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The first edition of this book has been used in the classroom for over ten years.

Since the first publication of “A Course in Modern English Lexicology” there has been considerable progress in linguistic studies and the authors’ ideas about some points have changed. So some chapters had to be revised or modified. The authors also found it necessary to introduce a special chapter on the procedures and methods of lexicological analysis written by R. S. Ginzburg, replace Conclusion by the chapter Various Aspects of Vocabulary Units and Replenishment of Modern English Word-Stock written by R. S. Ginzburg and S. S. Khidekel and also to enlarge the chapter on lexicography.

The work of preparing the separate parts of the present edition has been distributed among the authors as follows:

I. Introduction — A. A. Sankin II. Semasiology — R. S. Ginzburg

III. Word-Groups and Phraseological Units — R. S. Ginzburg

IV. Word-Structure — S. S. Khidekel and A. A. Sankin V. Word-Formation — A. A. Sankin

Word-Composition — S. S. Khidekel

VI. Etymological Survey of the English Word-Stock — G. Y. Knyazeva VIL Various Aspects of Vocabulary Units and Replenishment of Modern

English Word-Stock — R. S. Ginzburg, S. S. Khidekel VIII. Variants and dialects of the English Language — G. Y. Knyazeva IX. Fundamentals of English Lexicography — G. Y. Knyazeva X. Methods and Procedures of Lexicological Analysis — R. S. Ginzburg

Besides some rearrangements have been made for the sake of greater clarity and simplicity of presentation.

The authors owe a great debt to a number of their colleagues who offered them advice on this or that part of the book. Special thanks are due to Professor V. A. Kunin who has supplied the authors with the scheme of his conception of phraseology and to Professor I. V. Arnold whose criticism was of invaluable help to the authors.

The authors are greatly indebted to Mr. Mark White for going over the text of the first edition and making valuable suggestions as to the English wording.

The Authors


AE — American English

Am. — American

AS. — Anglo-Saxon

AuE — Australian English

BE — British English

Br. — British

cf. — compare

Chin. — Chinese

CnE — Canadian English

colloq. — colloquial

Fr. — French

G. — German

gen. E. — general English

Gr. — Greek

It. — Italian

L. — Latin

ME. — Middle English

MnE. — Modern English

OE. — Old English

OFr. — Old French

ON. — Old Norse

Russ. — Russian

Scand. — Scandinavian

Scot. — Scottish

sl. — slang

U.S. — American

I. Introduction

§ 1. Definition. Links with Other Branches of Linguistics

Lexicology is a branch of linguistics, the science of language. The term Lexicology is composed of two Greek morphemes: lexismeaning ‘word, phrase’ (hence lexicos ‘having to do with words’) and logoswhich denotes ‘learning, a department of knowledge’. Thus, the literal meaning of the term Lexiсolоgу is ‘the science of the word’. The literal meaning, however, gives only a general notion of the aims and the subject-matter of this branch of linguistic science, since all its other branches also take account of words in one way or another approaching them from different angles. Phonetics, for instance, investigating the phonetic structure of language, i.e. its system of phonemes and intonation patterns, is concerned with the study of the outer sound form of the word. Grammar, which is inseparably bound up with Lexicology, is the study of the grammatical structure of language. It is concerned with the various means of expressing grammatical relations between words and with the patterns after which words are combined into word-groups and sentences.

Lexicology as a branch of linguistics has its own aims and methods of scientific research, its basic task being a study and systematic description of vocabulary in respect to its origin, development and current use. Lexicology is concerned with words, variable word-groups, phraseological units, and with morphemes which make up words.

Distinction is naturally made between General Lexicology and Special Lexicology. General Lexicology is part of General Linguistics; it is concerned with the study of vocabulary irrespective of the specific features of any particular language. Special Lexicology is the Lexicology of a particular language (e.g. English, Russian, etc.), i.e. the study and description of its vocabulary and vocabulary units, primarily words as the main units of language. Needless to say that every Special Lexicology is based on the principles worked out and laid down by General Lexicology, a general theory of vocabulary.

There is also a close relationship between Lexicology and Stylistics or, to be more exact, Linguo-Stylistics (Linguistic Stylistics). Linguo-Stylistics is concerned with the study of the nature, functions and structure of stylistic devices, on the one hand, and with the investigation of each style of language, on the other, i.e. with its aim, its structure, its characteristic features and the effect it produces as well as its interrelation with the other styles of language.

§ 2. Two Approaches to Language Study

There are two principal approaches in linguistic science to the study of language material, namely the synchronic (Gr. syn— ‘together, with’ and chronos — ‘time’) and the diachronic (Gr. dia — ‘through’) approach. With regard to Special Lexicology the synchronic approach is concerned with the vocabulary of a language as it exists at a given time, for instance, at the present time. It is special

Desсriptive Lexicology that deals with the vocabulary and vocabulary units of a particular language at a certain time. A Course in Modern English Lexicology is therefore a course in Special Descriptive Lexicology, its object of study being the English vocabulary as it exists at the present time.

The diachronic approach in terms of Special Lexicology deals with the changes and the development of vocabulary in the course of time. It is special Historical Lexicology that deals with the evolution of the vocabulary units of a language as time goes by. An English Historical Lexicology would be concerned, therefore, with the origin of English vocabulary units, their change and development, the linguistic and extralinguistic factors modifying their structure, meaning and usage within the history of the English language.

It should be emphatically stressed that the distinction between the synchronic and the diachronic study is merely a difference of approach separating for the purposes of investigation what in real language is inseparable. The two approaches should not be contrasted, or set one against the other; in fact, they are intrinsically interconnected and interdependent: every linguistic structure and system actually exists in a state of constant development so that the synchronic state of a language system is a result of a long process of linguistic evolution, of its historical development.

A good example illustrating both the distinction between the two approaches and their interconnection is furnished by the words to beg and beggar.

Synchronically, the words to beg and beggar are related as a simple and a derived word, the noun beggar being the derived member of the pair, for the derivative correlation between the two is the same as in the case of to sing — singer, to teach — teacher, etc. When we approach the problem diachronically, however, we learn that the noun beggar was borrowed from Old French and only presumed to have been derived from a shorter word, namely the verb to beg, as in the English language agent nouns are commonly derived from verbs with the help of the agent suffix -er.

Closely connected with Historical Lexicology is Contrastive and Comparative Lexicology whose aims are to study the correlation between the vocabularies of two or more languages, and find out the correspondences between the vocabulary units of the languages under comparison. Needless to say, one can hardly overestimate the importance of Contrastive Lexicology as well as of Comparative Linguistics in general for the purpose of class-room teaching of foreign languages. Of primary importance in this respect is the comparison of the foreign language with the mother tongue.

§ 3. Lexicology and Sociolinguistics

It is a matter of common knowledge that the vocabulary of any language is never stable, never static, but is constantly changing, growing and decaying. The changes in the vocabulary of a language are due both to linguistic and extralinguistic causes or to a combination of both. The extralinguistic causes are determined by the social

nature of the language. In this respect there is a tremendous difference between Lexicology, on the one hand, and Phonology, Morphology and Syntax, on the other. Words, to a far greater degree than sounds, grammatical forms, or syntactical arrangements, are subject to change, for the word-stock of a language directly and immediately reacts to changes in social life, to whatever happens in the life of the speech community in question. To illustrate the immediate connection between the development of vocabulary and the extra-linguistic causes a few examples will suffice.

The intense development of science and technology has lately given birth to a great number of new words such as computer, cyclotron, radar, psycholinguistics,etc.; the conquest and research of outer space started by the Soviet people contributed words like sputnik, lunokhod, babymoon, moon-car, spaceship,etc. It is significant that the suffix -nikoccurring in the noun sputnikis freely applied to new words of various kinds, e.g. flopnik, mousenik, woofnik,etc.1

The factor of the social need also manifests itself in the mechanism of word-formation. Among the adjectives with the suffix -y derived from noun stems denoting fabrics (cf. silky, velvety, woolly,etc.) the adjective tweedystands out as meaning not merely resembling or like tweed but rather ‘of sports style’. It is used to describe the type of appearance (or style of clothes) which is characteristic of a definite social group, namely people going in for country sports. Thus, the adjective tweedyin this meaning defines a notion which is specific for the speech community in question and is, therefore, sociolinguistically conditioned.

From the above-adduced examples it follows that in contrast with Phonology, Morphology and Syntax, Lexicology is essentially a sociolinguistic science. The lexicologist should always take into account correlations between purely linguistic facts and the underlying social facts which brought them into existence, his research should be based on establishing scientifically grounded interrelation and points of contact which have come into existence between the language and the social life of the speech community in question.

§ 4. Lexical Units

It was pointed out above that Lexicology studies various lexical units: morphemes, words, variable word-groups and phraseological units. We proceed from the assumption that the word is the basic unit of language system, the largest on the morphologic and the smallest on the syntactic plane of linguistic analysis. The word is a structural and semantic entity within the language system.

It should be pointed out that there is another approach to the concept of the basic language unit. The criticism of this viewpoint cannot be discussed within the framework of the present study. Suffice it to say that here we consistently proceed from the concept of the word as the basic unit in all the branches of Lexicology. Both words and phraseological units are names for things, namely the names of actions, objects, qualities, etc. Unlike words proper, however, phraseological units are word-

lSee ‘Various aspects...’, § 6, p. 180

groups consisting of two or more words whose combination is integrated as a unit with a specialised meaning of the whole. To illustrate, the lexical or to be more exact the vocabulary units tattle, wall, taxiare words denoting various objects of the outer world; the vocabulary units black frost, red tape, a skeleton in the cupboardare phraseological units: each is a word-group with a specialised meaning of the whole, namely black frostis ‘frost without snow or rime’, red tapedenotes bureaucratic methods, a skeleton in the cupboardrefers to a fact of which a family is ashamed and which it tries to hide.

Varieties of Words

Although the ordinary ’speaker is acutely word-conscious and usually finds no difficulty either in isolating words from an utterance or in identifying them in the process of communication, the precise linguistic definition of a word is far from easy to state; no exhaustive definition of the word has yet been given by linguists.

The word as well as any linguistic sign is a two-facet unit possessing both form and content or, to be more exact, soundform and meaning. Neither can exist without the other. For example, [θimbl] is a word within the framework of the English language primarily because it has the lexical meaning — ‘a small cap of metal, plastic, etc. worn on the finger in sewing.. .'1 (Russ. наперсток) and the grammatical meaning of the Common case, singular. In other languages it is not a word, but a meaningless sound-cluster.

When used in actual speech the word undergoes certain modification and functions in one of its forms.

The system showing a word in all its word-forms is called its paradigm.2 The lexical meaning оf а word is the same throughout the paradigm, i.e. all the word-forms of one and the same word are lexically identical. The grammatical meaning varies from one form to another (cf. to take, takes, took, takingor singer, singer’s, singers, singers’).Therefore, when we speak of the word singeror the word takeas used in actual utterances (cf., His brother is a well-known singer or I wonder who has taken my umbrella) we use the term word conventionally, because what is manifested in the speech event is not the word as a whole but one of its forms which is identified as belonging to one definite paradigm.

There are two approaches to the paradigm: (a) as a system of forms of one word it reveals the differences and relationships between them; (b) in abstraction from concrete words it is treated as a pattern on which every word of one part of speech models its forms, thus serving to distin-

1 Here and elsewhere definitions of the meanings of words are borrowed from a number of English explanatory dictionaries, such as the Concise Oxford Dictionary, Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English by A. S. Hornby, L., 1974 and others.

2 Each part of speech is characterised by a paradigm of its own. Nouns are declined, verbs conjugated, qualitative adjectives have degrees of comparison. Some adverbs also have degrees of comparison (e.g. well, badly,etc.), others are immutable (e.g. here, there, never).Word-forms constituting a paradigm may be both synthetic and analytic. Unlike synthetic forms an analytic form is composed of two separate components (cf. (he) takes ... and (he) has taken ...). In some cases the system of word-forms combines different roots (cf. to gowentgone; good — better — best).

guish one part of speech from another. Cf. the noun paradigm — ( ), -’s, -s, -s’as distinct from that of the regular verb — ( ) ,-s, -ed1, -ed2, -ing,etc.1

Besides the grammatical forms of words, i.e. word-forms, some scholars distinguish lexical varieties which they term variants of words. Distinction is made between two basic groups of variants of words.

In actual speech a word or to be more exact a polysemantic word is used in, one of its meanings. Such a word in one of its meanings is described as lexico-semantic variant. Thus Group One comprises lexico-semantic variants, i.e. polysemantic words in each of their meanings, as exemplified by the meaning of the verb to learnin word-groups like to learn at school,cf. to learn about (of) smth,etc.

Group Two comprises phonetic and morphological variants. As examples of phonetic variants the pronouncing variants of the adverbs oftenand againcan be given, cf. ['o:fn] and ['o:ftэn], [э'gein] and [э'gen]. The two variant forms of the past indefinite tense of verbs like to learnillustrate morphological variants, cf. learned [-d]and learnt [-t].Parallel formations of the geologic — geological, phonetic — phoneticaltype also enter the group of morphological variants.2

It may be easily observed that the most essential feature of variants of words of both groups is that a slight change in the morphemic or phonemic composition of a word is not connected with any modification of its meaning and, vice versa, a change in meaning is not followed by any structural changes, either morphemic or phonetic. Like word-forms variants of words are identified in the process of communication as making up one and the same word. Thus, within the language system the word exists as a system and unity of all its forms and variants.

§ 6. Course of Modern English Lexicology. Its Aims and Significance

Modern English Lexicology aims at giving a systematic description of the word-stock of Modern English. Words, their component parts — morphemes — and various types of word-groups, are subjected to structural and semantic analysis primarily from the synchronic angle. In other words, Modern English Lexicology investigates the problems of word-structure and word-formation in Modern English, the semantic structure of English words, the main principles underlying the classification of vocabulary units into various groupings the laws governing the replenishment of the vocabulary with new vocabulary units.

It also studies the relations existing between various lexical layers of the English vocabulary and the specific laws and regulations that govern its development at the present time. The source and growth of the English vocabulary, the changes it has undergone in its history are also dwelt upon, as the diachronic approach revealing the vocabulary in the making cannot but contribute to the understanding of its workings at the present time.

It has now become a tradition to include in a Course of Lexicology a

1 The symbol ( ) stands for the so-called zero-inflection, i. e. the significant absence of an inflectional affix.

2 Pairs of vocabulary items like economic — economical, historic — historical differing in meaning cannot be regarded as morphological variants.

short section dealing with Lexicography, the science and art of dictionary-compiling, because Lexicography is a practical application of Lexicology so that the dictionary-maker is inevitably guided in his work by the principles laid down by the lexicologist as a result of his investigations. It is common knowledge that in his investigation the lexicologist makes use of various methods. An acquaintance with these methods is an indispensable part of a course of lexicology.

Modern English Lexicology as a subject of study forms part of the Theoretical Course of Modern English and as such is inseparable from its other component parts, i.e. Grammar, Phonetics, Stylistics, on the one hand, and the Course of History of the English Language, on the other.

The language learner will find the Course of Modern English Lexicology of great practical importance. He will obtain much valuable information concerning the English wordstock and the laws and regulations governing the formation and usage of English words and word-groups. Besides, the Course is aimed both at summarising the practical material already familiar to the students from foreign language classes and at helping the students to develop the skills and habits of generalising the linguistic phenomena observed. The knowledge the students gain from the Course of Modern English Lexicology will guide them in all their dealings with the English word-stock and help them apply this information to the solution of practical problems that may face them in class-room teaching. Teachers should always remember that practical command alone does not qualify a person to teach a language. •

This textbook treats the following basic problems:

1. Semasiology and semantic classifications of words;

2. Word-groups and phraseological units;

3. Word-structure;

4. Word-formation;

5. Etymological survey of the English word-stock;

6. Various aspects of vocabulary units and replenishment of Modern English word-stock;

7. Variants and dialects of Modern English;

8. Fundamentals of English Lexicography;

9. Methods and Procedures of Lexicological Analysis.

All sections end with a paragraph entitled “Summary and Conclusions". The aim of these paragraphs is to summarise in brief the contents of the preceding section, thus enabling the student to go over the chief points of the exposition of problem or problems under consideration. Material for Reference at the end of the book and the footnotes, though by no means exhaustive, may be helpful to those who wish to attain a more complete and thorough view of the lexicological problems.

II. Semasiology

By definition Lexicology deals with words, word-forming morphemes (derivational affixes) and word-groups or phrases.1 All these linguistic units may be said to have meaning of some kind: they are all significant and therefore must be investigated both as to form and meaning. The branch of lexicology that is devoted to the study of meaning is known as Semasiology.2

It should be pointed out that just as lexicology is beginning to absorb a major part of the efforts of linguistic scientists 3 semasiology is coming to the fore as the central problem of linguistic investigation of all levels of language structure. It is suggested that semasiology has for its subject - matter not only the study of lexicon, but also of morphology, syntax and sentential semantics. Words, however, play such a crucial part in the structure of language that when we speak of semasiology without any qualification, we usually refer to the study of word-meaning proper, although it is in fact very common to explore the semantics of other elements, such as suffixes, prefixes, etc.

Meaning is one of the most controversial terms in the theory of language. At first sight the understanding of this term seems to present no difficulty at all — it is freely used in teaching, interpreting and translation. The scientific definition of meaning however just as the definition of some other basic linguistic terms, such as word. sentence, etc., has been the issue of interminable discussions. Since there is no universally accepted definition of meaning 4 we shall confine ourselves to a brief survey of the problem as it is viewed in modern linguistics both in our country and elsewhere.


§ 1.Referential Approach There are broadly speaking two schools to Meaning of thought in present-day linguistics representing the main lines of contemporary thinking on the problem: the referential approach, which seeks to formulate the essence of meaning by establishing the interdependence between words and the things or concepts they denote, and the functional approach, which studies the functions of a word in speech and is less concerned with what meaning is than with how it works.

1 See ‘Introduction’, § 1.

2 Sometimes the term semantics is used too, but in Soviet linguistics preference is given to semasiоlоgу as the word semantics is often used to designate one of the schools of modern idealistic philosophy and is also found as a synonym of meaning.

3 D. Bolinger. Getting the Words In. Lexicography in English, N. Y., 1973.

4 See, e. g., the discussion of various concepts of meaning in modern linguistics in: Л. С. Бархударов. Язык и перевод. М., 1975, с, 50 — 70.

All major works on semantic theory have so far been based on referential concepts of meaning. The essential feature of this approach is that it distinguishes between the three components closely connected with meaning: the sound-form of the linguistic sign, the concept underlying this sound-form, and the actual referent, i.e. that part or that aspect of reality to which the linguistic sign refers. The best known referential model of meaning is the so-called “basic triangle” which, with some variations, underlies the semantic systems of all the adherents of this school of thought. In a simplified form the triangle may be represented as shown below:

As can be seen from the diagram the sound-form of the linguistic sign, e.g. [dAv], is connected with our concept of the bird which it denotes and through it with the referent, i.e. the actual bird.1 The common feature of any referential approach is the implication that meaning is in some form or other connected with the referent.

Let us now examine the place of meaning in this model. It is easily observed that the sound-form of the word is not identical with its meaning, e.g. [dAv] is the sound-form used to denote a peal-grey bird. There is no inherent connection, however, between this particular sound-cluster and the meaning of the word dove.The connection is conventional and arbitrary. This can be easily proved by comparing the sound-forms of different languages conveying one and the same meaning, e.g. English [dAv], Russian [golub'], German [taube] and so on. It can also be proved by comparing almost identical sound-forms that possess different meaning in different languages. The sound-cluster [kot], e.g. in the English language means ‘a small, usually swinging bed for a child’, but in the Russian language essentially the same sound-cluster possesses the meaning ‘male cat’. -

1 As terminological confusion has caused much misunderstanding and often makes it difficult to grasp the semantic concept of different linguists we find it necessary to mention the most widespread terms used in modern linguistics to denote the three components described above:

sound-form — concept — referent

symbol — thought or reference — referent

sign — meaning — thing meant

sign — designatum — denotatum

For more convincing evidence of the conventional and arbitrary nature of the connection between sound-form and meaning all we have to do is to point to the homonyms. The word seal[si:l], e.g., means ‘a piece of wax, lead’, etc. stamped with a design; its homonym seal[si:l] possessing the same sound-form denotes ‘a sea animal’.

Besides, if meaning were inherently connected with the sound-form of a linguistic unit, it would follow that a change in sound-form would necessitate a change of meaning. We know, however, that even considerable changes in the sound-form of a word in the course of its historical development do not necessarily affect its meaning. The sound-form of the OE. word lufian [luvian] has undergone great changes, and has been transformed into love[lАv], yet the meaning ‘hold dear, bear love’, etc. has remained essentially unchanged.

When we examine a word we see that its meaning though closely connected with the underlying concept or concepts is not identical with them. 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 abstract and reflect the most common and typical features of the different objects and phenomena of the world. Being the result of abstraction and generalisation all “concepts are thus intrinsically almost the same for the whole of humanity in one and the same period of its historical development. The meanings of words however are different in different languages. That is to say, words expressing identical concepts may have different meanings and 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 housedoes not possess the meaning of ‘fixed residence of family or household’ which is one of the meanings of the Russian word дом; it is expressed by another English polysemantic word, namely homewhich possesses a number of other meanings not to be found in the Russian word дом.


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