Synonyms are words different in their sound-form but similar in their denotational meaning and interchangeable at least in some contexts.
The synonymic dominant is the most general term of the synonymic group, stylistically and emotionally neutral, which can stand for each of the other members of the group.( to hope, to anticipate, to expect,)
If the synonyms are characterized by some semantic differences such as shade of meaning, semantic associations or emotive charge they classed as ideographic synonyms. (handsome, pretty , beautiful)
If the difference between synonyms lies in the stylistic reference they are classified as stylistic synomyms.(to see – to behold, father -- parent).
If two words are similar in meaning only under some specific distributional conditions they are called contextual synonyms.(Buy me some bread - -Get me some bread; I can’t stand your talking in such a way – I can’t bear your talking in such a way)
Total synonymsare two words identical in meaning, which can replace each other in any given context, without the slightest alteration in denotative or emotional meaning and connotations and stylistic reference (noun=substantive, affix-flexion)
SOURCES OF SYNONYMY
The English word-stock is extremely rich in synonyms which can be largely accounted for by abundant borrowing. Quite a number of words in a synonymic set are usually of Latin or French origin. For instance, out of thirteen words making up the set see, behold, descry, espy, view, survey, contemplate, observe, notice, remark, note, discern, perceive onlysee andbeholdcan be traced back to Old English (OE.seon andbehealdan),all others are either French or Latin borrowings.
Thus, a characteristic pattern of English synonymic sets is the pattern including the native and the borrowed words. Among the best investigated are the so called double-scale patterns: native versus Latin (e.g.bodily - corporal, brotherly - fraternal); native versus Greek or French (e.g.answer - reply, fiddle - violin). In most cases the synonyms differ in their stylistic reference, too. The native word is usually colloquial (e.g.bodily, brotherly), whereas the borrowed word may as a rule be described as bookish or highly literary (e.g-. corporal, fraternal).
Side by side with this pattern there exists in English a subsidiary one based on a triple-scale of synonyms: native— French and Latin or Greek [e.g.begin (start)—commence(Fr.)—initiate (L);rise—mount(Fr.)—ascend (L)]. In most of these sets the native synonym is felt as more colloquial, the Latin or Greek one is characterised by bookish stylistic reference, whereas the French stands between the two extremes.
There are some other points of interest that should be discussed in connection with the problem of synonymy. It has often been found that subjects prominent in the interests of a community tend to attract a large number of synonyms. It is common knowledge that in Beowulf there are 37 synonyms forhero or prince and at least a dozen forbattle andfight.The same epic contains 17 expressions for sea to which 13 more may be added from other English poems of that period. In Modern American English there are at least twenty words used to denote money:beans, bucks, the chips, do-re-mi, the needful, wherewithal, etc. This linguistic phenomenon is usually described as the law of synonymic attraction.
It has also been observed that when a particular word is given a transferred meaning its synonyms tend to develop along parallel lines. We know that in early New English the verboverlook was employed in the meaning of 'look with an evil eye upon, cast a spell over' from which there developed the meaning 'deceive' first recorded in 1596. Exactly half a century later we findoversee a synonym ofoverlook employed in the meaning of 'deceive'. This form of analogy active in the semantic development of synonyms is referred to as "radiation of synonyms".
Another source of synonymy is shortening( memorandum :: memo; microphone:: mike; popular (song) :: pop ( song).There are some other sources of synonymssuch as conversion(laughter ::laugh); or cases of different affixation (effectivity:: effectiveness; anxiety::anxiousness); and loss of affixes (amongst::among; await::wait).