Brief course on lexicology












Lecture 1


Lexicology is the science of the word and distinguished in:

v  General and special

v  Contrastive and comparative

v  Descriptive (the synchronic approach) and historical (the diachronic approach).

Contrastive and comparative descriptive and historical are closely connected.

Lexical units are morphemes words word-groups phraseological units.

Paradigm – the system showing a word in all its word-forms. The lexical meaning is the same; the grammatical meaning varies from one form to another (to take takes taken took taking).

Semasiology – the branch of lexicology that is devoted to the study of the meaning. There are 2 schools with their own approaches to the problem of the words meaning: referential and functional.

Types of the meaning

v  Grammatical meaning

v  Part of speech meaning

v  Lexical meaning – may be denotational (making the communication possible) and connotational (the emotive charge and the stylistic value).

Stylistic value is subdivided into neutral bookish and colloquial. The last may be pointed out like slang common colloquial vulgarisms dialectical words professionalisms jargonisms.

Meaning is the inner facet of the word inseparable from its outer facet (sound form) which is indispensable to the existence of meaning and to intercommunication.


*  Morphological (-able -less re- anti-)

*  Phonetical (boom splash cuckoo pooh!)

*  Semantic

Change of meaning

Word-meaning is liable to change in the course of the historical development of language.

Causes of semantic change

v  Extra-linguistic

v  Linguistic (ellipsis discrimination of synonyms linguistic analogy)

The kinds of association involved in semantic changes are:

1.  similarity of meanings

2.  contiguity of meanings

Results of semantic change:

1.  changes in denotational meaning (specialization extension (generalization [specialized common]))

2.  changes in connotational meaning:

v  pejorative development (derogatory emotive charge)

v  ameliorative development (the improvement of the con. component)

Causes nature and result of semantic changes should be regarded as 3 essentially different but closely connected aspects of the same linguistic phenomenon.

Lecture 2

Polysemy The main problem is the problem of interrelation and interdependence of the various meanings of the same word.

Diachronically it is a historical change in the semantic structure resulting in disappearance of some meanings or/and in new meanings being added to the ones already existing also in the rearrangement of these meanings in its semantic structure.

Synchronically it is co-existence of the various meanings of the same word at a certain historical period and the arrangement of these meanings in the semantic structure of the word.

Diachronically: primary (original) and secondary (derived) meanings viewed chronically.

Synchronically: central (basic) and marginal (minor) meanings according to their relative frequency in speech.

The semantic structure is never static. The relationship between the diachronic and synchronic evaluation of individual meanings of the same word may be different in different periods of the historical development of language.

The whole of the semantic structure of correlated polysemantic words of different languages can never be identical. Words are felt as correlated if their basic (central) meanings coincide.

Lecture 3

Homonymy Full homonymy – of words belonging to the same part of speech.

Partial homonymy – of individuals word-forms of different part of speech.

Homonyms may be:

ü  lexical (differ in lexical meaning)

ü  lexico-grammatical (both in lexical and grammatical)

ü  grammatical (in grammatical meaning only)

Homonyms may be classified on the basis of 3 aspects as well:

1.  sound form

2.  graphic form

3.  meaning (dew to the meaning they are derived into homograpgs homophones perfect (absolute) homonyms)

The sources of homonymy:

ü  diverging meaning development of a polysemantic word

ü  convergent sound development of 2 or more different words (most potent factor)

The criteria used in the synchronic analysis of homonyms:

1. semantic 2. spelling 3. distribution

The problem of discriminating between polysemy and homonymy in theoretical linguistics is closely connected with the problem of the basic unit at the semantic level of analysis.

Word-meaning in syntagmatics and paradigmatics

Intralinguistic relations of words are basically of 2 types: syntagmatic and paradigmatic.

Syntagmatic relations define the meaning the word possesses when it is used in combination with other words in the flow of speech.

Paradigmatic relations are those that exist between individual lexical items which make up one of the subgroups of vocabulary items (sets of synonyms lexico-semantic groups etc.).

Syntagmatic relations

Paradigmatic relations

He got a letter.

I received a note.

She obtained an epistle.


Lecture 4


Context may be regarded in aspects as following:

ü  linguistic

ü  lexical

ü  grammatical

ü  extra-linguistic (of situation)

Conceptual (semantic) fields.

Hoponymic (hierachia) structures.

Classification of vocabulary into thematic groups is based on common contextual associations (the result of regular co-occurrence of words in similar repeatedly used contexts).

The main criterion underlying semantic classification of vocabulary items on the paradigmatic axis is type of meaning relationships between words.

The criterion of common concept serves to classify words into semantic fields and lexico-semantic groups.

Semantic relationship of inclusion is the main feature of hyponymic hierarchical structure. Semantic similarity and semantic contrast is the type of relationship which underlies the classification of lexical items into synonymic and antonymic series.

Synonymy and antonymy are correlative and sometimes overlapping notions. Synonymous relationship of the denotational meaning is in many cases combined with the difference in the connotational (mainly stylistic) component.

Synonyms - words different in sound-form but similar in their denotational meaning or meanings and interchangeable at least in some contexts.

Antonyms - words different in sound-form characterized by different types of semantic contrast of the denotational meaning and interchangeable at least in some contexts.

Word-groups – words put together to form lexical units make up phrases or word-groups. Come dew to lexical and grammatical valency of the components.

Lexical valency is the aptness of a word to appear in various collocations. Restriction of the lexical valency are to be accounted for by the inner structure of the vocabulary of the English language.

Different meanings of a polysemantic word may be described through its lexical valency.

Grammatical valency is the aptness of a word to appear in various grammatical structures. Restriction of the grammatical valency are to be accounted for by the grammatical structure of the language. The range of the grammatical valency of the word is delimited by the part of speech the word belongs to.

Structurally word-groups may be classified by the criterion of distribution into exocentric and endocentric (they according to the head-word are distinguished nominal adverbial verbal adjectival).

Semantically word-groups may be classified into motivated and non-motivated (phraseological units)


Lecture 5


Phraseological units – non-motivated word-groups that cannot be freely made up in speech but are reproduced as ready made units.


1.  phraseological fusions – completely non-motivated

2.  phraseological unities – partially non-motivated

3.  phraseological collocations – motivated but made up of words possessing specific lexical valency. That’s why there is a certain degree of stability in such group.

The criterion of idiomaticity;

The criterion of function;

The criterion of context;

Phraseological units might also be shared to:

phrasemes – two-member word-groups in which one of the members has specialized meaning dependent on the second component: “small hours”.

Idioms – the idiomaticity of the whole word-group; unusualness of collocability or logical incompability of member-words; usually homonymous with corresponding variable word-groups: red tape to let the cat out of the bag.

The distinguishing feature of the new approach is that phraseology is regarded as a self-contained branch of linguistics and not as a part of lexicology. According to this approach phraseology deals with all types of set expressions which are divided into 3 classes:

1.  phraseological units

2.  phraseomatic units

3.  border-line cases

Lecture 6


Word structure

There are 2 levels of approach to the study of word-structure:

v  the level of morphemic analysis

v  the level of derivational or word-formation analysis

The basic unit of morphemic level is the morpheme defined as the smallest indivisible two-facet language unit.

Three types of morphemic segmentability of words are distinguished:

·  complete

·  conditional

·  defective

Words of conditional and defective segmentability are made up of full morphemes and pseudo (quasi) morphemes. The latter do not rise to the status of full morphemes either for semantic reasons or because of their unique distribution.

Semantically morphemes fall into:

1. root-morphemes

2. affixational morphemes

Structurally morphemes fall into:

1. free

2. bound

3. semi-free (semi-bound)

The structural types of words at the morphemic level are described in terms of the number and type of their ICs (immediate constituents) as monomorphic and polymorphic words.

Derivational level of analysis aims at finding out the derivative types of words the interrelation between them and at finding out how different types of derivatives are constructed.

Derivationately all words form 2 structural classes:

1.  simplexes (non-derived)

2.  complexes (derivatives) which in their turn may be divided into:

·  sufficial

·  prefixal

·  conversions

·  compounds

Each structural type of complexes shows preference for one or another part of speech. Within part of speech derivative structures are characterized by a set of derivational patterns.

Derivational basis differ from stems both structurally and semantically. Derivational bases are built on the following language units:

·  stems of various structure

·  word-forms

·  word-group or phrases

Each class and subset bases has its own range of collocability and shows peculiar ties with different parts of speech.

Derivational affixes form derived stems by repattering derivational bases. Semantically derivational affixes present a unity of lexical meaning and other types of meaning: functional distributional and differential unlike non-derivational affixes which lack lexical meaning.

Derivational patterns (DP) are meaningful arrangements of various types of ICs that can be observed in a set of words based on their mutual interdependence. DPs can be viewed in terms of collocability of each IC.

There are 2 types of DPs: 1) structural that specify base classes and individual affixes.

 2) structural-semantic that specify semantic peculiarities of bases and the individual meaning of the affix.

DPs of different levels of generalization signal:

·  the class of source unit that motivates the derivative and the direction of motivation between different classes of words.

·  The part of speech of the derivative.

·  The lexical sets and semantic features of derivatives.

Lecture 7


Ways of forming words (according to A.I. Smirnitskiy):

Word-formation is the system of derivative types of words and the process of creating new words from the material available in the language after certain structural and semantic formulas and patterns.

As a subject of study English word-formation is that branch of English lexicology which studies the derivative structure of words and the patterns on which the English language builds new words. Like any other linguistic phenomenon word-formation may be studied synchronically and diachronically.

There are 2 types of word-formation in Modern English:

1.  word-derivation being of 2 kinds like affixation and conversion

2.  word- composition

There is every reason to exclude the shortening of words lexicalization blending acronymy from the system of word-formation and regard them and other word-forming processes as specific means of vocabulary refreshment. Sound-and-stress interchange in Modern English are a means of distinguishing between different words primarily between words of different pa5rts of speech.

The degree of productivity and factors favouring it make an important aspect in synchronic description of every derivational pattern within the 2 types of word-formation.

Three degrees of productivity are distinguished for derivational patterns and individual derivational affixes:

1.  highly productive

2.  productive or semi- productive

3.  non- productive