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  1. Synonyms

Pejorationor degradation of meaning is connected with derogatory and scornful attitude towards persons, things and objects, lowering smb. or smth. in social scale. French villain(Lat. villanus) originally meant farm servant, Boor(Germ. Bauer)originally meant peasant.





Topological Kinds of Polysemy

1) one, who shares with another in a profession, a partner, colleague, worker (obs.);

2) one that is associated with another in habitual or temporary companionship, a companion, comrade (now rare);

3) an agreeable or pleasant companion, usually one who is fond of feasting and good company;

4) the complementary individual of a pair; the mate;

5) one who shares with another in any attribute, one belonging to the same class (in position, rank, ability, etc.);

6) one of a company or party whose interests are common, a number;

7) in college and university use: a) the name given to the incorporated members of a college or collegiate foundation; b) applied to the holders of certain stipendiary positions;

8) the title given in various learned societies;

9) a familiar synonym for man, male person.


Irradiation here is connected with concatenation.*

1) the young of a goat;

2) the flesh of a young goat;

3) a) the skin of a kid; b) leather made from kid-skins;

4) a pair of small stars in the constellation Auriga, represented as Kids held in the hand of the charioteer;

5) (sl) a child, esp. a young child.


1) having an appearance or aspect which causes dread or horror; frightful, horrible;

2) of events, times: dreadful, terrible (obs);

3) offensive or repulsive to the eye; unpleasing in appearance;

4) morally offensive or repulsive; base, loathsome, vile;

5) offensive or unpleasant to the smell of taste;

6) offensive to refind taste or good feelings; disagreeable, unpleasant;

7) somewhat hazardous or perilous;

8) cross, angry; ill-tempered.

In English polysemy is highly developed due to the monosyllabic character and the predominance of root words. In most frequent English words the average number of meanings amounts to 25: they are called its lexico-semantic variants (LSVs). Taken together they constitute the semantic structure of the word.

1) manner of writing and speaking; manner of doing anything;

2) quality that marks out smth. done or made as superior, fashionable & distinctive;

3) fashion in dress;

4) general appearance, form or design, kind or sort;

5) right title used when addressing smb.;

6) implement used in ancient times for scratching letters on wax-covered surfaces...*

Word meaning may be direct and figurative, concrete and abstract, primary and secondary, central and peripheral, general and special.

When we present LSVs of any word in a dictionary we do not place the earliest known meaning (etymological) as the first own, we usually begin with present-day meaning which is the most frequents. Though in actual speech a word depending on the context may acquire a lot of additional (contextual) meanings still p o l y s e m y belongs to LANGUAGE, not to SPEECH; contextual meanings are not registered in dictionaries which deal only with the most typical meanings, not cases of nonce (occasional) usage.

What is the semantic structure of a polysemantic word?

A structured set of interrelated lexical variants with different denotational and sometimes also connotational meanings. LSVs are united by the existence of a common semantic component. Is there any hierarchy of LSVs and shades of meaning within the semantic structure of a word? Certainly, we can establish the priority of this or that LSV and measure the distance between them.

In order to state which of the meanings of a polysemantic word are employed we must determine the minimal stretch of speech to reveal this or that LSV - its c o n t e x t (a combination of an indicator or indicating minimum + the word the meaning of which we state in a given utterance). We can speak of lexical, syntactical and mixed context: thick hair, thick soup, thick wood, thick layer. If we speak of syntactical context the syntactic pattern is important: "to get" in "I've got what you say".


The semantic structure of words never remains stable: it is in a state of constant development. These changes are first of all determined by the social nature of the language. New things and notions appear every day - words change their meaning together with the progress of human civilization: a human mind achieves a more exact understanding of the surrounding world. The history of the social, economic and political life of people, cultural and scientific progress necessarily leads to changes in the word-meaning.

Each social group is characterized by peculiarities of nomination and a word may acquire these peculiarities. Thus, the noun cell in different contexts suggests different notions for biologists, lawyers, clergy, electricians. The word case 1 - 1. instance or example of the occurrence of smth.; circumstances or special conditions relating to a person or thing; 2. legal question to be decided in a law court; 3. change in the form of a noun or pronoun; case 2 -1. box, bag, covering, container; 2. (printing) upper case-capital letters; lower case - small letters. Historical analysis of word-meaning helps us to trace how it develops and reveal the primary meaning of words which is in some cases so far from modern meaning. Thus legendwas originally "a book describing the life of saint people", leftmeant "weak", hospital- "a place to receive guests", train- (шлейф) a part of a female festive frock, nicemeant "ignorant" in Latin and "silly" in OFr, sorrowmeant "ulcer" and "grief", ponder-to measure the weight".

Classifying different types of semantic changes we can observe that in some cases the volume of meaning is either expanded or narrowed; in other cases the connotational component of meaning is affected by changes: a word may acquire additional emotive-evaluative shades of meaning.

Modifications of the scope of meaning are termed "specialization" and "generalization".

OE fuZolcame to denote fowl(domestic bird);

cenotaph(an empty tomb) developed into the Cenotaph - a monument in London in honour and memory of soldiers killed in I-st and II-nd World Wars.

OE hundcame to denote hound(a special hunting dog).

OE tacen (sign) is restricted in meaning to something small and unimportant which may represent smth. more valuable and significant - tokenof love, gratitude, respect.

OE mete (food) denotes meat(edible flesh of killed animals).

Other examples of specialization of meaning are room, corn, deer, write, teach.

Generalization of meaning occurs when the scope of the new notion is wider than that of the original one. We may connect it with a higher order of abstraction than in the previous meaning.

stockmeant originally supply of wood;

Now: store of any goods.

rivalmeant a person living on the other side of the river;

fiction -something invented or imagined (contrasted with truth)

Now: branch of literature concerned with stories, novels and romances.

Mausoleum- the tomb of the tsar Mausol in Halicarnace (IV a.d.).

citizen -a person living in the city (originally).

Now: a person who has full rights in a State either by birth or by gaining such rights.

ready (ræde)meant originally "prepared for a ride"

thingmeant "what was said or decided upon"

Now: it can substitute almost any noun and receives the force of a pronoun.

person(a) (L) means "the mask used by an actor". per - "through", sōnāre - "to sound" (masks with megaphonic effect.). The name was transferred metonymically to a person.

Now: man, woman.

Changes depending on the social attitude to the object and connected with social evaluation and emotions are called ameliorationandpejorationor elevationand degradation.

Thus, in OE cwen meant woman. Cf.: queen; cniht(a young servant). Cf.: Knight; stiZweardmeant a person who took care of pigs. Cf.: steward. Marescealcmeant a person who cleaned horses. Cf. Marshal; Gentlemeant "well-born" (including only the social values) and came to denote "mild, quiet, careful; not rough, violent, severe".

Gentleman(hist.)-man of good family attached to a court or to the household of a great noble. Now: man who shows consideration for the feelings of others.

Blacklegoriginally meant a sheep-disease; present-day: meaning a person who offers to work when other workers are on strike.

Gossip, blackguard, clown, churland other words of this type demonstrate development of derogatory meaning.

Transfer of Meaning

A metaphor is a transfer of name based on the association of similarity and thus is actually a hidden comparison. Poetic metaphors are always fresh and unexpected while linguistic metaphors especially when they are dead are the result of long usage, the comparison is completely forgotten and the thing named often has no other name.

Very many linguistic forms are used for more than one typical situation. We speak of the head of an army, of a procession, of a household and a head of cabbage, of the mouth of a bottle, cannon or river, of the eye of a needle and the hooks and eyes on a dress; of the teeth of a saw; of the tongue of a shoe or of a wagon; of the neck of a bottle and a neck of the woods; of the arms, legs and back of a chair; of the foot of a mountain; the hearts of celery. A man may be a fox, an ass, or a dirty dog; a woman - a peach, lemon, cat or goose; people are sharp and keen or dull, or else bright or foggy; as to their wits, warm or cold in temperament; crooked or straight in conduct; a person may be up in the air, at sea, off the handle, off his base or even beside himself, without actually moving from the spot. Metaphors are based on different types of similarity: of shape and function (head of a table), duration of time and space (long speech; short time); sometimes we deal with psychological and mental notions which resulted from the transfer on them of space relations.

Caterpillar(гусеничный ход), feeler(осторожный вопрос) от "усик насекомого", "щупальце"; snail(медлительный человек) от "улитка", bulb (электрическая лампочка) от "луковица растения", branch(отрасль науки, промышленности) от "ветка дерева".

A special type of metaphors includes transitions of proper names into common ones: a Shylock(человек беспощадный при заключении сделок, главный персонаж "Венецианского купца" Шекспира), a Vandal,a Philistine,a Cicero,a Venus,a Scroodge.

Metonymyis a transfer based upon the association of contiguity. It is a shift of names that are known to be in some way or other connected in reality or thesubstitution of the name of an attribute of a thing for the name of the thing itself.

· cane - камыш, тростник → трость из такого материала;

· coin- клин для чеканки монет → монета;

· sable -соболь → мех соболя;

· silver- металл - столовое серебро

- серебряная медаль (a silver)

The Crownstands for the British monarchy;

Downing Street- the British Government;

Hand - handwriting, one's mode of writing.

Through metonymic transfer we may turn proper names into common ones.

Volt- an Italian physicist → a unit of voltage in physics;

Bobby (Robert Peel) - the founder of the system of the British police→ a British policeman;

Wedgewood- the founder of the production of China → a sort of British china (porcelain and pottery).

There are numerous examples of geographical names turning into common nouns especially with reference to various stuffs and materials: astrakhan (fur), china (ware), damask (steel), holland (linen), morocco (leather)which may become international: champagne, burgundy, madeira, cheddar, a sandwich, a hooligan.

Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement which must not be understood directly: a monster, a nightmare, death itself.

See also: I have heaps of time, I beg a thousand pardons, he was thunderstruck.

The opposite to hyperbole is understatement or litotes-expressing the affirmative by the negative of its contrary:not half as bad, not small, a pool (about the ocean), no scoundrel (an honest man).

Euphemisms are words which replace unpleasant, offensive, harsh and disagreeable lexical units: deceased(dead), deranged(mad), disease of the age (cancer), garbage collector(dustman), the unpriviledged(the poor); the earliest euphemisms were connected with moral and social taboo: WCor usual conveniences(water closet), in the family way(pregnant), a paying guest, aman-to-stay-with-us(a lodger), in a state of intoxication (drunk).

SEMANTIC GROUPINGS in English vocabulary

Every language has in its vocabulary a lot of words, different in their phonetic shape, usage, collocation, connotations b u t similar in meanings - their denotational component is identical or nearly identical:

To slay-to kill-to do in-to murder;


Usually synonyms belong to the same part speech and may be interchageable in some contexts.

As the majority of English words are polysemantic, frequent words have many synonyms. The semantic structure of polysemantic words sometimes coincides in more than one meaning but never completely. Even mirror (polished surface that reflects images) and looking-glass (a mirror made of glass) are not totally identical in their meaning.

In a synonymic group loving-affectionate - devoted - fond - doting, "loving" and "devoted"are used with a positive evaluation, "affectionate"is neutral as well as "fond"; "doting" may render disapproval. "Loving"describes the inner emotional state, "affectionate"- a tender feeling which may be displayed in caressing and other manifestations, "devoted"demonstrates one's faithfulness, readiness to spend time and effort, "doting"underlines foolish, exaggerated feeling which may be blind.

In this synonymic group its members differ in rendering the basic notion, in shades of meaning and degree of intensity.

We call such synonyms ideographic; they express the same idea but are not fully identical in their referential content.

In a synonymic group visage - countenance - face - phiz - muzzle - snout - clock - mug its members constitute stylistic synonyms and we see that the presence or absence of stylistic colouring may be also accompanied by a difference in emotional colouring and evaluation.

The difference in the shade of meaning is in many cases supported by difference in style; thus we deal withideographic -stylistic synonyms: Mad - maniacal - crazy - crazed - insane - demented - deranged.

We see that mental disorder is rendered by synonymic words which differ not only by shades of meaning and degrees of intensity but also by their stylistic characteristics - some of them are neutral (insane), some - bookish (demented, maniacal), some - colloquial (crazy, crazed).

Synonymic groups contain usually several members differing from each other in some shades of meaning, degree of intensity, stylistic reference and emotional colouring. Synonymic dominant is the most general term of its kind, usually stylistically neutral, sharing the specific features rendered by all the other members of the group.

We must not confuse the synonymic dominant with a generic term or hyperonym - name for the notion of the genus as distinguished from the name of the species- hyponyms.

"Insect" is a generic term for "cockroach", "ant", "fly", "flea", "gnat", "moth", etc.

It is universally known that no two words are absolutely identical in their meanings, connotations, ways of usage, stylistic reference, frequency of occurrence. We cannot be sure that even "mothercountry" and "fatherland" are absolutely identical in their meaning, they differ in terms of usage. Thus, we cannot speak of total synonymy.

Usually synonyms are words identical with respect to their central semantic features but different in their minor or peripheral features. In this case we deal with the so-called contextual synonyms which are interchangeable only in some contexts.

Synonyms can appear in paradigmatic and syntagmatic sets. Dictionaries of synonyms include words on the basis of relatedness of their meaning. Here we deal with identity and differentiation, continuity and variability as the main parameters. Usually in dealing with synonymy we pay attention to semantic distinctions between lexical units as these distinctions in meaning and usage are very important in choosing the right word in a particular context or speech situation. In dictionaries we find a paradigmatic description of synonyms where the main accent is laid on the points of difference between them. Special supplementary notes in lexicography ("obsolete", derogatory", "poetic", "vulgar", etc.) help us to limit the wrong usage of lexical items, to avoid stylistic mistakes in choosing area of situation.

Subneutral wordsare subdivided into colloquial words, jargon wordsand vulgar words. «-- попередня | наступна --» ANTONYMs
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