1 Lexicology as a science. Branches of lexicology.
2 Two approaches to language study, varieties of words.
3 Methods of investigation.
4 Contrastive analysis.
5 Statistical analysis.
6 Immediate constituents analysis.
7 Distributional analysis.
8 Transformational analysis.
9 Componental analysis.
10 Method of semantic differential.
11 Analytical (referential) definition of meaning.
12 Functional (contextual) definition of meaning.
13 Operational (information-oriented) definition of meaning.
14 Naming. The nominative approach to meaning.
15 The formation of concepts. Meaning and concept.
16 The ways of forming sound forms of words.
17 Aspects of lexical meaning.
18 Sources and types of meaning variability.
19 The semantic structure of a word.
20 Semantic relations of words.
21 Word-structure. Types of morphemes.
22 The method of immediate and ultimate constituents.
23 The derivational structure. Derivational bases. Types of
24 Derivational patterns.
25 Word-formation. Basic ways of coining words.
26 Minor types of coining words.
27 Affixes. Polysemy. Homonymy. Synonymy.
Lexicology as a science.
Its basic units and methods.
Lexicology is a branch of linguistics – the science of language. The
term “lexicology” is composed of two Greek morphemes “lexic” – word, phrase
& “logos” which denotes learning a department of knowledge. Thus the
literal meaning of the term “lexicology” is “the science of the word”.
Lexicology as a branch of linguistics has its own aims & methods of
scientific research. Its basic task – being a study & systematic
description of vocabulary in respect to its origin, development & its
current use. Lexicology is concerned with words, variable word-groups,
phraseological units & morphemes which make up words.
Distinction is made between GENERAL LEXICOLOGY & SPECIAL LEXICOLOGY.
General lexicology is a part of General linguistics . It is concerned with
the study of vocabulary irrespective of the specific features of any
particular language . Special lexicology is the lexicology of a particular
language ( Russian , German , French , etc. ).
Lexicology is closely connected with other branches of linguistics :
phonetics , for example , investigates the phonetic structure of language &
is concerned with the study of the outer sound-form of the word . Grammar
is the study of the grammatical structure of language . It is concerned
with the various means of expressing grammatical relations between words as
well as with patterns after which words are combined into word-groups &
sentences . There is also a close relationship between lexicology &
stylistics which is concerned with a study of a nature , functions & styles
of languages .
Two approaches to language study.
Varieties of words.
There are two principle approaches in linguistic science to the study
of language material : synchronic & diachronic . With regard to Special
lexicology the synchronic approach is concerned with the vocabulary of a
language as it exists at a given time . It’s Special Descriptive lexicology
that deals with the vocabulary & vocabulary units of a particular language
at a certain time .
The diachronic approach in terms of Special lexicology deals with the
changes & the development of vocabulary in the coarse of time . It is
Special Historical lexicology that deals with the evaluation of the
vocabulary units of a language as the time goes by .
The two approaches shouldn’t be set one against the other . In fact ,
they are interconnected & interrelated because every linguistic structure &
system exists in a state of constant development so that the synchronic
state of a language system is a result of a long process of linguistic
evaluation , of its historical development . Closely connected with the
Historical lexicology is Contrastive & Comparative lexicology whose aims
are to study the correlation between the vocabularies of two or more
languages & find out the correspondences between the vocabulary units of
the languages under comparison .
Lexicology studies various lexical units . They are : morphemes , words
, variable word-groups & phraseological units . We proceed from the
assumption that the word is the basic unit of the language system , the
largest on morphological & the smallest on syntactic plane of linguistic
analyses . The word is a structural & semantic entity within the language
system . The word as well as any linguistic sign is a two-faced unit
possessing both form & content or , to be more exact , sound-form & meaning
e. g. boy – бой
When used in actual speech the word undergoes certain modification &
functions in one of its forms . The system showing a word in all its word-
forms is called a paradigm . The lexical meaning of a word is the same
throughout the paradigm . The grammatical meaning varies from one form to
another . Therefore when we speak on any word as used in actual speech we
use the term “word” conventionally because what is manifested in the
utterances is not a word as a whole but one of its forms which is
identified as belonging to the definite paradigm . Words as a whole are to
be found in the dictionary (showing the paradigm n – noun , v – verb ,
There are two approaches to the paradigm : as a system of forms of one
word revealing the differences & the relationships between them .
e. g. to see – saw - seen – seeing
( different forms have different relations )
In abstraction from concrete words the paradigm is treated as a pattern
on which every word of one part of speech models its forms , thus serving
to distinguish one part of speech from another .
-s -‘s -s’
Besides the grammatical forms of words there are lexical varieties
which are called “variants” of words .Words seldom possess only one meaning
, but used in speech each word reveals only that meaning which is required
e. g. to learn at school to make a dress
to learn about smth. /smbd. to make smbd. do smth.
These are lexico-semantic variants .
There are also phonetic & morphological variants .
e. g. “often” can be pronounced in two ways, though the sound-form is
slightly changed , the meaning remains unchangeable . We can build the
forms of the word “to dream” in different ways :
to dream – dreamt – dreamt
These are morphological variants . The meaning
is the same but the model is different .
Like words-forms variants of words are identified in the process of
communication as making up one & the same word . Thus , within the language
system the word exists as a system & unity of all its forms & variants .
Methods of investigation .
The science is said to be formed when it has at its disposal certain
methods of investigation . The process of scientific investigation may be
subdivided into several stages :
* Observation is an early & basic phase of all modern scientific
investigations including linguistics & is the center of what is called “
the inductive method of inquiry “ . The cardinal role of all inductive
procedures is that the statements of fact must be based on observation
not on unsupported authority , logical conclusions or personal
* Another stage of scientific investigation after observation is
classification of those facts which were obtained through observation .
e. g. It is observed that in English nouns the suffixal morpheme
“-er” is added to verbal stems ( to cook – cooker , to write
– writer ) & noun stems ( village – villager , London – Londoner ). The
same suffix also occurs in the words such as mother , father . The question
is whether the words “ mother , father “ have suffix . They haven’t , thus
we can come to the conclusion that “-er” can be found in derived & non-
derived words .
* The following stage is usually that of generalization , that is , the
collection of data & their classification must eventually lead to the
formulation of a hypotheses , rule , or law .
e. g. In the case with “-er” we can formulate the rule that
derived words in “-er” may have either verbal or noun stems .The suffix “-
er” in combination with adjectival or adverbial stems can’t produce nouns (
bigger , longer , shorter are not nouns ).
* Any linguistic generalization is to be followed by the very fine process
– the linguist is required to seek verification of the generalizations
that are the result of his inquires . For these aims different methods &
procedures are used . They are : contrastive analyses , statistical
methods of analyses , immediate constituents analyses , distributional
analyses , transformational analyses , componental analyses & method of
semantic differentiation .
Contrastive analysis .
Contrastive linguists attempt to find out similarities & differences in
both related & non-related languages . Contrastive analysis grew as the
result of the practical demands of a language-teaching methodology , where
it was empirically shown that the errors which are made by foreign language
students can be often traced back to the differences in structure between
the target language & the language of the learner . This naturally implies
the necessity of a detailed comparison of the structure of a native & a
target language . This procedure has been named contrastive analysis .
People proceed from the assumption that the categories , elements on the
semantic as well as on the syntactic & other levels are valid for both
e. g. Linking verbs can be found in English , French , German , Russian ,
etc. Linking verbs having the meaning of “change & become” are differently
represented in each of the languages . In English , for instance , “ become
, come , grow , fall , run , turn “ ; in Russian –“ становиться “ are used
. The task is to find out which semantic & syntactic features characterize
the English set of linking verbs , the Russian linking verb & how they can
be compared , how the English word-groups “ grow thin , get angry , fall
ill “ correspond to Russian “похудеть , рассердиться , заболеть “.
Contrastive analysis can be carried out at three linguistic levels :
phonology , grammar ( morphology & syntax ) & lexis . Contrastive analysis
is applied to reveal the features of sameness & difference in the lexical
meaning & the semantic structure of correlated words in different languages
. It is commonly assumed by non-linguists that all languages have
vocabulary systems in which the words themselves differ in sound-form , but
refer to reality in the same way . From this assumption it follows that for
every word in the mother tongue there is an exact equivalent in the foreign
language . It is a belief which is reinforced by the small bilingual
dictionary where single-word translation is often used .Language learning
cannot be just a matter of substitution a new set of labels for the
familiar ones of the mother tongue .It should be born in mind that though
the objective reality exists outside human beings & irrespective of the
language they speak , every language classifies reality in its own way by
means of vocabulary units .
e. g. In English , for example , the word “foot” is used to denote the
extremity of the leg . In Russian there is no exact equivalent for
“foot”: “стопа” is a little bit smaller than foot , the word “нога”
denotes the whole leg including the foot .
Differences in the lexical meaning of correlated words account for the
differences of their collocability in different languages .
e. g. Thus , the English adjective “new” & the Russian adjective”новый”
when taken in isolation are felt as correlated words : a new dress ,
New Year . In collocation with other nouns however the Russian
adjective cannot be used in the same meaning in which the English word
“new” is currently used : new potatoes , new bread , etc.
Contrastive analysis on the level of the grammatical meaning reveals that
co-related words in different languages may differ in grammatical
e. g. Russians are liable to say “news are good , the money are on the
table , her hair are black” because the Russian words “новости , деньги
, волосы” have the grammatical meaning of plurality .
Contrastive analysis brings to light the essence of what is usually
described as idiomatic English , idiomatic Russian , i. e. the peculiar way
in which every language combines & structures in lexical units various
concepts to denote extra-linguistic reality .
e. g. A typical Russian word-group used to describe the way somebody
performs an action or to state how a person finds himself has the
structure that may be represented by the formula “adjective + a finite
form of a verb”(он крепко спит , быстро усваивает ). In English we can
also use structurally similar word-groups & say “he learns fast/slowly”
. The structure of idiomatic word-group in English is different . The
structure is “adjective + deverbal noun”. It is really in English to
say “he is a heavy smoker , poor learner early riser”.
Statistical analysis .
Statistical linguistics is nowadays generally recognized as the one of
the major branches of linguistics . Statistical inquiries have considerable
importance because of their relevance to certain problems of communication
engineering & information theory . Statistical approach proved essential in
the selection of vocabulary items of a foreign language for teaching
purposes . Very few people know more than 10% of the words in their mother
tongue . It follows that if we do not wish to waste time on committing to
memorize vocabulary items which are never likely to be useful to the
learner we have to select only lexical units that are commonly used by a
native speaker .
Out of approximately 500 000 words listed in Oxford English dictionary
the active vocabulary of an educated Englishman comprises no more than 30
000 words & of these 4 000 - 5 000 are presumed to be amplisufficient for
the daily needs of an average member of the English speech community. Thus
, it is evident that the problem of selection of teaching vocabulary is of
vital importance . Statistical techniques have been successfully applied in
the analysis of various linguistic phenomena . Different structural types
of words , affixes , the vocabularies of great writers & poets & even in
the study of some problems of Historical Lexicology .
Statistical regularities can be observed only if the phenomena under
analysis are sufficiently numerous . Thus , the first requirement of any
statistic investigation is the size of the sample . It is known that
comparatively small group of words makes up the bulk of any text . It was
found that approximately 1300 – 1500 most frequent words make up 85% of all
words occurring in the text . If however we analyze a sample of 60 words it
is hard to predict the number of occurrences of most frequent words .
e. g. If we take the word “room” we can find some meanings of the word
: 1) “room”- denoting “space” as in “take less room , not enough room
to do smth.”; 2) part of a house as in “sitting-room” ; 3) used in
plural = lodgings as in “to get rooms”. Statistical analysis shows that
most frequently the word is used in its second meaning – 83% of all
occurrences of the word in different texts , 12% of all takes its first
meaning – “space”, & only 2% takes the third meaning of the word .
Immediate constituents analysis .
The theory of Immediate Constituents was originally elaborated as an
attempt to determine the ways in which lexical units are relevantly related
to one another . It was discovered that combinations of units are usually
structured into hierarchial sets of binary constructions .
e. g. In the word-group “ a black dress in severe style “ we do not
relate the indefinite article “a” to adjective “black” , “black” to
“dress” , “dress” to “in” , “in” to “severe” , “severe” to “style” .We
set up a structure which may be represented as “a black dress” & “in
Thus , the fundamental aim of immediate constituents analysis is to
segment a set of lexical units into two maximally independent sequences &
these maximally independent sequences are called immediate constituents .
The further segmentation of immediate constituents results in ultimate
constituents , which means that further segmentation is impossible for no
meaning can be found .
e. g. The ultimate constituents of the phrase given are “a” ,”black” ,
“dress” , “ in” , “severe” , “style” .
This method of analysis is extremely fruitful in discovering the
derivational structure of words .
Distributional analysis .
Distributional analysis in its various forms is commonly used nowadays.
By the term “distribution” we understand the occurrence of a lexical unit
relative to another lexical units of the same levels : words to words ,
morpheme to morphemes . In other words , by this term we understand the
position which lexical unit occupies or may occupy in the text or in the
flow of speech . It is observed that a certain component of the word-
meaning is described when the word is identified distributionally .
e. g. In the sentence
The boy__________ home .
the missing word is easily identified as a verb . It may be “came ,
ran , went , goes” , but not as an adverb or a noun , or an adjective .
Thus , we see that the component of meaning that is distributionally
identified is actually the part-of-speech meaning . It is also observed
that in a number of cases words have different lexical meanings in
different distributional patterns .
e. g. The verb “to treat” has different lexical meanings in “to treat
smbd kindly” & “to treat smbd to ice-cream” .
The interdependence of distribution & meaning can be also observed at the
level of word-groups .
e. g. It is only the distribution of completely identical lexical units
but arranged on the reverse that differentiates the meaning – water tap
& tap water .
Transformational analysis .
Transformational analysis in lexicological investigations may be defined
as repatterning ( representing , reorganization ) of various distributional
structures in order to discover difference or sameness of meaning of
practically identical distributional patterns . As distributional patterns
are in a number of cases polysemantic transformational procedures are of
help not only in the analysis of semantic sameness / difference of the
lexical units but also in the analysis of the factors that account for
their polysemy . Word-groups of identical distributional structure when
repatterned show that the semantic relations between words & consequently
the meaning may be different .e. g. A pattern “possessive pronoun
”+”noun”(his car , his failure , his arrest, his kindness ). According to
transformational analysis the meaning of each word-group may be represented
as : he has a car , he failed , he was arrested , he is kind. In each of
the cases different meaning is revealed : possession , action , passive
action , quality .The rules of transformation are rather strict & shouldn’t
be identified with paraphrasing in the usual sense of the term .There are
many restrictions both on syntactic & lexical levels . These are :
Permutation – the repatterning on condition that the basic subordinative
relationships between words & word-stems of the lexical units are not
changed .e. g. “His work is excellent “ may be transformed into “ his
excellent work , the excellence of his work , he works excellently “.In
the example given the relationships between lexical units & the stems of
the notional words are essentially the same .
Replacement – the substitution of a component of the distributional
structure by a member of a certain strictly defined set of lexical units
.e. g. Replacement of a notional verb by an auxiliary or link verb (he will
make a bad mistake & he will make a good teacher ). The sentences have
identical distributional structure but only in the second one the verb “to
make “ can be substituted by “ become “ or “ be “ . The fact of
impossibility of identical transformations of distributionally identical
structures is a formal proof of the difference in their meaning .
Addition ( or expansion ) may be illustrated by the application of the
procedure of addition to the classification of adjectives into two groups-
adjectives denoting inherent & non-inherent qualities .
e. g. John is happy .
John is tall .
We add a word-group “ in Moscow “. We shall see that “ John is happy in
Moscow .” has meaning while the second one is senseless . That is accounted
by the difference in the meaning of adjectives denoting inherent (tall) &
non-inherent(happy) qualities .
Deletion – a procedure which shows whether one of the words semantically
subordinated to the other . e. g. The word-group “red flowers” may be
deleted & transformed into “flowers” without making the sentence senseless
: I like red flowers or I like flowers . The other word-group “red tape “
can’t be deleted & transformed either into “ I hate tape “ or “I hate red “
because in both transformed sentences the meaning of the phrase “red tape”
means “bureaucracy” & it can’t be divided into two parts .
Componental analysis .
In this analysis linguists proceed from the assumption that the smallest
units of meaning are sememes or semes . e. g. In the lexical item “woman”
several sememes may be singled out , such as human , not an animal , female
, adult . The analysis of the word “girl” will show the following sememes :
human , female , young . The last component of the two words differentiates
them & makes impossible to mix up the words in the process of communication
. It is classical form of revealing the work of componental analysis to
apply them to the so called closed systems of vocabulary , for example ,
colour terms . The analysis as a rule was formalized only as far as the
symbolic representation of meaning components it is concerned with .Each
sememe in the terms of colours acquires or is given a certain letter ( A ,
B , C , D … ) & the meaning of the terms may be given in a formalized form
. e. g. Red & scarlet will differ only in one component & that is intensity
of colour & by the letter it may be illustrated as
A B C
A B C Under the letter C the intensity is meant .
The formalized representation of meaning helps to find out different
semantic components which influence collocability of words (during the day
but not during the stairs, down the stairs but not down the day ).
Componental analysis is practically always combined with transformational
procedures or statistical analysis .The combination makes it possible to
find out which of the meanings should be represented first of all in the
dictionaries of different types & how the words should be combined in order
to make your speech sensible .
Method of semantic differential .
A word has not only one meaning & even one word usually implies some
additional information which differentiates one word from another .
e. g. to like , to love , to adore , to warship . All the words denote
positive feelings , characteristic of a human being . But each of them
gives additional information on the so-called strength of feeling .
This is the connotational aspect which was singled out by the semantic
differential – the method which was worked out by a group of American
psycholinguists . Their technique requires the subjects to judge – a series
of concepts with respect to a set of antonymic adjective scale .
e. g. A horse can be :
good – bad
fast – slow
strong – weak
hard – soft
happy – sad
The meaning of the divisions is that each of the quality may be gradated
representing extremely good , very good , neither good nor bad ,slightly
bad , extremely bad & these grades can be marked by a plus .And the horse
may be very good , not bad , etc .
The revealed gradations showing some portion of quality helps to singled
out such words which are usually referred to as neutral, expressive ,
archaic & new words proper – neologisms . All the methods of analysis are
applied in one & the same sphere of investigation . If you are interested
in meaning you shouldn’t pay much attention to the structure , if you are
interested in collocation of words you shouldn’t pay much attention what
parts of words represent the distributional structure . The combination of
different methods of analysis helps to classify the vocabulary as a whole &
each lexical unit taken separately . It should be said that practically no
procedures function independently & separately from each other . It is only
for study aims that we separate one procedure from another . In fact ,
being a two-faced unit a lexical item provides to be an indivisible unit of
form & content . That is why you cannot investigate one side of the item
paying no attention to the other one .
Semasiology . Lexical
meaning & its aspects .
Semasiology (or semantics ) is a branch of linguistics which studies
meaning . Semasiology is singled out as an independent branch of lexicology
alongside word-formation , etymology , phraseology & lexicography . And at
the same time it is often referred to as the central branch of lexicology .
The significance of semasiology may be accounted for by three main
1. Language is the basic human communication system aimed at ensuring the
exchange of information between the communicants which implies that
the semantic side forms the backbone of communication .
2. By definition lexicology deals with words , morpheme & word-groups .
All those linguistic units are two-faced entities having both form &
3. Semasiology underlines all other branches of lexicology . Meaning is
the object of semasiological study .
However , at present there is no universally accepted definition of meaning
or rather a definition reflecting all the basic characteristic features of
meaning & being at the same time operational . Thus , linguists state that
meaning is “one of the most ambiguous & most controversial terms in the
theory of language “(Steven Ullman).Leech states that the majority of
definitions turn out to be a dead end not only on practical but on logical
grounds . Numerous statements on the complexity of the phenomenon of
meaning are found on the Russian tradition as well by such linguists as
А.А.Потебня , И.А.Бодуэн де Куртене , Щерба , Виноградов , А.И. Смерницкий
& others .
However vague & inadequate , different definitions of meaning help to sum
up the general characteristics of the notion comparing various approaches
to the description of the content side of the language . There are three
main categories of definitions which may be referred to as :
V analytical or referential definition of meaning
V functional or contextual definition of meaning
V operational or information-oriented definition of meaning
Analytical or referential
definition of meaning.
They seek to find the essence of meaning establishing the interdependence
between words of the objects or phenomena they denote . The best known
analytical model of meaning is the so-called “basic triangle”.
Concept (or our thought)
Sound-form Word-object (referent)
They are connected directly that means that if we hear a sound-form a
certain idea arises in our mind & the idea brings out a certain referent
that exists in the reality . But the sound-form & the referent are
connected indirectly because there are no objects or phenomena in the
reality that predict a certain sound-form , that need to be named by a
certain sequence of sounds . The strongest point in the approach is an
attempt to link the notion of meaning with the process of naming the
objects , processes or phenomena of concrete reality . The analytical
definitions of meaning are usually criticized on the grounds that they
cannot be applied to sentences .
e. g. The sentence “ I like to read long novels “ does not express single
notion , it represents composites of notions specifying the relations
between them .
The referential definition of meaning can hardly be applied to semantic
additions that come to the surface in the process of communication .
e. g. “That’s very clever “ may mean different sorts of things including
that it is not clever at all .
It has also been stated that the referential approach fails to account
for that fact that one word may denote different objects & phenomena . That
is the case of polysemy . On the other hand one & the same object may be
denoted by different words & that is the case of synonymy .
Functional or contextual
Definitions of meaning.
Proceeding from the assumptions that the true meaning of a word is to be
found by observing what a man does with it not what he says about it , the
proponents of functional approach to meaning define it as the use of the
word in the language . It has been suggested that the meaning of a word is
revealed by substituting different contexts .
e. g. The meaning of the word cat may be singled out of contexts:
____________ catch mice.
I bought fish for my _____.
and similar sentences.
To get a better insight in to the semantics of a word it is necessary to
analyze as many contexts in which it is realized as possible. The question
arises – when to stop collecting different contexts & what amount of
material is sufficient to make a reliable conclusion about the meaning of a
word ? In practice a scholar is guided by intuition which amount to the
previous knowledge of the notions the given word denotes. Besides , there
are contexts which are so infrequent that they can hardly be registered &
quite obviously they have never been met by the speakers of the given
language. Nevertheless being presented with a context a native speaker
proceeds not from a list of possible contexts but from something else. The
functional approach to meaning is important because it emphasizes the fact
that words are seldom if ever used in isolation & thus the meaning of a
word is revealed only when it is realized in a context. But on the whole
the functional approach may be described as a complimentary , additional to
the referential one.
They are centered on defining meaning through its role in the process of
communication. Just like functional approach information-oriented
definitions are part of studying words in action. They are more interested
in how the words work , how the meaning works than what the meaning is. The
operational approach began to take shape with the growing interest of
linguists in the communicative aspect of the language when the object of
study was shifted to the relations between the language we use & the
situations within which it is used. In this frame-work meaning is defined
as information conveyed from the speaker to the listener in the process of
communication. The definition is applicable both to words & sentences &
thus overcomes one of the drawbacks of the referential approach. The
problem is that it is more applicable to sentences than to words & even as
such fails to draw a clear distinguishing line between the direct sense
(that is meaning) & implication (that is additional information).
e. g. Thus the sentence “John came at 6 o’clock” besides the direct
meaning may imply that John was 2 hours late , that he was punctual as
usual , that it was a surprise for John to come , that he came earlier ,
that he was not expected at all & many others.
In each case the implication would depend on the concrete situation of
communication. And discussing meaning as the information conveyed would
amount to the discussion of an almost endless set of possible communication
situations which in the end will bring us back to a modified contextual or
functional approach to meaning. The distinction between the two layers in
the information conveyed is so important that two different terms may be
used to denote them: the direct information conveyed by the units which
build up a sentence may be referred to as meaning while the information
added to the given extralinguistic situation may be called sense.