1. Back-Formation or Reversion
  2. Structural types of English words. Word-formation
  3. 5 Word-formation means or word-building processes in modern English


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 (apocope) and the beginning of the second component (apheresis). As a result we have a compound-shortened word. One of the first blends in English was the word smog from two synonyms: smoke and fog, which means smoke mixed with fog. From the first component the beginning is taken, from the second one the end, o is common for both of them.

Blends formed from two synonyms are: slanguange, to hustle, gasohol etc. Mostly blends are formed from a word-group, such as: acromania (acronym mania), cinemadict (cinema adict), chunnel (channel, canal), dramedy (drama comedy), detectifiction (detective fiction), faction (fact fiction) (fiction based on real facts), informecial (information commercial), Medicare (medical care), magalog (magazine catalogue) slimnastics (slimming gymnastics), sociolite (social elite), slanguist (slang linguist).

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. At first it appeared in the languauge as a result of misunderstanding the structure of a borrowed word. Prof. Yartseva explains this mistake by the influence of the whole system of the language on separate words. E.g. it is typical of English to form nouns denoting the agent of the action by adding the suffix -er to a verb stem (speak- speaker). So when the French word beggar was borrowed into English the final syllable ar was pronounced in the same way as the English -er and Englishmen formed the verb to beg by dropping the end of the noun. Other examples of back formation are: to accreditate (from accreditation), to bach (from bachelor), to collocate (from collocation), to enthuse (from enthusiasm), to compute (from computer), to emote (from emotion) to reminisce (from reminiscence) , to televise (from television) etc.

As we can notice in cases of back formation the part-of-speech meaning of the primary word is changed, verbs are formed from nouns.

Lecture 5


The branch of linguistics concerned with the meaning of words and word equivalents is called semasiology. If treated diachronically, semasiology studies the change in meaning which words undergo. Descriptive synchronic approach demands a study not of individual words but of semantic structures typical of the language studied, and of its general semantic system.

The main objects of semasiological study are semantic development of words, its causes and classification, relevant distinctive features and types of lexical meaning, polysemy and semantic structure of words, semantic grouping and connections in the vocabulary system, i.e. synonyms, antonyms, terminological systems.

The word may be defined as the basic unit of language. Uniting meaning and form, it is composed of one or more morphemes, each consisiting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation.

The definition of a word is one of the most difficult in linguistics bacause the simplest word has many different aspects:

a) it has a sound form as it is a certain arrangement of phonemes;

b) it has its morphological structure, being an arrangement of morphemes;

c) when used in actual speech it may occur in different word forms, syntactic functions and signal various meanings.

Thus, being the central element of any language system, the word is a sort of focus for the problems of phonology, lexicology, syntax, morphology and etc.

Within the scope of linguistics the word has veen defined syntactically, semantically, phonologically and by combining various approaches.

Syntactically it is defined as the minimum sentence by H.Sweet ans as a minimum free form by L.Bloomfield.

E.Sapir takes in consideration the syntactic amd semantic aspects and defines the word as one of the smallest completely satisfying bits of isolatd meaning, into which the sentence resolves itself. He also points out the word indivisibility.

Discussing the internal cohesion of the word John Lyons points out that it should be treated in terms of two criteria: positional mobility and uninteruptability. The word is internally stable but positionally mobile.

The semantic-phonological approach defines the word as an articulate sound-symbol in its aspect of denoting something which is spoken about.

A.Meillet combines the semantic, phonological and grammatical criteria and defines the word by the association of a particular meaning with a particular group of sounds capable of a particular grammatical employment.

The very function of the word as a unit of communication is made possible by its possessing a meaning. Therefore, among the various characteristics of the word, meaning is the most important. It can be described as a component of the word through which a concept is communicated, thus endowing the word with the ability to denote real objects, qualities, actions and abstract notions. The complete relationships between referent (object denoted by the word), concept and word are traditionally represented by the triangle:

thought/reference (=concept)

(the dotted line suggests that

there is no immediate

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ relation between word and

symbol (=word) referent referent established through

the concept)

There is a hypothesis that concepts can only find their realization through words. It seems that thought is dominant till the word wakens it up. It is only when we hear a spoken word or read a printed word that the corresponding concept springs into mind.

The mechanism, by which concepts (mental phenomena) are converted into words (linguistic phenomena) and the reversed process, by which a heard or a printed word is converted into a kind of mental picture are not yet understood and described.

The branch of linguistics, which specializes in the study of meaning is called semantics. "Semantics is "language" in its broadest, most inclusive aspect. Sounds, words, grammatical forms, syntactical constructions are the tools of language. Semantics is language's avowed purpose" (Mario Pei). The modern approach to semantics is based on the assumption that the inner form of the word (its meaning) presents a structure, which is called the semantic structure of the word.

The term motivation is used to denote the relationship existing between the phonemic or morphemic composition and structural pattern of the word, on the one hand, and its meaning, on the other. There are three main types of motivation: phonetical, morphological, semantic.

When there is a certain similarity between the sounds that make up a word and those referred to by the sense, the motivation is phonetical.

e.g.:bang, buzz, cuckoo, gigle, gurgle, hiss, purr, wistle - the sounds of a word are imitative of sound of nature

Morphological motivation is quite regular. The prefix ex- means 'former' when added to human nouns: ex-filmstar, ex-president, ex-wife. Alongside with these cases there is a more general use of ex-: in borrowed words it is unstressed and motivation is faded (expect, export).

Semantic motivationis based on the co-existance of direct and figurative meanings of the same word within the same synchronous system

e.g.: mouth - 1) a part of the human face; 2) any opening or outlet

When the connection between the meaning of the word and its form is conventional, i.e. there is no perceptible reason for the word having this particular phonemic and morphemic composition, the word is said to be non-motivated.

When some people recognize the motivation, whereas others do not, motivation is called faded.

Sometimes in an attempt to fing motivation for a borrowed word the speaker changes its form so as to give it a connectionwith some other well-known word. These cases of mistaken motivation receive the name of folk etymology.

e.g.: nightmare - is not a she-horse that appears at nights, but a terrifying dream

Some linguists considere one more type of motivation closely akin to the imitative forms, sound symbolism.

e.g.:flap, flop, flip, flitter, flimmer, flicker, flutter, flash, flush, flare

glare, glitter, glow, gloat, glimmer

sleet, slime, slush

The word has several meanings: lexical, grammatical and lexico-grammatical.

The definition of lexical meaning has been attempted many times with the main principles of different linguistic schools.

1) Meaning is the relation between the object or notion named and the name itself (the disciples of F. de Saussure).

2) Meaning is the situation in which the word is uttered (Bloomfieldian trend).

3) Lexical meaning is the realization of concept or emotion by means of a definite language system. It stresses that semantics studies only such meanings that can be expressed, that is concepts bound by signs.

Thus, the complexity of the word meaning is manifold. The four most important types of semantic complexity are:

1) Every word combines lexical and grammatical meanings.

2) Many words not only refer to some object but have an aura of associations expressing the attitude of the speaker. They have not only denotational but connotational meaning as well.

3) The denotational meaning is segmented into semantic components or semes.

4) A word may be polysemantic, i.e. may have several meanings, all interconnected and forming its semantic structure.

The grammatical meaning is defined as an expression in speech of relationships between words based on contrastive features of arrangements in which they occur. The grammatical meaning is more abstract and more generalized than the lexical meaning, it unites words into big groups such as parts of speech or lexico-grammatical classes. It is recurrent in identical sets of individual forms of different words.

The lexico-grammatical meaning is the common denominator of all the meanings of words belonging to a lexico-grammatical class of words, it is the feature according to which they are grouped together.

Words belonging to one lexico-grammatical class are characterized by a common system of forms in which the grammatical categories inherent in them are expressed. They are also substituted by the same propwords and possess some characteristic formulas of semantic and morphological structure and a characteristic set of derivational affixes.

The degree and character of abstraction and generalization in lexico-grammatical meanings and the generic terms that represent them are intermediate between those characteristic of grammatical categories and those observed on the lexical level (lexico-grammatical).

The conceptual content of a word is expressed in its denotative meaning. To denote is to serve as a linguistic expression for a concept or as a name for an individual object. The denotative meaning may be significative, if the referent is a concept, or demonstrative, if it is an individual object. The term referent is used in both cases.

The information communicated by virtue of what the word refers to is often subject to complex associations originating in habitual contexts, verbal or situational, of which the speaker and the listener are aware, they give the word its connotational meaning. The interaction of denotative meaning and connotation is complicated. The connotative component is optional.

Connotation is what the word conveys about the speaker's attitude to the social circumstances and the appropriate functional style (slay vs group), about the speaker's emotions (mummy vs mother), or the degree of intensity (adore vs love).

When associations concern the situation in which the word is uttered, the social circumstances, the social relationships between the interlocutors, the type and purpose of communication, the connotation is stylistic.

An emotional or affective connotation is acquired by the word as a result of its frequent use in contexts corresponding to emotional situations or because the referent conceptualized and named in the denotative meaning is associated with emotions.

Evaluative connotation expresses approval or disapproval.


There are two groups of causes, which result in development of new meanings:

1. historical/extralinguistic causes - different kinds of changes in a nation's social life, in its culture, knowledge, technology, art lead to gaps appearing in the vocabulary, which begins to be fulfilled. Newly created objects, new notions and phenomena must be named. There are 2 ways for providing new names for newly created notions: making new words (word - building) and borrowing foreign ones. One more way of filling such vocabulary gaps is by applying some old words to a new object or notion:

e.g.: mill - a Latin borrowing of the 1st c. B.C. was applied to the 1st textile factories adding a new meaning to its former meaning "a building, in which corn is ground into flour", the new meaning was "textile factory".

2. linguistic factors - the development of new meanings and also a complete change of meaning may be caused through the influence of other words, mostly synonyms:

e.g.: the OE verb "steorfan" meant "to perish". When "to die" was borrowed from Scandinavian, these 2 synonyms collided and as a result, "to starve" gradually changed into its present meaning "to die/suffer from hunger".

The process of development of a new meaning or a change of meaning is termed "transference". In all cases of semantic change it is not the meaning but the word that is being transferred from one referent into another. The result of such a transference is the appearance of a new meaning. Two types of transference are distinguished depending on the two types of logical associations underlying the semantic process:

1) transference based on resemblance (similarity) - this type is also referred to as linguistic metaphor. A new meaning appears as a result of associating 2 objects due to their outward similarity:

e.g.: star - on the basis of the meaning "heavenly body" developed the meaning "famous actor/actress. Nowadays the meaning has considerably widened. But the 1st use of the word must have been humorous or ironic: the mental picture created by the use of the new word in this new meaning was a kind of semi - god surrounded by the bright rays of glory. Yet, the ironical colouring was lost and the association with the original meaning weakened and gradually erased.

The meanings formed by this type of transference are frequently in the informal strata of the vocabulary, especially in slang. A red - haired boy is almost certain to be nicknamed "carrot" or "ginger" by his schoolmates, which are metaphorical meanings.

2) transference based on contiguity - this type is also referred to as linguistic metonymy. The association is based upon subtle psychological links between object and phenomena, sometimes traced and identified with much difficulty. The two objects may be associated because they often appear in common associations, and so the image of one is easily accompanied by the image of the other; or they may be associated on the principle of cause and effect, of common function, of some material and an object, which is made of it:

e.g.: leg (of a man or animal) - the leg of a bed (the part, which serves to support). The association is the common function: a piece of furniture is supported by its legs just as a living being is supported by his.

The other ways to change the meaning of the word are:

I. broadening of meaning - the process of transference may result in a considerable change in range of meaning, in widening of its combinability:

e.g.: "to arrive" (a French borrowing) was "to come to shore, to land. In ME it had widened its meaning and developed the general meaning "to come" through transference based on contiguity (the concept of coming somewhere is the same for both meanings).

"pipe" - a musical instrument. Nowadays it denotes any hollow oblong cylindrical body (=water pipe), the meaning developed on the transference based on the similarity of shape, which led to the broadening of the meaning.

II. narrowing of meaning - the narrowing of the combinability of a word:

e.g.: "lady" denoted the mistress of the house, any married woman. Later, a new meaning developed, narrower in range: "the wife or daughter of a baronet".

III. degradation of meaning and elevation of meaning:

e.g.: knave: boy → swindler, scoundrel

villain: farm - servant, serf → vile person

gossip: god parent → the one, who talks scandal

The 2nd meaning in contrast with the one, from which it developed, denotes a person of bad reputation or character; it developed a negative evaluative connotation, which was absent in the 1st meaning.

e.g.: fond: foolish → loving, affectionate

silly: happy → foolish

In these cases the situation is reversed: the 1st meaning has negative connotation and the 2nd hasn't.


The semantic structure of the word doesn't present an indissoluble unity, nor does it necessarily stand for one concept. It's known that most words convey several concepts and thus possess the corresponding number of meanings. A word having several meanings is called polysemantic, and the ability of words to have more than one meaning is described by the term "polysemy".

Most English words are polysemantic. It should be noted that the wealth of expressive resources of a language 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 fact, it's exactly the opposite, if each word is found to be capable of conveying at least two notions instead of one, the expressive potential of the whole vocabulary increases twofold. Hence, a well - developed polysemy isn't a drawback, but a great advantage in a lge.

But it should be also 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 limited and polysemy becomes increasingly important in providing the means for enriching the vocabulary.

The system of meanings of any polysemantic word develops gradually, mostly over the centuries by adding or ousting some of them. So the complicated process of polysemy development involves 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.

The semantic structure of a polysemantic word is analyzed on two levels:

1) the semantic structure of a word is treated as a system of meanings:

e.g.: the semantic structure of the word "fire" can be presented by:

↓ ↓ flame I ↓ ↓

II - an instance III - burning IV - the shooting V - strong feeling,

of destructive material in a of guns (to open passion, enthusiasm

burning (a forest stove, fireplace the fire) (a speech lacking

fire) (There's a fire in fire)

the next room)

The scheme suggests that meaning I holds a sort of dominance over the other meaning, conveying the concept in the most general way, while II - V are associated with special circumstances, aspects and instances of the same phenomena. Meaning I (called the main meaning) presents the centre of the semantic structure of the word. It is through it that meanings II - V (secondary meanings) can be associated with one another.

2) not every polysemantic word has a centre. Some semantic structures are arranged on a different principle.

e.g.: dull

1. uninteresting, monotonous, boring (deficient of interest) - a dull book;

2. slow in understanding (deficient in intellect) - a dull student;

3. not clear or bright (deficient in colour) - a dull day;

4. not loud or distinct (deficient in sound) - a dull sound;

5. not sharp (deficient in sharpness) - a dull knife;

6. not active (deficient in activity) - trade is dull;

7. seeing badly (deficient in eyesight) - dull eyes;

8. hearing badly (deficient in hearing) - dull ears.

There is something that all these seemingly miscellaneous meanings have in common and that is the implication of deficiency. Thus, the semantic structure of "dull" shows that the centre holding together the complex semantic structure of this word is not one of the meanings but a certain component, that can be singled out within each separate meaning. So the meaning of a word can be defined as a set of elements of meanings, which are not part of vocabulary of the language itself, but elements postulated in order to describe the semantic relations between the lexical elements of a given language.

Thus, the semantic structure of a word should be investigated at two levels: a) of different meanings, b) of semantic components within each separate meaning. For a monosemantic word (a word with one meaning) the first level is naturally excluded.


The leading semantic component in the semantic structure of a word is usually termed "denotative component/denotation". The denotative component expresses the conceptual (notional) content of a word:

e.g.: to shiver = to tremble (denotative component)

to shudder = to tremble (denotative component)

to glare, to glance = to look (denotative component)

The denotative component describes the meaning of the corresponding word only partially and completely. To give a more or less full picture of the meaning of a word, it's necessary to include additional semantic components, which are termed "connotative components/connotations".

e.g. denotationsconnotations

to glare → to look steadily, lastingly (con. of duration)

in anger, rage (emotive con.)

to glance → to look briefly, passing (con. of duration)

to shiver → to tremble lastingly (con. of duration)

with cold (con. of cause)

to shudder → to tremble briefly (con. of duration)

with horror, disgust (con. of cause)

Thus, by singling out denotative and connotative components one can get a sufficiently clear picture of what the word really means.

Lecture 6


Synonyms are words different in their outer aspects, but identical or similar in their inner aspects. In English there are a lot of synonyms, because there are many borrowings, e.g. hearty / native/ - cordial /borrowing/. After a word is borrowed it undergoes desynonymization, because absolute synonyms are unnecessary for a language. However, there are some absolute synonyms in the language, which have exactly the same meaning and belong to the same style, e.g. to moan, to groan; homeland, motherland. In cases of desynonymization one of the absolute synonyms can specialize in its meaning and we get semantic synonyms, e.g. city /borrowed/, town /native/. The French borrowing city is specialized. In other cases native words can be specialized in their meanings, e.g. stool /native/, chair /French/.

Sometimes one of the absolute synonyms is specialized in its usage and we get stylistic synonyms, e.g. to begin/ native/, to commence /borrowing/. Here the French word is specialized. In some cases the native word is specialized, e.g. welkin /bookish/, sky /neutral/.

Stylistic synonyms can also appear by means of abbreviation. In most cases the abbreviated form belongs to the colloquial style, and the full form to the neutral style, e.g. examination, exam.

Among stylistic synonyms we can point out a special group of words which are called euphemisms. These are words used to substitute some unpleasant or offensive words, e.g the late instead of dead, to perspire instead of to sweat.

There are also phraseological synonyms, these words are identical in their meanings and styles but different in their combining with other words in the sentence, e.g. to be late for a lecture but to miss the train, to visit museums but to attend lectures etc.

In each group of synonyms there is a word with the most general meaning, which can substitute any word in the group, e.g. piece is the synonymic dominant in the group slice, lump, morsel. The verb to look at is the synonymic dominant in the group to stare, to glance, to peep. The adjective red' is the synonymic dominant in the group purple, scarlet, crimson.

When speaking about the sources of synonyms, besides desynonymization and abbreviation, we can also mention the formation of phrasal verbs, e.g. to give up - to abandon, to cut down - to diminish.


Synonymy is associated with some theoretical problems, which are still an object of controversy, and the most controversial among these is the problem of criteria of synonymy:

1. traditional linguistics solved this problem with the notional criterion and defined synonyms as words of the same category of parts of speech conveying the same notion but different either in shades of meaning or in stylistic characteristics (but this linguistic phenomenon should be defined in linguistic terms and the use of the term "notion" makes this an extralinguistic definition).

2. now semantic criterion is frequently used. It defines synonyms in terms of componential analysis as words with the same denotation or the same denotative component, but different in connotations or connotative component:

e.g.: to stare - to look (don-n) + steadily, lastingly + in surprise, curiosity (con-n)

to glare - to look (don-n) + steadily, lastingly + in anger, rage, fury (con-n)

to gaze - to look (don-n) + steadily, lastingly + in tenderness, admiration,

wonder (con-n)

to peep - to look (don-n) + steadily, lastingly + by stealth (con-n)

So this criterion uses a method of analysis. It studies a group of synonyms with the help of dictionary definition (=definitional analysis) and then the data from various dictionaries are analyzed comparatively, and after that the definitions are subjected to transformational operation (=transformational analysis).

3. sometimes the criterion of interchangeability is applied on synonyms. According to it synonyms are defined as words, which are interchangeable at least in some contexts without any considerable alteration in denotative meaning. It's difficult to accept interchangeability as a criterion of synonymy as the specific characteristic of synonyms is that they are not, can't and shouldn't be interchangeable, or in that case they would become useless ballast in the vocabulary.


The only existing classification system for synonyms was established by V.V. Vinogradov. In his classification system there are 3 types of synonyms:

1) ideographic synonyms - are defined as words conveying the same notion but different in shades of meaning;

2) stylistic synonyms - words different in stylistic characteristics;

3) absolute synonyms - words coinciding in all their shades of meaning and in all stylistic characteristics.

But some aspects of this system are open to question:

a) absolute synonyms are rare in the vocabulary because the vocabulary system tends to abolish them either by rejecting one of the absolute synonyms or by developing differentiation characteristics in one or both of them;

b) the term "shades of meaning" is very vague;

c) there seems to be no rigid demarcation line between synonyms differing in their shades of meaning and in stylistic characteristics. Therefore, the subdivision into ideographic and stylistic synonyms is controversial as well.

Thus, it is more effective to classify synonyms according to their definition of words different in connotations:

the connotation of degree or intensity:

e.g.: to surprise - to astonish - to amaze - to astound

the connotation of duration:

e.g.: to flash (briefly) - to blaze (lastingly)

to shudder (briefly) - to shiver (lastingly)

the connotation of manner:

e.g.: to stroll - to stride - to trot - to pace - to swagger - to stagger - to


the emotive connotation:

e.g.: to stare - to glare - to gaze

alone - single - lonely - solitary

the evaluative connotation:

e.g.: well - known = famous - notorious - celebrated

to sparkle (amusement) - to glitter (anger)

the causative connotation:

e.g.: to shiver (with cold, from a chill, because of the frost) - to shudder (with

fear, horror)

the connotation of attendant circumstances:

e.g.: to peep (at smb/smth through the hole, crack)

to peer (at smb/smth in darkness, through fog)

the connotation of attendant features:

e.g.: pretty - handsome - beautiful

the stylistic connotation:

e.g. snack, bite (coll.), snap (dial.), repast, refreshment, feast (formal) = meal

girlie (coll.), lass, lassie (dial.), bird, birdie, jane, fluff, skirt (slang),

maiden (poet.), damsel (archaic) = girl


The verb "to look" has numerous synonyms, but it itself possesses the highest frequency of use compared to its synonyms and plays an important role in communication. Its role and position in relation to its synonyms is of some importance as it presents a kind of centre of the group of synonyms. This centre is called the dominant synonym.

It consists only of denotative component and has no connotations. It expresses the notion common to all synonyms of the group in the general way, without contributing any additional information as to the manner, intensity, duration:

e.g.: to surprise = to astonish, to amaze, to astound

to shout = to yell, to bellow, to roar

angry = furious, enraged

So the dominant synonym preserves the general sense of the utterance but loses a great deal in precision, expressiveness and colour.

Thus, its main features are:

high frequency of use;

broad combinability (various classes of words);

broad general meaning;

lack of connotations.


In every lge there are words, which people instinctively avoid because they are considered indecent, indelicate, rude, too direct or impolite. As the "offensive" referents, for which these words stand, must still be alluded to, they are often described in a roundabout way, by using substitutes called euphemisms. This device is dictated by social conventions, which are sometimes apt to be oversensitive, which see "indecency" where there is none and seek refinement in absurd avoidances and pretentiousness:

e.g.: "lavatory" produced many euphemisms = powder room, washroom, rest-room, retiring room, public comfort station, ladies' room, gentlemen's room, water - closet (W.C.), public conveniences, winsdor castle;

"pregnancy" is another topic for "delicate" references = in an interesting condition, in the family way, with a baby coming, big with child;

"trousers" had a great number of euphemistic equivalents = unmentionables, inexpressibles, indescribables, unwhisperables, you - mustn't -mention 'ems, sit - upons.

There are words, which are easy targets for euphemistic substitution. These include words associated with drunkenness, which are very numerous:

e.g.: drink = intoxicated, under the influence (form.), tipsy, mellow, fresh, high, merry, flustered, overcome, full, drunk as a lord, drunk as an owl (coll.), boiled, soaked, tanked, fried, tight, stiff, pickled, three sheets to the wind, high as a kite, half - seas - over (slang).

Euphemisms may be used to express genuine concern not to hurt smb's feelings:

e.g.: a liar = a person who does not always strictly tells the truth;

a stupid man = not exactly brilliant.

All the euphemisms are used to avoid the so - called social taboos, their use is inspired by social conventions. Superstitious taboos gave rise to the use of other types of euphemisms. The reluctance to call things by their proper names is also typical of this type of euphemisms, but in this case it is based on a deeply - rooted fear. Superstitious taboos have their roots in the distant part of mankind, when people believed that there was a supernatural link between a name and the object or creature it represented. All the words, denoting evil spirits, dangerous animals or the power of nature, were taboos, they were referred to in a roundabout descriptive way:

e.g.: a dangerous animal = the one - lurking - in - the - wood;

a mortal disease = the black death.

Euphemisms are probably the oldest type of synonyms, for it is reasonable to assume that superstitions, which caused real fear called for the creation of euphemisms long before the need to describe things in their various aspects or subtle shades caused the appearance of synonyms.

The Christian religion also made certain words taboos:

e.g.: devil = the Prince of Darkness, the black one, the evil one, dickens, deuce,

Nick (coll.)

god = there are a number of substitutions traced in such phrases as "Good

Lord! By Heavens! Good Heavens! My goodness! Gracious me!"

Even in modern times old superstitious fears still lurk behind the words associated with death and fatal diseases:

e.g.: to die = to pass away, to be taken to, to breathe one's last, to depart this life, to close one's eyes, to yield/give up the ghost, to go to the way of all flesh(form.), to go West, to kick off, to check out, to kick the bucket, to take a ride, to hop the twig (slang)

Mental diseases also cause the frequent use of euphemisms:

e.g.: a mad person = insane, mentally unstable, unbalanced (form.), unhinged, not (quite) right, not all there, off one's head, off one's rocker, wrong in the upper storey, having bats in one's belfry (coll.), cuckoo, nutty, off one's nut, loony (slang)

A great number of humorous substitutions, found in such groups of words, prove particularly tempting for writers, who use them for comical purposes:

e.g.: "What did I tell you!" cried Grandma Georgina. "He's round the twist! He's

bogged as a beetle! He's dotty as a dingbat! He's got rats in the roof!"

Thus, euphemisms are substitutes foe synonyms. Their use and very existence are caused either by social conventions or by certain psychological factors. Most of them have stylistic connotations in their semantic structures. In formal euphemisms connotations are solemn and delicately evasive, and in slang euphemisms connotations are rough and somewhat cynical, reflecting an attempt to laugh off an unpleasant fact.


Antonyms are words belonging to the same part of speech, identical in style, expressing contrary or contradictory notions.

V.N. Comissarov in his dictionary of antonyms classified them into two groups: absolute or root antonyms /late - early/ and derivational antonyms /to please - to displease/. Absolute antonyms have different roots and derivational antonyms have the same roots but different affixes. In most cases negative prefixes form antonyms / un-, dis-, non-/. Sometimes they are formed by means of suffixes -ful and -less.

The number of antonyms with the suffixes ful- and -less is not very large, and sometimes even if we have a word with one of these suffixes its antonym is formed not by substituting -ful by less-, e.g. successful -unsuccessful, selfless - selfish. The same is true about antonyms with negative prefixes, e.g. to man is not an antonym of the word to unman, to disappoint is not an antonym of the word to appoint.

The difference between derivational and root antonyms is not only in their structure, but in semantics as well. Derivational antonyms express contradictory notions, one of them excludes the other, e.g. active- inactive. Absolute antonyms express contrary notions. If some notions can be arranged in a group of more than two members, the most distant members of the group will be absolute antonyms, e.g. ugly, plain, good-looking, pretty, beautiful, the antonyms are ugly and beautiful.

Leonard Lipka in the book Outline of English Lexicology describes different types of oppositeness, and subdivides them into three types:

a) complementary, e.g. male -female, married -single,

b) antonyms, e.g. good -bad,

c) converseness, e.g. to buy - to sell.

In his classification he describes complimentarity in the following way: the denial of the one implies the assertion of the other, and vice versa. John is not married implies that John is single. The type of oppositeness is based on yes/no decision. Incompatibility only concerns pairs of lexical units.

Antonymy is the second class of oppositeness. It is distinguished from complimentarity by being based on different logical relationships. For pairs of antonyms like good/bad, big/small only the second one of the above mentioned relations of implication holds. The assertion containing one member implies the negation of the other, but not vice versa. John is good implies that John is not bad, but John is not good does not imply that John is bad. The negation of one term does not necessarily imply the assertion of the other.

An important linguistic difference from complementaries is that antonyms are always fully gradable, e.g. hot, warm, tepid, cold.

Converseness is mirror-image relations or functions, e.g. husband/wife, pupil/teacher, preceed/follow, above/below, before/after etc.

John bought the car from Bill implies that Bill sold the car to John. Mirror-image sentences are in many ways similar to the relations between active and passive sentences. Also in the comparative form: Y is smaller than X, then X is larger than Y.

L. Lipka also gives the type which he calls directional opposition up/down, consiquence opposition learn/know, antipodal opposition North/South, East/West, (it is based on contrary motion, in opposite directions.) The pairs come/go, arrive/depart involve motion in different directions. In the case up/down we have movement from a point P. In the case come/go we have movement from or to the speaker.

L. Lipka also points out non-binary contrast or many-member lexical sets. Here he points out serially ordered sets, such as scales /hot, warm, tepid, cool, cold/; colour words /black, grey, white/; ranks /marshal, general, colonel, major, captain/. There are gradable examination marks / excellent, good, average, fair, poor/. In such sets of words we can have outer and inner pairs of antonyms. He also points out cycles, such as units of time /spring, summer, autumn, winter/. In this case there are no outermost members.

Not every word in a language can have antonyms. This type of opposition can be met in qualitative adjectives and their derivatives, e.g. beautiful- ugly, to beautify - to uglify, beauty - ugliness. It can be also met in words denoting feelings and states, e.g. respect - scorn, to respect - to scorn, respectful - scornful, to live - to die, alive - dead, life - death. It can be also met among words denoting direction in space and time, e.g. here - there, up - down, now - never, before - after, day - night, early - late etc.

If a word is polysemantic it can have several antonyms, e.g. the word bright has the antonyms dim, dull, sad.

Antonymy is not evenly distributed among the categories of parts of speech:

most antonyms are adjectives, it's natural as qualitative characteristics are easily compared and contrasted:

e.g.: high - low, wide - narrow, strong - weak

verbs take the 2nd place (fewer in number):

e.g.: to lose - to find, to live - to die, to open - to close

nouns are not rich in antonyms:

e.g.: friend - enemy, joy - grief, good - evil, love - hatred

antonymic adverbs can be subdivided into:

adverbs derived from adverbs proper

adjectives (warmly - coldly) (now - then, here -there)


Homonyms are words different in meaning but identical in sound or spelling, or both in sound and spelling.

Homonyms can appear in the language not only as the result of the split of polysemy, but also as the result of levelling of grammar inflexions, when different parts of speech become identical in their outer aspect, e.g. care from caru and care from carian. They can be also formed by means of conversion, e.g. to slim from slim, to water from water. They can be formed with the help of the same suffix from the same stem, e.g. reader/ a person who reads and a book for reading/.

Homonyms can also appear in the language accidentally, when two words coincide in their development, e.g. two native words can coincide in their outer aspects: to bear from beran/to carry/ and bear from bera/an animal/. A native word and a borrowing can coincide in their outer aspects, e.g. fair from Latin feria and fair from native fager /blond/. Two borrowings can coincide e.g. base from the French base /Latin basis/ and base /low/ from the Latin bas /Italian basso/.

Homonyms can develop through shortening of different words, e.g. cab from cabriolet, cabbage, cabin.

Walter Skeat classified homonyms according to their spelling and sound forms and he pointed out three groups: perfect homonyms that is words identical in sound and spelling, such as: school - and ; homographs, i.e. words with the same spelling but pronounced differently, e.g. bow -/bau/ - and /bou/ - ; homophones that is words pronounced identically but spelled differently, e.g. night - and knight - .

Another classification was suggested by A.I Smirnitsky. He added to Skeat's classification one more criterion: grammatical meaning. He subdivided the group of perfect homonyms in Skeat's classification into two types of homonyms: perfect (full) which are identical in their spelling, pronunciation and their grammar form, such as spring in the meanings: the season of the year, a leap, a source, and homoforms (partial) which coincide in their spelling and pronunciation but have different grammatical meaning, e.g. reading - Present Participle, Gerund, Verbal noun, to lobby - lobby.

1) full lexical homonyms are words, which represent the same category of parts of speech and have the same paradigm:

e.g.: match - n., a game, a contest;

match - n., a short piece of wood for producing fire.

2) partial homonyms are subdivided into 3 groups:

a) simple lexico - grammatical partial homonyms are words, which belong to the same category of parts of speech. Their paradigms have one identical form but it's never the same form:

e.g.: found - v.

found - v., the past form of "to find"

b) complex lexico - grammatical partial homonyms are words of different categories of parts of speech, which have one identical form in their paradigms:

e.g.: rose - n.

rose - v., the past form of "to rise";

maid - n. - made -v.

c) partial lexical homonyms are words of the same category of parts of speech, which are identical only in their corresponding form:

e.g.: to lie - v. (lay, laid) - to lie - v. (lied, lied)

to can - v. (canned) - can -v. (could)

A more detailed classification was given by I.V. Arnold. She classified only perfect homonyms and suggested four criteria of their classification: lexical meaning, grammatical meaning, basic forms and paradigms.

According to these criteria I.V. Arnold pointed out the following groups: a) homonyms identical in their grammatical meanings, basic forms and paradigms and different in their lexical meanings, e.g. board in the meanings a council and a piece of wood sawn thin; b) homonyms identical in their grammatical meanings and basic forms, different in their lexical meanings and paradigms, e.g. to lie - lied - lied, and to lie - lay - lain; c) homonyms different in their lexical meanings, grammatical meanings, paradigms, but coinciding in their basic forms, e.g. light / lights/, light / lighter, lightest/; d) homonyms different in their lexical meanings, grammatical meanings, in their basic forms and paradigms, but coinciding in one of the forms of their paradigms, e.g. a bit and bit (from to bite).

In I. V. Arnold's classification there are also patterned homonyms, which, differing from other homonyms, have a common component in their lexical meanings. These are homonyms formed either by means of conversion, or by levelling of grammar inflexions. These homonyms are different in their grammar meanings, in their paradigms, identical in their basic forms, e.g. warm - to warm. Here we can also have unchangeable patterned homonyms which have identical basic forms, different grammatical meanings, a common component in their lexical meanings, e.g. before an adverb, a conjunction, a preposition. There are also homonyms among unchangeable words which are different in their lexical and grammatical meanings, identical in their basic foms, e.g. for - and for - .

Lecture 7


The vocabulary of a language is enriched not only by words but also by phraseological units. Phraseological units are word-groups that cannot be made in the process of speech, they exist in the language as ready-made units. They are compiled in special dictionaries. The same as words phraseological units express a single notion and are used in a sentence as one part of it. American and British lexicographers call such units idioms.

Phraseological units can be classified according to the ways they are formed, according to the degree of the motivation of their meaning, according to their structure and according to their part-of-speech meaning.

A.V. Koonin classified phraseological units according to the way they are formed. He pointed out primary and secondary ways of forming phraseological units.

Primary ways of forming phraseological units are those when a unit is formed on the basis of a free word-group:

a) Most productive in Modern English is the formation of phraseological units by means of transferring the meaning of terminological word-groups, e.g. in cosmic technique we can point out the following phrases: launching pad in its terminological meaning is , in its transferred meaning - , to link up - c, in its tranformed meaning it means -;

b) a large group of phraseological units was formed from free word groups by transforming their meaning, e.g. granny farm - , Troyan horse - , ;

c) phraseological units can be formed by means of alliteration , e.g. a sad sack - , culture vulture - , , fudge and nudge - .

d) they can be formed by means of expressiveness, especially it is characteristic for forming interjections, e.g. My aunt!, Hear, hear ! etc

e) they can be formed by means of distorting a word group, e.g. odds and ends was formed from odd ends,

f) they can be formed by using archaisms, e.g. in brown study means in gloomy meditation where both components preserve their archaic meanings,

g) they can be formed by using a sentence in a different sphere of life, e.g. that cock won't fight can be used as a free word-group when it is used in sports (cock fighting), it becomes a phraseological unit when it is used in everyday life, because it is used metaphorically,

h) they can be formed when we use some unreal image, e.g. to have butterflies in the stomach - , to have green fingers - - etc.

i) they can be formed by using expressions of writers or polititions in everyday life, e.g. corridors of power (Snow), American dream (Alby) locust years (Churchil) , the winds of change (Mc Millan).

Secondary ways of forming phraseological units are those when a phraseological unit is formed on the basis of another phraseological unit; they are:

a) conversion, e.g. to vote with one's feet was converted into vote with one's f eet;

b) changing the grammar form, e.g. Make hay while the sun shines is transferred into a verbal phrase - to make hay while the sun shines;

c) analogy, e.g. Curiosity killed the cat was transferred into Care killed the cat;

d) contrast, e.g. cold surgery - a planned before operation was formed by contrasting it with acute surgery, thin cat - a poor person was formed by contrasting it with fat cat;

e) shortening of proverbs or sayings e.g. from the proverb You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear by means of clipping the middle of it the phraseological unit to make a sow's ear was formed with the meaning .

f) borrowing phraseological units from other languages, either as translation loans, e.g. living space (German), to take the bull by the horns (Latin) or by means of phonetic borrowings meche blanche (French), corpse d'elite (French), sotto voce (Italian) etc.

Phonetic borrowings among phraseological units refer to the bookish style and are not used very often.

Phraseological units can be classified according to the degree of motivation of their meaning. This classification was suggested by acad. V.V. Vinogradov for Russian phraseological units. He pointed out three types of phraseological units:

a) fusions where the degree of motivation is very low, we cannot guess the meaning of the whole from the meanings of its components, they are highly idiomatic and cannot be translated word for word into other languages, e.g. on Shank's mare - (on foot), at sixes and sevens - (in a mess) etc;

b) unities where the meaning of the whole can be guessed from the meanings of its components, but it is transferred (metaphorical or metonymical), e.g. to play the first fiddle (to be a leader in something), old salt (experienced sailor) etc;

c) collocations where 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.

Prof. A.I. Smirnitsky worked out structural classification of phraseological units, comparing them with words. He points out one-top units which he compares with derived words because derived words have only one root morpheme. He points out two-top units which he compares with compound words because in compound words we usually have two root morphemes.

Among one-top units he points out three structural types;

a) units of the type to give up (verb + postposition type), e.g. to art up, to back up, to drop out, to nose out, to buy into, to sandwich in etc.;

b) units of the type to be tired. Some of these units remind the Passive Voice in their structure but they have different prepositons with them, while in the Passive Voice we can have only prepositions by or with, e.g. to be tired of, to be interested in, to be surprised at etc. There are also units in this type which remind free word-groups of the type to be young, e.g. to be akin to, to be aware of etc. The difference between them is that the adjective young can be used as an attribute and as a predicative in a sentence, while the nominal component in such units can act only as a predicative. In these units the verb is the grammar centre and the second component is the semantic centre;

c) prepositional- nominal phraseological units. These units are equivalents of unchangeable words: prepositions, conjunctions, adverbs , that is why they have no grammar centre, their semantic centre is the nominal part, e.g. on the doorstep (quite near), on the nose (exactly), in the course of, on the stroke of, in time, on the point of etc. In the course of time such units can become words, e.g. tomorrow, instead etc.

Among two-top units A.I. Smirnitsky points out the following structural types:

a) attributive-nominal such as: a month of Sundays, grey matter, a millstone round one's neck and many others. Units of this type are noun equivalents and can be partly or perfectly idiomatic. In partly idiomatic units (phrasisms) sometimes the first component is idiomatic, e.g. high road, in other cases the second component is idiomatic, e.g. first night. In many cases both components are idiomatic, e.g. red tape, blind alley, bed of nail, shot in the arm and many others.

b) verb-nominal phraseological units, e.g. to read between the lines, to speak BBC, to sweep under the carpet etc. The grammar centre of such units is the verb, the semantic centre in many cases is the nominal component, e.g. to fall in love. In some units the verb is both the grammar and the semantic centre, e.g. not to know the ropes. These units can be perfectly idiomatic as well, e.g. to burn one's boats,to vote with one's feet, to take to the cleaners' etc.

Very close to such units are word-groups of the type to have a glance, to have a smoke. These units are not idiomatic and are treated in grammar as a special syntactical combination, a kind of aspect.

c) phraseological repetitions, such as: now or never, part and parcel, country and western etc. Such units can be built on antonyms, e.g. ups and downs, back and forth; often they are formed by means of alliteration, e.g cakes and ale, as busy as a bee. Components in repetitions are joined by means of conjunctions. These units are equivalents of adverbs or adjectives and have no grammar centre. They can also be partly or perfectly idiomatic, e.g. cool as a cucumber (partly), bread and butter (perfectly).

Phraseological units the same as compound words can have more than two tops (stems in compound words), e.g. to take a back seat, a peg to hang a thing on, lock, stock and barrel, to be a shadow of one's own self, at one's own sweet will.

Phraseological units can be classified as parts of speech. This classification was suggested by I.V. Arnold. Here we have the following groups:

a) noun phraseologisms denoting an object, a person, a living being, e.g. bullet train, latchkey child, redbrick university, Green Berets,

b) verb phraseologisms denoting an action, a state, a feeling, e.g. to break the log-jam, to get on somebody's coattails, to be on the beam, to nose out , to make headlines,

c) adjective phraseologisms denoting a quality, e.g. loose as a goose, dull as lead ,

d) adverb phraseological units, such as : with a bump, in the soup, like a dream , like a dog with two tails,

e) preposition phraseological units, e.g. in the course of, on the stroke of ,

f) interjection phraseological units, e.g. Catch me!, Well, I never! etc.

In I.V.Arnold's classification there are also sentence equivalents, proverbs, sayings and quotations, e.g. The sky is the limit, What makes him tick, I am easy. Proverbs are usually metaphorical, e.g. Too many cooks spoil the broth, while sayings are as a rule non-metaphorical, e.g. Where there is a will there is a way.


PUs are a kind of ready - made blocks, which fit into the structure of a sentence performing a certain syntactical function:

e.g.: He liked her for she never put on airs. (the predicate)

He's a black sheep of the family. (the predicative)

Proverbs, if viewed structurally, are sentences and so cannot be used in the way, in which PUs are used.

If one compares proverbs and PUs in the semantic aspect, the difference seems to be more obvious. Proverbs can be best compared to minute fables, for they sum up the collective experience of the community. They moralize (Hell is paved with good intentions), give advice (Don't judge a dog by its bark), give warning (If you sing before breakfast, you will cry before night), admonish (Liars should have good memories), criticize (Everyone calls his own geese swans).

No PU ever does any of these things. They do not stand for whole statements as proverbs do but for a single concept. Their function in speech is purely nominative (denote objects), the function of proverbs in speech is communicative (impart information).

Pr Koonin includes proverbs in his classification and labels them as communicative PU. From his point of view, one of the main criteria of a PU is its stability. If the quotient of phraseological stability in a word - group isn't below the minimum, it means we are dealing with a PU. He also says that the criterion of nomination and communication cannot be applied here either as there are a considerable number of verbal PU, which are word - groups (i.e. nominative units), when the verb is used in the Active Voice, and sentences (i.e. communicative units), when used in the Passive Voice.

e.g.: to cross the Rubicon - the Rubicon is crossed;

to shed crocodile tears - crocodile tears are shed.

Thus, if one accepts nomination as a criterion of referring or not referring to a unit of phraseology, one faces the absurd conclusion that such word - groups, when used with the verb in the Active Voice, are PU and belong to the system of language, and when with the verbs in the Passive Voice, they are non - phraseological word - groups and do not belong to the system of language. Hence, there doesn't seem to exist any rigid or permanent border - line between PU and proverbs as the former rather often originate from the latter.

e.g.: the last straw ← the last straw breaks the camel's back;

birds of a feather ← birds of a feather flock together;

to catch a straw ← a drowning man catches the straw.

Lecture 8


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 15-th 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 compiled a famous explanatory dictionary. Its author was Samuel Johnson. 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 that is 70 years after the decision to compile it was adopted. The dictionary was called NED and contained 12 volumes.

In 1933 the dictionary was republished under the title The Oxford English Dictionary, because the work on the dictionary was conducted in Oxford. This dictionary contained 13 volumes. As the dictionary was very large and terribly expensive scientists continued their work and compiled shorter editions of the dictionary: A Shorter Oxford Dictionary consisting 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.

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