. Lexicology of the English Language

Scandinavian borrowings.

By the end of the Old English period English underwent a strong influence

of Scandinavian due to the Scandinavian conquest of the British Isles.

Scandinavians belonged to the same group of peoples as Englishmen and

their languages had much in common. As the result of this conquest there

are about 700 borrowings from Scandinavian into English.

Scandinavians and Englishmen had the same way of life,their cultural

level was the same, they had much in common in their literature therefore

there were many words in these languages which were almost identical, e.g.


Modern E

syster sweoster


fiscr fisc


felagi felawe


However there were also many words in the two languages which were

different, and some of them were borrowed into English , such nouns as:

bull, cake, egg, kid, knife, skirt, window etc, such adjectives as: flat,

ill, happy, low, odd, ugly, wrong, such verbs as : call, die, guess, get,

give, scream and many others.

Even some pronouns and connective words were borrowed which happens very

seldom, such as : same, both, till, fro, though, and pronominal forms with

th: they, them, their.

Scandinavian influenced the development of phrasal verbs which did not

exist in Old English, at the same time some prefixed verbs came out of

usage, e.g. ofniman, beniman. Phrasal verbs are now highly productive in

English /take off, give in etc/.

German borrowings.

There are some 800 words borrowed from German into English. Some of them

have classical roots, e.g. in some geological terms, such as: cobalt,

bismuth, zink, quarts, gneiss, wolfram. There were also words denoting

objects used in everyday life which were borrowed from German: iceberg,

lobby, rucksack, Kindergarten etc.

In the period of the Second World War the following words were borrowed:

Volkssturm, Luftwaffe, SS-man, Bundeswehr, gestapo, gas chamber and many

others. After the Second World War the following words were borrowed:

Berufsverbot, Volkswagen etc.

Holland borrowings.

Holland and England have constant interrelations for many centuries and

more than 2000 Holland borrowings were borrowed into English. Most of them

are nautical terms and were mainly borrowed in the 14-th century, such as:

freight, skipper, pump, keel, dock, reef, deck, leak and many others.

Besides two main groups of borrowings (Romanic and Germanic) there are

also borrowings from a lot of other languages. We shall speak about Russian

borrowings, borrowings from the language which belongs to Slavoninc


Russian borrowings.

There were constant contacts between England and Russia and they borrowed

words from one language into the other. Among early Russian borrowings

there are mainly words connected with trade relations, such as: rouble,

copeck, pood, sterlet, vodka, sable, and also words relating to nature,

such as: taiga, tundra, steppe etc.

There is also a large group of Russian borrowings which came into English

through Rushian literature of the 19-th century, such as : Narodnik,

moujik, duma, zemstvo. volost, ukase etc, and also words which were formed

in Russian with Latin roots, such as: nihilist, intelligenzia, Decembrist


After the Great October Revolution many new words appeared in Russian

connected with the new political system, new culture, and many of them were

borrowed into English, such as: collectivization. udarnik, Komsomol etc

and also translation loans, such as: shock worker, collective farm, five-

year plan etc.

One more group of Russian borrowings is connected with perestroika, such

as: glasnost, nomenklatura, apparatchik etc.


Sometimes a word is borrowed twice from the same language. As the

result, we have two different words with different spellings and meanings

but historically they come back to one and the same word. Such words are

called etymological doublets. In English there are some groups of them:

Latino-French doublets.

Latin English from Latin English from French

uncia inch


moneta mint


camera camera


Franco-French doublets

doublets borrowed from different dialects of French.

Norman Paris

canal channel

captain chieftain

catch chaise

Scandinavian-English doublets

Scandinavian English

skirt shirt

scabby shabby

There are also etymological doublets which were borrowed from the same

language during different historical periods, such as French doublets:

gentil - , , etymological doublets are: gentle - ,

and genteel - . From the French word gallant

etymological doublets are : gallant - and gallant - ,


Sometimes etymological doublets are the result of borrowing different

grammatical forms of the same word, e.g. the Comparative degree of Latin

super was superior which was borrowed into English with the meaning

high in some quality or rank. The Superlative degree (Latin

supremus)in English supreme with the meaning outstanding,

prominent. So superior and supreme are etymological doublets.


The branch of lexicology which deals with the meaning is called



Every word has two aspects: the outer aspect (its sound form) and the

inner aspect (its meaning) . Sound and meaning do not always constitute a

constant unit even in the same language. E.g. the word temple may denote

a part of a human head and a large church In such cases we have

homonyms. One and the same word in different syntactical relations can

develop different meanings, e.g. the verb treat in sentences:

a) He treated my words as a joke.

b) The book treats of poetry.

c) They treated me to sweets.

d) He treats his son cruelly.

In all these sentences the verb treat has different meanings and we can

speak about polysemy.

On the other hand, one and the same meaning can be expressed by different

sound forms, e.g. pilot , and airman, horror and terror. In such

cases we have synonyms.

Both the meaning and the sound can develop in the course of time

independently. E.g. the Old English /luvian/ is pronounced /l^v / in Modern

English. On the other hand, board primariliy means a piece of wood sawn

thin It has developed the meanings: a table, a board of a ship, a stage, a

council etc.


The lexical meaning of a word is the realization of a notion by means of

a definite language system. A word is a language unit, while a notion is a

unit of thinking. A notion cannot exict without a word expressing it in the

language, but there are words which do not express any notion but have a

lexical meaning. Interjections express emotions but not notions, but they

have lexical meanings, e.g. Alas! /disappointment/, Oh,my buttons!

/surprise/ etc. There are also words which express both, notions and

emotions, e.g. girlie, a pig /when used metaphorically/.

The term notion was introduced into lexicology from logics. A notion

denotes the reflection in the mind of real objects and phenomena in their

relations. Notions, as a rule, are international, especially with the

nations of the same cultural level. While meanings can be nationally

limited. Grouping of meanings in the semantic structure of a word is

determined by the whole system of every language. E.g. the English verb

go and its Russian equivalent have some meanings which coincide:

to move from place to place, to extend /the road goes to London/, to work

/Is your watch going?/. On the other hand, they have different meanings: in

Russian we say : , in English we use the verb come in this

case. In English we use the verb go in the combinations: to go by bus,

to go by train etc. In Russian in these cases we use the verb .

The number of meanings does not correspond to the number of words,

neither does the number of notions. Their distribution in relation to words

is peculiar in every language. The Russian has two words for the English

man: and . In English, however, man cannot be

applied to a female person. We say in Russian: . In

English we use the word person/ She is a good person/

Development of lexical meanings in any language is influenced by the

whole network of ties and relations between words and other aspects of the



The word polysemy means plurality of meanings it exists only in the

language, not in speech. A word which has more than one meaning is called


Different meanings of a polysemantic word may come together due to the

proximity of notions which they express. E.g. the word blanket has the

following meanings: a woolen covering used on beds, a covering for keeping

a horse warm, a covering of any kind /a blanket of snow/, covering all or

most cases /used attributively/, e.g. we can say a blanket insurance


There are some words in the language which are monosemantic, such as most

terms, /synonym, molecule, bronchites/, some pronouns /this, my, both/,


There are two processes of the semantic development of a word: radiation

and concatination. In cases of radiation the primary meaning stands in the

centre and the secondary meanings proceed out of it like rays. Each

secondary meaning can be traced to the primmary meaning. E.g. in the word

face the primary meaning denotes the front part of the human head

Connected with the front position the meanings: the front part of a watch,

the front part of a building, the front part of a playing card were formed.

Connected with the word face itself the meanings : expression of the

face, outward appearance are formed.

In cases of concatination secondary meanings of a word develop like a

chain. In such cases it is difficult to trace some meanings to the primary

one. E.g. in the word crust the primary meaning hard outer part of

bread developed a secondary meaning hard part of anything /a pie, a

cake/, then the meaning harder layer over soft snow was developed, then

a sullen gloomy person, then impudence were developed. Here the last

meanings have nothing to do with the primary ones. In such cases homonyms

appear in the language. It is called the split of polysemy.

In most cases in the semantic development of a word both ways of semantic

development are combined.


Homonyms are words different in meaning but identical in sound or

spelling, or both in sound and spelling.

Homonyms can appear in the language not only as the result of the split

of polysemy, but also as the result of levelling of grammar inflexions,

when different parts of speech become identical in their outer aspect, e.g.

care from caru and care from carian. They can be also formed by

means of conversion, e.g. to slim from slim, to water from water.

They can be formed with the help of the same suffix from the same stem,

e.g. reader/ a person who reads and a book for reading/.

Homonyms can also appear in the language accidentally, when two words

coincide in their development, e.g. two native words can coincide in their

outer aspects: to bear from beran/to carry/ and bear from bera/an

animal/. A native word and a borrowing can coincide in their outer aspects,

e.g. fair from Latin feria and fair from native fager /blond/. Two

borrowings can coincide e.g. base from the French base /Latin basis/

and base /low/ from the Latin bas /Italian basso/.

Homonyms can develop through shortening of different words, e.g. cab

from cabriolet, cabbage, cabin.

Classifications of homonyms.

Walter Skeat classified homonyms according to their spelling and sound

forms and he pointed out three groups: perfect homonyms that is words

identical in sound and spelling, such as : school - and

; homographs, that is words with the same spelling but pronounced

differently, e.g. bow -/bau/ - and /bou/ - ; homophones

that is words pronounced identically but spelled differently, e.g. night

- and knight - .

Another classification was suggested by A.I Smirnitsky. He added to

Skeats classification one more criterion: grammatical meaning. He

subdivided the group of perfect homonyms in Skeats classification into two

types of homonyms: perfect which are identical in their spelling,

pronunciation and their grammar form, such as :spring in the meanings:

the season of the year, a leap, a source, and homoforms which coincide in

their spelling and pronunciation but have different grammatical meaning,

e.g. reading - Present Participle, Gerund, Verbal noun., to lobby - lobby


A more detailed classification was given by I.V. Arnold. She classified

only perfect homonyms and suggested four criteria of their classification:

lexical meaning, grammatical meaning, basic forms and paradigms.

According to these criteria I.V. Arnold pointed out the following groups:

a) homonyms identical in their grammatical meanings, basic forms and

paradigms and different in their lexical meanings, e.g. board in the

meanings a council and a piece of wood sawn thin; b) homonyms

identical in their grammatical meanings and basic forms, different in their

lexical meanings and paradigms, e.g. to lie - lied - lied, and to lie -

lay - lain; c) homonyms different in their lexical meanings, grammatical

meanings, paradigms, but coinciding in their basic forms, e.g. light /

lights/, light / lighter, lightest/; d) homonyms different in their

lexical meanings, grammatical meanings, in their basic forms and paradigms,

but coinciding in one of the forms of their paradigms, e.g. a bit and

bit (from to bite).

In I. V. Arnolds classification there are also patterned homonyms,

which, differing from other homonyms, have a common component in their

lexical meanings. These are homonyms formed either by means of conversion,

or by levelling of grammar inflexions. These homonyms are different in

their grammar meanings, in their paradigms, identical in their basic forms,

e.g. warm - to warm. Here we can also have unchangeable patterned

homonyms which have identical basic forms, different grammatical meanings,

a common component in their lexical meanings, e.g. before an adverb, a

conjunction, a preposition. There are also homonyms among unchangeable

words which are different in their lexical and grammatical meanings,

identical in their basic foms, e.g. for - and for - .


Synonyms are words different in their outer aspects, but identical or

similar in their inner aspects. In English there are a lot of synonyms,

because there are many borrowings, e.g. hearty / native/ - cordial/

borrowing/. After a word is borrowed it undergoes desynonymization, because

absolute synonyms are unnecessary for a language. However, there are some

absolute synonyms in the language, which have exactly the same meaning and

belong to the same style, e.g. to moan, to groan; homeland, motherland etc.

In cases of desynonymization one of the absolute synonyms can

specialize in its meaning and we get semantic synonyms, e.g. city

/borrowed/, town /native/. The French borrowing city is specialized. In

other cases native words can be specialized in their meanings, e.g. stool

/native/, chair /French/.

Sometimes one of the absolute synonyms is specialized in its usage and we

get stylistic synonyms, e.g. to begin/ native/, to commence

/borrowing/. Here the French word is specialized. In some cases the native

word is specialized, e.g. welkin /bookish/, sky /neutral/.

Stylistic synonyms can also appear by means of abbreviation. In most

cases the abbreviated form belongs to the colloquial style, and the full

form to the neutral style, e.g. examination, exam.

Among stylistic synonyms we can point out a special group of words which

are called euphemisms. These are words used to substitute some unpleasant

or offensive words, e.g the late instead of dead, to perspire instead

of to sweat etc.

There are also phraseological synonyms, these words are identical in

their meanings and styles but different in their combining with other words

in the sentence, e.g. to be late for a lecture but to miss the train,

to visit museums but to attend lectures etc.

In each group of synonyms there is a word with the most general meaning,

which can substitute any word in the group, e.g. piece is the synonymic

dominant in the group slice, lump, morsel. The verb to look at is

the synonymic dominant in the group to stare, to glance, to peep. The

adjective red is the synonymic dominant in the group purple, scarlet,


When speaking about the sources of synonyms, besides desynonymization and

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