MEANINGS OF LINGUISTIC UNITS
a) Denotative meaning of the word. An act of verbal communication between the speaker and the hearer is made possible primarily due to the fact that units of communication (i. e. words) are referable to extralinguistic situations, things meant. The word denotes a concrete thing as well as a concept of a thing, the word has a denotative meaning.1 Thus, the word blue denotes an object that is blue (a blue dress) and the respective concept: something blue or blueness. The word table denotes any object that is a table; it is the name of a whole class of objects that are tables.
An isolated word table denotes the concept of the thing that is a table. The word table within a certain context denotes a definite thing, i. e. has a definite meaning ; (He bought a deal table). The property of the word enabling it to denote a concrete thing as well as a generalized concept of a thing is an objective feature which has been worked out in the course of a people's history. The knowledge of the word-denotation is shared by all those who speak in the given language and this is what makes communication possible. Denotative meaning is thus the loading task of any notional word.
b) Connotative meaning of the word. The word besides denoting a concrete thing, action, or concept, may also carry a connotation, an overtone. These overtones or connotations /vary in character. They may express the speaker's attitude to the thing spoken about (emotivecomponent of meaning), or indicate the social sphere in which the, discourse takes place (stylistic reference). Both these components may be «part of the word's dictionary meaning, i. e. be present in the word when it is taken in isolation. They may, on the other hand, be part of the word's contextual meaning, i. e. emerge in the word as a result of its correlation with other words. Below we first consider connotation as part of the word's dictionary meaning — it being essential for readers to see the inherent properties of words -only to dwell at length later on the connotations words, acquire when they occur in texts.
An emotive component of meaning may have linguistic expression with the help of suffixes; for example, the suffix ie/y in such words as birdie, or Freddy serves to express the diminutive/the hypocoristic. The emotive component of meaning may have no specific linguistic form but be contained in the concept the given word denotes, as for example, in the words horrid, terrifying, lovely, etc. Then-are words of purely emotive "meaning". These are interjections which differ from words with denotative meanings (i.e. notional words) by their peculiar sound pattern oh, ouch, alas, hm, etc. They also differ by their syntactic role in an utterance: they are not components but equivalents of sentences.
Styljstic reference. Verbal communication takes places in different spheres of human activity, such as everyday life, business, science, etc. Each' of these spheres has a peculiar mode of linguistic expression which is generally known as a functional style. Words that are preferably used in one functional style are said to have a stylistic reference conditioned by the respective sphere.
The overtone of stylistic reference is always present1 in the word alongside
its denotative meaning. This can-well be illustrated by sets of words with similar
denotative meanings: get — obtain —procure; dismiss — discharge — sack; follow —pursue — go after. Words may be grouped together on the basis of their common
stylistic reference. Consider, for example, the following groups of words:
1) inquire 2) ask
pursue run after
seek look for
Each of these two groups represents a different stylistic layer: the first group contains words of a literary-bookish layer, the second — stylistically neutral words.
While speaking about stylistic reference, the following factor should be emphasized: stylistic reference can be recognized only when there is some common element to refer to. This common element is the similarity of denotation, or, in other words, synonymity of words. Where there is just one word to denote a certain concept or object of reality there would be no question of stylistic reference. Thus, the major dichotomy is to be found between stylistically neutral vs. stylistically marked words.
"Subdivisions within the class of stylistically marked words are numerous. But the main opposition lies between words of literary stylistic layer (words of Standard English) and those of nоn-1iterагу stylistic layer (words of Sub-Standard English).
Words of literary stylistic layer (Standard English). They are in their turn divided into literary-colloquial and literary-bookish.
Literary-colloquial are words denoting everyday concepts, they constitute the core of the word-stock (see, come, home, right).
a) Terms, subdivided into: 1) Popular terms of "some special spheres of human knowledge known to the "public at large (typhoid, pneumonia); 2) Terms used exclusively within a profession (phoneme, micro-linguistics);
b) Poeticisms, words used exclusively in poetry and the like. Many of these words are archaic or obsolete, such as whilom (sometimes), aught (anything), tie (no, not), haply (may be); for ay (for ever), I wee (I suppose), he kens (he knows); childe (a nobleman's son);
c) Fоrеign words and barbarisms (ban mot, neglige, au revoir; ad'absurdum, Bundeswehr). A distinction is made between the two. Barbarisms are considered to be part of the vocabulary of the given language constituting its peripheral layer. They are usually registered in dictionaries (a propos, vis-a-vis, etc.) while foreign words are, as a rule, not found in dictionaries. In literature barbarisms are generally used to lend local colour: pied-a-terre (a small flat), croissants (breakfast, bread), etc. But it would also be true to say that no straight line of demarcation can be drawn between the two groups.
^ (Sub-standard English). This layer also includes several subgroups:
a) Colloquialisms. Words that occupy an intermediate position between literary and non-literary stylistic layers and are used in conversational type of everyday speech, (awfully sorry, a pretty little thing, etc.)
b) Slangisms. Words that have originated in everyday speech and exist on the periphery of the lexical system of the given language: go crackers (go mad); guru (god); belt up (keep silence); big-head (a boaster);
c) Professionalisms. Words characteristic of the conversational variant of professional speech. Contrary to terms, professionalisms are the result of metonymic or metaphoric transference of some everyday words: bull (one who buys shares at the stock-exchange); bear (one who sells shares); sparks (a radio-operator); tin-hat (helmet), etc.
d) Vulgarisms. Rude words or expressions used mostly in the speech of the uncultured and the uneducated, e. g. missus (wife), son of a bitch (a bad person), etc.
The border-line between colloquialisms, slangisms and vulgarisms is often hard to draw for there are hardly any | linguistic criteria of discrimination. This explains why ,; one finds so many discrepancies in how these stylistic subgroups are labelled in various dictionaries.
Two more subgroups of the non-literary stylistic layer should be mentioned.
e) Jargonizes (cantisms). Words used within certain social and professional groups.
f). ^ . Words and expressions used by peasants and others in certain regions of the country: baccy (tobacco), unbeknown (unknown), winder (window), etc.
* * *
Stylistic reference and emotive charge are inherent connotative features of lexical units. They should not be confused with those connotative effects which practically any word may acquire in speech (text). What specific connotative effects words with different stylistic reference and emotive charge may acquire in texts will be shown below.
It should also be mentioned here, that although we have been speaking exclusively about connotations of lexical units, the word "connotation" is applicable not only to words. Elements smaller than words, such as certain speech sound clusters may also be carriers of some implied (indirectly expressed) idea or attitude. This we shall also dwell on below.
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