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3. The great number of borrowings brought with them new phonomorphological types, new phonetic, morphological and semantic features. On the other hand, under the influence of the borrowed element words already existing in English changed to some extent their semantic structure, collocability, frequency and derivational ability.

4. Borrowing also considerably enlarged the English vocabulary and brought about some changes in English synonymic groups, in the distribution of the English vocabulary through spheres of application and in the lexical divergence between the variants of the literary language and its dialects.

VII. Various Aspects of Vocabulary Units and Replenishment of Modern English Word-Stock



The foregoing description of the word dwelt on itsstructural, semantic, stylistic and etymological peculiarities separately. In actual speech all these aspects are closely interrelated and interdependent and the pattern of their interdependence largely preconditions the comparative value and place of the word in Modern English. This interdependence is most vividly brought out in the frequency value attached to the words in the language. However it must be pointed out that frequency value alone, important as it is, is not an adequate criterion to establish the most important relationships between words or the most useful section of vocabulary.

§ 1. Notional and Form-Words

The frequency distribution singles out two classes, all the words of the language fall into: the so-called notional words, the largest class, having a low frequency of occurrence in comparison with a numerically small group of the so-called form or function words. Form words in terms of absolute figures make a specific group of about 150 units. Notional words constitute the bulk of the existing word-stock; according to the recent counts given for the first 1000 most frequently occurring words they make 93% of the total number. The results of these counts l (given below graphically) show the numerical interrelation of the two classes.

The division of vocabulary units into notional and form words is based on the peculiar interrelation of lexical and grammatical types of meaning. In notional words which are used in speech as names of objects of reality, their qualities, names of actions, processes, states the lexical meaning is predominant. In the majority of form words (prepositions, articles, conjunctions), which primarily denote various relations between notional words, it is the grammatical meaning that dominates over their lexical meaning. The difference between notional and form words may be also described in terms of open and closed sets of vocabulary units.2

It should also be noted that though the division of all vocabulary units into notional and form words is valid, in actual speech the borderline between them is not always clear-cut. Comparing the use, e.g., of the verb (to) keep in the word-groups to keep books, to keep a house, to keep secretwith to keep warm, to keep talkingor the verb (to) turnin to turn one’s head, to turn the toy in one’s fingerswith to turn pale


1 С. С. Fries. The Structure of English, ch. VI. N. Y., 1952.

2 See ‘Semasiology’, § 7, p. 19.

Notional words Form words
In the 1st hundred of the most frequently occurring words 66% 34%
In the 2nd hundred of the most frequently occurring words 82% 18%
In the 3rd hundred of the most frequently occurring words 90% 10%
In the 4th hundred of the most frequently occurring words 93% 7%
In the 1st thousand of the most frequently occurring words 93% 7%

we observe that the verbs (to) keepand (to) turndevelop meanings peculiar to form words without breaking with the class of notional words.

All notional lexical units are traditionally subdivided into parts of speech, i.e. lexical-grammatical classes: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs. Nouns numerically make the largest class — about 39%, verbs come second — 25% of all notional words, they are followed by adjectives — 17% and adverbs making 12%, the smallest group of notional words.

The frequency value of words’ show that the form words, though insignificant in terms of absolute figures, constitute the most frequent group of words inseparably bound up with almost all patterns notional words are used in. It is interesting to note that the first ten words in order of frequency are: the, of, and, to, a, in, that, is, was, he.The high frequency value of these 150 function words accounts for the fact that this small group makes up approximately half the lexical items of any English text.

The frequency value of different lexical-grammatical classes of notional words also shows a different distribution as compared with the absolute figures for the same classes, as it is the verbs that prove to be words of highest frequency and greatest potential collocability.

§ 2. Frequency, Polysemy and Structure

The interdependence of various features of the word may be easily observed through a comparative analysis of these aspects in relation to any chosen individual feature. Thus choosing, for example, the semantic structure as a starting point we observe that there is a certain interdependence between the number of meanings in a word and its structural and derivational type, its etymological character, its stylistic reference. The analysis may start with any other aspect of the word — its structure, style or origin — it will generally reveal the same type of interdependence of all the aspects. Words of highest frequency, those that come into the first 2000 of most frequently occurring words all tend to be polysemantic and structurally simple. It should be noted, however, that structure and etymology by themselves are not

always indicative of other aspects of the word — simple words are not necessarily polysemantic, words that etymologically belong to late borrowings may be simple in structure. Frequency most clearly reflects the close interconnection between polysemy and the structure of the word. The higher the frequency, the more polysemantic is the word, the simpler it is in structure. The latest data of linguistic investigation show that the number of meanings is inversely proportional to the number of morphemes the word consists of. Derived and compound words rarely have high frequency of occurrence and are rarely polysemantic. Comparison of the words, members of the same word-cluster, for example heart — hearty — heartily — heartless — heartiness-heartsickshows that it is the simple word of the cluster heartthat ismarked by the highest frequency (it belongs to the first 500 most frequently occurring words). We also find that the word is highly polysemantic, hearthas 6 meanings.1 Other members of the cluster which are all polymorphic and complex have fewer meanings and many of them are practically monosemantic, e.g. heartyhas 3 meanings, heartily — 2 andthe rest only 1. All of these words have much lower frequences as compared with the simple member of the cluster — heartilybelongs to the 6ththousand, heartlessto the 13th, heartinessand heartsick to the 20ththousand.

The same is observed in the simple word manhaving 9 meanings and polymorphic derived words manful, manly, manlinesswhich have only one meaning, etc. Thus the interdependence of frequency, polysemy and structure manifests itself not only in the morphemic structure of the word, but also in its derivational structure. Derived words are as a rule poorerin the number of meanings and have much lower frequencies than the corresponding simple words though they may be morphemically identical It may be very well exemplified by nouns and verbs formed by conversion, e.g. the simple noun handhas 15 meanings while the derived verb (to) handhas only one meaning and covers only 4% of thetotal occurrences of both.2

§ 3. Frequency and Stylistic Reference

Frequency is also indicative of the interdependence between polysemy, stylistic reference and emotive charge. It can easily be observed in any group of synonyms. Analysing synonymic groupings like make — manufacture — fabricate; heavy — ponderous — weighty — cumbrous; gather — assemble; face — countenancemugwe find that the neutral member of the synonymic group, e.g. make(the first 500 words) has28 meanings, whereas its literary synonyms manufacture(the 2ndthousand) has 2and fabricate(the 14th thousand) which has a narrow, specific stylistic reference has only one meaning. A similar relation is observed in other synonymic groups. The inference, consequently, is that

1 Here and below the number of meanings is given according to A. Hornby, The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, and the frequency values according to the Thorndike Teacher’s Word Book of 30,000 Words.

2 According to M. West. A General Service List of English Words. Longmans, 1959,

stylistically neutral vocabulary units tend to be polysemantic and to have higher frequency value, whereas words of narrow or specific stylistic reference or non-literary vocabulary units are mostly monosemantic and have a low frequency value. The following examples may serve as illustration: the neutral word horse,in addition to its basic meaning, has the meanings — ‘a frame’, ‘a rope’, ‘cavalry’; its poetic synonym steedhas only one meaning. The neutral word faceforms a variety of word-groups in its basic meaning, in addition, it has at least 3 more meanings — ‘boldness’, ‘impudence’, e.g. to have the face to do smth; ‘an outer part’, ‘a surface’, e.g. the face of a coin, the face of a clock.The word facealso enters a number of phraseological units, e.g. to put a new face on a matter, on the face of it.Its literary bookish synonym countenancehas only two meanings and a much poorer collocability; its third synonym mugbelongs to slang, has a heavy emotive charge, is monosemantic and its lexical valency is greatly restricted. The frequency values of these words speak for themselves — facebelongs to the first 500 words, countenance to the 4th thousand and mugto the 6th thousand of the most frequently occurring words.

§ 4. Frequency, Polysemy and Etymology

Frequency value may also serve as a clue to the etymological character of the word and its interrelation with polysemy. The most frequently used words as we have seen are characterised by polysemy, structural simplicity and neutral stylistic reference. They generally belong either to the native words or to the early borrowings, which are already fully assimilated in English. Late borrowings like regime, bourgeoisie, genre, kuru(a fatal disease of the human nervous system), duka(a retail shop in Kenya), etc. are generally marked by low frequency and are very seldom polysemantic. The interrelation of meaning and etymological factors, more specifically the period and the degree of assimilation, makes itself felt above all in the stylistic reference and emotive charge proper to words and is clearly observed in synonymic groups which in most cases consist of both native and borrowed members.1 The analysis of the synonymic group, for example small, little, diminutive, petite, wee, tiny, minute, miniature, microscopic,shows that they come from different sources: smallfrom OE. smæl; littlefrom OE. lỹtel; diminutivefrom Fr.< L. diminutivus; petitefrom Fr. petite; wee(Scand. origin) from ME. wei, wee, we; tiny(origin dubious) from ME. tine; minutefrom Fr.< L. minuta; microscopicfrom Gr. mikrós + Gr. scopós; miniaturefrom It.< L. miniatura.Of these words only smalland littleare polysemantic (smallhas 8 meanings and little — 7 meanings) and are widely used in Modern English (both belong to the first 500 most frequently occurring words). All the others are monosemantic and by far of lesser practical value. For example petite,a late French borrowing, is scarcely ever used in English and is felt as a “foreign element” in the English vocabulary, minutelies outside the 20,000 most frequently occurring words, miniature, diminutivebelong to the 8th thousand. Their lexical valency is very low. It may also be

1 See ‘Semasiology’, § 49, p. 58.

easily seen that words of this synonymic group differ greatly in their stylistic reference. Only the two native words smalland littlebelong to the neutral literary layer; the rest have a specific stylistic reference: microscopiccoined in recent times from Greek morphemes is used more or less as a term, diminutiveis bookish, wee(which for the most part occurs in Scottish dialects) has a poetic tinge in literary English.

§ 5. Frequency and Semantic Structure

Frequency also reflects the interdependence and comparative importance of individual meanings within the word. For example, the adjective exacthas two meanings 'entirely correct, precise', eg. the exact time, smb's exact words,etc. and 'capable of being precise', e.g. exact observer, exact memory.The comparison of the frequences of these individual meanings shows that they are not ofequal importance in the semantic structure of the word; it is the first meaning of this word that is much more important than the second as it accounts for 78% of total occurrences of the word, leaving only 18% to the second meaning.

The adjective bluewhich is a polysemantic unit of a high frequency value may serve as another example. On comparing the frequencies of individual meanings of this word we find that its neutral meaning 'the colour of the sky' accounts for 92% of the occurrences of the word, whereas the meaning 'sad' (cf. to look (to feel) blue)and the meaning 'indecent, obscene' (cf. to tell blue stories, to talk blue)are both marked by a heavy emotive charge and make only 2% and 0.5% of the occurrence of this word respectively.

Thus, as we see, the semantic frequencies of individual meanings give a better and a more objective insight into the semantic structure of words.

We may now conclude by pointing out that frequency value of the word is as a rule a most reliable and objective factor indicating the relative value of the word in the language in general and conditioning the grammatical and lexical valency of the word. The frequency value of the word alone is in many cases sufficient to judge of its structural, stylistic, semantic and etymological peculiarities, i e. if the word has a high frequency of occurrence one may suppose that it is monomorphic, simple, polysemantic and stylistically neutral. Etymologically it islikely to be native or to belong to early borrowings. The interdependence so markedly reflected by frequency can be presented graphically. Below we show the analysis of two groups of synonyms. (See the table, p. 181.)


§ 6. Development of Vocabulary

As has been already mentioned, no vocabulary of any living language is ever stable but is constantly changing, growing and decaying. The changes occurring in the vocabulary are due both to linguistic and non-linguistic causes, but in most cases to the combination of both. Words may drop out altogether as a result of the disappearance of the actual objects they denote, e.g. the OE. wunden-stefna— 'a curved-stemmed ship'; зãг

’spear, dart’; some words were ousted1 as a result of the influence of Scandinavian and French borrowings, e.g. the Scandinavian takeand dieousted the OE: nimanand sweltan,the French armyand placereplaced the OE. hēreand staÞs.Sometimes words do not actually drop out but become obsolete, sinking to the level of vocabulary units used in narrow, specialised fields of human intercourse making a group of archaisms: e g. billow — ‘wave’; welkin — ’sky’; steed — ‘horse’; slay — ‘kill’ are practically never used except in poetry; words like halberd, visor, gauntletare used only as historical terms.

Yet the number of new words that appear in the language is so much greater than those that drop out or become obsolete, that the development of vocabularies may be described as a process of never-ending growth.2

























Groups of Synonyms Frequency Value Structure The Number of Meanings Style Etymology
Morphemic Derivational 1 meaning 2 meanings 3 and more meanings Neutral, standard colloquial Bookish, non-literary Native, early borrowings Late borrowings
Monomorphic Polymorphic Simple Derived Compound
I Fair Just Impartial Unbiased Equitable Dispassionate II Cool Composed Unruffled Imperturbable Nonchalant +   +       + +   +  
+   +       + +   +  
  + + +       +   +
  + + -4-       +  
  +   + +       +    
  + + + +       +   +
+         + +   +
  +   + +       +   +
  +   + +     + +  
  +   + +     +   +
  + + +     +   +

1 See ‘Etymological Survey...’, § 12, p. 172.

2 It is of interest to note that the number of vocabulary units in Old English did not exceed 30 — 40 thousand words, the vocabulary of Modern English is at least ten times larger and contains about 400 — 500 thousand words.

The appearance of a great number of new words and the development of new meanings in the words already available in the language may be largely accounted for by the rapid flow of events, the progress of science and technology and emergence of new concepts in different fields of human activity. The influx of new words has never been more rapid than in the last few decades of this century. Estimates suggest that during the past twenty-five years advances in technology and communications media have produced a greater change in our language than in any similar period in history. The specialised vocabularies of aviation, radio, television, medical and atomic research, new vocabulary items created by recent development in social history — all are part of this unusual influx. Thus war has brought into English such vocabulary items as blackout, fifth-columnist, paratroops, A-bomb, V-Day,etc.; the development of science gave such words as hydroponics, psycholinguistics, polystyrene, radar, cyclotron, meson, positron; antibiotic,etc.;1 the conquest and research of cosmic space by the Soviet people gave birth to sputnik, lunnik, babymoon, space-rocket, space-ship, space-suit, moonship, moon crawler, Lunokhod,etc.

The growth of the vocabulary reflects not only the general progress made by mankind but also the peculiarities of the way of life of the speech community in which the new words appear, the way its science and culture tend to develop. The peculiar developments of the American way of life for example find expression in the vocabulary items like taxi-dancer — , ‘a girl employed by a dance hall, cafe, cabaret to dance with patrons who pay for each dance’; to job-hunt — ‘to search assiduously for a job’; the political life of America of to-day gave items like witchhunt — ‘the screening and subsequent persecution of political opponents’; ghostwriter — ‘a person engaged to write the speeches or articles of an eminent personality’; brinkmanship — ‘a political course of keeping the world on the brink of war’; sitdowner — ‘a participant of a sit-down strike’; to sit in — ‘to remain sitting in available places in a cafe, unserved in protest of Jim Crow Law’; a sitter-in; a lie-inor a lie-down — ‘a lying

1 The results of the analysis of the New Word Section of Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary covering a period of 14 years (from 1927 to 1941) and A Dictionary of New English by С. Barnhart covering a period of 10 years (from 1963 to 1972) confirm the statement; out of the 498 vocabulary items 100 (about 1/5 of the total number) are the result of technological development, about 80 items owe their appearance to the development of science, among which 60 are new terms in the field of physics, chemistry, nuclear physics and biochemistry. 42 words are connected with the sphere of social relations and only 28 with art, literature, music, etc. See P. С. Гинзбург. О пополнении словарного состава. «Иностранные языки в школе», 1954, № 1 ; Р. С. Гинзбург, Н. Г. Позднякова. Словарь новых слов Барнхарта и некоторые наблюдения над пополнением словарного состава современного английского языка. «Иностранные языки в школе», 1975, № 3.

A similar result is obtained by a count conducted for seven letters of the Addenda to The Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English by A. S. Hornby, E. V. Gatenby, H. Wakefield, 1956. According to these counts out of 122 new units 65 are due to the development of science and technology, 21 to the development of social relations and only 31 to the general, non-specialised vocabulary. See Э. М. Медникова, Т. Ю. Каравкина. Социолингвистический аспект продуктивного словообразования. «Вестник Московского университета», 1964, № 5.

down of a group of people in a public place to disrupt traffic as a form of protest or demonstration’; to nuclearise — ‘to equip conventional armies with nuclear weapons’; nuclearisation; nuclearism — ‘emphasis on nuclear weapons as a deterrent to war or as a means of attaining political and social goals’.

§ 7. Structural and Semantic Peculiarities of New Vocabulary Units

It must be mentioned as a noteworthy peculiarity that new vocabulary items in Modern English belong only to the notional parts of speech, to be more exact, only to nouns, verbs and adjectives; of these nouns are most numerous.1

New vocabulary units are as a rule monosemantic and most of them are marked by peculiar stylistic value — they primarily belong to the specialised vocabulary. Neutral words and phrases are comparatively few. Terms used in various fields of science and technique make the greater part of new words.

The analysis of the development of the vocabulary of Modern English shows that there are two aspects of the growth of the language — the appearance of new lexical items which increase the vocabulary numerically and the appearance of new meanings of old words.

New vocabulary units are mostly the result of the new combinations of old elements. Entirely new lexical items make an insignificant section of vocabulary.

Structurally new vocabulary items represent two types of lexical units: words, e.g. blackout, microfilm-reader, unfreeze,and word-groups, mostly phraseological units, e.g. blood bank — ‘a place where blood plasma are stored’; atomic pile — ‘reactor’, etc.

Words in their turn comprise various structural types: 2

a) simple words, e.g. jeep — ‘a small, light motor vehicle esp. for military use’; zebra — ’street crossing-place, marked by black and white stripes’;

b) derived words, such as collaborationist — ‘one who in occupied territory works* helpfully with the enemy’; centrism — ‘a middle-of-the road or a moderate position in polities’, a preppie — ‘a student or graduate of a preparatory school (sl.)’;

c) compounds, e.g. corpsman(mil.) — ‘a member of a hospital squad trained to administer first aid to wounded servicemen’, script-show — ‘a serial program on radio and television’; house-husbandU.S. ‘a married man who manages a household’, etc. The analysis of new words for their derivational structure shows a marked predominance of derived and compound words and a rather small number of simple words.

Word-groups comprise a considerable part of vocabulary extension. Structurally, the bulk of the word-groups belongs to the


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