Лексикология английского языка English Lexicology icon

Лексикология английского языка English Lexicology

НазваниеЛексикология английского языка English Lexicology
Дата конвертации10.10.2012
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ТипУчебное пособие
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Г.Б. Антрушина, О.В, Афанасьева, Н.Н. Морозова




English Lexicology

Рекомендовано Министерством общего и профессионального образования Российской Федерации в качестве учебного пособия для студентов высших учебных заведений, обучающихся по педагогическим специальностям

(Сканирование, распознавание, вычитка:

Аркадий Куракин, г. Николаев, апр. 2003.

Обработано: 178 из 288 стр. Выпущены упражнения.

Орфография унифицирована к Британской)


Москва Издательский дом "Дрофа"

УДК 373.167.1:802.0 ББК 81.2 Англ—3 А 72

Атрушина Г. Б., Афанасьева О. В., Морозова Н. Н.

А72 Лексикология английского языка: Учеб. пособие для студентов. — М.: Дрофа, 1999. — 288с.

ISBN 5—7107—2096—8

Учебное пособие включает разделы: предмет и задачи курса, этимологический состав и стилевые слои словарного состава английского языка, словообразование, семантология, фразеология, синонимия и антонимия современного английского языка. Теоретический материал тесно увязан с материалом для практической самостоятельной работы и работы на семинарах, а также с текстами и упражнениями для лексического анализа.

УДК 373.167.1:802.0 ББК 81.2 Англ—3

ISBN 5—7107—2096—8 © «Дрофа», 1999


Introduction. What Is a Word? What Is Lexicology? . . 6 Chapter 1. Which Word Should We Choose, Formal

or Informal? 12

Chapter 2. Which Word Should We Choose, Formal

or Informal? (continued) 27

Chapter 3. The Etymology of English Words. Are all

English Words Really English? 44

Chapter 4. The Etymology of English Words

(continued) 62

Chapter 5. How English Words Are Made. Word-

building 78

Chapter 6. How English Words Are Made. Word-
building (continued) 104

Chapter 7. What Is "Meaning"? 129

Chapter 8. How Words Develop New Meanings 147

Chapter 9. Homonyms: Words of the Same Form 166

Chapter 10. Synonyms: Are Their Meanings the Same

or different? 184

Chapter 11. Synonyms (continued). Euphemisms.

Antonyms 209

Chapter 12. Phraseology: Word-groups with Trans
ferred Meanings 225

Chapter 13. Phraseology. Principles of Classifi
cation 242

Chapter 14.
Do Americans Speak English or

American? 259

Supplementary Material 276

Sources 283

Dictionaries 284

List of Authors Quoted 285


In this book the reader will find the fundamentals of the word theory and of the main problems associated with English vocabulary, its characteristics and subdivisions. Each chapter contains both theory and exercises for seminar and independent work.

The book is intended for English language students at Pedagogical Universities (3d and 4th years of studies) taking the course of English lexicology and fully meets the requirements of the programme in the subject. It may also be of interest to all readers, whose command of English is sufficient to enable them to read texts of average difficulty and who would like to gain some information about the vocabulary resources of Modern English (for example, about synonyms and antonyms), about the stylistic peculiarities of English vocabulary, about the complex nature of the word's meaning and the modern methods of its investigation, about English idioms, about those changes that English vocabulary underwent in its historical development and about some other aspects of English lexicology. One can hardly acquire a perfect command of English without having knowledge of all these things, for a perfect command of a language implies the conscious approach to the language's resources and at least a partial understanding of the "inner mechanism" which makes the huge language system work.

This book is the first attempt to embrace both the theory and practical exercises in the one volume, the two parts being integrated. The authors tried to establish links between the theory of lexicology and the reality of living speech, on the one hand, and the language-learning and language-teaching process, on the other, never losing sight of the fact that the

majority of intended readers of the book are teachers and students of Pedagogical Universities.

The authors tried to present the material in an easy and comprehensible style and, at the same time, to meet the reader on the level of a half-informal talk. With the view of making the book more vivid and interesting, we have introduced extracts from humorous authors, numerous jokes and anecdotes and extracts from books by outstanding writers, aiming to show how different lexicological phenomena are used for stylistic purposes.

Theory and exercises to Ch. 1—2 were written by G. B. Antrushina, exercises to Introduction and Ch. 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 by O. V. Afanasyeva and to Ch. 3, 4, 7, 8,12,13,14 by N. N. Morozova.

The authors wish to acknowledge the considerable assistance afforded them by their English colleague Mr. Robert T. Pullin, Lecturer in Education, Russian and French, at the University of Sheffield, U. K., who kindly acted as stylistic editor before final publication.

We are also sincerely grateful to our colleagues at the Pyatigorsk and Irkutsk Institutes of Foreign Languages and at the Pedagogical Institute of Ekaterinburg who read the book in manuscript and made valuable suggestions.



What Is a Word? What Is Lexicology?

What's is a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet...

(W. Shakespeare. ^ Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Sc. 2)

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, a branch of linguistics, is the study of words.

For some people studying words may seem uninteresting. But if studied properly, it may well prove just as exciting and novel as unearthing the mysteries of Outer Space.

It is significant that many scholars have attempted to define the word as a linguistic phenomenon. Yet none of the definitions can be considered totally satisfactory in all aspects. It is equally surprising that, despite all the achievements of modern science, certain essential aspects of the nature of the word still escape us. Nor do we fully understand the phenomenon called "language", of which the word is a fundamental unit.

We do not know much about the origin of language and, consequently, of the origin of words. It is true that there are several hypotheses, some of them no less fantastic than the theory of the divine origin of language.

We know nothing — or almost nothing — about the mechanism by which a speaker's mental process is converted into sound groups called "words", nor about the

reverse process whereby a listener's brain converts the acoustic phenomena into concepts and ideas, thus establishing a two-way process of communication.

We know very little about the nature of relations between the word and the referent (i. e. object, phenomenon, quality, action, etc. denoted by the word). If we assume that there is a direct relation between the word and the referent — which seems logical — it gives rise to another question: how should we explain the fact that the same referent is designated by quite different sound groups in different languages.

We do know by now — though with vague uncertainty — that there is nothing accidental about the vocabulary of the language;1 that each word is a small unit within a vast, efficient and perfectly balanced system. But we do not know why it possesses these qualities, nor do we know much about the processes by which it has acquired them.

The list of unknowns could be extended, but it is probably high time to look at the brighter side and register some of the things we do know about the nature of the word.

First, we do know that the word is a unit of speech which, as such, serves the purposes of human communication. Thus, the word can be defined as a unit of communication.

Secondly, the word can be perceived as the total of the sounds which comprise it.

Third, the word, viewed structurally, possesses several characteristics.

The modern approach to word studies is based on distinguishing between the external and the internal structures of the word.

1 By the vocabulary of a language is understood the total sum of its words. Another term for the same is the stock of words.

By 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 external structure of words, and also typical word-formation patterns, are studied in the section on word-building (see Ch. 5, 6).

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 meanings, and it is most unfortunate when this fact is ignored by some contemporary scholars who, in their obsession with the fetish of structure tend to condemn as irrelevant anything that eludes mathematical analysis. And this is exactly what meaning, with its subtle variations and shifts, is apt to do.

The area of lexicology specialising in the semantic studies of the word is called semantics (see Ch. 7, 8).

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, strictly speaking, 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 (see Ch. 12).

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 characterised by unity, possesses a single grammatical framing: blackbird/s. The first constituent black is not 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: bird — a kind of living creature; black — a colour.

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 realised.

So far we have only underlined the word's major peculiarities, but this suffices to convey the general idea of the difficulties and questions faced by the scholar attempting to give a detailed definition of the word. The difficulty does not merely consist in the considerable number of aspects that are to be taken into account, but, also, in the essential unanswered questions of word theory which concern the nature of its meaning (see Ch. 7).

All that we have 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 characterised by formal and semantic unity.

^ The Main Lexicological Problems

Two of these have already been underlined. The problem of word-building is associated with prevailing morphological word-structures and with processes of making new words. Semantics is the study of meaning. Modern approaches to this problem are characterised by two different levels of study: syntagmatic and paradigmatic.

On the syntagmatic level, the semantic structure of the word is analysed in its linear relationships with neighbouring words in connected speech. In other words, the semantic characteristics of the word are observed, described and studied on the basis of its typical contexts.

On the paradigmatic level, the word is studied in its relationships with other words in the vocabulary system. So, a word may be studied in comparison with other words of similar meaning (e. g. work, n. — labour, n.; to refuse, v. — to reject v. — to decline, v.), of opposite meaning (e. g. busy, adj. — idle, adj.; to accept, v, to reject, v.), of different stylistic characteristics (e. g. man, n. — chap, n. — bloke, n. — guy, n.). Consequently, the main problems of paradigmatic studies are synonymy (see Ch. 9, 10), antonymy (see Ch. 10), functional styles (see Ch. 1, 2).

Phraseology is the branch of lexicology specialising in word-groups which are characterised by stability of structure and transferred meaning, e. g. to take the bull by the horns, to see red, birds of a feather, etc. (see Ch. 12, 13).


One further important objective of lexicological studies is the study of the vocabulary of a language as a system. The vocabulary can be studied synchronically, that is, at a given stage of its development, or diachronically, that is, in the context of the processes through which it grew, developed and acquired its modern form (see Ch. 3, 4). The opposition of the two approaches accepted in modern linguistics is nevertheless disputable as the vocabulary, as well as the word which is its fundamental unit, is not only what it is now, at this particular stage of the language's development, but, also, what it was centuries ago and has been throughout its history.


Consider your answers to the following.

  1. In what way can one analyse a word a) socially, b) linguistically?

  2. What are the structural aspects of the word?

  3. What is the external structure of the word irresistible? What is the internal structure of this word?

  4. What is understood by formal unity of a word? Why is it not quite correct to say that a word is indivisible?

  5. Explain why the word blackboard can be considered a unity and why the combination of words a black board doesn't possess such a unity.

  6. What is understood by the semantic unity of a word? Which of the following possesses semantic unity — a bluebell (R. колокольчик) or a blue bell (R. синий бубенчик).

  7. Give a brief account of the main characteristics of a word.

  8. What are the main problems of lexicology?

  9. What are the main differences between studying words syntagmatically and paradigmatically?



Which Word Should We Choose, Formal or Informal?

Just as there is formal and informal dress, so there is formal and informal speech. One is not supposed to turn up at a ministerial reception or at a scientific symposium wearing a pair of brightly coloured pyjamas. (Jeans are scarcely suitable for such occasions either, though this may be a matter of opinion.) Consequently, 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 generally accepted in modern linguistics. Professor I. V. Arnold defines it as "a system of expressive means peculiar to a specific sphere of communication". [23]

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 roughly classified into two types: formal (a lecture, a speech in court, an official letter, professional communication) and informal (an informal talk, an intimate letter).


Accordingly, functional styles are classified into two groups, with further subdivisions depending on different situations.

Informal Style

Informal vocabulary is used in one's immediate circle: family, relatives or friends. One uses informal words when at home or when feeling at home.

Informal style is relaxed, free-and-easy, familiar and unpretentious. But it should be pointed out that the informal talk of well-educated people considerably differs from that of the illiterate or the semi-educated; the choice of words with adults is different from the vocabulary of teenagers; people living in the provinces use certain regional words and expressions. Consequently, the choice of words is determined in each particular case not only by an informal (or formal) situation, but also by the speaker's educational and cultural background, age group, and his occupational and regional characteristics.

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

Colloquial Words

Among other informal words, colloquialisms are the least exclusive: they are used by everybody, and their sphere of communication is comparatively wide, at least of literary colloquial words. These 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, which shows that the term "colloquial" is somewhat inaccurate.

Vast use of informal words is one of the prominent features of 20th century English 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)

However, in modern fiction informal words are not restricted to conversation in their use, but frequently appear in descriptive passages as well. In this way the narrative is endowed with conversational features. The author creates an intimate, warm, informal atmosphere, meeting his reader, as it were, on the level of a friendly talk, especially when the narrative verges upon non-personal direct speech.

"Fred Hardy was a bad lot. Pretty women, chemin de fer, and an unlucky knack for backing the wrong horse had landed him in the bankruptcy court by the time he was twenty-five ...

...If he thought of his past it was with complacency; he had had a good time, he had enjoyed his ups and downs; and now, with good health and a clear conscience, he was prepared to settle down as a country gentleman, damn it, bring up the kids as kids should be brought up; and when the old buffer who sat for his Constituency pegged out, by George, go into Parliament himself."

(From Rain and Other Short Stories by W. S. Maugham)


Here are some more examples of literary colloquial words. Pal and chum are colloquial equivalents of friend; girl, when used colloquially, denotes a woman of any age; 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. A bit (of) and a lot (of) also belong to this group.

A considerable number of shortenings are found among words of this type. E. g. pram, exam, fridge, flu, prop, zip, movie.

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

Literary colloquial words are to be distinguished from familiar colloquial and low colloquial.

The borderline between the literary and familiar colloquial is not always clearly marked. Yet the circle of speakers using familiar colloquial is more limited: these words are used mostly by the young and the semi-educated. This vocabulary group closely verges on slang and has something of its coarse flavour.

E. g. doc (for doctor), hi (for how do you do), ta-ta (for good-bye), goings-on (for behaviour, usually with a negative connotation), to kid smb. (for tease, banter), to pick up smb. (for make a quick and easy acquaintance), go on with you (for let me alone), shut up (for keep silent), beat it (for go away).

Low colloquial is defined by G. P. Krapp as uses "characteristic of the speech of persons who may be broadly described as uncultivated". [31] This group is stocked with words of illiterate English which do not present much interest for our purposes.

The problem of functional styles is not one of purely theoretical interest, but represents a particularly important aspect of the language-learning process. Stu-


dents of English should be taught how to choose stylistically suitable words for each particular speech situation.

So far as colloquialisms are concerned, most students' mistakes originate from the ambiguousness of the term itself. Some students misunderstand the term "colloquial" and accept it as a recommendation for wide usage (obviously mistaking "colloquial" for "conversational"). This misconception may lead to most embarrassing errors unless it is taken care of in the early stages of language study.

As soon as the first words marked "colloquial" appear in the students' functional vocabulary, it should be explained to them that the marker "colloquial" (as, indeed, any other stylistic marker) is not a recommendation for unlimited usage but, on the contrary, a sign of restricted usage. It is most important that the teacher should carefully describe the typical situations to which colloquialisms are restricted and warn the students against using them under formal circumstances or in their compositions and reports.

Literary colloquial words should not only be included in the students' functional and recognition vocabularies, but also presented and drilled in suitable contexts and situations, mainly in dialogues. It is important that students should be trained to associate these words with informal, relaxed situations.


Much has been written on the subject of slang that is contradictory and at the same time very interesting.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines slang as "language of a highly colloquial style, considered as below the level of standard educated speech, and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense." [33]


This definition is inadequate because it equates slang with colloquial style. The qualification "highly" can hardly serve as the criterion for distinguishing between colloquial style and slang.

Yet, the last line of the definition "current words in some special sense" is important and we shall have to return to this a little later.

Here is another definition of slang by the famous English writer G. K. Chesterton:

"The one stream of poetry which in constantly flowing is slang. Every day some nameless poet weaves some fairy tracery of popular language. ...All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry. ...The world of slang is a kind of topsy-turvydom of poetry, full of blue moons and white elephants, of men losing their heads, and men whose tongues run away with them — a whole chaos of fairy tales." [10]

The first thing that attracts attention in this enthusiastic statement is that the idioms which the author quotes have long since ceased being associated with slang: neither once in a blue moon, nor the white elephant, nor your tongue has run away with you are indicated as slang in modern dictionaries. This is not surprising, for slang words and idioms are short-lived and very soon either disappear or lose their peculiar colouring and become either colloquial or stylistically neutral lexical units.

As to the author's words "all slang is metaphor", it is a true observation, though the second part of the statement "all metaphor is poetry" is difficult to accept, especially if we consider the following examples: mug (for face), saucers, blinkers (for eyes), trap (for mouth, e. g. Keep your trap shut), dogs (for feet), to leg (it) (for to walk).

—All these meanings are certainly based on metaphor, yet they strike one as singularly unpoetical.

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