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Productive Types of Compound Nouns 5 страница

and Greek origin such as words with the morphemes -tronused chiefly in the field of electronics, e.g. mesotron, cyclotron, etc.; tele-, e.g. telecast, telelecture, telediagnosis, -in, e.g. protein, penicillin; -scope,e.g. iconoscope, oscilloscope; meta-, e.g. meta-culture, metaprogram; para-meaning ‘related to, near’, e.g. paralinguistic, parabiospheric; video-, e.g. videodisk, videophone,etc.

But though these words consist of borrowed morphemes they cannot be regarded as true borrowings because these words did not exist either in the Greek or in the Latin word-stock. All of them are actually formed according to patterns of English word-formation, and many function in Modern English as new affixes and semi-affixes.1 Words with some of them can be found in the vocabulary of various languages and reflect as a rule the general progress in science and technology.

It is noteworthy that a number of new affixes appeared in Modern English through different types of borrowing. This can be exemplified by the Russian suffix -nikwhich came within the words sputnik, lunnikand acquired the meaning of ‘one who is connected with something’, but which under the influence of beatnik2 acquired a derogatory flavour and is now a slang suffix. It is used to denote ‘person who rejects standard social values and becomes a devotee of some fact or idea’, e.g. FOLK-NIK, protestnik, filmnik,etc. The prefix mini-is now currently used with two meanings: a) ‘of very small size’, e.g. minicomputer, minicar, mini war, ministate,and b) ‘very short’, as in minidress, minicoat, miniskirt,etc.; the prefix maxi-was borrowed on the analogy of mini-also in two meanings: a)'very large’, e.g. maxi-order, maxi-taxi,and b) ‘long, reaching down to the ankle’, e.g. maxicoat, maxi-dress, maxilength.The suffix -nautis found in, e.g., astronaut, aquanaut, lunarnaut,etc.

Numerous borrowed root-morphemes remain bound in the vocabulary of Modern English but acquire a considerable derivative force and function as components of a specific group of compounds productive mainly in specialised spheres, e.g. acoust(o) — acousto-optic, acousto-electronics; ge(o)-, e.g. geowarfare, geoscientist, multi-e.g. multi-cultural, multi- directional, multispectral, etc.; cosm(o)-,e.g. cosmodrome, cosmonautics, cosmonaut,etc.

2) There are true borrowings from different languages as well. They, as a rule, reflect the way of life, the peculiarities of development of the speech communities from which they come. From the Russian language there came words like kolkhoz, Gosplan, Komsomol, udarnik, sputnik, jak,etc.

The words borrowed from the German language at the time of war reflect the aggressive nature of German fascism, e.g. Blitzkrieg 3, Wehrmacht4, Luftwaffe 5.

1 See C. Barnhart. A Dictionary of New English, 1963 — 1972. Longman, 1973. p, 316; see also Э. М. Медникова, Т. Ю. Каравкина, op. cit.

2 See ‘Word-Structure’, § 3, p. 92.

3 ‘aggressive war conducted with lightning-like speed and force'

4 ‘Germany’s armed forces'

5 ‘the air force of the Third Reich'

As most of these words remain unassimilated in present-day English, they are all the time felt as foreign words and tend to drop out from the language.

3) Loan-translations also reflect the peculiarities of the way of life of the countries they come from, and they easily become stable units of the vocabulary, e.g. fellow-traveller, self-criticism, Socialist democracy, Worker’s Faculty,etc. which all come from the Russian language.

§ 11. Semantic Extension

Semantic extension of words already available in the language is a powerful

source of qualitative growth and development of the vocabulary though it does not necessarily add to its numerical growth; it is only the split of polysemy that results in the appearance of new vocabulary units thus increasing the number of words.1 In this connection it should be remembered that the border-line between a new meaning of the word and its lexical homonym is in many cases so vague that it is often difficult to state with any degree of certainty whether we have another meaning of the original word or its homonym — a new self-contained word,2 e.g. in the verb to sit-in — ‘to join a group in playing cards’ and a newly recorded use of to sit-in — ‘to remain unserved in the available seats in a cafe in protest against Jimcrowism’, or ‘to demonstrate by occupying a building and staying there until their grievances are considered or until the demonstrators themselves are ejected' — the meanings are so widely apart that they are definitely felt as homonyms. The same may be said about the word heel(sl.) — ‘a traitor, double-crosser’ and heel — ‘the back part of a human foot’. On the other hand, the meaning of the verb freeze — ‘to immobilise (foreign-owned credits) by legislative measures’ and its further penetration into a more general sphere seen in to freezewages and the correlated compound wage-freeze is definitely felt as a mere development of the semantic structure of the verb (to) freeze.The semantic connection is felt between the meanings of such words as hot:1) (mus.) ‘having an elaborate and stimulating jazz rhythm’ 2) (financ.) ‘just isued’ and 3) (sl.) ‘dangerous because connected with some crime’ as in the phrase hot money; to screen — ‘to classify by means of standardised test, to select methodically’ (cf. the original meaning of the verb (to) screen — ‘to separate coal into different sizes’, ‘to pass through a sieve or screen’). All these meanings may serve as further examples of qualitative growth of Modern English vocabulary.

A great number of new meanings develop in simple words which belong to different spheres of human activity. New meanings appear mostly in everyday general vocabulary, for example a beehive— ‘a woman’s hair style’; lungs(n pl.) — ‘breathing spaces, such as small parks that might be placed in overpopulated or traffic-congested areas’; a bird — ‘any flying craft’; a vegetable — ‘a lifeless, inert person’; clean(sl.) — free from the use of narcotic drugs’; to uncap(sl.) — ‘to disclose, to re-

1 The above cited counts show that new meanings of the words already existing in the language and new homonyms account for 1/4 of the total number of new items.

2 See ‘Semasiology’, § 4, p. 47 ; ‘Various Aspects...’, § 12, p. 195 — 196.

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veal’. There is a strong tendency in words of specialised and terminological type to develop non-specialised, non-terminological meanings as, for example, the technical term feedback that developed a non-terminological meaning ‘a reciprocal effect of one person or thing upon another’, parameterthat developed a new meaning ‘any defining or characteristic factor’, scenario — ‘any projected course or plan of action’. It is of interest to note that many new meanings in the sphere of general vocabulary are stylistically and emotively non-neutral and marked as colloquial and slang, for example juice(US sl.) — ‘position, power, influence; favourable standing’; bread(sl.) — ‘money’; straight(sl.) — ‘not deviating from the norm in politics, habits; conventional, orthodox’, etc.

On the other hand scientific and technical terminological meanings appear as a result of specialisation as in, e.g., read(genetic) — ‘to decode’; messenger — ‘a chemical substance which carries or transmits genetic information’.

New terminological meanings also appear as a result of expansion of the sphere of application, i.e. when terms of one branch of science develop new meanings and pass over to other branches, e.g. a general scientific term system (n) in cybernetics developed the meaning ‘anything consisting of at least two interrelated parts’; logic acquired inelectronics the meaning ‘the logical operations performed by a computer by means of electronic circuitry’; perturbancein astronomy — ‘disturbances in the motions of planets’, etc.

It should be noted that new meanings appear not only as a result of semantic development of words but also as a result of semantic development of affixes. Thus, the adjectival prefix a- in such adjectives as awhir= whirring; aswivel= swivelling; aclutter= cluttered; aglaze= glazed developed a new meaning similar to the meanings of the participles but giving a more vivid effect of the process than the corresponding non-prefixal participles in -ing and -ed.

The prefix anti-developed two new meanings: 1) ‘belongng to the hypothetical world consisting of the counterpart of ordinary matter’, e.g. anti-matter, anti-world, anti-nucleus,etc.; 2) ‘that which rejects or reverses the traditional characteristics’, e.g. anti-novel, anti-hero, anti-electron,etc.; the prefix non-developed a new meaning ’sham, pretended, pseudo’, e.g. non-book, non-actor, non-policy,etc.1

It follows from the foregoing discussion that the principal ways of enriching the vocabulary of present-day English with new words are various ways of productive word-formation and word-creation. The most active ways of word creation are clippings and acronyms. The semantic development of words already available in the language is the main source of the qualitative growth of the vocabulary but does not essentially change the vocabulary quantitatively.

1 See С Barnhart, op. cit. 194


Linguists call the total word-stock of a language its lexicon or vocabulary. There is a notion that a so-called unabridged dictionary records the unabridged lexicon, that is all the words of the language. But the lexicon of English is open-ended. It is not even theoretically possible to record it all as a closed system. The exact number of vocabulary units in Modern English cannot be stated with any degree of certainty for a number of reasons, the most obvious of them being the constant growth of Modern English word-stock especially technical terms of the sciences which have come to influence our modern society. As one of the American lexicographers aptly puts it we could fill a dictionary the size of the largest unabridged with names of compounds of carbon alone.1 There are many points of interest closely connected with the problem of the number of vocabulary units in English, but we shall confine ourselves to setting down in outline a few of the major issues:

1) divergent views concerning the nature of vocabulary units and

2) intrinsic heterogeneity of modern English vocabulary.

§ 12. Some Debatable Problems of Lexicology

Counting up vocabulary units we usually proceed from the assumption that the English lexicon comprises not only words but also phraseological units. The term “phraseological unit” however allows of different interpretation.2 If the term is to be taken as including all types of set expressions, then various lexical items ranging from two-word groups the meaning of which is directly inferred from the meaning of its components, e.g. to win a victory, to lose one’s balance,etc. to proverbs and sayings, e.g. It Is the early bird that catches the worm, That is where the shoe pinches,etc. have to be counted as separate lexical units on a par with individual words. Thus in the case of to wina victory we must record three vocabulary units: the verb to win,the noun victory and the phraseological unit to win a victory.If however we hold that it is only the set expressions functioning as word-equivalents are to be treated as phraseological units, to win a victoryis viewed as a variable, (free) word-group and consequently must not be counted as a separate lexical item. The results of vocabulary counts will evidently be different.

Another debatable point closely connected with the problem of the number of vocabulary units in English is one of the least investigated problems of lexicology — the border-line between homonymy and polysemy when approached synchronically and divergent views concerning lexico-grammatical homonymy.3 If identical sound-forms, e.g. work(n) and work(v) are considered to be different grammatical and semantic variants of the same word, they are accordingly treated as one word. This conception naturally tends to diminish the total number of

1 See Horman A. Estrin and Donald V. Mehus, The American Language in the 1970s, USA, 1974. See also C. Barnhart, op. cit.

2 See ‘Word-Groups and Phraseological Units’, § 11, p. 74.

3 See ‘Semasiology’, §§ 37-39, pp. 43 — 47.

vocabulary units in English. In some cases of lexical homonymy the boundary line between various meanings of one polysemantic word and the meanings of two homonymous words is not sufficiently sharp and clear and allows of different approaches to the problem.1 Thus, e.g., words like fly — ‘a two-winged insect’ and fly — ‘a flap of cloth covering the buttons on a garment’ may be synchronically treated as two different words or as different meanings of the same word.2

Next comes the problem of word and word variants. If, for example, we consider the clippings doc, prof,etc. as variants of the words doctor, professor,etc., we must count profand professor, docand doctoras two words having each two variants. If, however, we regard them as different words having each of them its sound-form and ’semantic structure, we shall count them as four separate words.

There is one more point of interest in connection with the problem of the number of words that should be mentioned here. Paradoxical as it may seem a great number of lexical items actually used by English-speaking people cannot practically be counted. These words are usually referred to as “occasional”, “potential” or “nonce-words". The terms imply that vocabulary units of this type are created for a given occasion only and may be considered as but “potentially” existing in English vocabulary. They may be used by any member of the speech community whenever the need to express a certain concept arises. These are derived and compound words which are formed on highly productive and active word-building patterns.3 Some of these word-formation patterns and affixes are so active and productive as “to make even a representative sampling beyond our resources".4 In fact the suffix -er, e.g., may be added to almost any verbal stem to form a noun denoting the agent of the action. If we count up all the words that may be formed in this way, the number of vocabulary units will be considerably magnified.

It is clear from the above that the divergent views concerning the nature of basic vocabulary units cannot but affect the estimate of the size of English vocabulary in terms of exact figures.

§ 13. Intrinsic Heterogeneity of Modern English

Modern English vocabulary is not homogeneous, and contains a number of lexical units which may be considered “non-English” and “not modern". It follows that in estimating the size of vocabulary very much depends on our understanding of the terms modern and English. Let us begin with the analysis of the term English vocabulary units. If we compare words of the type Luftwaffe, regime, garage, sputnik,we shall see that the borderline between ‘non-assimilated’ borrowings which make up part of English vocabulary and foreign or alien words is not always sharp and distinct.5

1 See ‘Semasiology’, §§ 32-34, pp. 39 — 42.

2 Compare the different approaches to this word in the Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1957 and the Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, 1956.

3 For illustrative examples see ‘Various Aspects...’, § 8, p. 184 — 187.

4 See C. Barnhart, op. cit., Explanatory Notes, p. 15.

5 See ‘Etymological Survey ...’, §§ 1, 6, 11, pp. 160, 165, 171.

For example, it was already pointed out that the Second World War and fascist aggression gave currency to a number of new lexical items such as Luftwaffe, Blitzkriegand others. Words of that type are distinguished from other neologisms by their peculiar graphic and sound-form. They are felt as “alien” elements in the English word-stock and are used more or less in the same way as words of a foreign language may be used by English speakers.

This also applies to barbarisms. As a rule barbarisms, e.g. mutatismutandis (L.), faux pas (Fr.) and others, are included even in the comparatively concise dictionaries alongside with English words l although it is rather doubtful whether they are really part of the English vocabulary.

The criterion which serves to describe lexical units as belonging to Modern English vocabulary is also rather vague. The point is that profound modifications in the vocabulary of a language are occasioned not only by the appearance and creation of new lexical items but also by the disappearance of certain lexical units.2 Some words seem gradually to lose their vitality, become obsolete and may eventually drop out of the language altogether. This was the case with the OE. niman — ‘take’; ambith — ’servant’ and a number of others. The process being slow and gradual, the border-line between “dead” and “living” words in the English word-stock is not always clearly defined. Such words, e.g., as welkin, icleptare scarcely ever used in present-day English but may be found in poetical works of outstanding English poets of the nineteenth century. Can we consider them as non-existing in the Mоdern English vocabulary? The answer to the question as to the number of lexical units in modern English word-stock will naturally vary depending on the answer given to this particular question.

According to the recent estimates the OED contained 414,825 lexical units out of which 52,464 are obsolete words, 9,733 alien words, 67,105 obsolete and variant forms of main words.3

§ 14. Number of Vocabulary Items in Actual Use and Number of Vocabulary Units in Modern English

Taking into account the growth of the vocabulary in the last forty years an estimate of 30,000 words in the actual working vocabulary of educated persons today may be considered reasonable though it comprises a number of non-assimilated, archaic and occasional words. It should be pointed out, however, that a considerable number of words are scarcely ever used and the meaning of quite a number of them is unknown to an average educated English layman, e.g. abalone, abattoir, abeleand the like.4 It follows that there is a considerable difference between the number of lexical items in Modern English vocabulary and the number of lexical items in actual use. Bу the phrase “in actual use” we do not imply words and phrases used by any single individual but

1 See, e. g., The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1957.

2 See ‘Various Aspects ...’, § 6, p. 180.

3 Clarence L. Barnhart. Methods and Standards for Collecting Citations for English Descriptive Dictionaries, 1975.

4 See The Shorter Oxford Dictionary, 1957,

the vocabularyactually used and understood by the bulk of English-speaking people as a whole at a given historical period. It also follows that not all vocabulary items are of equal practical importance. In this connection it should be recalled that there is a considerable difference between the vocabulary units a person uses and those he understands. According to the data available, the “passive” vocabulary of a “normally educated person” comprises about 30,000 words. At best about 20,000 are actually used in speech. Of these not all the words are equally important.

The relative “value” of lexical items is dependent on how frequently this or that particular unit occurs in speech and on the range of application of these units. 4,000 — 5,000 of most frequently occurring words are presumed to be amply sufficient for the daily needs of an average member of the given speech community. It is obvious that these 4,000 — 5,000 comprise ordinary words which are as a rule polysemantic and characterised by neutral stylistic reference.1 Specialised vocabulary units (special words and terminology) are naturally excluded.

It should not be inferred from the above that frequency alone is an adequate criterion to establish the most useful list of words. There are, especially in science, words that appear very rarely even in a large corpus, but are central to the “concepts of a whole science.

As is well known terminology in various fields of scientific inquiry comprises many peculiar vocabulary units the bulk of which is made up of Latin or Greek morphemes. Terms possess a number of common features in all European languages. Terms are as a rule used by comparatively small groups of professionals and certainly not by the language community as a whole. Most of them are to a certain extent “international”, i.e. understandable to specialists irrespective of their nationality. Compare for example Russ. зуб зубы, English tooth — teethand the corresponding phonetic terms Russ. дентальный, Eng. dental.Compare also Eng. radio —Russ. радио, Eng. electronicsRuss. электроника, etc. Special words and terms make up the bulk of neologisms and the question naturally arises whether terms belong to common English vocabulary items. Nevertheless they are of great importance for those who are working in this or that branch of science or technology.

§ 15. Summary and Conclusions

1. The comparative value and place of the word in the vocabulary system is conditioned by the interdependence of the structural, semantic, stylistic and etymological aspects of the words which is brought out most vividly in the frequency value attached to each word.

2. On the basis of the interrelation of lexical and grammatical types of meaning words fall into two classes: notional words and form words — a numerically small class of words with the highest frequency value.

1 Some figures found in Pierre Guiraud’s book Les caractères statistiques du vocabulaire (Presses Universitaires de France, 1954) may be of interest to language learners. The counts conducted by the author show that out of 20,000 words the first 100 most frequently occurring words make up 60% of any text; 1,000 — 85%; 4,000 — 97,5%, all the rest (about 15,000) - 2,5%.

3. Words of high frequency value are mostly characterised by polysemy, structural simplicity, neutral stylistic reference and emotive charge. They generally belong either to the native words or to the early borrowings which are already fully or almost fully assimilated.

4. Frequency also reflects the interdependence and comparative importance of individual meanings within the word. The basic meaning of the word is at the same time the meaning with the highest frequency value.

5. The development of vocabulary is largely due to the rapid flow of events, the progress of science and technology and emergence of new concepts in different fields of human activity.

6. Distinction should be made between the qualitative growth of the vocabulary as a result of semantic extension of the already available words and the numerical replenishing of vocabulary as a result of appearance of new vocabulary units.

7. There are three principal ways of the numerical growth of vocabulary: a) productive word-formation, b) various non-patterned ways of word creation, c) borrowings.

8. Productive word-formation is the most powerful source of the numerical growth of present-day English vocabulary.

There are various ways of non-patterned word creation. The two main types are lexicalisation and shortening.

9. The two main types of shortening are: a) transformations of word- groups into words which involve substantivisation, acronyms and blend- ings and b) clippings which consist in a change of the word-structure.

10. Borrowing as a source of vocabulary extension takes the shape of borrowing of morphemes, borrowing of actual words and loan-translations. Especially active nowadays is the formation of new words out of borrowed morphemes.

11. The exact number of vocabulary units in Modern English cannot be stated with any degree of certainty for a number of reasons:

a) Constant growth of Modern English word-stock.

b) Intrinsic heterogeneity of Modern English vocabulary.

c) Divergent views concerning the nature of basic vocabulary units connected with some crucial debatable problems of lexicology: homonymy, polysemy, phraseology, nonce-words.

d) The absence of a sharp and distinct border-line between English and foreign words and between modern and outdated English vocabulary units.

12. There is a considerable difference between the number of vocabulary units in Modern English word-stock and the number of vocabulary items in actual use.

The selection and number of vocabulary items for teaching purposes depends on the aims set before language learners.

VIII. Variants and Dialects of the English Language

To this point we have been dealing with the vocabulary of the English language as if there were only one variety of this language. We shall now turn to the details in which the language of some English speakers differs from that of others, we shall see what varieties of the language in question there are and how they are interconnected.

Every language allows different kinds of variations: geographical or territorial, perhaps the most obvious, stylistic, the difference between the written and the spoken form of the standard national language and others. We shall be concerned here with the territorial variations, the others being the domain of stylistics.

For historical and economic reasons the English language has spread over vast territories. It is the national language of England proper, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and some provinces of Canada. It is the official language in Wales, Scotland, in Gibraltar and on the island of Malta. The English language was also at different times enforced as an official language on the peoples who fell under British rule or US domination in Asia, Africa and Central and South America. The population of these countries still spoke their mother tongue or had command of both languages. After World War II as a result of the national liberation movement throughout Asia and Africa many former colonies have gained independence and in some of them English as the state language has been or is being replaced by the national language of the people inhabiting these countries (by Hindi in India, Urdu in Pakistan, Burmanese in Burma, etc.). though by tradition it retains there the position of an important means of communication.

The role of the English language in these countries is often overrated, apart from other reasons, through not differentiating between the function of the language as a mother tongue and its function as a means of communication between the colonisers and the native population.

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