Материалы к экзамену по лексикологии

Материалы к экзамену по лексикологии

1.The lexical peculiarities of the American variant of English.

Two great nations – Americans and English are separated by the same language (Shaw)

Historical Americanisms – since the beginning of the 17th century some words retained their old meanings (fall, guess= to think, sick= ill, unwell), but in BE these meanings have later changed.

Proper Americanisms – the oldest of them appeared thanks to the first American settlers, who had to describe new realia and things: backwoods (uninhabited districts), cold snap (frost), blue-grass, egg-plant (edible fruits), sweet-potato, red-bud (a tree), cat-bird, cat-fish, bull-frog.

Later proper Americanisms are represented by names of objects: drugstore, candy, baggage, subway, elevator(for lift), railroad, car (for carriage), automobile. There are also a lot of borrowings, specifically American: sombrero, cinch, wigwam, pale-face.

American shortenings: movies, auto, gym, cert(certainty).

2. Affixation.

Affixation belongs to the derivational type of word building. Affixation – forming a new word with the help of an affix. It has been in use since OE period. There are about 200 derivational affixes now – some of them are productive, some are not. There can be several degrees of derivation: zero (girl), the first (one affix)…

Prefixation-characteristic of verbs and words with deverbal bases. The derivative belongs to the same part of speech.prefixation is characteristic also of nouns and adjectives. 21 pref for nouns, 12 for adj, 10 for verbs.

The prefixes dis, inter, self, super, un are most productive

Suffixation: in ME used mostly to form nouns. Noun-stems, adjective-stems, and verb-stems + suffix = noun.

Classification of affixes:
Native(ly, less)-borrowed
According to their semantics(time, place, negation) andf denoting the semantic group they belong to (process, collectivity…)
according to their semantic relations: homonymous in(negation)-in(inside) and synonymous (ous, ful, ive, y …) – denote the same quality.
to the part of speech they form (noun-forming, adj, verb..)
according to their productivity


It’s a peculiarity of the English language.

Is the term adequate? The base is being brought into a different formal paradigm and changes its syntactic function. It’s alsoi called zero-derivation, root-formation or functional change.

Conversion is misleading, because nothing is converted. Zero-derivation – no affixes are added to the base and how ist it possible to distinguish between 0-derivation and sound interchange. Functional change means, that the word belongs to several parts of speech simultaneously. The term “conversion” was introduced by H. Sweet in 1891.

Why is it popular: 1)the vocabulary is characterized by a great number of monosyllabic words 2)grammar paradigms are not complicated, and it’s easy to change thje part of speech category 3)even if an affix is added to the root, the question remains unsolved, because many affixes are homonymous

Conversion cva be complete and partial(fish-to fish, an intellectual-intellectual)

Partial conversion – some substantivized adjectives are used only with the definite article and agree with the verb only in the plural form.

Conversion implies only semantic derivation.

Denominal verbs form a large group – 1)tool-verb 2)action, characteristic of the noun 3)verbs, denoting place, container, building

Deverbal substantives: 1instance of an action 2agent of an action(a switch), place (a walk), object or result of an action (a find)

Restrictions for conversion: a complicated morphological structure and semantic reasons

Nouns can be also converted from a verb (also composite verbs (pullover, a don’t), from pronouns (a nobody) , adverbs (aside), conjunctions (buts, ifs) from prefixes (anti)

4. Compounding

Compounding is a powerful means of foming new words by uniting two or three bases, it’s a very old pattern common among all Indo-European languages. First found in the OE period.

Compounding is the process of condensing a free syntactical group into one word. The meaning of the compound is made up of the combined meaning of the bases and the structural meaning of the patterns.

Headache, rainbow – appeared in the OE period

The oldest patterns of compounding are N-base+N-base and Adj-base+Adj-base

So, woman (OE – wifmann) barn –bereaenn

“Disguised” compounds – “breakfast”


1)Structural classification N-base+Nbase, Adj-base+…

2)According to the morphological structure [neutral-simple, derived, contracted TV-set, acompound in compound a wastepaperbasket], [morphological-handIcraft], [syntactic – here-and-now]

3)semantic classification – motivated-nonmotivated and semantic relations between the constituents: of purpose/function, temporal relations, local relations

Stonewall problem

Make-up problem

5.The lexical meaning of the word

Semasiology – the branch of linguistics, connected with the study of the meaning of the word.Lexical meaning is proper to an individual lexical unit. It is idiomatic and unique.

The component of word-meaning is identical in all the forms of the word. In speech some lexical meaning may be omitted, some may be added or replaced, depending on the message the speaker conveys, so different kind of variations are acceptable. It dpends on the message the speaker wants to convey. But a certain lexical meaning is attributed to the word by all the speakers of the community.

SEMANTIC TRIANGLE: notion-referent-word(clockwise).

To learn a language means to know what notions the word is correlated to.To convey the meaning we can: point to an object, describe it (abstract nouns) or use synonyms, to use a word in a context, or to translate it.

Referential approach – we deal with the word and its relation to the notion. The notional content makes up the denotative meaning of a word (a student – a person who studies)referents – are objects of the reality.

General referent – a man spoils the nature cf. follow the man

The word may also possess intentional or affective connotations. (emotive, evaluative, stylistic, expressive(in stylistics)).

6.Polysemy and homonymy.

A word may refer to a number of notions and to a number of referents which may be different.

Polysemantic word – one that has more meanings and the phenomenon is called polysemy.


It’s characteristic of English, because there are many monosyllabic and root-words, used very often.

There’s a certain semantic feature that is a common ground for all the meanings (slide)

The word in one of its meanings is singled out and called a lexico-semantic variant.9due to transitivity-intransitivity, countable-uncountabkle) – so there are sorts of oppositions.

There are main meanings, recognized by all the speakers (head). In speech lexico-semantic variants are supported by the context.

Homonymy – date as a fruit – a semantic connection is lost, so homonyms are different words.

There are 2 main sources of homonymy: 1 result of ocxcasional coincidence 2result of split polysemy (spring – now season stands somehow apart, though earlier it was a lexico- semantic variant

Classification: full(of words: seal-seal) and partial(of word forms: to lie-tolie)

Lexical(differ in meaning), lexico-grammatical (maid-made), grammatical (visited – visited).

Homonyms, homographs, homophones

Paronymy – prescribe-proscribe.

7.Polysemy and the semantic structure of the word


Motivation is the relationship between the phonemic or morphemic composition and the structural pattern of the word, or its meaning.

There are 3 types of motivation: phonetical, morphological, semantic

Phonetical – onomatopoeia

Morphological: worker, readable and so on

The degree of motivation may be complete partial and zero

Complete(worker), partial (cranberry)

In older borrowings (recover, expect) the prefixes are unstressed and the motivation is faded.

Semantic motivation is based on direct and figurative meaning of the same word (mouth as any opening) also headache – anyone who annoys.

Non-motivated words – earn – geearnian. So the motivation of many words was lost.

Also see folk etimology (walnut).


Antonyms are often called words with contrary, opposite meanings. But this side of definition is not accurate, as we can not define properly what words are contrary themselves.

In many cases there are more than two words in the opposition.

Ginsburg: antonyms are words, different in sound-form and characterized by different types of semantic contrast of the denotative meaning and are interchangeable at least in some contexts.

Antonyms are correlated according to some common grounds – size, temperature, velocity…

The speaker compares antonyms on a sort of scale.

Negation is very important in antonymic relations.

Contradictory antonyms – “married-single”, so it’s a two-way opposition, also like-DISlike

Contrary antonyms: hot-cold (there are several intergrades, e.g. warm)

Incompatibles(!!!) – they don’t have relations of contradiction (red-green), only black-white

Another classification – morphological approach:

Absolute (hot-cold) and derivational (like-dislike);

Polysemantic words may have antonyms in one meaning and none in the others.


Synonyms are regarded as semantic equivalents. Sometimes the meaning is identical and then we find them explaining each other in dictionaries. Synonyms are words with the same denotative and different connotative meanings. (Barely, scarcely, hardly absolute) (refuse, reject, decline – include additional features)

If we compare (broad streets, five-foot wide, broad accent, wide apart), we see that they are not fully interchangeable. Also (different – about two things, various – about several things)

Also synonyms differ in CONNOTATIONS.


1.Complete (almost, nearly) 2.Ideograpghic (reject, refuse, decline),i.e. coincide in the major part of their meaning. 3.Stylistic (foe-enemy) 4.Contextual

Each group of synonyms has its synonymic dominant

Euphemisms: merry=drunk, naked= in one’s birthday suit

11.The semantic classification of the vocabulary

All semantic classifications are based on similarity, on common semantic features, found in each group. The most convenient way is study of dictionary definitions.

Lion, tiger and leopard are defined as “wild cats”. The scope and the degree of similarity may be different. Words may be classified according to the concepts underlining their meaning. The classification refers to the theory of semantic and conceptual fields. Semantic fields are formed by the words referred to limited sections of reality, and the best-studied are those of kinship. Different languages don’t have the same semantic fields (colours). In such semantic fields we pay attention mainly to the basic notions and names. Lexico-semantic groups are formed of words of the same part of speech, referring to a common notion, but in case the groups are very extensive and cover big conceptual areas, we find them in different parts of speech, we find them in collocations, followed by the same preposition and so on.

GROUP SPEECH: followed by prep “to” introduce direct and indirect speech, collocate with definite characteristic adverbs and so on.

There may be comparatively small groups (food)

There are also hyponymic relations.

12.Free word-groups.

13.Phraseological units

The vocabulary of the language is subdivided into words and word-equivalents, ready made units used by the speaking community. Phraseological units are word-groups consisting of two or more notional words and necessary form words, they are ready-made(!), registered in dictionaries and are a part of the vocabulary. In the course of the development of the language some changes can take place in the structure of the units. Nowadays it’s possible to nform phraseological units on the basis of analogical free wpord-groups (to have swallowed a dictionary). Most of phraseological units are non-motivated word-groups. They are reproduced as single unchangeable collocations (red dress, but red-tape). A certain meaning is attributed to the whole phrase and not to an individual part. Metaphorical and metonymic transference is used.

FUSIONS non-motivated, allow no substitution (red-tape)

UNITIES partially non-motivated (to make a mountain out of.., to have butterflies) They admit of some substitution: take/send to the cleaner’s. here belong verb-adverb collocations.

COLLOCATIONS (to take a liking) they retain some semantic independence.

Amosova: 1.units of free context 2.of fixed context(phrasemes and idioms)

A phraseme has two members (the second is the clue to the first: small hours) Idioms (all the meanings create a specuified meaning together (a mare’s nest))

Phraseoloids (units of semi-fixed context: pay a visit/call…)

Koonin: considers phraseology an independent part of linguistics 1.nominating (bull in a china-shop) 2.interjectional (a pretty kettle…) 3.communicative (familiarity breeds contempt)

Arnold (nominal, verbal, adjectivel, adverbial and so on phrases)

Sources: science (launching pad), metaphorical (granny-farm), contrast (kiss of life), borrowed from fiction (american dream), shortened proverbs (to make a sow’s ear), from journalistrs (central city town dwellers)

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