Лекции Л. И. Городнего по лексикологии английского языка
Learning objectives: After you have studied the lecture you should able to:
1)define the term semasiology;
2) speak about the problem of defining the term
3) explain the essence of
a) the referential approach to the problem of defining the meaning
b) the functional approach;
4)express your own appreciation of the problem under analysis.
5) give (draw) a basic triangle (E.g.: The shop houses 15-ton crane; A naked conductor ran along the car).
The brunch of lexicology, that is devoted to the study of meaning is known as Semasiology.
Semasiology (from Gr . semasia - "signification") deals not with every kind of linguistic meaning only. This does not mean that we need not pay attention to the grammatical meaning. On the contrary, grammatical meaning must be taken into consideration in so far as it bears a specific influence upon lexical meaning.
The main objects of semasiological study are as follows: semantic development of words,
its causes and classification, relevant distinctive features and types of lexical meaning, polysemy and semantic structure of word, semantic groupings and connections in the vocabulary system, i.e. synonyms, antonyms, etc.
Meaning is one of the most controversial terms in the theory of language. An exact definition of lexical meaning becomes especially difficult due to complexity of the process, by which language and human consequence serve to reflect outward reality. Since there is no universally accepted definition meaning we shall give a brief survey of the problem as it is viewed in modern linguistics. There are 2 approaches to the problem: 1) the referential approach, which formulates the essence of meaning as the interdependence between words and things or concepts they denote; 2) the functional approach, which studies the functions of a word in speech. This approach is (sometimes described as contextual) based on the analysis of various contexts.
The essential feature of the first approach is that in distinguishes between the three components, connected with meaning:
1) the sound form of the linguistic sign (sign or symbol);
2) the concept underlying this sound form (meaning; thought or reference).
3 ) the actual referent, i.e. the part or the aspect of reality to which the linguistic sign refers (thing meant).
The best known referential model of meaning is so-called "basic triangle", which may be represent in a simplified form:
Concept (meaning, thought, referent)
Sound form referent (thing meant)
As we can see from the diagram, the sound form of the linguistic sign, for instance [kot] is connected with our concept of a small which it denotes, and though it with the referent, i.e. the actual thing. The common feature of the referential approach is the implacation that meaning in some form or other connected with referent.
Let us examine the interrelation between:
1-Meaning and sound form
The sound-form of the word is not identical with, its meaning namely [kot] is the sound form, used to denote a bed for a child There are inherent connections between this sound form, used to denote a bed for a child. There are inherent connections between this sound form and the meaning of the word "cot", but they are conventional and arbitrary. We may prove it by comparing the sound-forms of different languages, conveying one and the same meaning, cf. English [kot] and Russian [krovatka]. On the contrary, the sound-cluster [kot] in the English language is almost identical to the sound form in Russian language possessing the meaning "male-cat".
2-Meaning and concept
When we examine a word, we see that its meaning, though connected with the underlying concept is not identical with it. 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 abstracts and reflect the most common and typical features of the different objects and phenomena of the world. Being the result of abstraction the concepts are thus almost the same for the whole of humanity. The meanings of worlds, however, are different in different languages. In other words, words expressing identical concepts may have 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 house does not possess the meaning of "fixed residence of family or household", which that of the Russian as house does not possess the meaning of the Russia word дом; it is expressed by another English word, namely home.
The difference between meaning and concept can also be observed by comparing synonymous words and word-groups expressing the same concepts, but possessing linguistic meaning, which is felt as different in each of the units under considerations:
Big - large;
To die - to pass away - kick the bucket - join the majority;
Child - baby-babe-infant;
Daddy - father - governor - etc.
3-Meaning and referent
To distinguish meaning from the referent, i.e. from the thing denoted by the linguistic sign is of the utmost importance. To begin with, meaning is a linguistic phenomenon whereas the denoted object or the referent is beyond the scope of language. We can denote one and the same object by more than one word of a different meaning. For example, an apple can be denoted by the words apple, fruit, smth, this, etc. So far as all these words have the same referent.
Thus meaning is not to be identified with either of the three points of the triangle. It is closely connected, but not identical with sound-form, concept or referent. Yet even the linguists, who accepted this view disagree as to the nature of meaning. Some of them regard meaning as the interrelation of the three points the triangle within the framework of the given language, but not as an objectively exiting part of the linguistic sign. Others and among them the outstanding Russian scholar Smirnitsky A. I. understand the linguistic sign as a two-facet unit. They view meaning as "a certain reflection in our mind of objects, phenomena or relations that makes part of the linguistic sign - its so called inner facet, whereas the sound-form functions as its outer facet" The outer facet of the linguistic sign is indispensable to meaning and intercommunication. Meaning is to be found in all linguistic units and together with their sound-form constitutes by linguistic science. The linguistic signs studied by linguistic science.
The great stumbling block in referential theories of meaning has always been that they operate with subjective and intangible mental processes. The results of the semantic investigation therefore depend to a certain extent on "the feeling of language" and cannot be verified by another investigator analyzing the same linguistic data. So, semasiology has to rely too much on linguistic intuition and unlike other fields of linguistics (phonetics, history of language) does not posses objective methods of investigation.
Functional approach to Meaning
In recent years a new and entirely different approach to meaning has appeared in structural linguistics. This approach maintains that a linguistic study of meaning is the investigation of the relation of sign to sign only. In other words, they hold the view that the meaning of a linguistic unit may be studied only through its relation to other linguistic units and not through its relation to either concept or referent. Thus, the meaning of the 2 words move and movement is different because they function in speech differently. Really, they occupy different positions in relation to other words. (To) move can be followed by a noun (move the chair), preceded by a pronoun (we move), etc. The position occupied by the word movement is different: it may be followed by a preposition (movement of smth) preceded by an adjective (slow movement) and so on. As the distribution ("the position of a linguistic sign in relation to other linguistic signs) of the 2 words is different they cone to the conclusion that not only they belong to different classes of words, but that that not only meanings are different too.
It follows that in the functional approach meaning may be viewed as the function of distribution: 1) semantic investigation is confined to the analysis of the different or sameness meaning; 2)meaning is understood essentially as the function or the use of linguistic signs.
Relation between the 2 approaches
When comparing the two approaches in terms of methods of linguistic analysis, we may see that the functional approach should not be considered an alternative, but rather a valuable complement to the referential theory. It is only natural that linguistic investigation must start by collecting an adequate number of samples of context. Once this phase had been completed, it seems but logical, to pass on to the referential phase and try to formulate the meaning thus identified. There is absolutely no need to set the two approaches against each other; each handles - its is side of the problem and neither is complete without the other.
The meaning of the word, its components
The word is one of the fundamental units of language. It is a dialectal unity of form and content. Its content or meaning is not identical to notion, but it may reflect human notion, but it may reflect human notion and is considered as the form of their existence. So the definition of a word is one of the most difficult in linguistics, because the simplest word has many different aspects: a sound form, its morphological structure, it may occur in different word-forms and have various meanings.
It is universally recognized that word meaning is not homogeneous, but it is made up of various components, which are described as types of meaning. There are 2 types of meaning to be found in words and word forms:
the grammatical meaning;
the lexical meaning.
Such word forms as “girls”, “writers”, “tables”, etc., though denoting different objects of reality have smth in common, namely the grammatical meaning of plurality, which can be found in all of them. Thus, the grammatical meaning is the component of meaning in the word forms of verbs (asked, thought, walked, etc.) or the case meaning in the word forms of various nouns (girls, boys, nights).
Word forms “speaks”, “reads”, “writers” have one and the same grammatical meaning as they can all be found in identical distributation, only after pronouns “she”, “he”, “they” and before such adverbs and adverbal phrases as “yesterday”, “last years”, “two hours ago”, etc.
The grammatical aspect of the part of speech meaning is conveyed as a rule by individual sets of word forms expressing the grammatical meaning of singularity (e.g. table) plurality (tables) and so on.
A verb is understood to possess sets of forms expressing, for instance, tense meaning (works-worked), mood meaning (work – I work).
The part of speech meaning of the words that possess but one form, e.g. prepositions, some adverbs, etc., is observed only in their disrtibutations (c.f. to come in (here, there) and in (on, under) the table).
Besides the grammatical meaning, there is another component of meaning. Unlike the grammatical meaning this component is identical in all the forms of the word. Thus the word-forms “go”, “goes”, “went”, “going” possess different grammatical meanings of tense, person and so on, but in each of these forms we find one and the same semantic component denoting the process of movement. This is the lexical meaning of the word, which may be described as the component of meaning proper to the word as a linguistic unit.
Thus, by lexical meaning we designate1 the meaning proper to the given linguistic unit in all its forms and disrtibutations, while by grammatical meaning we designate the meaning proper to sets of word forms common to all words of a certain class.
Both lexical and the grammatical meanings make up the word meaning as neither can exist without the other.
The interrelation of the lexical and the grammatical meaning and the role, played by each varies in different word classes and evening different groups of words within one and the same class. In some parts of speech the prevailing component is the grammatical type of meaning. The lexical meaning of prepositions is, as a rule, relatively vague2 (cf. to think/speak of smb., independent of smb., one of the friends, the room of the house). The lexical meaning of some preposition, however, may be comparatively distinct (cf. in/on/under the table). In verbs the lexical meaning usually comes to the fore3, although in some of them, the verb “to be”, e.g. the grammatical meaning of a linking element prevails (cf. “he works as a teacher”).
Proceeding with the semantic analysis we observe that lexical meaning