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English Lexicology
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ISBN 5710720968
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Introduction. What Is a Word? What Is Lexicology? . . 6 Chapter 1.
Which Word Should We Choose, Formal
or InIormal?............................................................................. 12
Chapter 2. Which Word Should We Choose, Formal
or InIormal? (continued)......................................................... 27
Chapter 3. The Etymology oI English Words. Are all
English Words Really English?............................................... 44
Chapter 4. The Etymology oI English Words
(continued).............................................................................. 62
Chapter 5. How English Words Are Made. Word-
building................................................................................... 78
Chapter 6. How English Words Are Made. Word-
building (continued)................................................................104
Chapter 7. What Is "Meaning"?...................................................129
Chapter 8. How Words Develop New Meanings.........................147
Chapter 9. Homonyms: Words oI the Same Form.......................166
Chapter 10. Synonyms: Are Their Meanings the Same
or diIIerent?.............................................................................184
Chapter 11. Synonyms (continued). Euphemisms.
Chapter 12. Phraseology: Word-groups with Trans
Ierred Meanings......................................................................225
Chapter 13. Phraseology. Principles oI ClassiIi
cation ......................................................................................242
Chapter 14. Do Americans Speak English or
Supplementary Material................................................................276
List oI Authors Quoted.................................................................285
In this book the reader will Iind the Iundamentals oI the word
theory and oI the main problems associated with English vocabulary,
its characteristics and subdivisions. Each chapter contains both theory
and exercises Ior seminar and independent work.
The book is intended Ior English language students at
Pedagogical Universities (3d and 4th years oI studies) taking the
course oI English lexicology and Iully meets the requirements oI the
programme in the subject. It may also be oI interest to all readers,
whose command oI English is suIIicient to enable them to read texts
oI average diIIiculty and who would like to gain some inIormation
about the vocabulary resources oI Modern English (Ior example,
about synonyms and antonyms), about the stylistic peculiarities oI
English vocabulary, about the complex nature oI the word's meaning
and the modern methods oI its investigation, about English idioms,
about those changes that English vocabulary underwent in its
historical development and about some other aspects oI English
lexicology. One can hardly acquire a perIect command oI English
without having knowledge oI all these things, Ior a perIect command
oI a language implies the conscious approach to the language's
resources and at least a partial understanding oI the "inner
mechanism" which makes the huge language system work.
This book is the Iirst attempt to embrace both the theory and
practical exercises in the one volume, the two parts being integrated.
The authors tried to establish links between the theory oI lexicology
and the reality oI living speech, on the one hand, and the language-
learning and language-teaching process, on the other, never losing
sight oI the Iact that the
majority oI intended readers oI the book are teachers and students oI
Pedagogical Universities.
The authors tried to present the material in an easy and
comprehensible style and, at the same time, to meet the reader on the
level oI a halI-inIormal talk. With the view oI making the book more
vivid and interesting, we have introduced extracts Irom humorous
authors, numerous jokes and anecdotes and extracts Irom books by
outstanding writers, aiming to show how diIIerent lexicological
phenomena are used Ior stylistic purposes.
Theory and exercises to Ch. 12 were written by G. B.
Antrushina, exercises to Introduction and Ch. 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 by O. V.
AIanasyeva and to Ch. 3, 4, 7, 8,12,13,14 by N. N. Morozova.
The authors wish to acknowledge the considerable assistance
aIIorded them by their English colleague Mr. Robert T. Pullin,
Lecturer in Education, Russian and French, at the University oI
SheIIield, U. K., who kindly acted as stylistic editor beIore Iinal
We are also sincerely grateIul to our colleagues at the Pyatigorsk
and Irkutsk Institutes oI Foreign Languages and at the Pedagogical
Institute oI Ekaterinburg who read the book in manuscript and made
valuable suggestions.
What Is a Word? What Is Lexicology?
What's is a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet...
(W. Shakespeare. Roeo and
!u"iet# Act II, Sc. 2)
These Iamous lines reIlect one oI the Iundamental problems oI
linguistic research: what is in a name, in a word? Is there any direct
connection between a word and the object it represents? Could a rose
have been called by "any other name" as Juliet says?
These and similar questions are answered by lexicological
research. $e%ico"o&'# a branch oI linguistics, is the study oI words.
For some people studying words may seem uninteresting. But iI
studied properly, it may well prove just as exciting and novel as
unearthing the mysteries oI Outer Space.
It is signiIicant that many scholars have attempted to deIine the
word as a linguistic phenomenon. Yet none oI the deIinitions can be
considered totally satisIactory in all aspects. It is equally surprising
that, despite all the achievements oI modern science, certain essential
aspects oI the nature oI the word still escape us. Nor do we Iully
understand the phenomenon called "language", oI which the word is a
Iundamental unit.
We do not know much about the origin oI language and,
consequently, oI the origin oI words. It is true that there are several
hypotheses, some oI them no less Iantastic than the theory oI the
divine origin oI language.
We know nothing or almost nothing about the mechanism
by which a speaker's mental process is converted into sound groups
called "words", nor about the
reverse process whereby a listener's brain converts the acoustic
phenomena into concepts and ideas, thus establishing a two-way
process oI communication.
We know very little about the nature oI relations between the
word and the reIerent (i. e. object, phenomenon, quality, action, etc.
denoted by the word). II we assume that there is a direct relation
between the word and the reIerent which seems logical it gives
rise to another question: how should we explain the Iact that the same
reIerent is designated by quite diIIerent sound groups in diIIerent
We do know by now though with vague uncertainty that
there is nothing accidental about the vocabulary oI the language
each word is a small unit within a vast, eIIicient and perIectly
balanced system. But we do not know why it possesses these
qualities, nor do we know much about the processes by which it has
acquired them.
The list oI unknowns could be extended, but it is probably high
time to look at the brighter side and register some oI the things we do
know about the nature oI the word.
(irst# we do know that the word is a unit oI speech which, as such,
serves the purposes oI human communication. Thus, the word can be
deIined as a unit o) counication.
*econd"'# the word can be perceived as the total oI the sounds
which comprise it.
+hird# the word, viewed structurally, possesses several
The modern approach to word studies is based on distinguishing
between the external and the internal structures oI the word.
By the ,oca-u"ar' oI a language is understood the total sum oI
its words. Another term Ior the same is the stoc. o) /ords.
By external structure oI the word we mean its morphological
structure. For example, in the /ord post0ipressionists the Iollowing
morphemes can be distinguished: the preIixes post0# i0# the root
press# the noun-Iorming suIIixes 0ion# 0ist# and the grammatical suIIix
oI plurality 0s. All these morphemes constitute the external structure
oI the word post0ipressionists.
The external structure oI words, and also typical word-Iormation
patterns, are studied in the section on word-building (see Ch. 5, 6).
The internal structure oI the word, or its eanin&# is nowadays
commonly reIerred to as the word's seantic structure. This is
certainly the word's main aspect. Words can serve the purposes oI
human communication solely due to their meanings, and it is most
unIortunate when this Iact is ignored by some contemporary scholars
who, in their obsession with the Ietish oI structure tend to condemn as
irrelevant anything that eludes mathematical analysis. And this is
exactly what meaning, with its subtle variations and shiIts, is apt to
The area oI lexicology specialising in the semantic studies oI the
word is called seantics (see Ch. 7, 8).
Another structural aspect oI the word is its unity. The word
possesses both external (or Iormal) unity and semantic unity. Formal
unity oI the word is sometimes inaccurately interpreted as
indivisibility. The example oI post0ipressionists has already shown
that the word is not, strictly speaking, indivisible. Yet, its component
morphemes are permanently linked together in opposition to word-
groups, both Iree and with Iixed contexts, whose components possess
a certain structural Ireedom, e. g. -ri&ht "i&ht# to ta.e )or &ranted (see
Ch. 12).
The Iormal unity oI the word can best be illustrated by comparing
a word and a word-group comprising
identical constituents. The diIIerence between a -"ac.-ird and a
-"ac. -ird is best explained by their relationship with the grammatical
system oI the language. The word -"ac.-ird# which is characterised
by unity, possesses a single grammatical Iraming: -"ac.-ird1s. The
Iirst constituent -"ac. is not subject to any grammatical changes. In
the word-group a -"ac. -ird each constituent can acquire grammatical
Iorms oI its own: the -"ac.est -irds I2,e e,er seen. Other words can
be inserted between the components which is impossible so Iar as the
word is concerned as it would violate its unity: a -"ac. ni&ht -ird.
The same example may be used to illustrate what we mean by
semantic unity.
In the word-group a -"ac. -ird each oI the meaningIul words
conveys a separate concept: -ird a kind oI living creature -"ac.
a colour.
The word -"ac.-ird conveys only one concept: the type oI bird.
This is one oI the main Ieatures oI any word: it always conveys one
concept, no matter how many component morphemes it may have in
its external structure.
A Iurther structural Ieature oI the word is its susceptibility to
grammatical employment. In speech most words can be used in
diIIerent grammatical Iorms in which their interrelations are realised.
So Iar we have only underlined the word's major peculiarities, but
this suIIices to convey the general idea oI the diIIiculties and
questions Iaced by the scholar attempting to give a detailed deIinition
oI the word. The diIIiculty does not merely consist in the
considerable number oI aspects that are to be taken into account, but,
also, in the essential unanswered questions oI word theory which
concern the nature oI its meaning (see Ch. 7).
All that we have said about the word can be summed up as
The /ord is a speech unit used Ior the purposes oI human
communication, materially representing a group oI sounds,
possessing a meaning, susceptible to grammatical employment and
characterised by Iormal and semantic unity.
The Main Lexicological Problems
Two oI these have already been underlined. The problem oI word-
building is associated with prevailing morphological word-structures
and with processes oI making new words. Semantics is the study oI
meaning. Modern approaches to this problem are characterised by
two diIIerent levels oI study: s'nta&atic and paradi&atic.
On the syntagmatic level, the semantic structure oI the word is
analysed in its linear relationships with neighbouring words in
connected speech. In other words, the semantic characteristics oI the
word are observed, described and studied on the basis oI its typical
On the paradigmatic level, the word is studied in its relationships
with other words in the vocabulary system. So, a word may be
studied in comparison with other words oI similar meaning (e. g.
/or.# n. "a-our# n. to re)use# v. to re3ect v. to dec"ine# v.), oI
opposite meaning (e. g. -us'# adj. id"e# adj. to accept# ,# to
re3ect# v.), oI diIIerent stylistic characteristics (e. g. an# n. chap#
n. -"o.e# n. &u'# n.). Consequently, the main problems oI
paradigmatic studies are synonymy (see Ch. 9, 10), antonymy (see
Ch. 10), Iunctional styles (see Ch. 1, 2).
4hraseo"o&' is the branch oI lexicology specialising in word-
groups which are characterised by stability oI structure and
transIerred meaning, e. g. to ta.e the -u"" -' the horns# to see red#
-irds o) a )eather# etc. (see Ch. 12, 13).
One Iurther important objective oI lexicological studies is the
study oI the vocabulary oI a language as a system. The vocabulary
can be studied synchronically, that is, at a given stage oI its
development, or diachronically, that is, in the context oI the processes
through which it grew, developed and acquired its modern Iorm (see
Ch. 3, 4). The opposition oI the two approaches accepted in modern
linguistics is nevertheless disputable as the vocabulary, as well as the
word which is its Iundamental unit, is not only what it is now, at this
particular stage oI the language's development, but, also, what it was
centuries ago and has been throughout its history.
Consider o!r ans"ers #o #he follo"ing$
1. In what way can one analyse a word a) socially, b)
2. What are the structural aspects oI the word?
3. What is the external structure oI the word irresisti-"e5 What is
the internal structure oI this word?
4. What is understood by Iormal unity oI a word? Why is it not
quite correct to say that a word is indivisible?
5. Explain why the word -"ac.-oard can be considered a unity
and why the combination oI words a -"ac. -oard doesn't possess such
a unity.
6. What is understood by the semantic unity oI a word? Which oI
the Iollowing possesses semantic unity a -"ue-e"" (R.
67876789:;6) or a -"ue -e"" (R. <;=;> ?@?A=:;6).
7. Give a brieI account oI the main characteristics oI a word.
8. What are the main problems oI lexicology?
9. What are the main diIIerences between studying words
syntagmatically and paradigmatically?
Which Word Should We Choose, Formal or InIormal?
Just as there is Iormal and inIormal dress, so there is Iormal and
inIormal speech. One is not supposed to turn up at a ministerial
reception or at a scientiIic symposium wearing a pair oI brightly
coloured pyjamas. (Jeans are scarcely suitable Ior such occasions
either, though this may be a matter oI opinion.) Consequently, the
social context in which the communication is taking place determines
both the mode oI dress and the modes oI speech. When placed in
diIIerent situations, people instinctively choose diIIerent kinds oI
words and structures to express their thoughts. The suitability or
unsuitability oI a word Ior each particular situation depends on its
stylistic characteristics or, in other words, on the Iunctional style it
The term )unctiona" style is generally accepted in modern
linguistics. ProIessor I. V. Arnold deIines it as "a system oI
expressive means peculiar to a speciIic sphere oI communication".
By the sphere oI communication we mean the circumstances
attending the process oI speech in each particular case: proIessional
communication, a lecture, an inIormal talk, a Iormal letter, an
intimate letter, a speech in court, etc.
All these circumstances or situations can be roughly classiIied
into two types: Iormal (a lecture, a speech in court, an oIIicial letter,
proIessional communication) and inIormal (an inIormal talk, an
intimate letter).
Accordingly, Iunctional styles are classiIied into two groups, with
Iurther subdivisions depending on diIIerent situations.
InIormal Style
InIormal vocabulary is used in one's immediate circle: Iamily,
relatives or Iriends. One uses inIormal words when at home or when
Ieeling at home.
InIormal style is relaxed, Iree-and-easy, Iamiliar and
unpretentious. But it should be pointed out that the inIormal talk oI
well-educated people considerably diIIers Irom that oI the illiterate or
the semi-educated the choice oI words with adults is diIIerent Irom
the vocabulary oI teenagers people living in the provinces use certain
regional words and expressions. Consequently, the choice oI words is
determined in each particular case not only by an inIormal (or Iormal)
situation, but also by the speaker's educational and cultural
background, age group, and his occupational and regional
InIormal words and word-groups are traditionally divided into
three types: co""oBuia"# s"an& and dia"ect /ords and /ord0&roups.
Colloquial Words
Among other inIormal words, co""oBuia"iss are the least
exclusive: they are used by everybody, and their sphere oI
communication is comparatively wide, at least oI "iterar' co""oBuia"
/ords. These are inIormal words that are used in everyday
conversational speech both by cultivated and uneducated people oI
all age groups. The sphere oI communication oI literary colloquial
words also includes the printed page, which shows that the term
"colloquial" is somewhat inaccurate.
Vast use oI inIormal words is one oI the prominent Ieatures oI
20th century English and American literature. It is quite natural that
inIormal words appear in dialogues in which they realistically reIlect
the speech oI modern people:
"You're at soe sort o) technical college?" she said to Leo, not
looking at him ... .
"Yes. I hate it though. I'm not &ood enou&h at aths. There's a
chap there 3ust do/n )ro Cambridge who puts us throu&h it. I
can't .eep up. Were you good at maths?"
"Not bad. But I imagine school maths are diIIerent."
"Well, yes, they are. I can't cope /ith this stu)) at all, it's the
whole way oI thinking that's beyond me... I think I'm going to
chuc. it and take a 3o-.C
(From +he +ie o) the An&e"s by I. Murdoch)
However, in modern Iiction inIormal words are not restricted to
conversation in their use, but Irequently appear in descriptive
passages as well. In this way the narrative is endowed with
conversational Ieatures. The author creates an intimate, warm,
inIormal atmosphere, meeting his reader, as it were, on the level oI a
Iriendly talk, especially when the narrative verges upon non-personal
direct speech.
"Fred Hardy was a -ad "ot. Pretty women, chemin de Ier, and
an unlucky .nac. Ior -ac.in& the wrong horse had "anded hi in
the bankruptcy court by the time he was twenty-Iive ...
...II he thought oI his past it was with complacency he had
had a &ood tie# he had enjoyed his ups and do/nsD and now,
with good health and a clear conscience, he was prepared to settle
down as a country gentleman, dan it# bring up the .ids as kids
should be brought up and when the o"d -u))er who sat Ior his
Constituenc' pe&&ed out# -' Eeor&e# go into Parliament himselI."
(From Rain and Fther *hort *tories by W. S. Maugham)
Here are some more examples oI literary colloquial words. 4a"
and chu are colloquial equivalents oI )riendD &ir"# when used
colloquially, denotes a woman oI any age -ite and snac. stand Ior
ea"D hi# he""o are inIormal greetings, and so "on& a Iorm oI parting
start# &o on# )inish and -e throu&h are also literary colloquialisms to
ha,e a crush on soe-od' is a colloquial equivalent oI to -e in "o,e.
A -it (o)) and a "ot (o)) also belong to this group.
A considerable number oI shortenings are Iound among words oI
this type. E. g. pra# e%a# )rid&e# )"u# prop# Gip# o,ie.
Verbs with post-positional adverbs are also numerous among
colloquialisms: put up# put o,er# a.e up# a.e out# do a/a'# turn
up# turn in# etc.
Literary colloquial words are to be distinguished Irom Iamiliar
colloquial and low colloquial.
The borderline between the literary and Iamiliar colloquial is not
always clearly marked. Yet the circle oI speakers using Iamiliar
colloquial is more limited: these words are used mostly by the young
and the semi-educated. This vocabulary group closely verges on slang
and has something oI its coarse Ilavour.
E. g. doc (Ior doctor)# hi (Ior ho/ do 'ou do)# ta0ta (Ior &ood0
-'e)# &oin&s0on (Ior -eha,iour# usually with a negative connotation),
to .id s-. (Ior tease# -anter)# to pic. up s-. (Ior a.e a Buic. and
eas' acBuaintance)# &o on /ith 'ou (Ior "et e a"one)# shut up (Ior
.eep si"ent)# -eat it (Ior &o a/a').
Low colloquial is deIined by G. P. Krapp as uses "characteristic oI
the speech oI persons who may be broadly described as uncultivated".
31 This group is stocked with words oI illiterate English which do
not present much interest Ior our purposes.
The problem oI Iunctional styles is not one oI purely theoretical
interest, but represents a particularly important aspect oI the
language-learning process. Stu-
dents oI English should be taught how to choose stylistically suitable
words Ior each particular speech situation.
So Iar as colloquialisms are concerned, most students' mistakes
originate Irom the ambiguousness oI the term itselI. Some students
misunderstand the term "colloquial" and accept it as a
recommendation Ior wide usage (obviously mistaking "colloquial"
Ior "conversational"). This misconception may lead to most
embarrassing errors unless it is taken care oI in the early stages oI
language study.
As soon as the Iirst words marked "colloquial" appear in the
students' Iunctional vocabulary, it should be explained to them that
the marker "colloquial" (as, indeed, any other stylistic marker) is not
a recommendation Ior unlimited usage but, on the contrary, a si&n o)
restricted usa&e. It is most important that the teacher should careIully
describe the typical situations to which colloquialisms are restricted
and warn the students against using them under Iormal circumstances
or in their compositions and reports.
Literary colloquial words should not only be included in the
students' Iunctional and recognition vocabularies, but also presented
and drilled in suitable contexts and situations, mainly in dialogues. It
is important that students should be trained to associate these words
with inIormal, relaxed situations.
Much has been written on the subject oI slang that is
contradictory and at the same time very interesting.
The OxIord English Dictionary deIines slang as "language oI a
highly colloquial style, considered as below the level oI standard
educated speech, and consisting either oI new words or oI current
words employed in some special sense." 33
This deIinition is inadequate because it equates slang with
colloquial style. The qualiIication "highly" can hardly serve as the
criterion Ior distinguishing between colloquial style and slang.
Yet, the last line oI the deIinition "current words in some special
sense" is important and we shall have to return to this a little later.
Here is another deIinition oI slang by the Iamous English writer
G. K. Chesterton:
"The one stream oI poetry which in constantly Ilowing is slang.
Every day some nameless poet weaves some Iairy tracery oI popular
language. ...All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry. ...The
world oI slang is a kind oI topsy-turvydom oI poetry, Iull oI blue
moons and white elephants, oI men losing their heads, and men
whose tongues run away with them a whole chaos oI Iairy tales."
The Iirst thing that attracts attention in this enthusiastic statement
is that the idioms which the author quotes have long since ceased
being associated with slang: neither once in a -"ue oon# nor the
/hite e"ephant# nor 'our ton&ue has run a/a' /ith 'ou are indicated
as slang in modern dictionaries. This is not surprising, Ior slang
words and idioms are short-lived and very soon either disappear or
lose their peculiar colouring and become either colloquial or
stylistically neutral lexical units.
As to the author's words "all slang is metaphor", it is a true
observation, though the second part oI the statement "all metaphor is
poetry" is diIIicult to accept, especially iI we consider the Iollowing
examples: u& (Ior )ace)# saucers# -"in.ers ()or e'es)# trap ()or
outh# e. g. Heep 'our trap shut)# do&s (Ior )eet)# to "e& (it) ()or to
All these meanings are certainly based on metaphor, yet they strike
one as singularly unpoetical.
Henry Bradley writes that "Slang sets things in their proper place
with a smile. So, to call a hat 'a lid' and a head 'a nut' is amusing
because it puts a hat and a pot-lid in the same class". 17 And, we
should add, a head and a nut in the same class too.
"With a smile" is true. Probably "grin" would be a more suitable
word. Indeed, a prominent linguist observed that iI colloquialisms can
be said to be wearing dressing-gowns and slippers, slang is wearing a
perpetual Ioolish grin. The world oI slang is inhabited by odd
creatures indeed: not by men, but by &u's (R. uun) and -"i&hters
or rotters with nuts Ior heads, u&s Ior Iaces, )"ippers Ior hands.
All or most slang words are current words whose meanings have
been metaphorically shiIted. Each slang metaphor is rooted in a joke,
but not in a kind or amusing joke. This is the criterion Ior
distinguishing slang Irom colloquialisms: most slang words are
metaphors and jocular, oIten with a coarse, mocking, cynical
This is one oI the common objections against slang: a person
using a lot oI slang seems to be sneering and jeering at everything
under the sun. This objection is psychological. There are also
linguistic ones.
G. H. McKnight notes that "originating as slang expressions oIten
do, in an insensibility to the meaning oI legitimate words, the use oI
slang checks an acquisition oI a command over recognised modes oI
expression ... and must result in atrophy oI the Iaculty oI using
language". 34
H. W. Fowler states that "as style is the great antiseptic, so slang
is the great corrupting matter, it is perishable, and inIects what is
round it". 27
McKnight also notes that "no one capable oI good speaking or
good writing is likely to be harmed by the occasional employment oI
slang, provided that he is conscious oI the Iact..." 34
Then why do people use slang?
For a number oI reasons. To be picturesque, arresting, striking
and, above all, diIIerent Irom others. To avoid the tedium oI
outmoded hackneyed "common" words. To demonstrate one's
spiritual independence and daring. To sound "modern" and "up-to-
It doesn't mean that all these aims are achieved by using slang.
Nor are they put in so many words by those using slang on the
conscious level. But these are the main reasons Ior using slang as
explained by modern psychologists and linguists.
The circle oI users oI slang is more narrow than that oI
colloquialisms. It is mainly used by the young and uneducated. Yet,
slang's colourIul and humorous quality makes it catching, so that a
considerable part oI slang may become accepted by nearly all the
groups oI speakers.
%ialec# &ords
H. W. Fowler deIines a dialect as "a variety oI a language which
prevails in a district, with local peculiarities oI vocabulary,
pronunciation and phrase". 19 England is a small country, yet it has
many dialects which have their own distinctive Ieatures (e. g. the
Lancashire, Dorsetshire, NorIolk dialects).
So dialects are regional Iorms oI English. Standard English is
deIined by the Random House Dictionary as the English language as
it is written and spoken by literate people in both Iormal and inIormal
usage and that is universally current while incorporating regional
diIIerences. 54
Dialectal peculiarities, especially those oI vocabulary, are
constantly being incorporated into everyday colloquial speech or
slang. From these levels they can be transIerred into the common
stock, i. e. words which are not stylistically marked (see "The Basic
Vocabulary", Ch. 2) and a Iew oI them even into Iormal speech
and into the literary language. Car# tro""e'# tra began as dialect
A snobbish attitude to dialect on the part oI certain educationalists
and scholars has been deplored by a number oI prominent linguists.
E. Partridge writes:
"The writers would be better employed in rejuvenating the
literary (and indeed the normal cultured) language by substituting
dialectal Ireshness, Iorce, pithiness, Ior standard exhaustion,
Ieebleness, long-windedness than in attempting to rejuvenate it with
Gallicisms, Germanicisms, Grecisms and Latinisms." 38
In the Iollowing extract Irom +he Eood Copanions by J. B.
Priestley, the outstanding English writer ingeniously and humorously
reproduces his native Yorkshire dialect. The speakers are discussing a
Iootball match they have just watched. The author makes use oI a
number oI dialect words and grammatical structures and, also, uses
spelling to convey certain phonetic Ieatures oI "broad Yorkshire".
"'Na Jess' said the acquaintance, taking an imitation calabash
pipe out oI his mouth and then winking mysteriously.
'Na Jim' returned Mr. Oakroyd. This 'Na' which must once
have been 'Now', is the recognised salutation in BruddersIord,
and the Iact that it sounds more like a word oI caution than a word
oI greeting is by no means surprising. You have to be careIul in
'Well,' said Jim, Ialling into step, 'what did you think on 'em?'
'Think on 'em' Mr. Oakroyd made a number oI noises with his
tongue to show what he thought oI them.
BruddersIord, the scene oI the extract, is easily recognizable as
BradIord, Priestley's birthplace.
... 'Ah '11 tell tha
what it is, Jess,' said his companion,
pointing the stem oI his pipe and becoming broader in his
Yorkshire as he grew more philosophical. 'II t' United
had less
to lake
wi', they'd lake better Iootball.'His eyes searched
the past Ior a moment, looking Ior the team that had less money
and had played better Iootball. 'Tha can remember when t' club
had niwer
set eyes on two thousand pahnds, when t' job lot wor
not worth two thahsand pahnds, pavilion and all, and what sort oI
Iootball did they lake then? We know, don't we? They could gi'
worth watching then. Nah, it's all nowt,
like t' ale
an' baccy
they ask so mich
Ior money Iair thrawn away, ah
calls it. Well, we mun
'a' wer teas and get ower it. Behave thi-
Jess' And he turned away, Ior that Iinal word oI caution was
only one oI BruddersIord's Iamiliar good-byes.
replied Mr. Oakroyd dispiritedly. 'So long, Jim'"
tha (thee) the objective case oI thouD
-rass money
"a.e to play
ni,,er never
suat something
-acc' tobacco
ich much
I;J must
sen ( th'0se")) yourselI
a'(e) yes.
I. Consider your answers to the Iollowing.
1. What determines the choice oI stylistically
marked words in each particular situation?
2. In what situations are inIormal words used?
3. What are the main kinds oI inIormal words? Give
a brieI description oI each group.
Knited the name oI a Iootball team.
ther approached a Iarmer who was standing nearby and asked: "Can
we take this road to SheIIield?" The Iarmer eyed the car and its
contents sourly, then: "Aye, you mun as well, you've takken nigh
everything else around here."
'$ Ma(e !) a dialog!e !sing collo*!ial "ords from o!r lis#s and
from #he ex#rac#s gi+en in #he cha)#er$
a. In the Iirst dialogue, two undergraduates are dis cussing why
one oI them has been expelled Irom his college. (Don't Iorget that
young people use both literary and Iamiliar colloquial words.)
b. In the second dialogue, the parents oI the dismissed student are
wondering what to do with him. (Older people, as you remember, are
apt to be less inIormal in their choice oI words.)
Which Word Should We Choose,
Formal or InIormal?
Formal Style
We have already pointed out that Iormal style is restricted to
Iormal situations. In general, Iormal words Iall into two main groups:
words associated with proIessional communication and a less
exclusive group oI so-called "earned /ords.
Learned &ords
These words are mainly associated with the printed page. It is in
this vocabulary stratum that poetry and Iiction Iind their main
The term "learned" is not precise and does not adequately describe
the exact characteristics oI these words. A somewhat out-oI-date term
Ior the same category oI words is "bookish", but, as E. Partridge
notes, "'book-learned' and 'bookish' are now uncomplimentary. The
corresponding complimentaries are 'erudite', 'learned', 'scholarly'.
'Book-learned' and 'bookish' connote 'ignorant oI liIe', however much
book-learning one may possess". 30
The term "learned" includes several heterogeneous subdivisions
oI words. We Iind here numerous words that are used in scientiIic
prose and can be identiIied by their dry, matter-oI-Iact Ilavour (e. g.
coprise# copi"e# e%perienta"# hetero&eneous# hoo&eneous#
conc"usi,e# di,er&ent# etc.).
To this group also belongs so-called "oIIicialese" (cI. with the R.
6L=MA8NO;PQR). These are the words oI the
oIIicial, bureaucratic language. E. Partridge in his dictionary Ksa&e
and A-usa&e gives a list oI oIIicialese which he thinks should be
avoided in speech and in print. Here are some words Irom Partridge's
list: assist (Ior he"p)# endea,our (Ior tr')# proceed (Ior &o)#
appro%iate"' (Ior a-out)# su))icient (Ior enou&h)# attired (Ior
dressed)# inBuire (Ior as.).
In the same dictionary an oIIicial letter Irom a Government
Department is quoted which may very well serve as a typical example
oI oIIicialese. It goes: CSou are authoriGed to acBuire the /or. in
Buestion -' purchase throu&h the ordinar' trade channe"s.C Which,
translated into plain English, would simply mean: CTe ad,ise 'ou to
-u' the -oo. in a shop.C 38
Probably the most interesting subdivision oI learned words is
represented by the words Iound in descriptive passages oI Iiction.
These words, which may be called "literary", also have a particular
Ilavour oI their own, usually described as "reIined". They are mostly
polysyllabic words drawn Irom the Romance languages and, though
Iully adapted to the English phonetic system, some oI them continue
to sound singularly Ioreign. They also seem to retain an alooIness
associated with the loIty contexts in which they have been used Ior
centuries. Their very sound seems to create complex and solemn
associations. Here are some examples: so"itude# sentient#
)ascination# )astidiousness# )acetiousness# de"usion# editation#
)e"icit'# e"usi,e# cordia"# i""usionar'.
There is one Iurther subdivision oI learned words: modes oI
poetic diction. These stand close to the previous group many words
Irom which, in Iact, belong to both these categories. Yet, poetic words
have a Iurther characteristic a loIty, high-Ilown, sometimes
archaic, colouring:
CA"asU they had been Iriends in youth But
whispering tongues can poison truth
And constanc' lives in rea"s above And liIe is
thorny and youth is vain And to be /roth with one
we love, Voth work like madness in the brain..."
- - -
Though learned words are mainly associated with the printed
page, this is not exclusively so. Any educated English-speaking
individual is sure to use many learned words not only in his Iormal
letters and proIessional communication but also in his everyday
speech. It is true that sometimes such uses strike a deIinitely
incongruous note as in the Iollowing extract:
"You should Iind no diIIiculty in obtaining a secretarial post in
the city." Carel said "obtaining a post" and not "getting a job". It
was part oI a bureaucratic manner which, Muriel noticed, he kept
reserved Ior her."
(From +he +ie o) the An&e"s by I. Murdoch)
Yet, generally speaking, educated people in both modern Iiction
and real liIe use learned words quite naturally and their speech is
certainly the richer Ior it.
On the other hand, excessive use oI learned elements in
conversational speech presents grave hazards. Utterances overloaded
with such words have pretensions oI "reIinement" and "elegance" but
achieve the exact opposite verging on the absurd and ridiculous.
Writers use this phenomenon Ior stylistic purposes. When a
character in a book or in a play uses too many learned words, the
obvious inappropriateness oI his speech in an inIormal situation
produces a comic eIIect,
When Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's +he Iportance o) Wein&
Xarnest recommends Jack "to make a deIinite eIIort to produce at
any rate one parent, oI either sex, beIore
the season is over", the statement is Iunny because the seriousness
and precision oI the language seems comically out-oI-keeping with
the inIormal situation.
The Iollowing quotations speak Ior themselves. (The "learned"
elements are italicized.)
Gwendolen in the same play declaring her love Ior Jack says:
"The story oI your roantic ori&in as re"ated to me by
mamma, with unp"easin& coents# has naturally stirred the
deepest )i-res oI my nature. Your Christian name has an
irresisti-"e )ascination. The simplicity oI your nature makes you
e%Buisite"' incoprehensi-"e to me..."
Eliza Doolittle in 4'&a"ion by B. Shaw engaging in traditional
English small talk answers the question "Will it rain, do you think?"
in the Iollowing way:
C+he sha""o/ depression in the west oI these islands is likely
to move slowly in an easter"' direction. There are no indications
oI any great change in the -aroetrica" situation.C
Freddie Widgeon, a silly young man in (ate by Wodehouse,
trying to deIend a woman whom he thinks unduly insulted, says:
"You are aspersin& a woman's name," he said.
"Don't attept to e,ade the issue#C said Freddie...
"You are aspersing a woman's name, and what
makes it worse you are doing it in a bowler-hat.
Take oII that hat," said Freddie.
However any suggestion that learned words are suitable only Ior
comic purposes, would be quite wrong. It is in this vocabulary
stratum that writers and poets Iind their most vivid paints and
colours, and not only their humorous eIIects.
Here is an extract Irom Iris Murdoch describing a suer
"... A bat had noiselessly appropriated the space between, a
Ilittering weaving almost su-stance"ess )ra&ent oI the in,adin&
dark. ... A collared dove groaned once in the )ina" light. A pink rose
rec"inin& upon the big box hedge &"iered with contained electric
"uinosit'. A blackbird, trying to etaorphose itselI into a
nightingale, began a long passionate cop"icated song." (From +he
*acred and 4ro)ane $o,e Yachine by I. Murdoch)
This piece oI modern prose is rich in literary words which
underline its stern and reserved beauty. One might even say that it is
the selection oI words which makes the description what it is: serious,
devoid oI cheap sentimentality and yet charged with grave
Iorebodings and tense expectation.
- - -
What role do learned words play in the language-learning and
language-teaching process? Should they be taught? Should they be
included in the students' Iunctional and recognition vocabularies?
As Iar as passive recognition is concerned, the answer is clear:
without knowing some learned words, it is even impossible to read
Iiction (not to mention scientiIic articles) or to listen to lectures
delivered in the Ioreign language.
It is also true that some oI these words should be careIully
selected and "activised" to become part oI the students' Iunctional
However, Ior teaching purposes, they should be chosen with care
and introduced into the students' speech in moderation, Ior, as we
have seen, the excessive use oI learned words may lead to absurdities.
,rchaic and -bsole#e &ords
These words stand close to the "learned" words, particularly to the
modes oI poetic diction. Learned words and archaisms are both
associated with the printed page. Yet, as we have seen, many learned
words may also be used in conversational situations. This cannot
happen with archaisms, which are invariably restricted to the printed
page. These words are moribund, already partly or Iully out oI
circulation, rejected by the living language. Their last reIuge is in
historical novels (whose authors use them to create a particular period
atmosphere) and, oI course, in poetry which is rather conservative in
its choice oI words.
+hou and th'# a'e ("yes") and na' ("no") are certainly archaic and
long since rejected by common usage, yet poets use them even today.
(We also Iind the same Iour words and many other archaisms among
dialectisms, which is quite natural, as dialects are also conservative
and retain archaic words and structures.)
Numerous archaisms can be Iound in Shakespeare, but it should
be taken into consideration that what appear to us today as archaisms
in the works oI Shakespeare, are in Iact examples oI everyday
language oI Shakespeare's time.
There are several such archaisms in Viola's speech Irom +/e")th
"There is a )air behaviour in thee# Captain, And though that
nature with a -eauteous wall Voth o)t close in pollution, yet oI
thee I will believe thou hast a mind that suits With this th' Iair
and outward character. I prithee and I'll pay thee
-ounteous"' Conceal me what I am, and be my aid For such
disguise as hap"' shall become The Iorm oI my intent..."
(Act I, Sc. 2) 32
Further examples oI archaisms are: orn (Ior ornin&)# e,e (Ior
e,enin&)# oon (Ior onth)# dase" (Ior &ir")# errant (Ior /anderin&#
e. g. errant .ni&hts)# etc.
Sometimes, an archaic word may undergo a sudden revival. So,
the Iormerly archaic .in (Ior re"ati,esD one2s )ai"') is now current in
American usage.
The terms "archaic" and "obsolete" are used more or less
indiscriminately by some authors. Others make a distinction between
them using the term "obsolete" Ior words which have completely
gone out oI use. The Random House Dictionary deIines an obsolete
word as one "no longer in use, esp. out oI use Ior at least a century",
whereas an archaism is reIerred to as "current in an earlier time but
rare in present usage". 46
It should be pointed out that the borderline between "obsolete"
and "archaic" is vague and uncertain, and in many cases it is diIIicult
to decide to which oI the groups this or that word belongs.
There is a Iurther term Ior words which are no longer in use:
historiss. By this we mean words denoting objects and phenomena
which are, things oI the past and no longer exist.
Professional Terminolog
Hundreds oI thousands oI words belong to special scientiIic,
proIessional or trade terminological systems and are not used or even
understood by people outside the particular speciality. Every Iield oI
modern activity has its specialised vocabulary. There is a special
medical vocabulary, and similarly special terminologies Ior
psychology, botany, music, linguistics, teaching methods and many
+er# as traditionally understood, is a word or a word-group
which is speciIically employed by a particular branch oI science,
2. ./(0 33
technology, trade or the arts to convey a concept peculiar to this
particular activity.
So, -i"in&ua"# interdenta"# "a-ia"iGation# pa"ata"iGation# &"otta"
stop# descendin& sca"e are terms oI theoretical phonetics.
There are several controversial problems in the Iield oI
terminology. The Iirst is the puzzling question oI whether a term
loses its terminological status when it comes into common usage.
Today this is a Irequent occurrence, as various elements oI the media
oI communication (TV, radio, popular magazines, science Iiction,
etc.) ply people with scraps oI knowledge Irom diIIerent scientiIic
Iields, technology and the arts. It is quite natural that under the
circumstances numerous terms pass into general usage without losing
connection with their speciIic Iields.
There are linguists in whose opinion terms are only those words
which have retained their exclusiveness and are not known or
recognised outside their speciIic sphere. From this point oI view,
words associated with the medical sphere, such as unit ("
nxr nn"), theatre ("nnx"), contact
("n xn") are no longer medical terms as they are in
more or less common usage. The same is certainly true about names
oI diseases or medicines, with the exception oI some rare or recent
ones only known to medical men.
There is yet another point oI view, according to which any
terminological system is supposed to include all the words and word-
groups conveying concept peculiar to a particular branch oI
knowledge, regardless oI their exclusiveness. Modern research oI
various terminological systems has shown that there is no
impenetrable wall between terminology and the general language
system. To the contrary, terminologies seem to obey the same rules
and laws as other vocabulary
strata. ThereIore, exchange between terminological systems and the
"common" vocabulary is quite normal, and it would be wrong to
regard a term as something "special" and standing apart.
Two other controversial problems deal with po"'se' and
According to some linguists, an "ideal" term should be
onoseantic (i. e. it should have only one meaning). 4o"'seantic
terms may lead to misunderstanding, and that is a serious
shortcoming in proIessional communication. This requirement seems
quite reasonable, yet Iacts oI the language do not meet it. There are,
in actual Iact, numerous polysemantic terms. The linguistic term
seantics may mean both the meaning oI a word and the branch oI
lexicology studying meanings. In the terminology oI painting, the
term co"our may denote hue ("n") and, at the same time, stu)) used
)or co"ourin& ("xx").
The same is true about synonymy in terminological systems.
There are scholars who insist that terms should not have synonyms
because, consequently, scientists and other specialists would name the
same objects and phenomena in their Iield by diIIerent terms and
would not be able to come to any agreement. This may be true. But,
in Iact, terms do possess synonyms. In painting, the same term co"our
has several synonyms in both its meanings: hue# shade# tint# tin&e in
the Iirst meaning ("n") and paint# tint# d'e in the second
.asic 'ocab!lar
These words are stylistically neutral, and, in this respect, opposed
to Iormal and inIormal words described above. Their stylistic
neutrality makes it possible to use them in all kinds oI situations, both
Iormal and inIormal, in verbal and written communication.
Certain oI the stylistically marked vocabulary strata are, in a way,
exclusive: proIessional terminology is used mostly by representatives
oI the proIessions dialects are regional slang is Iavoured mostly by
the young and the uneducated. Not so basic vocabulary. These words
are used every day, everywhere and by everybody, regardless oI
proIession, occupation, educational level, age group or geographical
location. These are words without which no human communication
would be possible as they denote objects and phenomena oI everyday
importance (e. g. house# -read# suer# /inter# chi"d# other# &reen#
di))icu"t# to &o# to stand# etc.).
The basic vocabulary is the central group oI the vocabulary, its
historical Ioundation and living core. That is why words oI this
stratum show a considerably greater stability in comparison with
words oI the other strata, especially inIormal.
Basic vocabulary words can be recognised not only by their
stylistic neutrality but, also, by entire lack oI other connotations (i. e.
attendant meanings). Their meanings are broad, general and directly
convey the concept, without supplying any additional inIormation.
For instance, the verb to /a". means merely "to move Irom place
to place on Ioot" whereas in the meanings oI its synonyms to stride#
to stro""# to trot# to sta&&er and others, some additional inIormation is
encoded as they each describe a diIIerent manner oI walking, a
diIIerent gait, tempo, purposeIulness or lack oI purpose and even
length oI paces (see Ch. 10). Thus, to /a".# with its direct broad
meaning, is a typical basic vocabulary word, and its synonyms, with
their elaborate additional inIormation encoded in their meanings,
belong to the periphery oI the vocabulary.
The basic vocabulary and the stylistically marked strata oI the
vocabulary do not exist independently but are closely interrelated.
Most stylistically marked words have their neutral counterparts in the
basic vocabulary. (Terms are an exception in this respect.) On the
other hand, colloquialisms may have their counterparts among
learned words, most slang has counterparts both among
colloquialisms and learned words. Archaisms, naturally, have their
modern equivalents at least in some oI the other groups.
The table gives some examples oI such synonyms belonging to
diIIerent stylistic strata.
InIormal Formal
-e&in start, &et started coence
continue &o on# &et on proceed
end )inish# -e throu&h# -e
chi"d# -a-' .id# -rat# -ea (dial.) in)ant# -a-e (poet.)
In teaching a Ioreign language, the basic vocabulary words
comprise the Iirst and absolutely essential part oI the students'
Iunctional and recognition vocabularies. They constitute the
beginner's vocabulary. Yet, to restrict the student to the basic
vocabulary would mean to deprive his speech oI colour, expressive
Iorce and emotive shades, Ior, iI basic vocabulary words are
absolutely necessary, they also decidedly lack something: they are not
at all the kind oI words to tempt a writer or a poet. Actually, iI the
language had none other but basic vocabulary words, Iiction would
be hardly readable, and poetry simply non-existent.
The Iollowing table sums up the description oI the stylistic strata
oI English vocabulary.
neutral words
Stylistically-marked words
InIormal Formal
Basic vocabulary I. Colloquial
I. Learned words
A. literary, A. literary,
B. Iamiliar, B. words oI scientiIic
C. low. C. oIIicialese,
II. Slang words. D. modes oI poetic
III. Dialect words. II. Archaic and obsolete
III. ProIessional
/$ Consider o!r ans"ers #o #he follo"ing$
1. Where are Iormal words used?
2. Are learned words used only in books? Which type oI learned
words, do you think, is especially suitable Ior verbal communication?
Which is least suitable and even undesirable?
3. What are the principal characteristics oI archaic words?
4. What are the controversial problems connected with
proIessional terminology?
5. Do you think that students oI English should learn terms? II so,
Ior which branch or branches oI knowledge?
6. What is understood by the basic vocabulary?
7. Which classes oI stylistically marked words, in your opinion,
should be included in the students' Iunctional and
recognition vocabularies in 1) junior and 2) senior school
II. a$ The i#alici0ed "ords and "ord1gro!)s in #he follo"ing
ex#rac#s belong #o formal s#le$ %escribe #he s#lis#ic )ec!liari#ies
of each ex#rac# in general and sa "he#her #he i#alici0ed
re)resen#s learned "ords2 #erms or archaisms. Loo( !)
!nfamiliar "ords in #he dic#ionar$
in re
Miss Ernestina Freeman
We are instructed by Mr. Ernest Freeman, Iather oI the a-o,e0
entioned Miss Ernestina Freeman, to reBuest you to attend at these
cha-ers at 3 o'clock this coming Friday. Your Iailure to attend will
be regarded as an acknowledgement oI our client's right to proceed.C
(From +he (rench $ieutenant2s Toan by J. Fowles
2. "I have, with esteeed advice ..." Mr. Aubrey
bowed brieIly towards the sergeant, ... "... prepared an
adission o) &ui"t. I should instruct you that
Mr. Freeman's decision not to proceed immediately is
most strictly contin&ent upon your client's signing, on
this occasion and in our presence, and witnessed -' a""
present# this document."
3. R o m e o ... So shows a snowy dove trooping with
As 'onder lady o'er her Iellows shows. The easure
done, I'll
watch her place oI stand, And, touching hers, make blessed my
rude hand. Did my heart love till now? (ors/ear it, sight For
I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.
Usually in modern correspondence you will Iind the Iorm
re ri: without the in.
easure (here) dance.
The Etymology oI English Words.
Are All English Words
Really English?
As a matter oI Iact, they are iI we regard them in the light oI
present-day English. II, however, their origins are looked into, the
picture may seem somewhat bewildering. A person who does not
know English but knows French (Italian, Latin, Spanish) is certain to
recognise a great number oI Iamiliar-looking words when skipping
through an English book.
It is true that English vocabulary, which is one oI the most
extensive amongst the world's languages contains an immense
number oI words oI Ioreign origin. Explanations Ior this should be
sought in the history oI the language which is closely connected with
the history oI the nation speaking the language. In order to have a
better understanding oI the problem, it will be necessary to go
through a brieI survey oI certain historical Iacts, relating to diIIerent
- - -
+he )irst centur' \. . Most oI the territory now, known to us as
Europe is occupied by the Roman Empire. Among the inhabitants oI
the continent are Germanic tribes, "barbarians" as the arrogant
Romans call them. Theirs is really a rather primitive stage oI
development, especially iI compared with the high civilisation and
reIinement oI Rome. They are primitive cattle-
By et'o"o&' oI words is understood their origin.
breeders and know almost nothing about land cultivation. Their tribal
languages contain only Indo-European and Germanic elements. The
latter Iact is oI some importance Ior the purposes oI our survey.
Now comes an event which brings an important change. AIter a
number oI wars between the Germanic tribes and the Romans these
two opposing peoples come into peaceIul contact. Trade is carried on,
and the Germanic people gain knowledge oI new and useIul things.
The Iirst among them are new things to eat. It has been mentioned
that Germanic cattle-breeding was on a primitive scale. Its only
products known to the Germanic tribes were meat and milk. It is Irom
the Romans that they learn how to make butter and cheese and, as
there are naturally no words Ior these IoodstuIIs in their tribal
languages, they are to use the Latin words to name them (Lat.
-ut'ru# caseus). It is also to the Romans that the Germanic tribes
owe the knowledge oI some new Iruits and vegetables oI which they
had no idea beIore, and the Latin names oI these Iruits and vegetables
enter their vocabularies reIlecting this new knowledge: cherr' (Lat.
cerasu)# pear (Lat. piru)# p"u (Lat. prunus)# pea (Lat. pisu)#
-eet (Lat. -eta)# pepper (Lat. piper). It is interesting to note that the
word p"ant is also a Latin borrowing
oI this period (Lat. p"anta).
Here are some more examples oI Latin borrowings oI this period:
cup (Lat. cuppa)# .itchen (Lat. coBuina)# i"" (Lat. o"ina)# port
(Lat. portus)# /ine (Lat. ,inu).
The Iact that all these borrowings occurred is in itselI signiIicant.
It was certainly important that the Germanic tribal languages gained a
considerable number oI new words and were thus enriched. What
By a -orro/in& or "oan0/ord we mean a word which came into
the vocabulary oI one language Irom another and was assimilated by
the new language. (For more about the assimilation oI borrowings
see Ch. 4.)
even more signiIicant was that all these Latin words were destined to
become the earliest group oI borrowings in the Iuture English
language which was much later built on the basis oI the
Germanic tribal languages. Which brings us to another epoch, much
closer to the English language as we know it, both in geographical
and chronological terms.
+he )i)th centur' A. V. Several oI the Germanic tribes (the most
numerous amongst them being the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes)
migrated across the sea now known as the English Channel to the
British Isles. There they were conIronted by the Celts, the original
inhabitants oI the Isles. The Celts desperately deIended their lands
against the invaders, but they were no match Ior the military-minded
Teutons and gradually yielded most oI their territory. They retreated
to the North and South-West (modern Scotland, Wales and Cornwall).
Through their numerous contacts with the deIeated Celts, the
conquerors got to know and assimilated a number oI Celtic words
(Mod. E. -a"d# do/n# &"en# druid# -ard# crad"e). Especially numerous
among the Celtic borrowings were place names, names oI rivers,
bills, etc. The Germanic tribes occupied the land, but the names oI
many parts and Ieatures oI their territory remained Celtic. For
instance, the names oI the rivers Avon, Exe, Esk, Usk, Ux originate
Irom Celtic words meaning "river" and "water".
Ironically, even the name oI the English capital originates Irom
Celtic $"'n ] dun in which ""'n is another Celtic word Ior "river" and
dun stands Ior "a IortiIied hill", the meaning oI the whole being
"Iortress on the hill over the river".
Some Latin words entered the Anglo-Saxon languages through
Celtic, among them such widely-used words as street (Lat. strata ,ia)
and /a"" (Lat. ,a""u).
+he se,enth centur' A. V. This century was signiIicant Ior the
christianisation oI England. Latin was the oIIicial language oI the
Christian church, and consequently the spread oI Christianity was
accompanied by a new period oI Latin borrowings. These no longer
came Irom spoken Latin as they did eight centuries earlier, but Irom
church Latin. Also, these new Latin borrowings were very diIIerent in
meaning Irom the earlier ones. They mostly indicated persons,
objects and ideas associated with church and religious rituals. E. g.
priest ($ai. pres-'ter)# -ishop ($ai. episcopus)# on. (Lat.
onachus)# nun ($ai. nonna)# cand"e ($ai. cande"a).
Additionally, in a class oI their own were educational terms. It
was quite natural that these were also Latin borrowings, Ior the Iirst
schools in England were church schools, and the Iirst teachers priests
and monks. So, the very word schoo" is a Latin borrowing (Lat.
scho"a# oI Greek origin) and so are such words as scho"ar ($ai.
scho"ar(0is) and a&ister (Lat. a0&ister).
(ro the end o) the 8th c. to the idd"e o) the 11th c. England
underwent several Scandinavian invasions which inevitably leIt their
trace on English vocabulary. Here are some examples oI early
Scandinavian borrowings: ca""# v., ta.e# v., cast# v., die# v., "a/# n.,
hus-and# n. ( Sc. hus ] -ondi# i. e. "inhabitant oI the house"),
/indo/ n. ( Sc. ,indau&a# i. e. "the eye oI the wind"), i""# adj., "oose#
adj., "o/# adj., /ea.# adj.
Some oI the words oI this group are easily recognisable as
Scandinavian borrowings by the initial s.0 combination. E. g. s.'#
s.i""# s.in# s.i# s.irt.
Certain English words changed their meanings under the
inIluence oI Scandinavian words oI the same root. So, the O. E.
-read which meant "piece" acquired its modern meaning by
association with the Scandinavian -rand.
The . . drea which meant "joy" assimilated the meaning oI the
Scandinavian draur(c). with the Germ. +rau "dream" and the R.
1066. With the Iamous Battle oI Hastings, when the English were
deIeated by the Normans under William the Conqueror, we come to
the eventIul epoch oI the Norman Conquest. The epoch can well be
called eventIul not only in national, social, political and human terms,
but also in linguistic terms. England became a bi-lingual country, and
the impact on the English vocabulary made over this two-hundred-
years period is immense: French words Irom the Norman dialect
penetrated every aspect oI social liIe. Here is a very brieI list oI
examples oI Zoran (rench -orro/in&s.
Administrative words: state# &o,ernent# par"iaent# counci"#
Legal terms: court# 3ud&e# 3ustice# crie# prison.
Military terms: ar'# /ar# so"dier# o))icer# -att"e# ene'.
Educational terms: pupi"# "esson# "i-rar'# science# pen# penci".
Everyday liIe was not unaIIected by the powerIul inIluence oI
French words. Numerous terms oI everyday liIe were also borrowed
Irom French in this period: e. g. ta-"e# p"ate# saucer# dinner# supper#
ri,er# autun# unc"e# etc.
The Renaissance 4eriod. In England, as in all European countries,
this period was marked by signiIicant developments in science, art
and culture and, also, by a revival oI interest in the ancient
civilisations oI Greece and Rome and their languages. Hence, there
occurred a considerable number oI Latin and Greek borrowings. In
contrast to the earliest Latin borrowings (1st . . .), the
Renaissance ones were rarely concrete names. They were mostly
abstract words (e. g. a3or# inor# )i"ia"#
oderate# inte""i&ent# peranent# to e"ect# to create). There were
naturally numerous scientiIic and artistic terms (datu# status#
phenoenon# phi"osoph'# ethod# usic).
The same is true oI Greek
Renaissance borrowings (e. g. ato# c'c"e# ethics# esthete).
The Renaissance was a period oI extensive cultural contacts
between the major European states. ThereIore, it was only natural that
new words also entered the English vocabulary Irom other European
languages. The most signiIicant once more were French borrowings.
This time they came Irom the Parisian dialect oI French and are
known as 4arisian -orro/in&s. Examples: re&ie# routine# po"ice#
achine# -a""et# atinee# scene# techniBue# -our&eois# etc. (One
should note that these words oI French origin sound and "look" very
diIIerent Irom their Norman predecessors. We shall return to this
question later (see Ch. 4).)
Italian also contributed a considerable number oI words to
English, e. g. piano# ,io"in# opera# a"ar# co"one".
- - -
There are certain structural Ieatures which enable us to identiIy
some words as borrowings and even to determine the source
language. We have already established that the initial s. usually
indicates Scandinavian origin. You can also recognise words oI Latin
and French origin by certain suIIixes, preIixes or endings. The two
tables below will help you in this.
The historical survey above is Iar Irom complete. Its aim is just to
give a very general idea oI the ways in which English vocabulary
developed and oI the major events through which it acquired its vast
modern resources.
4henoenon# phi"osoph'# ethod# usic# etc. were borrowed
into English Irom Latin and had earlier come into Latin Irom Greek.
/$ La#in ,ffixes
The suIIix 0ion counion# "e&ion# opinion#
session# union# etc.
The suIIix 0tion re"ation# re,o"ution#
star,ation# teptation#
uni)ication# etc.
Verbs The suIIix 0ate eit appreciate# create#
con&ratu"ate# etc.
The suIIix 0ute ju:t attri-ute# contri-ute#
constitute# distri-ute# etc.
The remnant suIIix 0ct act# conduct# co""ect# connect#
The remnant suIIix 0d(e) app"aud# di,ide# e%c"ude#
inc"ude# etc.
The preIix dis0 disa-"e# distract# diso/n#
disa&ree# etc.
The suIIix 0a-"e detesta-"e# cura-"e# etc.
The suIIix 0ate it accurate# desperate#
&raduate# etc.
The suIIix 0ant arro&ant# constant#
iportant# etc.
The suIIix -ent a-sent# con,enient#
decent# e,ident# etc.
The suIIix 0or a3or# inor# 3unior#
senior# etc.
The suIIix -al cordia"# )ina"# )raterna"#
aterna"# etc.
The suIIix 0ar "unar# so"ar# )ai"iar# etc.
3$ 4rench ,ffixes
The suIIix 0ance
arro&ance# endurance# hindrance#
The suIIix 0ence conseBuence# inte""i&ence# patience# etc.
The suIIix 0ent appointent# de,e"opent#
e%perient# etc.
The suIIix 0a&e coura&e# arria&e# passa&e# ,i""a&e#
The suIIix 0ess ti&ress# "ioness# actress# ad,enturess#
Adjectives The suIIix -ous curious# dan&erous# 3o'ous# serious# etc.
Verbs The preIix en0 ena-"e# endear# enact# en)o"d#
ens"a,e# etc.
Zotes. 1. The tables represent only the most typical and Irequent structural elements oI
Latin and French borrowings.
2. Though all the aIIixes represented in the tables are
Latin or French borrowings, some oI the examples given in
the third column are later Iormations derived Irom native
roots and borrowed aIIixes (e. g. eata-"e# "o,a-"e).
3. By remnant suIIixes are meant the ones that are only
partially preserved in the structure oI the word (e. g. Lat.
0ct ` Lat. 0ctus).
It seems advisable to sum up what has been said in a table.
The 5#mological 6#r!c#!re of 5nglish 'ocab!lar
The native element
The borrowed element
I. Indo-European element I. Celtic (5th 6th c. A. D.)
II. Germanic element II. Latin 1st group: 1st . . .
2nd group: 7th c. A. D. 3rd
group: the Renaissance period
III. English Proper element (no
earlier than 5th c. A. D.)
III. Scandinavian (8th 11th c. A.
IV. French 1. Norman borrowings:
11th 13th c. A. D. 2. Parisian
borrowings (Renaissance) V. Greek
(Renaissance) VI. Italian
(Renaissance and later) VII. Spanish
(Renaissance and later)
VIII.German I. Indian . Russian
And some other groups
The table requires some explanation. Firstly, it should be pointed
out that not only does the second column contain more groups, but it
also implies a greater quantity oI words. Modern scholars estimate
the percentage oI borrowed words in the English vocabulary at 65
70 per cent which is an exceptionally high Iigure:
By the nati,e e"eent we mean words which were not borrowed
Irom other languages but represent the original stock oI this
particular language.
one would certainly expect the native element to prevail. This
anomaly is explained by the country's eventIul history and by its
many international contacts.
On a straight vocabulary count, considering the high percentage
oI borrowed words, one would have to classiIy English as a language
oI international origin or, at least, a Romance one (as French and
Latin words obviously prevail). But here another Iactor comes into
play, the relative Irequency oI occurrence oI words, and it is under
this heading that the native Anglo-Saxon heritage comes into its own.
The native element in English comprises a large number oI high-
Irequency words like the articles, prepositions, pronouns,
conjunctions, auxiliaries and, also, words denoting everyday objects
and ideas (e. g. house# chi"d# /ater# &o# coe# eat# &ood# -ad# etc.).
Furthermore, the grammatical structure is essentially Germanic
having remained unaIIected by Ioreign inIluence.
It is probably oI some interest to mention that at various times
purists have tried to purge the English language oI Ioreign words,
replacing them with Anglo-Saxon ones. One slogan created by these
linguistic nationalists was: "Avoid Latin derivatives use brieI, terse
Anglo-Saxon monosyllables". The irony is that the only Anglo-Saxon
word in the entire slogan is "Anglo-Saxon". 31
Now let us turn to the Iirst column oI the table representing the
native element, the original stock oI the English vocabulary. The
column consists oI three groups, only the third being dated: the words
oI this group appeared in the English vocabulary in the 5th c. or later,
that is, aIter the Germanic tribes migrated to the British Isles. As to
the Indo-European and Germanic groups, they are so old that they
cannot be dated. It was mentioned in the historical survey opening
this chapter that the tribal languages oI the Angles, the
Saxons, the Jutes, by the time oI their migration, contained only
words oI Indo-European and Germanic roots plus a certain number oI
the earliest Latin borrowings.
By the Indo-European element are meant words oI roots common
to all or most languages oI the Indo-European group. English words
oI this group denote elementary concepts without which no human
communication would be possible. The Iollowing groups can be
I. Family relations: )ather# other# -rother# son#
II. Parts oI the human body: )oot (cI. R. JN^9)# nose# "ip# heart.
III. Animals: co/# s/ine# &oose.
III. Plants: tree# -irch (cI. R. ?AOAPL)# corn (cI.
R. PAO=7).
V. Time oI day: da'# ni&ht. VI. Heavenly bodies: sun# oon# star.
VII. Numerous adjectives: red (cI. Ukr. O@^;># R. ORa;>)# ne/#
&"ad (cI. R. b8L^6;>)# sad (cI. R. <RI).
VIII. The numerals Irom one to a hundred. I. Pronouns
personal (except the' which is a
Scandinavian borrowing) demonstrative. . Numerous verbs:
-e (cI. R. ?RI9)# stand (cI. R. <I7NI9)# sit (cI. R. <;^AI9)#
eat (cI. R. A<I9)# .no/ (cI. R. P=LI9# P=Lc).
The Germanic element represents words oI roots common to all or
most Germanic languages. Some oI the main groups oI Germanic
words are the same as in the Indo-European element.
I. Parts oI the human body: head# hand# ar# )in&er# -one.
The classiIication and examples are taken Irom dOL06;J \. e.
ux n rnxr xtx, . 251.
II. Animals: -ear# )o%# ca").
III. Plants: oa.# )ir# &rass.
If. Natural phenomena: rain# )rost.
V. Seasons oI the year: /inter# sprin&# suer.
VI. Landscape
Ieatures: sea# "and. VII. Human dwellings and Iurniture: house#
VIII. Sea-going vessels: -oat# ship. I. Adjectives: &reen# -"ue#
&re'# /hite# sa""#
thic.# hi&h# o"d# &ood.
. Verbs: see# hear# spea.# te""# sa'# ans/er# a.e# &i,e# drin..
- - -
It has been mentioned that the English proper element is, in
certain respects, opposed to the Iirst two groups. Not only can it be
approximately dated, but these words have another distinctive
Ieature: they are speciIically English having no cognates
in other
languages whereas Ior Indo-European and Germanic words such
cognates can always be Iound, as, Ior instance, Ior the Iollowing
words oI the Indo-European group.
*tar[ Germ. *tern# Lat. *te""a# Gr. aster.
*ad[ Germ, satt# Lat. satis# R. <RI# Snscr. sd0.
*tand[ Germ, stehen# Lat. stare# R. <I7NI9# Snscr. stha0.
Here are some examples oI English proper words. These words
stand quite alone in the vocabulary system oI Indo-European
languages: -ird# -o'# &ir"# "ord# "ad'# /oan# dais'# a"/a's.
OI course, one might remark that Russian vocabulary also has the
words 87O^# 8A^;# ?7> (in the meaning
Autun is a French borrowing.
Co&nates words oI the same etymological root, oI com
mon origin.
oI "native servant"). The explanation is simple: these words have
been borrowed by Russian Irom English and thereIore are not
cognates oI their English counterparts.
It should be taken into consideration that the English proper
element also contains all the later Iormations, that is, words which
were made aIter the 5th century according to English word-building
patterns (see Ch. 5, 6) both Irom native and borrowed morphemes.
For instance, the adjective 'beautiIul' built Irom the French borrowed
root and the native suIIix belongs to the English proper element. It is
natural, that the quantity oI such words is immense.
/$ Consider o!r ans"ers #o #he follo"ing$
1. How can you account Ior the Iact that English vo
cabulary contains such an immense number oI words oI
Ioreign origin?
2. What is the earliest group oI English borrowings?
Date it.
3. What Celtic borrowings are there in English?
Date them.
4. Which words were introduced into English vocab
ulary during the period oI Christianization?
5. What are the characteristic Ieatures oI Scandina
vian borrowings?
6. When and under what circumstances did England
become a bi-lingual country? What imprint Ieatures
were leIt in English vocabulary by this period?
7. What are the characteristic Ieatures oI words bor
rowed into English during the Renaissance?
8. What suIIixes and preIixes can help you to recog
nize words oI Latin and French origin?
9. What is meant by the native element oI English
//$ 6!bdi+ide all #he follo"ing "ords of na#i+e origin in#o8
a9 /ndo1e!ro)ean2 b9 :ermanic2 c9 5nglish )ro)er$
Daughter, woman, room, land, cow, moon, sea, red, spring, three,
I, lady, always, goose, bear, Iox, lord, tree, nose, birch, grey, old,
glad, daisy, heart, hand, night, to eat, to see, to make.
///$ ;ead #he follo"ing <o(es$ 5x)lain #he e#molog of #he
i#alici0ed "ords$ /f necessar cons!l# a dic#ionar$
1 . He dropped around to the &ir"2s house and as he
ran up the steps he was conIronted by her "itt"e -rother.
"Hi, Billy."
"Hi,"said the brat.
"Is your sister expecting me?"
"How do you know that?"
"She's gone out."
2. A an was at a theatre. He was sitting behind t/o
/oen whose continuous chatter became more than he
could bear. Leaning Iorward, he tapped one oI them on
the shou"der.
"Pardon me, madam," he said, "but I can't hear.C "You are not
supposed to this is a private conversation," she hit back.
3. Sonny: (ather# what do they a.e asphalt
roads oI?
Father: That makes a thousand question you've asked today. Do
give me a "itt"e peace. What do you thin. would happen iI I had
asked my Iather so an' questions?
Sonny: You might have learnt how to answer some oI mine.
*.eat T. A Concise Etymological Dictionary oI the English
Language. OxIord, 1961 Tec."e' X. An Etymological Dictionary oI
Modern English. V. III. No 4, 19.
The Etymology oI English Words (continued)
Why Are Words Borrowed?
This question partially concerns the historical circumstances
which stimulate the borrowing process. Each time two nations come
into close contact, certain borrowings are a natural consequence. The
nature oI the contact may be diIIerent. It may be wars, invasions or
conquests when Ioreign words are in eIIect imposed upon the
reluctant conquered nation. There are also periods oI peace when the
process oI borrowing is due to trade and international cultural
These latter circumstances are certainly more Iavourable Ior
stimulating the borrowing process, Ior during invasions and
occupations the natural psychological reaction oI the oppressed
nation is to reject and condemn the language oI the oppressor. In this
respect the linguistic heritage oI the Norman Conquest seems
exceptional, especially iI compared to the inIluence oI the Mongol-
Tartar Yoke on the Russian language. The Mongol-Tartar Yoke also
represented a long period oI cruel oppression, yet the imprint leIt by
it on the Russian vocabulary is comparatively insigniIicant.
The diIIerence in the consequences oI these evidently similar
historical events is usually explained by the divergence in the level oI
civilisation oI the two conIlicting nations. Russian civilisation and
also the level oI its language development at the time oI the Mongol-
Tartar invasion were superior to those oI the invaders. That is why
the Russian language successIully resisted
the inIluence oI a less developed language system. On the other hand,
the Norman culture oI the 11th c. was certainly superior to that oI the
Saxons. The result was that an immense number oI French words
Iorced their way into English vocabulary. Yet, linguistically speaking,
this seeming deIeat turned into a victory. Instead oI being smashed
and broken by the powerIul intrusion oI the Ioreign element, the
English language managed to preserve its essential structure and
vastly enriched its expressive resources with the new borrowings.
But all this only serves to explain the conditions which encourage
the borrowing process. The question oI /h' words are borrowed by
one language Irom another is still unanswered.
Sometimes it is done to Iill a gap in vocabulary. When the Saxons
borrowed Latin words Ior "butter", "plum", "beet", they did it
because their own vocabularies lacked words Ior these new objects.
For the same reason the words potato and toato were borrowed by
English Irom Spanish when these vegetables were Iirst brought to
England by the Spaniards.
But there is also a great number oI words which are borrowed Ior
other reasons. There may be a word (or even several words) which
expresses some particular concept, so that there is no gap in the
vocabulary and there does not seem to be any need Ior borrowing.
Yet, one more word is borrowed which means almost the same,
almost, but not exactly. It is borrowed because it represents the same
concept in some new aspect, supplies a new shade oI meaning or a
diIIerent emotional colouring (see Ch. 10). This type oI borrowing
enlarges groups oI synonyms and greatly provides to enrich the
expressive resources oI the vocabulary. That is how the Latin cordia"
was added to the native )riend"'# the French desire to /ish# the Latin
adire and the French adore to "i.e and "o,e.
%o .orro"ed &ords Change or %o The
;emain #he 6ame=
The eminent scholar Maria Pei put the same question in a more
colourIul way: "Do words when they migrate Irom one language into
another behave as people do under similar circumstances? Do they
remain alien in appearance, or do they take out citizenship papers?"
Most oI them take the second way, that is, they adjust themselves
to their new environment and get adapted to the norms oI the
recipient language. They undergo certain changes which gradually
erase their Ioreign Ieatures, and, Iinally, they are assimilated.
Sometimes the process oI assimilation develops to the point when the
Ioreign origin oI a word is quite unrecognisable. It is diIIicult to
believe now that such words as dinner# cat# ta.e# cup are not English
by origin. Others, though well assimilated, still bear traces oI their
Ioreign background. Vistance and de,e"opent# Ior instance, are
identiIied as borrowings by their French suIIixes, s.in and s.' by the
Scandinavian initial s.# po"ice and re&ie by the French stress on the
last syllable.
Borrowed words are adjusted in the three main areas oI the new
language system: the phonetic, the grammatical and the semantic.
The lasting nature oI phonetic adaptation is best shown by
comparing Norman French borrowings to later ones. The Norman
borrowings have Ior a long time been Iully adapted to the phonetic
system oI the English language: such words as ta-"e# p"ate# coura&e#
chi,a"r' bear no phonetic traces oI their French origin. Some oI the
later (Parisian) borrowings, even the ones borrowed as early as the
15thc., still sound surprisingly French: re&ie# ,a"ise# atinee# ca)e#
-a""et. In these cases phonetic adaptation is not completed.
The three stages oI gradual phonetic assimilation oI French
borrowings can be illustrated by diIIerent phonetic variants oI the
word &ara&e[
Grammatical adaptation consists in a complete change oI the
Iormer paradigm oI the borrowed word (i. e. system oI the
grammatical Iorms peculiar to it as a part oI speech). II it is a noun, it
is certain to adopt, sooner or later, a new system oI declension iI it is
a verb, it will be conjugated according to the rules oI the recipient
language. Yet, this is also a lasting process. The Russian noun JL89I7
/as borrowed Irom French early in the 19th c. and has not yet
acquired the Russian system oI declension. The same can be said
about such English Renaissance borrowings as datu (pl. data)#
phenoenon (pl. phenoena)# criterion (pl. criteria) whereas earlier
Latin borrowings such as cup# p"u# street# /a"" were Iully adapted to
the grammatical system oI the language long ago.
By semantic adaptation is meant adjustment to the system oI
meanings oI the vocabulary. It has been mentioned that borrowing is
generally caused either by the necessity to Iill a gap in the vocabulary
or by a chance to add a synonym conveying an old concept in a new
way. Yet, the process oI borrowing is not always so purposeIul,
logical and eIIicient as it might seem at Iirst sight. Sometimes a word
may be borrowed "blindly", so to speak, Ior no obvious reason, to
Iind that it is not wanted because there is no gap in the vocabulary nor
in the group oI synonyms which it could conveniently Iill. Quite a
number oI such "accidental" borrowings are very soon rejected by the
vocabulary and Iorgotten. But there are others which manage to take
root by the process oI semantic adaptation. The adjective "ar&e# Ior
instance, was borrowed Irom French in the meaning oI "wide". It was
not actually wanted, because it Iully coincided with the English
adjective /ide without adding

any new shades or aspects to its meaning. This could have led to its
rejection. Yet, "ar&e managed, to establish itselI very Iirmly in the
English vocabulary by semantic adjustment. It entered another
synonymic group with the general meaning oI "big in size". At Iirst it
was applied to objects characterised by vast horizontal dimensions,
thus retaining a trace oI its Iormer meaning, and now, though still
bearing some Ieatures oI that meaning, is successIully competing
with -i& having approached it very closely, both in Irequency and
The adjective &a' was borrowed Irom French in several meanings
at once: "noble oI birth", "bright, shining", "multi-coloured". Rather
soon it shiIted its ground developing the meaning "joyIul, high-
spirited" in which sense it became a synonym oI the native err' and
in some time leIt it Iar behind in Irequency and range oI meaning.
This change was again caused by the process oI semantic adjustment:
there was no place in the vocabulary Ior the Iormer meanings oI &a'#
but the group with the general meaning oI "high spirits" obviously
lacked certain shades which were successIully supplied by &a'.
The adjective nice was a French borrowing meaning "silly" at
Iirst. The English change oI meaning seems to have arisen with the
use oI the word in expressions like a nice distinction# meaning Iirst "a
silly, hair-splitting distinction", then a precise one, ultimately an
attractive one. But the original necessity Ior change was caused once
more by the Iact that the meaning oI "Ioolish" was not wanted in the
vocabulary and thereIore nice was obliged to look Ior a gap in
another semantic Iield.
International Words
It is oIten the case that a word is borrowed by several languages,
and not just by one. Such words usually con-
vey concepts which are signiIicant in the Iield oI communication.
Many oI them are oI Latin and Greek origin. Most names oI
sciences are international, e. g. phi"osoph'# atheatics# ph'sics#
cheistr'# -io"o&'# edicine# "in&uistics# "e%ico"o&'. There are also
numerous terms oI art in this group: usic# theatre# draa# tra&ed'#
coed'# artist# priadonna.
It is quite natural that political terms Irequently occur in the
international group oI borrowings: po"itics# po"ic'# re,o"ution#
pro&ress# deocrac'# counis# anti0i"itaris.
20th c. scientiIic and technological advances brought a great
number oI new international words: atoic# anti-iotic# radio#
te"e,ision# sputni.. The latter is a Russian borrowing, and it became
an international word (meaning a man-made satellite) in 1961,
immediately aIter the Iirst space Ilight by Yury Gagarin.
The English language also contributed a considerable number oI
international words to world languages. Among them the sports terms
occupy a prominent position: )oot-a""# ,o""e'0-a""# -ase-a""# hoc.e'#
cric.et# ru&-'# tennis# &o")# etc.
Fruits and IoodstuIIs imported Irom exotic countries oIten
transport their names too and, being simultaneously imported to
many countries, become international: co))ee# cocoa# choco"ate#
coca0co"a# -anana# an&o# a,ocado# &rape)ruit.
It is important to note that international words are mainly
borrowings. The outward similarity oI such words as the E. son# the
Germ. *ohn and the R. <R= should not lead one to the quite Ialse
conclusion that they are international words. They represent the Indo-
Euron group oI the native element in each respective language
and are cognates, i. e. words oI the same etymological root, and not
5#mological %o!ble#s
The words shirt and s.irt etymologically descend Irom the same
root. *hirt is a native word, and s.irt (as the initial s. suggests), is a
Scandinavian borrowing. Their phonemic shape is diIIerent, and yet
there is a certain resemblance which reIlects their common origin.
Their meanings are also diIIerent but easily associated: they both
denote articles oI clothing.
Such words as these two originating Irom the same etymological
source, but diIIering in phonemic shape and in meaning are called
et'o"o&ica" dou-"ets.
They may enter the vocabulary by diIIerent routes. Some oI these
pairs, like shirt and s.irt# consist oI a native word and a borrowed
word: shre/# n. (E.) scre/# n. (Sc.).
Others are represented by two borrowings Irom diIIerent
languages which are historically descended Irom the same root:
senior (Lat.) sir (Fr.), cana" (Lat.) channe" (Fr.), captain (Lat.)
chie)tan (Fr.).
Still others were borrowed Irom the same language twice, but in
diIIerent periods: corpse ko:ps (Norm. Fr.) corps ko: (Par. Fr.),
tra,e" (Norm. Fr.) tra,ai" (Par. Fr.), ca,a"r' (Norm. Fr.)
chi,a"r' (Par. Fr.), &ao" (Norm. Fr.) 3ai" (Par. Fr.).
Xt'o"o&ica" trip"ets (i. e. groups oI three words oI common root)
occur rarer, but here are at least two examples: hospita" (Lat.)
hoste" (Norm. Fr.) hote" (Par. Fr.), to capture (Lat.) to catch
(Norm. Fr.) to chase (Par. Fr.).
A doublet may also consist oI a shortened word and the one Irom
which it was derived (see Ch. 6 Ior a description oI shortening as a
type oI word-building): histor' stor'# )antas' )anc'# )anatic
)an# de)ence )ence# courtes' curts'# shado/ shade.
The term "oan0/ord is equivalent to -orro/in&. By translation-
loans we indicate borrowings oI a special kind. They are not taken
into the vocabulary oI another language more or less in the same
phonemic shape in which they have been Iunctioning in their own
language, but undergo the process oI translation. It is quite obvious
that it is only compound words (i. e. words oI two or more stems)
which can be subjected to such an operation, each stem being
translated separately: asterpiece (Irom Germ. Yeisterstgc.)#
/onder chi"d (Irom Germ. Tunder.ind)# )irst dancer (Irom Ital.
pria0-a""erina)# co""ecti,e )ar (Irom R. 678h7P)# )i,e0'ear p"an
(Irom R. JNI;8AI6L).
The Russian 678h7P was borrowed twice, by way oI translation-
loan (co""ecti,e )ar) and by way oI direct borrowing (.o".hoG).
The case is not unique. During the 2nd World War the German
word W"itG.rie& was also borrowed into English in two diIIerent
Iorms: the translation-loan "i&htnin&0/ar and the direct borrowings
-"itG.rie& and -"itG.
,re 5#mological
and 6#lis#ic Charac#eris#ics
of &ords a# ,ll /n#errela#ed=
Is it possible to establish regular associations between any oI the
groups oI etymological classiIication (see p. 52) and the stylistic
classiIication oI English vocabulary (Ch. 2)? The answer must be in
the aIIirmative.
It is quite natural to expect to Iind a considerable number oI
native words in the basic vocabulary, iI we remember that the latter
comprises words denoting essential objects and phenomena. Yet, one
should keep in mind that among basic vocabulary words there are
also rather numerous Latin and French borrowings.
In general, we should not be misled into thinking that all short
common words are native, and that only three- and Iour-syllable
words came Irom Ioreign sources. Words like ,er'# air# hour# cr'# oi"#
cat# pa'# -o%# )ace# poor# dress are oI Ioreign origin despite their
native appearance and common use. So it would be correct to state
that, though native words prevail in the basic vocabulary, this stratum
also comprises a considerable number oI old borrowings which have
become so Iully adapted to the English language system that they are
practically indistinguishable Irom the native stock.
The centre oI gravity oI borrowed words in the stylistic
classiIication is represented by two groups: learned words and
terminology. In these strata the Ioreign element dominates the native.
It also seems that the whole opposition oI "Iormal versus inIormal" is
based on the deeper underlying opposition oI "borrowed versus
native", as the inIormal strata, especially slang and dialect, abound in
native words even though it is possible to quote numerous
Comparing the expressive and stylistic value oI the French and
the English words in such synonymic pairs as to -e&in to
coence# to /ish to desire# happiness )e"icit'# O. Jespersen
remarks: "The French word is usually more Iormal, more reIined, and
has a less strong hold on the emotional side oI liIe." 29
The truth oI this observation becomes even more obvious iI we
regard certain pairs within which a native word may be compared
with its Latin synonym: other "' aterna"# )ather"' paterna"#
chi"dish in)an ti"e# dau&hter"' )i"ia"# etc. Yother"' "o,e seems
much warmer than aterna" )ee"in&s which sounds dutiIul but
cold. The word chi"dish is associated with all the wonder and vivid
poetry oI the earliest human age whereas in)anti"e is quite dry. You
may speak about
chi"dish &aes and chi"dish char# but about in)anti"e diseases#
whereas in)anti"e ind implies criticism.
It is interesting to note that a similar pair oI words sunn' so"ar
cannot even be regarded as synonyms though semantically they both
pertain to the sun. Yet, iI a Iine day can be described as sunn'# it
certainly cannot be characterised by the word so"ar which is used in
highly Iormal terminological senses (e. g. so"ar ener&'). The same is
true about hand' anua"# tooth' (e. g. a tooth' &rin) denta"
(term again), nos' (e. g. a nos' .ind o) person) nasa" (e. g. nasa"
sounds# ,oice)
/$ Consider o!r ans"ers #o #he follo"ing$
1. Which conditions stimulate the borrowing pro
2. Why are words borrowed?
3. What stages oI assimilation do borrowings go
4. In what spheres oI communication do international words
Irequently occur?
5. What do we understand by etymological doublets?
6. What are the characteristic Ieatures oI translation-loans?
7. How are the etymological and stylistic characteristics oI words
//$ 5x)lain #he e#molog of #he follo"ing "ords$ &ri#e #hem o!#
in #hree col!mns8 a9 f!ll assimila#ed "ords> b9 )ar#iall
assimila#ed "ords> c9 !nassimila#ed "ords$ 5x)lain #he reasons
for o!r choice in each case$
Pen, hors d'oeuvre, ballet, beet, butter, skin, take, cup, police,
distance, monk, garage, phenomenon,
Also see Supplementary Material, p.p. 276.
How English Words Are Made. Word-Building
BeIore turning to the various processes oI making words, it would
be useIul to analyse the related problem oI the composition oI words,
i. e. oI their constituent parts.
II viewed structurally, words appear to be divisible into smaller
units which are called orphees. Morphemes do not occur as Iree
Iorms but only as constituents oI words. Yet they possess meanings oI
their own.
All morphemes are subdivided into two large classes: roots (or
radica"s) and a))i%es. The latter, in their turn, Iall into pre)i%es which
precede the root in the structure oI the word (as in re0read# is0
pronounce# un/e"") and su))i%es which Iollow the root (as in teach0er#
cur0a-"e# diet0ate).
Words which consist oI a root and an aIIix (or several aIIixes) are
called deri,ed /ords or deri,ati,es and are produced by the process
oI word-building known as a))i%ation (or deri,ation).
Derived words are extremely numerous in the English vocabulary.
SuccessIully competing with this structural type is the so-called root
/ord which has only a root morpheme in its structure. This type is
By /ord0-ui"din& are understood processes oI producing new
words Irom the resources oI this particular language. Together with
borrowing, word-building provides Ior enlarging and enriching the
vocabulary oI the language.
widely represented by a great number oI words belonging to the
original English stock or to earlier borrowings (house# roo# -oo.#
/or.# port# street# ta-"e# etc.), and, in Modern English, has been
greatly enlarged by the type oI word-building called con,ersion (e. g.
to hand# v. Iormed Irom the noun handD to can# v. Irom can# n. to
pa"e# v. Irom pa"e# adj. a )ind# n. Irom to )ind# v. etc.).
Another wide-spread word-structure is a compound word
consisting oI two or more stems
(e. g. dinin&0roo# -"ue-e""#
other0in0"a/# &ood0)or0nothin&). Words oI this structural type are
produced by the word-building process called coposition.
The somewhat odd-looking words like )"u# pra# "a-# Y. 4.# f0
da'# i0-o- are called shortenin&s# contractions or curtai"ed /ords
and are produced by the way oI word-building called shortenin&
The Iour types (root words, derived words, compounds,
shortenings) represent the main structural types oI Modern English
words, and conversion, derivation and composition the most
productive ways oI word-building.
To return to the question posed by the title oI this chapter, oI how
words are made, let us try and get a more detailed picture oI each oI
the major types oI Modern English word-building and, also, oI some
minor types.
The process oI a))i%ation consists in coining a new word by
adding an aIIix or several aIIixes to some root morpheme. The role oI
the aIIix in this procedure is very important and thereIore it is
necessary to consider certain Iacts about the main types oI aIIixes.
*te is part oI the word consisting oI root and aIIix. In English
words stern and root oIten coincide.
From the etymological point oI view aIIixes are classiIied into the
same two large groups as words: native and borrowed.
6ome ?a#i+e 6!ffixes
-er worker, iner# teacher, painter, etc.
-ness co"dness# "one"iness# "o,e"iness# etc.
-ing Ieelin&, meanin&, singin&, readin&, etc.
-dom Ireedo# wisdo# kingdo# etc.
-hood childhood, manhood, motherhood, etc.
-ship Iriendship, companionship, master-ship,
-th length, breadth, health# truth# etc.
-Iul care)u"# joy)u"# wonder)u"# sin)u"# skil)u"#
-less care"ess, sleep"ess, cloud"ess, sense-"ess#
-y coz'# tid'# merr'# snowy, show'# etc.
-ish English, Spanish, reddish, childish, etc.
-ly "one"'# "o,e"'# u&"'# "i.e"'# "ord"'# etc.
-en /ooden# /oo""en# silken, golden, etc.
-some handsoe# quarrelsoe, tiresoe, etc.
-en widen, redden, darken, sadden, etc.
-ly warm"'# hard"', simp"', careIul"', cold"'#
The table gives examples oI especially Irequent native aIIixes.
Borrowed aIIixes, especially oI Romance origin are numerous in
the English vocabulary (Ch. 3). It would be wrong, though, to
suppose that aIIixes are borrowed in the same way and Ior the same
reasons as words. An aIIix oI Ioreign origin can be regarded as
borrowed only aIter it has begun an independent and active liIe in the
recipient language, that is, is taking part in the word-making
processes oI that language. This can only occur when the total oI
words with this aIIix is so great in the recipient language as to aIIect
the native speakers' subconscious to the extent that they no longer
realise its Ioreign Ilavour and accept it as their own.
- - -
AIIixes can also be classiIied into productive and non-productive
types. By producti,e aIIixes we mean the ones, which take part in
deriving new words in this particular period oI language
development. The best way to identiIy productive aIIixes is to look
Ior them among neo"o&iss and so-called nonce0/ords# i. e. words
coined and used only Ior this particular occasion. The latter are
usually Iormed on the level oI living speech and reIlect the most
productive and progressive patterns in word-building. When a literary
critic writes about a certain book that it is an unputdo/na-"e thri""er#
we will seek in vain this strange and impressive adjective in
dictionaries, Ior it is a nonce-word coined on the current pattern oI
Modern English and is evidence oI the high productivity oI the
adjective-Iorming borrowed suIIix 0a-"e and the native preIix un0.
Consider, Ior example, the Iollowing:
ProIessor Pringle was a thinnish, baldish, dispeptic-lookingish
cove with an eye like a haddock.
(From Ri&ht0io# !ee,es by P. G. Wodehouse) 81
The adjectives thinnish and -a"dish bring to mind dozens oI other
adjectives made with the same suIIix: o"dish# 'oun&ish# annish#
&ir"ish# )attish# "on&ish# 'e""o/ish# etc. But dispeptic0"oo.in&ish is the
author's creation aimed at a humorous eIIect, and, at the same time,
proving beyond doubt that the suIIix 0ish is a live and active one.
The same is well illustrated by the Iollowing popular statement: "
don2t "i.e *unda' e,enin&s[ I )ee" so Yonda'ishC. (Yonda'ish is
certainly a nonce-word.)
One should not conIuse the productivity oI aIIixes with their
Irequency oI occurrence. There are quite a number oI high-Irequency
aIIixes which, nevertheless, are no longer used in word-derivation (e.
g. the adjective-Iorming native suIIixes 0)u"# 0"'D the adjective-
Iorming suIIixes oI Latin origin 0ant# 0ent# 0a" which are quite
6ome Prod!c#i+e ,ffixes
Noun-Iorming suIIixes -er, -ing, -ness, -ism
(ipressionist)# -ance
Adjective-Iorming suIIixes -y, -ish, -ed ("earned)# -able, -less
Adverb-Iorming suIIixes -ly
Verb-Iorming suIIixes -ize-ise (rea"ise)# -ate
PreIixes un- (unhapp')# re-
(reconstruct)# dis- (disappoint)
Zote. Examples are given only Ior the aIIixes which are not listed
in the tables at p. 82 and p. 83.
International suIIixes.
6ome ?on1Prod!c#i+e ,ffixes
Noun-Iorming suIIixes -th, -hood
Adjective-Iorming suIIixes -ly, -some, -en, -ous
Verb-Iorming suIIix -en
Zote. The native noun-Iorming suIIixes 0do and 0ship ceased to
be productive centuries ago. Yet, ProIessor I. V. Arnold in +he
Xn&"ish Tord gives some examples oI comparatively new Iormations
with the suIIix 0do[ -oredo# ser)do# s"a,edo @15A$ The same is
true about 0ship (e. g. sa"esanship). The adjective-Iorming 0ish#
which leaves no doubt as to its productivity nowadays, has
comparatively recently regained it, aIter having been non-productive
Ior many centuries.
6eman#ics of ,ffixes
The orphee# and thereIore aIIix, which is a type oI morpheme,
is generally deIined as the smallest indivisible component oI the word
possessing a meaning oI its own. Meanings oI aIIixes are speciIic and
considerably diIIer Irom those oI root morphemes. AIIixes have
widely generalised meanings and reIer the concept conveyed by the
whole word to a certain category, which is vast and all-embracing.
So, the noun-Iorming suIIix 0er could be roughly deIined as
designating persons Irom the object oI their occupation or labour
(painter the one who paints) or Irom their place oI origin or abode
(southerner the one living in the South). The adjective-Iorming
suIIix 0)u" has the meaning oI "Iull oI", "characterised by" (-eauti)u"#
care)u") whereas 0ish may oIten imply insuIIiciency oI quality
(&reenish j green, but not quite 'oun&ish not quite young but
looking it).
Such examples might lead one to the somewhat hasty conclusion
that the meaning oI a derived word is always
a sum oI the meanings oI its morphemes: un1eat1a-"e "not Iit to
eat" where not stands Ior un0 and )it Ior 0a-"e.
There are numerous derived words whose meanings can really be
easily deduced Irom the meanings oI their constituent parts. Yet, such
cases represent only the Iirst and simplest stage oI semantic
readjustment within derived words. The constituent morphemes
within derivatives do not always preserve their current meanings and
are open to subtle and complicated semantic shiIts.
Let us take at random some oI the adjectives Iormed with the
same productive suIIix 0'# and try to deduce the meaning oI the suIIix
Irom their dictionary deIinitions:
-rain' (inIorm.) intelligent, intellectual, i. e. characterised -'
catt' quietly or slyly malicious, spiteIul, i. e. characterised -'
)eatures ascribed to a cat
chatt' given to chat, inc"ined to chat
dress' (inIorm.) showy in dress, i. e. inc"ined to dress well or
to be overdressed
)ish' (e. g. in a )ish' stor'# inIorm.) improbable, hard to
believe ("i.e stories told by Iishermen)
)o%' Ioxlike, cunning or craIty, i. e. characterised -' )eatures
ascribed to a Iox
sta&' theatrical, unnatural, i. e. inc"ined to aIIectation, to
unnatural theatrical manners
touch' apt to take oIIence on slight provocation, i. e. resentin&
a touch or contact (not at all inclined to be touched)
The Random-House Dictionary deIines the meaning oI the 0'
suIIix as "characterised by or inclined to the substance or action oI
the root to which the aIIix is at-
Some oI the listed adjectives have several meanings, but only
one is given so as to keep the list manageable.
tached". 46 Yet, even the Iew given examples show that, on the one
hand, there are cases, like touch' or )ish' that are not covered by the
deIinition. On the other hand, even those cases that are roughly
covered, show a wide variety oI subtle shades oI meaning. It is not
only the suIIix that adds its own meaning to the meaning oI the root,
but the suIIix is, in its turn, aIIected by the root and undergoes certain
semantic changes, so that the mutual inIluence oI root and aIIix
creates a wide range oI subtle nuances.
But is the suIIix 0' probably exceptional in this respect? It is
suIIicient to examine Iurther examples to see that other aIIixes also
oIIer an interesting variety oI semantic shades. Compare, Ior instance,
the meanings oI adjective-Iorming suIIixes in each oI these groups oI
1. eata-"e ()it or &ood to eat)
"o,a-"e (/orth' o) loving)
Buestiona-"e (open to doubt, to question)
ia&ina-"e (capa-"e o) being imagined)
2. "o,e"' (charming, beautiIul, i. e. inspirin& love)
"one"' (solitary, without company lone the
meaning oI the suIIix does not seem to add any
thing to that oI the root)
)riend"' (characteristic o) or -e)ittin& a Iriend) hea,en"'
(rese-"in& or -e)ittin& heaven beautiIul, splendid)
3. chi"dish (rese-"in& or -e)ittin& a child)
ta""ish (rather tall, but not quite, i. e. approachin& the Bua"it'
o) big size)
&ir"ish ("i.e a girl, but, oIten, in a bad imitation oI one)
-oo.ish (1) &i,en or de,oted to reading or study (2) more
acquainted with books than with real
The italicised words roughly convey the meanings oI the suIIixes
in each adjective.
liIe, i. e. possessin& the Bua"it' o) bookish learning)
The semantic distinctions oI words produced Irom the same root
by means oI diIIerent aIIixes are also oI considerable interest, both
Ior language studies and research work. Compare: /oan"'
/oanish# )"o/er' )"o/ered )"o/erin&# starr' starred#
reddened reddish# shortened shortish.
The semantic diIIerence between the members oI these groups is
very obvious: the meanings oI the suIIixes are so distinct that they
colour the whole words.
Toan"' is used in a complimentary manner about girls and
women, whereas /oanish is used to indicate an eIIeminate man and
certainly implies criticism.
("o/er' is applied to speech or a style (cI. with the R.
nt), )"o/ered means "decorated with a pattern oI Ilowers" (e.
g. )"o/ered si". or chintG# c). with the R. nt) and )"o/erin& is
the same as -"ossoin& (e. g. )"o/erin& -ushes or shru-s# c). with the
R. nm) .
*tarr' means "resembling stars" (e. g. starr' e'es) and starred
"covered or decorated with stars" (e. g. starred s.ies).
Reddened and shortened both imply the result oI an action or
process, as in the e'es reddened /ith /eepin& or a shortened ,ersion
o) a stor' (i. e. a story that has been abridged) whereas shortish and
reddish point to insuIIiciency oI quality: reddish is not exactly red,
but tinged with red, and a shortish man is probably a little taller than
a man described as short.
When in a book-review a book is reIerred to as a sp"endid read# is
read to be regarded as a verb or a noun? What part oI speech is roo
in the sentence: I /as to roo /ith another &ir" ca""ed !essie. II a
acter in a novel is spoken about as one who had to -e satis)ied /ith
the ro"e o) a has0-een# what is this odd-looking has0-een# a verb or a
noun? One must admit that it has quite a verbal appearance, but why,
then, is it preceded by the article?
Why is the word i) used in the plural Iorm in the popular proverb:
I) i)s and ans /ere pots and pans5 (an iI, dial., arch.)
This type oI questions naturally arise when one deals with words
produced by conversion, one oI the most productive ways oI modern
English word-building.
Conversion is sometimes reIerred to as an aIIixless way oI word-
building or even aIIixless derivation. Saying that, however, is saying
very little because there are other types oI word-building in which
new words are also Iormed without aIIixes (most compounds,
contracted words, sound-imitation words, etc.).
Conversion consists in making a new word Irom some existing
word by changing the category oI a part oI speech, the morphemic
shape oI the original word remaining unchanged. The new word has a
meaning which diIIers Irom that oI the original one though it can
more or less be easily associated with it. It has also a new paradigm
peculiar to its new category as a part oI speech.
nurse# n. to nurse# v

paradigm 0s# pl.
02s# poss. c., Verbal
sg. paradigm
0s2# poss. c., pl
0s# 3rd p. sg.
0ed# past indeI.,
past part.
0in&#0 pres.
part., gerund
The question oI conversion has, Ior a long time, been a
controversial one in several aspects. The very
essence oI this process has been treated by a number oI scholars (e. g.
H. Sweet), not as a word-building act, but as a mere Iunctional
change. From this point oI view the word hand in iand e that -oo.
is not a verb, but a noun used in a verbal syntactical Iunction, that is,
hand (e) and hands (in *he has sa"" hands) are not two diIIerent
words but one. Hence, the cannot be treated as one oI word-
Iormation Ior no new word appears.
According to this Iunctional approach, conversion may be
regarded as a speciIic Ieature oI the English categories oI parts oI
speech, which are supposed to be able to break through the rigid
borderlines dividing one category Irom another thus enriching the
process oI communication not by the creation oI new words but
through the sheer Ilexibility oI the syntactic structures.
Nowadays this theory Iinds increasingly Iewer supporters, and
conversion is universally accepted as one oI the major ways oI
enriching English vocabulary with new words. One oI the major
arguments Ior this approach to conversion is the semantic change that
regularly accompanies each instance oI conversion. Normally, a word
changes its syntactic Iunction without any shiIt in lexical meaning. E.
g. both in 'e""o/ "ea,es and in +he "ea,es /ere turnin& 'e""o/ the
adjective denotes colour. Yet, in +he "ea,es 'e""o/ed the converted
unit no longer denotes colour, but the process oI changing colour, so
that there is an essential change in meaning.
The change oI meaning is even more obvious in such pairs as
hand k to hand# )ace k to )ace# to &o k a &o# to a.e k a a.e# etc.
The other argument is the regularity and completeness with which
converted units develop a paradigm oI their new category oI part oI
speech. As soon as it has
crossed the category borderline, the new word automatically acquires
all the properties oI the new category, so that iI it has entered the verb
category, it is now regularly used in all the Iorms oI tense and it also
develops the Iorms oI the participle and the gerund. Such regularity
can hardly be regarded as indicating a mere Iunctional change which
might be expected to bear more occasional characteristics. The
completeness oI the paradigms in new conversion Iormations seems
to be a decisive argument proving that here we are dealing with new
words and not with mere Iunctional variants. The data oI the more
reputable modern English dictionaries conIirm this point oI view:
they all present converted pairs as homonyms, i. e. as two words, thus
supporting the thesis that conversion is a word-building process.
Conversion is not only a highly productive but also a particularly
English way oI word-building. Its immense productivity is
considerably encouraged by certain Ieatures oI the English language
in its modern stage oI development. The analytical structure oI
Modern English greatly Iacilitates processes oI making words oI one
category oI parts oI speech Irom words oI another. So does the
simplicity oI paradigms oI English parts oI speech. A great number oI
one-syllable words is another Iactor in Iavour oI conversion, Ior such
words are naturally more mobile and Ilexible than polysyllables.
Conversion is a convenient and "easy" way oI enriching the
vocabulary with new words. It is certainly an advantage to have two
(or more) words where there was one, all oI them Iixed on the same
structural and semantic base.
The high productivity oI conversion Iinds its reIlection in speech
where numerous occasional cases oI conversion can be Iound, which
are not registered by dictionaries and
which occur momentarily, through the immediate need oI the
situation. CI) an'-od' oran&es e a&ain toni&ht# I2"" .noc. his )ace
o))# says the annoyed hero oI a story by O'Henry when a shop-
assistant oIIers him oranges (Ior the tenth time in one night) instead
oI peaches Ior which he is looking ("Little Speck in Garnered Fruit").
One is not likely to Iind the verb to oran&e in any dictionary, but in
this situation it answers the need Ior brevity, expressiveness and
The very Iirst example, which opens the section on conversion in
this chapter (the -oo. is a sp"endid read)# though taken Irom a book-
review, is a nonce-word, which may be used by reviewers now and
then or in inIormal verbal communication, but has not yet Iound its
way into the universally acknowledged English vocabulary.
Such examples as these show that conversion is a vital and
developing process that penetrates contemporary speech as well.
Subconsciously every English speaker realises the immense
potentiality oI making a word into another part oI speech when the
need arises.
- - -
One should guard against thinking that every case oI noun and
verb (verb and adjective, adjective and noun, etc.) with the same
morphemic shape results Irom conversion. There are numerous pairs
oI words (e. g. "o,e# n. to "o,e# v. work, n. to /or.# v. drin.# n.
to drin.# v., etc.) which did, not occur due to conversion but
coincided as a result oI certain historical processes (dropping oI
endings, simpliIication oI stems) when beIore that they had diIIerent
Iorms (e. g. O. E. "u)u# n. "u)ian# v.). On the other hand, it is quite
true that the Iirst cases oI conversion (which were registered in the
14th c.) imitated such pairs oI
words as "o,e# n. to "o,e# v. Ior they were numerous in the
vocabulary and were subconsciously accepted by native speakers as
one oI the typical language patterns.
- - -
The #"o ca#egories of )ar#s of s)eech es)eciall affec#ed b
con+ersion are no!ns and +erbs$ 'erbs made from no!ns are #he
mos# n!mero!s amongs# #he "ords )rod!ced b con+ersion8 e$ g$
to hand, to back, to face, to eye, to mouth, to nose, to dog, to wolf,
to monkey, to can, to coal, to stage, to screen, to room, to floor, to
blackmail, to blacklist, to honeymoon, and +er man o#hers$
?o!ns are fre*!en#l made from +erbs8 do Be$ g$ This is the
queerest do I've ever come across. Do e+en#2 inciden#92 go Be$ g$
e has still !lenty of go at his age. "o energ92 make, run, find,
catch, cut, walk, worry, show, move, e#c$
'erbs can also be made from ad<ec#i+es8 to !ale, to yellow, to
cool, to grey, to rough Be$ g$ #e decided to rough it in the tents as
the weather was warm$, e#c$
-#her )ar#s of s)eech are no# en#irel !ns!sce)#ible #o
con+ersion as #he follo"ing exam)les sho"8 to down, to out Bas in
a ne"s)a)er heading Di!lomatist %uted from &uda!est$, the u!s
and downs, the ins and outs, like, n2 Bas in the like of me and the
like of you$.
- - -
It was mentioned at the beginning oI this section that a word
made by conversion has a diIIerent meaning Irom that oI the word
Irom which it was made though the two meanings can be associated.
There are certain regularities in these associations which can be
roughly classiIied. For instance, in the group oI verbs
made Irom nouns some oI the regular semantic associations are as
indicated in the Iollowing list:
I. The noun is the name oI a tool or implement, the verb denotes
an action perIormed by the tool: to haer# to nai"# to pin# to -rush#
to co-# to penci".
II. The noun is the name oI an animal, the verb denotes an action
or aspect oI behaviour considered typical oI this animal: to do&# to
/o")# to on.e'# to ape# to )o%# to rat. Yet, to )ish does not mean "to
behave like a Iish" but "to try to catch Iish". The same meaning oI
hunting activities is conveyed by the verb to /ha"e and one oI the
meanings oI to ratD the other is "to turn in Iormer, squeal" (sl.).
III. The name oI a part oI the human body an ac tion
perIormed by it: to hand# to "e& (sl.), to e'e# to e"-o/# to shou"der# to
nose# to outh. However, to )ace does not imply doing something by
or even with one's Iace but turning it in a certain direction. +o -ac.
means either "to move backwards" or, in the Iigurative sense, "to
support somebody or something".
If. The name oI a proIession or occupation an activity typical
oI it: to nurse# to coo.# to aid# to &roo.
V. The name oI a place the process oI occupying
the place or oI putting smth.smb. in it (to roo# to house# to p"ace# to
ta-"e# to ca&e).
VI. The name oI a container the act oI putting smth. within
the container (to can# to -ott"e# to poc.et).
VII. The name oI a meal the process oI taking it (to "unch# to
The suggested groups do not include all the great variety oI verbs
made Irom nouns by conversion. They just represent the most
obvious cases and illustrate, convincingly enough, the great variety oI
semantic interrelations within so-called converted pairs and the
complex nature oI the logical associations which speciIy them.
In actual Iact, these associations are not only complex but
sometimes perplexing. It would seem that iI you know that the verb
Iormed Irom the name oI an animal denotes behaviour typical oI the
animal, it would be easy Ior you to guess the meaning oI such a verb
provided that you know the meaning oI the noun. Yet, it is not always
easy. OI course, the meaning oI to )o% is rather obvious being derived
Irom the associated reputation oI that animal Ior cunning: to )o%
means "to act cunningly or craItily". But what about to /o")5 How is
one to know which oI the characteristics oI the animal was picked by
the speaker's subconscious when this verb was produced? Ferocity?
Loud and unpleasant howling? The inclination to live in packs? Yet,
as the Iollowing example shows, to /o") means "to eat greedily,
voraciously": Char"ie /ent on /o")in& the choco"ate. (R. Dahl)
In the same way, Irom numerous characteristics oI the dog, only
one was chosen Ior the verb to do& which is well illustrated by the
Iollowing example:
And /hat o) Char"es5 I pit' an' detecti,e /ho /ou"d ha,e to
do& hi throu&h those t/ent' onths.
(From +he (rench $ieutenant2s Toan by J. Fowles)
(+o do& to Iollow or track like a dog, especially with hostile
The two verbs to ape and to on.e'# which might be expected to
mean more or less the same, have shared between themselves certain
typical Ieatures oI the same animal:
to ape to imitate, mimic (e. g. ie had a"/a's aped the
&ent"ean in his c"othes and anners. J. Fowles)
How English Words Are Made.
This type oI word-building, in which new words are produced by
combining two or more stems, is one oI the three most productive
types in Modern English, the other two are conversion and aIIixation.
Compounds, though certainly Iewer in quantity than derived or root
words, still represent one oI the most typical and speciIic Ieatures oI
English word-structure.
There are at least three aspects oI composition that present special
The Iirst is the structural aspect. Compounds are not
homogeneous in structure. Traditionally three types are
distinguished: neutral, morphological and syntactic.
In neutral compounds the process oI compounding is realised
without any linking elements, by a mere juxtaposition oI two stems,
as in -"ac.-ird# shop0/indo/# sun)"o/er# -edroo# ta""-o'# etc. There
are three subtypes oI neutral compounds depending on the structure
oI the constituent stems.
The examples above represent the subtype which may be
described as simple neutral compounds: they consist oI simple
aIIixless stems.
Compounds which have aIIixes in their structure are called
derived or derivational compounds. E. g. a-sent0indedness# -"ue0
e'ed# &o"den0haired# -road0shou"dered# "ad'0.i""er# )i"0&oer# usic0
"o,er# hone'0oon0
er# )irst0ni&hter# "ate0coer# ne/coer# ear"'0riser# e,i"doer. The
productivity oI this type is conIirmed by a considerable number oI
comparatively recent Iormations, such as teena&er# -a-'sitter# strap0
han&er# )ourseater ("car or boat with Iour seats"), dou-"edec.er ("a
ship or bus with two decks"). Numerous nonce-words are coined on
this pattern which is another prooI oI its high productivity: e. g.
"uncher0out ("a person who habitually takes his lunch in restaurants
and not at home"), &oose0)"esher ("murder story") or attention &etter
in the Iollowing Iragment:
"Dad," I began ... "I'm going to lose my job." That should be
an attention getter, I Iigured.
(From A (i,e0Co"our Wuic. by P. Anderson Wood)
The third subtype oI neutral compounds is called contracted
copounds. These words have a shortened (contracted) stem in their
structure: +f0set (0pro&ra# 0sho/# 0cana"# etc.), f0da' (fictor' da')#
E0an (Eo,ernent an "FBI agent"), i0-a& (hand-a&)# +0shirt#
Morphological compounds are Iew in number. This type is non-
productive. It is represented by words in which two compounding
stems are combined by a linking vowel or consonant, e. g. An&"o0
*a%on# (ran.o04russian# handi/or.# handicra)t# cra)tsanship#
spo.esan# statesan (see also p. 115).
In syntactic compounds (the term is arbitrary) we once more Iind
a Ieature oI speciIically English word-structure. These words are
Iormed Irom segments oI speech, preserving in their structure
numerous traces oI syntagmatic relations typical oI speech: articles,
prepositions, adverbs, as in the nouns "i"'0o)0the0,a""e'# !ac.0o)0a""0
trades# &ood0)or0nothin&# other0in0"a/# sit0at0hoe. Syntactical
relations and grammatical patterns current in present-day English can
be clearly traced in the structures oI such compound nouns as
pic.0e0up# .no/0a""# .no/0nothin&# &o0-et/een# &et0to&ether#
/hodunit. The last word (meaning "a detective story") was obviously
coined Irom the ungrammatical variant oI the word-group /ho (has)
done it.
In this group oI compounds, once more, we Iind a great number
oI neologisms, and /hodunit is one oI them. Consider, also, the two
Iollowing Iragments which make rich use oI modern city traIIic
Randy managed to weave through a maze oI oneway-streets,
no-leIt-turns, and no-stopping-zones ...
(From A (i,e0Co"our Wuic. by P. Anderson Wood)
"... you go down to the Department oI Motor Vehicles
tomorrow and take your behind-the-wheel test."
The structure oI most compounds is transparent, as it were, and
clearly betrays the origin oI these words Irom word-combinations.
The Iragments below illustrate admirably the very process oI coining
nonce-words aIter the productive patterns oI composition.
"Is all this really true?" he asked. "Or are you pulling my
... Charlie looked slowly around at each oI the Iour old Iaces...
They were quite serious. There was no sign oI joking or leg-
pulling on any oI them.
(From Char"ie and the Choco"ate (actor' by R. Dahl)
"I have decided that you are up to no good. I am well aware that
that is your natural condition. But I preIer you to be up to no good in
London. Which is more used to up-to-no-gooders."
(From +he (rench $ieutenant2s Toan by J. Fowles)
"What iI they capture us?" said Mrs. Bucket. "What iI they shoot
us?" said Grandma Georgina. "What iI my beard were made oI
green spinach?" cried Mr. Wonka. "Bunkum and tommyrot You'll
never get anywhere iI you go about what-iIIing like that. ...We
want no what-iIIers around, right, Charlie?"
(From Char"ie and the Ereat E"ass X"e,ator by R. Dahl)
The Iirst oI the examples presents the nonce-word "e&0pu""in&
coined on the pattern oI neutral derivational compounds. The /hat0
i))in& and /hat0i))ers oI the third extract seem to represent the same
type, though there is something about the words clearly resembling
syntactic compounds: their /hat-i)-nucleus is one oI Irequent patterns
oI living speech. As to the up0to0no0&ooders oI the second example, it
is certainly a combination oI syntactic and derivational types, as it is
made Irom a segment oI speech which is held together by the 0er
suIIix. A similar Iormation is represented by the nonce-word
-rea.)ast0in0the0-edder ("a person who preIers to have his breakIast
in bed").
- - -
Another Iocus oI interest is the semantic aspect oI compound
words, that is, the question oI correlations oI the separate meanings
oI the constituent parts and the actual meaning oI the compound. Or,
to put it in easier terms: can the meaning oI a compound word be
regarded as the sum oI its constituent meanings?
To try and answer this question, let us consider the Iollowing
groups oI examples.
(1) C"assroo# -edroo# /or.in&0an# e,enin&0&o/n# dinin&0
roo# s"eepin&0car# readin&0roo# dancin&0ha"".
This group seems to represent compounds whose meanings can
really be described as the sum oI their constituent meanings. Yet, in
the last Iour words we can distinctly detect a slight shiIt oI meaning.
The Iirst component in these words, iI taken as a Iree Iorm, denotes
an action or state oI whatever or whoever is characterised by the
word. Yet, a sleeping-car is not a car
that sleeps (cI. a s"eepin& chi"d)# nor is a dancing-hall actually
dancing (cI. dancin& pairs).
The shiIt oI meaning becomes much more pronounced in the
second group oI examples.
(2) W"ac.-oard# -"ac.-ird# )oot-a""# "ad'0.i""er# pic.
poc.et# &ood0)or0nothin&# "aG'-ones# chatter-o%.
In these compounds one oI the components (or both) has changed
its meaning: a blackboard is neither a board nor necessarily black,
Iootball is not a ball but a game, a chatterbox not a box but a person,
and a lady-killer kills no one but is merely a man who Iascinates
women. It is clear that in all these compounds the meaning oI the
whole word cannot be deIined as the sum oI the constituent
meanings. The process oI change oI meaning in some such words has
gone so Iar that the meaning oI one or both constituents is no longer
in the least associated with the current meaning oI the corresponding
Iree Iorm, and yet the speech community quite calmly accepts such
seemingly illogical word groups as a /hite -"ac.-ird# pin. -"ue-e""s
or an entirely conIusing statement like: W"ac.-erries are red /hen
the' are &reen.
Yet, despite a certain readjustment in the semantic structure oI the
word, the meanings oI the constituents oI the compounds oI this
second group are still transparent: you can see through them the
meaning oI the whole complex. Knowing the meanings oI the
constituents a student oI English can get a Iairly clear idea oI what
the whole word means even iI he comes across it Ior the Iirst time. At
least, it is clear that a -"ac.-ird is some kind oI bird and that a &ood0
)or0nothin& is not meant as a compliment.
(3) In the third group oI compounds the process oI
deducing the meaning oI the whole Irom those oI the
constituents is impossible. The key to meaning seems to
have been irretrievably lost: "ad'-ird is not a bird, but
an insect, ta""-o' not a boy but a piece oI Iurniture,
-"uestoc.in&# on the contrary, is a person, whereas -"ue-ott"e may
denote both a Ilower and an insect but never a bottle.
Similar enigmas are encoded in such words as an0o)0/ar
("warship"), err'0to0round ("carousel"), other0o)0pear"
("irridescent substance Iorming the inner layer oI certain shells"),
horse0arine ("a person who is unsuitable Ior his job or position"),
-utter0)in&ers ("clumsy person one who is apt to drop things"), /a""0
)"o/er ("a girl who is not invited to dance at a party"), /hodunit
("detective story"), straphan&er (1. "a passenger who stands in a
crowded bus or underground train and holds onto a strap or other
support suspended Irom above" 2. "a book oI light genre, trash the
kind oI book one is likely to read when travelling in buses or trains").
The compounds whose meanings do not correspond to the
separate meanings oI their constituent parts (2nd and 3rd group listed
above) are called idioatic copounds# in contrast to the Iirst group
known as non0idioatic copounds.
The suggested subdivision into three groups is based on the
degree oI semantic cohesion oI the constituent parts, the third group
representing the extreme case oI cohesion where the constituent
meanings blend to produce an entirely new meaning.
The Iollowing joke rather vividly shows what happens iI an
idiomatic compound is misunderstood as non-idiomatic.
Patient: They tell me, doctor, you are a perIect lady-killer.
Doctor: Oh, no, no I assure you, my dear madam, I make no
distinction between the sexes.
In this joke, while the woman patient means to compliment the
doctor on his being a handsome and irresistible man, he takes or
pretends to take the word "ad'0.i""er literally, as a sum oI the direct
meanings oI its constituents.
The structural type oI compound words and the word-building
type oI composition have certain advantages Ior communication
Composition is not quite so Ilexible a way oI coining new words
as conversion but Ilexible enough as is convincingly shown by the
examples oI nonce-words given above. Among compounds are Iound
numerous expressive and colourIul words. They are also
comparatively laconic, absorbing into one word an idea that
otherwise would have required a whole phrase (cI. +he hote" /as )u""
o) /ee.0enders and +he hote" /as )u"" o) peop"e spendin& the /ee.0
end there).
Both the laconic and the expressive value oI compounds can be
well illustrated by English compound adjectives denoting colours (cI.
sno/0/hite as /hite as sno/).
In the Iollowing extract a Iamily are discussing which colour to
paint their new car.
"Hey," Sally yelled, "could you paint it canary yellow, Fred?"
"Turtle green," shouted my mother, quickly getting into the
spirit oI the thing.
"Mouse grey," Randy suggested.
"Dove white, maybe?" my mother asked.
"Rattlesnake brown," my Iather said with a deadpan look...
"Forget it, all oI you," I announced. "My Buick is going to be
peacock blue."
(From A (i,e0Co"our Wuic. by P. Anderson Wood)
It is obvious that the meaning oI all these "multi-coloured"
adjectives is based on comparison: the second constituent oI the
adjective is the name oI a colour used in its actual sense and the Iirst
is the name oI an object (animal, Ilower, etc.) with which the
comparison is drawn. The pattern immensely extends the possibilities
oI denoting all imaginable shades oI each co-
lour, the more so that the pattern is productive and a great number oI
nonce-words are created aIter it. You can actually coin an adjective
comparing the colour oI a deIined object with almost anything on
earth: the pattern allows Ior vast creative experiments. This is well
shown in the Iragment given above. II canar' 'e""o/# peacoc. -"ue#
do,e /hite are quite "normal" in the language and registered by
dictionaries, turt"e &reen and ratt"esna.e -ro/n
are certainly typical
nonce-words, amusing inventions oI the author aimed at a humorous
Sometimes it is pointed out, as a disadvantage, that the English
language has only one word -"ue Ior two diIIerent colours denoted in
Russian by and rn.
But this seeming inadequacy is compensated by a large number oI
adjectives coined on the pattern oI comparison such as na,' -"ue#
corn)"o/er -"ue# peacoc. -"ue# chicor' -"ue# sapphire -"ue# china
-"ue# s.'0-"ue# turBuoise -"ue# )or&et0e0not -"ue# he"iotrope -"ue#
po/der0-"ue. This list can be supplemented by compound adjectives
which also denote diIIerent shades oI blue, but are not built on
comparison: dar. -"ue# "i&ht -"ue# pa"e -"ue# e"ectric -"ue# F%)ord
-"ue# Ca-rid&e -"ue.
- - -
A Iurther theoretical aspect oI composition is the criteria Ior
distinguishing between a compound and a word-combination.
This question has a direct bearing on the speciIic Ieature oI the
structure oI most English compounds which has already been
mentioned: with the exception
R. CMlAIL bOAQ@:A> PQA;C. The Iather oI the Iamily is
absolutely against the idea oI buying the car, and the choice oI this
word reIlects his mood oI resentment.
oI the rare morphological type, they originate directly Irom word-
combinations and are oIten homonymous to them: cI. a ta"" -o' a
In this case the &raphic criterion oI distinguishing between a
word and a word-group seems to be suIIiciently convincing, yet in
many cases it cannot wholly be relied on. The spelling oI many
compounds, ta""-o' among them, can be varied even within the same
book. In the case oI ta""-o' the seantic criterion seems more
reliable, Ior the striking diIIerence in the meanings oI the word and
the word-group certainly points to the highest degree oI semantic
cohesion in the word: ta""-o' does not even denote a person, but a
piece oI Iurniture, a chest oI drawers supported by a low stand.
Moreover, the word-group a ta"" -o' conveys two concepts (1. a
young male person 2. big in size), whereas the word ta""-o'
expresses one concept.
Yet the semantic criterion alone cannot prove anything as
phraseological units also convey a single concept and some oI them
are characterised by a high degree oI semantic cohesion (see Ch. 12).
The phonetic criterion Ior compounds may be treated as that oI a
single stress. The criterion is convincingly applicable to many
compound nouns, yet does not work with compound adjectives:
cI. 2s"o/coach# -"ac.-ird# 2ta""-o'#
but: -";A02e'ed# 2a-sent02inded# 2i""02annered.
Still, it is true that the morphological structure oI these adjectives
and their hyphenated spelling leave no doubt about their status as
words and not word-groups.
Yorpho"o&ica" and s'ntactic criteria can also be applied to
compound words in order to distinguish them Irom word-groups.
In the word-group a ta"" -o' each oI the constituents is
independently open to grammatical changes peculiar to its own
category as a part oI speech: +he' /ere the ta""est -o's in their )or.
Between the constituent parts oI the word-group other words can
be inserted: a ta"" handsoe -o'.
The compound ta""-o' and, in actual Iact, any other compound
is not subject to such changes. The Iirst component is
grammatically invariable the plural Iorm ending is added to the
whole unit: ta""-o's. No word can be inserted between the
components, even with the compounds which have a traditional
separate graphic Iorm.
All this leads us to the conclusion that, in most cases, only several
criteria (semantic, morphological, syntactic, phonetic, graphic) can
convincingly classiIy a lexical unit as either a compound word or a
word group.
Consider the Iollowing examples.
"... The Great Glass Elevator is shockprooI, waterprooI,
bombprooI, bulletprooI, and KnidprooI
..." (From Char"ie and
the Ereat E"ass X"e,ator by R. Dahl)
Lady Malvern tried to Ireeze him with a look, but you can't do
that sort oI thing to Jeeves. He is look-prooI.
(From Carr' on# !ee,es by P. G. Wodehouse)
Better sorts oI "ip0stic. are Irequently described in advertisements
as .issproo). Some building materials may be advertised as )ireproo).
Certain technical devices are )oo"proo) meaning that they are saIe
even in a Iool's hands.
Hnids Iantastic monsters supposed to inhabit the Cosmos and
invented by the author oI this book Ior children.
All these words, with 0proo) Ior the second component, stand
between compounds and derived words in their characteristics. On
the one hand, the second component seems to bear all the Ieatures oI
a stem and preserves certain semantic associations with the Iree Iorm
proo). On the other hand, the meaning oI 0proo) in all the numerous
words built on this pattern has become so generalised that it is
certainly approaching that oI a suIIix. The high productivity oI the
pattern is proved, once more, by the possibility oI coining nonce-
words aIter this pattern: "oo.0proo) and Hnidproo)# the second
produced Irom the non-existent stem Hnid.
The component 0proo)# standing thus between a stem and an aIIix,
is regarded by some scholars as a semi-aIIix.
Another example oI semi-aIIix is 0an in a vast group oI English
nouns denoting people: sportsan# &ent"ean# no-"ean# sa"esan#
seaan# )isheran# countr'an# statesan# po"icean# chairan#
Semantically, the constituent 0an in these words approaches the
generalised meaning oI such noun-Iorming suIIixes as 0er# 0or# 0ist (e.
g. artist)# 0ite (e. g. h'pocrite). It has moved so Iar in its meaning
Irom the corresponding Iree Iorm an# that such word-groups as
/oan po"icean or Mrs. Chairan are quite usual. Nor does the
statement $ad'# 'ou are no &ent"ean sound eccentric or illogical Ior
the speaker uses the word &ent"ean in its general sense oI a noble
upright person, regardless oI sex. It must be added though that this is
only an occasional usage and that &ent"ean is normally applied to
Other examples oI semi-aIIixes are 0"and (e. g. Ire "and# *cot"and#
)ather"and# /onder"and)# 0"i.e (e. g. "ad'"i.e# un"ad'"i.e# -usiness"i.e#
un-usiness "i.e# star"i.e# )"o/er"i.e# etc.), 0/orth' (e. g. sea/orth'#
trust/orth'# praise/orth').
Shortening (Contraction)
This comparatively new way oI word-building has achieved a
high degree oI productivity nowadays, especially in American
Shortenings (or contractedcurtailed words) are produced in two
diIIerent ways. The Iirst is to make a new word Irom a syllable (rarer,
two) oI the original word. The latter may lose its beginning (as in
phone made Irom te"ephone# )ence Irom de)ence)# its ending (as in
ho"s Irom ho"ida's# ,ac Irom ,acation# props Irom properties# ad
Irom ad,ertiseent) or both the beginning and ending (as in )"u Irom
in)"uenGa# )rid&e Irom re)ri&erator).
The second way oI shortening is to make a new word Irom the
initial letters oI a word group: K.Z.F. 'ju:neu Irom the Knited
Zations Fr&anisation# W.W.C. Irom the Writish Wroadcastin&
Corporation# Y.4. Irom Ye-er o) 4ar"iaent. This type is called
initial shortenings. They are Iound not only among Iormal words,
such as the ones above, but also among colloquialisms and slang. So,
&. ). is a shortened word made Irom the compound &ir"0)riend. The
word, though, seems to be somewhat ambiguous as the Iollowing
conversation between two undergraduates clearly shows:
Who's the letter Irom?
My g. I.
Didn't know you had girl-Iriends. A nice girl?
Idiot It's Irom my grandIather
It is commonly believed that the preIerence Ior shortenings can be
explained by their brevity and is due to the ever-increasing tempo oI
modern liIe. Yet, in the conversation given above the use oI an
ambiguous contraction does not in the least contribute to the brevity
oI the communication: on the contrary, it takes the speakers some
time to clariIy the misunderstand-
ing. ConIusion and ambiguousness are quite natural consequences oI
the modern overabundance oI shortened words, and initial
shortenings are oIten especially enigmatic and misleading.
Both types oI shortenings are characteristic oI inIormal speech in
general and oI uncultivated speech particularly. The history oI the
American o.a' seems to be rather typical. Originally this initial
shortening was spelt F.H. and was supposed to stand Ior a"" correct.
The purely oral manner in which sounds were recorded Ior letters
resulted in F.H. whereas it should have been AC. or a'see. Indeed,
the ways oI words are Iull oI surprises.
Here are some more examples oI inIormal shortenings. Yo,ie
(Irom o,in&0picture)# &ent (Irom &ent"ean)# specs (Irom
spectac"es)# circs (Irom circustances# e. g. under the circs)# I. F. S.
(a written acknowledgement oI debt, made Irom I o/e 'ou)# "i- (Irom
"i-ert'# as in Ya' I ta.e the "i- o) sa'in& soethin& to 'ou5)# cert
(Irom certaint'# as in +his enterprise is a cert i) 'ou ha,e a -it o)
capita")# etrop (Irom etropo"'# e. g. 4aris is a &a' etrop)#
e%hi-ish (Irom e%hi-ition)# posish ()ro position).
Undergraduates' inIormal speech abounds in words oI the type:
e%a# "a-# pro)# ,ac# ho"# co0ed (a girl student at a coeducational
school or college).
6ome of #he Minor T)es of Modern &ord1.!ilding$ 6o!nd1
/mi#a#ion B-noma#o)oeia
Words coined by this interesting type oI word-building are made
by imitating diIIerent kinds oI sounds that may be produced by
animals, birds, insects, human beings and inanimate objects.
onemaete'pie. This type oI word-Iormation is now also called
echois (the term was introduced by O. Jespersen).
It is oI some interest that sounds produced by the same kind oI
animal are. Irequently represented by quite diIIerent sound groups in
diIIerent languages. For instance, English dogs -ar. (cI. the R.
8LNI9) or ho/" (cI. the R. lRI9). The English cock cries coc.0a0
dood"e0doo (cI. the R. 6@06L0OA06@). In England ducks Buac. and
Irogs croa. (cI. the R. 6ON6LI9 said about ducks and 6lL6LI9 said
about Irogs). It is only English and Russian cats who seem capable oI
mutual understanding when they meet, Ior English cats e/ or
iao/ (eo/). The same can be said about cows: they oo (but also
Some names oI animals and especially oI birds and insects are
also produced by sound-imitation: cro/# cuc.oo# huin&0-ird#
/hip0poor0/i""# cric.et.
The Iollowing desperate letter contains a great number oI sound-
imitation words reproducing sounds made by modern machinery:
The Baltimore & Ohio R. R. Co.,
Pittsburg, Pa.
Why is it that your switch engine has to ding and Iizz and spit and
pant and grate and grind and puII and bump and chug and hoot and
toot and whistle and wheeze and howl and clang and growl and
thump and clash and boom and jolt and screech and snarl and snort
and slam and throb and soar and rattle and hiss and yell and smoke
and shriek all night long when I come home Irom a hard day at the
boiler works and have to keep the dog quiet and the baby quiet so my
wiIe can squawk at me Ior snoring in my sleep?
(From $an&ua&e and iuour by G. G. Pocheptsov.)
There is a hypothesis that sound-imitation as a way oI word-
Iormation should be viewed as something much wider than just the
production oI words by the imitation oI
purely acoustic phenomena. Some scholars suggest that words may
imitate through their sound Iorm certain unacoustic Ieatures and
qualities oI inanimate objects, actions and processes or that the
meaning oI the word can be regarded as the immediate relation oI the
sound group to the object. II a young chicken or kitten is described as
)"u))' there seems to be something in the sound oI the adjective that
conveys the soItness and the downy quality oI its plumage or its Iur.
Such verbs as to &"ance# to &"ide# to s"ide# to s"ip are supposed to
convey by their very sound the nature oI the smooth, easy movement
over a slippery surIace. The sound Iorm oI the words shier#
&"ier# &"itter seems to reproduce the wavering, tremulous nature oI
the Iaint light. The sound oI the verbs to rush# to dash# to )"ash may
be said to reIlect the brevity, swiItness and energetic nature oI their
corresponding actions. The word thri"" has something in the quality oI
its sound that very aptly conveys the tremulous, tingling sensation it
Some scholars have given serious consideration to this theory.
However, it has not yet been properly developed.
In redup"ication new words are made by doubling a stem, either
without any phonetic changes as in -'e0-'e (coll, Ior &ood0-'e) or
with a variation oI the root-vowel or consonant as in pin&0pon&# chit0
chat (this second type is called &radationa" redup"ication).
This type oI word-building is greatly Iacilitated in Modern
English by the vast number oI monosyllables. Stylistically speaking,
most words made by reduplication represent inIormal groups:
colloquialisms and slang. E. g. /a".ie0ta".ie ("a portable radio"), ri))0
ra)) ("the worthless or disreputable element oI society" "the dregs oI
society"), chi0chi (sl. Ior chic as in a chi0chi &ir").
In a modern novel an angry Iather accuses his teenager son oI
doin& nothin& -ut di""'0da""'in& a"" o,er the to/n.
(di""'0da""'in& wasting time, doing nothing, loitering)
Another example oI a word made by reduplication may be Iound
in the Iollowing quotation Irom +he Iportance o) Wein& Xarnest by
O. Wilde:
L a d y Br a c k n e l l . I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury
made up his mind whether he was going to live or to die. This
shilly-shallying with the question is absurd.
(shi""'0sha""'in& irresolution, indecision)
The earliest examples oI this type oI word-building are the verb
to -e& that was made Irom the French borrowing -e&&ar# to -ur&"e
Irom -ur&"ar# to co--"e Irom co--"er. In all these cases the verb was
made Irom the noun by subtracting what was mistakenly associated
with the English suIIix 0er. The pattern oI the type to /or. /or.er
was Iirmly established in the subconscious oI English-speaking
people at the time when these Iormations appeared, and it was taken
Ior granted that any noun denoting proIession or occupation is certain
to have a corresponding verb oI the same root. So, in the case oI the
verbs to -e&# to -ur&"e# to co--"e the process was reversed: instead oI
a noun made Irom a verb by aIIixation (as in painter Irom to paint)# a
verb was produced Irom a noun by subtraction. That is why this type
oI word-building received the name oI -ac.0)oration or re,ersion.
Later examples oI back-Iormation are to -ut"e Irom -ut"er# to
-a-'0sit Irom -a-'0sitter# to )orce0"and Irom )orced "andin&# to
-"ood0trans)use Irom -"ood0trans)uing sorr'
Ior e,er'-od' /ho isn't a &ir" and who can2t coe here, I am sure the
college you attended when you were a -o' couldn't have been so
My room is up in a tower. There are three other &ir"s on the same
Iloor oI the tower a *enior who wears spectacles and is a"/a's
asking us please to be a little more quiet, and two (reshen naed
Sallie McBride and Julia Rutledge Pendleton. Sallie has red hair and
a turn0up nose and is quite )riend"'D Julia comes Irom one oI the Iirst
Iamilies in New York and hasn't noticed me yet. +he' roo together
and the Senior and I have sin&"es.
Ksua""' Freshmen can't get singles they are very Iew, but I got
one without even asking. I suppose the register didn't think it would
-e right to ask a proper"' brought up girl to room with a )ound"in&.
You see there are ad,anta&es.
(From Vadd'0$on&0$e&s by J. Webster)
What Is "Meaning"?
Language is the amber in which a
thousand precious and subtle thoughts
have been saIely embedded and
(From Tord and
4hrase by J. Fitzgerald)
The question posed by the title oI this chapter is one oI those
questions which are easier to ask than answer. The linguistic science
at present is not able to put Iorward a deIinition oI meaning which is
However, there are certain Iacts oI which we can be reasonably
sure, and one oI them is that the very Iunction oI the word as a unit oI
communication is made possible by its possessing a meaning.
ThereIore, among the word's various characteristics, meaning is
certainly the most important.
Generally speaking, meaning can be more or less described as a
component oI the word through which a concept is communicated, in
this way endowing the word with the ability oI denoting real objects,
qualities, actions and abstract notions. The complex and somewhat
mysterious relationships between re)erent (object, etc. denoted by the
word), concept and /ord are traditionally represented by the
Iollowing triangle 35:
Thought or ReIerence
Symbol ReIerent
2. ./(0 "24
By the "symbol" here is meant the word thought or reIerence is
concept. The dotted line suggests that there is no immediate relation
between word and reIerent: it is established only through the concept.
On the other hand, there is a hypothesis that concepts can only
Iind their realisation through words. It seems that thought is dormant
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 (i. e. mental phenomena) are
converted into words (i. e. linguistic phenomena) and the reverse
process by which a heard or a printed word is converted into a kind oI
mental picture are not yet understood or described. Probably that is
the reason why the process oI communication through words, iI one
gives it some thought, seems nothing short oI a miracle. Isn't it
Iantastic that the mere vibrations oI a speaker's vocal chords should
be taken up by a listener's brain and converted into vivid pictures? II
magic does exist in the world, then it is truly the magic oI human
speech only we are so used to this miracle that we do not realise its
almost supernatural qualities.
The branch oI linguistics which specialises in the study oI
meaning is called seantics. As with many terms, the term
"semantics" is ambiguous Ior it can stand, as well, Ior the expressive
aspect oI language in general and Ior the meaning oI one particular
word in all its varied aspects and nuances (i.e. the semantics oI a
word the meaning(s) oI a word).
As Mario Pei puts it in +he *tud' o) $an&ua&e# "Semantics is
'language' in its broadest, most inclusive aspect. Sounds, words,
grammatical Iorms, syntactical constructions are the tools oI
language. Semantics is language's avowed purpose" 39
The meanings oI all the utterances oI a speech community are
said by another leading linguist to include the total experience oI that
community arts, science, practical occupations, amusements,
personal and Iamily liIe.
The modern approach to semantics is based on the assumption
that the inner Iorm oI the word (i. e. its meaning) presents a structure
which is called the seantic structure oI the word.
Yet, beIore going deeper into this problem, it is necessary to make
a brieI survey oI another semantic phenomenon which is closely
connected with it.
Polsem$ 6eman#ic 6#r!c#!re of #he &ord
The semantic structure oI the word does not present an
indissoluble unity (that is, actually, why it is reIerred to as
"structure"), nor does it necessarily stand Ior one concept. It is
generally known that most words convey several concepts and thus
possess the corresponding number oI meanings. A word having
several meanings is called po"'seantic# and the ability oI words to
have more than one meaning is described by the term po"'se'.
Two somewhat naive but Irequently asked questions may arise in
connection with polysemy:
1. Is polysemy an anomaly or a general rule in English
2. Is polysemy an advantage or a disadvantage so Iar as the
process oI communication is concerned?
Let us deal with both these questions together.
Polysemy is certainly not an anomaly. Most English words are
polysemantic. It should be noted that the wealth oI expressive
resources oI a language largely depends on the degree to which
polysemy has developed in the language. Sometimes people who are
very well inIormed in linguistic matters claim that a language is
lacking in words iI the need arises Ior the same word to be applied to
several diIIerent phenomena. In actual Iact, it is exactly the opposite:
iI each word is Iound to be capable oI conveying, let us say, at least
two concepts instead oI one, the expressive potential oI the whole
vocabulary increases twoIold. Hence, a well-developed polysemy is
not a drawback but a great advantage in a language.
On the other hand, it should be pointed out that the number oI
sound combinations that human speech organs can produce is limited.
ThereIore at a certain stage oI language development the production
oI new words by morphological means becomes limited, and
polysemy becomes increasingly important in providing the means Ior
enriching the vocabulary. From this, it should be clear that the
process oI enriching the vocabulary does not consist merely in adding
new words to it, but, also, in the constant development oI polysemy.
The system oI meanings oI any polysemantic word develops
gradually, mostly over the centuries, as more and more new meanings
are either added to old ones, or oust some oI them (see Ch. 8). So the
complicated processes oI polysemy development involve both the
appearance oI new meanings and the loss oI old ones. Yet, the general
tendency with English vocabulary at the modern stage oI its history is
to increase the total number oI its meanings and in this way to
provide Ior a quantitative and qualitative growth oI the language's
expressive resources.
When analysing the semantic structure oI a polysemantic word, it
is necessary to distinguish between two levels oI analysis.
On the Iirst level, the semantic structure oI a word is treated as a
system oI meanings. For example, the
semantic structure oI the noun )ire could be roughly presented by this
scheme (only the most Irequent meanings are given):
4ire2 n.
An instance oI
burning e. g. a
)orest )ire.
Burning material
in a stove,
Iireplace, etc. e.
g. +here is a )ire
in the ne%t roo.
A cap )ire.
The shooting
oI guns, etc. e.
g. to open
(cease) )ire.
Strong Ieeling,
enthusiasm e.
g. a speech
"ac.in& )ire.
The above scheme suggests that meaning I holds a kind oI
dominance over the other meanings conveying the concept in the
most general way whereas meanings IIV are associated with
special circumstances, aspects and instances oI the same
Meaning I (generally reIerred to as the ain eanin&) presents
the centre oI the semantic structure oI the word holding it together. It
is mainly through meaning I that meanings IIV (they are called
secondar' eanin&s) can be associated with one another, some oI
them exclusively through meaning I, as, Ior instance, meanings IV
and V.
It would hardly be possible to establish any logical associations
between some oI the meanings oI the noun -ar except through the
main meaning:
We give only a Iragment oI the semantic structure oI -ar# so as to
illustrate the point.
Bar, n III
The proIession
oI barrister, law
e. g. &o to the
War read )or the
(In a public house or hotel) a counter
or room where drinks are served e. &.
+he' /ent to the -ar )or a drin..
i ,
Any kind oI barrier to prevent
people Irom passing.
Meanings II and III have no logical links with one another
whereas each separately is easily associated with meaning I: meaning
II through the traditional barrier dividing a court-room into two parts
meaning III through the counter serving as a kind oI barrier between
the customers oI a pub and the barman.
Yet, it is not in every polysemantic word that such a centre can be
Iound. Some semantic structures are arranged on a diIIerent principle.
In the Iollowing list oI meanings oI the adjective du"" one can hardly
hope to Iind a generalised meaning covering and holding together the
rest oI the semantic structure.
%!ll2 ad'.
I. Uninteresting, monotonous, boring e. g. a du""
-oo.# a du"" )i".
II. Slow in understanding, stupid e. g. a du"" student.
III. Not clear or bright e. g. du"" /eather# a du"" da'#
a du"" co"our.
IV. Not loud or distinct e. g. a du"" sound.
V. Not sharp e. g. a du"" .ni)e.
VI. Not active e. g. +rade is du"". VII. Seeing badly e.
g. du"" e'es (arch.). VIII, Hearing badly e. g. du"" ears
Yet, one distinctly Ieels that there is something that all these
seemingly miscellaneous meanings have in
common, and that is the implication oI deIiciency, be it oI colour (m.
III), wits (m. II), interest (m. I), sharpness (m. V), etc. The
implication oI insuIIicient quality, oI something lacking, can be
clearly distinguished in each separate meaning.
In Iact, each meaning deIinition in the given scheme can be
subjected to a transIormational operation to prove the point.
%!ll2 ad'.
I. Uninteresting ------k deIicient in interest or excitement.
II. ... Stupid------------ deIicient in intellect.
III. Not bright-------------- deIicient in light or colour.
IV. Not loud------------- deIicient in sound.
V. Not sharp------------ deIicient in sharpness.
VI. Not active------------ deIicient in activity.
VII. Seeing badly------------ deIicient in eyesight.
VIII. Hearing badly------------- deIicient in hearing.
The transIormed scheme oI the semantic structure oI du"" clearly
shows that the centre holding together the complex semantic structure
oI this word is not one oI the meanings but a certain coponent that
can be easily singled out within each separate meaning.
This brings us to the second level oI analysis oI the semantic
structure oI a word. The transIormational operation with the meaning
deIinitions oI du"" reveals something very signiIicant: the semantic
structure oI the word is "divisible", as it were, not only at the level oI
diIIerent meanings but, also, at a deeper level.
Each separate meaning seems to be subject to structural analysis
in which it may be represented as sets oI semantic components. In
terms oI coponentia" ana"'sis# one oI the modern methods oI
semantic research, the meaning oI a word is deIined as a set oI
elements oI meaning which are not part oI the vocabulary oI the
language itselI, but rather theoretical elements, postulated in order to
describe the semantic relations between the lexical elements oI a
given language.
The scheme oI the semantic structure oI du"" shows that the
semantic structure oI a word is not a mere system oI meanings, Ior
each separate meaning is subject to Iurther subdivision and possesses
an inner structure oI its own.
ThereIore, the semantic structure oI a word should be investigated
at both these levels: a) oI diIIerent meanings, b) oI semantic
components within each separate meaning. For a monosemantic word
(i. e. a word with one meaning) the Iirst level is naturally excluded.
Types oI Semantic Components
The leading semantic component in the semantic structure oI a
word is usually termed denotati,e coponent (also, the term
re)erentia" coponent may be used). The denotative component
expresses the conceptual content oI a word.
The Iollowing list presents denotative components oI some
English adjectives and verbs:
Denotative components
"one"'# adj. -------- alone
, without company . . .
notorious# adj. -------- widely
known .......................................
ce"e-rated# adj. -------- widely
known ...............................................
to &"are# v. -------- to look ................................
to &"ance# v. to look ................................
to shi,er# v. to tremble ..........................
to shudder# v. -------- to tremble ..........................
It is quite obvious that the deIinitions given in the right column
only partially and incompletely describe the meanings oI their
corresponding words. To give a more or less Iull picture oI the
meaning oI a word, it is
necessary to include in the scheme oI analysis additional semantic
components which are termed connotations or connotati,e
Let us complete the semantic structures oI the words given above
introducing connotative components into the schemes oI their
semantic structures.
"one"'# adj.

notorious# adj.

Ior criminal
acts or bad
traits oI
ce"e-rated# adj. 0

Ior special
in science, art,
to &"are# v. to look
in anger,
rage, etc.
oI duration
2. Emotive
to &"ance# v. to look
on oI
to shi,er# v. to tremble

(usu) with the

oI duration
oI cause
to shudder# v. to tremble
with horror,
disgust, etc.
oI duration
oI cause 3.
The above examples show how by singling out denotative and
connotative components one can get a suIIiciently clear picture oI
what the word really means. The schemes presenting the semantic
structures oI &"are# shi,er# shudder also show that a meaning can have
two or more connotative components.
The given examples do not exhaust all the types oI connotations
but present only a Iew: emotive, evaluative connotations, and also
connotations oI duration and oI cause. (For a more detailed
classiIication oI connotative components oI a meaning, see Ch. 10.)
Meaning and Context
In the beginning oI the paragraph entitled "Polysemy" we
discussed the advantages and disadvantages oI this linguistic
phenomenon. One oI the most important "drawbacks" oI
polysemantic words is that there is sometimes a chance oI
misunderstanding when a word is used in a certain meaning but
accepted by a listener or reader in another. It is only natural that such
cases provide stuII oI which jokes are made, such as the ones that
Customer. I would like a book, please. Bookseller. Something
light? Customer. That doesn't matter. I have my car with me.
In this conversation the customer is honestly misled by the
polysemy oI the adjective "i&ht taking it in the literal sense whereas
the bookseller uses the word in its Iigurative meaning "not serious
In the Iollowing joke one oI the speakers pretends to
misunderstand his interlocutor basing his angry retort on the
polysemy oI the noun .ic.[
The critic started to leave in the middle oI the second act oI the
"Don't go," said the manager. "I promise there's a terriIic kick
in the next act."
"Fine," was the retort, "give it to the author."-
Generally speaking, it is common knowledge that context is a
powerIul preventative against any misunderstanding oI meanings. For
instance, the adjective du""# iI used out oI context, would mean
diIIerent things to diIIerent people or nothing at all. It is only in
combination with other words that it reveals its actual meaning: a
du"" pupi"# a du"" p"a'# a du"" raGor0-"ade# du"" /eather# etc.
Sometimes, however, such a minimum context Iails to reveal the
meaning oI the word, and it may be correctly interpreted only through
what ProIessor N. Amosova termed a second-degree context 1, as in
the Iollowing example: +he an /as "ar&e# -ut his /i)e /as e,en
)atter. The word )atter here serves as a kind oI indicator pointing that
"ar&e describes a stout man and not a big one.
Current research in semantics is largely based on the assumption
that one oI the more promising methods oI investigating the semantic
structure oI a word is by studying the word's linear relationships with
other words in typical contexts, i. e. its co-ina-i"it' or co""oca-i"it'.
Scholars have established that the semantics oI words
characterised by common occurrences (i. e. words which regularly
appear in common contexts) are correlated and, thereIore, one oI the
words within such a pair can be studied through the other.
Thus, iI one intends to investigate the semantic structure oI an
adjective, one would best consider the adjective in its most typical
syntactical patterns A Z -adjective noun) and Z ] " A (noun
link verb
.ic.. n. -- 1 thrill, pleasurable excitement (in)or.)D 2. a blow
with the Ioot
adjective) and make a thorough study oI the meanings oI nouns with
which the adjective is Irequently used.
For instance, a study oI typical contexts oI the adjective -ri&ht in
the Iirst pattern will give us the Iollowing sets: a) -ri&ht colour
(Ilower, dress, silk, etc.). b) -ri&ht metal (gold, jewels, armour, etc.),
c) -ri&ht student (pupil, boy, Iellow, etc.), d) -ri&ht Iace (smile, eyes,
etc.) and some others. These sets will lead us to singling out the
meanings oI the adjective related to each set oI combinations: a)
intensive in colour, b) shining, c) capable, d) gay, etc.
For a transitive verb, on the other hand, the recommended pattern
would be f ] Z (verb direct object expressed by a noun). II, Ior
instance, our object oI investigation are the verbs to produce# to
create# to copose# the correct procedure would be to consider the
semantics oI the nouns that are used in the pattern with each oI these
verbs: what is it that is produced? created? composed?
There is an interesting hypothesis that the semantics oI words
regularly used in common contexts (e. g. -ri&ht co"ours# to -ui"d a
house# to create a /or. o) art# etc.) are so intimately correlated that
each oI them casts, as it were, a kind oI permanent reIlection on the
meaning oI its neighbour. II the verb to copose is Irequently used
with the object usic# isn't it natural to expect that certain musical
associations linger in the meaning oI the verb to copose5
Note, also, how closely the negative evaluative connotation oI the
adjective notorious is linked with the negative connotation oI the
nouns with which it is regularly associated: a notorious criina"#
thie)# &an&ster# &a-"er# &ossip# "iar# iser# etc.
All this leads us to the conclusion that context is a good and
reliable key to the meaning oI the word. Yet, even the jokes given
above show how misleading this key can prove in some cases. And
here we are Iaced with
two dangers. The Iirst is that oI sheer misunderstanding, when the
speaker means one thing and the listener takes the word in its other
The second danger has nothing to do with the process oI
communication but with research work in the Iield oI semantics. A
common error with the inexperienced research worker is to see a
diIIerent meaning in every new set oI combinations. Here is a
puzzling question to illustrate what we mean. CI.: an an&r' an# an
an&r' "etter. Is the adjective an&r' used in the same meaning in both
these contexts or in two diIIerent meanings? Some people will say
Ct/oC and argue that, on the one hand, the combinability is diIIerent
(an name oI person "etter name oI object) and, on the other
hand, a letter cannot experience anger. True, it cannot but it can very
well convey the anger oI the person who wrote it. As to the
combinability, the main point is that a word can realise the same
meaning in diIIerent sets oI combinability. For instance, in the pairs
err' chi"dren# err' "au&hter# err' )aces# err' son&s the
adjective err' conveys the same concept oI high spirits whether
they are directly experienced by the children (in the Iirst phrase) or
indirectly expressed through the merry Iaces, the laughter and the
songs oI the other word groups.
The task oI distinguishing between the diIIerent meanings oI a
word and the diIIerent variations oI combinability (or, in a traditional
terminology, diIIerent usages oI the word) is actually a question oI
singling out the diIIerent denotations within the semantic structure oI
the word.
CI.: 1) a sad /oan#
2) a sad ,oice#
3) a sad stor'#
4) a sad scoundre" ( an incorrigible scoundrel)
5) a sad ni&ht (m a dark, black night, arch, poet.)
CD,PT5; 8
How Words Develop New Meanings
It has been mentioned that the systems oI meanings oI
polysemantic words evolve gradually. The older a word is, the better
developed is its semantic structure. The normal pattern oI a word's
semantic development is Irom monosemy to a simple semantic
structure encompassing only two or three meanings, with a Iurther
movement to an increasingly more complex semantic structure.
In this chapter we shall have a closer look at the complicated
processes by which words acquire new meanings.
There are two aspects to this problem, which can be generally
described in the Iollowing way: a) Why should new meanings appear
at all? What circumstances cause and stimulate their development? b)
How does it happen? What is the nature oI the very process oI
development oI new meanings?
Let us deal with each oI these questions in turn.
Ca!ses of %e+elo)men# of
?e" Meanings
The Iirst group oI causes is traditionally termed historica" or
DiIIerent kinds oI changes in a nation's social liIe, in its culture,
knowledge, technology, arts lead to
gaps appearing in the vocabulary which beg to be Iilled. Newly
created objects, new concepts and phenomena must be named. We
already know oI two ways Ior providing new names Ior newly
created concepts: making new words (word-building) and borrowing
Ioreign ones. One more way oI Iilling such vocabulary gaps is by
applying some old word to a new object or notion.
When the Iirst textile Iactories appeared in England, the old word
i"" was applied to these early industrial enterprises. In this way, i""
(a Latin borrowing oI the Iirst century . .) added a new meaning to
its Iormer meaning "a building in which corn is ground into Ilour".
The new meaning was "textile Iactory".
A similar case is the word carria&e which had (and still has) the
meaning "a vehicle drawn by horses", but, with the Iirst appearance
oI railways in England, it received a new meaning, that oI "a railway
car". -
The history oI English nouns describing diIIerent parts oI a
theatre may also serve as a good illustration oI how well-established
words can be used to denote newly-created objects and phenomena.
The words sta""s# -o%# pit# circ"e had existed Ior a long time beIore
the Iirst theatres appeared in England. With their appearance, the gaps
in the vocabulary were easily Iilled by these widely used words
which, as a result, developed new meanings.
New meanings can also be developed due to linguistic Iactors (the
second group oI causes).
Linguistically speaking, the development oI new meanings, and
also a complete change oI meaning, may
It is oI some interest to note that the Russian language Iound a
diIIerent way oI Iilling the same gap: in Russian, all the parts oI the
theatre are named by borrowed words: JLOIAO# 87aL#
LQn;IALIO# ?A89oILa.
be caused through the inIluence oI other words, mostly oI synonyms.
Let us consider the Iollowing examples.
The Old English verb steor)an meant "to perish". When the verb
to die was borrowed Irom the Scandinavian, these two synonyms,
which were very close in their meaning, collided, and, as a result, to
star,e gradually changed into its present meaning: "to die (or suIIer)
Irom hunger".
The history oI the noun deer is essentially the same. In Old
English (. . deor) it had a general meaning denoting any beast. In
that meaning it collided with the borrowed word ania" and changed
its meaning to the modern one ("a certain kind oI beast", R. 78A=9).
The noun .na,e (. . .na)a) suIIered an even more striking
change oI meaning as a result oI collision with its synonym -o'. Now
it has a pronounced negative evaluative connotation and means
"swindler, scoundrel".
The Process oI Development and
Change oI Meaning
The second question we must answer in this chapter is ho/ new
meanings develop. To Iind the answer to this question we must
investigate the inner mechanism oI this process, or at least its
essential Ieatures. Let us examine the examples given above Irom a
new angle, Irom within, so to speak.
Most scholars distinguish between the terms de,e"opent o)
eanin& (when a new meaning and the one on the basis oI which it is
Iormed coexist in the semantic structure oI the word, as in i""#
carria&e# etc.) and chan&e o) eanin& (when the old meaning is
completely replaced by the new one, as in the noun eat which in
Old English had the general meaning oI "Iood" but in Modern
English is no longer used in that sense and has instead developed the
meaning "Ilesh oI animals used as a Iood product").
Why was it that the word i"" and not some other word was
selected to denote the Iirst textile Iactories? There must have been
some connection between the Iormer sense oI i"" and the new
phenomenon to which it was applied. And there /as apparently such
a connection. Mills which produced Ilour, were mainly driven by
water. The textile Iactories also Iirstly used water power. So, in
general terms, the meanings oI i""# both the old and the new one,
could be deIined as "an establishment using water power to produce
certain goods". Thus, the Iirst textile Iactories were easily associated
with mills producing Ilour, and the new meaning oI i"" appeared due
to this association. In actual Iact, all cases oI development or change
oI meaning are based on some association. In the history oI the word
carria&e# the new travelling conveyance was also naturally associated
in people's minds with the old one: horse-drawn vehicle part oI a
railway train. Both these objects were related to the idea oI travelling.
The job oI both, the horse-drawn carriage and the railway carriage, is
the same: to carry passengers on a journey. So the association was
logically well-Iounded.
*ta""s and -o% Iormed their meanings in which they denoted parts
oI the theatre on the basis oI a diIIerent type oI association. The
meaning oI the word -o% "a small separate enclosure Iorming a part
oI the theatre" developed on the basis oI its Iormer meaning "a
rectangular container used Ior packing or storing things". The two
objects became associated in the speakers' minds because boxes in
the earliest English theatres really resembled packing cases. They
were enclosed on all sides and heavily curtained even on the side
Iacing the audience so as to conceal the privileged spectators
occupying them Irom curious or insolent stares.
The association on which the theatrical meaning oI sta""s was
based is even more curious. The original meaning was
"compartments in stables or sheds Ior the
accommodation oI animals (e. g. co/s# horses# etc.)". There does not
seem to be much in common between the privileged and expensive
part oI a theatre and stables intended Ior cows and horses, unless we
take into consideration the Iact that theatres in olden times greatly
diIIered Irom what they are now. What is now known as the sta""s
was, at that time, standing space divided by barriers into sections so
as to prevent the enthusiastic crowd Irom knocking one other down
and hurting themselves. So, there must have been a certain outward
resemblance between theatre stalls and cattle stalls. It is also possible
that the word was Iirst used humorously or satirically in this new
The process oI development oI a new meaning (or a change oI
meaning) is traditionally termed trans)erence.
Some scholars mistakenly use the term "transIerence oI meaning"
which is a serious mistake. It is very important to note that in any
case oI semantic change it is not the meaning but the word that is
being transIerred Irom one reIerent onto another (e. g. Irom a horse-
drawn vehicle onto a railway car). The result oI such a transIerence is
the appearance oI a new meaning.
Two types oI transIerence are distinguishable depending on the
two types oI logical associations underlying the semantic process.
Transference .ased on ;esemblance B6imilari#9
This type oI transIerence is also reIerred to as "in&uistic etaphor.
A new meaning appears as a result oI associating two objects
(phenomena, qualities, etc.) due to their outward similarity. Wo% and
sta""# as should be clear Irom the explanations above, are examples oI
this type oI transIerence.
Other examples can be given in which transIerence is also based
on the association oI two physical objects. The noun e'e# Ior instance,
has Ior one oI its meanings
"hole in the end oI a needle" (cI. with the R. @p67 ;b786;)# which
also developed through transIerence based on resemblance. A similar
case is represented by the nec. o) a -ott"e.
The noun drop (mostly in the plural Iorm) has, in addition to its
main meaning "a small particle oI water or other liquid", the
meanings: "ear-rings shaped as drops oI water" (e. &. diaond drops)
and "candy oI the same shape" (e. g. int drops). It is quite obvious
that both these meanings are also based on resemblance. In the
compound word sno/drop the meaning oI the second constituent
underwent the same shiIt oI meaning (also, in -"ue-e""). In general,
metaphorical change oI meaning is oIten observed in idiomatic
The main meaning oI the noun -ranch is "limb or subdivision oI a
tree or bush". On the basis oI this meaning it developed several more.
One oI them is "a special Iield oI science or art" (as in a -ranch o)
"in&uistics). This meaning brings us into the sphere oI the abstract,
and shows that in transIerence based on resemblance an association
may be built not only between two physical objects, but also between
a concrete object and an abstract concept.
The noun -ar Irom the original meaning -arrier developed a
Iigurative meaning realised in such contexts as socia" -ars# co"our
-ar# racia" -ar. Here, again, as in the abstract meaning oI -ranch# a
concrete object is associated with an abstract concept.
The noun star on the basis oI the meaning "heavenly body"
developed the meaning "Iamous actor or actress". Nowadays the
meaning has considerably widened its range, and the word is applied
not only to screen idols (as it was at Iirst), but, also, to popular
sportsmen (e. g. )oot-a""# stars)# pop-singers, etc. OI course, the Iirst
use oI the word star to denote a popular actor must have been
humorous or ironical: the mental picture created by the use oI the
word in this new meaning was
a kind oI semi-god surrounded by the bright rays oI his glory. Yet,
very soon the ironical colouring was lost, and, Iurthermore the
association with the original meaning considerably weakened and is
gradually erased.
The meanings Iormed through this type oI transIerence are
Irequently Iound in the inIormal strata oI the vocabulary, especially in
slang (see Ch. 1). A red-headed boy is almost certain to be nicknamed
carrot or &in&er by his schoolmates, and the one who is given to
spying and sneaking gets the derogatory nickname oI rat. Both these'
meanings are metaphorical, though, oI course, the children using
them are quite unconscious oI this Iact.
The slang meanings oI words such as nut# onion (m head)#
saucers (m e'es)# hoo)s ( )eet) and very many others were all
Iormed by transIerence based on resemblance.
TransIerence Based on Contiguity
Another term Ior this type oI transIerence is "in&uistic eton''.
The association is based upon subtle psychological links between
diIIerent objects and phenomena, sometimes traced and identiIied
with much diIIiculty. The two objects may be associated together
because they oIten appear in common situations, and so the image oI
one is easily accompanied by the image oI the other or they may be
associated on the principle oI cause and eIIect, oI common Iunction,
oI some material and an object which is made oI it, etc.
Let us consider some cases oI transIerence based on contiguity.
You will notice that they are oI diIIerent kinds.
The Old English adjective &"ad meant "bright, shining" (it was
applied to the sun, to gold and precious stones, to shining armour,
etc.). The later (and more modern) meaning "joyIul" developed on
the basis oI the
usual association (which is reIlected in most languages) oI light with
joy (cI. with the R. <lAI87A =L<IO7A=;AD <lAI87 =L ^@pA).
The meaning oI the adjective sad in Old English was "satisIied
with Iood" (cI. with the R. <RI(R>) which is a word oI the same
Indo-European root). Later this meaning developed a connotation oI a
greater intensity oI quality and came to mean "oversatisIied with
Iood having eaten too much". Thus, the meaning oI the adjective sad
developed a negative evaluative connotation and now described not a
happy state oI satisIaction but, on the contrary, the physical unease
and discomIort oI a person who has had too much to eat. The next
shiIt oI meaning was to transIorm the description oI physical
discomIort into one oI spiritual discontent because these two states
oIten go together. It was Irom this prosaic source that the modern
meaning oI sad "melancholy", "sorrowIul" developed, and the
adjective describes now a purely emotional state. The two previous
meanings ("satisIied with Iood" and "having eaten too much") were
ousted Irom the semantic structure oI the word long ago.
The )oot oI a bed is the place where the Ieet rest when one lies in
the bed, but the )oot oI a mountain got its name by another
association: the Ioot oI a mountain is its lowest part, so that the
association here is Iounded on common position.
By the ars oI an arm-chair we mean the place where the arms lie
when one is setting in the chair, so that the type oI association here is
the same as in the )oot o) a -ed. The "e& oI a bed (table, chair, etc.),
though, is the part which serves as a support, the original meaning
being "the leg oI a man or animal". The association that lies behind
this development oI meaning is the common Iunction: a piece oI
Iurniture is supported by its legs just as living beings are supported by
The meaning oI the noun hand realised in the context hand o) a
c"oc. (/atch) originates Irom the main meaning oI this noun "part oI
human body". It also developed due to the association oI the common
Iunction: the hand oI a clock points to the Iigures on the Iace oI the
clock, and one oI the Iunctions oI human hand is also that oI pointing
to things.
Another meaning oI hand realised in such contexts as )actor'
hands# )ar hands is based on another kind oI association: strong,
skilIul hands are the most important Ieature that is required oI a
person engaged in physical labour (cI. with the R. OL?7:;A O@6;).
The adjective du"" (see the scheme oI its semantic structure in Ch.
7) developed its meaning "not clear or bright" (as in a du"" &reen
co"ourD du"" "i&htD du"" shapes) on the basis oI the Iormer meaning
"deIicient in eyesight", and its meaning "not loud or distinct" (as in
du"" sounds) on the basis oI the older meaning "deIicient in hearing".
The association here was obviously that oI cause and eIIect: to a
person with weak eyesight all colours appear pale, and all shapes
blurred to a person with deIicient hearing all sounds are indistinct.
The main (and oldest registered) meaning oI the noun -oard was
"a Ilat and thin piece oI wood a wooden plank". On the basis oI this
meaning developed the meaning "table" which is now archaic. The
association which underlay this semantic shiIt was that oI the
material and the object made Irom it: a wooden plank (or several
planks) is an essential part oI any table. This type oI association is
oIten Iound with nouns denoting clothes: e. g. a ta))eta ("dress made
oI taIIeta") a in. ("mink coat"), a 3ers' ("knitted shirt or sweater").
Meanings produced through transIerence based on contiguity
sometimes originate Irom geographical or proper names. China in the
sense oI "dishes made oI porcelain" originated Irom the name oI the
country which was believed to be the birthplace oI porcelain.
+/eed ("a coarse wool cloth") got its name Irom the river Tweed and
che,iot (another kind oI wool cloth) Irom the Cheviot hills in
The name oI a painter is Irequently transIerred onto one oI his
pictures: a Yatisse j a paintin& -' Yatisse.
Broadening (or Generalisation) oI Meaning.
Narrowing (or Specialisation) oI Meaning
Sometimes, the process oI transIerence may result in a
considerable change in range oI meaning. For instance, the verb to
arri,e (French borrowing) began its liIe in English in the narrow
meaning "to come to shore, to land". In Modern English it has greatly
widened its combinability and developed the general meaning "to
come" (e. g. to arri,e in a ,i""a&e# to/n# cit'# countr'# at a hote"#
hoste"# co""e&e# theatre# p"ace# etc.). The meaning developed through
transIerence based on contiguity (the concept oI coming somewhere
is the same Ior both meanings), but the range oI the second meaning
is much broader.
Another example oI the broadening oI meaning is pipe. Its earliest
recorded meaning was "a musical wind instrument". Nowadays it can
denote any hollow oblong cylindrical body (e. g. /ater pipes). This
meaning developed through transIerence based on the similarity oI
shape (pipe as a musical instrument is also a hollow oblong
cylindrical object) which Iinally led to a considerable broadening oI
the range oI meaning.
The word -ird changed its meaning Irom "the young oI a bird" to
its modern meaning through transIerence based on contiguity (the
association is obvious). The second meaning is broader and more
It is interesting to trace the history oI the word &ir" as an example
oI the changes in the range oI meaning in the course oI the semantic
development oI a word.
Also: see Supplementary Material, p. 279.
In Middle English it had the meaning oI "a small child oI either
sex". Then the word underwent the process oI transIerence based on
contiguity and developed the meaning oI "a small child oI the Iemale
sex", so that the range oI meaning was somewhat narrowed. In its
Iurther semantic development the word gradually broadened its range
oI meaning. At Iirst it came to denote not only a Iemale child but,
also, a young unmarried woman, later, any young woman, and in
modern colloquial English it is practically synonymous to the noun
/oan (e. g. +he o"d &ir" ust -e at "east se,ent')# so that its range oI
meaning is quite broad.
The history oI the noun "ad' somewhat resembles that oI &ir". In
Old English the word ( hlfdiZe) denoted the mistress oI the
house, i. e. any married woman. Later, a new meaning developed
which was much narrower in range: "the wiIe or daughter oI a
baronet" (aristocratic title). In Modern English the word "ad' can be
applied to any woman, so that its range oI meaning is even broader
than that oI the OE hlIdiZe. In Modern English the diIIerence
between &ir" and "ad' in the meaning oI /oan is that the Iirst is
used in colloquial style and sounds Iamiliar whereas the second is
more Iormal and polite. Here are some more examples oI narrowing
oI meaning:
Veer[ q any beast a certain kind oI beast
Yeat[ any Iood a certain Iood product
Wo'[ any young person oI the male sex servant oI the male sex
It should be pointed out once more that in all these words the
second meaning developed through transIerence based on contiguity,
and that when we speak oI them as examples oI narrowing oI
meaning we simply imply that the range oI the second meaning is
more narrow than that oI the original meaning.
Homonyms: Words oI the Same
ioon's are words which are identical in sound and spelling,
or, at least, in one oI these aspects, but diIIerent in their meaning.
E. g. J -an.# n. a shore
-an.# n. an institution Ior receiving, lending,
exchanging, and saIeguarding money
-a""# n. a sphere any spherical body -a""# n. a
large dancing party

English vocabulary is rich in such pairs and even groups oI words.

Their identical Iorms are mostly accidental: the majority oI
homonyms coincided due to phonetic changes which they suIIered
during their development.
II synonyms and antonyms can be regarded as the treasury oI the
language's expressive resources, homonyms are oI no interest in this
respect, and one cannot expect them to be oI particular value Ior
communication. Metaphorically speaking, groups oI synonyms and
pairs oI antonyms are created by the vocabulary system with a
particular purpose whereas homonyms are accidental creations, and
thereIore purposeless.
In the process oI communication they are more oI an
encumbrance, leading sometimes to conIusion and
misunderstanding. Yet it is this very characteristic which makes them
one oI the most important sources oI popular humour.
The pun is a joke based upon the play upon words oI similar Iorm
but diIIerent meaning (i. e. on homonyms) as in the Iollowing:
"A tailor guarantees to give each oI his customers a perIect
(The joke is based on the homonyms: I. )it# n. perIectly Iitting
clothes II. )it# n. a nervous spasm.)
Homonyms which are the same in sound and spelling (as the
examples given in the beginning oI this chapter) are traditionally
termed hoon's proper.
The Iollowing joke is based on a pun which makes use oI another
type oI homonyms:
"Waiter" "Yes, sir." "What's
this?" "It's bean soup, sir."
"Never mind what it has been. I want to know what it is now."
Wean# n. and -een# Past Part, oI to -e are phones. As the example
shows they are the same in sound but diIIerent in spelling. Here are
some more examples oI homophones:
ni&ht# n. .ni&ht# n. piece# n. peace# n. scent# n. cent#
n. sent# v. (Past IndeI., Past Part, oI to send)D rite# n. to
/rite# v. ri&ht# adj. sea# n. to see# v. r si: (the name oI
a letter).
The third type oI homonyms is called hoo&raphs. These are
words which are the same in spelling but diIIerent in sound.
to -o/ bau, v.
-o/ bqu, n.
to incline the head or body in
salutation a Ilexible strip oI
wood Ior propelling arrows

"ead led# n. to
tear teq, v.
tear tie, n.
to pull apart or in pieces by
a drop oI the Iluid secreted by
the lacrinial glands oI the eye
6o!rces of Domonms
One source oI homonyms has already been mentioned: phonetic
chan&es which words undergo in the course oI their historical
development. As a result oI such changes, two or more words which
were Iormerly pronounced diIIerently may develop identical sound
Iorms and thus become homonyms.
Zi&ht and .ni&ht# Ior instance, were not homonyms in Old English
as the initial . in the second word was pronounced, and not dropped
as it is in its modern sound Iorm: .. .niht (cI. .. niht). A more
complicated change oI Iorm brought together another pair oI
homonyms: to .nead (s.t. cnudan) and to need (.. nuodian).
In Old English the verb to /rite had the Iorm /ritan# and the
adjective ri&ht had the Iorms reht# riht. The noun sea descends Irom
the Old English Iorm s, and the verb to see Irom . . son. The
noun /or. and the verb to /or. also had diIIerent Iorms in Old
English: /'r.ean and /eor. respectively.
Worro/in& is another source oI homonyms. A borrowed word
may, in the Iinal stage oI its phonetic
to "ead li:d#,. to conduct on the way, go beIore to
show the way - a heavy, rather soIt
adaptation, duplicate in Iorm either a native word or another
borrowing. So, in the group oI homonyms rite# n. to /rite# v.
ri&ht# adj. the second and third words are oI native origin whereas
rite is a Latin borrowing BE Lat. ritus). In the pair piece# n. peace#
n., the Iirst originates Irom O.F. pais# and the second Irom O.F. (
Gaulish) pettia. Wan.# n. ("shore") is a native word, and -an.# n. ("a
Iinancial institution") is an Italian borrowing. (air# adj. (as in a )air
dea"# it2s not )air) is native, and )air# n. ("a gathering oI buyers and
sellers") is a French borrowing. Yatch# n. ("a game a contest oI skill,
strength") is native, and atch# n. ("a slender short piece oI wood
used Ior producing Iire") is a French borrowing.
Word-building also contributes signiIicantly to the growth oI
homonymy, and the most important type in this respect is
undoubtedly con,ersion. Such pairs oI words as co-# n. to co-#
v., pa"e# adj. to pa"e# v., to a.e# v. a.e# n. are numerous in
the vocabulary. Homonyms oI this type, which are the same in sound
and spelling but reIer to diIIerent categories oI parts oI speech, are
called "e%ico0&raatica" hoon's. 12
*hortenin& is a Iurther type oI word-building which increases the
number oI homonyms. E.g. )an# n. in the sense oI "an enthusiastic
admirer oI some kind oI sport or oI an actor, singer, etc." is a
shortening produced Irom )anatic. Its homonym is a Latin borrowing
)an# n. which denotes an implement Ior waving lightly to produce a
cool current oI air. The noun rep# n. denoting a kind oI Iabric (cI. with
the R. OAJ<) has three homonyms made by shortening: rep# n. (
repertor')# rep# n. ( representati,e)# rep, n. ( reputation)2# all the
three are inIormal words.
During World War II girls serving in the Women's Royal Naval
Service (an auxiliary oI the British Royal Navy) were jokingly
nicknamed Trens (inIormal). This
neologistic Iormation made by shortening has the homonym /ren# n.
"a small bird with dark brown plumage barred with black" (R.
Words made by sound-imitation can also Iorm pairs oI homonyms
with other words: e. g. -an&# n. ("a loud, sudden, explosive noise")
-an&# n. ("a Iringe oI hair combed over the Iorehead"). Also: e/# n.
("the sound a cat makes") e/# n. ("a sea gull") e/# n. ("a pen
in which poultry is Iattened") e/s ("small terraced houses in
Central London").
The above-described sources oI homonyms have one important
Ieature in common. In all the mentioned cases the homonyms
developed Irom two or more diIIerent words, and their similarity is
purely accidental. (In this respect, conversion certainly presents an
exception Ior in pairs oI homonyms Iormed by conversion one word
oI the pair is produced Irom the other: a )ind ` to )ind.)
Now we come to a Iurther source oI homonyms which diIIers
essentially Irom all the above cases. Two or more homonyms can
originate Irom diIIerent meanings oI the same word when, Ior some
reason, the semantic structure oI the word breaks into several parts.
This type oI Iormation oI homonyms is called sp"it po"'se'.
From what has been said in the previous chapters about
polysemantic words, it should have become clear that the semantic
structure oI a polysemantic word presents a system within which all
its constituent meanings are held together by logical associations. In
most cases, the Iunction oI the arrangement and the unity is
determined by one oI the meanings (e. g. the meaning "Ilame" in the
noun )ire j see Ch. 7, p. 133). II this meaning happens to disappear
Irom the word's semantic structure, associations between the rest oI
the meanings may be severed, the semantic structure loses its unity
and Ialls into two or more parts which then become accepted as
independent lexical units.
Let us consider the history oI three homonyms:
-oard# n. a long and thin piece oI timber
-oard# n. daily meals, esp. as provided Ior pay,
e. g. roo and -oard -oard# n. an oIIicial
group oI persons who direct
or supervise some activity, e. g. a -oard
o) directors
It is clear that the meanings oI these three words are in no way
associated with one another. Yet, most larger dictionaries still enter a
meaning oI -oard that once held together all these other meanings
"table". It developed Irom the meaning "a piece oI timber" by
transIerence based on contiguity (association oI an object and the
material Irom which it is made). The meanings "meals" and "an
oIIicial group oI persons" developed Irom the meaning "table", also
by transIerence based on contiguity: meals are easily associated with
a table on which they are served an oIIicial group oI people in
authority are also likely to discuss their business round a table.
Nowadays, however, the item oI Iurniture, on which meals are
served and round which boards oI directors meet, is no longer
denoted by the word -oard but by the French Norman borrowing
ta-"e# and -oard in this meaning, though still registered by some
dictionaries, can very well be marked as archaic as it is no longer
used in common speech. That is why, with the intrusion oI the
borrowed ta-"e# the word -oard actually lost its corresponding
meaning. But it was just that meaning which served as a link to hold
together the rest oI the constituent parts oI the word's semantic
structure. With its diminished role as an element oI communication,
its role in the semantic structure was also weakened. The speakers
almost Iorgot that -oard had ever been associated with any item oI
Iurniture, nor could they associate the concepts oI meals or oI a
committee with a long thin piece oI timber (which is the oldest
meaning oI -oard). Consequently, the semantic structure oI -oard
was split into three units. The Iollowing scheme illustrates the
&oard, n$ (development oI meanings)
A long, thin piece
oI timber
A piece oI

Meals provided
Ior pay
An oIIicial
group oI
Woard I, II, III, n. (split polysemy)
I. A long, thin piece oI
A piece oI
Meals provided
Ior pay
Seldom used ousted III. by
the French borrowing
An oIIicial
group oI
A somewhat diIIerent case oI split polysemy may be illustrated by
the three Iollowing homonyms:
sprin&# n. the act oI springing, a leap sprin&# n. a place
where a stream oI water comes up out oI the earth (R. O7^=;6#
;<I7:=;6) sprin&# n. a season oI the year.
Historically all three nouns originate Irom the same verb with the
meaning oI "to jump, to leap" (. . sprin0&an)# so that the meaning
oI the Iirst homonym is the oldest. The meanings oI the second and
third homonyms were originally based on metaphor. At the head oI a
stream the water sometimes leaps up out oI the earth, so that
metaphorically such a place could well be described as a "eap. On the
other hand, the season oI the year Iollowing winter could be
poetically deIined as a
"eap Irom the darkness and cold into sunlight and liIe. Such
metaphors are typical enough oI Old English and Middle English
semantic transIerences but not so characteristic oI modern mental and
linguistic processes. The poetic associations that lay in the basis oI
the semantic shiIts described above have long since been Iorgotten,
and an attempt to re-establish the lost links may well seem Iar-
Ietched. It is just the near-impossibility oI establishing such links that
seems to support the claim Ior homonymy and not Ior polysemy with
these three words.
It should be stressed, however, that split polysemy as a source oI
homonyms is not accepted by some scholars. It is really diIIicult
sometimes to decide whether a certain word has or has not been
subjected to the split oI the semantic structure and whether we are
dealing with diIIerent meanings oI the same word or with homonyms,
Ior the criteria are subjective and imprecise. The imprecision is
recorded in the data oI diIIerent dictionaries which oIten contradict
each other on this very issue, so that -oard is represented as two
homonyms in ProIessor V. K. Muller's dictionary 41, as three
homonyms in ProIessor V. D. Arakin's 36 and as one and the same
word in Hornby's dictionary 45.
*prin& also receives diIIerent treatment. V. K. Muller's and
Hornby's dictionaries acknowledge but two homonyms: I. a season oI
the year, . a) the act oI springing, a leap, b) a place where a stream
oI water comes up out oI the earth and some other meanings,
whereas V. D. Arakin's dictionary presents the three homonyms as
given above.
ClassiIication oI Homonyms
The subdivision oI homonyms into hoon's proper#
hoophones and hoo&raphs is certainly not precise enough and
does not reIlect certain important Ieatures oI these words, and, most
important oI all, their status
as parts oI speech. The examples given in the beginning oI this
chapter show that homonyms may belong both to the same and to
diIIerent categories oI parts oI speech. Obviously, a classiIication oI
homonyms should reIlect this distinctive Ieature. Also, the paradigm
oI each word should be considered, because it has been observed that
the paradigms oI some homonyms coincide completely, and oI others
only partially.
Accordingly, ProIessor A. I. Smirnitsky classiIied homonyms into
two large classes: I. Iull homonyms, II. partial homonyms 15.
Full lexical homonyms are words which represent the same
category oI parts oI speech and have the same paradigm.
E. g. atch# n. a game, a contest
I atch# n. a short piece oI wood used Ior
I producing Iire
/ren# n. a member oI the Women's Royal Naval
Service /ren# n. a bird
Partial homonyms are subdivided into three subgroups:
A. Simple lexico-grammatical partial homonyms are words which
belong to the same category oI parts oI speech. Their paradigms have
one identical Iorm, but it is never the same Iorm, as will be seen Irom
the examples.
E. g. (to) )ound# ,.
q )ound# v. (Past IndeI., Past Part. oI to ( )ind)
to "a'# v.
I "a'# v. (Past IndeI. oI to "ie)
to -ound# v.
I -ound# v. (Past IndeI., Past Part, oI to
( -ind)
B. Complex lexico-grammatical partial homonyms
are words oI diIIerent categories oI parts oI speech
which have one identical Iorm in their paradigms.
E. g. I rose# n.
rose# v. (Past IndeI. oI to rise)
aid# n.
ade# v. (Past IndeI., Past Part, oI to a.e)
"e)t# adj.
"e)t# v. (Past IndeI., Past Part, oI to "ea,e)
-ean# n.
-een# v. (Past Part, oI to -e)
one# num.
/on# v. (Past IndeI., Past Part, oI to /in)
C. Partial lexical homonyms are words oI the same
category oI parts oI speech which are identical only in
their corresponding Iorms.
E. g. q to "ie ("a'# "ain)# v. to "ie
("ied# "ied)# v.
to han& (hun&# hun&)# v.
to han& (han&ed# han&ed)# v.
to can (canned# canned) (I) can
/$ Consider o!r ans"ers #o #he follo"ing$
1. Which words do we call homonyms?
2. Why can't homonyms be regarded as expressive
means oI the language?
3. What is the traditional classiIication oI homo
nyms? Illustrate your answer with examples.
4. What are the distinctive Ieatures oI the classiIica
tion oI homonyms suggested by ProIessor
A. I. Smirnitsky?
Are Their Meanings the Same or DiIIerent?
Synonymy is one oI modern linguistics' most controversial
problems. The very existence oI words traditionally called s'non's
is disputed by some linguists the nature and essence oI the
relationships oI these words is hotly debated and treated in quite
diIIerent ways by the representatives oI diIIerent linguistic schools.
Even though one may accept that synonyms in the traditional
meaning oI the term are somewhat elusive and, to some extent,
Iictitious it is certain that there are words in any vocabulary which
clearly develop regular and distinct relationships when used in
In the Iollowing extract, in which a young woman rejects a
proposal oI marriage, the verbs "i.e# adire and "o,e# all describe
Ieelings oI attraction, approbation, Iondness:
"I have always "i.ed you very much, I adire your talent, but,
Iorgive me, I could never "o,e you as a wiIe should love her
(From +he *hi,erin& *ands by V. Holt)
Yet, each oI the three verbs, though they all describe more or less
the same Ieeling oI liking, describes it in its own way: "I like you, i.
e. I have certain warm Ieelings towards you, but they are not strong
Ior me to describe them as "love"," so that "i.e and "o,e are in a
way opposed to each other.
The duality oI synonyms is, probably, their most
conIusing Ieature: they are somewhat the same,
and yet they are most obviously diIIerent. Both as
pects oI their dual characteristics are essential Ior
them to perIorm their Iunction in speech: revealing
diIIerent aspects, shades and variations oI the same
" Was she a prett' girl?
I would certainly have called her attracti,e.C
The second speaker in this short dialogue does his best to choose
the word which would describe the girl most precisely: she was good-
looking, but prett' is probably too good a word Ior her, so that
attracti,e is again in a way opposed to prett' (not pretty, only
attractive), but this opposition is, at the same time, Iirmly Iixed on the
sameness oI prett' and attracti,e[ essentially they both describe a
pleasant appearance.
Here are some more extracts which conIirm that synonyms add
precision to each detail oI description and show how the correct
choice oI a word Irom a group oI synonyms may colour the whole
The Iirst extract depicts a domestic quarrel. The inIuriated
husband shouts and glares at his wiIe, but "his &"are suddenly
soItened into a &aGe as he turned his eyes on the little girl" (i. e. he
had been looking Iuriously at his wiIe, but when he turned his eyes
on the child, he looked at her with tenderness).
The second extract depicts a young Iather taking his child Ior a
Sunday walk.
"Neighbours were apt to smile at the long-legged bare-headed
young man leisurely strolling along the
street and his small companion demurely trotting by his side."
(From *oe Yen and Toen by B. Lowndes)
The synonyms stro"" and trot vividly describe two diIIerent styles
oI walking, the long slow paces oI the young man and the gait
between a walk and a run oI the short-legged child.
In the Iollowing extract an irritated producer is talking to an
ambitious young actor:
"Think you can play Romeo? Romeo should si"e# not &rin#
/a".# not s/a&&er# spea. his lines, not u-"e them."
Here the second synonym in each pair is quite obviously and
intentionally contrasted and opposed to the Iirst: "... smile, not grin."
Yet, to &rin means more or less the same as to si"e# only, perhaps,
denoting a broader and a rather Ioolish smile. In the same way to
s/a&&er means "to walk", but to walk in a deIiant or insolent manner.
Yu-"in& is also a way oI speaking, but oI speaking indistinctly or
Synonyms are one oI the language's most important expressive
means. The above examples convincingly demonstrate that the
principal Iunction oI synonyms is to represent the same phenomenon
in diIIerent aspects, shades and variations.
And here is an example oI how a great writer may use synonyms
Ior stylistic purposes. In this extract Irom Veath o) a iero R.
Aldington describes a group oI survivors painIully retreating aIter a
deIeat in battle:
"... The Frontshires name oI battalion staggered rather than
walked down the bumpy trench ... About IiIty men, the Ilotsam oI
the wrecked battalion,
stumbled past them .... They shambled heavily along, not keeping
step or attempting to, bent wearily Iorward under the weight oI
their equipment, their unseeing eyes turned to the muddy ground."
In this extract the verb to /a". is used with its three synonyms,
each oI which describes the process oI walking in its own way. In
contrast to /a". the other three words do not merely convey the bare
idea oI going on Ioot but connote the manner oI walking as well.
*ta&&er means "to sway while walking" and, also, implies a
considerable, sometimes painIul, eIIort. *tu-"e# means "to walk
tripping over uneven ground and nearly Ialling." *ha-"e implies
dragging one's Ieet while walking a physical eIIort is also connoted
by the word.
The use oI all these synonyms in the extract creates a vivid picture
oI exhausted, broken men marching Irom the battle-Iield and
enhances the general atmosphere oI deIeat and hopelessness.
A careIully chosen word Irom a group oI synonyms is a great
asset not only on the printed page but also in a speaker's utterance. It
was Mark Twain who said that the diIIerence between the right word
and just the right word is the diIIerence between the lightning and the
The skill to choose the most suitable word in every context and
every situation is an essential part oI the language learning process.
Students should be taught both to discern the various connotations in
the meanings oI synonyms and to choose the word appropriate to
each context.
Cri#eria of 6nonm
Synonymy is associated with some theoretical problems which at
present are still an object oI controversy. Probably, the most
controversial among these is
the problem oI criteria oI synonymy. To put it in simpler words, we
are still not certain which words should correctly be considered as
synonyms, nor are we agreed as to the characteristic Ieatures which
qualiIy two or more words as synonyms.
Traditional linguistics solved this problem with the conceptual
criterion and deIined synonyms as words oI the same category oI
parts oI speech conveying the same concept but diIIering either in
shades oI meaning or in stylistic characteristics.
Some aspects oI this deIinition have been criticised. It has been
pointed out that linguistic phenomena should be deIined in linguistic
terms and that the use oI the term concept makes this an
extralinguistic deIinition. The term "shades oI meaning" has been
condemned Ior its vagueness and lack oI precision.
In contemporary research on synonymy semantic criterion is
Irequently used. In terms oI componential analysis synonyms may be
deIined as words with the same denotation, or the same denotative
component, but diIIering in connotations, or in connotative
components (see Ch. 7).
Though not beyond criticism, this approach has its advantages
and suggests certain new methods oI analysing synonyms.
A group oI synonyms may be studied with the help oI their
dictionary deIinitions (deIinitional analysis). In this work the data
Irom various dictionaries are analysed comparatively. AIter that the
deIinitions are subjected to transIormational operations
(transIormational analysis). In this way, the semantic components oI
each analysed word are singled out.
Here are the results oI the deIinitional and transIormational
analysis oI some oI the numerous synonyms Ior the verb to "oo..

to stare[ to
&"are[ to
&aGe[ to
&"ance[ to
to peer[
to look


in surprise,
curiosity, etc.
to look
in anger, rage,
to look
in tenderness,
admiration, wonder
to look
brieIly, in
to look
by stealth through an
opening or Irom a
concealed location
to look
with diIIiculty or
The common denotation convincingly shows that, according to
the semantic criterion, the words grouped in the above table are
synonyms. The connotative components represented on the right side
oI the table highlight their diIIerentiations.
In modern research on synonyms #he cri#erion of
in#erchangeabili# is sometimes applied. According to this,
synonyms are deIined as words which are interchangeable at least in
some contexts without any considerable alteration in denotational
meaning. 4
This criterion oI interchangeability has been much criticised.
Every or almost every attempt to apply it to this or that group oI
synonyms seems to lead one to the inevitable conclusion that either
there are very Iew synonyms or, else, that they are not
It is suIIicient to choose any set oI synonyms placing them in a
simple context to demonstrate the point. Let us take, Ior example, the
synonyms Irom the above table.
CI.: ie &"ared at her (i. e. He looked at her angrily). ie &aGed at
her (i. e. He looked at her steadily and attentively probably
with admiration or interest).
ie &"anced at her (i. e. He looked at her brieIly and turned
ie peered at her (i. e. He tried to see her better, but
something prevented: darkness, Iog, weak eyesight).
These Iew simple examples are suIIicient to show that each oI the
synonyms creates an entirely new situation which so sharply diIIers
Irom the rest that any attempt at "interchanging" anything can only
destroy the utterance devoiding it oI any sense at all.
II you turn back to the extracts on p. 184187, the very idea oI
interchangeability will appear even more incredible. Used in this way,
in a related context, all these words ( "i.e 'ou# -ut I cannot "o,e 'ouD
the 'oun& an /as stro""in&# and his chi"d /as trottin& -' his sideD
Roeo shou"d si"e# not &rin# etc.) clearly demonstrate that
substitution oI one word Ior another is impossible: it is not simply the
context that Iirmly binds them in their proper places, but the peculiar
individual connotative structure oI each individual word.
Consequently, it is diIIicult to accept interchange-ability as a
criterion oI synonymy because the speciIic characteristic oI
synonyms, and the one justiIying their very existence, is that the' are
not# cannot and shou"d not -e interchan&ea-"e# in which case they
would simply become useless ballast in the vocabulary.
Synonyms are Irequently said to be the vocabulary's colours, tints
and hues (so the term shade is not so inadequate, aIter all, Ior those
who can understand a metaphor). Attempts at ascribing to synonyms
the quality oI interchangeability are equal to stating that subtle tints
in a painting can be exchanged without destroying the picture's eIIect.
All this does not mean that no synonyms are interchangeable. One
can Iind whole groups oI words with halI-erased connotations which
can readily be substituted one Ior another. The same girl can be
described as prett'# &ood0"oo.in&# handsoe or -eauti)u". Yet, even
these words are Iar Irom being totally interchangeable. Each oI them
creates its own picture oI human beauty. Here is an extract in which a
young girl addresses an old woman:
"I wouldn't say you'd been exactly prett' as a girl
handsoe is what I'd say. You've got such strong Ieatures."
(From +he *tone An&e" by M. Lawrence)
So, handsome is not pretty and pretty is not necessarily
handsome. Perhaps they are not even synonyms? But they are. Both,
the criterion oI common denotation ("good-looking, oI pleasing
appearance") and even the dubious criterion oI inter-changeability
seem to indicate that.
In conclusion, let us stress that even iI there are some synonyms
which are interchangeable, it is quite certain that there are also others
which are not. A criterion, iI it is a criterion at all, should be
applicable to all synonyms and not just to some oI them. Otherwise it
is not acceptable as a valid criterion.
T)es of 6nonms
The only existing classiIication system Ior synonyms was
established by Academician V. V. Vinogradov,
the Iamous Russian scholar. In his classiIication system there are
three types oI synonyms: ideo&raphic (which he deIined as words
conveying the same concept but diIIering in shades oI meaning),
st'"istic (diIIering in stylistic characteristics) and a-so"ute (coinciding
in all their shades oI meaning and in all their stylistic characteristics)
However, the Iollowing aspects oI his classiIication system are
open to question.
Firstly, absolute synonyms are rare in the vocabulary and, on the
diachronic level, the phenomenon oI absolute synonymy is
anomalous and consequently temporary: the vocabulary system
invariably tends to abolish it either by rejecting one oI the absolute
synonyms or by developing diIIerentiation characteristics in one or
both (or all) oI them. ThereIore, it does not seem necessary to include
absolute synonyms, which are a temporary exception, in the system
oI classiIication.
The vagueness oI the term "shades oI meaning" has already been
mentioned. Furthermore there seems to be no rigid demarcation line
between synonyms diIIering in their shades oI meaning and in
stylistic characteristics, as will be shown later on. There are numerous
synonyms which are distinguished by both shades oI meaning and
stylistic colouring. ThereIore, even the subdivision oI synonyms into
ideographic and stylistic is open to question.
A more modern and a more eIIective approach to the classiIication
oI synonyms may be based on the deIinition describing synonyms as
words diIIering in connotations. It seems convenient to classiIy
connotations by which synonyms diIIer rather than synonyms
themselves. It opens up possibilities Ior tracing much subtler
distinctive Ieatures within their semantic structures.
T)es of Conno#a#ions
I. +he connotation o) de&ree or intensit' can be traced in such
groups oI synonyms as to surprise to astonish to aaGe to
to satis)' to p"ease to content to &rati)' to
de"i&ht to e%a"tD to shout to 'e"" to -e""o/ to roarD to "i.e
to adire to "o,e to adore to /orship.
As the table on p. 189 shows, some words have two and even
more connotative components in their semantic structures. In the
above list the synonymic groups headed by to satis)' and to "i.e
contain words which can be diIIerentiated not only by the
connotation oI intensity but by other types which will be described
. In the group oI synonyms to stare to &"are to &aGe to
&"ance to peep to peer# all the synonyms except to &"ance
denote a lasting act oI looking at somebody or something, whereas to
&"ance describes a brieI, passing look. These synonyms may be said
to have a connotation o) duration in their semantic structure.
Other examples are: to )"ash (-rie)) to -"aGe ("astin&)D to
shudder (-rie)) to shi,er ("astin&)D to sa' (-rie)) to spea.# to
ta". ("astin&).
All these synonyms have other connotations besides that oI
III. The synonyms to stare to &"are to &aGe are
diIIerentiated Irom the other words oI the group by eoti,e
connotations# and Irom each other by the nature oI the emotion they
imply (see the table on p. 189).
In the group a"one sin&"e "one"' so"itar'# the adjective
"one"' also has an emotive connotation.
:ro!)s of snonms here and f!r#her on in #he #ex# are gi+en
*he /as a"one implies simply the absence oI company, she /as
"one"' stresses the Ieeling oI melancholy and desolation resulting
Irom being alone. A sin&"e tree on the p"ain states plainly that there is
(was) only one tree, not two or more. A "one"' tree on the p"ain gives
essentially the same inIormation, that there was one tree and no more,
but also creates an emotionally coloured picture.
In the group to tre-"e to shi,er to shudder to sha.e# the
verb to shudder is Irequently associated with the emotion oI Iear,
horror or disgust, etc. (e. g. to shudder /ith horror) and thereIore can
be said to have an emotive connotation in addition to the two others
(see the scheme in Ch. 7, p. 136).
One should be warned against conIusing words with emotive
connotations and words with emotive denotative meanings, e. g. to
"o,e to adire to adore to /orshipD an&r' )urious
enra&edD )ear terror horror. In the latter, emotion is expressed
by the leading semantic component whereas in the Iormer it is an
accompanying, subsidiary characteristic.
IV. +he e,a"uati,e connotation conveys the speaker's attitude
towards the reIerent, labelling it as &ood or -ad. So in the group /e""0
.no/n )aous notorious ce"e-rated# the adjective notorious
bears a negative evaluative connotation and ce"e-rated a positive one.
CI.: a notorious urderer# ro--er# s/ind"er# co/ard# "ad'0.i""er# )"irt#
-ut a ce"e-rated scho"ar# artist# sin&er# an0o)0"etters.
In the group to produce to create to anu)acture to
)a-ricate# the verb to create characterises the process as inspired and
noble. +o anu)acture means "to produce in a mechanical way
without inspiration or originality". So, to create can be said to have a
positive evaluative connotation, and to anu)acture a negative one.
The verbs to spar."e and to &"itter are close synonyms and might
well be Iavoured by supporters oI the interchangeability criterion.
Yet, it would be interesting to compare the Iollowing sets oI
A. iis (her) e'es spar."ed /ith auseent# errient# &ood
huour# hi&h spirits# happiness# etc. (positive emotions).
B. iis (her) e'es glittered /ith an&er# ra&e# hatred#
a"ice# etc. (negative emotions).
The combinability oI both verbs shows that, at least, when they
are used to describe the expression oI human eyes, they have both
emotive and evaluative connotations, and, also, one Iurther
characteristic, which is described in the next paragraph.
V. +he causati,e connotation can be illustrated by the examples
to spar."e and to &"itter given above: one's eyes sparkle /ith positi,e
eotions and glitter /ith ne&ati,e eotions. However, this
connotation oI to spar."e and to &"itter seems to appear only in the
model "Eyes SparkleGlitter".
The causative connotation is also typical oI the verbs we have
already mentioned, to shi,er and to shudder# in whose semantic
structures the cause oI the act or process oI trembling is encoded: to
shi,er /ith co"d# )ro a chi""# -ecause o) the )rostD to shudder /ith
)ear# horror# etc.
+o -"ush and to redden represent similar cases: people mostly
blush Irom modesty, shame or embarrassment, but usually redden
Irom anger or indignation. Emotive connotation can easily be traced
in both these verbs.
VI. +he connotation o) anner can be singled out in some groups
oI verbal synonyms. The verbs to stro"" to stride to trot to
pace to s/a&&er to sta&&er to stu-"e all denote diIIerent
ways and
types oI walking, encoding in their semantic structures the length oI
pace, tempo, gait and carriage, purposeIulness or lack oI purpose
(see, Ior instance, the quotations on p. 184187).
. The verbs to peep and to peer also have this connotation in their
semantic structures: to peep to look at smb.smth. )urti,e"'# -'
stea"thD to peer to look at smb.smth. /ith di))icu"t' or strain.
The verbs to "i.e to adire to "o,e to adore to
/orship# as has been mentioned, are diIIerentiated not only by the
connotation oI intensity, but also by the connotation oI manner. Each
oI them describes a Ieeling oI a diIIerent type, and not only oI
diIIerent intensity.
VII. The verbs to peep and to peer have already been mentioned.
They are diIIerentiated by connotations oI duration and manner. But
there is some other curious peculiarity in their semantic structures.
Let us consider their typical contexts.
One peeps at smb.smth. through a hole, crack or opening, Irom
behind a screen, a halI-closed door, a newspaper, a Ian, a curtain, etc.
It seems as iI a whole set oI scenery were built within the word's
meaning. OI course, it is not quite so, because "the set oI scenery" is
actually built in the context, but, as with all regular contexts, it is
intimately reIlected in the word's semantic structure. We shall call this
the connotation o) attendant circustances.
This connotation is also characteristic oI to peer which will be
clear Irom the Iollowing typical contexts oI the verb.
One peers at smb.smth. in darkness, through the Iog, through
dimmed glasses or windows, Irom a great distance a short-sighted
person may also peer at things. So, in the semantic structure oI to
peer are encoded circumstances preventing one Irom seeing clearly.
VIII. The synonyms prett'# handsoe# -eauti)u" have been
mentioned as the ones which are more or less interchangeable. Yet,
each oI them describes a special type oI human beauty: -eauti)u" is
mostly associated with classical Ieatures and a perIect Iigure,
handsoe with a tall stature, a certain robustness and Iine pro
portions, prett' with small delicate Ieatures and a Iresh complexion.
This connotation may be deIined as the connotation o) attendant
I. *t'"istic connotations stand somewhat apart Ior two reasons.
Firstly, some scholars do not regard the word's stylistic characteristic
as a connotative component oI its semantic structure. Secondly,
stylistic connotations are subject to Iurther classiIication, namely:
colloquial, slang, dialect, learned, poetic, terminological, archaic.
Here again we are dealing with stylistically marked words (see Ch. 1,
2), but this time we approach the Ieature oI stylistic characteristics
Irom a diIIerent angle: Irom the point oI view oI synonyms Irequent
diIIerentiation characteristics.
Here are some examples oI synonyms which are diIIerentiated by
stylistic connotations (see also Ch. 2). The word in brackets starting
each group shows the denotation oI the synonyms.
BMeal9$ Snack, bite (co"".)# snap (dia".)# repast, reIreshment, Ieast
These synonyms, besides stylistic connotations, have
connotations oI attendant Ieatures.
*nac.# -ite# snap all denote a Irugal meal taken in a hurry
re)reshent is also a light meal )east is a rich or abundant meal.
B:irl9$ Girlie (co"".)# lass, lassie (dia".)# bird, birdie, jane, IluII,
skirt (s".)# maiden (poet.)# damsel (arch.).
BTo lea+e9$ To be oII, to clear out (co"".)# to beat it, to hooI it, to
take the air (s".)# to depart, to retire, to withdraw ()ora").
5. A man entered the bar and called Ior "a Martinus". The barman
o-ser,ed as he pic.ed up a glass, "You mean Martini, sir" "No,
indeed I don't," the man replied. "I was taught Latin properly and I
only want
6. A Ioreigner was re"atin& his experience in studying the English
language. He said: "When I Iirst disco,ered that iI I was quick I was
Iast that iI I was tied I was
Iast and that not to eat was Iast, I was discouraged. But when I came
across the sentence, 'The Iirst one wonone-dollar prize' I &a,e up
7. J a n e: Would you be insu"ted iI that good-looking stranger
oIIered you some champagne?
Joan: Yes, but I'd probably swallow the insult.
Synonyms (continued). Euphemisms.
The Dominant Synonym
The attentive reader will have noticed that in the previous chapter
much use was made oI the numerous synonyms oI the verb to "oo.#
and yet, the verb to "oo. itselI was never mentioned. That doesn't
seem Iair because it is, certainly, a verb which possesses the highest
Irequency oI use compared with its synonyms, and so plays an
important role in communication. Its role and position in relation to
its synonyms is also oI some importance as it presents a kind oI
centre oI the group oI synonyms, as it were, holding it together.
Its semantic structure is quite simple: it consists only oI
denotative component and it has no connotations.
All (or, at least, most) synonymic groups have a "central" word oI
this kind whose meaning is equal to the denotation common to all the
synonymic group. This word is called the doinant s'non'.
Here are examples oI other dominant synonyms with their groups:
To surprise to astonish to aaGe to astound.
To shout to 'e"" to -e""o/ to roar.
To shine to )"ash to -"aGe to &"ea to &"isten to
spar."e to &"itter to shier to &"ier.
To tremble to shi,er to shudder to sha.e.
To make to produce to create to )a-ricate to
Angry )urious enra&ed. Fear
terror horror.
The dominant synonym expresses the notion common to all
synonyms oI the group in the most general way, without contributing
any additional inIormation as to the manner, intensity, duration or any
attending Ieature oI the reIerent. So, any dominant synonym is a
typical basic-vocabulary word (see Ch. 2). Its meaning, which is
broad and generalised, more or less "covers" the meanings oI the rest
oI the synonyms, so that it may be substituted Ior any oI them. It
seems that here, at last, the idea oI interchangeability oI synonyms
comes into its own. And yet, each such substitution would mean an
irreparable loss oI the additional inIormation supplied by connotative
components oI each synonym. So, using to "oo. instead oI to &"are# to
stare# to peep# to peer we preserve the general sense oI the utterance
but lose a great deal in precision, expressiveness and colour.
Summing up what has been said, the Iollowing characteristic
Ieatures oI the dominant synonym can be underlined:
I. High Irequency oI usage.
II. Broad combinability, i. e. ability to be used in combinations
with various classes oI words.
III.Broad general meaning.
IV.Lack oI connotations. (This goes Ior stylistic con
notations as well, so that neutrality as to style is
also a typical Ieature oI the dominant synonym.)
There are words in every language which people instinctively
avoid because they are considered indecent, indelicate, rude, too
direct or impolite. As the "oIIensive" reIerents, Ior which these words
stand, must still be alluded to, they are oIten described in a round-
way, by using substitutes called eupheiss. This device is dictated
by social conventions which are sometimes apt to be over-sensitive,
see "indecency" where there is none and seek reIinement in absurd
avoidances and pretentiousness.
The word "a,ator' has, naturally, produced many euphemisms.
Here are some oI them: po/der roo# /ashroo# restroo# retirin&
roo# (pu-"ic) co)ort station# "adies2 (roo)# &ent"een2s (roo)#
/ater0c"oset# /.c. ([d0blju:'si:]), pu-"ic con,eniences and even
Tindsor cast"e (which is a comical phrase Ior "deciphering" w.c.).
Pregnancy is another topic Ior "delicate" reIerences. Here are
some oI the euphemisms used as substitutes Ior the adjective
pre&nant[ in an interestin& condition# in a de"icate condition# in the
)ai"' /a'# /ith a -a-' coin&# (-i&) /ith chi"d# e%pectin&.
The apparently innocent word trousers# not so long ago, had a
great number oI euphemistic equivalents, some oI them quite Iunny:
unentiona-"es# ine%pressi-"es# indescri-a-"es# un/hispera-"es# 'ou0
ustn2t0en0tion 2es# sit0upons. Nowadays, however, nobody seems
to regard this word as "indecent" any more, and so its euphemistic
substitutes are no longer in use.
A landlady who reIers to her lodgers as pa'in& &uests is also using
a euphemism, aiming at halI-concealing the embarrassing Iact that
she lets rooms.
The love oI aIIectation, which displays itselI in the excessive use
oI euphemisms, has never been a sign oI good taste or genuine
reIinement. Quite the opposite. Fiction writers have oIten ridiculed
pretentious people Ior their weak attempts to express themselves in a
delicate and reIined way.
"... Mrs. Sunbury never went to bed, she retired# but Mr.
Sunbury who was not quite so reIined as his wiIe always said:
"Me Ior BedIord" ..."
(From +he Hite by W. S. Maugham) 211
To retire in this ironical passage is a euphemistic substitute Ior to
&o to -ed.
Another lady, in Rain by the same author, easily surpasses Mrs.
Sunbury in the delicacy oI her speech. She says that there are so
many mosquitoes on the island where the story is set that at the
Governor's parties "all the ladies are given a pillow-slip to put their
their "o/er e%treities in."
The speaker considers the word "e&s to be "indelicate" and
substitutes Ior it its Iormal synonym "o/er e%treities (cI. with the R.
=;a=;A 67=A:=7<I;). The substitution makes her speech pretentious
and ridiculous.
Eating is also regarded as unreIined by some minds. Hence such
substitutes as to parta.e o) )ood (o) re)reshent)# to re)resh onese")#
to -rea. -read.
There are words which are easy targets Ior euphemistic
substitution. These include words associated with drunkenness, which
are very numerous.
The adjective drun.# Ior instance, has a great number oI such
substitutes, some oI them "delicate", but most comical. E. g.
into%icated (Iorm.), under the in)"uence (Iorm.), tips'# e""o/# )resh#
hi&h# err'# )"ustered# o,ercoe# )u"" (coll.), drun. as a "ord (coll.),
drun. as an o/" (coll.), -oi"ed (sl.), )ried (sl.), tan.ed (sl.)# ti&ht (sl.),
sti)) (sl.), pic."ed (sl.), soa.ed (sl.), three sheets to the /ind (sl.), hi&h
as a .ite (sl.), ha")0seas0o,er (sl.), etc.
The Iollowing brieI quotation Irom P.G. Wodehouse gives two
more examples oI words belonging to the same group:
"Motty was under the sur)ace. Completely soGG"ed.C
(From 4i&ht0io# !ee,es by P. G. Wodehouse)
In the Iollowing extracts Irom P. G. Wodehouse we Iind slang
substitutes Ior two other "unpleasant" words: prison and to iprison.
"Oh, no, he isn't ill," I said, "and as regards accidents, it
depends on what you call an accident. He's in cho.e'.C
"In what?"
"In prison."
"... And now Mr. Sipperley is in the 3u&... He couldn't come
himselI, because he was 3u&&ed Ior biIIing a cop on Boat-Race
Euphemisms may, oI course, be used due to genuine concern not
to hurt someone's Ieelings. For instance, a liar can be described as a
person who does not a"/a's strict"' te"" the truth and a stupid man
can be said to be not e%act"' -ri""iant.
All the euphemisms that have been described so Iar are used to
avoid the so-called socia" ta-oos. Their use, as has already been said,
is inspired by social convention.
*uperstitious ta-oos gave rise to the use oI other type oI
euphemisms. The reluctance to call things by their proper names is
also typical oI this type oI euphemisms, but this time it is based on a
deeply-rooted subconscious Iear.
*uperstitious ta-oos have their roots in the distant past oI
mankind when people believed that there was a supernatural link
between a name and the object or creature it represented. ThereIore,
all the words denoting evil spirits, dangerous animals, or the powers
oI nature were taboo. II uttered, it was believed that unspeakable
disasters would result not only Ior the speaker but also Ior those near
him. That is why all creatures, objects and phenomena threatening
danger were reIerred to in a round-about descriptive way. So, a
dangerous animal might be described as the one0"ur.in&0in0the0/ood
and a mortal disease as the -"ac. death. Euphemisms are probably the
oldest type oI synonyms, Ior
it is reasonable to assume that superstitions which caused real Iear
called Ior the creation oI euphemisms long beIore the need to
describe things in their various aspects or subtle shades caused the
appearance oI other synonyms.
The Christian religion also made certain words taboo. The proverb
*pea. o) the de,i" and he /i"" appear must have been used and taken
quite literally when it was Iirst used, and the Iear oI ca""in& the de,i"
-' nae was certainly inherited Irom ancient superstitious belieIs. So,
the word de,i" became taboo, and a number oI euphemisms were
substitutes Ior it: the 4rince o) Var.ness# the -"ac. one# the e,i" one#
dic.ens (coll.), deuce (coll.), (F"d) Zic. (coll.).
The word Eod# due to other considerations, also had a great
number oI substitutes which can still be traced in such phrases as
Good $ordU# W' iea,ens1# Eood iea,ensU# (Y') &oodnessU# (Y')
&oodness &raciousU# Eracious eU
Even in our modern emancipated times, old superstitious Iears
still lurk behind words associated with death and Iatal diseases.
People are not superstitious nowadays and yet they are surprisingly
reluctant to use the verb to die which has a long chain oI both solemn
and humorous substitutes. E. g. to pass a/a'# to -e ta.en# to -reathe
one2s "ast# to depart this "i)e# to c"ose one2s e'es# to 'ie"d (&i,e) up the
&host# to &o the /a' o) a"" )"esh# to &o Test (sl.), to .ic. o)) (sl.), to
chec. out (sl.), to .ic. the -uc.et (sl.), to ta.e a ride (sl.), to hop the
t/i& (sl.), to 3oin the a3orit' (sl.).
The slang substitutes seem to lack any proper respect, but the joke
is a sort oI cover Ior the same old Iear: speak oI death and who knows
what may happen.
Mental diseases also cause the Irequent use oI euphemisms.
A mad person may be described as insane# enta""' unsta-"e#
un-a"anced# unhin&ed# not (Buite) ri&ht
(coll.), not a"" there (coll.), o)) one2s head (coll.), o)) one2s roc.er
(coll.), /ron& in the upper store' (coll.), ha,in& -ats in one2s -e")r'
(coll.), craG' as a -ed-u& (coll.), cuc.oo (sl.), nutt' (sl.), o)) one2s nut
(sl.), "oon' (sl.), a enta" case# a enta" de)ecti,e# etc.
A clinic Ior such patients can also be discreetly reIerred to as, Ior
instance, an as'"u# sanitariu# sanatoriu# (enta") institution#
and, less discreetly, as a nut house (sl.), -oo-' hatch (sl.), "oon' -in
(sl.), etc.
In the story by Evelyn Waugh "Mr. Loveday's Little Outing" a
clinic oI this kind, treating only very rich patients, is described as
"ar&e pri,ate &rounds suita-"e )or the char&e o) ner,ous or di))icu"t
cases. This is certainly the peak oI euphemistic "delicacy".
The great number oI humorous substitutes Iound in such groups oI
words prove particularly tempting Ior writers who use them Ior
comical purposes. The Iollowing extracts Irom a children's book by
R. Dahl are, probably, not in the best oI taste, but they demonstrate
the range oI colloquial and slang substitutes Ior the word ad.
"He's gone oII his rocker" shouted one oI the Iathers, aghast,
and the other parents joined in the chorus oI Irightened shouting.
"He's crazy" they shouted.
"He's balmy"
"He's nutty"
"He's screwy"
"He's batty"
"He's dippy"
"He's dotty'
"He's daIIy"
"He's gooIy"
"He's beany"
"He's buggy"
"He's wacky"
"He's loony"
"No, he is not" said Grandpa Joe.
(From Char"ie and the Choco"ate (actor' by R. Dahl)
... "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 rooI..."
- - -
All the above examples show that euphemisms are substitutes Ior
their synonyms. Their use and very existence are caused either by
social conventions or by certain psychological Iactors. Most oI them
have stylistic connotations in their semantic structures. One can also
assume that there is a special euphemistic connotation that can be
singled out in the semantic structure oI each such word. Let us point
out, too, that euphemistic connotations in Iormal euphemisms are
diIIerent in "Ilavour" Irom those in slang euphemistic substitutes. In
the Iirst case they are solemn and delicately evasive, and in the
second rough and somewhat cynical, reIlecting an attempt to laugh
oII an unpleasant Iact.
We use the term anton's to indicate words oI the same category
oI parts oI speech which have contrasting meanings, such as hot
co"d# "i&ht dar.# happiness sorro/# to accept to re3ect# up
II synonyms Iorm whole, oIten numerous, groups, antonyms are
usually believed to appear in pairs. Yet, this is not quite true in reality.
For instance, the adjective co"d may be said to have /ar Ior its
second antonym, and sorro/ may be very well contrasted with
On the other hand, a polysemantic word may have an antonym (or
several antonyms) Ior each oI its mean-
ings. So, the adjective du"" has the antonyms interestin&# ausin&#
entertainin& Ior its meaning oI "deIicient in interest", c"e,er# -ri&ht#
capa-"e Ior its meaning oI "deIicient in intellect", and acti,e Ior the
meaning oI "deIicient in activity", etc.
Antonymy is not evenly distributed among the categories oI parts
oI speech. Most antonyms are adjectives which is only natural
because qualitative characteristics are easily compared and
contrasted: hi&h "o/# /ide narro/# stron& /ea.# o"d
'oun&# )riend"' hosti"e.
Verbs take second place, so Iar as antonymy is concerned. Yet,
verbal pairs oI antonyms are Iewer in number. Here are some oI
them: to "ose to )ind# to "i,e to die# to open to c"ose# to /eep
to "au&h.
Nouns are not rich in antonyms, but even so some examples can
be given: )riend ene'# 3o' &rie)# &ood e,i"# hea,en
earth# "o,e hatred.
Antonymic adverbs can be subdivided into two groups: a) adverbs
derived Irom adjectives: /ar"' co"d"'# erri"' sad"'# "oud"'
so)t"'D b) adverbs proper: no/ then# here there# e,er
ne,er# up do/n# in out.
- - -
Not so many years ago antonymy was not universally accepted as
a linguistic problem, and the opposition within antonymic pairs was
regarded as purely logical and Iinding no reIlection in the semantic
structures oI these words. The contrast between heat and co"d or -i&
and sa""# said most scholars, is the contrast oI things opposed by
their very nature.
In the previous chapter dealing with synonymy we saw that both
the identity and diIIerentiations in words called synonyms can be said
to be encoded within their semantic structures. Can the same be said
about antonyms? Modern research in the Iield oI antonymy gives a
positive answer to this question. Nowadays most scholars agree that
in the semantic structures oI all words, which regularly occur in
antonymic pairs, a special antonymic connotation can be singled out.
We are so used to coming across hot and co"d together, in the same
contexts, that even when we Iind hot alone, we cannot help
subconsciously registering it as not co"d# that is, contrast it to its
missing antonym. The word possesses its Iull meaning Ior us not
only due to its direct associations but also because we
subconsciously oppose it to its antonym, with which it is regularly
used, in this case to hot. ThereIore, it is reasonable to suggest that the
semantic structure oI hot can be said to include the antonymic
connotation oI "not cold", and the semantic structure oI ene' the
connotation oI "not a Iriend".
It should be stressed once more that we are speaking only about
those antonyms which are characterised by common occurrences,
that is, which are regularly used in pairs. When two words Irequently
occur side by side in numerous contexts, subtle and complex
associations between them are not at all unusual. These associations
are naturally reIlected in the words' semantic structures. Antonymic
connotations are a special case oI such "reIlected associations".
- - -
Together with synonyms, antonyms represent the language's
important expressive means. The Iollowing quotations show how
authors use antonyms as a stylistic device oI contrast.
How Iar that little candle throws his beams So shines a &ood deed
in a nau&ht'
world. (From Yerchant o) fenice by W.
Shakespeare. Act V, Sc. I)
... But then my soul's imaginary sight Presents thy
shadow to my sightless view,
nau&ht' wicked, evil (o-s.)
Which like a jewel hung in &hast"' night, Makes black night
-eauteous and her o"d Iace ne/. (From *onnet vvfII by W.
Welcome 3o'# and welcome sorro/#
Lethe's weed and Hermes' Ieather,
Come to0da'# and come to0orro/#
I do love you both together
I love to mark sad Iaces in Iair weather
And hear a err' laughter amid the thunder
(air and )ou" I love together.
(From A *on& o) Fpposites by J. Keats)
... The writer should seek his reward in the pleasure oI his
work and in release Irom the burden oI his thought and
indiIIerent to aught else, care nothing )or praise or censure#
)ai"ure or success.
(From +he Yoon and *i%pence by W. S. Maugham)
They the Victorians were busy erectin&# oI course and we
have been busy deo"ishin& Ior so long that now erection seems
as ephemeral an activity as bubble-blowing.
(From +he (rench $ieutenant2s Toan by J. Fowles)

/$ Consider o!r ans"ers #o #he follo"ing$
1. Which word in a synonymic group is considered to
be the dominant synonym? What are its characteristic
2. Can the dominant synonym be substituted Ior cer
tain other members oI a group oI synonyms? Is the cri
terion oI interchangeabitity applicable in this case?
For inIormation on Hyponymy see Supplementary Material, p.
V.: Do you want me to ride on the wrong side?
P.: You are driving on the wrong side.
V.: But you said that I was driving on the right side.
P.: That is right. You are on the right, and that's wrong.
V.: A strange country II right is wrong, I'm right when I'm on
the wrong side. So why did you stop me?
P.: My dear sir, you must keep to the leIt. The right side is the
V.: It's like a looking-glass I'll try to remember. Well, I want
to go to Bellwood. Will you kindly tell me the way?
P.: Certainly. At the end oI this road, turn leIt.
V.: Now let me think. Turn leIt In England leIt is right, and
right is wrong. Am I right?
P.: You'll be right iI you turn leIt. But iI you turn right, you'll
be wrong.
V.: Thank you. It's as clear as daylight.
(AIter G. C. Thornley)
2. Flying instructors say that pilot trainees are divided into
optimists and pessimists when reporting the amount oI Iuel during
Ilights. Optimists report that their Iuel tank is halI Iull while
pessimists say it's halI empty. 3. The canvas homes, the caravans, the
transportable timber Irames each had its light. Some moving, some
still. 4. His words seemed to point out that sad, even, tragic things
could never be gay. 5. It was warm in the sun but cool under the
shady trees. 6. He is my best Iriend and he is my bitter enemy. 7.
Every man has Ieminine qualities and every woman has masculine
ones. 8. He hated to be exposed to strangers, to be accepted or
The text is borrowed Irom $oo.# $au&h and $earn to *pea. by I.
B. Vasilyeva, I. A. Kitenko, D. V. Menyajlo. L., 1970.
Phraseology: Word-Groups with TransIerred Meanings
4hraseo"o&ica" units# or idios# as they are called by most
western scholars, represent what can probably be described as the
most picturesque, colourIul and expressive part oI the language's
II synonyms can be Iiguratively reIerred to as the tints and
colours oI the vocabulary, then phraseology is a kind oI picture
gallery in which are collected vivid and amusing sketches oI the
nation's customs, traditions and prejudices, recollections oI its past
history, scraps oI Iolk songs and Iairy-tales. Quotations Irom great
poets are preserved here alongside the dubious pearls oI philistine
wisdom and crude slang witticisms, Ior phraseology is not only the
most colourIul but probably the most democratic area oI vocabulary
and draws its resources mostly Irom the very depths oI popular
And what a variety oI odd and grotesque images, Iigures and
personalities one Iinds in this amazing picture gallery: dark horses,
white elephants, bulls in china shops and green-eyed monsters, cats
escaping Irom bags or looking at kings, dogs barking up the wrong
tree and men either wearing their hearts on their sleeves or having
them in their mouths or even in their boots. Sometimes this parade oI
Iunny animals and quaint human beings looks more like a hilarious
Iancy-dress ball than a peaceIul picture gallery and it is really a pity
that the only interest some scholars seem to take in it is whether the
leading component oI the idiom is expressed by a verb or a noun.
$. ./(0
The metaphor )anc'0dress -a"" may seem Iar-Ietched to skeptical
minds, and yet it aptly reIlects a very important Ieature oI the
linguistic phenomenon under discussion: most participants oI the
carnival, iI we accept the metaphor, wear masks, are disguised as
something or somebody else, or, dropping metaphors, word-groups
known as phraseological units or idioms are characterised by a double
sense: the current meanings oI constituent words build up a certain
picture, but the actual meaning oI the whole unit has little or nothing
to do with that picture, in itselI creating an entirely new image.
So, a dar. horse mentioned above is actually not a horse but a
person about whom no one knows anything deIinite, and so one is not
sure what can be expected Irom him. The imagery oI a -u"" in a china
shop lies very much on the surIace: the idiom describes a clumsy
person (cI. with the R. <87= l J7<@^=7> 8Ll6A). A /hite e"ephant#
however, is not even a person but a valuable object which involves
great expense or trouble Ior its owner, out oI all proportion to its
useIulness or value, and which is also diIIicult to dispose oI. +he
&reen0e'ed onster is jealousy, the image being drawn Irom Fthe""o
. +o "et the cat out o) the -a& has actually nothing to do with cats, but
means simply "to let some secret become known". In to -ar. up the
/ron& tree (Amer.), the current meanings oI the constituents create a
vivid and amusing picture oI a Ioolish dog sitting under a tree and
barking at it while the cat or the squirrel has long since escaped. But
the actual meaning oI the idiom is "to Iollow a Ialse scent to look Ior
somebody or something in a wrong place to expect Irom somebody
what he is unlikely to do". The idiom is not inIrequently used
O, beware, my lord, oI jealousy It is the green-eyed
monster, which doth mock The meat it Ieeds on ...
(lago's words Irom Act III, Sc. 3)
in detective stories: +he po"ice are -ar.in& up the /ron& tree as
usua" (i.e. they suspect somebody who has nothing to do with the
The ambiguousness oI these interesting word groups may lead to
an amusing misunderstanding, especially Ior children who are apt to
accept words at their Iace value.
Little Johnnie (cr'in&)[ Mummy, mummy, my auntie Jane is
Mother: Nonsense, child She phoned me exactly Iive minutes
Johnnie: But I heard Mrs. Brown say that her neighbours cut
her dead.
(To cut soe-od' dead means "to rudely ignore somebody to
pretend not to know or recognise him".)
Puns are Irequently based on the ambiguousness oI idioms:
"Isn't our Kate a marvel I wish you could have seen her at the
Harrisons' party yesterday. II I'd collected the bricks she dropped
all over the place, I could build a villa."
(+o drop a -ric. means "to say unintentionally a quite indiscreet
or tactless thing that shocks and oIIends people".)
So, together with synonymy and antonymy, phraseology
represents expressive resources oI vocabulary-
V. H. Collins writes in his Woo. o) Xn&"ish Idios[ "In standard
spoken and written English today idiom is an established and
essential element that, used with care, ornaments and enriches the
language." 26
Ksed /ith care is an important warning because speech
overloaded with idioms loses its Ireshness and originality. Idioms,
aIter all, are ready-made speech units, and their continual repetition
sometimes wears them out: they lose their colours and become trite
clichs. Such idioms can hardly be said to "ornament" or "enrich the
On the other hand, oral or written speech lacking idioms loses
much in expressiveness, colour and emotional Iorce.
In modern linguistics, there is considerable conIusion about the
terminology associated with these word-groups. Most Russian
scholars use the term "phraseological unit" (CnOLPA787b;:A<6LN
A^;=;ML") which was Iirst introduced by Academician
V.V.Vinogradov whose contribution to the theory oI Russian
phraseology cannot be overestimated. The term "idiom" widely used
by western scholars has comparatively recently Iound its way into
Russian phraseology but is applied mostly to only a certain type oI
phraseological unit as it will be clear Irom Iurther explanations.
There are some other terms denoting more or less the same
linguistic phenomenon: set0e%pressions# set0phrases# phrases# )i%ed
/ord0&roups# co""ocations.
The conIusion in the terminology reIlects insuIIiciency oI positive
or wholly reliable criteria by which phraseological units can be
distinguished Irom "Iree" word-groups.
It should be pointed out at once that the "Ireedom" oI Iree word-
groups is relative and arbitrary. Nothing is entirely "Iree" in speech as
its linear relationships are governed, restricted and regulated, on the
one hand, by requirements oI logic and common sense and, on the
other, by the rules oI grammar and combinability. One can speak oI a
-"ac.0e'ed &ir" but not oI a -"ac.0e'ed ta-"e (unless in a piece oI
modernistic poetry where anything is possible). Also, to say the chi"d
/as &"ad is quite correct, but a &"ad chi"d is wrong because in
Modern English &"ad is attributively used only with a very limited
number oI nouns (e. g. &"ad ne/s)# and names oI persons are not
among them.
Free word-groups are so called not because oI any absolute
Ireedom in using them but simply because they are each time built up
anew in the speech process where-
as idioms are used as ready-made units with Iixed and constant
Do" #o %is#ing!ish Phraseological Fni#s from 4ree &ord1:ro!)s
This is probably the most discussed and the most controversial
problem in the Iield oI phraseology. The task oI distinguishing
between Iree word-groups and phraseological units is Iurther
complicated by the existence oI a great number oI marginal cases, the
so-called sei0)i%ed or sei0)ree /ord0&roups# also called non0
phraseo"o&ica" /ord0&roups which share with phraseological units
their structural stability but lack their semantic unity and
Iigurativeness (e. g. to &o to schoo"# to &o -' -us# to coit suicide).
There are two major criteria Ior distinguishing between
phraseological units and Iree word-groups: semantic and structural.
Compare the Iollowing examples:
A. Cambridge don: I'm told they're inviting
more American proIessors to this university. Isn't it
rather carrying coals to Newcastle?
(+o carr' coa"s to Ze/cast"e means "to take something to a place
where it is already plentiIul and not needed". CI. with the R. \ w@8@
<7 <l7;Q <LQ7lLO7Q.)
B. This cargo ship is carrying coal to Liverpool.
The Iirst thing that captures the eye is the semantic diIIerence oI
the two word-groups consisting oI the same essential constituents. In
the second sentence the Iree word-group is carr'in& coa" is used in
the direct sense, the word coa" standing Ior real hard, black coal and
carr' Ior the plain process oI taking something Irom one place to
another. The Iirst context quite obviously has nothing to do either
with coal or with transporting it, and the meaning oI the whole word-
group is
something entirely new and Iar removed Irom the current meanings
oI the constituents.
Academician V. V. Vinogradov spoke oI the semantic change in
phraseological units as "a meaning resulting Irom a peculiar chemical
combination oI words". This seems a very apt comparison because in
both cases between which the parallel is drawn an entirely new
quality comes into existence.
The semantic shiIt aIIecting phraseological units does not consist
in a mere change oI meanings oI each separate constituent part oI the
unit. The meanings oI the constituents merge to produce an entirely
new meaning: e. g. to ha,e a -ee in one2s -onnet means "to have an
obsession about something to be eccentric or even a little mad". The
humorous metaphoric comparison with a person who is distracted by
a bee continually buzzing under his cap has become erased and halI-
Iorgotten, and the speakers using the expression hardly think oI bees
or bonnets but accept it in its transIerred sense: "obsessed, eccentric".
That is what is meant when phraseological units are said to be
characterised by semantic unity. In the traditional approach,
phraseological units have been deIined as word-groups conveying a
single concept (whereas in Iree word-groups each meaningIul
component stands Ior a separate concept).
It is this Ieature that makes phraseological units similar to words:
both words and phraseological units possess semantic unity (see
Introduction). Yet, words are also characterised by structural unity
which phraseological units very obviously lack being combinations
oI words.
Most Russian scholars today accept the seantic criterion oI
distinguishing phraseological units Irom Iree word-groups as the
major one and base their research work in the Iield oI phraseology on
the deIini-
tion oI a phraseological unit oIIered by ProIessor A. V. Koonin, the
leading authority on problems oI English phraseology in our country:
"A phraseological unit is a stable word-group characterised by a
completely or partially transIerred meaning." 12
The deIinition clearly suggests that the degree oI semantic change
in a phraseological unit may vary ("completely or partially transIerred
meaning"). In actual Iact the semantic change may aIIect either the
whole word-group or only one oI its components. The Iollowing
phraseological units represent the Iirst case: to s.ate on thin ice (x to
put oneselI in a dangerous position to take risks) to /ear one2s heart
on one2s s"ee,e
(x to expose, so that everyone knows, one's most
intimate Ieelings) to ha,e one2s heart in one2s -oots (x to be deeply
depressed, anxious about something) to ha,e one2s heart in one2s
outh (x to be greatly alarmed by what is expected to happen) to
ha,e one2s heart in the ri&ht p"ace (x to be a good, honest and
generous Iellow) a cro/ in -orro/ed p"ues ( a person
pretentiously and unsuitably dressed cI. with the R. l7O7=L l
JLl8;=9;h JAO9Nh)D a /o") in a sheep2s c"othin&
(x a dangerous
enemy who plausibly poses as a Iriend).
The second type is represented by phraseological units in which
one oI the components preserves its current meaning and the other is
used in a transIerred meaning: to "ose (.eep) one2s teper# to )"' into
a teper# to )a"" i""# to )a"" in "o,e (out o) "o,e)# to stic. to one2s /ord
(proise)# to arri,e at a conc"usion# -oso )riends# shop ta". (also: to
ta". shop)# sa"" ta"..
The origin oI the phrase is in a passage in Fthe""o where
Iago says:
... 'tis not long aIter
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve For
daws to peck at.
(Act I, Sc. 1)
The allusion is to a Iable oI Aesop.
Here, though, we are on dangerous ground because the border-
line dividing phraseological units with partially changed meanings
Irom the so-called sei0)i%ed or non0phraseo"o&ica" /ord0&roups
(marginal cases) is uncertain and conIusing.
The term "idiom", both in this country and abroad, is mostly
applied to phraseological units with completely transIerred meanings,
that is, to the ones in which the meaning oI the whole unit does not
correspond to the current meanings oI the components. There are
many scholars who regard idioms as the essence oI phraseology and
the major Iocus oI interest in phraseology research.
+he structura" criterion also brings Iorth pronounced distinctive
Ieatures characterising phraseological units and contrasting them to
Iree word-groups.
Structural invariability is an essential Ieature oI phraseological
units, though, as we shall see, some oI them possess it to a lesser
degree than others. Structural invariability oI phraseological units
Iinds expression in a number oI restrictions.
First oI all, restriction in substitution. As a rule, no word can be
substituted Ior any meaningIul component oI a phraseological unit
without destroying its sense. +o carr' coa"s to Yanchester makes as
little sense as yLO967l <7 <l7;Q <LQ7lLO7Q.
The idiom to &i,e soe-od' the co"d shou"der means "to treat
somebody coldly, to ignore or cut him", but a /ar shou"der or a
co"d e"-o/ make no sense at all. The meaning oI a -ee in s-2s
-onnet was explained above, but a -ee in his hat or cap would sound
a silly error in choice oI words, one oI those absurd slips that people
are apt to make when speaking a Ioreign language.
At the same time, in Iree word-groups substitution does not
present any dangers and does not lead to any serious consequences.
In +he car&o ship is carr'in& coa" to $i,erpoo" all the components
can be changed:
+he ship1,esse"1-oat carries1transports1ta.es1-rin&s coa" to (an'
The second type oI restriction is the restriction in introducing any
additional components into the structure oI a phraseological unit.
In a Iree word-group such changes can be made without aIIecting
the general meaning oI the utterance: +his -i& ship is carr'in& a "ar&e
car&o o) coa" to the port o) $i,erpoo".
In the phraseological unit to carr' coa"s to Ze/cast"e no
additional components can be introduced. Nor can one speak about
the -i& /hite e"ephant (when using the /hite e"ephant in its
phraseological sense) or about somebody ha,in& his heart in his
-ro/n -oots.
Yet, such restrictions are less regular. In fanit' (air by W. M.
Thackeray the idiom to -ui"d a cast"e in the air is used in this way:
"While dressing Ior dinner, she built )or herse") a ost
a&ni)icent castle in the air o) /hich she /as the istress ...C
In Iiction such variations oI idioms created Ior stylistic purposes
are not a rare thing. In oral speech phraseological units mostly
preserve their traditional structures and resist the introduction oI
additional components.
The third type oI structural restrictions in phraseological units is
grammatical invariability. A typical mistake with students oI English
is to use the plural Iorm oI )au"t in the phraseological unit to )ind
)au"t /ith soe-od' (e. g. +he teacher a"/a's )ound )au"ts /ith the
-o'). Though the plural Iorm in this context is logically well-
Iounded, it is a mistake in terms oI the grammatical invariability oI
phraseological units k. A similar typical mistake oIten occurs in the
unit )ro head to )oot (e. g. (ro head to )oot he /as iacu"ate"'
dressed). Students are apt to use the plural Iorm oI )oot
in this phrase thus erring once more against the rigidity oI structure
which is so characteristic oI phraseological units.
Yet again, as in the case oI restriction in introducing additional
components, there are exceptions to the rule, and these are probably
even more numerous.
One can -ui"d a cast"e in the air# but also cast"es. A shameIul or
dangerous Iamily secret is picturesquely described as a s.e"eton in
the cup-oard# the Iirst substantive component being Irequently and
easily used in the plural Iorm, as in: I2 sure the' ha,e s.e"etons in
e,er' cup-oardU A -"ac. sheep is a disreputable member oI a Iamily
who, in especially serious cases, may be described as the -"ac.est
sheep o) the )ai"'.
Consider the Iollowing examples oI proverbs:
Te ne,er .no/ the ,a"ue o) /ater ti"" the /e"" is dr'.
Sou can ta.e the horse to the /ater# -ut 'ou cannot a.e hi
+hose /ho "i,e in &"ass houses shou"dn2t thro/ stones.
Even these Iew examples clearly show that proverbs are diIIerent
Irom those phraseological units which have been discussed above.
The Iirst distinctive Ieature that strikes one is the obvious structural
dissimilarity. Phraseological units, as we have seen, are a kind oI
ready-made blocks which Iit into the structure oI a sentence
perIorming a certain syntactical Iunction, more or less as words do. E.
g. Eeor&e "i.ed her )or she ne,er put on airs (predicate). Wi& -u&s "i.e
hi care nothin& a-out sa"" )r' "i.e ourse",es# (a) subject, b)
prepositional object).
Proverbs, iI viewed in their structural aspect, are sentences, and so
cannot be used in the way in which phraseological units are used in
the above examples.
II one compares proverbs and phraseological units in the semantic
aspect, the diIIerence seems to become even more obvious. Proverbs
could be best compared with minute Iables Ior, like the latter, they
sum up the collective experience oI the community. They moralise
(ie"" is pa,ed /ith &ood intentions)# give advice (Von2t 3ud&e a tree
-' its -ar.)# give warning (I) 'ou sin& -e)ore -rea.)ast# 'ou /i"" cr'
-e)ore ni&ht)# admonish ($iars shou"d ha,e &ood eories)# criticise
(X,er'one ca""s his o/n &eese s/ans).
No phraseological unit ever does any oI these things. They do not
stand Ior whole statements as proverbs do but Ior a single concept.
Their Iunction in speech is purely noinati,e (i. e. they denote an
object, an act, etc.). The Iunction oI proverbs in speech, though, is
counicati,e (i. e. they impart certain inIormation).
The question oI whether or not proverbs should be regarded as a
subtype oI phraseological units and studied together with the
phraseology oI a language is a controversial one.
ProIessor A. V. Koonin includes proverbs in his classiIication oI
phraseological units and labels them counicati,e phraseo"o&ica"
units (see Ch. 13). From his point oI view, one oI the main criteria oI
a phraseological unit is its stability. II the quotient oI phraseological
stability in a word-group is not below the minimum, it means that we
are dealing with a phraseological unit. The structural type that is,
whether the unit is a combination oI words or a sentence is
The criterion oI nomination and communication cannot be applied
here either, says ProIessor A. V. Koonin, because there are a
considerable number oI verbal phraseological units which are word-
groups (i. e. nominative units) when the verb is used in the Active
Voice, and sentences (i. e. communicative units) when the verb is
used in the Passive Voice. E. g. to cross (pass)
the Ru-icon the Ru-icon is crossed (passed)D to shed crocodi"e
tears crocodi"e tears are shed. Hence, iI one accepts nomination
as a criterion oI reIerring or not reIerring this or that unit to
phraseology, one is Iaced with the absurd conclusion that such word-
groups, when with verbs in the Active Voice, are phraseological units
and belong to the system oI the language, and when with verbs in the
Passive Voice, are non-phraseological word-groups and do not belong
to the system oI the language. 12
It may be added, as one more argument in support oI this concept,
that there does not seem to exist any rigid or permanent border-line
between proverbs and phraseological units as the latter rather
Irequently originate Irom the Iormer.
So, the phraseological unit the "ast stra/ originated Irom the
proverb +he "ast stra/ -rea.s the cae"2s -ac.# the phraseological
unit -irds o) a )eather Irom the proverb Wirds o) a )eather )"oc.
to&ether# the phraseological unit to catch at a stra/ (stra/s) Irom A
dro/nin& an catches at stra/s.
What is more, some oI the proverbs are easily transIormed into
phraseological units. E. g. Von2t put a"" 'our e&&s in one -as.et k to
put a"" one2s e&&s in one -as.etD don2t cast pear"s -e)ore s/ine k to
cast pear"s -e)ore s/ine.
/$ Consider o!r ans"ers #o #he follo"ing$
1. What do we mean when we say that an idiom has a "double"
2. Why is it very important to use idioms with care? Should
Ioreign-language students use them? Give reasons Ior your answer.
3. The term "phraseological unit" is used by most Russian
scholars. What other terms are used to de scribe the same word-
4. How can you show that the "Ireedom" oI Iree word-groups is
relative and arbitrary?
5. What are the two major criteria Ior distinguishing between
phraseological units and Iree word-groups?
6. How would you explain the term "grammatical in variability"
oI phraseological units?
7. How do proverbs diIIer Irom phraseological units?
8. Can proverbs be regarded as a subdivision oI phraseological
units? Give reasons Ior your answer.
//$2 &ha# is #he so!rce of #he follo"ing idioms= /f in do!b# cons!l#
o!r reference boo(s$
The Trojan horse, Achilles heel, a labour oI Hercules, an apple oI
discord, Iorbidden Iruit, the serpent in the tree, an ugly duckling, the
IiIth column, to hide one's head in the sand.
///$ 6!bs#i#!#e )hraseological !ni#s "i#h #he no!n Ghear#G
for #he i#alicised "ords$ &ha# is #he difference be#"een #he
#"o sen#ences=
1. He is not a man who sho/s his )ee"in&s open"'. 2. She may
seem cold but she has true# .ind )ee"in&s. 3. I learned that piece oI
poetry -' eor'. 4. When I think about my examination tomorrow I
)ee" in despair. 5. When I heard that strange cry in the darkness I /as
terri-"' a)raid. 6. It was the job I "i.ed ,er' uch. 7. I didn't win the
prize but I'm not discoura&ed.
/'$ 6ho" #ha# o! !nders#and #he meaning of #he follo"ing
)hraseological !ni#s b !sing each of #hem in a sen#ence$
1. Between the devil and the deep sea 2. to have one's heart in
one's boots 3. to have one's heart in the
right place 4. to wear one's heart on one's sleeve 5. in the blues 6.
once in a blue moon 7. to swear black is white 8. out oI the blue 9.
to talk till all is blue 10. to talk oneselI blue in the Iace.
'$ 6!bs#i#!#e )hraseological !ni#s incor)ora#ing #he
names of colo!rs for #he i#alicised "ords$
1. I'm )ee"in& rather isera-"e today. 2. He spends all his time on
-ureaucratic routine. 3. A thing like that happens very rare"'. 4. You
can ta". ti"" 'ou are tired o) it but I shan't believe you. 5. The news
was a great shock to me. It came quite une%pected"'. 6. I won't
believe it unless I see it in /ritin&. 7. You can never believe what he
says, he will s/ear an'thin& iI it suits his purpose.
'/$ ;ead #he follo"ing <o(es$ &h do li##le children of#en
mis!nders#and )hraseological !ni#s= 5x)lain ho" #he
mis!nders#anding arises in each case$
1. "Now, my little boys and girls," said the teacher. "I want you to
be very still so still that you can hear a pin drop." For a minute all
was still, and then a little boy shrieked out: "Let her drop."
2. "You must be pretty strong," said Willie, aged six to the young
widow who had come to call on his mother.
"Strong? What makes you think so?"
"Daddy said you can wrap any man in town around your little
S.Tom: What would you do iI you were in my shoes?
Tim: Polish them
4. Little Girl: Oh, Mr. Sprawler, do put on your skates and show
me the Iunny Iigures you can make.
Mr. Sprawler: My dear child, I'm only a beginner. I can't make
any Iigures.
Little Girl: But Mother said you were skating yesterday and cut a
ridiculous Iigure.
'//$ ;ead #he follo"ing <o(es$ 5x)lain "h #he i#alicised
gro!)s of "ords are no# )hraseological !ni#s$
The little boy whose Iather was a-sor-ed in readin& a newspaper
on the bench in the cit' par.# exclaimed:
"Daddy, look, a plane"
His Iather, still reading the paper, said: "All right, but don't touch
:rea# %isco+er
A scientist rushed into the ops room oI the space mission control
centre: "You know that new gigantic computer which was to be the
brain oI the project? We have just ade a &reat disco,er'UC
"What discovery?"
"It doesn't work"
'///$ 5x)lain "he#her #he seman#ic changes in #he follo"ing
)hraseological !ni#s are com)le#e or )ar#ial$ Para)hrase #hem$
To wear one's heart on one's sleeve a wolI in a sheep's clothing
to Ily into a temper to stick to one's word bosom Iriend small talk
to cast pearls beIore swine to beat about the bush to add Iuel to the
Iire to Iall ill to Iall in love to sail under Ialse colours to be at sea.
/H$ 6a "ha# s#r!c#!ral +aria#ions are )ossible in #he follo"ing
)hraseological !ni#s$ /f in do!b#2 cons!l# #he dic#ionaries$
To catch at a straw a big bug the last drop to build a castle in the
air to weather the storm to get the upper hand to run Ior one's liIe
to do wonders to run a risk just the other way about.
Phraseology: Principles oI
It would be interesting now to look at phraseological units Irom a
diIIerent angle, namely: how are all these treasures oI the language
approached by the linguistic science? The very miscellaneous nature
oI these units suggests the Iirst course oI action: they must be sorted
out and arranged in certain classes which possess identical
But which characteristics should be chosen as the main criteria Ior
such a classiIication system? The structural? The semantic? Those oI
degree oI stability? OI origin?
It should be clear Irom the previous description that a
phraseological unit is a complex phenomenon with a number oI
important Ieatures, which can thereIore be approached Irom diIIerent
points oI view. Hence, there exist a considerable number oI diIIerent
classiIication systems devised by diIIerent scholars and based on
diIIerent principles.
+he traditiona" and o"dest princip"e Ior classiIying phraseological
units is based on their original content and might be alluded to as
CtheaticC (although the term is not universally accepted). The
approach is widely used in numerous English and American guides to
idiom, phrase books, etc. On this principle, idioms are classiIied
according to their sources oI origin, "source" reIerring to the
particular sphere oI human activity, oI liIe oI nature, oI natural
phenomena, etc. So, L. P. Smith gives in his classiIication groups oI
idioms used by
sailors, Iishermen, soldiers, hunters and associated with the realia,
phenomena and conditions oI their occupations. In Smith's
classiIication we also Iind groups oI idioms associated with domestic
and wild animals and birds, agriculture and cooking. There are also
numerous idioms drawn Irom sports, arts, etc.
This principle oI classiIication is sometimes called
Cet'o"o&ica"C. The term does not seem appropriate since we usually
mean something diIIerent when we speak oI the etymology oI a word
or word-group: whether the word (or word-group) is native or
borrowed, and, iI the latter, what is the source oI borrowing. It is true
that Smith makes a special study oI idioms borrowed Irom other
languages, but that is only a relatively small part oI his classiIication
system. The general principle is not etymological.
Smith points out that word-groups associated with the sea and the
liIe oI seamen are especially numerous in English vocabulary. Most
oI them have long since developed metaphorical meanings which
have no longer any association with the sea or sailors. Here are some
+o -e a"" at sea to be unable to understand to be in a state oI
ignorance or bewilderment about something (e. g. io/ can I -e a
3ud&e in a situation in /hich I a a"" at sea5 I2 a)raid I2 a"" at sea
in this pro-"e). V. H. Collins remarks that the metaphor is that oI a
boat tossed about, out oI control, with its occupants not knowing
where they are. 26
+o sin. or s/i to Iail or succeed (e. g. It is a case o) sin. or
s/i. A"" depends on his o/n e))ort.)
In deep /ater in trouble or danger.
In "o/ /ater# on the roc.s in strained Iinancial circumstances.
+o -e in the sae -oat /ith soe-od' to be in a situation in
which people share the same diIIiculties and dangers (e. g. I don2t "i.e
'ou uch# -ut seein& that /e2re in the sae -oat I2"" -ac. 'ou a"" I
can). The
metaphor is that oI passengers in the liIe-boat oI a sunken ship.
+o sai" under )a"se co"ours to pretend to be what one is not
sometimes, to pose as a Iriend and, at the same time, have hostile
intentions. The metaphor is that oI an enemy ship that approaches its
intended prey showing at the mast the Ilag ("colours") oI a pretended
Iriendly nation.
+o sho/ one2s co"ours to betray one's real character or
intentions. The allusion is, once more, to a ship showing the Ilag oI
its country at the mast.
+o stri.e one2s co"ours to surrender, give in, admit one is
beaten. The metaphor reIers to a ship's hauling down its Ilag (sign oI
+o /eather (to ride out) the stor to overcome diIIiculties to
have courageously stood against misIortunes.
+o -o/ to the stor to give in, to acknowledge one's deIeat.
+hree sheets in(to) the /ind (sl.) very drunk.
ia") seas o,er (sl.) drunk.
Though, as has been said, direct associations with seaIaring in all
these idioms have been severed, distant memories oI the sea romance
and adventure still linger in some oI them. The Iaint sound oI the surI
can still be heard in such phrases as to ride out the stor or -rea.ers
aheadU (m Take care Danger). Such idioms as to sai" under )a"se
co"ours# to nai" one2s co"ours to the ast (x to be true to one's
convictions, to Iight Ior them openly) bring to mind the distant past oI
pirate brigs, sea battles and great discoveries oI new lands.
It is true, though, that a Ioreigner is more apt to be struck by the
colourIulness oI the direct meaning oI an idiom where a native
speaker sees only its transIerred meaning, the original associations
being almost Iully Iorgotten. And yet, when we Russians use or hear
the idiom JAOlLN 8L<I7:6L# doesn't a dim image oI the little bird
Ilash beIore our mind, though, oI course, we re-
ally mean something quite diIIerent? When we say =L l7OA ; pLJ6L
b7O;I# are we entirely Iree Irom the picture built up by the direct
meanings oI the words? II it were really so and all the direct
associations oI the idioms had been entirely erased, phraseology
would not constitute one oI the language's main expressive resources.
Its expressiveness and wealth oI colour largely iI not solely
depend on the ability oI an idiom to create two images at once: that oI
a ship saIely coming out oI the storm and that oI a man
overcoming his troubles and diIIiculties (to /eather1ride out the
stor)D that oI a ship's crew desperately Iighting against a pirate brig
and that oI a man courageously standing Ior his views and
convictions (to nai" one2s co"ours to the ast)#
The thematic principle oI classiIying phraseological units has real
merit but it does not take into consideration the linguistic
characteristic Ieatures oI the phraseological units.
The considerable contribution made by Russian scholars in
phraseological research cannot be exaggerated. We have already
mentioned the great contribution made by Academician V. V.
Vinogradov to this branch oI linguistic science.
The classiIication system oI phraseological units devised by this
prominent scholar is considered by some linguists oI today to be
outdated, and yet its value is beyond doubt because it was the Iirst
classiIication system which was based on the seantic princip"e. It
goes without saying that semantic characteristics are oI immense
importance in phraseological units. It is also well known that in
modern research they are oIten sadly ignored. That is why any
attempt at studying the semantic aspect oI phraseological units should
be appreciated.
Vinogradov's classiIication system is Iounded on the degree oI
semantic cohesion between the components oI a phraseological unit.
Units with a partially trans-
Ierred meaning show the weakest cohesion between their
components. The more distant the meaning oI a phraseological unit
Irom the current meaning oI its constituent parts, the greater is its
degree oI semantic cohesion. Accordingly, Vinogradov classiIies
phraseological units into three classes: phraseo"o&ica" co-inations#
unities and )usions (R. nOLPA787b;:A<6;A <7:AIL=;N# A^;=<IlL ;
<OLzA=;N). 9
4hraseo"o&ica" co-inations are word-groups with a partially
changed meaning. They may be said to be clearly motivated, that is,
the meaning oI the unit can be easily deduced Irom the meanings oI
its constituents.
E. g. to -e at one2s /its2 end# to -e &ood at soethin&# to -e a
&ood hand at soethin&# to ha,e a -ite# to coe o)) a poor second# to
coe to a stic.' end (coll.), to "oo. a si&ht (coll.), to ta.e soethin&
)or &ranted# to stic. to one2s /ord# to stic. at nothin&# &ospe" truth#
-oso )riends.
4hraseo"o&ica" unities are word-groups with a completely
changed meaning, that is, the meaning oI the unit does not
correspond to the meanings oI its constituent parts. They are
motivated units or, putting it another way, the meaning oI the whole
unit can be deduced Irom the meanings oI the constituent parts the
metaphor, on which the shiIt oI meaning is based, is clear and
E. g. to stic. to one2s &uns (x to be true to one's views or
convictions. The image is that oI a gunner or guncrew who do not
desert their guns even iI a battle seems lost) to sit on the )ence (x in
discussion, politics, etc. reIrain Irom committing oneselI to either
side) to catch1c"utch at a stra/1stra/s (x when in extreme danger,
avail oneselI oI even the slightest chance oI rescue) to "ose one2s
head (x to be at a loss what to do to be out oI one's mind) to "ose
one2s heart to s-. (x to Iall in love) to "oc. the sta-"e door a)ter the
horse is sto"en (x to take precautions too late, when
the mischieI is done) to "oo. a &i)t horse in the outh (m to examine
a present too critically to Iind Iault with something one gained
without eIIort) to ride the hi&h horse (x to behave in a superior,
haughty, overbearing way. The image is that oI a person mounted on a
horse so high that he looks down on others) the "ast drop1stra/ (the
Iinal culminating circumstance that makes a situation unendurable) a
-i& -u&1pot# sl. (a person oI importance) a )ish out o) /ater (a person
situated uncomIortably outside his usual or proper environment).
4hraseo"o&ica" )usions are word-groups with a completely
changed meaning but, in contrast to the unities, they are demotivated,
that is, their meaning cannot be deduced Irom the meanings oI the
constituent parts the metaphor, on which the shiIt oI meaning was
based, has lost its clarity and is obscure.
E. g. to coe a cropper (to come to disaster) nec. and crop
(entirely, altogether, thoroughly, as in: ie /as thro/n out nec. and
crop. *he se,ered a"" re"ations /ith the nec. and crop.)D at si%es and
se,ens (in conIusion or in disagreement) to set one2s cap at s-. (to
try and attract a man spoken about girls and women. The image,
which is now obscure, may have been either that oI a child trying to
catch a butterIly with his cap or oI a girl putting on a pretty cap so as
to attract a certain person. In fanit' (air[ CWe care)u"# !oe# that &ir" is
settin& her cap at 'ou.C)D to "ea,e s-. in the "urch (to abandon a
Iriend when he is in trouble) to sho/ the /hite )eather (to betray
one's cowardice. The allusion was originally to cock Iighting. A white
Ieather in a cock's plumage denoted a bad Iighter) to dance
attendance on s-. (to try and please or attract smb. to show
exaggerated attention to smb.).
It is obvious that this classiIication system does not take into
account the structural characteristics oI phraseological units. On the
other hand, the border-line
separating unities Irom Iusions is vague and even subjective. One and
the same phraseological unit may appear motivated to one person
(and thereIore be labelled as a unity) and demotivated to another (and
be regarded as a Iusion). The more proIound one's command oI the
language and one's knowledge oI its history, the Iewer Iusions one is
likely to discover in it.
+he structura" princip"e o) c"assi)'in& phraseological units is
based on their ability to perIorm the same syntactical Iunctions as
words. In the traditional structural approach, the Iollowing principal
groups oI phraseological units are distinguishable.
A. fer-a". E. &. to run )or one2s (dear) "i)e# to &et (/in) the upper
hand# to ta". throu&h one2s hat# to a.e a son& and dance a-out
soethin&# to sit prett' (Amer. sl.).
W. *u-stanti,e. E. g. do&2s "i)e# cat0and0do& "i)e# ca") "o,e# /hite
"ie# ta"" order# -irds o) a )eather# -irds o) passa&e# red tape# -ro/n
C. Ad3ecti,a". E. g. hi&h and i&ht'# spic. and span# -rand ne/#
sa)e and sound. In this group the so-called comparative word-groups
are particularly expressive and sometimes amusing in their
unanticipated and capricious associations: (as) coo" as a cucu-er#
(as) ner,ous as a cat# (as) /ea. as a .itten# (as) &ood as &o"d (usu.
spoken about children), (as) prett' as a picture# as "ar&e as "i)e# (as)
s"ipper' as an ee"# (as) thic. as thie,es# (as) drun. as an o/" (s".)# (as)
ad as a hatter1a hare in Yarch.
V. Ad,er-ia". E. g. hi&h and "o/ (as in +he' searched )or hi
hi&h and "o/)# -' hoo. or -' croo. (as in *he decided that# -' hoo. or
-' croo.# she ust arr' hi)# )or "o,e or one' (as in ie cae to
the conc"usion that a rea""' &ood 3o- cou"dn2t -e )ound )or "o,e or
one')# in co"d -"ood (as in +he crie /as said to ha,e -een
coitted in co"d -"ood)# in the dead o) ni&ht# -et/een the de,i" and
the deep sea (in a situation in which danger threatens whatever course
oI action
one takes), to the -itter end (as in to )i&ht to the -itter end)# -' a "on&
cha". (as in It is not the sae thin&# -' a "on& cha".).
(. Inter'ectional. 5$ g$ ' Eod1 -' !o,eU -' Eeor&eU &oodness
&raciousU &ood iea,ensU sa.es a"i,eU (Amer.)
ProIessor Smirnitsky oIIered a classiIication system Ior English
phraseological units which is interesting as an attempt to combine the
structural and the semantic principles 12 Phraseological units in this
classiIication system are grouped according to the number and
semantic signiIicance oI their constituent parts. Accordingly two large
groups are established:
A. one-summit units, which have one meaningIul constituent (e.
g. to &i,e up# to a.e out# to pu"" out# to -e tired# to -e surprised
B. two-summit and multi-summit units which have two or more
meaningIul constituents (e. g. -"ac. art# )irst ni&ht# coon sense# to
)ish in trou-"ed /aters).
Within each oI these large groups the phraseological units are
classiIied according to the category oI parts oI speech oI the summit
constituent. So, one-summit units are subdivided into: a) verbal-
adverbial units equivalent to verbs in which the semantic and the
grammatical centres coincide in the Iirst constituent (e. g. to &i,e up)D
b) units equivalent to verbs which have their semantic centre in the
second constituent and their grammatical centre in the Iirst (e. g. to -e
tired)D c) prepositional-substantive units equivalent either to adverbs
or to copulas and having their semantic centre in the substantive
constituent and no grammatical centre (e. g. -' heart# -' eans o)).
Two-summit and multi-summit phraseological units are classiIied
into: a) attributive-substantive two-summit units equivalent to nouns
(e. g. -"ac. art)#
It should be pointed out that most Russian scholars do not regard
these as phraseological units so this is a controversial point.
b) verbal-substantive two-summit units equivalent to verbs (e. g. to
ta.e the )"oor)# c) phraseological repetitions equivalent to adverbs (e.
g. no/ or ne,er)D d) adverbial multi-summit units (e. g. e,er' other
ProIessor Smirnitsky also distinguishes proper phraseological
units which, in his classiIication system, are units with non-Iigurative
meanings, and idioms, that is, units with transIerred meanings based
on a metaphor.
ProIessor Koonin, the leading Russian authority on English
phraseology, pointed out certain inconsistencies in this classiIication
system. First oI all, the subdivision into phraseological units (as non-
idiomatic units) and idioms contradicts the leading criterion oI a
phraseological unit suggested by ProIessor Smirnitsky: it should be
ProIessor Koonin also objects to the inclusion oI such word-
groups as -"ac. art# -est an# )irst ni&ht in phraseology (in ProIessor
Smirnitsky's classiIication system, the two-summit phraseological
units) as all these word-groups are not characterised by a transIerred
meaning. It is also pointed out that verbs with post-positions (e. g.
&i,e up) are included in the classiIication but their status as
phraseological units is not supported by any convincing argument.
- - -
The classiIication system oI phraseological units suggested by
ProIessor A. V. Koonin is the latest out-standing achievement in the
Russian theory oI phraseology. The classiIication is based on the
combined structural-semantic principle and it also considers the
quotient oI stability oI phraseological units.
Phraseological units are subdivided into the Iollowing Iour classes
according to their Iunction in communication determined by their
structural-semantic characteristics.
1 . Nominative phraseological units are represented by word-
groups, including the ones with one meaningIul word, and
coordinative phrases oI the type /ear and tear# /e"" and &ood.
The Iirst class also includes word-groups with a predicative
structure, such as as the cro/ )"ies# and, also, predicative phrases oI
the type see ho/ the "and "ies# ships that pass in the ni&ht.
2. Nominative-communicative phraseological units include word-
groups oI the type to -rea. the ice the ice is -ro.en# that is, verbal
word-groups which are transIormed into a sentence when the verb is
used in the Passive Voice.
3. Phraseological units which are neither nominative nor
communicative include interjectional word-groups.
4. Communicative phraseological units are represented by
proverbs and sayings.
These Iour classes are divided into sub-groups according to the
type oI structure oI the phraseological unit. The sub-groups include
Iurther rubrics representing types oI structural-semantic meanings
according to the kind oI relations between the constituents and to
either Iull or partial transIerence oI meaning.
The classiIication system includes a considerable number oI
subtypes and gradations and objectively reIlects the wealth oI types
oI phraseological units existing in the language. It is based on truly
scientiIic and modern criteria and represents an earnest attempt to
take into account all the relevant aspects oI phraseological units and
combine them within the borders oI one classiIication system. 10