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 ahistorical 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.