English vocabulary as a system, the main peculiarities of English word-stock, the origin of English words, neologisms and archaisms
1.1 English vocabulary as a system
Modern English Lexicologyaims at giving a systematic description of the word-stock of Modern English. It treats the following basic problems:
Etymology of the English Word-Stock;
Word-Groups and Phraseological Units;
Variants, dialects of the E. Language;
System is a set of competing possibilities in language, together with the rules for choosing them.
Structuralism recognized that a language is best viewed as a system of elements, with each element being chiefly defined by its place within the system, by the way it is related to other elements.
Modern approaches to the problem of study of a language system are characterised by two different levels of study: syntagmatic and paradigmatic.
Paradigmatic relations are the relation between set of linguistic items, which in some sense, constitute choices, so that only one of them may be present at a time in a given position. On the paradigmatic level, the word is studied in its relationships with other words in the vocabulary system.
So, a word may be studied in comparison with other words of similar meaning (e. g. work, n. -- labour, n.; to refuse, v. -- to reject v. -- to decline, v.), of opposite meaning (e. g. busy, adj. -- idle, adj.; to accept, v, -- to reject, v.), of different stylistic characteristics (e. g. man, n. -- chap, n. -- bloke, n. -- guy, n.).
Consequently, the main problems of paradigmatic studies of vocabulary are:
On the syntagmatic level, the semantic structure of the word is analysed in its linear relationships with neighbouring words in connected speech. In other words, the semantic characteristics of the word are observed, described and studied on the basis of its typical contexts, in speech:
Some collocations are totally predictable, such as spick with span, others are much less so: letter collocates with a wide range of lexemes, such as alphabet and spelling, and (in another sense) box, post, and write.
Collocations differ greatly between languages, and provide a major difficulty in mastering foreign languages. In English, we 'face' problems and 'interpret' dreams; but in modern Hebrew, we have to 'stand in front of problems and 'solve' dreams.
The more fixed a collocation is, the more we think of it as an 'idiom' - a pattern to be learned as a whole, and not as the 'sum of its parts'.
Combination of paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations in lexical system determines vocabulary as a system.
1.2 The main peculiarities of English word-stock
There are a lot of variants of the English language:
English as a native language
the Commonwealth Caribbean
the United Kingdom
United States of America (also commonly known as the Anglosphere)
English as a second language
Pakistan and South Africa
Basic Engish is a simplified version of English for easy international use.
Basic English (total of 850 words):
Special English is a simplified version of English used by the Voice of America. It uses the vocabulary of only 1500 words.
1.3 The origin of English words
A very large number of words have been incorporated into the vocabulary of English from other languages. Such words are often called loan-words and the process by which they are brought into the language, is called borrowing.
Borrowings may be classified:
according to the time of borrowing
according to the language from which the word was borrowed
according to the degree of assimilation
according to the aspect which is borrowed.
In everyday speech, the majority of words will normally be Germanic. If a speaker wishes to make a forceful point in an argument in a very blunt way, Germanic words will usually be chosen.
A majority of Latinate words (or at least a majority of content words) will normally be used in more formal speech and writing, such as a courtroom or an encyclopedia article.
English easily accepts technical terms into common use. The vocabulary is vast. English has a well-defined centre but no discernible circumference (= no visible limits).
OE words are of Anglo-Saxon origin.
Words incorporated into English from other languages - loan-words. The process is called borrowing.
I. Loan words from the point of view of the language they were taken from: cultural expansion, invasions, trade interaction.
1. Anglo-Saxon words: are of Germanic origin, characteristic - it's used in everyday conversation; the most frequent words of English vocabulary; speaking Anglo-Saxon = speaking simply; they have French synonyms # sweat - perspire; begin - commence; book - volume; climb - ascend; most words have one or two syllables.
2. The first wave of borrowings:
a) 1 BC - Roman Empire occupied Europe and Germanic tribes left. Roman brought another everyday lexis: cherry, pear, plum, pepper, kitchen, pot, wine, milk.
b) 5 AD - Celtic words came into Anglo-Saxon (names of rivers, geographic names, etc.) # Avon, Exe, Esk, Usk.
c) 7 AD - Christianization of England, Latin was the official language of church. - religious words + education.
d) 8 - 11 AD - several Scandinavian invasions, Vikings came to England. Characteristic feature: sk. # skim, skip, sky, skill, skirt. In OE - sc turned into sh. Some geographical names: +by - Willaby; another ending of geographic names - thwaite.
e) 1066 - Norman invasion. They were speaking Northern French dialect of Normandy. Extremely significant; law, government, church, court, commerce; elevated style.
"Yesterday's neologisms, like yesterday's jargon, are often today's essential vocabulary."
Neologism is a word, term, or phrase which has been recently created ("coined") -- often to apply to new concepts, to synthesize pre-existing concepts, or to make older terminology sound more contemporary. Neologisms are especially useful in identifying inventions, new phenomena, or old ideas which have taken on a new cultural context. The term "e-mail", as used today, is an example of a neologism.
Neologisms can also refer to an existing word or phrase which has been assigned a new meaning.
At the present moment English is developing very swiftly and there is so called "neology blowup". R. Berchfield who worked at compiling a four- volume supplement to NED says that averagely 800 neologisms appear every year in Modern English. It has also become a language-giver recently, especially with the development of computerization.
New words, as a rule, appear in speech of an individual person who wants to express his idea in some original way. This person is called "originater". New lexical units are primarily used by university teachers, newspaper reporters, by those who are connected with mass media.
Neologisms can develop in three main ways:
a lexical unit existing in the language can change its meaning to denote a new object or phenomenon. In such cases we have semantic neologisms, e.g. the word "umbrella" developed the meanings: "авиационное прикрытие", "политическое прикрытие".
A new lexical unit can develop in the language to denote an object or phenomenon which already has some lexical unit to denote it. In such cases we have transnomination, e.g. the word "slum" was first substituted by the word "ghetto" then by the word-group "inner town".
A new lexical unit can be introduced to denote a new object or phenomenon. In this case we have "a proper neologism", many of them are cases of new terminology.
Newly created words entering a language tend to pass through several stages:
Unstable - Extremely new, being proposed, or being used only by a small subculture (also known as protologisms).
Diffused - Having reached a significant audience, but not yet having gained widespread acceptance.
Stable - Having gained recognizable and probably lasting acceptance.
Dated - The point where the word has ceased holding novelty and has passed into clichИ, formal linguistic acceptance, or become culturally dated in its use
Neologisms can be also classified according to the ways they are formed.
syntactical neologisms (morphological /word-building/ and phraseological /forming word- groups)
Morphological and syntactical neologisms are usually built on patterns existing in the language, therefore they do not belong to the group of strong neologisms.
Here also belong:
call-and-recall - вызов на диспансеризацию,
bioastronomy -search for life on other planets,
rat-out - betrayal in danger ,
zero-zero (double zero) - ban of longer and shorter range weapon,
x-rated /about films terribly vulgar and cruel/,
Formation of neologisms:
forming new words from combinations & sentences
forming new words according to already existing productive patterns
fingersmith - карманник
ism - as an independent word
Archaisms are the language units that were current at one time but have passed out of use. It can be word, phrase or the use of spelling, letter or syntax. They are substituted by synonyms: # betwixt - between; hapless - unlikely. Some of them remain in a language but are used as stylistic devices to express solemnity. Used in poetry, law, etc.
Types: - literary (seek to awoke the style of older speech and writing);
- lexical (the use of words no longer in common use).
Archaisms are frequently misunderstood, leading to changes in usage. One example is the use of the archaic familiar second person singular pronoun "thou" to refer to God in English Christianity. Although originally a familiar pronoun, it has been misinterpreted as a respectful one by many modern Christians.
Used by lawyers in written form: # heretofore, hereunto, thereof
Religious context - # with this ring I thee wed
Obsolete words (lexical archaism) were once common but now are rare. Obsolete term is the one which is not in an active use any more.
Sometimes an archaism can get a new meaning: # fair - original meaning `beautiful'.
Sometimes roots of words remain and affixes change - # beauteous.
Morphological structure of English words. The most productive word-building types in English
The morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of form. Morphemes cannot be segmented into smaller units without losing their constitutive essence, i.e. two-facetedness -- association of a certain meaning with a certain sound-pattern. Morphemes occur in speech only as constituent parts of words but not independently.
Morphemes may be classified
from the semantic point of view
from the structural point of view.
Semantically morphemes fall into two types:
Root-morphemes (or radicals)
are the lexical nucleus of words. For example, in the words remake, glassful, disorder the root-morphemes -make, glass- and -order are understood as the lexical centres of the words. The root-morpheme is isolated as the morpheme common to a set of words making up a word-cluster, e.g. the morpheme teach- in to teach, teacher, teaching.
include inflectional morphemes (or inflections) and affixational morphemes (or affixes). Inflections carry only grammatical meaning and are thus relevant only for the formation of word-forms, whereas affixes are relevant for building various types of stems'
Structurally morphemes fall into three types:
semi-bound (semi-free) morphemes.
A free morpheme is defined as one that coincides with the stem or a word-form.
For example, the root-morpheme friend- of the noun friendship is naturally qualified as a free morpheme because it coincides with one of the forms of the word friend.
A bound morpheme occurs only as a constituent part of a word.
Affixes are bound morphemes for they always make part of a word. For example, the suffixes -ness, -ship, -ize in the words darkness, friendship, to activize; the prefixes im-, dis-, de- in the words impolite, to disregard, to demobilize.
Some root-morphemes also belong to the class of bound morphemes. These are, as a rule, roots which are found in quite a limited number of words and never independently or pseudo-roots, i. e. root-morphemes which have lost most of the properties of "full" roots. Such are the root-morphemes goose- in gooseberry, -ceive in conceive.
Semi-bound (semi-free) morphemes are morphemes that can function in a morphemic sequence both as an affix and as a free morpheme. For example, the morphemes well and half onthe one hand occur as free morphemes that coincide with the stem and the word-form in the utterances to sleep well, half an hour, on the other hand well and half occur as bound morphemes in the words well-known, half-done.
Morphemes can be:
1. Inflectional - vary or inflect the forms of words in order to express grammatical feature. # tense and number - boy - boys.
Features: - generally don't change basic meaning or part of speech;
- generally express grammatically required features or indicate relations between different words in the sentence. # Lee loves Kim.
- generally are productive typically combine freely with all members of some large class of morphemes with quite a predictable effect on usage and meaning;
- occur outside any derivational morphemes.
- suffixes only
2. Derivational - make new words from old ones.
Features: - change the part of speech or the basic meaning of a word
- not required by syntactic relations outside the word # unkind
- often not productive i.e. they can be selective about what they will combine with and also have erratic effect on the meaning # -hood + brother/ child - brotherhood; childhood
- typically occur between the stem any inflectional affixes: # neighborhoods
- in English it is prefixes or suffixes.
Types of meaning in morphemes
In morphemes different types of meaning can be singled out depending on the semantic class morphemes belong to.
Affixational morphemes have
distributional types of meaning
Lexical meaning of morphemes may be analysed into denotational and connotational components. The denotational meaning in affixes is more generalized than in root-morphemes, e.g. -er carries the meaning the doer of the action: reader, teacher, singer. All endearing and diminutive suffixes bear a heavy emotive charge: -ie (girlie, dearie); -ette (kitchenette). Many stylistically marked affixes are bookish or scientific: a- (amoral); -oid (rhomboid).
All suffixes and some prefixes possess grammatical (part-of-speech) meaning: -ness (emptiness) carries the nominal meaning of thigness. Root-morphemes do not possess any grammatical meaning: in the root-morpheme man- (manly) there is no grammatical meaning of case and number observed in the word man.
Grammatical and lexical meaning in suffixes are blended: -er (teacher) carries the meaning thingness (noun) and the doer of the action.
In all polymorphemic words their constituent morphemes possess two more types of meaning: differential and distributional. Differential meaning distinguishes a word from all others containig identical morphemes: in the word teacher the root teach- differentiates it from other words beginning in teach (teaching). Distributional meaning is the meaning of the order and arrangement of the constituent morphemes: ring-finger, singer. A different arrangement of the same morphemes will change the meaning of the word or make the word meaningless: finger-ring, er-singer.
Morphemic types of words
Monomorphicor root-words consist of only one root-morpheme (small, dog, make). Polymorphic words according to the number of root-morphemes are classified into: a) monoradical (one-root morpheme) and b) polyradical (words consisting of two or more roots).
Monoradicalwords fall into three subtypes:
radical-suffixal words, i.e. words consisting of one root-morpheme and one or more suffixal morphemes (e.g. acceptable, acceptability);
radical-prefixal words, i.e. words consisting of one root-morpheme and a prefixal morpheme (e.g. outdo, unbutton);
prefixo-radical-suffixal words, i.e. words which consist of one root, prefixal and suffixal morphemes (e.g. disagreeable, misinterpretation)
Polyradicalwords fall into two subtypes:
polyradical words which consist of two or more roots with no affixational morphemes (e.g. book-stand, lamp-shade);
polyradical words which contain at least two roots and one or more affixational morphemes (e.g. safety-pin, light-mindedness, pen-holder).
2.2The most productive word-building types in English
Word-building is one of the main ways of enriching vocabulary. There are 8 ways of word-building in Modern English:
back formation (disaffixation).
The most productive are composition (compounding), affixation and conversion.
Conversion is one of the principal ways of forming words in Modern English. It is highly productive in replenishing the English word-stock with new words. Conversion can be defined as the derivation of a new word without any over marking. In order to find cases of conversion we have to look for pairs of words that are derivationally related and are completely identical in their phonetic realization.
This immense productivity of conversion is encouraged by features in its modern stage: - analytical structure; - simplicity of paradigms; - abundance of one-syllabic words (flexibility and mobility); - convenient way of enriching the vocabulary with new words. The productivity finds its reflection in speech; abundance of nonce-words. It's a vital and developing process that penetrates colloquial language. Subconsciously every speaker understands his making a new word.
The most frequent semantically related groups in conversion are nouns and verbs derived from them.
The lexical meaning of the verb points out the instrument, the agent, the place, the cause, the result, the time of action
parts of human body - to finger ( to touch with fingers
tools, machines, weapons - to free- wheel ( to go with the engine switched off)
to crowd - to come together in large numbers
to ape - to imitate in a foolish way as an ape does
to bag - to put in a bag
to bottle - to store in bottles
Some authors don't consider conversion in: - laugh - to laugh; work - to work; - drink - to drink.
Etymology: OE noun lufu; verb lufian.
The point was in dropping of the ending. However, still this zero affixation is no point since there's same stem and different paradigm.
Categories of speech that are especially affected by conversion:
- verbs made from nouns are the most numerous - # to hand, to blacklist, to bottle;
- nouns from verbs - # a go, a make, a cut;
- verbs from adjective - # to pale, to yellow, to grey;
- adjectives from nouns - a native, a relative, a Russian
- but there are also: to down, ifs and buts; ins and outs (FROM ANY PART OF SPEECH).
Criteria of direction of conversion:
semantic - defines the frequency of usage; also if one word is used only in one of its forms # to neighbour - a neighbour.
Type of semantic structure
Formal criteria - morphological structure of the word (suffixes etc.) - shows the original part of speech: a document - to document.
2.2.2 Composition (compounding)
Compounds represent one of the most typical and specific features of English word-structure.
Compounds are produced by combining two or more stems.
The aspect of identification of a compound word:
two or more stems
There's a problem: in which case the word is a combination or compounding?
Criteria for differentiation:
phonetic - emphasis: compounds have one main stress
morphological - morphological unity of a compound: every compound has one paradigm;
syntactic - limitation of collocations of compound words;
semantic - semantic unity of a compound word; meaning's not transparent;
orthographic - whether it's hyphenated; written as one word.
There are three important peculiarities distinguishing compounding in English from compounding in other languages: