. Lexicology of the English Language

Lexicology of the English Language


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This course of lexicology which forms a part of the

curriculum for the English sections of linguistic departments of

teacher-training colleges is intended for students of the third

year of the day department. It includes 15 lectures and 12

seminars which cover the main themes of Modern English

lexicology: wordbuilding, semantic changes, phraseology,

borrowings, semasiology, neology, lexicography. The material for

seminars includes topics to be discussed, test questions and

lexical units to be analized. Lexical units for the analysis

were chosen mainly among neologisms. There is also a brief list

of recommended literature.

The aim of the course is to teach students to be word-conscious, to be

able to guess the meaning of words they come across from the meanings of

morphemes, to be able to recognize the origin of this or that lexical unit.



Language units



Compound words



Stone wall combinations


Seconadary ways of wordbuilding

Semantic changes



Metaphor and metonymy


Ways of forming phraseological units

Semantic classification of phraseological units

Structural classification of phraseological units

Syntactical classification of phraseological units


Classification of borrowings according to the borrowed


Classification of borrowings according to the degree of


Classification of borrowings according to the language

from which they were borrowed.

Romanic borrowings/ Latin, French, Italian, Spanish/.

Germanic borrowings /Scandinavian, German, Holland/ .

Russian borrowings.

Etymological doublets.


Word - meaning.

Lexical meaning - notion.



Synonyms .

Antonyms .

Local varieties of English.

British and American English.





The term lexicology is of Greek origin / from lexis - word and

logos - science/ . Lexicology is the part of linguistics which deals

with the vocabulary and characteristic features of words and word-groups.

The term vocabulary is used to denote the system of words and word-

groups that the language possesses.

The term word denotes the main lexical unit of a language resulting

from the association of a group of sounds with a meaning. This unit is used

in grammatical functions characteristic of it. It is the smallest unit of a

language which can stand alone as a complete utterance.

The term word-group denotes a group of words which exists in the

language as a ready-made unit, has the unity of meaning, the unity of

syntactical function, e.g. the word-group as loose as a goose means

clumsy and is used in a sentence as a predicative / He is as loose as a


Lexicology can study the development of the vocabulary, the origin of

words and word-groups, their semantic relations and the development of

their sound form and meaning. In this case it is called historical


Another branch of lexicology is called descriptive and studies the

vocabulary at a definite stage of its development.


The main unit of the lexical system of a language resulting from the

association of a group of sounds with a meaning is a word. This unit is

used in grammatical functions characteristic of it. It is the smallest

language unit which can stand alone as a complete utterance.

A word, however, can be divided into smaller sense units - morphemes. The

morpheme is the smallest meaningful language unit. The morpheme consists of

a class of variants, allomorphs, which are either phonologically or

morphologically conditioned, e.g. please, pleasant, pleasure.

Morphemes are divided into two large groups: lexical morphemes and

grammatical (functional) morphemes. Both lexical and grammatical morphemes

can be free and bound. Free lexical morphemes are roots of words which

express the lexical meaning of the word, they coincide with the stem of

simple words. Free grammatical morphemes are function words: articles,

conjunctions and prepositions ( the, with, and).

Bound lexical morphemes are affixes: prefixes (dis-), suffixes (-ish) and

also blocked (unique) root morphemes (e.g. Fri-day, cran-berry). Bound

grammatical morphemes are inflexions (endings), e.g. -s for the Plural of

nouns, -ed for the Past Indefinite of regular verbs, -ing for the Present

Participle, -er for the Comparative degree of adjectives.

In the second half of the twentieth century the English wordbuilding

system was enriched by creating so called splinters which scientists

include in the affixation stock of the Modern English wordbuilding system.

Splinters are the result of clipping the end or the beginning of a word

and producing a number of new words on the analogy with the primary word-

group. For example, there are many words formed with the help of the

splinter mini- (apocopy produced by clipping the word miniature), such as

miniplane, minijet, minicycle, minicar, miniradio and many

others. All of these words denote obects of smaller than normal dimensions.

On the analogy with mini- there appeared the splinter maxi- (apocopy

produced by clipping the word maximum), such words as maxi-series,

maxi-sculpture, maxi-taxi and many others appeared in the language.

When European economic community was organized quite a number of

neologisms with the splinter Euro- (apocopy produced by clipping the word

European) were coined, such as: Euratom Eurocard, Euromarket,

Europlug, Eurotunnel and many others. These splinters are treated

sometimes as prefixes in Modern English.

There are also splinters which are formed by means of apheresis, that is

clipping the beginning of a word. The origin of such splinters can be

variable, e.g. the splinter burger appeared in English as the result of

clipping the German borrowing Hamburger where the morphological structure

was the stem Hamburg and the suffix -er. However in English the

beginning of the word Hamburger was associated with the English word

ham, and the end of the word burger got the meaning a bun cut into

two parts. On the analogy with the word hamburger quite a number of new

words were coined, such as: baconburger, beefburger, cheeseburger,

fishburger etc.

The splinter cade developed by clipping the beginning of the word

cavalcade which is of Latin origin. In Latin the verb with the meaning

to ride a horse is cabalicare and by means of the inflexion -ata the

corresponding Participle is formed. So the element cade is a combination

of the final letter of the stem and the inflexion. The splinter cade

serves to form nouns with the meaning connected with the procession of

vehicles denoted by the first component, e.g. aircade - a group of

airplanes accompanying the plane of a VIP , autocade - a group of

automobiles escorting the automobile of a VIP, musicade - an orchestra

participating in a procession.

In the seventieths of the twentieth century there was a political scandal

in the hotel Watergate where the Democratic Party of the USA had its pre-

election headquarters. Republicans managed to install bugs there and when

they were discovered there was a scandal and the ruling American government

had to resign. The name Watergate acquired the meaning a political

scandal, corruption. On the analogy with this word quite a number of

other words were formed by using the splinter gate (apheresis of the

word Watergate), such as: Irangate, Westlandgate, shuttlegate,

milliongate etc. The splinter gate is added mainly to Proper names:

names of people with whom the scandal is connected or a geographical name

denoting the place where the scandal occurred.

The splinter mobile was formed by clipping the beginning of the word

automobile and is used to denote special types of automobiles, such as:

artmobile, bookmobile, snowmobile, tourmobile etc.

The splinter napper was formed by clipping the beginning of the word

kidnapper and is used to denote different types of crimesters, such as :

busnapper, babynapper, dognapper etc. From such nouns the

corresponding verbs are formed by means of backformation, e.g. to busnap,

to babynap, to dognap.

The splinter omat was formed by clipping the beginning of the word

automat (a cafe in which meals are provided in slot-machines). The

meaning self-service is used in such words as laundromat, cashomat


Another splinter eteria with the meaning self-service was formed by

clipping the beginning of the word cafeteria. By means of the splinter

eteria the following words were formed: groceteria, booketeria,

booteteria and many others.

The splinter quake is used to form new words with the meaning of

shaking, agitation. This splinter was formed by clipping the

beginning of the word earthquake. Ther following words were formed with

the help of this splinter: Marsquake, Moonquake, youthquake etc.

The splinter rama(ama) is a clipping of the word panorama of Greek

origin where pan means all and horama means view. In Modern

English the meaning view was lost and the splinter rama is used in

advertisements to denote objects of supreme quality, e.g. autorama means

exhibition-sale of expensive cars, trouserama means sale of trousers

of supreme quality etc.

The splinter scape is a clipping of the word landscape and it is

used to form words denoting different types of landscapes, such as:

moonscape, streetscape, townscape, seascape etc.

Another case of splinters is tel which is the result of clipping the

beginning of the word hotel. It serves to form words denoting different

types of hotels, such as: motel (motor-car hotel), boatel (boat hotel),

floatel (a hotel on water, floating), airtel (airport hotel) etc.

The splinter theque is the result of clipping the beginning of the word

apotheque of Greek origin which means in Greek a store house. In

Russian words: , , the element

corresponding to the English theque preserves the meaning of

storing something which is expressed by the first component of the word. In

English the splinter theque is used to denote a place for dancing, such

as: discotheque, jazzotheque.

The splinter thon is the result of clipping the beginning of the word

marathon. Marathon primarily was the name of a battle-field in Greece,

forty miles from Athens, where there was a battle between the Greek and

the Persian. When the Greek won a victory a Greek runner was sent to Athens

to tell people about the victory. Later on the word Marathon was used

to denote long-distance competitions in running. The splinter

thon(athon) denotes something continuing for a long time, competition

in endurance e.g. dancathon, telethon, speakathon, readathon,

walkathon, moviethon, swimathon, talkathon, swearthon etc.

Splinters can be the result of clipping adjectives or substantivized

adjectives. The splinter aholic (holic) was formed by clipping the

beginning of the word alcoholic of Arabian origin where al denoted

the, kohl - powder for staining lids. The splinter (a)holic

means infatuated by the object expressed by the stem of the word , e.g.

bookaholic, computerholic, coffeeholic, cheesaholic, workaholic

and many others.

The splinter genic formed by clipping the beginning of the word

photogenic denotes the notion suitable for something denoted by the

stem, e.g. allergenic, cardiogenic, mediagenic, telegenic etc.

As far as verbs are concerned it is not typical of them to be clipped

that is why there is only one splinter to be used for forming new verbs in

this way. It is the splinter cast formed by clipping the beginning of

the verb broadcast. This splinter was used to form the verbs

telecast and abroadcast.

Splinters can be called pseudomorphemes because they are neither roots

nor affixes, they are more or less artificial. In English there are words

which consist of two splinters, e.g. telethon, therefore it is more

logical to call words with splinters in their structure compound-

shortened words consisting of two clippings of words.

Splinters have only one function in English: they serve to change the

lexical meaning of the same part of speech, whereas prefixes and suffixes

can also change the part-of-speech meaning , e.g. the prefix en- and

its allomorph em can form verbs from noun and adjective stems (embody,

enable, endanger), be- can form verbs from noun and adjective stems

(becloud, benumb), post- and pre- can form adjectives from noun

stems (pre-election campaign, post-war events). The main function of

suffixes is to form one part of speech from another part of speech, e.g. -

er, -ing, -ment form nouns from verbal stems (teacher, dancing,

movement), -ness, -ity are used to form nouns from adjective stems

(clannishnes, marginality).

According to the nature and the number of morphemes constituting a word

there are different structural types of words in English: simple,

derived, compound, compound-derived.

Simple words consist of one root morpheme and an inflexion (in many cases

the inflexion is zero), e.g. seldom, chairs, longer, asked.

Derived words consist of one root morpheme, one or several affixes and an

inlexion, e.g. deristricted, unemployed.

Compound words consist of two or more root morphemes and an inflexion,

e.g. baby-moons, wait-and-see (policy).

Compound-derived words consist of two or more root morphemes, one or more

affixes and an inflexion, e.g. middle-of-the-roaders, job-hopper.

When speaking about the structure of words stems also should be

mentioned. The stem is the part of the word which remains unchanged

throughout the paradigm of the word, e.g. the stem hop can be found in

the words: hop, hops, hopped, hopping. The stem hippie can be

found in the words: hippie, hippies, hippies, hippies. The stem

job-hop can be found in the words : job-hop, job-hops, job-hopped,


So stems, the same as words, can be simple, derived, compound and

compound-derived. Stems have not only the lexical meaning but also

grammatical (part-of-speech) meaning, they can be noun stems (girl in the

adjective girlish), adjective stems (girlish in the noun

girlishness), verb stems (expell in the noun expellee) etc. They

differ from words by the absence of inflexions in their structure, they

can be used only in the structure of words.

Sometimes it is rather difficult to distinguish between simple and

derived words, especially in the cases of phonetic borrowings from other

languages and of native words with blocked (unique) root morphemes, e.g.

perestroika, cranberry, absence etc.

As far as words with splinters are concerned it is difficult to

distinguish between derived words and compound-shortened words. If a

splinter is treated as an affix (or a semi-affix) the word can be called

derived , e.g.-, telescreen, maxi-taxi , shuttlegate, cheeseburger.

But if the splinter is treated as a lexical shortening of one of the stems

, the word can be called compound-shortened word formed from a word

combination where one of the components was shortened, e.g. busnapper

was formed from bus kidnapper, minijet from miniature jet.

In the English language of the second half of the twentieth century there

: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9