Рефераты. Лекции Л. И. Городнего по лексикологии английского языка

Лекции Л. И. Городнего по лексикологии английского языка


Learning objectives: After you have studied the lecture you should able


1)define the term semasiology;

2) speak about the problem of defining the term

3) explain the essence of

a) the referential approach to the problem of

defining the meaning

b) the functional approach;

4)express your own appreciation of the problem under analysis.

5) give (draw) a basic triangle (E.g.: The shop houses 15-ton crane; A

naked conductor ran along the car).

The brunch of lexicology, that is devoted to the study of meaning is

known as Semasiology.

Semasiology (from Gr . semasia - "signification") deals not with every

kind of linguistic meaning only. This does not mean that we need not pay

attention to the grammatical meaning. On the contrary, grammatical meaning

must be taken into consideration in so far as it bears a specific influence

upon lexical meaning.

The main objects of semasiological study are as follows: semantic

development of words,

its causes and classification, relevant distinctive features and types of

lexical meaning, polysemy and semantic structure of word, semantic

groupings and connections in the vocabulary system, i.e. synonyms,

antonyms, etc.

Meaning is one of the most controversial terms in the theory of language.

An exact definition of lexical meaning becomes especially difficult due to

complexity of the process, by which language and human consequence serve to

reflect outward reality. Since there is no universally accepted definition

meaning we shall give a brief survey of the problem as it is viewed in

modern linguistics. There are 2 approaches to the problem: 1) the

referential approach, which formulates the essence of meaning as the

interdependence between words and things or concepts they denote; 2) the

functional approach, which studies the functions of a word in speech. This

approach is (sometimes described as contextual) based on the analysis of

various contexts.

The essential feature of the first approach is that in distinguishes

between the three components, connected with meaning:

1) the sound form of the linguistic sign (sign or symbol);

2) the concept underlying this sound form (meaning; thought or


3 ) the actual referent, i.e. the part or the aspect of reality to which

the linguistic sign refers (thing meant).

The best known referential model of meaning is so-called "basic

triangle", which may be represent in a simplified form:

Concept (meaning, thought, referent)

Sound form referent (thing meant)

(sign, symbol)

As we can see from the diagram, the sound form of the linguistic sign,

for instance [kot] is connected with our concept of a small which it

denotes, and though it with the referent, i.e. the actual thing. The common

feature of the referential approach is the implacation that meaning in

some form or other connected with referent.

Let us examine the interrelation between:

1-Meaning and sound form

The sound-form of the word is not identical with, its

meaning namely [kot] is the sound form, used to denote a bed for a child

There are inherent connections between this sound form, used to denote a

bed for a child. There are inherent connections between this sound form and

the meaning of the word "cot", but they are conventional and arbitrary. We

may prove it by comparing the sound-forms of different languages, conveying

one and the same meaning, cf. English [kot] and Russian [krovatka]. On the

contrary, the sound-cluster [kot] in the English language is almost

identical to the sound form in Russian language possessing the meaning


2-Meaning and concept

When we examine a word, we see that its meaning, though connected with

the underlying concept is not identical with it. To begin with, concept is

a category of human cognition. Concept is the thought of the object that

singles out its essential features. Our concepts abstracts and reflect the

most common and typical features of the different objects and phenomena of

the world. Being the result of abstraction the concepts are thus almost the

same for the whole of humanity. The meanings of worlds, however, are

different in different languages. In other words, words expressing

identical concepts may have different semantic structures in different

languages. The concept of "a building for human habitation” is expressed in

English by the word house, in Russian by the word дом, but the meaning of

the English word is not identical with that of the Russian as house does

not possess the meaning of "fixed residence of family or household", which

that of the Russian as house does not possess the meaning of the Russia

word дом; it is expressed by another English word, namely home.

The difference between meaning and concept can also be observed by

comparing synonymous words and word-groups expressing the same concepts,

but possessing linguistic meaning, which is felt as different in each of

the units under considerations:

Big - large;

To die - to pass away - kick the bucket - join the majority;

Child - baby-babe-infant;

Daddy - father - governor - etc.

3-Meaning and referent

To distinguish meaning from the referent, i.e. from the thing denoted by

the linguistic sign is of the utmost importance. To begin with, meaning is

a linguistic phenomenon whereas the denoted object or the referent is

beyond the scope of language. We can denote one and the same

object by more than one word of a different meaning. For example, an

apple can be denoted by the words apple, fruit, smth, this, etc. So far as

all these words have the same referent.

Thus meaning is not to be identified with either of the

three points of the triangle. It is closely connected, but not

identical with sound-form, concept or referent. Yet even the

linguists, who accepted this view disagree as to the nature of

meaning. Some of them regard meaning as the interrelation of the three

points the triangle within the framework of the given

language, but not as an objectively exiting part of the linguistic sign.

Others and among them the outstanding Russian scholar Smirnitsky A. I.

understand the linguistic sign as a two-facet unit. They view meaning as "a

certain reflection in our mind of objects, phenomena or relations that

makes part of the linguistic sign - its so called inner facet, whereas the

sound-form functions as its outer facet" The outer facet of the linguistic

sign is indispensable to meaning and intercommunication. Meaning is to be

found in all linguistic units and together with their sound-form

constitutes by linguistic science. The linguistic signs studied by

linguistic science.

The great stumbling block in referential theories of meaning has always

been that they operate with subjective and intangible mental processes. The

results of the semantic investigation therefore depend to a certain extent

on "the feeling of language" and cannot be verified by another investigator

analyzing the same linguistic data. So, semasiology has to rely too much on

linguistic intuition and unlike other fields of linguistics (phonetics,

history of language) does not posses objective methods of investigation.

Functional approach to Meaning

In recent years a new and entirely different approach to meaning has

appeared in structural linguistics. This approach maintains that a

linguistic study of meaning is the investigation of the relation of sign to

sign only. In other words, they hold the view that the meaning of a

linguistic unit may be studied only through its relation to other

linguistic units and not through its relation to either concept or

referent. Thus, the meaning of the 2 words move and movement is different

because they function in speech differently. Really, they occupy different

positions in relation to other words. (To) move can be followed by a noun

(move the chair), preceded by a pronoun (we move), etc. The position

occupied by the word movement is different: it may be followed by a

preposition (movement of smth) preceded by an adjective (slow movement) and

so on. As the distribution ("the position of a linguistic sign in relation

to other linguistic signs) of the 2 words is different they cone to the

conclusion that not only they belong to different classes of words, but

that that not only meanings are different too.

It follows that in the functional approach meaning may be viewed as the

function of distribution: 1) semantic investigation is confined to the

analysis of the different or sameness meaning; 2)meaning is understood

essentially as the function or the use of linguistic signs.

Relation between the 2 approaches

When comparing the two approaches in terms of methods of

linguistic analysis, we may see that the functional approach should not be

considered an alternative, but rather a valuable complement to the

referential theory. It is only natural that linguistic investigation must

start by collecting an adequate number of samples of context. Once this

phase had been completed, it seems but logical, to pass on to the

referential phase and try to formulate the meaning thus identified. There

is absolutely no need to set the two approaches against each other; each

handles - its is side of the problem and neither is complete without the


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