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There are also partially motivated words as for example, cranberry where berry has its meaning, but cran- does not.

Word meaning and motivation.

The term motivation is used to denote the relationship existing between the meaning of the word and some characteristic feature that was the basis to name this object or phenomenon.

This characteristic feature is called motivating feature. In the process of designation of one and the same object or phenomenon different motivating features can be used. For example, in Russian the basis to express the notion was the feature, that it was used to wipe the nose; in English the motivating feature was that it was held in the hand (hand + kerchief).

Motivation can be real (as in the above given examples), it is based on the real motivating feature. Motivation can also be unreal, reflecting ancient myths and legends. For example, in some languages the names of the days of the week are connected with the names of gods.

Motivation can be phonetic, morphological and semantic.

Words are phonetically motivated when there is a certain similarity between the sounds that make up the words and the sense they denote. Such words as hiss, bang, buzz, howl, etc. are phonetically motivated because the sounds that make them up reflect directly or approximately the natural sounds.

Phonetically motivated are not only echoic, onomatopoeic words, but also sound symbolic (), that denote different kinds of movement, size, form, distance, etc.

Morphological motivation

One-morpheme words such as e.g. sing, tell, cat, table, etc. are non-motivated morphologically (may be phonetically?).

Derived words as e.g. rethink, leader, eatable, etc. are motivated morphologically, we can see a direct connection between the structural pattern of the word and its meaning (re- prefix expressing repetition of an action + think, lead + suffix er expressing the doer of an action, etc.). Motivation here stops on word level, the morphemes themselves are not motivated morphologically.

Words are supposed to be non-motivated if the connection between the structure of the word and its meaning is completely arbitrary and conventional, e.g. repeat, matter, etc.

There are also partially motivated words as for example, cranberry where berry has its meaning, but cran- does not.

3) Semantic motivation is based on the co-existence of direct and figurative meaning, i.e. of the old sense and new within the same word, e.g. the word mouth has two meanings: 1) a part of the human face, 2) any opening or outlet (the mouth of a river). In its direct meaning the word mouth is non-motivated, in its figurative meaning it is semantically motivated, so semantic motivation is also only relative. One more example of semantic motivation is the word eyewash that means 1) a lotion for the eyes (morphological motivation), 2) something said or done to deceive a person (semantic motivation).

Motivation and meaning of the word should be differentiated: motives to call a thing by a certain name can be different, meaning can be the same in different languages. This is an argument to the scholars who say that if some particular sounds denoted some particular phenomenon, sound symbolic words would be the same in all languages. But they would not, because their motivation is different, e.g. in English the symbol [gl] defines light and fire glimmer, glitter, glow, glare, etc. In Russian different sounds define the same phenomenon , , , etc.



Motivation can fade and be lost in the course of language development, e.g. the verb earn does not suggest any connection with agriculture at present (in Modern English), it is purely conventional. Etymological analysis however shows that it is derived from Old English ( e-)earnian to harvest. In Modern English this connection no longer exists, the motivation is lost and the word earn is now non-motivated.


Date: 2016-01-03; view: 2007


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