as a rule to be equal to the number of individual meanings the word possesses.

In the discussion of polysemy and context2 we have seen that one of the ways of discriminating between different meanings of a word is the interpretation of these meanings in terms of their synonyms, e.g. the two meanings of the adjective handsome are synonymously interpreted as handsome — ‘beautiful’ (usually about men) and handsome — ‘considerable, ample’ (about sums, sizes, etc.).

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

1 See also ‘Methods ...’,§ 5, p. 214.

2 See ‘Semasiology’, §§ 40-42, p. 47-50.

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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. The words, e.g. to die, to walk, to smile, etc., may be considered identical as to their stylistic reference or emotive charge, but as there is no similarity of denotational meaning they are never felt as synonymous words.

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. Words in synonymic sets are in general differentiated because of some element of opposition in each member of the set. The word handsome, e.g., is distinguished from its synonym beautiful mainly because the former implies the beauty of a male person or broadly speaking only of human beings, whereas beautiful is opposed to it as having no such restrictions in its meaning.

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.

Differentiation of synonyms may be observed in different semantic components — denotational or connotational.

It should be noted, however, that the difference in denotational meaning cannot exceed certain limits, and is always combined with some common denotational component. The verbs look, seem, appear, e.g., are viewed as members of one synonymic set as all three of them possess a common denotational semantic component “to be in one’s view, or judgement, but not necessarily in fact” and come into comparison in this meaning (cf. he seems (looks), (appears), tired). A more detailed analysis shows that there is a certain difference in the meaning of each verb: seem suggests a personal opinion based on evidence (e.g. nothing seems right when one is out of sorts); look implies that opinion is based on a visual impression (e.g. the city looks its worst in March), appear sometimes suggests a distorted impression (e.g. the setting sun made the spires appear ablaze). Thus similarity of denotational meaning of all members of the synonymic series is combined with a certain difference in the meaning of each member.

It follows that relationship of synonymity implies certain differences in the denotational meaning of synonyms. In this connection a few words should be said about the traditional classification of vocabulary units into ideographic and stylistic synonyms. This classification proceeds from the assumption that synonyms may differ either in the denotational meaning (ideographic synonyms) оr the connotational meaning, or to be more exact stylistic reference. This assumption cannot be accepted as synonymous words always differ in the denotational component

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??? ??? ???e?e?. Thus buy and purchase are similar in meaning but dif-

fer in their stylistic reference and therefore are not completely interchangeable. That department of an institution which is concerned with acquisition of materials is normally the Purchasing Department rather than the Buying Department. A wife however would rarely ask her husband to purchase a pound of butter. It follows that practically no words are substitutable for one another in all contexts.

This fact may be explained as follows: firstly, words synonymous in some lexical contexts may display no synonymity in others. As one of the English scholars aptly remarks, the comparison of the sentences the rainfall in April was abnormal and the rainfall in April was exceptional may give us grounds for assuming that exceptional and abnormal are synonymous. The same adjectives in a different context are by no means synonymous, as we may see by comparing my son is exceptional and my son is abnormal.1

Secondly, it is evident that interchangeability alone cannot serve as a criterion of synonymity. We may safely assume that synonyms are words interchangeable in some contexts. But the reverse is certainly not true as semantically different words of the same part of speech are, as a rule, interchangeable in quite a number of contexts. For example, in the sentence I saw a little girl playing in the garden the adjective little may be formally replaced by a number of semantically different adjectives, e.g. pretty, tall, English, etc.

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.

§ 49. Patterns of Synonymic Sets in Modern English

The English word-stock is extremely rich in synonyms which can be largely accounted for by abundant borrowing. Quite a number of words in synonymic sets are usually of Latin or French origin. For instance, out of thirteen words making up the set see, behold, descry, espy, view, survey, contemplate, observe, notice, remark, note, discern, perceive only see and behold can be traced back to Old English (OE. seon and behealdan), all others are either French or Latin borrowings.

Thus a characteristic pattern of English synonymic sets is the pattern including the native and the borrowed words. Among the best investigated are the so-called double-scale patterns: native versus Latin (e.g. bodily — corporal, brotherly — fraternal); native versus Greek or French (e.g. answer — reply, fiddle — violin). In most cases the synonyms differ in their stylistic reference, too. The native word is usually colloquial (e.g. bodily, brotherly), whereas the borrowed word may as a rule be described as bookish or highly literary (e.g. corporal, fraternal).

Side by side with this pattern there exists in English a subsidiary one based on a triple-scale of synonyms; native — French, and Latin or

1 R. Quirk. The Use of English. London, 1962, p. 129.

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Greek (e.g. begin (start) — commence (Fr.) — initiate (L.); rise — mount (Fr.) — ascend (L.). In most of these sets the native synonym is felt as more colloquial, the Latin or Greek one is characterised by bookish stylistic reference, whereas the French stands between the two extremes.

There are some minor points of interest that should be discussed in connection with the problem of synonymy. It has often been found that subjects prominent in the interests of a community tend to attract a large number of synonyms. It is common knowledge that in “Beowulf” there are 37 synonyms for hero and at least a dozen for battle and fight. The same epic contains 17 expressions for sea to which 13 more may be added from other English poems of that period. In Modern American English there are at least twenty words used to denote money: beans, bucks, the chips, do-re-mi, the needful, wherewithal, etc. This linguistic phenomenon is usually described as the law of synonymic attraction.

It has also been observed that when a particular word is given a transferred meaning its synonyms tend to develop along parallel lines. We know that in early New English the verb overlook was employed in the meaning of ‘look with an evil eye upon, cast a spell over’ from which there developed the meaning ‘deceive’ first recorded in 1596. Exactly half a century later we find oversee a synonym of overlook employed in the meaning of ‘deceive’.1 This form of analogy active in the semantic development of synonyms is referred to as radiation of synonyms.

Another feature of synonymy is that the bulk of synonyms may be referred to stylistically marked words, i.e. they possess a peculiar connotational component of meaning. This can be observed by examining the synonyms for the stylistically neutral word money listed above. Another example is the set of synonyms for the word girl (young female): doll, flame, skirt, tomato, broad, bag, dish, etc. all of which are stylistically marked. Many synonyms seem to possess common emotive charge.

Thus it was found that according to Roget 2 44 synonyms of the word whiteness imply something favourable and pleasing to contemplate (purity, cleanness, immaculateness, etc.).

 

§ 50. Semantic Contrasts and Antonymy

Antonymy in general shares many features typical of synonymy. Like synonyms, perfect or complete antonyms are fairly rare.

It is usual to find the relations of antonymy restricted to certain contexts. Thus thick is only one of the antonyms of thin (a thin slice—a thick slice), another is fat (a thin man—a fat man).

The definition of antonyms as words characterised by semantic polarity or opposite meaning is open to criticism on the points discussed already in connection with synonymy. It is also evident that the term opposite meaning is rather vague and allows of essentially different interpretation.

1 In Modern English both words have lost this meaning. See also 'Semasiology', § 15, p. 24.

2 Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases. London, 1962.

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If we compare the meaning of the words kind — ‘gentle, friendly, showing love, sympathy or thought for others’ and cruel — ‘taking pleasure in giving pain to others, without mercy’, we see that they denote concepts that are felt as completely opposed to each other. Comparing the adjective kind and unkind we do not find any polarity of meaning as here semantic opposition is confined to simple negation. Unkind may be interpreted as not kind which does not necessarily mean cruel, just as not beautiful does not necessarily mean ugly.

It is more or less universally recognised that among the cases that are traditionally described as antonyms there are at least the following four groups.1

1. Contradictories which represent the type of semantic relations that exist between pairs like dead and alive, single and married, perfect and imperfect, etc.

To use one of the terms is to contradict the other and to use not before one of them is to make it semantically equivalent to the other, cf. not dead=alive, not single=married.

Among contradictories we find a subgroup of words of the type young — old, big — small, and so on. The difference between these and the antonymic pairs described above lies in the fact that to say not young is not necessarily to say old. In fact terms like young and old, big and small or few and many do not represent absolute values. To use one of the terms is to imply comparison with some norm: young means ‘relatively young’. We can say She is young but she is older than her sister. To be older does not mean ‘to be old’.

It is also usual for one member of each pair to always function as the unmarked or generic term for the common quality involved in both members: age, size, etc.

This generalised denotational meaning comes to the fore in certain contexts. When we ask How old is the baby? we do not imply that the baby is old. The question How big is it? may be answered by It is very big or It is very small.

It is of interest to note that quality nouns such as length, breadth, width, thickness, etc. also are generic, i.e. they cover the entire measurement range while the corresponding antonymous nouns shortness, narrowness, thinness apply only to one of the extremes.

2. Contraries differ from contradictories mainly because contradictories admit of no possibility between them. One is either single or married, either dead or alive, etc. whereas contraries admit such possibilities. This may be observed in cold — hot, and cool and warm which seem to be intermediate members. Thus we may regard as antonyms not only cold and hot but also cold and warm.

Contraries may be opposed to each other by the absence or presence of one of the components of meaning like sex or age. This can be illustrated by such pairs as manwoman, man — boy.

1 See, e. g., Webster’s Dictionary of Synonyms. Springfield, USA, 1961, Introductory Matter, Antonyms. Analysis and Definition.

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3. Incompatibles. Semantic relations of incompatibility exist among the antonyms with the common component of meaning and may be described as the reverse of hyponymy, i.e. as the relations of exclusion but not of contradiction. To say morning is to say not afternoon, not evening, not night. The negation of one member of this set however does not imply semantic equivalence with the other but excludes the possibility of the other words of this set. A relation of incompatibility may be observed between colour terms since the choice of red, e.g., entails the exclusion of black, blue, yellow and so on. Naturally not all colour terms are incompatible. Semantic relations between scarlet and red are those of hyponymy.

We know that polysemy may be analysed through synonymy. For example, different meaning of the polysemantic word handsome can be singled out by means of synonymic substitution a handsome man—a beautiful man; but a handsome reward —a generous reward. In some cases polysemy may be also analysed through antonymy (e.g. a handsome manan ugly man, a handsome reward — an insufficient reward, etc.). This is naturally not to say that the number of meanings of a polysemantic word is equal to the number of its antonyms. Not all words or all meanings have antonyms (e.g. table, book, etc. have no antonyms). In some cases, however, antonymy and synonymy serve to differentiate the meanings as in the word handsome discussed above. Interchangeability in certain contexts analysed in connection with synonyms is typical of antonyms as well. In a context where one member of the antonymous pair can be used, it is, as a rule, interchangeable with the other member. For instance, if we take the words dry and wet to be antonymous, they must be interchangeable in the same context (e.g. a wet shirta dry shirt). This is not to imply that the same antonyms are interchangeable in all contexts. It was pointed out above that antonyms that belong to the group of contraries are found in various antonymic pairs. Thus, for instance there are many antonyms of dry damp, wet, moist, etc.

The interchangeability of each of them with dry is confined to certain contexts. In contrast to dry air we select damp air and in contrast to dry lips—we would probably use moist lips.

It is therefore suggested that the term "antonyms" should be used as a general term to describe words different in sound-form and characterised by different types of semantic contrast of denotational meaning and interchangeability at least in some contexts.

§ 51. Semantic Similarity

of Morphemes

and Word-Families

Lexical groups composed of words with semantically and phonemically identical root-morphemes are usually defined as word-families or word-clusters. The term itself implies close links between the members of the group. Such are word-families of the type: lead, leader, leadership; dark, darken, dark ness; form, formal, formality and others. It should be noted that members of a word-family as a rule belong to different parts of speech and are joined together only by the identity of root-morphemes. In the word-families discussed above the root-morphemes are identical not only in

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meaning but also in sound-form. There are cases, however, when the sound-form of root-morphemes may be different, as for example in sun, sunny, solar; mouth, oral, orally; brother, brotherly, fraternal, etc.; their semantic similarity however, makes it possible to include them in a word-family. In such cases it is usual to speak of lexical suppletion, i.e. formation of related words of a word-family from phonemically different roots. As a rule in the word-families of this type we are likely to encounter etymologically different words, e.g. the words brother and mouth are of Germanic origin, whereas fraternal and oral can be easily traced back to Latin. We frequently find synonymic pairs of the type fatherly — paternal, brotherly—fraternal.

Semantic and phonemic identity of affixational morphemes can be observed in the lexical groups of the type darkness, cleverness, calmness, etc.; teacher, reader, writer, etc. In such word-groups as, e.g. teacher, musician, etc., only semantic similarity of derivational affixes is observed. As derivational affixes impart to the words a certain generalised meaning, we may single out lexical groups denoting the agent, the doer of the action (Nomina Agenti)—teacher, reader, etc. or lexical groups denoting actions (Nomina Acti)—movement, transformation, etc. and others.

§ 52. Summary and Conclusions

1. Paradigmatic (or selectional) and syntagmatic (or combinatory) axes of linguistic structure represent the way vocabulary is organised.

Syntagmatic relations define the word-meaning in the flow of speech in various contexts.

Paradigmatic relations define the word-meaning through its interrelation with other members within one of the subgroups of vocabulary units.

2. On the syntagmatic axis the word-meaning is dependent on different types of contexts. Linguistic context is the minimal stretch of speech necessary to determine individual meanings.

3. Linguistic (verbal) contexts comprise lexical and grammatical contexts and are opposed to extra-linguistic (non-verbal) contexts. In extra-linguistic contexts the meaning of the word is determined not only by linguistic factors but also by the actual speech situation in which the word is used.

4. The semantic structure of polysemantic words is not homogeneous as far as the status of individual meanings is concerned. A certain meaning (or meanings) is representative of the word taken in isolation, others are perceived only in various contexts.

5. Classification of vocabulary into thematic groups is based on common contextual associations. Contextual associations are formed as a result of regular co-occurrence of words in similar, repeatedly used contexts within the framework of sentences.

6. The main criterion underlying semantic classification of vocabulary items on the paradigmatic axis is the type of meaning relationship between words.

The criterion of common concept serves to classify words into semantic fields and lexico-semantic groups.

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Semantic relationship of inclusion is the main feature of hyponymic hierarchical structure Semantic similarity and semantic contrast is the type of relationship which underlies the classification of lexical items into synonymic and antonymic series.

7. Synonymy and antonymy are correlative and sometimes overlapping notions. Synonymous relationship of the denotational meaning is in many cases combined with the difference in the connotational (mainly stylistic) component.

8. It is suggested that the term synonyms should be used to describe words different in sound-form but similar in their denotational meaning (or meanings) and interchangeable at least in some contexts.

The term antоnуms is to be applied to words different in sound-form characterised by different types of semantic contrast of the denotational meaning and interchangeable at least in some contexts.


111. Word-Groups and Phraseological Units

Words put together to form lexical units make phrases or word-groups. It will be recalled that lexicology deals with words, word-forming morphemes and word-groups. We assume that the word is the basic lexical unit.1 The smallest two-facet unit to be found within the word is the morpheme which is studied on the morphological level of analysis. The largest two-facet lexical unit comprising more than one word is the word-group observed on the syntagmatic level of analysis of the various ways words are joined together to make up single self-contained lexical units.

The degree of structural and semantic cohesion of word-groups may vary. Some word-groups, e.g. at least, point of view, by means of, take place, seem to be functionally and semantically inseparable. Such word-groups are usually described as set-phrases, word-equivalents or phraseological units and are traditionally regarded as the subject matter of the branch of lexicological science that studies phraseology.

The component members in other word-groups, e.g. a week ago, man of wisdom, take lessons, kind to people, seem to possess greater semantic and structural independence. Word-groups of this type are defined as free or variable word-groups or phrases and are habitually studied in syntax.

Here, however, we proceed from the assumption that before touching on the problem of phraseology it is essential to briefly outline the features common to various types of word-groups viewed as self-contained lexical units irrespective of the degree of structural and semantic cohesion of the component words.

SOME BASIC FEATURES OF WORD-GROUPS

To get a better insight into the essentials of structure and meaning of word-groups we must begin with a brief survey of the main factors active in uniting words into word-groups. The two main linguistic factors to be considered in this connection are the lexical and the grammatical valency of words.

§ 1. Lexical Valency (Collocability)





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