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TYPES OF LEXICAL UNITS

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  1. CONVERSION AND OTHER TYPES OF WORD-FORMATION
  2. Definition of Tourism. (24. Types of Tourism)
  3. DIFFERENT TYPES OF NON-SEMANTIC GROUPING
  4. Discrete types
  5. Ex.17. Speak on the types of periodontal diseases.
  6. Lecture 6 The principles of lexical nomination: classification and analysis
  7. LEXICAL MEANING AND SEMANTIC STRUCTURE OF ENGLISH WORDS
  8. Lexical structure of the program
  9. LEXICAL VARIANTS AND PARONYMS
  10. SPEECH SOUNDS AS ARTICULATORY UNITS AND THE PROBLEM OF THEIR CLASSIFICATION

The term unit means one of the elements into which a whole may be divided or analysed and which possesses the basic properties of this

1 See Chapter 8.

2 A nonce-word is a word coined for one occasion, a situational neologism: (for the) nones by misdivision from ME (for then) ones.


whole. The units of a vocabulary or lexical units are two-facet elements possessing form and meaning. The basic unit forming the bulk of the vocabulary is the word. Other units are morphemes that is parts of words, into which words may be analysed, and set expressions or groups of words into which words may be combined.

Words are the central elements of language system, they face both ways: they are the biggest units of morphology and the smallest of syntax", and what is more, they embody the main structural properties and functions of the language. Words can be separated in an utterance by other such units and can be used in isolation. Unlike words, morphemes cannot be divided into smaller meaningful units and are functioning in speech only as constituent parts of words. Words are thought of as representing integer concept, feeling or action or as having a single referent. The meaning of morphemes is more abstract and more general than that of words and at the same time they are less autonomous.

Set expressions are word groups consisting of two or more words whose combination is integrated so that they are introduced in speech, so to say, ready-made as units with a specialised meaning of the whole that is not understood as a mere sum total of the meanings of the elements.

In the spelling system of the language words are the smallest units of written discourse: they are marked off by solid spelling. The ability of an average speaker to segment any utterance into words is sustained by literacy. Yet it is a capacity only reinforced by education: it is well known that every speaker of any language is always able to break any utterance into words. The famous American linguist E. Sapir testified that even illiterate American Indians were perfectly capable of dictating to him when asked to do so texts in their own language word by word. The segmentation of a word into morphemes, on the other hand, presents sometimes difficulties even for trained linguists.



Many authors devoted a good deal of space to discussing which of the two: the word or the morpheme is to be regarded as the basic unit. Many American linguists (Ch. Hockett or Z. Harris, for instance) segmented an utterance into morphemes ignoring words. Soviet lexicologists proceed from the assumption that it is the word that is the basic unit, especially as all branches of linguistic knowledge and all levels of language have the word as their focal point. A convincing argumentation and an exhaustive review of literature is offered by A. A. Ufimtseva (1980).

If, however, we look now a little more closely into this problem, we shall see that the boundaries separating these three sets of units are sometimes fluid. Every living vocabulary is constantly changing adapting itself to the functions of communication in the changing world of those who use it. In this process the vocabulary changes not only quantitatively by creating new words from the already available corpus of morphemes and according to existing patterns but also qualitatively. In these qualitative changes new morphemic material and new word-building patterns come into being, and new names sometimes adapt features characteristic of other sets, those of groups of words, for instance.




Orthographic words are written as a sequence of letters bounded by spaces on a page. Yet, there exist in the English vocabulary lexical units that are not identical with orthographic words but equivalent to them. Almost any part of speech contains units indivisible either syntactically or in terms of meaning, or both, but graphically divided. A good example is furnished by complex prepositions: along with, as far as, in spite of, except for, due to, by means of, for the sake of, etc.

The same point may be illustrated by phrasal verbs, so numerous in English: bring up to educate, call on to visit, make up to apply cosmetics, to reconcile after a disagreement and some other meanings, put off to postpone. The semantic unity of these verbs is manifest in the possibility to substitute them by orthographically single-word verbs. Though formally broken up, they function like words and they are integrated semantically so that their meaning cannot be inferred from their constituent elements. The same is true about phrasal verbs consisting of the verbs give, make, take and some others used with a noun instead of its homonymous verb alone: give a smile, make a promise, take a walk (cf. to smile, to promise, to walk).

Some further examples are furnished by compound nouns. Sometimes they are not joined by solid spelling or hyphenation but written separately, although in all other respects they do not differ from similar one-word nominations. By way of example let us take some terms for military ranks. The terms lieutenant-commander and lieutenant-colonel are hyphenated, whereas wing commander and flight lieutenant are written separately. Compare also such inconsistencies as all right and altogether, never mind and nevertheless.

All these are, if not words, then at least word equivalents because they are indivisible and fulfil the nominative, significative, communicative and pragmatic functions just as words do.

It is worth while dwelling for a moment on formulaic sentences which tend to be ready-made and are characterised by semantic unity and indivisibility: All right, Allow me, Nothing doing, Never mind, How do you do, Quite the contrary. They are learned as unanalysable wholes and can also be regarded as word equivalents.

To sum up: the vocabulary of a language is not homogeneous. If we view it as a kind of field, we shall see that its bulk, its central part is formed by lexical units possessing all the distinctive features of words, i.e. semantic, orthographic and morphological integrity as well as the capacity of being used in speech in isolation. The marginal elements of this field reveal only some of these features, and yet belong to this set too. Thus, phrasal verbs, complex prepositions, some compounds, phraseological units, formulaic expressions, etc. are divided in spelling but are in all other respects equivalent to words. Morphemes, on the other hand, a much smaller subset of the vocabulary, cannot be used as separate utterances and are less autonomous in other respects but otherwise also function as lexical items. The new term recently introduced in mathematics to describe sets with blurred boundaries seems expressive and worthy of


use in characterising a vocabulary such sets are called fuzzy sets.1

1.5 THE NOTION OF LEXICAL SYSTEM

It has been claimed by different authors that, in contrast to grammar, the vocabulary of a language is not systematic but chaotic. In the light of recent investigations in linguistic theory, however, we are now in a position to bring some order into this chaos.

Lexicology studies the recurrent patterns of semantic relationships, and of any formal phonological, morphological or contextual means by which they may be rendered. It aims at systematisation.

There has been much discussion of late, both in this country and abroad, concerning different problems of the systematic nature of the language vocabulary. The Soviet scholars are now approaching a satisfactory solution based on Marxist dialectics and its teaching of the general interrelation and interdependence of phenomena in nature and society.

There are several important points to be made here.

The term system as used in present-day lexicology denotes not merely the sum total of English words, it denotes a set of elements associated and functioning together according to certain laws. It is a coherent homogeneous whole, constituted by interdependent elements of the same order related in certain specific ways. The vocabulary of a language is moreover an adaptive system constantly adjusting itself to the changing requirements and conditions of human communications and cultural surroundings. It is continually developing by overcoming contradictions between its state and the new tasks and demands it has to meet.

A set is described in the abstract set theory as a collection of definite distinct objects to be conceived as a whole. A set is said to be a collection of distinct elements, because a certain object may be distinguished from the other elements in a set, but there is no possibility of its repeated appearance. A set is called structured when the number of its elements is greater than the number of rules according to which these elements may be constructed. A set is given either by indicating, i.e. listing, all its elements, or by stating the characteristic property of its elements. For example the closed set of English articles may be defined as comprising the elements: the, a/an and zero. The set of English compounds on the other hand is an infinite (open) set containing all the words consisting of at least two stems which occur in the language as free forms.

In a classical set theory the elements are said to be definite because with respect to any of them it should be definite whether it belongs to a given set or not. The new development in the set theory, that of fuzzy sets, has proved to be more relevant to the study of vocabulary. We have already mentioned that the boundaries of linguistic sets are not sharply delineated and the sets themselves overlapping.

1 Another term often used nowadays and offered by V.G. Admoni is field-structure.


The lexical system of every epoch contains productive elements typical of this particular period, others that are obsolete and dropping out of usage, and, finally, some new phenomena, significant marks of new trends for the epochs to come. The present status of a system is an abstraction, a sort of scientific fiction which in some points can facilitate linguistic study, but the actual system of the language is in a state of constant change.

Lexicology studies this whole by determining the properties of its elements and the different relationships of contrast and similarity existing between them within a language, as well as the ways in which they are influenced by extra-linguistic reality.

The extra-linguistic relationships refer to the connections of words with the elements of objective reality they serve to denote, and their dependence on the social, mental and cultural development of the language community.

The theory of reflection as developed by V.I. Lenin is our methodological basis, it teaches that objective reality is approximately but correctly reflected in the human mind. The notions rendered in the meanings of the words are generalised reflections of real objects and phenomena. In this light it is easy to understand how things that are connected in reality come to be connected in language too. As we have seen above, the original meaning of the word post was a man stationed in a number of others along a road as a courier, hence it came to mean the vehicle used, the packets and letters carried, a relay of horses, the station where horses could be obtained (shortened for post-office), a single dispatch of letters. E. g.: It is a place with only one post a day (Sidney Smith). It is also used as a title for newspapers. There is a verb post to put letters into a letter-box.'

The reflection of objective reality is selective. That is, human thought and language select, reflect and nominate what is relevant to human activity.

Even though its elements are concrete and can be observed as such, a system is always abstract, and so is the vocabulary system or, as Academician V.V. Vinogradov has called it, the lexico-semantic system. The interdependence in this system results from a complex interaction of words in their lexical meanings and the grammatical features of the language. V.V. Vinogradov includes in this term both the sum total of words and expressions and the derivational and functional patterns of word forms and word-groups, semantic groupings and relationships between words. The interaction of various levels in the language system may be illustrated in English by the following: the widespread development of homonymy and polysemy, the loss of motivation, the great number of generic words and the very limited autonomy of English words as compared with Russian words are all closely connected with the mono-morphemic analytical character of the English language and the scarcity of morphological means. All these in their turn result, partly at least, from levelling and loss of endings, processes undoubtedly connected with the reduction of vowels in unstressed syllables. In this book the relations between these elements and the regularity of these relations are shown


In terms of oppositions, differences, equivalencies and positional values. Equivalence should be clearly distinguished from equality or identity. Equivalence is the relation between two elements based on the common feature due to which they belong to the same set.

The term sstem as applied to vocabulary should not be understood to mean a well-defined or rigid system. As it has been stated above it is an adaptive system and cannot be completely and exactly characterised by deterministic functions; that is for the present state of science it is not possible to specify the systems entire future by its status at some one instant of its operation. In other words, the vocabulary is not simply a probabilistic system but a set of interrelated adaptive subsystems.

An approximation is always made possible by leaving some things out of account. But we have to remember that the rules of language are mostly analogies.

The following simple example offered by J. Lyons illustrates this point: the regular, that is statistically predominant, pattern for adjective stems is to form abstract nouns by means of the suffix -ness: shortness, narrowness, shallowness. All the antonyms of the above-mentioned words, however, follow a different pattern: they have a dental suffix: length, width, depth. This second analogy becomes a constraint on the working of the first. Moreover, the relationship of the adjective big with the rest of the system is even more unpredictable, as it is mostly correlated with the noun size. The semantic correlation then is as follows:

short = narrow = shallow = long = wide = deep = big shortness narrowness shallowness length width depth size

At this point it will be helpful to remember that it is precisely the most frequent words that show irregular or suppletive derivation and inflection.

Last but not least, one final point may be made about the lexical system, namely that its elements are characterised by their combinatorial and contrastive properties determining their syntagmatic and paradigmatic relationships. A word enters into syntagmatic (linear) combinatorial relationships with other lexical units that can form its context, serving to identify and distinguish its meaning. Lexical units are known to be context-dependent. E. g. in the hat on her head the noun head means part of the body, whereas in the head of the department Head means chief. A word enters into contrastive paradigmatic relations with all other words, e. g. head, chief, director, etc. that can occur in the same context and be contrasted to it.1 This principle of contrast or opposition is fundamental in modern linguistics and we shall deal with it at length in 1.6. concerned with the theory of oppositions.

1 paradigm < Lat paradigtna < Gr paradeigma model < paradeiknynai to compare'


Paradigmatic and syntagmatic studies of meaning are functional because the meaning of the lexical unit is studied first not through its relation to referent but through its functions in relation to other units.

Functional approach is contrasted to referential or onomasiological approach, otherwise called theory of nomination, in which meaning is studied as the interdependence between words and their referents, that is things or concepts they name, i.e. various names given to the same sense. The onomasiological study of lexical units became especially prominent in the last two decades. The revival of interest in onomasiological matters is reflected in a large volume of publications on the subject. An outline of the main trends of current research will be found in the monographs on the Theory of Nomination issued by the Institute of Linguistics of the Academy of Sciences.

The study of the lexical system must also include the study of the words combinatorial possibilities their capacity to combine with one another in groups of certain patterns, which serve to identify meanings. Most modern research in linguistics attaches great importance to what is variously called valency, distributional characteristics, colligation and collocation, combining power or otherwise. This research shows that combinatorial possibilities of words play an important part in almost every lexicological issue.

Syntagmatic relationships being based on the linear character of speech are studied by means of contextual, valency, distributional, transformational and some other types of analysis.

Paradigmatic linguistic relationships determining the vocabulary system are based on the interdependence of words within the vocabulary (synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy, etc.).

Diachronically the interdependence of words within the lexical subsystem may be seen by observing shifts in the meaning of existing words that occur when a new word is introduced into their semantic sphere. This interdependence is one of the reasons why historical linguistics can never achieve any valuable results if it observes only the development of isolated words. Almost any change in one word will cause changes in one or several other words. Characteristic examples are to be found in the influence of borrowings upon native words. The native OE haerfest (ModE harvest || Germ Herbst) originally meant not only the gathering of grain but also the season for reaping. Beginning with the end of the 14th century, that is after the Romance word autumne > autumn was borrowed, the second meaning in the native word was lost and transferred to the word autumn.

When speaking about the influence of other aspects on the development of the vocabulary, we mean the phonetical, morphological and syntactical systems of the English language as they condition the sound form, morphological structure, motivation and meaning of words. This influence is manifold, and we shall have to limit our illustration to the most elementary examples. The monosyllabic phonological type of the English word, for instance, enhances homonymy. f. miss v not hit, not catch and miss n a title for a girl or unmarried woman.


The influence of morphology is manifest, for instance, in the development of non-affixed word-formation. Cf. harvest n and harvest v.

The above considerations are not meant to be exhaustive; they are there to give some general idea of the relationships in question.

In this connection it is necessary to point out that various interpretations of the same linguistic phenomena have repeatedly been offered and have even proved valuable for their respective purposes, just as in other sciences various interpretations may be given for the same facts of reality in conformity with this or that practical task. To be scientific, however, these interpretations cannot be arbitrary: they must explain facts and permit explanation and prediction of other facts. Therefore they must fit without bringing contradictions into the whole system of the theory created for the subject.


: 2015-09-13; : 7;


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THE CONNECTION OF LEXICOLOGY WITH PHONETICS, STYLISTICS, GRAMMAR AND OTHER BRANCHES OF LINGUISTICS | THE THEORY OF OPPOSITIONS
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