Lexicology as a Branch of Linguistics. The Structural Peculiarities of English Words


Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

Lexicology, its main objectives and practical value. Lexicology as a study of words. The main structural types of English words. Lexicology form Greek ‘lexis word and ‘logos ‘learning is the branch of linguistics dealing with the vocabulary of the language and the properties of words as the main units of the language.



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Lecture 1

Lexicology as a Branch of Linguistics. The Structural Peculiarities of English Words.

      Questions to be discussed:  

Lexicology, its main objectives and practical value.

Lexicology as a study of words.

The main types of lexical units.

    4. The main structural types of English words.

1. Lexicology (form Greek ‘lexis’ – ‘word’ and ‘logos’ – ‘learning) is the branch of linguistics dealing with the vocabulary of the language and the properties of words as the main units of the language. The term ‘vocabulary’ is used to denote the system formed by the sum total of all the words and word equivalents that the language possesses. The term ‘word’ denotes the basic unit of a given language which has a particular meaning, represents a particular group of sounds and is able to employ different grammatical forms.

The main objectives of Lexicology are:

1. Etymology (which studies the origin of English words, their change and development). For instance, such words as phenomenon, criterion have the plural form different from English: phenomena, criteria). It is explained by their Latin origin and their incomplete assimilation. The partially assimilated borrowed word ‘ballet’ is still pronounced according to the norms of the French language.

2.   Word-building (which studies the morphological structure of English words and word-building patterns according to which new words are created. For example, polite – impolite,  a monkey – to monkey, a Member of Parliament – an MP, okay – OK, etc.

3. Semantics  (the study of meaning), the basis of Lexicology. Modern approaches to this problem are characterized by two different levels of study: syntagmatic and paradigmatic. 

On the syntagmatic level (syntagma – two or more morphemes forming a word – rewrite; or a combination of words forming a phrase, clause or sentence – the train is leaving now) the semantic structure of the word is analized in its linear relationships with neighbouring words in connected speech. That is, the semantic characteristics of the word are observed, described and studied on the basis of its typical context. E.g.in the expression the hat on her head the noun ‘head’ means the part of the body, whereas in the head of the department  ‘head’ means ‘chief’.

So, the problems of the syntagmatic studies are: contextual and other types of analysis.

On the paradigmatic level (paradigm is the pattern showing what forms the word can have) the word is studied in its relationships with other words in the vocabulary system.   The noun head mentioned above enters into contrastive paradigmatic relations  with all other words, e.g. head, chief, director. So, a word may be studied in comparison with other words of similar meaning (e.g. work – labour, to refuse – to reject); of different stylistic characteristics (e.g. man – chap – bloke – guy). That’s why the main problems of the paradigmatic level are: synonymy, antonymy, functional styles.

4. Phraseology (the branch of L. specializing in word-groups which are characterized by stability of structure and transferred meaning, e.g. to take the bull by the horns, to live from hand to mouth, to rain cats and dogs.

The practical value of English Lexicology for a future teacher of English consists in the following:

1) it is useful for building up the learner’s vocabulary by an effective selection, grouping and analysis  of new words as they are better remembered if they are given not at random but organized  in thematic groups, word-families, synonymic series, etc.;

2) a good knowledge of the system of word-formation helps the student to guess and keep in his memory the meaning of new words on the basis of their motivation and by comparing and contrasting them with the previously learned elements and patterns. For instance, immovable – that cannot be moved, deforestation – clearing land from forests, etc. ;

3) the knowledge and understanding of functional styles  and stylistic synonyms  is necessary when literary texts are used as a basis for analitical reading, discussion fiction and translation;

4) the skills to combine words  with each other (valency of words) will help the students to avoid many mistakes: a high tree, but a tall man; to do lessons but to make a mistake;

5) L. also teaches the necessary skills of using different kinds of dictionaries (Etymological, Phraseological, etc.) and prepares for future independent work on increasing and improving one’s vocabulary.

2. Lexicology as a study of words.

                                                  What‘s in a name? That which we call a rose

                                                            By any other name would smell as sweet?

                                                       (W. Shakespeare, “Romeo and Juliet”, Act II)

These famous lines reflect one of the fundamental problems of linguistic research: what is in a name, in a word? Is there any direct connection between a word and the object it represents? Could a rose have been called by “any other name” as Juliet says?

These and similar questions are answered by lexicological research. Lexicology as a branch of linguistics is the study of words.

The modern approach to word studies is based on distinguishing between the external and the internal structures of the word. By the external structure of the word we mean its morphological structure. For example, in the word post-impressionists the following morphemes can be distinguished: the prefixes post-, im-; the root press; the noun-forming-suffixes –ion, -ist and the grammatical suffix of plurality –s.All these morphemes constitute the external structure of the word post-impressionists.

 The internal structure of the word, or its meaning, is nowadays commonly referred to as the word‘s semantic structure. This is certainly the word‘s main aspect. Words can serve the purposes of human communication solely due to their meaning. The area of lexicology specilising in the semantic studies of the word is called semantics. 

Another structural aspect of the word is its unity. The word possesses both external (or formal) unity and semantic unity. Formal unity of the word is sometimes inaccurately interpreted as indivisibility. The example of post-impressionists has already shown that the word is not indivisible. Yet, its component morphemes are permanently linked together in opposition to word-groups, both free and with fixed contexts, whose components possess a certain structural freedom, e.g. bright light, to take for granted.  

The formal unity of the word can best be illustrated by comparing a word and a word-group comprising identical constituents. The difference between a blackbird and a black bird  is best explained by their relationship with the grammatical system of the language. The word blackbird, which is characterized by unity, possesses a single grammatical framing: blackbirds. The first constituent black is not the subject to any grammatical changes. In the word-group a black bird each constituent can acquire grammatical forms of its own: the blackest birds I‘ve ever seen. Other words can be inserted between the components which is impossible so far as the word is concerned as it would violate its unity: a black night bird.

 The same example may be used to illustrate what we mean by semantic unity. In the word-group a black bird each of the meaningful words conveys a separate concept: black – a colour, bird – a kind of living creature. The word blackbird conveys only one concept: the type of bird. This is one of the main features of any word: it always conveys one concept, no matter how many component morphemes it may have in its external structure.

A further structural feature of the word is its susceptibility to grammatical employment. In speech most words can be used in different grammatical forms in which their interrelations are realized.

All that has been said about the word can be summed up as follows: the word is a speech unit used for the purposes of human communication, materially representing a group of sounds, possessing a meaning, susceptible to grammatical employment and characterized by formal and semantic unity.  

 3. The main types of lexical units.

  Lexical units are two-facet elements possessing form and meaning. The basic unit forming the bulk of the vocabulary is the word (the smallest of the linguistic units which can occur in speech and writing). Other units are morphemes (the smallest meaningful units in a language) that is parts of words,  and set-expressions  or groups of words.

Words are the central elements  of language system. They are the biggest units of morphology and the smallest of syntax. They can be separated in an utterance by other such units and can be used in isolation.

Unlike words, morphemes cannot be divided into smaller meaningful units and are functioning in speech only as constituent parts of words, e.g. un-eat-able, un-kind-ness. Words represent integer concept, feeling or action, whereas the meaning of morphemes is more abstract and more general and at the same time they are less autonomous.

There  are different  types of morphemes: root morphemes, stems and affixes. Affixes before the root morpheme are called prefixes, those after the root are suffixes.

The root shows the main signification of the word, it is the nucleus of its meaning.

Affixes modify the meaning of the root morpheme.

The root is a lexical category while the stem is more of grammatical nature. All sorts of inflections when added to the stem influence its grammatical meaning and make a word-form; a stem joined to another stem makes a compound word. It stands to reason that one and the same root can produce many stems (e.g. act-acting, active, activity, actor, actress, actual, actuality).

Not all affix morphemes have equal power. Suffixes have a part-of-speech-forming force while prefixes mostly modify the meaning of words; but there are instances when prefixes serve to make another part of speech (e.g. rich-enrich, slave-enslave, large-enlarge).

Stems that can function as words (e.g. pig in pigsty, pig-breeder, pigs, piggish) are sometimes called free while those that cannot function as words (e.g. modi- in modify) are referred to as bound stems.

Set-expressions are word-groups consisting of two or more words whose combination is integrated so that they are introduced in speech ready-made as units with a specialized meaning of the whole that is not understood as a mere sum total of the meanings of the elements, e.g. to go in for sports, to have a good command of English (to master English), etc.

 It is known that every living vocabulary is constantly changing adapting itself to the functions of those who use it. In this process the vocabulary changes not only quantitatively by creating new words from the already available morphemes and according to the existing patterns but also qualitatively. It means that new morphemic material and new word-building patterns come into being, and new names adapt features characteristic of other lexical units. As a result, we should get acquainted with another type of lexical units – word-equivalents (w-eq.).

W-eq. are not identical to orthographic words bur equivalent to them. Almost any part of speech contains units indivisible either syntactically or semantically, or both, but graphically divided, e.g.:

complex prepositions: along with, as far as, in spite of, except for, due to, by means of, for the sake of, etc.;

 phrasal verbs: to bring up (to educate), to call on (to visit), to make up (to apply cosmetics), etc.;

compound nouns: lady-killer, flowerbed, full stop, all right, etc. Sometimes they are not joined by solid spelling  or hyphenation but written separately, though in all other respects they do not differ from similar one-word nominations.

the formulaic sentences: how do you do, quite the contrary, never mind, etc.

All these word-equivalents are indivisible and fulfill the nominative, significative, communicative and pragmatic functions just as words do.

So, the vocabulary of the language is not homogeneous. We see that its bulk, its central part is formed by lexical units possessing all the distinctive features of words, that is semantic, orthographic and morphological integrity as well as the capacity of being used in speech in isolation.

 4.  The main structural types of English words are:

simple or root words where the root coincides with the stem in form (e.g. joy, rain, stop);

derived words where the meaning of the root, the lexical nucleus, is modified by the potential meaning of suffixes (e.g. joyful, rainy, stoppage);

compound words where two or more stems are fused into a semantic and structural whole (e.g. joy ride, rainbow, full stop);

compound-derived words where the compound constituted by two or more stem-morphemes is modified by an affix (big-eater, lady-killer, blue-eyed).

 Simple or root words predominate in speech communication. “Function words” (prepositions, articles, pronouns, conjunctions) are of the high frequency value. Within this group we find words that denote concepts formerly expressed by derived words (zoo-zoological garden; curio-curiosity; prop-proposition); as colloquial counterparts of derived words (e.g. frig for refrigerator) or of compound words (e.g. ice for ice-cream). Such words are formed by the process of shortening or clipping.

There are also simple words denoting concepts formerly expressed by a group of words (e.g. smog for fog mixed with smoke or motel for hotel for motorists).

There are also acronyms formed from the initial letters of several words (e.g. radar from Radio Aviation Detection and Ranging).

Derived words rate second in frequency after root-words. This high percentage of derived words both in language (dictionaries) and speech (texts, oral communication) is explained by the activity of derivation as a word-building device.

Compound words do not ammount too much in frequency but their number is steadily growing.

Compound-derived words or derivational compounds are in fact a subgroup of compound words where composition is combined with affixation.

Questions to be answered at the end of the lecture:

What does Lexicology study?

What are the main objectives of L.?

Why is the knowledge of Lexicology so important for a future English teacher?

What is the modern approach to word studies based on?

What is meant by the external structure and the semantic structure of a word?

What is the word‘s main aspect? Why?

Is such structural aspect as “unity” common for both words and word-groups?

What are the main types of lexical units?

What types of morphemes do you know?

What unites words and w-eq.?

What are the structural types of English words?

The Practical task

Define the structural type of the following words:

Book, bookish, a book-store, flu, mother-in-law, hand, handicraft, lab, fair-haired, touch, touchy, child, childish, sun, sunny, sun-flower, broad-shouldered, honey-moon, honey-mooner, new-comer, baby-sitter, statesman, TV-set, sit-at-home, good-for-nothing, lunch, luncher-out, V-day, T-shirt, lady-killer, agent, FBI agent.



The Etymological Peculiarities of the English Vocabulary

          Questions to be discussed:

 1.Etymological sources of the language: conditions and reasons encouraging the process of borrowing.

2.  The assimilation of borrowed words.

3.  The borrowed element of the English vocabulary.

4.  The native element of the English vocabulary.

5. Various other elements in the English Vocabulary, international words,   archaisms, neologisms

1. Etymological Sources of the Language:  Conditions and Reasons Encouraging the Process of Borrowing.

Why are the words borrowed? This question partially concerns the historical circumstances which stimulate the borrowing process. Each time two nations come into close contact, certain borrowings are a natural consequence. The nature of the contact may be different. It may be wars, invasions or conquests when foreign word are in fact imposed upon the reluctant conquered nation. There are also periods of peace when the process of borrowing is due to trade and international cultural relations. These latter circumstances are certainly more favourable for stimulating the borrowing process, for during invasions or conquests the natural psychological reaction of the oppressed nation is to reject and condemn the language of the oppressor. In this respect the linguistic heritage of the Norman Conquest (1066) seems exceptional, especially if compared to the influence of the Mongol-Tartar Yoke on the Russian language. The Mongol-Tartar yoke also represented a long period of cruel oppression, yet the imprint left by it on the Russian vocabulary is comparatively insignificant.

The difference in the consequences of these evidently similar historical events is usually explained by the divergency in the level of civilization of the two conflicting nations. Russian civilization and also the level of its language development at the time of Mongol-Tartar invasion were superior to those of the invaders. That's why the Russian language successfully resisted the influence of a less developed language system. On the other hand, the Norman culture of the 11th century was certainly superior to that of the Saxons. The result was that an immense number of French words forced their way into English vocabulary. Instead of being smashed and broken by the powerful intrusion of the foreign element, the English language managed to preserve its essential structure and vastly enriched its expressive resources with the new borrowings. But all this only serves to explain the conditions which encourage the borrowing process. The question of why words are borrowed is still unanswered.

Sometimes it is done to fill a gap in vocabulary. When the Saxons borrowed Latin words for butter, plum, beet, they did it because their own vocabulary lacked words for these new objects. For the same reason the words potato and tomato were borrowed by English from Spanish when these vegetables were first brought to England by the Spaniards.

But there is also a great number of words which are borrowed for other reasons. There may be a word (or even several words) which expresses some particular concept, so that there is no gap in the vocabulary and there does not seem to be any need for borrowing. Yet, one more word is borrowed which means almost the same, - almost, but not exactly. It is borrowed because it represents the same concept in some new aspect, supplies a new shade of meaning or a different emotional colouring. This type of borrowing enlarges the expressive resources of the vocabulary. That is how the Latin cordial was added to the native friendly, the French desire to wish, the Latin admire and the French adore to like and love.

The English vocabulary falls into elements of different etymology. It has been estimated that from 60 to 70 per cent of the whole word-stock came from nearly all the languages of the world.

The fact of this unusually great enrichment at the expense of foreign languages is accounted for by the frequent and durable contacts of the English people with other nations.

2. The Assimilation of Borrowed Words.

Do borrowed words change or do they remain the same? The eminent scholar Maria Pei put the same question in a more colourful way." Do words when they migrate from one language into another behave as people do under similar circumstances? Do they remain alien in appearance, or do they take out citizenship papers?"

Most of them take the second way, that is, they adjust themselves to their new environment and get adapted to the norms of the recipient language. They undergo certain changes which gradually erase their foreign feature, and, finally, they are assimilated.

By assimilation we mean the adaptation of the lexical unit to the language laws of its new sphere - sound system, stress position, morphological structure, grammatical peculiarities, semantic structure, etc. Assimilation might begin with the phonetical and morphological adaptation, then extend to its word-building capacity so that the word becomes the center of a whole nest of derivatives and set-expressions resulting in a complex semantic structure typical of the language into which the word was borrowed and widely differing from the one it had in its native sphere.

e.g. adj. round (L. - rotundus, O.E. - rund): the phonetical change of lengthening the u vowel before nd - Old English and the diphthongizing (long u into au) - Middle English. These qualitative and quantitative sound changes formed the first stage of the word's assimilation.

Then it has given the noun a round of cheese or beef, an adverb to work all year round, a preposition to make a tour round the world, a verb to round one's eyes in wonder, an adjective a round table.

Besides, the word adopted native suffixes:

-ness (n., roundness)

-ish (adj., roundish)    

-ly (adv., roundly)       

It is also used in phraseological groups, having developed a number of meanings different from what it had in its parent language. This is what we may call complete assimilation.

Sometimes the process of assimilation develops to the point when the foreign origin of a word is quite unrecognizable. It's difficult to believe now that such words as dinner, cat, take, cup are not English by origin. Others, though well assimilated, still bear traces of their foreign background. Distance: and development, for instance, are identified as borrowings by their French suffixes, skin and sky by the Scandinavian initial sk; police and regime by the French stress on the last syllable.

Borrowed words are adjusted in the three main areas of the new language system: the phonetic., the grammatical and semantic.

The three stages of gradual phonetic assimilation of French borrowings can be illustrated by different phonetic variants of the word garage:

g  ra  (Fr.) -  g  rid  (Amer.) -  g  ra    (Br.)

Grammatical adaptation consists in a complete change of the former paradigm of the borrowed word. If it is a noun, it is certain to adopt, sooner or later, a new system of declension; a verb - it will be conjugated according to the rules of the recepient language. Yet, this is also a lasting process. The Russian noun  пальто was borrowed from French early in the 19th century and has not yet acquired the Russian system of declension. The same can be said about such English Renaissance borrowings as datum (pi. data), phenomenon (pi. phenomena}, criterion (pi. criteria). Whereas earlier Latin borrowings such as cup, street, plum, wall were fully adapted to the grammatical system of the language long ago.

By semantic adaptation is meant adjustment to the system of meanings of the vocabulary (caused either by the necessity to fill a gap in the vocabulary or by a chance to add a synonym conveying an old concept in a new way). The adjective large, for instance, was borrowed from French in the meaning of "wide". It was not actually wanted, because it fully coincided with the English adjective wide without adding any new shades or aspects to its meaning. This could have led to its rejection. Yet, large managed to establish itself firmly in the English vocabulary by semantic adjustment. It entered another synonymic group with the general meaning of "big in size".

The adjective nice was a French borrowing meaning "silly" at first. But the original necessity for change was caused by the fact that the meaning of "foolish" was not wanted in the vocabulary and therefore nice was obliged to look for a gap in another semantic field.

"Gay" was borrowed from French as "noble of birth", "bright, shining" and shifted its meaning into "joyful, high-spirited".

There are some classifications of borrowings:

1) according to the borrowed aspect borrowings are divided into the following groups: phonetic borrowings, translation loans, semantic borrowings, morphemic borrowings.

Phonetic borrowings are the most characteristic ones in all languages, they are called loan words proper. Words are borrowed with their spelling, pronunciation and meaning. Then they undergo assimilation, each sound in the borrowed word is substituted by the corresponding sound of the borrowing language. In some cases the spelling is changed. The structure of the word can also be changed. The position of the stress is very often influenced by the phonetic system of the borrowing language. The paradigm of the word, and sometimes the meaning of the borrowed word are also changed. Such words as labour, travel, table, chair, people are phonetic borrowings from French; apparatchik, nomenklatura, sputnik are phonetic borrowings from Russian; bank, soprano, duet are phonetic borrowings from Italian etc.

Translation loans are word-for-word (or morpheme-for-morpheme) translations of some foreign words or expressions. In such cases the notion is borrowed from a foreign language but it is expressed by native lexical units: to take the bull by the horns (Latin),  fair sex (French), collective farm (Russian) etc.

Semantic borrowings are such units when a new meaning of the unit existing in the language is borrowed. It can happen when we have two relative languages which have common words with different meanings, e.g. there are semantic borrowings between Scandinavian and English, such as the meaning to live for the word to dwell which in Old English had the meaning to wander.

Morphemic borrowings are borrowings of affixes which occur in the language when many words with identical affixes are borrowed from one language into another, so that the morphemic structure of borrowed words becomes familiar to the people speaking the borrowing language, e.g. we find a lot of Romanic affixes in the English word-building system, that is why there are a lot of words-hybrids in English where different morphemes have different origin, e.g. goddess (native root  + Romanic suffix –ess), beautiful (French root + English suffix –ful), uneatable (English prefix un- + English root + Romanic suffix –able).

2) according to the degree of assimilation borrowings are subdivided  into: completely assimilated, partly assimilated and non-assimilated (barbarisms).

Completely assimilated borrowings are not felt as foreign in the language, c.f. the French word sport and the native word start. Completely assimilated verbs belong to regular verbs, e.g. correct – corrected. Completely assimilated nouns form their plural by means of  s-inflexion, e.g. gate – gates. In completely assimilated French words the stress has been shifted from the last syllable to the first one, e.g. capital, service.

Semantic assimilation of borrowed words  depends on the words existing in the borrowing language. As a rule, a borrowed word does not bring all its meanings into the borrowing language if it is polysemantic, e.g. the Russian borrowing sputnik is used in English only in one of its meanings.

Partly assimilated borrowings are subdivided into the following groups:

a) borrowings non-assimilated semantically, because they denote objects and notions peculiar to the country from the language of which they were borrowed, e.g. sari, sombrero, sarafan, taiga, steppe, kvass, borshch, tsar, troika, zloty, rupee etc.;

b) borrowings non-assimilated grammatically, e.g. some nouns borrowed from Latin and Greek retain their plural forms: phenomenon – phenomena, datum – data, genius – genii etc.;

c) borrowings non-assimilated phonetically. Here belong words with the initial sounds [v] and [z], e.g. voice, zero. In native words these voiced consonants are used only in the intervocal position as allophones of sounds [f] and [s] (loss – lose, life – live). Some French borrowings have retained their stress on the final syllable, e.g. police, cartoon. Some French borrowings retain special combinations of sounds, e.g. [a:] in the words camouflage, boulevard, some of them retain the combination of sounds [wa:]: memoir, bourgeois;

d) borrowings can be partly assimilated graphically, e.g. in Greek borrowings y can be spelled in the middle of the word (symbol, synonym), ph denotes the sound [f] (phoneme, morpheme), ch denotes the sound [k] (chemistry, chaos), ps denotes the sound [s] (psychology).

Non-assimilated borrowings (barbarisms) are borrowings which are used by Englishmen rather seldom and are non-assimilated, e.g. dolce vita (Italian), coup d’etat (French), ciao (Italian), tet-a-tet (French).

We can divide the foreign element in English into early and late borrowings as adopted orally and through writing. Early oral borrowings are mostly monosyllabic The earlier the date of borrowing the more complete the assimilation.


3. The Borrowed Element of the English Vocabulary.

The process of borrowing words from other languages  has been characteristic of English throughout  its history. More than two thirds of the English vocabulary are borrowings. Mostly they are words of Romanic origin (Latin, French, Italian, Spanish). English history is very rich in different types of contacts with other countries, that is why it is very rich in borrowings. The term source of borrowing should be distinguished from the term origin of borrowing. The first means the language from which the borrowing was taken into English. The second, on the other hand, refers to the language to which the word may be traced. Thus the word paper – Fr. papier – Lat. papyrus – Gr. papyros has French as its source of borrowing and Greek as its origin.

The first century B.C.

Most of the territory now known to us as Europe is occupied by the Roman Empire. Among the inhabitants of the continent are Germanic tribes, "barbarians" as the arrogant Romans call them. Theirs is really a rather primitive stage of development, especially if compared with the high civilization and refinement of Rome. They are primitive cattle-breeders and know almost nothing about land cultivation. Their tribal languages contain only Indo-European and Germanic elements.

Now comes an event which brings an important change. After a number of wars between the Germanic tribes and the Romans these two opposing peoples come into peaceful contact. Trade is carried on, and the germanic people gain knowledge of new and useful things. The first among them are new things to eat. The only products known to the Germanic tribes were meat and milk. It is from the Romans that they learn how to make butter and cheese and, as there are naturally no words for these foodstuffs in their tribal languages, they are to use the Latin words to name them (Lat. butyrum, caseus). It is also to the Romans that the Germanic tribes owe the knowledge of some new fruits and vegetables of which they had no idea before: cherry, pea, beet, pepper.

The fifth century A.D.

Several of the Germanic tribes (the most numerous among them being the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes) migrated across the sea now known as the English Channel to the British Isles. There they were confronted by the Celts, the original inhabitants of the Isles. The Celts desperately defended their lands against the invaders, but they were no match for the military-minded Teutons and gradually yielded most of their territory. They retreated to the North and South-West (modern Scotland, Wales and Cornwall). Through their numerous contacts with the defeated Celts, the conquerors got to know and assimilated a number of Celtic words (Modern English bald, down, glen, druid, bard, cradle). Especially numerous among the Celtic borrowings were place names of rivers, hills, etc. The Germanic tribes occupied the land, but the names of many parts and the features of their territory remained Celtic. For instance, the names of the rivers Avon, Exe, Esk, Usk originate from Celtic words meaning "river" and "water".

Ironically, even the name of the English capital originates from Celtic Llyn+dun in which llyn is another Celtic word for "river" and dun stands for "a fortified hill the meaning of the whole being '''fortress on the hill over the river". Some Latin words entered the Anglo-Saxon languages through Celtic, among them are street (Lat. strata via) and wall (Lat. vallum).

The seventh century A.D.

This century was significant for the christianization of England. Latin was the official language of the Christian church, and consequently the spread of Christianity was accompanied by a new period of Latin borrowings. They mostly indicated persons, objects and ideas associated with church and religious rituals. E.g. priest, bishop, monk, nun, candle.

Additionally, in a class of their own, were educational terms. It was quite natural that these were also Latin borrowings, for the first schools in England were church schools, and the first teachers priests and monks. So, the very word school is a Latin borrowing (Lat. schola, of Greek origin) and so are such words as scholar, magister.

From the end of the eighth century to the middle of the eleventh century.

England underwent several Scandinavian invasions which inevitably left their trace on English vocabulary. E.g. anger, fellow, ill, low, gasp, get, same, both, they.

Some of the words of this group are easily recognizable as Scandinavian borrowings by their initial sk- combination: sky, skill, skin, ski, skirt.


With the famous Battle of Hastings, when the English were defeated by the Normans under William the Conqueror, we come to the eventful epoch of the Norman Conquest. The epoch can well be called eventful not only in national, social, political and human terms, but also in linguistic terms. England became a bi-lingual country, and the impact on the English vocabulary made over 200 years period is immense: French words from the Norman dialect penetrated every aspect of social life. French influenced not only the vocabulary of English but also its spelling, because documents were written by French  scribes as the local population was mainly illiterate, and the ruling class was French. Runic letters, remaining in English after the Latin alphabet was borrowed, were substituted by Latin letters and combinations of letters, e.g. v was introduced for the voiced consonant [v]  instead of f in the intervocal position (lufian – love), the digraph ch was introduced to denote the sound [t ] instead of the letter c (cest – chest) etc.

The Renaissance Period

In England, as in all European countries, this period was marked by significant developments in science, art and culture and, also by a revival of interest in the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome and their languages. Hence, there occurred a considerable number of Latin and Greek borrowings. In contrast to the earliest Latin borrowings (the 1st century B.C.), the Renaissance ones were rarely concrete names. They were mostly abstract words (e.g. major, minor, filial, moderate, intelligent, permanent, to elect, to create).

They were naturally numerous scientific and artistic terms (datum, status, phenomenon, philosophy, method, music). The same is true of Greek Renaissance borrowings (e.g. atom, cycle, ethics, esthete).

The most significant French borrowings of the period came from Parisian dialect of French and are known as Parisian borrowings. Examples: regime, routine, police, machine, ballet, matinee, scene, technique, bourgeois, etc.

The Etymological Structure of English Vocabulary

The native element

The borrowed element

I.        Indo-European element

II.       Germanic element

III. English Proper element (no earlier than 5th c. A.D.)

I.        Celtic (5th-6th c. A.D.)

II.       Latin

1st group: lstc.B.C.

2nd group:7th c.A.D.

3rd group: the Renaissance period

III.      Scandinavian (8th - 11th c.A.D.)

IV.     French

1. Norman borrowings:

11th-13th c.A.D.

2. Parisian borrowings (Renaissance)

V.       Greek (Renaissance)

VI.     Italian (Renaissance and later)

VII.    Spanish (Renaissance and later)

VIII.   German

IX.     Indian

X.      Russian

And some other groups

4. The Native Element of the English Vocabulary.

When in the 5th century of our era the Anglo-Saxon tribes came to Britain, they brought their dialects which we now refer to as Old English and which formed the foundation for the ultimate development of Modern English. The Anglo-Saxon element is still at the core of the language.

Native words, though they constitute only 30% of the English vocabulary, are the most frequently used words. They are subdivided into two groups: Indo-European and Common Germanic. The oldest layer of words in English are words met in Indo-European languages. There are several semantic groups of them which  stand for fundamental things and generally express the most vital concepts, for example:

  •  actions: go, say, see, find, love, hunt, eat, sleep;
  •  everyday objects: food, fish, meat, milk, water;
  •  names of animals and birds: sheep, bull, ox, fowl;
  •  natural phenomena: land, sun, moon, summer, winter, sea;
  •  geographical concepts, direction: north, east, west, northward,way;
  •  names of persons: man, woman, father, mother, son;
  •  qualities: long, short, far;

The native stock of words includes modal and auxiliary verbs (shall, will, be), pronouns (/, he, she, you), prepositions (at, on, of, by), conjunctions (and, which, that, but), articles (a, an, the), most of the numerals (one, ten, fifty, the third). These words are characterized by:

  •  plurality of meanings;
    •  great word-building power;
    •  combinative power in phraseology.

But a number of Anglo-Saxon words were irrevocably lost. Many of those words denoting things no longer in use dropped out of the vocabulary, such as, for instance, names of weapons no longer used, garments no longer worn, customs no longer practised, etc.

Considering the high percentage of borrowed words (60-70%), one would have to classify English as a language of international origin or, at least, a Romance one (as French and Latin words obviously prevail). But here another factor is very important: the relative frequency of occurrence of words. The native element in English comprises a large number of high-frequency words (mentioned above) like the articles, prepositions, conjunctions, auxiliaries and, also, words denoting everyday objects and ideas (e.g. house, child, water, go, come, eat, good, bad, etc.). That is why the native Anglo-Saxon heritage is cosidered to be more influential than the high percentage of borrowed words.

Furthermore, the grammatical structure is essentually Germanic having remained unaffected by foreign influence.

It is probably of some interest to mention that at various times purists have tried to purge the English language of foreign words, replacing them with Anglo-Saxon ones. One slogan created by these linguistic nationalists was:"Avoid Latin derivatives; use brief, terse Anglo-Saxon monosyllables". The irony is that the only Anglo-Saxon word in the entire slogan is "Anglo-Saxon".

5. Various Other Elements in the English Vocabulary:

Spanish (came into English mainly through its American variant):

a) trade terms: cargo, embargo ;

b) names of dances and musical instruments: tango, rumba, guitar;

c) names of vegetables and fruit:  banana,  cocoa,  tomato, potato, tobacco, ananas, apricot, etc. 

Italian (mostly it is famous for its influence in music): alto, baritone, basso, tenor, falsetto, solo, duet, trio, quartet, opera, operetta, libretto, piano, violin.


words relating to government: administer, empire, state, government;

words relating to military affairs: army, war, banner, soldier, battle;

words relating to jurisprudence: advocate, petition, inquest, sentence, barrister;

words relating to fashion: luxury, coat, collar, lace, pleat, embroidery;

words relating to jewelry: topaz, emerald, pearl;

words relating to food and cooking: lunch, dinner, appetite, to roast, to stew.


words connected with trade relations: rouble, copeck, pood, sterlet, vodka;

words relating to nature: taiga, tundra, steppe;

words which came into English through the Russian literature of the 19th century: Narodnik, duma, zemstvo, volost, ukase;

words connected with the new political system: collectivization, udarnik, Komsomol, five-year plan, Soviet power, glasnost, nomenklatura, etc.

Australian: boomerang, kangaroo.

Japanese: geisha, kimono, samurai, harakiri.

African: baobab, chimpanzee, gnu, gorilla.

Egyptan: pyramid, fustian.

Indian: mocassin, wigwam, tomohawk.

Arabic: algebra, elixir, azimuth, islam, sherbet.

Etymological Doublets. Sometimes a word is borrowed twice from the same language. As a result, we have two different words with different spellings and meanings but historically they come back to one and the same word. Such words are called etymological doublets. For example:

Latino-French doublets


English from Latin

English from French










Sometimes etymological doublets are the result of borrowing different grammatical forms of the same word, e.g. the comparative degree of Latin super was superior which was borrowed into English with the meaning high in quality or rank. The superlative degree (Latin supremus) in English supreme was borrowed in the meaning outstanding, prominent. So superior and supreme are etymological doublets  formed from different grammatical forms of the Latin adjective super.

International Words

The term "international" is applied to those words that penetrate the vocabularies of several languages, like nylon and to those that are found in all the languages of the world, like sputnik (a Russian borrowing, and it became an international word (meaning a man-made satellite) in 1961, immediately after the first space flight by Y.Gagarin).

Though they embody the same concept in a similar sound-complex, they are spelt and pronounced differently in every language (e.g. revolution).

International words may refer to different fields of life and human activities but they mostly express scientific, cultural, technical and political concepts: e.g. physics, melody, opera; lecture, formula, dialectics, motor.

The English language also contributed a considerable number of international words to world languages. Among them the sports terms occupy a prominent position: football, volley-ball, baseball, hockey, cricket, rugby, tennis, golf, etc.

Fruit and foodstuffs imported from exotic countries often transport their names too and being simultaneously imported to many countries, become international: coffee, cocoa, chocolate, coca-cola, banana, mango, avocado, grapefruit.

International words play an especially important part in different terminological systems including the vocabulary of science, industry and art. E.g. the mankind’s debt to Italy is reflected in the great number of words connected with architecture, painting and especially music. Here we can mention Italian words which have become international: allegro, andante, aria, arioso, baritone, concert, opera, piano and many others.

Much of modern scientific vocabulary is international in character. Latin and Greek have given large number of international words.



Archaisms are obsolete names for existing objects. They will always have a synonym, i.e. a word denoting the same concept but differing only in its stylistic sphere of usage.

They are bookish words not used in everyday speech (e.g. think - deem, joy -glee, man - wight, before – ere, steed – horse, slay – kill, perchance - perhaps).

Archaisms may be classified into lexical and grammatical. Lexical archaisms are words (e.g. gyves-chains, woe-sorrow, nigh-near) and grammatical archaisms are obsolete grammatical forms (e.g. thou-you, thee-they, thine; brethren - the plural form of brothers; tense forms like builded).

Sometimes a lexical archaism begins a new life, getting a new meaning, then the old meaning becomes a semantic archaism, e.g. fair in the meaning beautiful is a semantic archaism, but in the meaning blond it belongs to the neutral style.

Sometimes the roof of the word remains and the affix is changed, then the old affix is considered to be a morphemic archaism, e.g. beautious (-ous was substituted by –ful).


Neologisms are:

- words and expressions used for new phenomena, objects, processes, that is, new concepts that appear in the course of language development: e.g. audiotyping, bio-computer, thought-processor;

- new meanings of the already existing words:

e.g. sudser, big C;                                                       

neologisms as new names of old concepts:

 e.g. bread – rpoщі;

 drag – нудьга  

acid наркотики АСД

gasдещо хвилююче та дуже приємне

 New words appear in speech of an individual person who wants to express his idea in some original way. This person is called originator. New lexical units are primarily used by university teachers, newspaper reporters, by those who are connected with mass media.

 Neologisms can develop in three main ways: a lexical unit existing in the language can change its meaning to denote a new object or phenomenon. In such cases we have semantic neologisms, e.g. the word  umbrella developed the meanings: авіаційне прикриття, політичне прикриття. A new lexical unit can develop in the language to denote an object or phenomenon which already has some lexical unit to denote it. In such cases we have transnomination, e.g. the word slum was first substituted by the word ghetto, then by the word-group inner town. A new lexical unit can be introduced  to denote a new object or phenomenon. In this case we have a proper neologism, many of them are cases of new terminology.  

There are different semantic groups of neologisms belonging to everyday life:

  1.  food, e.g. starter (instead of hors d’oeuvres), macrobiotics (raw vegetables, crude rice), microwave stove, fridge-freezer, hamburgers (beefburgers, cheeseburgers etc.);
  2.  clothing:  e.g. catsuit (one-piece clinging suit), slimster (one-piece bathing suit), string (miniscule bikini), hipster (trousers or skirt with the belt on hips);
  3.  footwear, e.g. winklepickers (shoes with long pointed toes), thongs (open sandals), backsters (beach sandals with thick soles);
  4.  bags, e.g. bumbag (a small bag worn on the waist), sling bag (a bag with a long belt), maitre (a small bag for cosmetics).

In the language of teenagers there are such words  as: Drugs! (OK!), sweat (long-distance running), task (home composition), etc.

Questions to be answered at the end of the lecture:

1 .What are the main conditions which encourage the borrowing process ? Which of them are more favourable and why?

2. Name the main reasons for borrowing the words. What's the use of borrowing the words expressing the same concept?

3. Do borrowed words change or do they remain the same?

4. Which  of the  elements  (foreign  or  native)  predominates  in  the  English

vocabulary? Why?

5. What two groups of borrowed words is the foreign element in English divided into? Characterize them.

6. What's the connections between the date of borrowing and the process of assimilation?

7. What are borrowed words divided into?

8. How could borrowings be classified as to the degree of assimilation?

9. What are three main areas of the new language system to which borrowed words get adapted?

10. What are etymological doublets?

11. What are international words; neologisms; archaisms?

Lecture 3.

The Semantic Characteristics of the English Vocabulary

Questions to be discussed:

 Introduction to the Lecture.

1.  Polysemy and its Nature.

2.  Homonyms.






The branch of lexicology which deals with the meaning is called semasiology.

Considered in meaning, words making up the English vocabulary fall into two groups: so-called notional words and form-words.

Notional  words  embody  concepts,  they name  objects,  phenomena,  states, processes, actions, qualities, etc. They are divided into two semantic groups:

Concrete words denoting tangible objects in their entirety and Abstract words denoting ideas, features, feelings, etc.

Form-words show relations between concepts. They are divided into two main categories: prepositions and conjunctions. In both groups the grammatical meaning dominates over the lexical meaning.

The set of meanings posessed by the word may look as follows:

1) The direct logical meaning directed straight at the object of nomination where we distinguish:

a) primary (or etymologycal for it is usually is the "source" meaning) e.g. wall - fortification;

green - the colour of growing plants;

table - article of furniture with aflat top.

b) derived (formed out of the "source" meaning but customary, traditional, not felt to be figurative)

e.g. wall — side of a house;

green — overspread with foliage;

table -part of a machine tool.

2)  The transferred meaning used for new related concepts appearing as a result of new practice such as:

a) secondary

e.g. mountain wall, walls of a canyon, green beginner.

b) figurative

e.g. a wall of hostility, green with envy.

Every word has two aspects: the outer aspect (its sound form) and the inner aspect (its meaning). Sound and meaning do not always constitute a constant unit even in the same language. E.g. the word temple may denote  a part of human head and a large church. In such cases we have homonyms. One and the same word in different syntactical relations can develop different meanings, e.g. the verb treat in sentences:

  1.  He treated my words as a joke.
  2.  The book treats of poetry.
  3.  They treated me to sweets.
  4.  He treats his son cruelly.

In all these sentences the verb treat has different meanings and we can speak about polysemy.

 1. Polysemy and its nature.

The word polysemy means plurality of meanings. It exists only in the language, not in speech. A word which has more than one meaning is called polysemantic.

Two somewhat naive but frequently asked questions may arise in connection with polysemy:

1. Is polysemy an anomaly or a general rule in English vocabulary?

2. Is polysemy an advantage or a disadvantage so far as the process of communication is concerned?

Let us deal with both these questions together.

Polysemy is certainly not an anomaly. Most English words are polysemantic. 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 very well informed in linguistic matters claim that a language is lacking in words if the need arises for the same word to be applied to several 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 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. 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.                                      

In a polysemantic word the main (or central) and secondary meanings are distinguished.

Thus, the word hand is the name of the part of the body - the end of the arm beyond the wrist, and this meaning is its central meaning', its secondary meanings are:

-    a worker in a factory or dockyard;     

-    a member of a ship's crew;

-    a person who does something;

-    skill with the hands;

-    a pointer on a watch or clock;

-    a side or direction;                              

-    handrighting;                                         

-    a signature;

-    a measurement (four inches, the breadth of the hand).

All these meanings are in some way or other connected with the central meaning - "the terminal part of human arm".

The word is polysemantic in the language but in actual speech it is always monosemantic, that is, it has only one meaning.

It is the context that makes the polysemantic word monosemantic.

e.g. By the other fire stood a young woman in a red sweater and black skirt with one hand on the mantel-piece. When we saw a farmhouse that looked promising we stopped and asked if they wanted a couple of hands.

2. Homonyms.                                                                  

Homonyms are words that have the same sounding but different meanings and are not connected semantically.

Homonyms   may   be   classified   on   a   different   criterion   underlying   the classification.

If two words are homonymous in their complete paradigms we call them full homonyms or homonyms proper,

e.g. bank - a shore;

bank - an institution for receiving, lending, exchanging, and safeguarding money.

ball –м’яч,         ball – танцювальний вечір,                pl. balls - balls;

tail - хвіст;          tale - казка;                                        pl. tails - tales.

"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.

We find full homonymy among words of one and the same part of speech.

If words are homonymous only in some of the forms of their respective paradigms we call them partial homonyms,

e.g. pail - відро; pi. pails;                    pale - блідий; paler, the palest;

to lie - лежати, lay, lain;                  to lie - брехати, lied, lied.

Partial homonyms may be found both within the same part of speech and in different parts of speech.

Several types of homonyms may be distinguished.

Homophones are words having the same sounding, but which may coincide or differ in spelling,

e.g. son - син         sun – сонце

     ear -  вухо      ear - колос.

The following joke is based on a pun which makes use of homophones: "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."

Homographs are words that have the same spelling but differ in pronunciation, e.g. tear - сльоза;                       tear – рвати.

We can approach homonyms from a different point of view and classify them into lexical and grammatical.

Lexical homonyms are words of the same part of speech but of quite a different meaning, so that there is no semantic relation between them:

e.g. match - сірник,                         match - матч;

     piece - шматок,                         peace - мир.

Grammatical homonyms are words of different parts of speech:

e.g. work - праця;                             to work - працювати;

     light - світло,                             light - світлий.

Wide-spread grammatical homonymy constitutes one of the specific features of English words. Grammatical homonyms are extremely numorous in the English language.

3. Synonyms.

Synonyms are usually defined as words different in form but denoting different shades of a common meaning.

The very existence of words traditionally called synonyms is disputed by some linguists; the nature and essence of the relationships of these words is hotly debated and treated in quite different ways by the representatives of different linguistic schools.

Even though one may accept that synonyms in the traditional meaning of the term are somewhat elusive and, to some extend, fictitious it is certain that there are words in any vocabulary which clearly develop regular and distinct relationships when used in speech.

In the following extract, in which a young woman rejects a proposal of marriage, the verbs like, admire, love, all describe feelings of attraction, approbation, fondness.

"/ have always liked you very much, I admire your talent, but, forgive me, - I could never love you as a wife should love her husband"

(from "The Shivering Sands" by V.Holt)

Yet, each of the three verbs, though they all describe more or less the same feeling of liking, describes it in its own way:

"I like you, i.e. I have certain warm feelings towards you, but they are not strong enough for me to describe them as "'love'", - so that like and love are in a way opposed to each other.                                                                                            

The duality of synonyms is, probably, their most confusing feature: they are somewhat the same, and yet they are most obviously different. Both aspects of their dual characteristics are essential for them to perform their function in speech: revealing different aspects, shades and variations of the same phenomenon.

 - “Was she a pretty girl?

- I would certainly have called her attractive. "

The second speaker in this short dialogue does his best to choose the word which would describe the girl most precisely; she was good-looking, but pretty is probably too good a word for her, so that attractive is again in a way opposed to pretty (not pretty, only attractive), but this opposition is, at the same time, firmly fixed on the sameness of pretty and attractive; essentially they both describe a pleasant appearance.

 This example, as well as the previous one, explains the dual nature of synonyms rather vividly. It is common denotation of the words similar in meaning that makes them synonyms, but what males them slightly different is their connotation (shades of one common meaning).

For instance, let us take the verb "to look" and its synonyms.




to stare   

to look 

steadily, lastingly in surprise, curiosity etc. 

to glare  

to look 

steadily, lastingly in anger, rage, fury. 

to gaze    

to look 

steadily, lastingly in tenderness, admiration, wonder. 

to glance     

to look 

briefly, in passing 

to peer

to look 

steadily, lastingly by stealth; through an opening or from a concealed location 

to peer 

to look 

steadily, lastingly with difficulty or strain. 


The common denotation convincingly shows that, according to the semantic criterion, the words grouped in the above table are synonyms. The connotative components represented on the right side of the table highlight their differentiations.

It confirms the idea that synonyms are words different in form and denoting different shades of a common meaning.

Types of Connotations

I. The connotation of degree or intensity:

To surprise – to astonish – to amaze – to astound;

To satisfy – to please – to content – to gratify – to delight – to exalt;

To shout – to yell – to bellow – to roar;

To like – to admire – to love – to adore – to worship.

II. The connotation of duration:

To stare – to glare – to gaze – to glance – to peep – to peer;

To shudder (brief) – to shiver (lasting);

To say (brief) – to speak, to talk (lasting).

III. The emotive connotation:

Alone (absence of company) – single (only one, not 2 or 3)– lonely (the feeling of melancholy) – solitary;

To love – to admire – to adore – to worship;

Angry – furious – enraged.

IV. The evaluative connotation (conveys the speaker’s attitude towards the referent, labelling it as good or bad):

Well-known – famous – notorious (negative) – celebrated (positive);

Sparkle (positive: with amusement, merriment, high spirits, happiness) – glitter (negative: with anger, rage, hatred, malice);

To produce – to create (as an inspired, noble process) – to manufacture (to produce in a mechanical way without any inspiration) – to fabricate.

V. The causative connotation (the cause of the act or process is encoded):

To shiver (with cold, from a chill, because of the frost) – to shudder (with fear, horror);

To blush (from modesty, shame or embarrassment) – to redden (from anger or indignation).

VI. The connotation of manner (denotes different types of action or process):

To stroll – to stride – to trot – to pace – to swagger – to stagger – to stumble.

VII. The connotation of attendant circumstances (semantic structure of the word interrelates with its context):

To peep (through a hole, crack, etc.) –  to peer (in darkness, through the fog, etc.);    

VIII. The connotation of attendant features:

Pretty (with small delicate features and a fresh complexion) – handsome (with a tall stature, fine proportions, certain robustness) – beautiful (with classical features and perfect figure).

IX. Stylistic connotation:

Meal: Snack, bite (coll.) – snap (dial.) – repast, refreshment, feast (formal);

To leave: to be off, to clear out (coll.) -  to beat it, to hoof it, to take the air (sl.) – to depart, to retire, to withdraw (formal).

How to define the denotative and the connotative components:

                        Denotative components                Connotative components

lonely, adj.                alone,                         +          melancholy,   

                            without company                              sad         (emotive connotation)

notorious, adj.       widely known                +           for criminal acts

                                                                            or bad traits of character  

                                                                                                    (evaluative conn.,


celebrated, adj.       widely known              +           for special achievement

                                                                                in science, art, etc.

                                                                                                    (evaluative conn.,


to glare, v.               to look                         +             steadily,

                                                                                  lastingly (1.conn. of duration)                                              

                                                                                  in anger, rage, etc.

                                                                                                 (2. emotive conn.)

There are different classifications of synonyms. According to one of them, based on the semantic criterion, they can be:

 absolute (complete) - mostly different names for one and the same object or idea.

e.g. semasiology-semantics; mirror- looking-glass; fiddle-violin, etc.

 ideographic - those which differ from each other in shades of meaning.

e.g. sweet-nice-lovely-fine;

     to answer-to reply;

     to speak-to tell- to talk-to chat;

    illness-disease; border-frontier;


    to love-to adore-to worship.

 stylistic - those which do not differ in shades of their common meaning, but differ in usage and style.

e.g. doctor-doc; laboratory-lab; to commence-to begin;

     to die-to depart-to expire-to kick the bucket.

 They show the attitude of the speaker towards the event, object or process described.

Among stylistic synonyms we can point out a special group of words which are called euphemisms. There are such words in any language which people instinctively avoid because they are considered indecent, indelicate, rude, too direct or impolite. So, euphemisms are substitutes for their offensive referents. The word ‘lavatory’has produced many euphemisms: powder room, washroom, restroom, retiring room, ladies’(room), gentlemen’s (room), water-closet. Pregnancy is another topic for ‘delicate’ references. Here are some of the euphemisms used as substitutes for this adjective: in an interesting position, in a delicate condition, in the family way, with a baby coming, (big) with child, expecting.

The adj. drunk has a great number of substitutes: intoxicated (form.), under the influence (form.), tipsy, mellow, fresh, high, merry, overcome, full (coll.), drunk as a lord, drunk as an owl (coll.), boiled (sl.), soaked (sl.), high as a kite (sl.)., etc.

So, euphemisms are substitutes for their synonyms. Their use and existence are caused by social conventions or by certain psychological factors.                

         phraseological - those which do not necessarily differ materially in their meanings or stylistic value. They differ in their combinative power.

e.g. to be late for a lecture – to miss the train;

      to visit museums – to attend lectures;

      moonlight night - a lunar eclipse;

      a sunny day - the solar system;

      a high, tall tree - a tall man.

In other cases phraseological synonyms have some slight difference in meaning. In group piece - the most general word;

morsel - a small piece;                                                                   

bit - a word of general application but implies a small piece;             

slice- a flat piece;                                                                      

lump- a big piece;                                                                           

chunk- a thick piece.                                                                

Thus we say a morsel of meat, a slice of cheese or bread, a lump of sugar, a chunk of wood.

The difference in application is more important here than the difference in shades of meaning, for we say a lump in the throat, a piece of advice, he is a lump of selfishness, a morsel of a child, etc., and not a piece in the throat; a slice of advice.

4. Euphemisms.           

There are words in any language which people instinctively avoid because they are considered indecent, indelicate, rude, too direct or impolite. So, euphemisms are substitutes for their offensive referents. The word ‘lavatory’has produced many euphemisms: powder room, washroom, restroom, retiring room, ladies’(room), gentlemen’s (room), water-closet. Pregnancy is another topic for ‘delicate’ references. Here are some of the euphemisms used as substitutes for this adjective: in an interesting position, in a delicate condition, in the family way, with a baby coming, (big) with child, expecting.

The adj. drunk has a great number of substitutes: intoxicated (form.), under the influence (form.), tipsy, mellow, fresh, high, merry, overcome, full (coll.), drunk as a lord, drunk as an owl (coll.), boiled (sl.), soaked (sl.), high as a kite (sl.)., etc.

So, euphemisms are substitutes for their synonyms. Their use and existence are caused by social conventions or by certain psychological factors.                


Antonyms are words that have opposite meanings, as long-short, wide- narrow, high-low, hot-cold, light-dark. Antonymy is common chiefly among qualitative adjectives, good- bad, deep- shallow. Antonyms are words that denote extreme points of one and the same logical line, as long and short, the extreme points of horizontal extent; high and low the extreme points of vertical extent.

Antonyms may be found among different parts of speech

e.g. nouns, such as light- darkness;

      verbs, as to give - to take;

      adverbs, as quickly- slowly, early- late.

      As words are polysemantic one and the same word may have different antonyms, as

a dull book- an interesting book,

a dull pupil -a bright pupil,

dull colours- bright colours,

a dull knife- a sharp knife.

It must be noted that antonymy of two words may be restricted by their valency, that is their power to combine with different words. Thus, adjectives tall and low are antonyms only when used in combination with the words denoting inanimate things, as

a tall building - a low building,

a tall tree - a low tree.

But the antonym of the adjective tall in a tall man is the adjective short, as the adjective low has a different valency and cannot be used with nouns denoting living beings, compare:

an old house- a new house, but

        an old man- a young man.

Antonyms are classified into antonyms - words of different roots, as right -wrong, clear- vague, clean- dirty, large- small, hot- cold,

And words of the same root but having negative affixes prefixes or suffixes pleasant- unpleasant, regular- irregular, honest- dishonest, useful- useless.

If synonyms form whole, often numerous, groups, antonyms are usually believed to appear in pairs. Yet, this is not quite true in reality. For instance, the adjective cold may be said to have warm for its second antonym, and sorrow may be very well contrasted with gaiety.

On the other hand, a polysemantic word may have an antonym or several antonyms for each of its meanings. So, the adjective dull has the antonyms interesting, amusing, entertaining for its meaning of "deficient in interest", clever, bright, capable for its meaning of "deficient in intellect", and active for the meaning of "deficient in activity", etc.

Together with synonyms, antonyms represent the language's important expressive means. The following quotations show how authors use antonyms as a stylistic device of contrast:

How far that little candle throws his beams

So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

(From "Merchant of Venice by W. Shakespeare)

Welcome joy, and welcome sorrow,

Lethe's weed and Herm’s feather,

Come today and come tomorrow,

I do love you both together!

I love to mark sad faces in fair weather;

And hear a merry laughter amid the thunder;

Fair and foul I love together.

(From "A Song of Opposites" by J. Keats)


6. Metaphor.

It is a transfer of the meaning on the basis of comparison. Metaphor can be based on different types of similarity:

  1.  similarity of shape, e.g. head (of a cabbage), bottleneck, teeth (of a saw, a comb);
  2.  similarity of position, e.g. foot (of a page, of a mountain), head (of a procession);
  3.  similarity of function, behaviour, e.g. a whip (an official in the British Parliament whose duty is to see that members were present  at the voting), a bookworm (a person who is fond of books);
  4.  similarity of colour, e.g. orange, hazel, chestnut etc.

In some cases we have a complex similarity, e.g. the leg of a table has a similarity to a human leg in its shape, position and fuction.

Many metaphors are based on parts of a human body, e.g. an eye of a needle, arms and mouth of a river, head of an army.

A special type of metaphor is when proper names become common nouns, e.g. philistine – a mercenary person, vandals – destructive people, a Don Juan – a lover of many women.

7. Metonymy.

It is a transfer of the meaning on the basis of contiguity. There are different types of metonymy:

  1.  the material of which an object is made may become the name of the object, e.g. a glass, boards, an iron etc;
  2.  the name of the place may become the name of the people or of an object placed there, e.g. the House – members of Parliament, Fleet Street – bourgeois press, the White House – the Administration of the USA etc;
  3.  names of musical instruments may become names of musicians when they are united in an orchestra, e.g. the violin, the saxophone, the piano etc;
  4.  the name of some person may become a common noun, e.g. boycott was originally the name of an Irish family who were so much disliked by their neighbours that they did not mix with them, sandwich was named after Lord Sandwich who was a gambler. He did not want to interrupt the game and had his food brought to him, while he was playing cards, between two slices of bread, not to soil his fingers etc;
  5.  names of inventors very often become terms to denote things they invented, e.g. watt, om, roentgen etc;
  6.  some geographical names can also become common nouns through metonymy, e.g. holland (linen fabrics), Brussels (a special kind of carpets), china (porcelain), astrakhan (a sheep fur) etc. 


Questions to be answered at the end of the lecture:

1.  What two groups do words making up the English vocabulary fall into?

2.  What is the main difference between notional and form words!

3.  What set of meanings can the English word possess?

4.  What is different between the direct logical meaning and transferred meaning?

5.  What words do we call polysemantic?

6.  What is meant by polysemy?

7.  Is polysemy an anomaly or a general rule in the English vocabulary?

8.  What is the general tendency with the English vocabulary at the modern stage of its development?

9.  What kinds of meanings can be distinguished in a polysemantic word? Are they interrelated?

10. What makes the polysemantic word monosemantic?

11. What are homonyms?

12. What are several types of homonyms?

13.  What is the difference between homophones and homographs!

14.  What differs full homonyms and partial homonyms?

15. Compare lexical and grammatical homonyms.

16.  What are synonyms?

17.  What is meant by the dual nature of synonyms?

18.  What unites and what differs synonyms — their denotative or connotative component?

19.What types of synonyms can be distinguished?

20.What are euphemisms?          

21.  Give the definition to antonyms.

22.  What is meant by their valency?

23. What is metaphor?

24. What is metonymy?

Lecture 4.


Questions to be discussed:

1.  Affixation.

2.  Composition.

3.  Conversion.

4.   Shortening.

5. Secondary ways of wordbuilding.

1.Affixation is the creation of a word by modifying its root with an affix. The process of affixation consists in coining a new word by adding an affix or several affixes to some root morpheme.Affixation is divided into suffixation and prefixation.

The main function of suffixes in Modern English is to form one part of speech from another, the secondary function is to change the lexical meaning of the same part of speech .(e.g. educate is a verb, educatee is a noun, and music is a noun, musicdom is also a noun).

There are different classifications of suffixes:

1). Part-of-speech classification.   Suffixes which can form different parts of speech are given here:

  1.  noun-forming suffixes, such as: -er (criticizer), -dom (officialdom), -ism (ageism);
  2.  adjective-forming suffixes, such as: -able (breathable), -less (symptomless), -ous (prestigious);
  3.  verb-forming suffixes, such as: -ize (computerize), -ify (micrify), -en (shorten);
  4.  adverb-forming suffixes, such as: -ly (singly), -ward (tableward), -wise (jetwise);
  5.  numeral-forming suffixes, such as: -teen  (sixteen), -ty (seventy), -fold (twofold). 

2). Semantic classification.  Suffixes changing the lexical meaning of the stem can be subdivided into groups, e.g. noun-forming suffixes can denote:

  1.  the agent of the action, e.g. –er (experimenter), -ist (taxist), -ent (student);
  2.  nationality, e.g. –ian (Russian), -ese (Japanese), -ish (English);
  3.  collectivity, e.g. –dom (moviedom), -ry (peasantry), -ship (readership), -ati (literati);
  4.  diminutiveness, e.g. –ie (horsie), -let (booklet), -ling (gooseling),  -ette (kitchenette), -y (hanky), -ock (hillock);
  5.  quality, e.g. –ness (copelessness), -ity (answerability);
  6.  feminine gender, e.g. –ess (actress), -ine (heroine), -ette (cosmonette);   
  7.  abstract notion, e.g. –hood (childhood), -ness (politeness), -ence/-ance (tolerance);
  8.  derogatory meaning, e.g. –ard (drunkard), -ster (gangster), -ling (underling).

The adjective forming suffix -ful has the meaning of "full of, characterized by", e.g. beautiful, careful; whereas -ish may often imply "insufficiency of quality", e.g. greenish - green, but not quite; youngish - not quite young but looking it.

Such examples might lead one to somewhat hasty conclusion that the meaning of a derived word is always a sum of meanings of its morphemes: e.g. uneatable- "not fit to eat", where not stands for un- and fit - for -able.

The constituent morphemes within derivatives do not always preserve their current meanings and are open to subtle and complicated semantic shifts. e.g.

brainy - intelligent, intellectual, i.e. characterized by brains.

catty - quietly or slyly malicious, i.e. characterized by features ascribed

to a cat.

chatty - given to a chat, inclined to chat.

fishy - improbable, hard to believe (like stories told by fishermen).

touchy - apt to take offence on slight provocation, i.e. resenting a touch

or contact.

Yet, even the few given examples show that, on the one hand, there are cases, like touchy or fishy that are not covered by the definition. On the other hand, even those cases that are roughly covered, show a wide variety of subtle shades of

meaning. It is not only the suffix that adds its own meaning to the meaning of the

root, but the suffix is, in its turn, affected by the root and undergoes certain semantic changes So the mutual influence of root and affix creates a wide range of subtle nuances. And, just on the contrary, the meaning of the suffix may be so distinct that it may colour the whole word.

For instance, womanly is used in a complimentary manner about girls and women, whereas womanish is used to indicate an effeminate man and certainly

implies criticism. Flowery applied to speeqh or a style (cf. with the Russian цветистый), flowered means decorated with a pattern of flowers" e.g. flowered silk, (cf. with the Russian цветастый and flowering is the same as "blossoming" e.g. flowering bushes or shrubs, cf. with the Russian цветущий.

This proves the idea of the mutual influence of the meanings of suffixes and roots on each other what results in shifting the shade of meaning of the whole word. That is why knowing the meanings of the most frequent affixes (suffixes and preffixes) is of great importance.

3). Lexico-grammatical character of the stem. Suffixes which can be added to certain groups of stems are subdivided into:

  1.  suffixes added to verbal stems, such as: -er (commuter), -ing (suffering), -able (flyable), -ment (involvement), -ation (computerization);
  2.  suffixes added to noun stems, such as: -less (smogless), -ful (roomful), -ism (adventurism), -ster (pollster), -nik (filmnik), -ish (childish);
  3.  suffixes added to adjective stems, such as: -en (weaken), -ly (pinkly), -ish (longish), -ness (clannishness).

4). Origin of suffixes. Here we can point out the following groups:

a) native (Germanic), such as –er (teacher), -ful (careful), -less (painless), -ly (swiftly), -dom (kingdom), -ed (talented), -en (soften), -hood (childhood), -ness (kindness), -ship (friendship), --teen (sixteen), -ty (seventy), -ward (homeward);

b) Romanic, such as: -tion (attention), -ment (development), -able/-ible (terrible, moveable), -eer (mountaineer); -ant/ent (student, pleasant), -age (carriage), -ard (drunkard), -ance/-ence (attendance, absence), -ate (dictate), -sy (flimsy);

c) Greek, such as: -ist (taxist), -ism (capitalism), -ize (organize);

  1.  Russian, such as –nik (filmnik).

5). Productivity. Here we can point out the following groups:

  1.  productive, such as: -er (dancer), -ize (specialize), -ly (wetly), -ness (closeness);
  2.  semi-productive, such as: -eer (profiteer), -ette (kitchenette), -ward (skyward);
  3.  non-productive, such as: -ard (drunkard), -th (length).

6). Structure. Here we can point out:

  1.  simple, such as –er (speaker), -ist (taxist);
  2.  compound, such as: -ical (ironical), -ation (formation), -manship (sportsmanship), -ably/-ibly (terribly, reasonably).

Suffixes can be polysemantic, e.g. –er can form nouns with the following meanings: agent, doer of the action expressed by the stem (speaker), profession, occupation (teacher), a device, a tool (transmitter).

Prefixation is the formation of words by means of adding a prefix to the stem. In Eglish it is characteristic for forming verbs. Prefixes are more independent than suffixes. The main function of prefixes in English  is to change the lexical meaning of the same part of speech.

Prefixes can be classified according to different principles:

1). Semantic classification:

a) prefixes of negative meaning, such as: in- (invaluable), non- (nonformals), un- (unfree) etc. Non- used to be restricted to simple unemphaticnegation. Beginning with the 1960s non-  indicates not so much the opposite of something but rather that something is not real or worthy of the name, e.g. non-book is a book published to be bought  rather than to be read; non-thing – something insignificant and meaningless; non-person – somebody unworthy of attention etc. Un- can denote simple negation, e.g. uneven, unkind, unhappy and also reversative action when it shows an action contrary to that of a simple verb, e.g. unpack, unbind;

b) prefixes denoting repetition or reversative actions, such as: de- (decolonize), re- (revegetation), dis- (disconnect), and also un-  mentioned above;

c) prefixes denoting time, space, degree relations, such as: inter- (interplanetary), hyper- (hypertension), ex- (ex-student), pre- (pre-election), over- (overdrugging) etc.

2). Origin of prefixes:

a) native (Germanic), such as: un- (unhappy), over-(overfeed), under- (undernourish) etc.;

b)  Romanic, such as: in- (inactive), de- (demobilize), ex- (ex-student), re- (rewrite) etc;

c) Greek, such as: sym- (sympathy), hyper-(hypertension) etc. 

The main word building prefixes are:         

a) prefixes with a negative meaning:

 un-, in-, il-, ir-, im, dis-, de-, non-;

b) prefixes with different meanings:

anti-, co-, counter-, inter-, mis-, over-,en-, post-, pre-, re-, self-, semi-, sub-, super-, ulter-, under-.

2. Composition.

Composition (compounding) can be defined as the formation of a lexical unit out of two or more stems, usually the first differentiating, modifying or qualifying, and the second identifying.

The last element expresses a general meaning, whereas the prefixed element renders it less general. The compound word has at least two semantic centres but they are never equal in their semantic value.

e.g. rainbow, to babysit, ice-cream, ice-cold, smoking-room, pale-blue, shopkeeper.

Compounds are not homogeneous in structure. Traditionally 3 types are distinguished:

  •  neutral - the process of compounding is realized without any linking elements, by a mere juxtaposition of 2 stems, as in blackbird, shop-window, sunflower, bedroom.
  •  morphological - two compounding stems are combined by a linking vowel or

consonant, e.g.Anglo-Saxon, handiwork, statesman, etc.

  •  syntactic - are formed from segments of speech, preserving in their structure numerous   traces   of   syntagmatic   relations   typical   of   speech:   articles, prepositions, adverbs, e.g. lily-of the-valley, good-for-nothing, mother-in- law, sit-at-home.

Compound words in English can be formed not only by means of composition but also by means of:

  1.  reduplication, e.g. too-too – sentimental, and also by means of reduplication combined with sound interchange, e.g. rope-ripe – bare-bosomed cocktail dress, toy-boy – a gigolo;
  2.  partial conversion from word-groups, e.g. to micky-mouse, can-do, make-up etc. It is different from conversion proper as the basic forms are not homonymous, because of the difference in stress pattern and spelling. It can be the result of ellipses, e.g. drive-in cinema – a drive in;
  3.  back formation from compound nouns or word-groups, e.g. to bloodtransfuse (from blood transfusion), to fingerprint (from fingerprinting), to baby-sit (from baby-sitter) etc.;
  4.  analogy, e.g. lie-in (on the analogy with sit-in) and also phone-in, brawn-drain (on the analogy with brain-drain) etc;
  5.  contrast, e.g. brain-gain (in contrast to brain-drain) etc.

3. Conversion

By conversion we mean derivation of a new word from the stem of a different part of speech without the addition of any formatives. As a result the two words are homonymous, having the same morphological structure and belonging to different parts of speech.

e.g. N      V: a face - to face; a waltz - to waltz;

   a tube - to tube; a pen - to pen.

 V        N:  to make a make; to bite — a bite;

    to smoke - a smoke; to walk - a walk.

Adj          V: narrow — to narrow; empty - to empty;

        cool - to cool; warm - to warm.

Conversion is the main way of forming verbs in Modern English. Verbs can be formed from nouns of different semantic groups and have different meanings because of that, e.g.:

a) verbs have instrumental meaning if they are formed from nouns denoting parts of a human body, e.g. to eye, to finger, to elbow, to shoulder etc. They have instrumental meaning if they are formed from nouns denoting tools, machines, instruments, weapons, e.g. to hammer, to machine-gun, to rifle, to nail;

  1.  verbs can denote an action characteristic of the living being denoted by the noun from which they have been converted, e.g. to crowd, to wolf, to ape;
  2.  verbs can denote acquisition, addition or deprivation if they are formed from nouns denoting an object, e.g. to fish, to dust, to peel, to paper;
  3.  verbs can denote an action performed at the place denoted by the noun from which they have been converted, e.g. to park, to garage, to bottle, to corner, to pocket;
  4.  verbs can denote an action performed at the time denoted by the noun from which they have been converted, e.g. to winter, to week-end.

Verbs can be converted from adjectives, in such cases they denote the change of the state, e.g. to tame (to become or make tame), to clean, to slim etc.

Verbs  can be converted from other parts of speech, e.g. to down (adverb), to pooh-pooh (interjection).

Nouns can also be formed by means of conversion from verbs. Converted nouns can denote:

  1.  instant of an action, e.g. a jump, a move;
  2.  process or state, e.g. sleep, walk;
  3.  agent of the action expressed by the verb from which the noun has been converted, e.g. a help, a flirt, a scold;
  4.  object or result of the action expressed by the verb from which the noun was formed by means of conversion, e.g. a find, a burn, a cut;
  5.  place of the action expressed by the verb from which the noun has been converted, e.g. a drive, a stop, a walk.

Many nouns converted from verbs can be used only in the singular form and denote momentaneous actions. In such cases we have partial conversion. Such deverbal nouns are often used with verbs: to have, to get, to take etc.,  

Conversion is not only a highly productive but also a particularly English way of word building.

Conversion is a convenient and "easy" way of enriching the vocabulary with new words.

The high productivity of conversion finds its reflection in speech where numerous occasional cases of conversion can be found, which are not registered by dictionaries and which, occur momentarily, through the immediate need of the


"If anybody oranges me again tonight, I'll knock his face off!" says the annoyed character of a story by O'Henry when a shop-assistant offers him oranges (for the tenth time in one night) instead of peaches for which he is looking ("Little Speck in Garnered Fruit"). One is not likely to find the verb to orange in any dictionary, but in this situation it answers the need for brevity, expresiveness and humour.

The two categories of parts of speesh especially affected by conversion are nouns and verbs, e.g. to hand, to back, to face, to eye, to mouth, to monkey, to stage, etc; make, run, find, catch, cut, walk, worry, show, move.

The intricacies of semantic associations in words made by conversion may prove somewhat bewildering even for some native speakers, especially for children.

"Mother", said Johny, "is it correct to say you water a horse when he is thirsty? "

"Yes, quite correct. "

"Then ", (picking up a saucer) "I am going to milk the cat. "

The joke is based on the child's mistaken association of two similar patterns: water, n. - to water, v.; milk, n. - to milk, v. But it turns out that the meanings of the two verbs arose from different associations: to water a horse means "to give him water", but to milk implies "getting milk from an animal" (e.g. to milk a cow).

4. Shortening.

Shortening is the process of forming new words by means of clipping a word or a word-combination  as the result  of which  such types  of words  can be distinguished:

  •  shortenings - words produced either by means of clipping full word or by shortening word-combinations, e.g. Mr — mister, mag — magazine, phone — telephone, doc — doctor, lab — laboratory, flu - influenza, pub - public house,  ad - advertisement,  hanky -handkerchief, baccy - tobacco, granny -grandmother.

    We have several semantic groups of shortenings:

  1.  days of the week, e.g. Mon – Monday, Tue – Tuesday etc;
  2.  names of months, e.g. Apr – April, Aug – August, Sep – September etc;
  3.  names of counties in the UK, e.g. Yorks – Yorkshire, Berks – Berkshire etc;
  4.  names of states in the USA, e.g. Ala – Alabama, Alas – Alaska, Calif – California etc;
  5.  names of address, e.g. Mr, Mrs, Ms [Miz], Dr etc;
  6.  military ranks, e.g. capt – captain, col – colonel etc;
  7.  scientific degree, e.g. BA – Bachelor of Arts, DM – Doctor of Medicine;
  8.  units of time, length, weight, e.g. f./ft – foot/feet, sec. – second, in. – inch etc. 

Sometimes shortening influences the spelling of the word, e.g. “c” can be substituted by “k” before “e” to preserve pronunciation, e.g. mike microphone), coke (coca-cola) etc. The same rule is observed in the following cases: fax (facsimile), teck (technical college), trank (tranquilizer) etc. The final consonants in the shortened forms are substituted by letters characteristic of native English words.

  •  initial abbreviations - words-nouns produced by shortening nominal combinations; each component of the nominal combination is shortened up to the initial letter and the initial letters of all the words of the combination make a word, e.g.

     MP – Member of Parliament;

TUG-Trades Union Congress;

TV – television

D. C. – District of Columbia;

NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization;                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

UNO – United Nations Organization.

There are three types of initial abbreviations in English:

  1.  with alphabetical reading, such as UK (United Kingdom), BUP (British United Press), PWA (a person with AIDS) etc;
    1.  which are read as if they are words, e.g. UNESCO (United Nations Economic, Scientific, Cultural Organization), OPEC (Oil Producing European Countries) etc;
    2.  which coincide with English words in their sound form. They are called acronyms, e.g. CLASS (Computer-based Laboratory for Automated School System), NOW (National Organization of Women), AIDS (Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome) etc.

Such words  are  found not only among  formal words,  but also  among colloquialisms and slang. So, g.f. is a shortened word made from the compound girlfriend.

Both types of shortenings are characteristic of informal speech in general and uncultivated speech particularly. The history of the American okay seems to be

typical. Originally this initial shortening was spelt O.K. and was supposed to stand for all correct. The purely oral manner in which sounds were recorded for letters resulted in OK. Whereas it should have been A.C.or aysee, Indeed, the ways of words are full of surprises.

5. Secondary ways of wordbuilding:

1) Sound interchange.

Sound interchange is the way of wordbuilding when some sounds are changed to form a new word. It is non-productive in Modern English, it was productive in Old English and can be met in other Indo-European languages, e.g. to strike – stroke, to sing – song, hot – heat, blood – to bleed, bath – to bathe, life – to live, strong – strength;

2) Stress interchange.

Stress interchange can be mostly met in verbs and nouns of Romanic origin: nouns have the stress on the first syllable and verbs on the last syllable, e.g. ‘accent – to ac’cent, ‘export – to ex’port, ‘extract – to ex’tract;

3) Sound imitation.

It is the way of word-building when a word is formed by imitating different sounds. There are some semantic groups of words formed by means of sound imitation:

  1.  sounds produced by human beings, such as: to whisper, to giggle, to mumble, to sneeze, to whistle etc;
  2.  sounds produced by animals, birds, insects, such as: to hiss, to buzz, to bark, to moo, to twitter etc;
  3.  sounds produced by nature and objects, such as: to splash, to rustle, to clatter, to bubble, to ding-dong, to tinkle etc.

 The corresponding nouns are formed by means of conversion, e.g. clang (of a bell), chatter (of children) etc;

4) Blends.

Blends are words formed from a word-group or two synonyms. In blends two ways of word-building are combined: abbreviation and composition. To form a blend we clip the end of the first component and the beginning of the second component. As a result we have a compound-shortened word. One of the first blends in English was the the word smog (smoke + fog) which means smoke mixed with fog.

Blends formed from two synonyms are: slanguage (slang and language), to hustle (hurry and bustle) etc. Mostly blends are formed from a word-group, such as: bit (binary digit), chunnel (channel tunnel), dramedy (drama comedy), detectifiction (detective fiction);

5) Back formation.

It is the way of word-building when a word is formed by dropping the final morpheme to form a new word. It is opposite to suffixation, that is why it is called back formation, e.g. to accreditate (from accreditation), to bach (from bachelor), to collocate (from collocation), to enthuse (from enthusiasm) etc.

Questions to be answered at the end of the lecture:

1 .Name the main ways of word-building in the English language.

2. What is affixation?

3 . Try to prove that suffixes and prefixes are semantically distinctive.

4. What is the nature of the affixes, and the root   influence on the meaning of  the word?

5. What is compounding (composition)?

6. What types of compounds can be distinguished?

7. What is conversion?

What is meant by shortening?

        9.What are the secondary ways of wordbuilding?



Phraseology. Types of Phraseological Units.

Questions to be discussed:

1. Phraseology. Types of phraseological units.

2. The difference between phraseological units and free word-groups.

3. The   classifications   of   phraseological  units.   

1. Phraseology. Types of phraseological units.

The term phraseology is. applied to |,table combinations of words characterized by the integrity of meaning,e.g-. to lead the dance виявляти ініціативу; to take the cake мати великий успіх.

Phraseological units are not to be mixed with stable combinations of words that have their literal meaning, and are of non-phraseological character, e.g. the back of the head, to come to an end.

Among the phraseological units we distinguish such types:

idioms - phraseological units characterized by the integral meaning of the whole, with the meaning of each component weakened or entirely lost. Hence we distinguish motivated and demotivated idioms.

In a motivated idiom the meaning of each component is dependent upon the transferred meaning of the whole idiom, e.g.  to look through one's fingers –дивитися крізь пальці; to show one's cards –розкрити свої карти.

These phraseological units are homonymous to free syntactical combinations. Demotivated idioms are characterized by the integrity of meaning as a whole with the meaning of each of the components entirely lost, e.g. white elephant –обтяжливе майно, to show the white feather- злякатися.

But there are no hard and fast boundaries between them and there may be many borderline cases.

phrasemes are combinations of words one element of which has a phraseologically bound meaning, e.g. small beer - слабке пиво; small years – дитячі роки.

Phraseological units may be classified in accordance with their structure into one-summit and many-summit phraseological units

One-summit phr. units are composed of a notional and a form word, e.g. in the soup- у важкому становищі;

at hand-поруч;

under a cloudу поганому настрої;

by heart –напам’ять

 in the pink —у розквіті.

Many-summit phr. units are composed of two or more notional

 words and form words,  e.g.to take the bull by the horns –взяти вола за      рога;

to wear one's heart on one's sleeve – виставляти свої почуття напоказ

to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs –знищити джерело добробуту

to know on which side one 's bread is buttered-бути хитрим

 ( Cf. Russian – быть себе на уме)

2. The difference between phraseological units and free word-groups.

How to distinguish praseological units from free word groups?

This is the most controversial problem in the field of phraseology. The task of distinguishing between free word groups and phraseological units is complicated by the existence of the so-called semi-fixed or semi-free word groups also called non-phraseological word groups which share with phraseological units their structural stability but lack their semantic unity and figurativeness, e.g. to go to school, to commit suicide.

There are 2 major criteria for distinguishing between phreseological units and free word groups: semantic and structural.

Let us consider these differences according to the above mentioned criteria, that is:

Semantic unity Compare the following:

A)  I'm told they're inviting more American professors to this university. Isn't it rather carrying coals to Newcastle.

To carry coals to Newcastle means "to take something to a place where it is already plentiful and not needed" - transferred meaning.

Cf. with the Russian: B Тулу со своим самоваром..

B) This cargo ship: is carrying coal to Liverpool.

The first thing that captures the eye is the semantic difference of the two word groups consisting of the same essential constituents. In the second sentence (B) the free word group is carrying coal is used in the direct sense.

The first context (A) quite obviously has nothing to do either with coal or with transporting it, and the meaning of the whole word group is something entirely new and far removed from the current meanings of the constituents.

Academician V.V.Vinogradov spoke of the semantic change in phraseological units as "a meaning resulting from a peculiar chemical combination of words".

The semantic shift affecting phraseological units does not consist in a mere change of meanings of each separate constituent part of the unit. The meanings of the constituents merge to produce an entirely new meaning, 

e.g. to have a bee in one's bonnet means "to have an obsession about smth; to be eccentric or even a little mad". The humorous metaphoric comparison with a person who is distracted by a bee continually buzzing under his cap has become erased and halfforgotten, and the speakers using the expression hardly think of bees or bonnets but accept it in its transferred sense - "obsessed, eccentric".

That is what is meant when phraseological units are said to be characterized by semantic unity.

In the traditional approach, phraseological unite: have been defined as word groups conveying a single concept whereas in free word groups each meaningful component stands for a separate concept.

 It is this feature that makes phr. units similar to words - both words and phr. units possess semantic unity. Yet, words are also characterized by structural unity which phr. units lack being combinations of words.

Professor A. V. Koonin, the leading authority on problems of English phraseology in our country, gave such a definition: "a phr. unit is a stable word group characterized by a completely or partially transferred meaning".

The definition clearly suggests that the degree of semantic change in a phr. unit may vary ("completely or partially transferred meaning"). In actual fact the semantic change may affect either the whole word group or only one of its components.

e.g. a crow in borrowed plumes - "a person pretentiously and unsuitably dressed";                                                            

to skate on thin ice - "to put oneself in a dangerous position". Cf. with the Russian: ворона в павлиньих перьях.

Thus, the term idiom is mostly applied to phras. units with completely transferred meaning, that is, to the ones in which the meaning of the whole unit does not correspond to the current meanings of the components.

Structural invariability

Structural invariability is an essential feature of phr. units which includes some restrictions:

restriction in substitution

As a rule, no word can be substituted for any meaningful component of a phr.unit without destroying its sense. To carry coals to Manchester makes as little sense as в Харьков со своим самоваром. The meaning of a bee in smb 's bonnet was explained above, but a bee in his hat or cap would sound a silly error in choice of words, one of those absurd slips that people are apt to make when speaking a foreign language.

restriction in introducing any additional components into the

structure of a phr. unit

In a free word group such changes can be made without affecting the general meaning of the utterance.

This big ship is carrying a large cargo of coal to the port of Liverpool.

In the phr. unit to carry coals to Newcastle no additional components can be introduced.

grammatical invariability

A typical mistake with students of English is to use the plural form of fault in the phr. unit to find fault with smb.

e.g. The teacher always found faults with the boy.

Though the plural form in this context is logically well founded, it is a mistake in terms of the grammatical invariability of phr. units. A similar typical mistake often occurs in the unit from head to foot.

e.g. From head to foot he was immaculately dressed. Students are apt to use the plural form of foot in this phrase.

A shameful or dangerous family secret is picturesquely described as a skeleton in the cupboard, the first substantive component being frequently and easily used in the plural form, as in I'm sure they have skeletons in every cupboard!


3.The   classification   of   phr.   units   devised   by   Academician   V.V.     Vinogradov based on the semantic principle:

  •  phr. combinations - word groups with a partially changed meaning. The meaning of the unit can be easily deduced from the meanings of its contituents. The words are combined in their original meaning but their combinations are different in different languages e.g. cash and carry – (self-service shop), in a big way (in great degree) etc. 
    •  phr. unities  -  word-groups with a completely changed meaning, that is, the meaning of the unit does not correspond to the meaning of its constituent parts.e.g. to lose one's head - to be at a loss what to do; to to one's guns - to be true to one's views or convictions; to play the first fiddle – to be a leader in something.
    •  phr. fusions - word-groups with a completely changed meaning but, in contrast to the unities, their meaning cannot be deduced from the meanings of the constituent parts; the metaphor, on which the shift of meaning was based, has lost its clarity and is obscure e.g. to come:a cropper  - to come to disaster; at sixes and sevens - in confusion or in disagreement.

The classification of phr. units based on the structural principle:


e.g. to run for one's life, to talk through one's hat;


e.g. dog's life, red tape, brown study, calf love;


e.g. high and mighty, safe and sound;


e.g. high and low, by hook or by crook, in cold blood;


e.g. my God! Good heavens!

Questions to be answered at the end of the lecture:

 1 . What does phraseology study?

2. What are phraseological units?

3. What is the difference between idioms and phrasemes?

4. How may phr. units be classified according to their structure?

5. What criteria is the difference between phr. units and free word-groups based on?

6. Comment on the classification of phr. units based on

the semantic principle;

the structural principle.

Lecture 6.

             British English and American English

Questions to be discussed:

1.The Vocabulary Peculiarities of American English.

         2. The Phonetic Peculiarities of American English.

3. The Peculiarities of the Grammar System of American English

In one of his stories Oscar Wilde said that the English have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.

Bernard Shaw, on the contrary, said that America and England are two great nations separated by the same language.

Viewed linguistically, the problem may be put in this way: do the English and the Americans speak the same language or two different languages? Do the USA possess their own language?

There are scholars who regard American English as one of the dialects of the English language. This theory can hardly be accepted because a dialect is usually opposed to the literary variety of the language whereas American English possesses a literary variety of its own. Other scholars label Americn English a regional variety of the English language.

Before accepting this point of view, it is necessary to find out whether or not American English, in its modern state of development, possesses those characteristics which would support its status as an independent language.

A language is supposed to possess a vocabulary and a grammar system of its own. Let us try and see if American English can boast such .

1. The Vocabulary Peculiarities of American English.

It is quite true that the vocabulary used by American speakers, has distinctive features of its own. More than that: there are whole groups of words which belong to American vocabulary exclusively and constitute its specific feature. These words are called Americanisms. We can distinguish such groups of Americanisms:

  •  Historical Americanisms

At the beginning of the 17th c. the first English migrants began arriving in America in search of new and better living conditions. It was then that English was first spoken on American soil, and it is but natural that was spoken in its 17th c. form. The first settlers faced the problem of finding names for places, animals, plants, customs which they came across on the American continent. They took some of the names from languages spoken  by the local population – Indians, such as chipmuck (an American squirrel), igloo (Eskimo dome-shaped hut), skunk (a black and white striped animal with a bushy tail).

The noun fall was still used by the first migrants in its old meaning autumn, the verb to guess in the old meaning to think, the adjective sick in there are also words which, though they can be found both in English and American vocabulary, have developed meanings characteristic of American usage. The noun date is used both in British and American English in the meanings “the time of some event”; “the day of the week or month, the year”. On the basis of these meanings, in American English only, another meaning developed  - “an appointment for a particular time”.

  •  Proper Americanisms

This group of Americanisms includes words which one is not likely to discover in British vocabulary.They are specifically American. The oldest of these words were formed by the first migrants to the American continent and reflected their attempts to cope with their new environment. Here are some of them:

backwoods – wooden, uninhabited districts,

cold snap – a sudden frost,

blue grass – a sort of grass peculiar to North America.

If we consider all these words from the point of view of the building materials of which they are made we shall see that these are familiarly English, even though the words themselves cannot be found in the vocabulary of British English. Yet, both the word building pattern of composition and the constituents of these compounds are easily recognized as essentially English.

Later proper Americanisms are represented by names of objects  which are called differently in the USA and in England, e.g.

British English

American English








drug store







  •  American shortenings 

There is nothing specifically American about shortening as a way of word-building. It is a productive way of word-building typical of both British and American English. Yet, this type of word structure seems to be especially characteristic for American word building. The following shortenings were produced on American soil, yet most of them are used both in American English and British English:

movies, talkies, auto, gym (for gymnasium), dorm (for dormitory), perm (for permanent wave), mo (for moment, e.g. just a mo), n.g. (for no good), b.f. (for boy-friend), g.m. (for grandmother).

All these words represent informal stylistic strata of the vocabulary. More examples could be given in support of the statement that the vocabulary of American English includes certain groups of words that are specifically American and possesses certain distinctive characteristics. Yet in all its essential features, it is the same vocabulary as that of British English. Actually there are not two vocabularies, but one.

Vocabulary Differences

American English                                        British English

subway                          метро               underground, tube

                        movies                       кінотеатр                 cinema

                         store                          магазин                     shop

                     sidewalk                        тротуар                  pavement

                          line                             черга                       queue

                       soccer                          футбол                     football

                         mail                             пошта                       post

                      vacation                       канікули                  holidays

                         fall                               осінь                      autumn

                       faucet                водопровідний кран            tap

                     elevator                            ліфт                          lift

                      shades              сонцезахисні окуляри         sunglasses

                       truck                 вантажний автомобіль       lorry, van

                  pocketbook          плоска жіноча сумочка          wallet

                        cab                                таксі                            taxi

                   apartment                      квартира                          flat

                      crazy                       божевільний                      mad

                   garbage                           сміття                         rubbish

                   candies                          цукерки                        sweets

Differences in the organization of education lead to different terms. BE public school is in fact a private school. It is a fee-paying school not controlled by the local education authorities. AE public school is a free local authority  school. BE elementary school is AE grade school, BE secondary school is AE high school. In BE a pupil leaves  a secondary school, in AE a student graduates from a high school. In BE you can graduate from a university or a college of education, graduating entails getting a degree.

A British university student takes three years known as the first, the second and the third years. An American student takes four years, known as freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years. While studying a British student takes a main and subsidiary subjects. An American student majors in a subject and also takes electives. A British student specializes in one main subject, with one subsidiary to get his honours degree. An American student earns credits for successfully completing a number of courses in studies, and has to reach the total of 36 credits to receive a degree. 

Differences of Spelling

The reform in the English spelling for American English was introduced by the famous American lexicographer Noah Webster who published his first dictionary in 1806. These are some of his proposals which were adopted in the spelling of American English:

the omission of the letter “u” in words ending with “our”:

                            Am. E.                       Br. E.

                            honor                        honour

                            favor                         favour

                            color                        colour

the replacement of “re” by “er” in words of French origin:

                            Am. E.                       Br. E.

                            theater                         theatre

                            center                          centre

                            meter                           metre

the replacement of “ce” by “se” in words of Romanic origin:

                            Am. E.                         Br. E.

                           defense                        defence

                           offense                         offence


the replacement of “ise/yse” by “ize/yze” in words of Greek and Latin origin:

                            Am. E.                         Br. E.

                           analyze                         analyse

                          comprize                      comprise

                         apologize                      apologise

5) no doubling of the letter “l” in the final unstressed syllable while adding the formatives:

                           Am. E.                           Br. E.

                          traveling                        travelling

                          canceled                         cancelled

no doubling of the letter “r” in the final stressed syllable while adding the formatives: no doubling of the letter “r” in the final stressed syllable while adding the formatives:

                           Am. E.                           Br. E.

                          prefered                          preferred

                          occured                           occurred

                       and vice verse in the unstressed syllable:

                         offerred                             offered

the omission of unpronounced endings in words of Romanic origin:

                           Am. E.                               Br. E.

                           catalog                              catalogue

                                check                                  cheque

So, the basic vocabulary, whose role in communication is of utmost importance, is the same in American and British English with very few exceptions.

On the other hand, many Americanisms belong to colloquialisms and slang, that is to those shifting, changeable strata of the vocabulary, which do not represent its stable or permanent bulk, the latter being the same in American and British speech.

Against the general extensive background of English vocabulary, all the groups of Americanisms look, in comparison, insignificant enough, and are not sufficiently weighty to support the hypothesis that there is an American language.

Many Americanisms easily penetrate into British speech, and, as a result some of the distinctive characteristics of American English become erased, so that the differentiations seem to have a tendency of getting levelled rather than otherwise.

2. The Phonetic Peculiarities of American English.

Pronunciation Differences

American English                   British English

1)                                    /       /                                      /       /

dance, class, last, can’t

2)                                   /         /                                   /          /

                                               not, hot, stop, top

3)                                 /          /                                   /          /


4)                                /           /                                   /            /

                                              duty, endure, shedule

There are some differences in the position of the stress:















        But these differences in pronunciation do not prevent Englishmen and Americans from communicating with each other easily and cannot serve as a proof that British and American are different languages.

3.The Peculiarities of the Grammar System of American English.

Here we are likely to find even fewer divergencies than in the vocabulary system.

Grammar Differences

the usage of the Past Simple Tense instead of the Present Perfect:

Am. E.                                                       Br. E.

                I bought a book.                                       I have bought a book.

“will”, not “shall” is used in all persons both singular and plural in the Future Tenses:

                        Am. E.                                                       Br. E.

             I/we will buy a book.                                  I/we shall /will buy a book.

after demand, insist, require etc. should is not usually used:

                        Am. E.                                                       Br. E.

        I demanded that he apologize.           I demanded that he should apologise.

the usage of the preposition “on” instead of “in”, “at”:

                                  Am. E.                                   Br. E.

                          on the weekend                        at the weekend

                             on a street                                in a street

The Past Participle of “get” – gotten:

                                 Am. E.                                     Br. E.

                       I’ve gotten a letter.                     I’ve got a letter.

The verbs to burn, to spoil, to learn and others are always regular in Am. E.

                                 Am. E.                                     Br. E.

                                 burned                                      burnt

                                 spoiled                                     spoilt

                                 learned                                    learnt

All this brings us to the conclusion that the language spoken in the USA is, in all essential features, identical with that spoken in Great Britain. The grammar systems are fully identical. The American vocabulary is marked by certain peculiarities which are not sufficiently numerous or pronounced just to justify the claims that there exists an independent American language. The language spoken in the USA can be regarded as a regional variety of  English.

Questions to be answered at the end of the lecture:

What groups of ‘Americanisms’ can you name?

Are there any spelling differencies between British English and American one?

Are the vocabulary differencies significant enough to claim that American English has a vocabulary system of its own?

What are the phonetic  peculiarities of American English?

What are the peculiarities of the Grammar System of American English?


Functional Styles of  English

Questions to be discussed:

Informal style.

Formal style.

Basic vocabulary.

 1. Informal style. Just as there is formal and informal dress, so there is formal and informal speech. The social context in which the communication is taking place determines both the mode of dress and the modes of speech. When placed in different situations, people instinctively choose different kinds of words and structures to express their thoughts. The suitability or unsuitability of a word for each particular situation depends on its stylistic characteristics or, in other words, on the functional style it represents.The term functional style is a system of expressive means peculiar to a specific sphere of communication. By the sphere of communication we mean the circumstances attending the process of speech in each particular case: professional communication, a lecture, an informal talk, a formal letter, an intimate letter, a speech in court, etc. All these circumstances or situations can be classified into 2 types: formal (a lecture, an official letter, professional communication) and informal (an informal talk, an intimate letter). Accordingly, there are formal and informal styles.

Informal vocabulary is used in one’s immediate circle: family, relatives or friends. Informal style is relaxed, free-and-easy, familiar and unpretentious. But, besides the communication situation, the choice of words is also determined by the speaker’s educational and cultural background, age group, and his occupational and regional characteristics.

Informal words and word-groups are divided into 3 types: colloquial, slang and dialect words and word-groups.   

 Colloquialisms are informal words that are used in everyday conversational speech both by cultivated and uneducated people of all age groups. The sphere of communication of literary colloquial words also includes the printed page. Their wide use is one of the prominent features of 20th century Engllish and American literature. It is quite natural that informal words appear in dialogues in which they realistically reflect the speech of modern people:

‘You’re at some sort of technical college?’ she said to Leo, not looking at him… .

‘Yes. I hate it though. I’m not good enough at maths. There’s a chap there just down from Cambridge who puts us through it. I can’t keep up. Were you good at maths?’

‘Not bad. But I imagine school maths are different.’

‘Well, yes, they are. I can’t cope with this stuff at all, it’s the whole way of thinking that’s beyond me… I think I’m going to chuck it and take a job.’

                 (From The Time of the Angels by I.Murdoch)

Here are some more examples of literary colloquial words. Pal and chum are colloquial equivalents of friend; bite and snack stand for meal; hi, hello are informal greetings, and so long a form of parting; start, go on, finish and be through  are also literary colloquialisms; to have a crush on somebody is a colloquial equivalent of to be in love.

Verbs with post-positional adverbs are also numerous among colloquialisms: put up, put over, make up, turn up, do away, etc.

Literary colloquial words are to be distinguished from familiar colloquial and low colloquial. The circle of speakers using familiar colloquial is more limited: these words are used mostly by the young and the semi-educated, e.g. doc for doctor; hi for how do you do; ta-ta for good-bye; to kid smb. for tease, banter; shut up for keep silent.

Sometimes the term ‘colloquial’ is misunderstood by students as they think it means ‘conversational’. In fact the marker ‘colloquial’ in the dictionary shouldn’t be understood as a recommendation for its unlimited usage, but, just on the contrary, as a sign of restricted usage.

 By Slang we mean informal, nonstandard words and phrases, generally shorter lived than the expressions of ordinary colloquial speech, and typically formed by creative, often witty juxtapositions of words or images. Slang expressions are created by the same processes that affect ordinary speech. Expressions may take form as metaphors, similies, and other figures of speech (dead as doornail). Words may acquire new meanings (cool, cat). A narrow meaning may become generalllized (fink, originally a strikebreaker, later a betrayer or disappointer). Words may be clipped or abbreviated (mike, microphone).

All or most slang words are current words whose meanings have been metaphorically shifted. Each slang metaphor is rooted in a joke, but not in a kind or amusing joke. This is the criterion for distinguishing slang from colloquialisms: most slang words are metaphors, often with a coarse, mocking, cynical colouring. H.W. Fowler states that ‘as style is the great antiseptic, so slang is the great corrupting matter, it is perishable, and infects what is round it’.

Then why do people use slang?

For a number of reasons. To be picturesque, arresting, striking and different from others.To sound modern.

Standard English is the official language of Great Britain taught at schools and universities, used by the press, the radio, and the television and spoken by educated people. Its vocabulary is contrasted to dialect words belonging to different local dialects.

 Dialect is a variety of a language which prevails in a district, with local peculiarities of vocabulary, pronuncition and phrase. England is a small country, yet it has many dialects which have their own distinctive features (e.g. the Lancashire, Dortsetshire, Norfolk dialects).

In the following extract from The Good Companions by J.B. Priestley, the outstanding English writer humorously reproduces his native Yorkshire dialect. The speakers are discussing a football match they have just watched. The author makes use of a number of dialect words and grammatical structures and, also, uses spelling to convey certain phonetic features of ‘broad Yorkshire:

Na Jess! said the acquaintance, taking an imitation calabash pipe out of his mouth and then winking mysteriously.

This ‘Na’ which must have once been ‘Now’, is the recognized salutation in Bruddersford.

Some other examples of Bruddersford dialect words:

Brass – money, to lake – to play, nivver – never, summat – something, mich – much, mun - must, nowt – nothing, ay(e) – yes.

 2. Formal style is restricted to formal situations. Formal words fall into two main groups: words associated with professional communication and a less exclusive group of so-called learned words.

 Learned words (or bookish words) are mainly associated with the printed page. It is in this vocabulary stratum that poetry and fiction find their main resources. Among such words we can find those which are used in scientific prose and can be identified by their dry, matter-of-fact flavour (e.g. comprise, compile, experimental, heterogeneous, homogeneous, conclusive, etc.).

To this group also belongs ‘officialese’ (канцеляризми). These are the words of the official, bureaucratic language. For example: assist – help, endeavour – try, proceed – go, approximately – about, sufficient – enough, attired – dressed, inquire – ask.


You are authorized to acquire the work in question by purchase through the ordinary trade channels.’ Which, translated into plain English, would simply mean:

We advise you to buy the book in a shop.’

The most interesting subdivision of learned words is represented by the words found in descriptive passages of fiction. They may be called  ‘literary’. They are mostly polysylabic words drawn from the Romance language and, though, fully adapted to the English phonetic system, some of them continue to sound foreign. Here are some examples: solitude, sentiment, fascination, fastidiousness, meditation, felicity, cordial, illusionary.

There is one more subdivision of learned words: modes of poetic diction. These words have much in common with the previous group, but poetic words have a further characteristic – a lofty, high-flown, sometimes archaic, colouring:

Alas! They had been friends in youth;

But whispering tongues can poison truth

And constancy lives in realms above;

And life is thorny; and youth is vain;

And to be wroth with one we love,

Doth work like madness in the brain…’


Though learned words are mainly associated with the printed page, this is not only so. Any educated English-speaking individual is sure to use many learned words not only in his formal letters and professional communication but also in his everyday speech.

You should find no difficulty in obtaining a secretarial post in the city.’ Carel said ‘obtaining a post’ and not ‘getting a job’. It was part of a bureaucratic manner, which Muriel noticed, he kept reserved for her.’

                 (From The Time of the Angels by I. Murdoch)

What role do learned words play in the language-learning process? Without knowing some learned words, it is even impossible to read fiction, scientific articles or to listen to lectures delivered in the foreign language.

 Archaic and obsolete words have much in common with ‘learned words’. But archaic words, contrary to learned words are restricted in their usage to the printed page only. These words are partly or fully out of circulation, rejected by the living language. We can come them across only in historical novels and poetry. Numerous archaisms can be found in Shakespeare’s works. The examples are: morn – morning, eve – evening, moon – month, damsel – girl, errant – wandering.  

 3. Basic vocabulary. These words are stylistically neutral, and opposed to formal and informal words. Their stylistic neutrality makes it possible to use them in all kinds of situations, both formal and informal, in verbal and written communication. Certain of the stylistically marked vocabulary strata are, in a way, exclusive: professional terminology is used mostly by representatives of the professions; dialects are regional; slang is favoured mostly by the young and the uneducated. Not so basic vocabulary. These words are used every day, everywhere and by everybody, regardless of  profession, occupation, education, age group or geographical location. These are words without which no human communication would be possible as they denote objects and phenomena of everyday importance (e.g. house, bread, summer, winter, child, mother, green, difficult, to go to stand, etc.).

The basic vocabulary is the central group of the vocabulary, its historical foundation and living core. That is why words of this stratum show a considerably greater stability in comparison with words of the other strata, especially informal.

BV words can be recognized not only by their stylistic neutrality but, also, by entire lack of other connotations. Their meanings are broad, general and directly convey the concept, without supplying any additional information. For instance, the verb to walk means merely ‘to move from place to place on foot’ whereas in the meanings of its synonyms to stride, to stroll, to trot, to stagger some additional information is encoded as they each describe a different manner of walking, tempo, purposefulness, etc. Thus to walk, with its direct broad meaning, is a typical basic vocabulary word, and its synonyms with their additional information belong to the periphery of the vocabulary.

The basic vocabulary and the styllistically marked strata of the vocabulary do not exist independently but are closely interrelated. Most stylistically marked words have their neutral counterparts in the basic vocabulary. (Terms are an exception in this respect.) On the other hand, colloquialisms may have their counterparts among learned words, most slang has counterparts both among colloquuuialisms and learned words. Archaisms, naturally, have their modern equivalents at least in some of the other groups.

The table gives some examples of such synonyms belonging to different stylistic strata.

Basic vocabulary




start, get started



go on, get on



finish, be through, be over


child, baby

kid, brat, bearn (dial.)

infant, babe (poet.)

The following table sums up the description of the stylistic strata of English vocabulary.

Stylistically-neutral words

Stylistically-marked words



Basic vocabulary

I. Colloquial words




II. Slang words.

III. Dialect words.

I. Learned words


words of scientific prose,


modes of poetic diction.

II. Archaic and obsolete words.

III.Professional terminology.


Questions to be answered at the end of the lecture:

What is meant by ‘the functional style’ of the language?

What groups of words does informal style include?

What groups of words belong to formal style?

What is basic vocabulary? 

What are the differences between stylistically-neutral words and stylistically-marked words?



Questions to be discussed:

1.Lexicography as a branch of Lexicology.

2.Classification of dictionaries.

3.Monolingual and bilingual dictionaries.

1. Lexicography as a branch of Lexicology.

The theory and practice of compiling dictionaries is called lexicography. The history of compiling dictionaries for English comes as far back as the Old English period, where we can find glosses of religious books (interlinear translations from Latin into English). Regular bilingual dictionaries began to appear in the 15th century (Anglo-Latin, Anglo-French, Anglo-German).

The first unilingual dictionary explaining difficult words appeared in 1604, the author was Robert Cawdry, a schoolmaster. He compiled his dictionary for schoolchildren. In 1721 an English scientist and writer Nathan Bailey published the first etymological dictionary which explained the origin of English words. It was the first scientific dictionary, it was compiled for philologists.

In 1775 an English scientist Samuel Johnson compiled a famous explanatory dictionary. Every word in his dictionary was illustrated by examples from English literature, the meanings of words were clear from the contexts in which they were used. The dictionary was a great success and it influenced the development of lexicography in all countries. The dictionary influenced normalization of the English vocabulary. But at the same time it helped to preserve the English spelling in its conservative form.

In 1858 one of the members of the English philological society, Dr Trench, raised the question of compiling a dictionary including all the words existing in the language. The philological society adopted the decision to compile the dictionary and the work started. More than a thousand people took part in collecting examples, and 26 years later, in 1884 the first volume was published. It contained words beginning with A and B. The last volume was published in 1928, 70 years after the decision to compile the dictionary was adopted. The dictionary was called NED (New English Dictionary) and contained 12 volumes.

In 1933 the dictionary was republished under the title The Oxford English Dictionary (OED),  because the work on the dictionary was conducted at Oxford. This dictionary contained 13 volumes. As it was very large and terribly expensive scientists continued their work and compiled shorter editions of the dictionary. A Shorter Oxford Dictionary consisted of two volumes. It had the same number of entries, but far less examples from literature. They also compiled A Concise Oxford Dictionary consisting of one volume and including only modern words and no examples from literature.

The American lexicography began to develop much later, at the end of the 18th century. The most famous American English dictionary was compiled by Noah Webster. He was an active statesman and public man and he published his first dictionary in 1806. He went on with his work on the dictionary and in 1828 he published a two-volume dictionary. He tried to simplify the English spelling and transcription. He introduced the alphabetical system of transcription where he used letters instead of transcription signs. He denoted vowels in closed syllables by the corresponding vowel letters, e.g. a, e, i, o, u. He denoted vowels in the open syllables by the same letters, but with a dash above them. He denoted vowels in the position before r as the same letters with two dots above them and by the letter e with two dots above it for the combinations er, ir, ur because they are pronounced identically. The same tendency is preserved for other sounds: [u:] is denoted by oo, y is used for the sound [j] etc.   

2.Classification of dictionaries.

All dictionaries are divided into linguistic and encyclopaedic dictionaries. Encyclopaedic dictionaries describe different objects, phenomena, people and give some information about them. Linguistic dictionaries describe vocabulary units, their semantic structure, their origin, their usage. Words are usually given in the alphabetical order.

Linguistic dictionaries are divided into general and specialized dictionaries. General dictionaries include two most widely used dictionaries: explanatory and translation dictionaries. Specialized dictionaries include dictionaries of synonyms, antonyms, collocations, word-frequency, neologisms, slang, pronouncing, etymological, phraseological and others.

All types of dictionaries can be unilingual (excepting translation ones) if the explanation is given in the same language, bilingual if the explanation is given in another language and also they can be polylingual.

There are a lot of explanatory dictionaries: NED (New English Dictionary), SOD (Shorter Oxford Dictionary), COD (Concise Oxford Dictionary), NID (New International Dictionary), N.G.Wyld’s Universal Dictionary and others. In explanatory dictionaries the entry consists of the spelling, transcription, grammatical forms, meanings, examples, phraseology. Pronunciation is given either by means of the International Transcription System or in the British Phonetic Notation which is different in each large dictionary, e.g. [o:] can be indicated as aw, or, oh, o etc.

Translation dictionaries give words and their equivalents in the other language. There are English-Russian dictionaries by I.R. Galperin (БАРСБольшой Англо-русский словарь) consisting of two volumes, by Y.Apresyan (three volumes) and others. Among general dictionaries we can also mention  Learner’s dictionaries. They began to appear in the second half of the 20th century. The most famous is The Advanced Learner’s Dictionary by A. S. Hornby. It is a uniligual dictionary based on COD, for advanced foreign learners and language teachers. It gives data about grammatical and lexical valency of words.

Specialized dictionaries of synonyms are also widely used, one of them is A Dictionary of English Synonyms and Synonymous Expressions by R.Soule. Another famous one is Webster’s Dictionary of Synonyms. These are unilingual dictionaries. The best known bilingual dictionary of synonyms is English Synonyms compiled by Y.Apresyan.

In 1981 The Longman Lexicon of Contemporary English was compiled, where words are given in 14 semantic groups of everyday nature. Each word is defined in detail, its usage is explained and illustrated, synonyms, antonyms are also presented. It describes 15000 items and can be referred to dictionaries of synonyms and to explanatory dictionaries.

Phraseological dictionaries describe idioms and colloquial phrases, proverbs. Some of them have examples from literature. Some lexicographers include not only word-groups but also anomalies among words. In The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs each proverb is illustrated by a lot of examples, there are stylistic references as well. The dictionary by Vizetelli gives definitions and illustrations, but different meanings of polysemantic units are not given. The most famous bilingual dictionary  of phraseology was compiled by A.V. Koonin. It is one of the best phraseological dictionaries. It was republished several times and the last edition was published in 2000. It consists of one volume and contains a lot of new data.

Etymological dictionaries trace present-day words to the oldest forms of these words and forms of these words in other languages. One of the best etymological dictionaries was compiled by W.Skeat.

Pronouncing dictionaries record only pronunciation. The most famous is D.Jones’s Pronouncing Dictionary.

Dictionaries of neologisms are: a four-volume Supplement to NED by Burchfield, The Longman Register of New Words (1990), Bloomsury Dictionary of New Words (1996). In 1998 a dictionary which is called Beyond the Dictionary was published, its author is Brian Locket.

 3. Learners’ monolingual dictionaries are of great importance for foreign learners as they have the following advantages:

1) the word-list is selected according to criteria of frequency and usefulness;

2) the definitions are geared to the more limited vocabulary of the foreign learner;

3) the different senses of the headword are clearly descriminated;

4) collocational detail is provided, usually by example sentences;

5) grammatical coding is detailed and explicit;

6) phonetic transcription is international;

7) cultural information is provided, e.g. by pictures, etc.

So, the dictionaries mentioned above are characterized by clear definitions written in simple language, e.g.:

indicate -  to show, point or make clear in another way. As: Please indicate which free gift you would like to receive.

The grammatical information available there is also of great use, e.g.: [+ (that) clause]. As: She indicated to me (that) she didn’t want me to say anything.

 Even if you know a typical colligation it is not enough to be able to use the word correctly. The dictionary user should be also informed about its typical collocations. All learners’ dictionaries pay due attention  to the idiomatic character of language and try to provide users with ready-made contexts, which can become part of their vocabulary.

Thus, monolingual learners’ dictionaries  give clear and simple information on the meaning and use of essential English vocabulary  items.

 Bilingual general-purpose dictionaries are directed at natives and foreign learners.The difference is in a more generous treatment of the part which represents the user’s foreign language. The bilingual dictionary is always the projection of one language in terms of the other. Thus in the English-Russian Dictionary we shall see that a word modern has two equivalents: современный, новый; in the Russian-English Dictionary: современный: modern, contemporary. 

 However, the dictionaries under analysis present some problems. The thing is that English words of Romance and Greek origin are semantically more complex than their Russian counterparts. It results in providing the majority of English words with two Russian equivalents: an etymologically allied word and its native synonym, for example:

aspectаспект, вид;

phenomenon явление, феномен.

 It should be added that Russian words of Romance origin are stylistically marked and their continual use may make one’s style pompous. The difference between Russian equivalents is reflected in collocations which are not always registered by dictionaries. Thus, if we compare the entries for the adjective social in two different English-Russian dictionaries we shall see that the adjective in question is provided with two equivalents which are used in different collocations:

social – социальный, общественный

social insurance социальное страхование

social welfare социальное обеспечение

social origin социальное происхождение

social sciences – общественные науки

social labour общественный труд

social consciousness общественное сознание.

 As far as the Russian-English section of dictionary is concerned it is more consistent in the lexicographic treatment of etymologically identical words. In the majority of cases the Russian word is translated with the help of its etymon but this does not lead to the reversibility. On the contrary there is an obvious discrepancy between English-Russian and Russian-English sections in presenting etymons, for example:

English-Russian section:

argument – спор, дискуссия; довод;  

figurative – образный, переносный

Russian-English section:

аргумент – argument;

фигуральный – figurative.

 So, reversibilty presents many problems. The greater part of the vocabulary does not lend itself to reversibility because of the clash of two cultures and differences in language structures.

 The smaller the dictionary, the more primitive the structure of the entry. Thus, for example, in the Pocket English-Russian dictionary edited by G.V. Chernov (8, 000 entries) the entry for cap treats the word as monosemantic whereas the English-Russian dictionary compiled by V.K. Muller (70, 000 entries) treats the word as having 8 meanings and 6 idioms.

In a more general and schematic way the procedure of the dictionary use  in the process of, for example, reading a text can be presented in the following way:

Stage one – select appropriate reference work;

Stage two – determine problem word;

Stage three – determine its canonical form;

Stage four – search for appropriate headword;

Stage five – determine appropriate sub-entry;

Stage six – extract relevant information;

Stage seven – relate to original context;

Stage eight – success:

Yes – out        No – stage one.

Questions to be answered at the end of the lecture:

1. What does Lexicography study?

2. What kinds of dictionaries do you know?

3. What is the difference between monolingual and bilingual dictionaries?



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