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Archaic, obsolete and historic words

In every period of a literary language development one can find words which will show more or less apparent changes in their meaning or usage from full vigour, through a moribund state, to death, i. e. complete disappearance of the unit from the language. Some words of English and Ukrainian have ceased to be recognizable by the native speakers or understandable due to their semantic changes.

We shall distinguish three stages in the aging process of words: 1. The beginning of the aging process when the word becomes rarely used. Such words are called obsolescent, i.e. they are in the stage of gradually passing out of general use. In English to this category first of all belong morphological forms belonging to the earlier stages in the development of the language. In the English language these are the pronouns thou and its forms thee, thy and thine; the corresponding verbal ending -est and the verb-forms art, wilt (thou makest, thou wilt); the ending - (e)th instead of -(e)s (he maketh) and the pronoun ye. To this category belong many French borrowings which have been kept in the literary language as a means of preserving the spirit of earlier periods, e. g. a pallet (=a straw mattress); a palfrey (=a small horse); garniture (= furniture); to enplume ( = to adorn with feathers or plumes). Among the lexical units that belong to this group in Ukrainian such words as прах, атрамент, рать, царство, десниця, свічадо, злато, попри, допіру, поза як, муж, чадо, отрок, глас, отверзати and many othercan be listed.

2.The second group of archaic words are those that have already gone completely out of use but are still recognized by the community: e. g. methinks ( it seems to me); nay ( - no); синовець (син сестри), держати (мати за жінку). These words are called obsolete.

3. The third group, which may be called archaic proper, are words which are no longer recognizable in modern language, words that were in use in Old English Old Slavonic and which have either dropped out of the language entirely or have changed in their appearance so much that they have become unrecognizable, e. g. troth (faith); a losel (a worthless, lazy fellow); галити (радіти), правотар (адвокат), буй (хоробрий), гудець (музикант).



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There is still another class of words which is erroneously classed as archaic, historical words. They are historical terms and remain as terms referring to definite stages in the development of society and cannot therefore be dispensed with, though the things and phenomena to which they refer have long passed into oblivion e.g. yeoman, sword, гетьман, хорунжий, etc. Historical words have no synonyms, whereas archaic words have been replaced by modern synonyms.

Archaic and historical words should not be confused with the words which before the time a certain literary work was written had not been obsolete yet but belonged to the generally recognized bulk of the vocabulary. In this respect, for example, the underlined words in the following abstract from I. Kotliarevskyy’s poem Eneida have no stylistic value:

 

Тут їли рознії потрави,

І все з полив’яних мисок,

І самі гарнії приправи

З нових кленових тарілок:

Свинячу голову до хріну

І локшину на переміну;

Потім з підлевою індик;

На закуску куліш і кашу,

Лемішку, зубці, путрю, квашу

І з маком медовий шулик... (І. Котляревський).

Archaic and historic words are primarily and predominantly used to create the realistic background to historical novels. Thus, the main function of archaisms, finds different interpretation in different novels by different writers. Being sparingly introduces into the texture of the literary work a few words and expressions more or less obsolescent in character are enough to convey the desired effect.

Besides the function just mentioned, archaic words and phrases have other functions found in other styles. In English they are frequently to be found in the style of official documents. Among the obsolescent elements of the English vocabulary preserved within the style of official documents, the following may be mentioned: aforesaid, hereby, therewith, hereinafter named. The function of archaic words and constructions in official documents is terminological in character. They are used here because they help to maintain that exactness of expression so necessary in this style. In Ukrainian archaisms are seldom used in the style of official documents. They are substituted by their neutral equivalents. The word combinations глава держави, глава уряду, колегіальне рішення, etc may serve as an example of the archaic remainders in the Ukrainian official style.

Archaic words and particularly archaic forms of words are sometimes used for satirical purposes. The situation in which the archaism is used is not appropriate to the context. There appears a sort of discrepancy between the words actually used and the ordinary situation which excludes the possibility of such a usage. The low predictability of an archaism when it appears in ordinary speech produces the necessary satirical effect.

Here is an example of such a use of an archaic form. In Shaw's play How He Lied to Her Husband a youth of eighteen, speaking of his feelings towards a "female of thirty-seven" expresses himself in a language which is not in conformity with the situation. His words are:

 

Perfect love casteth off fear.

 

English archaic forms thee, thou, thine are employed as an efficient way to differentiate the existing in other languages forms of addressing “ти – ви”.

Archaisms can be introduced into the character’s speech with the purpose to create his/her image:

 

Рци одно слово “люблю Вас, пане Возний”, і аз вишеупом’янутий, виконаю присягу о вірнім і вічнім союзі с тобою (І. Котляревський).

Archaic words, word-forms and word-combinations are also used to create an elevated effect or to express author’s positive attitude towards the character or towards the events described:

 

Мій дід Михайло був храмостроїтель.

Возводив храми себто цілий вік.

Він був чернець, з дияволом воїтель,

печерник, богоугодний чоловік.

Він був самітник. Дуже був суворий.

Між Богом – чортом душу не двоїв.

І досі поминають у соборах:

Храмостроїтель Михаїл.

Жив у землі, мовчущий не во злобі.

Труждався сам, нікого не наймав.

Він працював до поту на возлоб’ї

і грошей з роду шеляга не мав (Л. Костенко).

Some archaic words due to their inner qualities (sound-texture, nuances of meaning, morphological peculiarities, combinatory power) may be revived in a given period of the development of the language. This re-establishing in the vocabulary, however, is generally confined to poetry and highly elevated discourse. For example in recent periods of the Ukrainian language oppression such competent and frequent lexical units as попри, допіру, завваги, либонь, поза як, заки, аби, красне письменство, мені болить were declared archaic and banished from the vocabulary. They are being revived now. A lot of archaic elements still remain in different dialects of English and Ukrainian. A.C. Baugh, a historian of the English language, points out that in some parts of America one may hear "there's a new barn a-building down the road". The form a-building is obsolete, the present form being building (There is a house building = A house is being built). This form has undergone the following changes: on building > a-building > building; consequently, 'a-building' will sound obsolete in England but will be considered dialectal in the United States. This predetermines the stylistic meaning when used in American or British texts.

 

 


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  2. Analyze the meanings of the italicized words. Identify the result of the changes of the connotational aspect of lexical meaning in the given words.
  3. Combine the following words into sentences.
  4. Compare the meanings of the given words. Define what semantic features are shared by all the members of the group and what semantic properties distinguish them from each other.
  5. Divergences in the semantic structure of words
  6. Free Word-Groups Versus Phraseological Units Versus Words
  7. Identify the period of borrowing of the French, Greek, Russian and German words given in task 6.
  8. International Words
  9. Interrelation of Etymological and Stylistic Characteristics of Words.
  10. Look at this form of a music collection. Label the data types with words from B opposite.
  11. Poetic words

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Poetic words | Barbarisms and foreignisms

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