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Лекции Л. И. Городнего по лексикологии английского языка


Learning objectives: After you have studied the lecture  you should able

1)define the term semasiology;
2) speak about the problem of defining the term
3) explain   the   essence   of
                     a) the   referential   approach   to the problem of
                     defining the meaning
                     b) the    functional approach;
4)express your own appreciation of the problem under analysis.
5) give (draw) a basic triangle (E.g.: The shop houses 15-ton crane; A
naked conductor ran along the car).

   The brunch of lexicology, that is devoted to  the  study  of  meaning  is
known as Semasiology.
   Semasiology (from Gr . semasia - "signification") deals  not  with  every
kind of linguistic meaning only. This does not mean that  we  need  not  pay
attention to the grammatical meaning. On the contrary, grammatical   meaning
must be taken into consideration in so far as it bears a specific  influence
upon lexical meaning.
   The main  objects  of  semasiological  study  are  as  follows:  semantic
development of words,
its causes and classification, relevant distinctive features  and  types  of
lexical  meaning,  polysemy  and  semantic  structure  of   word,   semantic
groupings  and  connections   in  the  vocabulary  system,  i.e.   synonyms,
antonyms, etc.
   Meaning is one of the most controversial terms in the theory of language.
An exact definition of lexical meaning becomes especially difficult  due  to
complexity of the process, by which language and human consequence serve  to
reflect outward reality. Since there is no universally  accepted  definition
meaning we shall give a brief survey of the  problem  as  it  is  viewed  in
modern  linguistics.  There  are  2  approaches  to  the  problem:  1)   the
referential approach,  which  formulates  the  essence  of  meaning  as  the
interdependence between words and things or concepts  they  denote;  2)  the
functional approach, which studies the functions of a word in  speech.  This
approach is (sometimes described as contextual) based  on  the  analysis  of
various contexts.
   The essential feature of the first  approach  is  that  in  distinguishes
between the three components, connected with meaning:
   1) the sound form of the linguistic sign (sign or symbol);
   2)  the  concept  underlying  this  sound  form  (meaning;   thought   or
   3 ) the  actual referent, i.e. the part or the aspect of reality to which
the linguistic sign refers (thing meant).
   The  best  known  referential  model  of  meaning  is  so-called   "basic
triangle", which may be represent in a simplified form:

                 Concept (meaning, thought, referent)

   Sound form                     referent (thing meant)
   (sign, symbol)

   As we can see from the diagram, the sound form of  the  linguistic  sign,
for instance [kot] is connected  with  our  concept  of  a  small  which  it
denotes, and though it with the referent, i.e. the actual thing. The  common
feature of the  referential approach is  the  implacation  that  meaning  in
some form or other connected with referent.
   Let us examine the interrelation between:

   1-Meaning and sound form
   The   sound-form  of  the  word    is    not    identical    with,    its
meaning namely [kot] is the sound form, used to denote a  bed  for  a  child
There are inherent connections between this sound form,  used  to  denote  a
bed for a child. There are inherent connections between this sound form  and
the meaning of the word "cot", but they are conventional and  arbitrary.  We
may prove it by comparing the sound-forms of different languages,  conveying
one and the same meaning, cf. English [kot] and Russian [krovatka].  On  the
contrary,  the  sound-cluster  [kot]  in  the  English  language  is  almost
identical to the sound form  in  Russian  language  possessing  the  meaning

   2-Meaning and concept
   When we examine a word, we see that its meaning,  though  connected  with
the underlying concept is not identical with it. To begin with,  concept  is
a category of human cognition. Concept is the thought  of  the  object  that
singles out its essential features. Our concepts abstracts and  reflect  the
most common and typical features of the different objects and  phenomena  of
the world. Being the result of abstraction the concepts are thus almost  the
same for the whole  of  humanity.  The  meanings  of  worlds,  however,  are
different  in  different  languages.  In  other  words,   words   expressing
identical concepts may  have  different  semantic  structures  in  different
languages. The concept of "a building for human habitation” is expressed  in
English by the word house, in Russian by the word дом, but  the  meaning  of
the English word is not identical with that of the  Russian  as  house  does
not possess the meaning of "fixed residence of family or  household",  which
that of the Russian as house does not possess  the  meaning  of  the  Russia
word дом; it is expressed by another English word, namely home.
   The difference between meaning  and  concept  can  also  be  observed  by
comparing synonymous words and word-groups  expressing  the  same  concepts,
but possessing linguistic meaning, which is felt as  different  in  each  of
the units under considerations:
   Big - large;
   To die - to pass away - kick the bucket - join the majority;
   Child - baby-babe-infant;
   Daddy - father - governor - etc.

   3-Meaning and referent
   To distinguish meaning from the referent, i.e. from the thing denoted  by
the linguistic sign is of the utmost importance. To begin with,  meaning  is
a linguistic phenomenon whereas  the  denoted  object  or  the  referent  is
beyond the scope of language. We  can    denote    one    and    the    same
object   by   more than one word of a different  meaning.  For  example,  an
apple can be denoted by the words apple, fruit, smth, this, etc. So  far  as
all these words have the same referent.
   Thus meaning   is   not   to   be   identified  with   either   of    the
 three points   of   the    triangle.  It  is  closely  connected,  but  not
identical  with  sound-form,  concept  or   referent.   Yet     even     the
linguists, who   accepted   this   view    disagree  as  to  the  nature  of
meaning. Some of   them regard meaning as the  interrelation  of  the  three
points  the  triangle   within    the     framework     of     the     given
language, but not as an objectively exiting part  of  the  linguistic  sign.
Others and among them the outstanding  Russian  scholar   Smirnitsky  A.  I.
understand the linguistic sign as a two-facet unit. They view meaning as  "a
certain reflection in our mind  of  objects,  phenomena  or  relations  that
makes part of the linguistic sign - its so called inner facet,  whereas  the
sound-form functions as its outer facet" The outer facet of  the  linguistic
sign is indispensable to meaning and intercommunication. Meaning  is  to  be
found  in  all  linguistic  units  and  together   with   their   sound-form
constitutes  by  linguistic  science.  The  linguistic  signs   studied   by
linguistic science.
   The great stumbling block in referential theories of meaning  has  always
been that they operate with subjective and intangible mental processes.  The
results of the semantic investigation therefore depend to a  certain  extent
on "the feeling of language" and cannot be verified by another  investigator
analyzing the same linguistic data. So, semasiology has to rely too much  on
linguistic intuition and unlike  other  fields  of  linguistics  (phonetics,
history of language) does not posses objective methods of investigation.

                       Functional approach to Meaning
   In recent years a new and entirely  different  approach  to  meaning  has
appeared  in  structural  linguistics.  This  approach  maintains   that   a
linguistic study of meaning is the investigation of the relation of sign  to
sign only. In other words,  they  hold  the  view  that  the  meaning  of  a
linguistic  unit  may  be  studied  only  through  its  relation  to   other
linguistic  units  and  not  through  its  relation  to  either  concept  or
referent. Thus, the meaning of the 2 words move and  movement  is  different
because they function in speech differently. Really, they  occupy  different
positions in relation to other words. (To) move can be followed  by  a  noun
(move the chair), preceded  by  a  pronoun  (we  move),  etc.  The  position
occupied by the word  movement  is  different:  it  may  be  followed  by  a
preposition (movement of smth) preceded by an adjective (slow movement)  and
so on. As the distribution ("the position of a linguistic sign  in  relation
to other linguistic signs) of the 2 words is  different  they  cone  to  the
conclusion that not only they belong to  different  classes  of  words,  but
that that not only meanings are different too.
   It follows that in the functional approach meaning may be viewed  as  the
function of distribution: 1)  semantic  investigation  is  confined  to  the
analysis of the different  or  sameness  meaning;  2)meaning  is  understood
essentially as the function or the use of linguistic signs.

                      Relation between the 2 approaches

   When comparing   the    two    approaches    in    terms  of  methods  of
linguistic analysis, we may see that the functional approach should  not  be
considered  an  alternative,  but  rather  a  valuable  complement  to   the
referential theory. It is only natural that linguistic investigation    must
  start by collecting an adequate number of samples of  context.  Once  this
phase had  been  completed,  it  seems  but  logical,  to  pass  on  to  the
referential phase and try to formulate the   meaning thus identified.  There
is absolutely no need to set the two approaches  against  each  other;  each
handles - its is side of the problem and neither  is  complete  without  the

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