Chirchik state pedagogical institute of tashkent region the faculty of history and languages the department of foreign languages


III CHAPTER II The semantic structure of words



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III CHAPTER II The semantic structure of words

Polysemy and semantic structure of words, semantic grouping and connections in the vocabulary system, i.e. synonyms, antonyms, terminological systems, etc. The present chapter does not offer to cover all of this wide field. Attention will be centred upon semantic word structure and semantic analysis.

An exact definition of any basic term is no easy task altogether. In the case of lexical meaning it becomes especially difficult due to the complexity of the process by which language and human mind serve to reflect outward reality and to adapt it to human needs.

The definition of lexical meaning has been attempted more than once in accordance with the main principles of different linguistic schools. The disciples of F. de Saussure consider meaning to be the relation between the object or notion named, and the name itself. Descriptive linguistics of the Bloomfieldian trend defines the meaning as the situation in which the word is uttered. Both ways of approach afford no possibility of a further investigation of semantic problems in strictly linguistic terms, and therefore, if taken as a basis for general linguistic theory, give no insight into the mechanism of meaning. Some of L. Bloomfield’s successors went so far as to exclude semasiology from linguistics on the ground that meaning could not be studied “objectively", and was not part of language but “an aspect of the use to which language is put”. This point of view was never generally accepted. The more general opinion is well revealed in R. Jakobson’s pun. He said: “Linguistics without meaning is meaningless."1 This crisis of semasiology has been over for some twenty years now, and the problem of meaning has provided material for a great number of books, articles and dissertations.

In our country the definitions of meaning given by various authors, though different in detail, agree in the basic principle: they all point out that lexical meaning is the realisation of concept or emotion by means of a definite language system. The definition stresses that semantics studies only such meanings that can be expressed, that is concepts bound by signs.

It has also been repeatedly stated that the plane of content in speech reflects the whole of human consciousness, which comprises not only mental activity but emotions, volition, etc. as well. The mentalistic approach to meaning treating it only as a concept expressed by a word oversimplifies the problem because it takes into consideration only the referential function of words. Actually, however, all the pragmatic functions of language — communicative, emotive, evaluative, phatic, esthetic, etc., are also relevant and have to be accounted for in semasiology, because they show the attitude of the speaker to the thing spoken of, to his interlocutor and to the situation in which the act of communication takes place.

The complexity of the word meaning is manifold. The four most important types of semantic complexity may be roughly described as follows:

 Note how this epigram makes use of the polysemy of the word meaning.

Firstly, every word combines lexical and grammatical meanings.

E.g.: Father is a personal noun.

Secondly, many words not only refer to some object but have an aura of associations expressing the attitude of the speaker. They have not only denotative but connotative meaning as well.

E. g.: Daddy is a colloquial term of endearment.

Thirdly, the denotational meaning is segmented into semantic components or semes.

E.g.: Father is a male parent.

Fourthly, a word may be polysemantic, that is it may have several meanings, all interconnected and forming its semantic structure.

E. g.: Father may mean: ‘male parent’, ‘an ancestor’, ‘a founder or leader’, ‘a priest’.

It will be useful to remind the reader that the grammatical meaning is defined as an expression in speech of relationships between words based on contrastive features of arrangements in which they occur. The grammatical meaning is more abstract and more generalised than the lexical meaning, it unites words into big groups such as parts of speech or lexico-grammatical classes. It is recurrent in identical sets of individual forms of different words. E. g. parents, books, intentionswhose common element is the grammatical meaning of plurality. The interrelation of lexics and grammar has already been touched upon in § 1.3. This being a book on lexicology and not on grammar, it is permissible not to go into more details though some words on lexico-grammatical meanings are necessary.

The lexiсo-grammatical meaning is the common denominator of all the meanings of words belonging to a lexico-grammatical class of words, it is the feature according to which they are grouped together. Words in which abstraction and generalisation are so great that they can be lexical representatives of lexico-grammatical meanings and substitute any word of their class are called generic terms. For example the word matter is a generic term for material nouns, the word group — for collective nouns, the word person — for personal nouns.

Words belonging to one lexico-grammatical class are characterised by a common system of forms in which the grammatical categories inherent in them are expressed. They are also substituted by the same prop-words and possess some characteristic formulas of semantic and morphological structure and a characteristic set of derivational affixes. See tables on word-formation in: R. Quirk et al., “A Grammar of Contemporary English”.1 The common features of semantic structure may be observed in their dictionary definitions:


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