Classification of word meaning

Though word meaning is made up of various components, they are are interrelated and interdependent as a whole for a word.

First, the meaning of a word can be divided into two parts: grammatical and lexical meaning.

A) Grammatical Meaning

Grammatical meaning consists of word-class and inflectional paradigms of all kinds such as tense, mood and voice of verbs, plurality of countable nouns, and comparative or superative degree of adjectives. This part of word meaning is shared by a class of words and more significant for judging the grammaticality of the combination of words, for it is this part of meaning that determines the grammatical behavior of a word. Therefore it is termed as such. This part of word meaning is easier to be formalized than the rest of word meaning, which is termed lexical meaning.

B) Lexical Meaning

Usually, we will pay more attention to the lexical meaning of a word in word study and it is this part of word meaning that makes each word different from all others of the vocabulary of a langauge. The culture, value, ideas and thoughts, history , or convention and tradition of a nation are sysmtematically coded into this part of word meaning. It is in fact a very important part of the general knowledge in users' minds.

Semantic triangle.

Lexical meaning of a word has a complicated structure in which several elements may be singled out. When we analyse a word we can observe in its structure several aspets:

a combination of sounds which is the formal aspect of the word pr a phonetic word

we can imagine an object named by the word or we may say that the word is the reflection of an image denoted by word

we can think of this object in general, we can work out an idea of this object, a notion, because the word has a sense.

All the 3 aspects are united in our mind into a single whole: a word names, denotes, signifies. These 3 components were described in the form of a semantic triangle by Ogden and Richards.

The lexical meaning versus notion.

The lexical meaning of a word is the realization of a notion by means of a definite language system. A word is a language unit, while a notion is a unit of thinking. A notion cannot exist without a word expressing it in the language, but there are words which do not express any notion but have a lexical meaning. Interjections express emotions but not notions, but they have lexical meanings, e.g. Alas! /disappointment/, Oh,my buttons! /surprise/ etc. There are also words which express both, notions and emotions, e.g. girlie, a pig /when used metaphorically/.

The term notion was introduced into lexicology from logics. A notion denotes the reflection in the mind of real objects and phenomena in their relations. Notions, as a rule, are international, especially with the nations of the same cultural level. While meanings can be nationally limited. Grouping of meanings in the semantic structure of a word is determined by the whole system of every language. E.g. the English verb go and its Russian equivalent have some meanings which coincide: to move from place to place, to extend /the road goes to London/, to work /Is your watch going?/. On the other hand, they have different meanings: in Russian we say : , in English we use the verb come in this case. In English we use the verb go in the combinations: to go by bus, to go by train etc. In Russian in these cases we use the verb .

The number of meanings does not correspond to the number of words, neither does the number of notions. Their distribution in relation to words is peculiar in every language. The Russian has two words for the English man: and . In English, however, man cannot be applied to a female person. We say in Russian: . In English we use the word person/ She is a good person/

Development of lexical meanings in any language is influenced by the whole network of ties and relations between words and other aspects of the language.

The denotational and connotational components of the lexical meaning. Functional and non-functional (evaluative, emotive, intensifying, image-bearing/motivation) stylistic meaning.

In lexical meaning 2 components are distinguished: denotative and connotative.

Denotative meaning is the reflection in human mind of a piece of objective reality denoted by the word in the form of an image.

Significative meaning is the reflection in human mind of the piece of reality denoted by the word in the form of notion, of the objective knowledge (sense) about the denotatum.

Connotative meaning is thw reflection of the speakers attitude to the reality expresed by the word. It is the reflection in our mind of the subjective knowledge (sense of denotatum) that is of a subjective attitude.

Connotational meaning is comprised of functional stylistic meaning and non-functional stylistic meaning (evaluative, emotive, intensifying and image-bearing ir motivation).

Emotive component is present when a lang. unit conveys an emotion (despicable deserving to be despised or contemptible).

A word possesses an evaluative component if it reflects the speakers approval or disapproval.

Intensidying component is a higher degree of a basic meaning or the presence of some quality above the norm (wind and hurricane, to ask and to beg),

Motivation is present when a lang. unit is a secondary nomination based on similarity of 2 objects.


  1. Analyze the meanings of the italicized words. Identify the result of the changes of the connotational aspect of lexical meaning in the given words.
  2. Classification of phraseological units and their structural types.
  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. Grammatical meaning.
  6. Grammatical meaning.
  7. Lexical meaning and its structure.
  8. Read the text about Parliamentary monarchy. Guess the meaning of underlined words.
  9. Referential approach to Meaning
  10. Referential Meaning and its Rendering in Translation
  11. Rendering of stylistic meaning in translation

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