Lexical semantics. Lexical semantic system of language
Semantics is a branch of linguistics that studies the content of lexical units (morphemes, words, sentences) .The term semantics belongs to French scholar Anrie Breale who first used it in his work Essai de sémantique in 1897. The levels of semantics analysis are: phonemic, morphemic, lexical, syntactic, and textual. Phonemic level is studied by sound semantics (which is a branch of phonology). It is preoccupied with sound imitation (onomatopoeia) and sound symbolism. Morphemic semantics deals with the meaningful aspect of morphemes – the smallest meaningful unit of language. Lexical semantics studies the meaning and semantic structure of words, semantic primitives. Syntactic semantics (sentence semantics) concerns AD of the sentence, semantic roles, true and false statements (truth conditional semantics).
The object of lexical semantics is the meaning of word. Words are organized by paradigmatic relations which allows to describe them as a system. Semantic paradigmatic relations or semantic correlations are based on common and distinctive features which are called integral and differential semantic features. Closed groups of words whose meanings are connected with each other by certain number of single-valuered oppositions are called lexical semantic paradigm. (the broader term lexical semantic field – LSF).
The auther of the theory of lexical semantic field is considered to be Jost Trier (1973). According to this theory each notional field which corresponds to a certain sphere of knowledge is covered with words which, in their turn, create their lexical field.
The most general types of correlations in a framework of LSF are:
Synonymous correlations are built on the whole or partial coincidence of the meanings of lexical nominations. (Polysemantic words are considered in one of their meanings). Full or exact synonymy is a rare phenomenon because of redundance of nomination of one and the same meaning by different signs – the principle “one meaning – one form” by John Haiman (language isomorphism and world models), e.g.: to throw – to cast, to work – to labor, to start – to begin, little – small, to leave – to depart, car – automobile.
If all the word meanings (denotative, significative, syntactic / structural) coincide, besides the pragmatic (expressive-evaluative) one, the relations between words are called stylistic synonymy, e.g.: woman – lady – female – Mrs – better half.
If the words differ in syntactic meaning (grammatical or lexical combinability) they are called syntactic synonyms, e.g.: sick person – sore throat – bad heart. Syntactic synonyms are also words that have the common denotative, significative and pragmatic meanings, but belong to different lexical grammatical categories (parts of speech), e.g. the verb to work and the noun work, adj. beautiful and the noun beauty.
Words which are close in meaning but different in the denotative or significative aspect of meaning are called quasisynonyms. Among quasisynonyms it is distinguished hyponyms and hyperonyms.
Hyponymic correlations are generic-specific relations between words. Relations between hyponyms and hyperonyms are not equal, e.g.: an oak ≠ a tree, to go ≠ to move, a daffodil ≠ a flower, a bear ≠ an animal, a ship ≠ a vessel, an orange ≠ a fruit, a cucumber ≠ a vegetable, a pike ≠ fish, a tiger ≠ a predator. The words which have a common hyperonym are called cohyponyms, e.g.: the word tree is a hyperonym of the words an alder, a birch, a fir-tree, a lime-tree, a maple, an oak, a pine-tree, a poplar, a willow, etc. which are, in their turn, are cohyponyms.
Endorsentric row: a human being – a man – a boy. The 2nd member of it is non-marked. Itpossesses the basic level of categorization. According to Eleanor Rosh, there is a hierarchy of categories: superordinary – ordinary – subordinary. Words of the basic level have enough information to be used in the most situations of communication. Such words are usually simple and non-derivative.
3.Correlation of incompatibility
Correlation of incompatibility is connected with hyponymic correlation because it is present between cohyponyms, e.g.: mother and father, to walk and to run. These words are incompatible in a sense that they can’t denote the same object. In other words, the existencionals of cohyponyms do not intersect, thought their significates have a common area (i.e. aggregate of properties which comprise the significates of their hyperonym). Words can be also in correlations of incompatibility if they do not have a common hyperonym, e.g., day and night (cf.: Uk. äîáà).
4.Correlation “the whole – the part”
Correlation “the whole – the part” connects the name of the object with the names of its components, e.g.: tree and trunk, branch, leaves, roots. None of the component is not a whole by itself.
A particular case of this correlation is a relation between a word denoting a single complex entity and a word which denotes an element, member or part of it, e.g.: a string of beads and a bead.
Another case of this correlation is a relation between the name of hierarchically organized set and the name of its main member, e.g.: Cabinet (of Ministers) – PM.
There 3 types of such correlations:
1) Complementary antonymy: one of the word of the pair has an affirmative meaning, the other – a negative one, e.g.: married – single, industrious – lazy, active – passive, movement – rest, with – without).
2) Vector antonymy combines the words denoting differently directed actions, e.g.: to come – to go away, to greet – to say good-bye, to freeze – to melt;
3) Contrary antonymy: combines the words whose meanings denote opposite zones of the scale, for example, temperature, size, intensity, speed, etc., words with so-called parametric meaning, e.g.: big – small, wide – narrow, high – low, heat – frost.
In a framework of contrary antonymy there are groups of words whose members reveal gradation of properties, e.g.: hot – mild – cool – cold. N.S.Trubetskoy called it gradual correlation. Non-distinct division of the signified, e.g.: color continuum: violet – blue – green – yellow – orange – red, verbs of movement to walk – to run – to hop – to skip – to crawl represent so-called diffusion of meaning.
Enantiosemy is considered as a subtype of antonymous correlations (from Gr. enantios – “contrary” + sema – “sign”). It is a coincidence of two different meanings in one word, so-called polarization of meanings or inner antonymy. Polarization of meanings usually has implicit character though sometimes it reveals itself in formal language means, for example, prefixes: bi- 1) “occurring twice in one period of time”, biannual (äâ³÷³ íà ð³ê), 2) “occurring once in a period of two”, bicentenary (200-ë³òí³é); suffixes: -ee 1) “person affected by action”, employee, 2) “person who is active”, absentee.
Conversive correlations (from Lat. conversion – “change, transformation”) connect the words denoting the same situation but from different points of view, say, on behalf of agent and counteragent, e.g.: to buy – to sell or from the point of view of the different members of the situation, e.g.: younger – older.
British linguist Geoffrey Leech in The Study of Meaning (1974) introduced the term associative meaning to refer to various types of meanings that are distinct from denotation.
Aristotle distinguished associations by similarity, contrast, and contiguity. Associations by similarity are based on the fact that associated phenomenon has some common features, e.g., woe is associated with unhappiness, sorrow, grief, sadness, etc. (the phenomenon of synonymy). Associations by contrast, which is a particular case of associations by similarity, are explained by the presence of phenomena of opposite features, e.g., grief – joy, happiness (the phenomenon of antonymy). Associations by contiguity are formed with the help of events close together in time or space, e.g. soldier – boots.
The three above associations are simple or mechanical. Along with them, there are more complex semantic associations. For example, the association reflecting cause-and-effect relationship: disease → death.
Associations reflect significant links between objects and events of the real world, and thus they play an important role in the structure of the lexical system of language. Association is one of the fundamental mechanisms of memory. Thus, the psychologists formulated the following rule: the more diverse connections / associations will be found between parts, the faster and better the perceived material will be remembered and saved for a longer time.
Psychologists differentiate 3 types of associations:
1) Special-temporal contiguity;
3) Difference, contrast.
If the contrast consider as a particular case of similarity, then it is possible to talk about 2 basic types:
- associations on contiguity;
- associations on similarity.
In linguistics it is usually differentiated 3 verbal associations:
1) syntagmatic, sky – blue;
2) paradigmatic, table – chair;
3) topical (thematic), school – pupil.
Collective associations. Most people automatically associate the word nurse with woman. This unconscious association is so widely spread that the term male nurse had to be coined to counteract its effect. (From: S.Harvey & I.Higgins Thinking French Translation. A Course in Translation Method, 2nd ed., Routledge, 2002).
Individual associations. Since every person has his own personal and cultural experience, non-typical unpredictable associations can arise to different stimuli, e.g.: the reaction uncle to the word kitten, or “Whenever I hear the word marriage, I say, Check, please.” (From the film Taxi, 1974).