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Synonymy viewed diachronically. The sources of synonyms.

Synonyms. Classification of synonyms viewed synchronically.

Semantic fields and lexico-semantic groups. Hyponymy.


1. Semantic fields and lexico-semantic groups. Hyponymy.

Modern English has a very extensive vocabulary. It may be classified in various ways. Here we are concerned only with semantic classification of words.

Closely connected sectors of vocabulary characterized by a common concept are termed s e m a n t i c f i e l d s. E.g., the semantic field of colour (blue, black, red, etc.), terms of kinship (mother, father, brother, etc.). The basis of grouping is not only linguistic, but also extra-linguistic: the words are associated because the things they name are closely connected in reality. Words making up semantic fields are not synonyms, they may belong to different parts of speech, but all of them are joined together by some common semantic component. E.g., in the semantic field of space there are nouns – surface, expanse; verbs – extend, spread; adj. – spacious, vast, etc.

Lexical groups of words belonging to the same part of speech and linked by a common concept are termed l e x i c o – s e m a n t i c group (LSG). E.g., bread, cheese, milk, meat make up LSG with the concept of food.

The relationship existing between elements of LSG and semantic fields is that of inclusion, or h y p o n y m y. E.g., the meaning of “car, bus, taxi” is included in the meaning of “vehicle”. The hyponymic relationship may be viewed as the hierarchical relations between the meaning of the general and the individual terms. The general term (vehicle) is called h y p e r o n y m, it serves to describe the lexico-semantic group (e.g., LSG of vehicles). The individual terms (car, bus, taxi) are called h y p o n y m s, they contain the meanings which distinguish them from each other.


2. Synonyms. Classification of synonyms viewed synchronically

Lexical units may also be classified by the criterion of semantic similarity (synonyms) and semantic contrasts (antonyms). Synonyms and antonyms are language universals because they exist in all Indo-European languages.

S y n o n y m s (Gr “syn” – with, “onyma” – name) are two or more words of the same language belonging to the same part of speech and possessing one or more identical or nearly identical denotative meanings, interchangeable at least in some contexts, but differing in morphemic structure, phonetic shape, shades of meaning, connotations, style and idiomatic use.

They are distinguished in English, Ukrainian (and in other languages), e.g.,

synonymous nouns as end, close, termination, conclusion, fin­ish, terminus, stopping; in Ukrainian: кінець, закінчення, зупинка,, огорожа/горожа, паркан, штахети, тин, живопліт, ліса; or: балакун, говорун, баляндрасник, торохтій, базікало, талалай;

synonymous adjectives as conclusive, ending, final, terminal, com­pleting, ultimate; in Ukrainian: кінцевій, останній, заключний, безмежний, безкраїй, безконечний, неосяжний, безмірний, неозорий, etc.

synonymous verbs as the following: act, play, perform, rehearse, star, mimic, imitate, inact, play a part; in Ukrainian: діяти, виконувати, відігравати, брати участь, грати, бити, батожити, періщити, дубасити, лупити, лупцювати, гилити, etc.

synonymous adverbs: surprisingly, unexpectedly, unawares, plump, pop, suddenly, and in Ukrainian: раптово, зненацька, негадана, як сніг на голову, швидко, скоро, прудко, хутко, шпарко, жваво, прожогом.

As any linguistic phenomenon, synonymy can be viewed both from synchronic and diachronic points of view. Synchronically we classify synonyms into the following groups.

I d e o g r a p h i c synonyms differ in the denotative component of meaning; they denote different shades of meaning or different degrees of a given quality. E.g., look, seem, appear; beautiful, fine, handsome, pretty; йти, рухатися, мандрувати, курсувати, прямувати; думати, гадати, роздумувати, міркувати, розмірковувати, розмишляти; поважний :: серйозний :: солідний :: статечний :: важний :: величний.The synonymic groups have a common semantic element and express one notion with different semantic shades or stylistic value. Each synonymic group comprises a synonymic dominant which is the general term potentially containing the specific features of all other members of this group (in the above given examples – look, beautiful, йти, думати, поважний). This dominant is generally both stylistically and emotionally neutral.

S t y l i s t i c synonyms are words which are close or identical in denotative meaning but differ in emotive value or stylistic sphere of application. E.g., (neutral :: elevated :: colloquial) – child :: infant :: kid; father :: parent :: dad; успіх :: торжество :: тріумф; радо :: охоче:: залюбки;говорити :: промовляти :: горлопанити:: бубоніти :: белебенiти :: теревенити :: гундосити; (neutral :: archaic) – often :: oft; there :: younger; (neutral :: poetic) – leave :: quit; open :: ope; лоб :: чоло.

T o t a l (absolute) synonyms which can replace each other in any given context. Examples of this kind can be found among technical terms peculiar to this or that branch of knowledge. In linguistics, e.g., noun :: substantive; functional affix :: flexion; in medicine: scarlet fever :: scarlatina; the flu :: grippe; сiм’я :: родина; відсоток :: процент.

C o n t e x t u a l (or context-dependent) synonyms are similar in meaning only in some specific distributional conditions. E.g., He bought (got) the book at the bookshop. Він купив (дістав) книжку. I can’t stand (bear) him. Я не можу його терпіти (переносити).

T e r r i t o r i a l (local) synonyms are words which don’t differ either ideographically or stylistically but are used in different countries speaking the same language. E.g.:

Britain America Canada Australia
Autumn fall fall autumn
Pavement sidewalk sidewalk footpath


Dialectal differences are also observed in Ukrainian, the most distin­guishing of them being Western, Northern and Central regional dialects. In western Hutsul dialects, for instance, дєдя and нянько are used for father, верховина for uplands; in Halych region когут is used for півень, вуйко for uncle (дядько), вуйна for дядина, файний for гарний, etc.

Consider the set of synonyms with general meaning “ледар” determined by stylistic and territorial colouring: ледар – ледащо – ледацюга – ледарисько – ледай – ледач – ледень - ледака – легкобит - лiнивець – лiногуз – лiнтюга – лiнюга – нероба – баглай – багливик – байда – байдала – гульвiса – гультяка – засидень - лежебок – легака – легмас – лежнюха – лога – поленак – лацюга –лахмар – лайдак – лотр – лумпiй – леньоха – пустоцвiт – пустопаш – пустогай – пустоплях – дармотрус – набоштрик.

3. Synonymy viewed diachronically. The sources of synonyms.

Diachronically we speak about the origin of synonyms and the causes of their abundance in English.

A. Synonyms that owe their origin to f o r e i g n b o r r o w i n g s. The peculiar feature of synonymy in English is the contrast between simple native words stylistically neutral, literary words borrowed from French and learned words of Greco-Latin origin:

Native English words Words borrowed from French Words borrowed from Latin
to ask to question to interrogate
to gather to assemble to collect
to end to finish to complete

B. Synonyms created through the adoption of words from d i a l e c t s, and American English in particular, e.g.: girl:: lass (Scottish); wireless :: radio (American); liquor :: whiskey (Irish).

C. Synonyms created by means of all w o r d – f o r m i n g p r o c e s s e s productive in the language at a given time of its history. E.g.:

Affixation: anxiety :: anxiousness; effectivity :: effectiveness.

Loss of affixes: amongst :: among; await :: wait.

Shortening: memorandum :: memo; microphone :: mike; popular :: pop.

Compounding: resistance :: fight back; treachery :: sell out.

4. Antonyms

A n t o n y m s (Gr “anti” – against, “onyma” – name) are words of the same language belonging to the same part of speech and to the same semantic field, identical in style and nearly identical in distribution, associated and often used together so that their denotative meaning render contradictory or contrary notions. Antonyms form mostly pairs, not groups like synonyms, e.g., above :: below, absent :: present, alike :: different, asleep :: awake, back :: forth, bad :: good, big :: little, lateness :: earliness, continue :: stop, beautiful :: ugly, quickly :: slowly, up :: down, висота :: низина; високий :: низький; багатий :: бідний, гладкий :: худий, гарно :: погано, швидко :: повільно, тепло :: холодно, весело :: сумно, etc.

As a rule, we study antonyms only synchronically and classify them into the following groups:

1. C o n t r a d i c t o r i e s are antonyms which denote notions mutually opposed and denying one another, e.g., dead :: alive, single :: married, perfect :: imperfect, живий – мертвий, створювати :: руйнувати; знаходити :: губити.

2. C o n t r a r i e s differ from contradictories in having some intermediate members, e.g., cold :: hot ( cool – warm are intermediate members, so “cold” may serve as an antonym not only for “hot” but also for “warm”), молодий :: старий.

(не молодий; нi молодий; нi старий; середнього віку; літній; нестарий; старуватий are intermediate components).

3. I n c o m p a t i b l e s are connected with the relations of exclusion, not contradiction, e.g., morning :: evening, day :: night, freedom :: slavery; work :: play, високо :: низько, гора :: долина; хвалити :: гудити, північ :: південь, солодкий – гіркий, чоловік – жінка.

4. C o n v e r s i v e s denote one and the same referent or situation as viewed from different points of view, e.g., buy :: sell, left :: right, give :: receive, parent :: child, збiгати (з гори) :: збiгати (на гору); позичати (давати в борг) :: позичати (брати в борг).

Another classification of antonyms is based on a morphological approach: root words form a b s o l u t e antonyms (right :: wrong, рух :: спокій, веселий :: сумний, високий :: низький, довгий :: короткий, внутрішній :: зовнішній,.білий – чорний, світлий – темний, корисний – шкідливий). The presence of negative affixes creates d e r i v a t i o n a l antonyms (happy :: unhappy, влетiти :: вилетіти, зацвісти :: відцвісти). Contrast is implied in the morphological structure of the words itself: appear – disappear, logical – illogical. In Ukrainian the antonymous meaning is created with the help of such prefixes: -без, -проти, -а, -анти, -де, -дез, -дис, -iр, iн. E.g., алкогольний:: безалкогольний, народний :: антинародний, раціональний :: ірраціональний.

The English and Ukrainian languages are rich in synonyms and antonyms.The diachronic study following their development is of great interest as it permits to reveal the systematic character of the vocabulary.



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The logical classification of semantic change | Classification of phraseological units and their structural types.

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