. Lexicology of the English Language

abbreviation, we can also mention the formation of phrasal verbs, e.g. to

give up - to abandon, to cut down - to diminish.


Antonyms are words belonging to the same part of speech, identical in

style, expressing contrary or contradictory notions.

V.N. Comissarov in his dictionary of antonyms classified them into two

groups : absolute or root antonyms /late - early/ and derivational

antonyms / to please - to displease/ . Absolute antonyms have

different roots and derivational antonyms have the same roots but

different affixes. In most cases negative prefixes form antonyms / un-, dis-

, non-/. Sometimes they are formed by means of suffixes -ful and -less.

The number of antonyms with the suffixes ful- and -less is not very

large, and sometimes even if we have a word with one of these suffixes its

antonym is formed not by substituting -ful by less-, e.g. successful

-unsuccessful, selfless - selfish. The same is true about antonyms

with negative prefixes, e.g. to man is not an antonym of the word to

unman, to disappoint is not an antonym of the word to appoint.

The difference between derivational and root antonyms is not only in

their structure, but in semantics as well. Derivational antonyms express

contradictory notions, one of them excludes the other, e.g. active-

inactive. Absolute antonyms express contrary notions. If some notions

can be arranged in a group of more than two members, the most distant

members of the group will be absolute antonyms, e.g. ugly , plain,

good-looking, pretty, beautiful, the antonyms are ugly and


Leonard Lipka in the book Outline of English Lexicology describes

different types of oppositeness, and subdivides them into three types:

a) complementary, e.g. male -female, married -single,

b) antonyms, e.g. good -bad,

c) converseness, e.g. to buy - to sell.

In his classification he describes complimentarity in the following way:

the denial of the one implies the assertion of the other, and vice versa.

John is not married implies that John is single. The type of

oppositeness is based on yes/no decision. Incompatibility only concerns

pairs of lexical units.

Antonymy is the second class of oppositeness. It is distinguished from

complimentarity by being based on different logical relationships. For

pairs of antonyms like good/bad, big/small only the second one of the above

mentioned relations of implication holds. The assertion containing one

member implies the negation of the other, but not vice versa. John is

good implies that John is not bad, but John is not good does not imply

that John is bad. The negation of one term does not necessarily implies

the assertion of the other.

An important linguistic difference from complementaries is that antonyms

are always fully gradable, e.g. hot, warm, tepid, cold.

Converseness is mirror-image relations or functions, e.g. husband/wife,

pupil/teacher, preceed/follow, above/below, before/after etc.

John bought the car from Bill implies that Bill sold the car to John.

Mirror-image sentences are in many ways similar to the relations between

active and passive sentences. Also in the comparative form: Y is smaller

than X, then X is larger than Y.

L. Lipka also gives the type which he calls directional opposition

up/down, consiquence opposition learn/know, antipodal opposition

North/South, East/West, ( it is based on contrary motion, in opposite

directions.) The pairs come/go, arrive/depart involve motion in different

directions. In the case up/down we have movement from a point P. In the

case come/go we have movement from or to the speaker.

L. Lipka also points out non-binary contrast or many-member lexical sets.

Here he points out serially ordered sets, such as scales / hot, warm,

tepid, cool, cold/ ; colour words / black, grey, white/ ; ranks /marshal,

general, colonel, major, captain etc./ There are gradable examination

marks / excellent, good, average, fair, poor/. In such sets of words we

can have outer and inner pairs of antonyms. He also points out cycles, such

as units of time /spring, summer, autumn, winter/ . In this case there are

no outermost members.

Not every word in a language can have antonyms. This type of opposition

can be met in qualitative adjectives and their derivatives, e.g. beautiful-

ugly, to beautify - to uglify, beauty - ugliness. It can be also met in

words denoting feelings and states, e.g. respect - scorn, to respect - to

scorn, respectful - scornful, to live - to die, alive - dead, life - death.

It can be also met among words denoting direction in space and time, e.g.

here - there, up - down , now - never, before - after, day - night, early -

late etc.

If a word is polysemantic it can have several antonyms, e.g. the word

bright has the antonyms dim, dull, sad.



On the British Isles there are some local varieties of English which

developed from Old English local dialects. There are six groups of them:

Lowland /Scottish/ , Northern, Western, Midland, Eastern, Southern. These

varieties are used in oral speech by the local population. Only the

Scottish dialect has its own literature /R. Berns/.

One of the best known dialects of British English is the dialect of

London - Cockney. Some peculiarities of this dialect can be seen in the

first act of Pigmalion by B. Shaw, such as : interchange of /v/ and /w/

e.g. wery vell; interchange of /f/ and /0/ , /v/ and / /, e. g/ fing

/thing/ and fa:ve / father/; interchange of /h/ and /-/ , e.g. eart for

heart and hart for art; substituting the diphthong /ai/ by /ei/ e.g.

day is pronounced /dai/; substituting /au/ by /a:/ , e.g. house is

pronounced /ha:s/,now /na:/ ; substituting /ou/ by /o:/ e.g. dont is

pronounced /do:nt/ or substituting it by / / in unstressed positions, e.g.

window is pronounced /wind /.

Another feature of Cockney is rhyming slang: hat is tit for tat,

wife is trouble and strife, head is loaf of bread etc. There are

also such words as tanner /sixpence/, peckish/hungry/.

Peter Wain in the Education Guardian writes about accents spoken by

University teachers: It is a variety of Southern English RP which is

different from Daniel Joness description. The English, public school

leavers speak, is called marked RP, it has some characteristic features :

the vowels are more central than in English taught abroad, e.g. bleck

het/for black hat/, some diphthongs are also different, e.g. house is

pronounced /hais/. There is less aspiration in /p/, /b/, /t/ /d/.

The American English is practically uniform all over the country, because

of the constant transfer of people from one part of the country to the

other. However, some peculiarities in New York dialect can be pointed out,

such as: there is no distinction between / / and /a: / in words: ask,

dance sand bad, both phonemes are possible. The combination ir in

the words: bird, girl ear in the word learn is pronoinced as /oi/

e.g. /boid/, /goil/, /loin/.In the words duty, tune /j/ is not

pronounced /du:ti/, /tu:n/.


British and American English are two main variants of English. Besides

them there are : Canadian, Australian, Indian, New Zealand and other

variants. They have some peculiarities in pronunciation, grammar and

vocabulary, but they are easily used for communication between people

living in these countries. As far as the American English is concerned,

some scientists /H.N. Menken, for example/ tried to prove that there is a

separate American language. In 1919 H.N. Menken published a book called

The American Language. But most scientists, American ones including,

criticized his point of view because differences between the two variants

are not systematic.

American English begins its history at the beginning of the 17-th century

when first English-speaking settlers began to settle on the Atlantic coast

of the American continent. The language which they brought from England

was the language spoken in England during the reign of Elizabeth the First.

In the earliest period the task of Englishmen was to find names for

places, animals, plants, customs which they came across on the American

continent. They took some of names from languages spoken by the local

population - Indians, such as :chipmuck/an American squirrel/, igloo

/Escimo dome-shaped hut/, skunk / a black and white striped animal with a

bushy tail/, squaw / an Indian woman/, wigwam /an American Indian tent

made of skins and bark/ etc.

Besides Englishmen, settlers from other countries came to America, and

English-speaking settlers mixed with them and borrowed some words from

their languages, e.g. from French the words bureau/a writing desk/,

cache /a hiding place for treasure, provision/, depot/ a store-house/,

pumpkin/a plant bearing large edible fruit/. From Spanish such words as:

adobe / unburnt sun-dried brick/, bananza /prosperity/, cockroach /a

beetle-like insect/, lasso / a noosed rope for catching cattle/ were


Present-day New York stems from the Dutch colony New Amsterdam, and

Dutch also influenced English. Such words as: boss, dope, sleigh

were borrowed .

The second period of American English history begins in the 19-th

century. Immigrants continued to come from Europe to America. When large

groups of immigrants from the same country came to America some of their

words were borrowed into English. Italians brought with them a style of

cooking which became widely spread and such words as: pizza, spaghetti

came into English. From the great number of German-speaking settlers the

following words were borrowed into English: delicatessen, lager,

hamburger, noodle, schnitzel and many others.

During the second period of American English history there appeared quite

a number of words and word-groups which were formed in the language due to

the new poitical system, liberation of America from the British

colonialism, its independence. The following lexical units appeared due to

these events: the United States of America , assembly, caucus, congress,

Senate, congressman, President, senator, precinct, Vice-President and many

others. Besides these political terms many other words were coined in

American English in the 19-th century: to antagonize, to demoralize,

influential, department store, telegram, telephone and many others.

There are some differences between British and American English in the

usage of prepositions, such as prepositions with dates, days of the week BE

requres on / I start my holiday on Friday/, in American English there is

no preposition / I start my vacation Friday/. In Be we use by day, by

night/at night, in AE the corresponding forms are days and nights.

In BE we say at home , in AE - home is used. In BE we say a quarter to

five, in AE a quarter of five. In BE we say in the street, in AE -

on the street. In BE we say to chat to somebody, in AE to chat with

somebody. In BE we say different to something, in AE - different from


There are also units of vocabulary which are different while denoting the

same notions, e.g. BE - trousers, AE -pants; in BE pants are

which in AE is shorts. While in BE shorts are outwear. This can lead to

misunderstanding. There are some differences in names of places:


passage hall cross-roads intersection

pillar box mail-box the cinema the movies

studio, bed-sitter one-room appartment

flyover overpass zebra crossing Pxing

pavement sidewalk tube, uderground subway

tram streetcar flat apartment

surgery doctors office lift elevator

Some names of useful objects:


biro ballpoint rubber eraser

tap faucet torch


parcel package elastic rubber


carrier bag shopping bag reel of cotton spool of thread

Some words connected with food:



tin can sweets


sweet biscuit cookie dry biscuit


sweet dessert chips

french fries

minced meat ground beef

Some words denoting personal items:



fringe bangs/of hair/ turn- ups


tights pantyhose mackintosh raincoat

ladder run/in a stocking/ braces suspenders

poloneck turtleneck waistcoat


Some words denoting people:



barrister, lawyer, staff /university/


post-graduate graduate chap, fellow guy

caretaker janitor constable


shopassistant shopperson bobby cop

If we speak about cars there are also some differences:



boot trunk bumpers


a car, an auto, to hire a car to rent a


Differences in the organization of education lead to different terms. BE

public school is in fact a private school. It is a fee-paying school not

controlled by the local education authorities. AE public school is a

free local authority school. BE elementary school is AE grade school BE

secondary school is AE high school. In BE a pupil leaves a secondary

school, in AE a student graduates from a high school In BE you can

graduate from a university or college of education, graduating entails

getting a degree.

A British university student takes three years known as the first, the

second and the third years. An American student takes four years, known as

freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years. While studying a British

student takes a main and subsidiary subjects. An American student majors in

a subject and also takes electives. A British student specializes in one

main subject, with one subsidiary to get his honours degree. An American

student earns credits for successfully completing a number of courses in

studies, and has to reach the total of 36 credits to receive a degree.

Differences of spelling.

The reform in the English spelling for American English was introduced

by the famous American lexicographer Noah Webster who published his first

dictionary in 1806. Those of his proposals which were adopted in the

English spelling are as follows:

a) the delition of the letter u in words ending in our, e.g. honor,


b) the delition of the second consonant in words with double consonants,

e.g. traveler, wagon,

c) the replacement of re by er in words of French origin, e.g.

theater, center,

d) the delition of unpronounced endings in words of Romanic origin, e.g.

catalog, program,

e) the replacement of ce by se in words of Romanic origin, e.g.

defense, offense,

d) delition of unpronounced endings in native words, e.g. tho, thro.

Differences in pronunciation

In American English we have r-coloured fully articulated vowels, in the

combinations: ar, er, ir, or, ur, our etc. In BE the sound / /

corresponds to the AE /^/, e.g. not. In BE before fricatives and

combinations with fricatives a is pronounced as /a:/, in AE it is

pronounced / / e.g. class, dance, answer, fast etc.

There are some differences in the position of the stress:



add`ress adress la`boratory


re`cess `recess re`search


in`quiry `inquiry ex`cess


Some words in BE and AE have different pronunciation, e.g.



/`fju:tail/ /`fju:t l/ /`dousail /

/dos l/

/kla:k/ /kl rk/ /`fig /


/ `le3 / / li:3 r/ /lef`ten nt/


/ nai / /ni: r/ /shedju:l/


But these differences in pronunciation do not prevent Englishmen and

American from communicating with each other easily and cannot serve as a

proof that British and American are different languages.

Words can be classified according to the period of their life in the

language. The number of new words in a language is always larger than the

number of words which come out of active usage. Accordingly we can have

archaisms, that is words which have come out of active usage, and

neologisms, that is words which have recently appeared in the language.


Archaisms are words which are no longer used in everyday speech, which

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