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The Relationship between Language, Thought and Reality

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The Relationship between Language, Thought and Reality

Long before linguistics existed as a discipline, thinkers were speculating about the nature of meaning. For thousands of years, the question ‘what is meaning?’ has been considered central to philosophy. More recently it has come to be important in linguistics, as well.

2.1 Extension and Intension

The impossibility of equating a word's meaning with its referents has led to a distinction between extension and intension or Serin and Bedeutung. The extension of a term corresponds to the set of entities that it picks out in the real world. The term ‘extension’ is often used synonymously with ‘denotation’. Sometimes, denotation is understood not only in its narrower sense which covers the relation between nouns or noun phrases and groups of individuals or objects, but also the relation between words belonging to other word classes and extra-linguistic phenomena they relate to. Thus, verbs denote situations, adjectives denote properties of individuals and objects and adverbs denote properties of situations.(Kortmann, 2005: 197)

The extension of 'tiger' is the set of tigers in the real world. Intension corresponds to the inherent sense of a term, to the concept that is associated with it. For instance, the intension of woman involves notions like 'female' or 'human'.

Two terms can have the same extension and yet differ in intension (meaning). For example, the compound terms 'creature with a heart' and 'creature with a kidney' have the same extension because (we assume that) every creature with a heart possesses a kidney and vice versa. Nevertheless the reverse is impossible: two terms cannot differ in extension and have the same intension.

Putnam (1975: 135) claims that this impossibility reflects the tradition of the ancient and medieval philosophers who assumed that the concept corresponding to a term was just a conjunction of terms, and hence that the concept corresponding to a term must always provide a necessary and sufficient condition for falling into the extension of the term.

The term whose analysis caused all the discussions in medieval philosophy was GOD, thought to be defined through the conjunctions of the terms 'Good', 'Powerful', 'Omniscient'.

The philosopher Putnam supports Frege's view/stand against psychologism according to which the psychological state of the speaker determines the intension of a term and hence, its extension. He argues that extension is not determined by psychological state.

Extension is determined socially (is a problem of sociolinguistics) and indexically and in its turn determines intension.

If concepts (intensions) were more important than extensions (then we would expect that when concepts associated with a term no longer applied to the members of its extension) , then that term would be replaced by another to refer to the extension. Knowing the meaning of a word is to acquire a word, i.e. to associate it with the right concept.

2.2 Sign-sense-reference (referent)

Contributions to semantics have come from a diverse group of scholars, ranging from Plato to Aristotle in ancient Greece to Putnam and Frege in the twentieth century.

According to Frege (1970: 57) a sign is any designation representing a (proper) name which has as its reference a definite object (the word object is taken in the widest sense), not a concept or a relation.

          The regular connection between a sign, its sense and its reference is of such a kind that to the sign there corresponds a definite sense and to that in turn a definite reference while to a given reference (an object) there does not belong only a single sign. For example, Aristotle (the referent) can be denoted by these signs: the pupil of Plato and the teacher of Alexander the Great.

The same sense has different lexicalizations in different languages or even in the same language (pass away - die - kick the bucket).

To the sense does not always  correspond a reference, i.e. in grasping a sense one is not certainly assured of a reference (e.g. sign words such as unicorn,  dragon, elf, fairy, World War III,  have no referents in the real world even though they are far from being meaningless)

Frege maintains that the reference and sense of a sign must be distinguished from the associated idea (concept) which is subjective: 'if the reference of a sign is an object perceivable by the senses, my idea of it is an internal image arising from memories of sense impressions which I have had […] . Such an idea is often saturated with feeling; the clarity of its separate parts varies and oscillates. The same sense is not always connected, even in the same man with the same idea'.

          Ogden and Richards (1921) argue that the symbol corresponds to the Saussurian 'signifiant' (signifier). They use the term reference for the concept that mediates between the symbol/ word/expression and the referent. The triadic concept of meaning was represented by Ogden and Richards in the form of a triangle.

Most linguists agree that a sign (word or expression) expresses its sense, stands for and designates its reference. By means of a sign we express its sense and designate its reference.

                                             

Identical linguistic expressions may have different referents in different contexts and at different times (e.g. the Pope, my neighbour, I, you, here, there, now, tomorrow). (Meyer, 2002: 104). These expressions are called expressions with variable reference.

To identify who is being referred to by pronouns like “she”, “I”, “you”, etc., we certainly need to know a lot about the context in which these word were uttered. These words whose denotational capability needs / requires contextual support are called deictic words. (The term deixis comes from Greek and means roughly ‘pointing’).

The sense of a linguistic expression is its content without reference, those features and properties which define it. For example, the sense of “girl” is a bundle of semantic features:  /+human/, /-adult/, /+female/.

          The referent of a sign may differ from the sense. For instance, the referent of “evening star” is the same as that of morning star, but not the sense. Therefore the designation of a single object can also consist of several words or signs. Other instances of references denoted by several signs are 'the pupil of Plato', 'the teacher of Alexander the Great' referring to Aristotle or 'The Prime Minister of Great Britain' and 'the leader of the Conservative Party', both referring (in 1989 at least) to Margaret Thatcher. Although the last two expressions may have the same referent we would not say that they have the same sense. No one would maintain that the phrase ' The Prime Minister of Great Britain' could be defined as 'the leader of the Conservative Party' or vice versa.

Besides expressions with variable reference, there are expressions with constant reference (e.g. the Eiffel Tower and the Pacific Ocean) and non-referring items, that is, they do not identify entities in the world, such as so, very,  maybe, if, not, all.

          The same sense has different lexicalizations in different languages (E. table, Fr. table, G. Tisch, It. tavola) or even in the same language (pass away, die, Kick the bucket).

          The association of two or more forms with the same meanings (synonymy) and the association of two or more meanings with one form (homonymy and polysemy) show that one can hardly find an ideal language in which words are defined by a one-to-one relation between signified and signifier.

2.3. Types of signs

          The relationship between a sign and what it represents (or, in Saussurian terminology between a signifier and its signified) can be of three types: (1) a relationship of similarity (e.g. between a portrait and its real life object or a diagram of an engine and its real life engine), (2) a relationship of close association, not infrequently causal association (e.g. the smoke as an indication of fire) and (3) a conventional link, an arbitrary relation.

          Starting from these types of relationship that may hold between a sign and the object it represents, C. S. Peirce makes a distinction between iconic, indexical and symbolic signs. An iconic sign or icon (from Greek eikon 'replika') resembles the referent and provides a perceptual (e.g. visual, auditory, etc.) image of what it stands for. This type of sign is a highly motivated one.

          An indexical sign or index (from Latin index 'pointing finger') stands for what it points to (e.g. spots indexical of a disease like measles, fever indexical of flu, etc.). An index is partially motivated to the extent that there is a connection, usually of causality, between sign and referent.

          A symbol (from Greek symbolon 'a token of recognition') or symbolic sign does not have a natural link between the form and the thing represented, but a conventional link.  Peirce's symbol is the most arbitrary kind of sign: the word in language, the formula in mathematics and chemistry, a military emblem, the dollar sign, a flag, red circles in television, etc.

          As the etymology of the word suggests, the term used in linguistics is understood in the sense that, by general consent, people have agreed upon the pairing of a particular form with a particular meaning. In language, the notion of arbitrariness holds true for most of the simple words; however, new words (compounds, derivatives) built on already existing linguistic material and therefore are partially motivated. The notion of motivation refers to non-arbitrary links between a form and the meaning of linguistic expressions.

          In terms of their degree of abstraction, the three types of signs can be ordered from the most 'primitive' to the most abstract. Indexical signs, which are said to be the most 'primitive' (Dirven and Verspoor, 1998: 3) are restricted to the 'here' and 'now' and are based on a relation of contiguity between form and meaning. Body language (e.g. smiling), traffic (e.g. ) and advertising (e.g.  ) are areas providing examples of such signs.

          Iconic signs are more complex in that their understanding requires the recognition of similarity between form and meaning. Road signs picturing children, animals or various vehicles or scarecrows in the fields which birds take for real enemies are some instances of iconic signs.

          Symbolic signs, based on a relation of convention between sign and meaning, are the exclusive prerogative of humans. As it has been acknowledged, people have more communicative needs than pointing to things and replicating things; we also want to talk about thinks which are more abstract in nature such as events in the past or future, objects that are distant from us, hopes about peace, etc. This can only be achieved by means of symbols which humans all over the world have created for the purpose of communicating all possible thoughts (Dirven and Verspoor, 1998: 4).

          The three types of signs presented so far underlie the structuring of language, i.e. within language, we may recognize principles that are similar to these types of signs; the principle of indexicality (occurring when we use 'pointing' or deictic words), the principle of iconicity (showing up in similarities between the order of events and the word order in the sentences we use to describe them) and the principle of symbolicity accounting for the purely conventional relation between the form and the meaning of signs.   

2.4 Models of meaning

          The famous triangle of meaning of Ogden and Richards (1936: 11) stands for a model of an analytical and referential definition of meaning; it has been referred to in hundreds of subsequent works and has had a powerful influence on semantic thinking.

            Nevertheless, Ullmann (1962: 56) contends that 'for a linguistic study of meaning the basic triangle offers too little or too much'. As a diachronic semanticist, he observes that the meaning of words may change as new knowledge is generated without a corresponding change in the referent or real world entity (for example, atoms remain unchanged while our knowledge of their structure has increased considerably in the present century).

          Ullmann indirectly advises linguists to confine their attention to the left-hand side of the triangle, i.e. on what he calls name and sense, corresponding to the set 'lexeme-concept'  (Magnusson and Persson, 1986: 257) or 'form - content' (Warren, 1992: 76). The implication is to neglect the right-hand element, i.e. the thing (Ullmann, 1962: 56), entity (Magnusson and Persson, 1986: 257) or referent (Warren, 1987: 76), leaving us with a simplified model.

          This model corresponds to an intra-linguistic attitude to the study of meaning where there is no room for extension, i.e. the relation between the symbol and the real world entities to which it refers. More recently, cognitive linguists have shown that the various beliefs that people may have about real world entities are crucial to their understanding of word meaning.

          Following the cognitive line and, at the same time, trying to reconcile componential analysis (CA) with the notions of prototypic categories and fuzzy meaning, Persson (1990) interestingly combines a core model, often associated with CA (Figure 1a) and a prototypical model (Figure 1b) in what he calls 'a complementary' model. What Persson notes is that the seemingly unimportant connotations of the core-meaning model may become significant attributes in his complementary model.   

Figure 1 a.                                                           Figure 1 b.

                   woman                                                       women

Text Box:   ‘human
  female
    adult’


 

         

The main disadvantage with the model in fig. 1a is that it wrongly suggests that the connotative concepts placed in the outer box are somehow less important than the ones in the central box. In the prototypical model in fig. 1b it is precisely these concepts that give salience to the meaning of the lexeme and provides it with the attributes that are typical of the category it denotes.

          Persson's complementary model (Figure 1 c) is based on two different types of concept: (a) CC = “categorial concept(s)” originally corresponding to the core concept and (b) TA = “typical attributes” standing for the set of attributes that are considered characteristic of the best examples of the category:

                                              Figure 1c      woman      

Text Box:   ‘has breasts and
  a womb, can bear
  children, has a high -
 pitched voice, has 
  feminine features’


In Fig.1c woman is seen as a “sense container”[1] with two boxes in it. The smaller box contains the CC, i.e. categorial concepts which serves to separate women from boys and men, etc. The larger of the boxes contains the TA, consisting of attributes judged to be generally held characteristic of women. These attributes may single out typical women from untypical ones. The dotted box enclosing the TA suggests that the set of attributes is open - ended and variable.

          The advantage of using a complementary model based on a combination of categorial concepts and typical attributes can further be proved by an example, which shows the semantic development of a word in time.

          For instance, spinster originally denoted “a woman engaged in spinning”. Since these female workers were often unmarried, the word came to connote ”unmarried woman”. This connotation gradually developed into the main sense of spinster, which in the 17th century became the legal designation of an unmarried adult female.

   This could stand for the current categorial meaning of the noun spinster and is located in the upper smaller box (fig.2). The lower larger box contains the various beliefs and prejudices that are usually associated with spinsters and which in traditional semantics were labelled “connotations”:

   Fig. 3.    spinster

 

 


As can be noticed, most of the TA  are pejorative. The fact that nowadays, unmarried career women firmly dissociate themselves from such a pejorative label may explain why the word is becoming obsolete. Therefore another perspectival shift of the prototypical centre is unlikely to occur due to the “status” of the referent itself.

          The analysis of a complementary model is also useful for a better understanding of a model of meaning. Thus, an improved model of meaning would place LEXEME and CONCEPT at the same horizontal level. This representation implies that both the speaker’s and the hearer’s points of view are taken into account.

2.5 Study questions and exercises

1. Answer these questions:

1.    What is the distinction between extension and intension?

2.    Can two terms have the same extension and differ in intension? Give examples.

3.    Can two terms have the same intension and differ in extension?

4.    Can intension determine extension?

5.    Can extension be influenced by the speaker ̉̉s psychological state?

6.    How can extension be determined socially?

7.    What is Frege  ̉̉s definition of sign ?

8.    Does a reference/ referent always belong to a single sign?

2. What are the referents of the following expressions?

a) the teacher of this course

b) the person who is answering this question

c) where you ate lunch last

d) a child of your parents

Lecture 3. Types and Dimensions of Meaning

3.1 Leech’s classification

While Lyons (1987: 51) distinguishes descriptive meaning from social and expressive meaning, Leech (1987: 23) separates conceptual meaning from various types of associative meaning (connotative, social, affective, reflected, collocative) and from thematic meaning.

Conceptual meaning, sometimes called ‘denotative’, ‘cognitive’ or ‘descriptive’  is widely assumed to be the central factor in linguistic communication. We will discuss this type of meaning, in more detail in section 3.2.

Associative meaning is the meaning which becomes attached to a word because of its use but which is not part of its core sense. The principal types of associative meaning are connotation, collocation, stylistic meaning, and reflected meaning.

Connotation is the variable, subjective, often emotive part of the meaning of an expression. Connotations are relatively unstable, i.e. they vary considerably according to culture, historical period and the experience of the individual. For example, the connotative meaning of woman embraces the putative properties of the referent according to the viewpoint adopted by an individual (e.g. a feminist or misogynist) or a group of people and varies from age to age or from society to society.

Collocation is the habitual co-occurrence of particular lexical items, sometimes purely formally (e.g. eke out), sometimes with some semantic implication (e.g. slim chance).  Collocative meaning is the type of meaning that consists of the associations a word acquires on account of the meanings of words which tend to occur in its environment. For example, strong has a completely different meaning in strong coffee than it does in strong language where it is usually a euphemism for swearing.

Stylistic meaning is the type of meaning linked to the idea of register. For instance, the following words have much the same conceptual sense but differ in associations because they belong to separate styles of English: domicile (official, technical), residence (formal), abode (archaic, poetic), home (general), digs (colloquial), gaff (slang).

Reflected meaning is that type of meaning which arises in cases of multiple conceptual meaning, when one sense of a word forms part of our response to another sense. We sometimes find that when we use a word with a particular sense, one or more of its senses is reflected in it. Reflected meaning allows speakers to indulge in innuendo, ambiguity and the generation of puns as in I have the body of an eighteen year old. I keep it in the fridge.

Thematic meaning is the type of meaning that is communicated by the way in which a speaker or writer organizes the message, in terms of ordering, focus and emphasis.

As we share the view that descriptive meaning and expressive meaning are the most important types of meaning in language, we will discuss these two types in the next sections.

3.1. Descriptive meaning.

Descriptive meaning refers to those aspects of meaning which relate directly to denotations of lexical items and the propositional content of sentences and thus corresponds to an intellectual level of interpretation, as opposed to one where emotional and subjective interpretation is involved.  This type of meaning has been given various labels such as logical, propositional, referential, objective, conceptual, denotative, cognitive and ideational. Each of these labels seems to be accounted for by the defining characteristics identified by Cruse (2004: 44).

a. That aspect of the meaning of a sentence which determines whether or not any proposition it expresses is true or false justifies the labels logical and propositional. For example, in the utterance Somebody has turned the bloody lights off which contains both descriptive and non-descriptive meaning, bloody makes no contribution to the truth or falsity of the statement. However, in a situation where Somebody’s turned the lights off is true, Somebody’s turned the lights on would be false; therefore, what off signifies is part the descriptive meaning of the utterance.

b. That aspect of the meaning of an expression which constrains what the expression can be used to refer to, or, from another point of view, which guides the hearer in identifying the intended referent, motivates the label referential.

c. Descriptive meaning is objective, that is, it interposes a kind of distance between the speaker and what he says.

d. It is fully conceptualized in the sense that it provides a set of conceptual categories into which aspects of experience may be sorted.

e. The descriptive meaning of a sentence can potentially be negated or questioned.

Dimensions of descriptive meaning

          The dimensions along which descriptive meaning can vary are quality, intensity, specificity, vagueness, basicness and viewpoint. The dimension of quality can be seen in the differences between red and green, dog and cat, apple and orange, run and walk, hate and fear, here and there. Pure differences of quality are to be observed only between items which are equal on the scales of intensity and specificity which are discussed below. Intensity characterizes items that designate the same area of semantic quality space such as, warm-lukewarm-hot-boiling. Variation in intensity is not confined to the domain of qualities, it is also possible in other areas: scare-fright-horror-terror, mist-fog, beat-thrash.

Specificity shows up when one term (the more general one) designates a more extensive area of quality space than the other (e.g. animal-dog). Vagueness can be noticed in terms which designate a region on a gradable scale such as middle-aged in She’s middle-aged vs.  She’s in her fifties.

Basicness relates to words which are close to concrete everyday experience, while viewpoint can be illustrated by deictic expressions such as this, that, here, there, now and then which are usually claimed to encode the viewpoint of the speaker at the moment of the utterance.

3.2. Non-descriptive meaning

Non-descriptive meaning is that type of meaning that shows how language reflects the personal feelings of the speaker, including his attitude to the listener, or his attitude to something he is talking about. For example, one might say, as a neutral statement, I have finished it or one may say with triumph and amazement, I have ‘Actually ‘Finished it. What is said is in other respects the same, but the utterances differ in affective meaning. Likewise intonations or words like actually have, or have at times an affective function. Alternative terms for affective meaning are attitudinal, emotive or expressive meaning. This type of meaning is often held to fall within the scope of stylistics or pragmatics.

Lyons (1995:44) argues that natural languages vary considerably in the degree to which they grammaticalize expressive meaning. English does not have a rich system of grammatical moods (subjunctive, optative, dubitative); instead it encodes expressive meaning in much of its vocabulary and in the prosodic structure of spoken utterances. For instance, words that are not necessarily expressive, such as still, yet, already may become expressive if appropriate intonation and stress are added:

Does she still live in Manchester?

Has the postman been yet?

The railway station had already been closed when we came to live here.

These sentences all seem to be expressively neutral, but feeling can be added prosodically (Cruse, 2004: 58)

Are you still here?

You mean you haven’t done it yet?

Surely she hasn’t gone already?

However, what still, yet and already basically express is not an emotion proper but an expectation or a set of expectations on the part of the speaker.

Similarly, implicit superlatives such as huge, tiny, beautiful, brilliant, which are expressively neutral if not stressed, seem to be able to acquire an expressive element if stressed:

It was absolutely huge.

It was absolutely tiny.

However, there are cases when not all the members of a synonymic series can be expressively stressed:

baby vs. infant, child, neonate

Mother and baby are doing well.

Oh, look! It’s a baby! Isn’t it lovely?

? Oh, look! It’s a child/infant/neonate! Isn’t he lovely?

As can be noticed, baby is capable of quite neutral employment and can also be invested with emotive expressive meaning, usually prosodically. In contrast, infant and neonate are incapable of expressive use, although their propositional content is very close to that of baby.

According to the type of meaning they possess, words may be divided into (1) those that have only expressive and no descriptive meaning - the so-called expletives and (2) words that have both descriptive and expressive meaning. 

Expletives can be exclamations:

Wow! Oops! Ouch! O, hell! Hell’s Bell’s! Bother! Ace! I’ll say!

or they may have a grammatical role within a sentence, usually of some kind adjectival or adverbial modifier:

Get that damn dog off my seat!

It’s freezing – shut the bloody window!

You can blooming well put it back where you got it.

Taboo words lend themselves readily to expletive use :

Holy shit! Balls! My arse! Piss off! Bugger me!

Some expletives are historically merely euphemistic alterations of taboo items: Gosh (God), Heck (Hell) Gee whiz (Jesus)

          Lexical items that have both expressive and descriptive/propositional traits are daddy, mummy, paw (in the sense of “hand”), mug (in the sense of “face”), blubber (in the sense of “weep”), damn (in the sense of “extremely”), rag (in the sense of “paper of poor quality”):

It was damn cold.

Stop blubbering!

Don’t read that - it’s a rag!

In the last example, rag expresses contempt for the paper in question. It is fairly common to find pairs of words whose meanings differ only in that they express different evaluative judgments on their designated referents.  (or one expresses a judgment while the other is neutral): horse-nag, car-banger, a smart alec-a clever chap, mean-careful with money. That some of the evaluative meaning may well be expressive is obvious in the following example sentences:

A: Arthur tried to sell me an old nag.

B: No, he didn’t - it was a perfectly good horse.

A: I hear Arthur’s very mean.

B: No, he isn’t - he’s just careful with his money.

A: Arthur’s a smart alec.

B: No, he isn’t – but he is clever.

          It seems that lexical items characteristic of informal style and slang are more likely to have expressive meaning than items belonging to more formal styles. Propositional and expressive meanings are the most important types of meaning in language and we can think of them as what a speaker principally utilizes and directly manipulates in order to convey his intended message.

          Cruse (1986: 274) rightly believes that “every communicative utterance must transmit as part of its meaning an indication of intended propositional attitude. Without this, an utterance would be communicatively dead - it would resemble a proposition ‘entertained’ by   a logician”.

3.3. Social meaning

Many semanticists consider expressive meaning and social meaning not to be clearly separated. The interconnection between expressive meaning and social meaning can be understood if we realize that the rules of conduct constraining the expression of feelings or attitudes in certain social situations and the use of expressive terms, in particular swear words as terms of address may have severe social consequences.

An expression or grammatical form has social meaning if and only if its use is governed by the social rules of conduct or, more generally, rules for handling social interaction (Lobner, 2002: 29). Expressions with social meaning include forms of address, phrases of greeting or saying good-bye, phrases of apologizing, acknowledging or answering the phone.

          In today’s European languages, with the exception of English where the you form has come to dominate the entire spectrum of addressing, most languages possess a distinct deferential form used in addressing people of higher social status or in order to mark distance. Languages that use respectul forms of address, identical with the second person plural are: French (vous), Romanian (dumneavoastra) Czech and other Slavic languages (vy), Finnish (te).

          In other languages, the forms of respectful address are based on a third person plural form, e.g. German Sie and Danish/Norwegian De or on frozen paraphrases of an original honorific such as Spanish Usted, plural Ustedes. The so called ‘majestic’ plural is commonly used by cardinals, popes, (Your Eminence, Your Holiness), the royalty (Your Grace), governors of states, ambassadors (Your Excelency). These address forms that indicate social standing in addition to identifying the person addressed, represent a form of social deixis, to use a term coined by Levinson (1982: 109)

          The informal variants tu, du have the same descriptive meaning as Dumneavoastra, Sie but differ in social meaning. By the choice of the pronoun the speaker indicates his social relationship to the addressee(s). The distinction between the two kinds of relationship relevant for choosing either dumneavoastra or tu in Romanian and Sie or du in German is also relevant in other respects: it coincides with the use of surnames with titles vs. first names as vocative forms of address.

          Manifestations of formality and informality take many forms, i.e. from the way people dress to their posture and to the language they use. Thus, in their interactions with others, North American people generally use informal attire and postures and avoid the use of titles and honorifics. Idiomatic, colloquial speech is heavily used on most occasions, except for public events and fairly formal situations when they use formal speech. When meeting strangers for the first time Americans use first names; even the simple greeting Hi is a badge of informality.

          In most Latin American and European societies there are levels of formality attached to status differences. In Asian cultures, formality is demanded by greater age as well as by higher status. High formality is a characteristic of the teacher-student relationship in countries such as Egypt, Turkey and Iran. The use of personal titles is a way the Germans and the Mexicans show their position in the social structure, show respect and mark formality.

          Two further expressions with social meaning are please and thanks ( thank you, containing you might be considered as referring to the addressee and to this extent it also has descriptive meaning). Please marks a request as   polite (it is a formality marker) and indicates, similar to the forms of address, a certain kind of social relationship between speaker and addressee(s).  Phrases like I’m sorry and Nice to meet you which literally represent descriptions of attitudes, are primarily social and not expressive.

3.4 Evoked meaning: dialect and register

          Evoked meaning is the consequence of the existence of different dialects and registers within a language. Dialectal variation is variation in language use according to speaker; Cruse (1986, 2001) classifies it as geographical, temporal and social. For example, the Scots words glen (valley), loch (lake), wee (small) and dram (melancholy) may be familiar to most speakers of English outside Scotland and recognized as Scottish.

          Other lexical items that have the power of evoking images and associations of their home surroundings are Americanisms such as fall (autumn), elevator (lift), apartment (flat). Temporal dialectal variation is illustrated by the synonymic pair wireless – radio, swimming bath-swimming pool, while social dialectal variation involves variation according to the social class of the speaker. The phrase “U and non-U has been coined to refer to upper-class and non-upper class words:

U                                   non-U

napkin                                     serviette

dessert                                     afters, pudding

relation                          relative

potatoes                        spuds

perspire                         sweat

sitting room                            lounge

writing paper                          note paper

dinner                                      tea

dinner                                     lunch

sofa                               settee

Kate Fox (2004: 82) makes a very interesting remark about the relation between linguistic choices and social status in England:

“The linguistic codes we have identified indicate that class in England has nothing to do with money and very little to do with occupation. Speech is all important. A person with an upper-class accent, using upper-class terminology will be recognized as upper-class even if she is earning poverty line wages, doing grubby menial work and living in a run-down council flat. Or even unemployed destitute and homeless. Equally, a person with working class pronunciation, who calls his sofa a settee, and his midday meal dinner, will be identified as working class even if she is a multi-millionaire living in a grand country house. There are other class indicators such as one’s taste in clothes, furniture, decoration cars, pets, books, hobbies, food and drink but speech is most immediate and most obvious. … Words are our preferred medium, so it is perhaps significant that they should be our primary means of signaling and recognizing social status. “

The second type of variation which contributes to what Cruse (1986) calls ‘evoked meaning’ is register variation, that is, variation (within the speech of a single community) according to situation. Whereas dialects are language varieties associated with different characteristics of users, (e.g. regional affiliation, age and class), registers are varieties of language (used by a single speaker) which are considered appropriate to different occasions and situations of use.

Components of register and synonymy

          Register is usually divided into three main components: field, mode and style. Field refers to the topic or field of discourse: there are lexical (and grammatical) characteristics of, for instance, legal discourse, scientific discourse, advertising language sales talk, political speeches, football commentaries, cooking recipes and so on. The difference between expert (technical) terms and their correspondents (synonyms) in ordinary language is that the former may have stricter definitions (e.g. extirpate) while the latter are more loosely defined (e.g. take out). Terms that differ only in respect of the fields of discourse in which they typically appear are cognitive synonyms. For instance, matrimony may be considered a field-specific synonym most frequently encountered in legal and religious contexts of one of the senses of marriage (state of being married); wedlock overlaps with matrimony, but is more likely to be heard in church than in a court of law.

          The second dimension of register, that is, mode, is concerned with the manner of transmission of a linguistic message – whether it is written, spoken, telegraphed or emailed. For example, further to is specific of written language, wheras like is used in the spoken language (e.g. I asked him, like, where he was going.)

          The third dimension of register, that is, style, is a matter of the formality/informality of an utterance. Style spawns the most spectacular proliferation of cognitive synonyms, especially in taboo areas such as death, sex, excretory functions, money, religion, power relations, etc. For instance, pass away belongs to a higher (more formal) register than die and kick the bucket and croak belong to a lower register. The synonymic series of die contains items that may be differentiated in respect of field as well as style: kick the bucket, buy it, snuff it, cop it, pop off, peg out, expire, perish, die, pass away, decease, etc.

3.5. Study questions and exercises

1. On what dimension of descriptive meaning do the following differ?

(a) 1. The prisoner was killed.

      2. The prisoner was murdered.

(b) 1. The prisoner was murdered.

      2. The prisoner was executed.

(c) 1. The shirt was not clean.

      2.  The shirt was filthy.

(d) 1. Lesley is a young woman.

      2. Lesley is in her twenties.

(e)  1. We’re coming up to the exams.

       2. The exams will soon be here.

2.    On what dimensions of non-descriptive meaning do the following differ?

(a) 1. Are you leaving?

      2. You’re not leaving, surely?

(b)  1. He’s been dismissed.

       2. He’s got the sack.

(c)  1. He has a fractured humerus.

       2. He has a broken arm.

(d). 1. Get lost.

       2. Please go away.

3. Complete the pairs of synonyms in British and American English

                               BE                        AE        

                     1.        lift                      .

                     2.    ..                     sidewalk 

                     3.     sweet                    .. . -

                     4.                               faucet

                     5.        .                      apartment

                     6.      .                     trashcan

4. Here is a list of Anglo - Saxon words that might be associated with colloquial language. Suggest a more formal synonym for each of them and find out the origin:

 begin, before, burn, funny, gift, kiss, last, odd, stop, think

 5. Look at the list of technical words and suggest an ordinary language synonym for each of them:

 cardiac, convulsion, cranium, incision, lesion, mamillary, neurosis ocular / ophthalmic / optic, patella, psychotic, trachea;  auditory, lexeme, orthography, phoneme, semantic. 

6. Comment on the collocational range of these terms:

a) liberty –freedom

b) busy –occupied

c) decoration –ornamentation

7. Point to the correct collocational range of dish, cigarettes, beer, cheese and coffee by using one of these adjectives: light, heavy, strong, weak, mild.

4. Sense  Relations (I): Polysemy and Homonymy

4.1 Semasiology and onomasiology - two basic approaches to the study of words and their senses

          The terminological pair onomasiology/ semasiology is a traditional one in European lexicology and lexicography. This pair is generally regarded as identifying two different perspectives for studying the relationship between words and their semantic values.

          Semasiology (from the Greek sema, 'sign') takes its starting point in the word as a form and describes what semantic values/senses/signifies it may have. Onomasiology (from Greek onoma 'name') accounts for the opposite direction in the study of meaning, that is it starts from a semantic value/given concept (signified/ signifie) to the various words/expressions/signifiers (signifiants) that are used to name that particular concept.

          Actually, onomasiological research is rather concerned with sets of related concepts (expressed by sense relations such as synonymy and antonymy) than with a single semantic category (e.g. polysemy and homonymy); as such, it traditionally coincides with lexical field research.

          Geeraerts, Grondelaersand and Bakema (1994: 3) include semasiological and onomasiological variation among the four main kinds of lexical variation they identify: semasiological, onomasiological, formal and contextual. The first two types are placed under the general heading conceptual variation.

          Semasiological variation involves the situation that one particular lexical item may refer to distinct types of referents. Onomasiological variation involves the situation that a referent or type of referent may be named by means of various conceptually distinct lexical categories.

          While the poststructuralist phase in the history of lexical semantics had a predominantly semasiological focus (concentrating as it did on the changes of meaning of individual words), the structuralist stage stressed the necessity of complementing the semasiological perspective with an onomasiological one.

          Baldinger (1980: 307) discusses onomasiology and semasiology in terms of speaker's and hearer's points of view: 'Onomasiology approaches problems form the viewpoint of the speaker, who has to choose between different names of expression. Semasiology approaches problems from the viewpoint of the listener, who has to determine the meaning of the words he hears, from all the possible meanings'

          The complementarity of the onomasiological and semasiological perspectives is summarized in the last chapter, presenting the interdependence of the two structures: 'Each linguistic evolution is produced on the one hand within the framework of a semasiological structure and on the other within the framework of  an onomasiological structure.' (Baldinger, 1980: 308)

4.2 From word to concept: polysemy and homonymy

          The classical distinction between polysemy and homonymy has concerned semanticists like Ullman (1962), Weinreich (1963, 1966), Lyons (1977), Lehrer (1974b).

          Ullman (1962) has proposed two criteria for distinguishing homonymy and polysemy: etymology and spelling. Following Lehrer (1974b) we contend that these criteria rely on diachronic structure and are not workable for languages that are unwritten or for which the history is unknown.

          However, Ullmann (1962) rightly notes that it is impossible to imagine a language without polysemy while a language without homonymy is not only conceivable; it would in fact be a more efficient medium.

          The criteria that are most invoked in the literature to distinguish between polysemy and homonymy are etymology and relatedness of meaning. In terms of the former criterion, lexical items with the same origin are considered as polysemic, whereas if they have evolved from distinct lexemes in some earlier stage of the language than they are regarded as homonymous.

          This condition is not always relevant and therefore decisive, because the history of the language does not always reflect its present state: there are instances of words that come from the same source and cannot be considered polysemantic, but homonymic. For instance, in present-day English, the lexemes pupil1 'student' and pupil2, 'iris of the eye' are not semantically related but they both come from Latin pupillus, pupilla 'ward, orphan-boy' which is a diminutive of  pupus 'child'.

          The opposite case is also fairly common, namely when two lexemes derived from different roots in an earlier state of the language are seen as related. For example, ear1  'organ of hearing' comes form Latin auris 'ear', while ear2 'spike of corn' is derived form Latin acus, aceris 'husk' .

          Synchronically, most people heat these two lexemes as one polysemous word and explain their relation by means of metaphor, i.e. the ear corn was felt to be a metaphor of the type 'the eye of a needle', 'the foot of the mountain', etc.

          Therefore, the etymological criterion can be misleading when deciding between homonymy and polysemy. The latter criterion, i.e. relatedness vs. unrelatedness of meaning is questioned by Lyons (1977) who argues that relatedness of meaning appears to be a matter of degree, together with the fact that sometimes native speaker's intuitions are from being the true interpretations as has been seen with the ear example.

          Similarity/relatedness of meaning has been represented in a formalized manner by Katz (1972), Katz and Fodor (1963) who propose the decomposition of the sense of a word into its minimal distinctive features, i.e. into semantic components which contrast with other components.

          Unfortunately, componential definitions of the type [physical object], [concrete], [animate] for the description of lexemes such as bank or mouth are not sufficient for the polysemy-homonymy problem.

          The relatedness between the different senses of a word is not expressible in terms of +- features because there are cases in which these features are present in different degrees, not in absolute terms. For instance, the terms bachelor, lie and mother have become classic examples in the literature.

          Fillmore (1982a) analyses bachelor that is usually defined as an unmarried adult man by bringing into discussion less typical examples of bachelors such as male participants in long-term unmarried coupling, boys abandoned in the jungle and grown to maturity away from contact with human society, some priests or homosexuals.

          Coleman and Kay (1981: 21) discuss the concept  lie in terms of (a) falsehood, (b) deliberateness and (c) intent to deceive. As these three elements may possess different degrees of importance, there may be prototypical lies, when a statement is characterized by properties (b) and (c) and partial lies that include instances of social lie (e.g. 'Drop in any time'), white lie, exaggerations, joke, etc. A social lie is a case where deceit is helpful and a white lie is a case where deceit is not harmful.

          Lakoff (1987: 76) analyses the concept mother and concludes that it cannot be defined 'in terms of common necessary and sufficient condition approach' that can be associated with CA in structuralist semantics. His argument is the existence of marginal or less typical cases of mother: biological mothers, donor mothers (who donate an egg), surrogate mothers (who bear the child but may not have donated the egg), adoptive mothers, unwed mothers who give their children up for adoption, and stepmothers.

          The problem of relatedness of meaning should therefore be regarded as a gradient and sometimes subjective notion. Although some linguists such as Lyons (1977: 553) question to some extent the theoretical significance of the distinction between polysemy and homonymy, the two phenomena differ from each other in two major points:

          (1) homonymy  is an accident and thus highly language-specific phenomenon

          (2) polsemy is motivated and similar senses can be found in different even           typologically/historically unrelated languages.

4.3. Study questions and exercises

1. Answer these questions:

1.    What do semasiology and onomasiology generally study ?

2.    What is the distinction between semasiology and onomasiology ?

3.    What is the focus of semasiological research ?

4.    What semantic relations are associated with onomasiology ?

5.    What does semasiological variation refer to ?

6.    What does onomasiological variation imply ?

7.    How does onomasiology differ from semasiology ?

8.    What are the criteria used in distinguishing polysemy from homonymy?

2. Explain the mechanism of sense extension in these words:

a) climb                   d) writing

b) mouth                  e) tongue

c) beaver                  f) reader

3. Explain the mechanism of sense extension in these examples:

a) this land belongs to the Crown.

b) We need some new faces around here.

c) He elbowed me out of the queue.

4. Explain the type of sense extension in these polysemantic words:

a) paper                  e) snarl

b) board                  f) purr

c) dry                      g) grunt

d) sharp

5. Give the homonyms of these words and then use them in sentences

of your own:

a) through                  d) steal

b) storeys                   e) ball

c) sew                        f) stare

        

  6. Consider the following English words and decide whether they are thought of in terms of homonymy or polysemy and why. Try translating them into any other language you know; are there several possible translation equivalents or will one word do for the different meanings the English word has?

          cap         face       row       club

          way         bed        match   plot

 7. How many meanings or senses do you know for the following English words? Do some senses seem more basic or central than others? If so, which ones and why?

         top      page     button      ring

9.    Complete the following examples of polysemy in English. Note the degree to which they correspond with your own language

             leg              of a person / chair

             mouth          of a person /

             branch         of a tree /

             top             

             tail              

                       

9. Consider the sentences below and comment on the polysemy of HEAD by explaining which meaning extensions are metaphors and which are metonymies:

a) My head is full of strange thoughts.

b) That joke went over his head.

c) The queen is still the head of state.

d) I prefer my beer without a head of foam.

e) We paid ten pounds a head for the meal.

 

10. Comment on the metaphorical extension of these terms:

a) warm –icy –frosty –cold

b) white –black –blue –yellow –red

c) see –hear –taste –touch

11. The words in the HOT-COLD domain aren’t always used literally. They don’t always refer to TEMPERATURE. Discuss the meanings of the expressions below:

         a. a warm personality                   e. a scorching criticism

         b. a hot- tempered person            f.  a blistering attack

         c. a red-hot idea                         g. a luke-warm response

         d. an icy stare                            h. a frosty reception

12. Consider some idioms with HAND exemplifying these metonymies:

a) The hand stands for the activity.

b) The hand stands for control.

c) Control is holding in the hand.

d) The hand stands for the person.

13. Mention the type of metonymy you can identify in these idioms:

a) give somebody a big hand      d) gain the upper hand

b) from hand to hand                 e) keep a strict hand upon a person

c) keep one ’s hand(s) in            f) an old hand

Exemplify the idioms above in sentences of your own.

     

14. The noun length refers to the general dimension in which the adjectives long and short describe regions. Find such ‘abstract nouns’ for the following pairs of adjectives.

    a. tall: short                  g. fast: slow

    b. thick: thin                  h. clever: stupid

    c. heavy: light                i. broad: narrow

    d. wide: narrow              j. hot: cold

    e. old: young                 k. warm: cool

    f. far: near

15. Sometimes verbs that express ANIMAL SOUNDS are used as metaphors for features of HUMAN SPEECH in English. Fill in the blanks with the appropriate sound term. Choose from this list: bark, hiss, grunt, snarl, twitter, squeal, purr, growl:

         1. My mother is so cute when she about her grandchildren.

         2. ‘Stop crying’, the police officer at the drug dealer.

         3. The actress   her answer to the reporters.

         4. The prisoner his reply to the guard.

         5. The sergeant  his orders to the new soldiers.

5. Sense Relations (II): Synonymy and Antonymy

5.1.  From concept to word: synonymy and antonymy

 Synonymy

          As stated earlier, onomasiology deals with cases in which the same concept or similar concepts are expressed by different words or expressions. According to one definition (usually attributed to Leibniz), two expressions are synonymous if the substitution of one for the other never changes the truth value of a sentence in which the substitution is made. By that definition, true or absolute synonyms are rare, if they exist at all.

          Absolute synonyms are defined (Lyons, 1986: 51) as 'expressions that are fully, totally and completely synonyms' in the sense that

(a) all their meanings are identical (full synonymy)

(b) they are interchangeable in all contexts (total synonymy)

(c) they are identical in all relevant dimensions of meaning (complete synonymy)

          Actually the very terms 'absolute synonymy', ''full synonymy', ”total synonymy' and 'complete synonymy' (not to mention exact synonymy) are themselves used as synonyms whether absolute or partial in standard works in semantics or lexicology, usually without definition.

          Without favoring the hair-splitting terminological distinctions, Lyons (1986: 51) insists upon the importance of (a) not confusing near synonymy with partial synonymy and (b) not making the assumptions that failure to satisfy one of the conditions of absolute synonymy necessarily involves the failure to satisfy either or both of the other conditions.

          To exemplify the first condition required by absolute synonymy or full synonymy (i.e. same range of meanings) we will consider the pair big-large, where the former term has at least one meaning that it does not share with the latter one. If we compare the sentence 'I will tell my big sister' with 'I will tell my large sister 'we notice that the polysemy of big does not perfectly overlap with the meaning of large.

          The second condition for absolute synonymy, i.e. interchangeability of terms in all contexts (total synonymy) refers to the collocational range of an expression (the set of contexts in which it can occur). For example, the members in the pairs busy-occupied, decoration-ornamentation, liberty -freedom do not always have the same collocational range. There are many contexts in which they are not interchangeable without violating the collocational restrictions of the one or of the other. For instance, freedom cannot be substituted for liberty in 'You are at liberty to say what you want'.

          Concerning the third condition for absolute synonymy, i.e. identity/similarity of all dimensions of meaning (complete synonymy), Lyons (1986: 55) distinguishes descriptive synonymy and expressive synonymy. Two expressions are descriptively synonymous, i.e. they have the same descriptive propositional/cognitive/referential meaning in and only if statements containing the other and vice versa.  For example,  big can be substituted for large in 'I live in a big house'.

          However, in particular instances, synonymous expressions may differ in terms of the degree or nature of their expressive meaning. Expressive (affective/attitudinal/emotive) meaning is the kind of meaning by virtue of which a speaker expresses, rather than describes his beliefs, attitudes and feelings[2].

          For example, words like huge, enormous, gigantic, colossal are more expressive of their users' feelings towards what they are describing than very big or very large with which they are perhaps descriptively synonymous (Lyons, 1986: 54).

As languages seem to vary considerably in the degree to which they grammaticalize expressive meaning to choose the right word /expression out of a wide range of synonymic terms differing in their degree of expressivity is a very demanding task for translators. It is the expressive rather than the descriptive component of meaning that  

dominant when we decide to use terms that imply approval or disapproval: statesman vs. politician, thrifty vs. mean/stingy vs. economical, stink/stench vs. fragrance vs. smell, crafty/cunning vs. skillful vs. clever.      In order to attract the reader and listener's attention headline and advertisement writers have to be very skillful at using expressive synonymy. Knowing the expressive meaning of a lexeme is just as much a part of one's competence in a language as knowing its descriptive meaning.

          Although synonymy is fairly irrelevant for the structure of the lexicon of a language, i.e. a language can function without synonymy, language learners cannot use the language properly. Without synonymy, language learners cannot use the language properly without knowledge of all its synonymic resources.

Antonymy

          Although there is no logical necessity for languages to have lexical opposites at all (English would be just as efficient as semiotic system if ther were such pairs as good :ungood, wide : unwide, far: unfar) antonymy reflects the human tendency to think in opposites, to categories experience in terms of binary contrast( Lyons, 1977 : 276).

          Antonyms have received a good deal of attention from linguists such as Sapir (1944), Duchacek (1965), Bierwisch (1967), Lyons (1967, 1977), Cruse (1976, 1986), Bolinger (1977), Lehrer (1982).

          Lyons (1977) replaces the term antonymy in the wider sense by 'oppositeness' (of meaning) and distinguishes three different types of oppositeness: a) complementarity  b) anotnymy (in the narrower, restricted sense)  c) converseness.

Complementarity

          Complementarity can be exemplified by pairs of words like male and female, single-married. It is characteristic of complementaries that the denial of the one term

 implies the assertion of the other and vice versa. For instance, John is not married implies that John is single and also John is married implies that John is not single.

          Although complementaries are not gradable opposites; there are instances that

do not cover all possible cases in real life. Thus there may be other possibilities besides complementaries, e.g. male and female namely hermaphrodite.

          Cruse (1986:202) claims that complementaries are not normally gradable, that is, they are odd in the comparative or superlative degree or when modified by intensifiers such as extremely, moderately or slightly.(e.g. extremely true, moderately female, etc). Nevertheless, he states, there are instances where one member of the pair   lends itself more readily to grading than the other. Thus, alive is more gradable than dead (very dead, moderately dead, deader than before vs. very alive, moderately alive, more alive than before). For example, if someone says to us ‘Is X still alive then?’. And we reply ‘Very much so.’ or ‘And how!’ we are not thereby challenging the ungradability of dead: alive in the language system. What we are grading, Lyons(1977: 278) assumes are various secondary implications or connotations of alive.

          The same holds true of the pair open-shut where shut is less gradable than open (slightly shut, moderately shut, more shut than before vs. wide open, slightly open, moderately open, more open than before).

          Besides Cruse (1986: 99) maintains that ‘the relations between dead and alive is not at all affected by medico- legal uncertainty as what constitutes the point of death. Such referential indeterminacy afflicts all words, without exceptions. The point about complementaries is that once a decision has been reached regarding one term, in all relevant circumstances a decision has effectively been made regarding the other term, too.’

          Cruse (1986: 200) believes that complementarity is to some extent a matter of degree and supports his statement by examples such as ghosts and vampires that existed in a state, which was neither death nor life. Similarly he says, the existence of hermaphrodites and totally indeterminate sex weakens the relationships between male and female. An even weaker relationship would hold between terms such left- handed and right- handed.

          Complementaries are, generally speaking, either verbs or adjectives.  According to Cruse (1986 :200) an interesting feature of verbal complementaries which distinguishes them from adjectival complementaries is that the domain within which the complementarity operates is often expressible by a single lexical item e.g. the verb command sets the scene for the complementarity of obey and disobey.

          Further examples are born- live- die, start- keep on- stop, learn- remember- forget, arrive- stay- leave, earn- save- suspend, request- grant- refuse, invite- accept- turn down, greet- acknowledge- snub, tempt- yield- resist, try- succeed- fail, compete- win- loose, aim- hit- miss.

          A final example of lexical triplets involving verbal complementaries are attack- defend- submit, change- refute- admit, shoot(in football)- save- let in, punch- parry- take.

          As can be noticed, the members of the complementary pair represent an active and a passive response to the original action or perhaps more revealing counteraction or lack of counteraction.

          The same holds true of the pair open- shut where shut is less gradable than open (slightly shut, moderately shut, more shut than before vs. wide open, slightly open, moderately open, more open than before).

          Over examples of more or less fully gradable complementary adjectives are the pairs true- false, pure- impure, clear- dirty, safe- dangerous : moderately clean, very clean, fairly  clean, cleaner, slightly dirty, quite dirty, fairly dirty, dirtier, moderately safe, very safe, fairly safe, safer, slightly dangerous, quite dangerous, fairly dangerous, more dangerous.

Antonymy proper

          Antonymy in the narrow, restricted sense of Lyons (    ) is the second subclass of oppositeness of meaning. The logical relationship is based on the fact that the assertion of one member does imply the negation other, but not vice versa. In other words, for pairs of  antonyms like good- bad, big- small, high- low, only one of the relations of implication (entailment) stated for complementarity holds.

          Thus, John is good, implies John is not bad. But John is not good does not necessarily imply John is bad. Therefore, the negation/ denial of one term does not necessarily imply the assertion of the other.

          In the case of antonymy proper, a third possibility exists. Antonymous adjectives (in the narrow sense) behave like comparatives, i.e. they are fully gradable unlike complementaries that are not.

Converseness

          Converseness is the third subclass of oppositeness of meaning distinguished by Lyons. The logical criterion used for the sense relation of converseness is the possibility of permuting noun phrases functioning as arguments (semantic roles) in sentences which remain otherwise equivalent; the sentences imply each other and thus have the same meaning. Thus, John bought the car from Bill implies Bill sold the car to John and vice versa. Schematically, the sentences may be represented in the following way :

NP1 bought NP3 from NP2.

NP2 sold NP3 from NP1.

          As can be noticed, the substitution of lexical converses causes a permutation of NPs functioning as arguments. The three types of oppositeness of meaning proposed by Lyons (1968) are based on the relation of lexical implication or entailment. In more recent works (Lyons, 1977; Cruse, 1986) semanticists refined the classical treatment of oppositeness of meaning by introducing a fourth type, called directional opposition. This fourth subclass is based on the notion of contrary motion (i.e. in opposite direction ) : up- down, come- go, arrive- depart.

5.2 Study questions and exercises

1. Are the following pairs of items exact synonyms which can be interchanged in all contexts? If possible, create examples sentences where the words cannot be interchanged:

   a) hurry / hasten         b) exit / way out    c) confess / admit

   d) consider / regard   e) injure / damage         f) customer/client      

   g) pavement / sidewalk     h) speed / potato    i) little/small          j) peak/summit

             

2. Look up the following pairs of synonyms in your dictionary and make a note of the origin of each lexeme:

  help - aid               heaven - sky         kingdom - realm

  teach - instruct         first - initial          annoy - irritate

3. Consider the following pairs of synonyms. Can you think of any sentence context in which one member of a pair may be used and the other member not? Make sentence frames to illustrate this point.

e.g. I am not at . to tell you (the word liberty may be inserted but not its synonym freedom)

discover - find    

busy - occupied  

decoration - ornamentation

keep - retain 

frequently - often             

4. Look up the following regional dialect words in your dictionary to discover the standard dialect synonyms (see Collins English Dictionary):

butty, culch, diddle, heartsome, lease, mullock, pawky, snap, stob, tum

 

5. Consider the following groups of synonyms and say how the members of each group differ in their connotation:

crowd - mob

pleased – delighted - glad

look at -  stare at - gaze at

modern - up to date

boring - monotonous – tedious - dull

6. Give the colloquial or slang equivalent for these euphemistic synonyms:  a. pass away; b. liquidate; c. intoxicated (inebriated)

7. Group these words into triplets of lexemes with overlapping meanings, i.e. sets of partial synonyms: brim, crush, decorate, edge, enlist, genuine, fire, income, make up (vb), mash, paint, pound (vb), real recruit (vb), rim, salary, sincere, wages.

8. Comment on the collocational range of these synonyms:

edge –border –rim –brim –brink –margin –verge.

Which of these words can be used metaphorically?

9. Comment on and exemplify these ideographic synonyms:

a. gaze – gape – glare – stare – glimpse – glance - peep – peer – eye.

b. chuckle –giggle –smile –simper –smirk –grin –chortle –titter –snicker.   

c. surprise – astonish – astound – amaze - bewilder 

d. warm – lukewarm – hot - boiling

                                                   

10. Comment on and exemplify in sentences of your own these ideographic synonyms:

a. fear – scare – fright – horror – terror

b. convention – agreement – contract – treaty - pact

c. irritation – anger – fury - rage

11. What kind of antonymy is represented by each of the following pairs of antonyms?

a) behind - in front;  b) captive - free; c) fast - slow; d) fixed - loose; e) high - low; f) in - out; g) leave - stay; h) north of - south of; i) parent - child; j) rich - poor; k) teacher - pupil; l) thin - fat;

12. List the antonyms of the following lexemes. Mention the class of antonyms they belong to: alive, male, narrow, open, over, receive, relinquish, sell, small, tall, weak, wife.

13. What are the possible opposites of the words hard and high in these phrases? Which has the most contextual varation:

                          high marks                hard exam

                          high opinion               hard chair

                          high building              hard journey

                          high price                  hard work

                          high temperature         hard person

                          high winds                  hard drugs

 14. A word may have different opposites in different contexts. What are the opposites of “light” and “rough” in these phrases:

a. light bag                          

b. light wind

c. light colours

d.  rough sea

e. rough calculation

f.   rough area

g. rough person

h. rough texture                              

15. What are the complementaries of the following:

             a.dead        c.same        e.imperfect

             b.true         d.animate

16. Consider the following verbal complementaries and find out the lexical items that set the scene for complementarity:

a) refute –admit                f) stay -leave

b) defend –submit             g) accept –turn down

c) obey –disobey               h) yield -resist

d) live –die                        i) win –lose

e) remember –forget

17. Fill in the gaps in these lexical triplets involving complementarity:

a) shoot (in football)  - save -……

b) punch -………- take

c) …… - keep on – stop

d) request -……. – refuse

e) greet -……. – snub

f) aim – hit -……

 18. Transform the sentences below by using converse terms:

                     1. Tom is Mary’s brother. Mary is

                     2. David is Margaret’s nephew. Margaret is

       Use the pattern above in further examples.

 19. To each of the following gradable antonyms add the rest of the scale:

e.g. BIG  : huge/ very big/ BIG / quite big/ medium -sized/ quite small/ SMALL/ tiny

            1. hot/ cold (water)                 3. interesting/ boring (a film)

            2. love/ hate                            4. good/ bad (a book)

20. Decide whether the following pairs contain gradable terms or not:

a) male –female             e) top -bottom

b) true –false                 f) clever -stupid

c) hot –cold                   g) married -unmarried

d) love –hate                 h) dead –alive

  21. Decide whether the following pairs are converses or not:

a) below – above                    d) conceal - reveal

b) like - dislike                         e) greater than – lesser than

c) grandparent – grandchild     f) own – belong to

5. Sense Relations (II): Synonymy and Antonymy

5.1.  From concept to word: synonymy and antonymy

 Synonymy

          As stated earlier, onomasiology deals with cases in which the same concept or similar concepts are expressed by different words or expressions. According to one definition (usually attributed to Leibniz), two expressions are synonymous if the substitution of one for the other never changes the truth value of a sentence in which the substitution is made. By that definition, true or absolute synonyms are rare, if they exist at all.

          Absolute synonyms are defined (Lyons, 1986: 51) as 'expressions that are fully, totally and completely synonyms' in the sense that

(a) all their meanings are identical (full synonymy)

(b) they are interchangeable in all contexts (total synonymy)

(c) they are identical in all relevant dimensions of meaning (complete synonymy)

          Actually the very terms 'absolute synonymy', ''full synonymy', ”total synonymy' and 'complete synonymy' (not to mention exact synonymy) are themselves used as synonyms whether absolute or partial in standard works in semantics or lexicology, usually without definition.

          Without favoring the hair-splitting terminological distinctions, Lyons (1986: 51) insists upon the importance of (a) not confusing near synonymy with partial synonymy and (b) not making the assumptions that failure to satisfy one of the conditions of absolute synonymy necessarily involves the failure to satisfy either or both of the other conditions.

          To exemplify the first condition required by absolute synonymy or full synonymy (i.e. same range of meanings) we will consider the pair big-large, where the former term has at least one meaning that it does not share with the latter one. If we compare the sentence 'I will tell my big sister' with 'I will tell my large sister 'we notice that the polysemy of big does not perfectly overlap with the meaning of large.

          The second condition for absolute synonymy, i.e. interchangeability of terms in all contexts (total synonymy) refers to the collocational range of an expression (the set of contexts in which it can occur). For example, the members in the pairs busy-occupied, decoration-ornamentation, liberty -freedom do not always have the same collocational range. There are many contexts in which they are not interchangeable without violating the collocational restrictions of the one or of the other. For instance, freedom cannot be substituted for liberty in 'You are at liberty to say what you want'.

          Concerning the third condition for absolute synonymy, i.e. identity/similarity of all dimensions of meaning (complete synonymy), Lyons (1986: 55) distinguishes descriptive synonymy and expressive synonymy. Two expressions are descriptively synonymous, i.e. they have the same descriptive propositional/cognitive/referential meaning in and only if statements containing the other and vice versa.  For example,  big can be substituted for large in 'I live in a big house'.

          However, in particular instances, synonymous expressions may differ in terms of the degree or nature of their expressive meaning. Expressive (affective/attitudinal/emotive) meaning is the kind of meaning by virtue of which a speaker expresses, rather than describes his beliefs, attitudes and feelings[3].

          For example, words like huge, enormous, gigantic, colossal are more expressive of their users' feelings towards what they are describing than very big or very large with which they are perhaps descriptively synonymous (Lyons, 1986: 54).

As languages seem to vary considerably in the degree to which they grammaticalize expressive meaning to choose the right word /expression out of a wide range of synonymic terms differing in their degree of expressivity is a very demanding task for translators. It is the expressive rather than the descriptive component of meaning that  

dominant when we decide to use terms that imply approval or disapproval: statesman vs. politician, thrifty vs. mean/stingy vs. economical, stink/stench vs. fragrance vs. smell, crafty/cunning vs. skillful vs. clever.      In order to attract the reader and listener's attention headline and advertisement writers have to be very skillful at using expressive synonymy. Knowing the expressive meaning of a lexeme is just as much a part of one's competence in a language as knowing its descriptive meaning.

          Although synonymy is fairly irrelevant for the structure of the lexicon of a language, i.e. a language can function without synonymy, language learners cannot use the language properly. Without synonymy, language learners cannot use the language properly without knowledge of all its synonymic resources.

Antonymy

          Although there is no logical necessity for languages to have lexical opposites at all (English would be just as efficient as semiotic system if ther were such pairs as good :ungood, wide : unwide, far: unfar) antonymy reflects the human tendency to think in opposites, to categories experience in terms of binary contrast( Lyons, 1977 : 276).

          Antonyms have received a good deal of attention from linguists such as Sapir (1944), Duchacek (1965), Bierwisch (1967), Lyons (1967, 1977), Cruse (1976, 1986), Bolinger (1977), Lehrer (1982).

          Lyons (1977) replaces the term antonymy in the wider sense by 'oppositeness' (of meaning) and distinguishes three different types of oppositeness: a) complementarity  b) anotnymy (in the narrower, restricted sense)  c) converseness.

Complementarity

          Complementarity can be exemplified by pairs of words like male and female, single-married. It is characteristic of complementaries that the denial of the one term

 implies the assertion of the other and vice versa. For instance, John is not married implies that John is single and also John is married implies that John is not single.

          Although complementaries are not gradable opposites; there are instances that

do not cover all possible cases in real life. Thus there may be other possibilities besides complementaries, e.g. male and female namely hermaphrodite.

          Cruse (1986:202) claims that complementaries are not normally gradable, that is, they are odd in the comparative or superlative degree or when modified by intensifiers such as extremely, moderately or slightly.(e.g. extremely true, moderately female, etc). Nevertheless, he states, there are instances where one member of the pair   lends itself more readily to grading than the other. Thus, alive is more gradable than dead (very dead, moderately dead, deader than before vs. very alive, moderately alive, more alive than before). For example, if someone says to us ‘Is X still alive then?’. And we reply ‘Very much so.’ or ‘And how!’ we are not thereby challenging the ungradability of dead: alive in the language system. What we are grading, Lyons(1977: 278) assumes are various secondary implications or connotations of alive.

          The same holds true of the pair open-shut where shut is less gradable than open (slightly shut, moderately shut, more shut than before vs. wide open, slightly open, moderately open, more open than before).

          Besides Cruse (1986: 99) maintains that ‘the relations between dead and alive is not at all affected by medico- legal uncertainty as what constitutes the point of death. Such referential indeterminacy afflicts all words, without exceptions. The point about complementaries is that once a decision has been reached regarding one term, in all relevant circumstances a decision has effectively been made regarding the other term, too.’

          Cruse (1986: 200) believes that complementarity is to some extent a matter of degree and supports his statement by examples such as ghosts and vampires that existed in a state, which was neither death nor life. Similarly he says, the existence of hermaphrodites and totally indeterminate sex weakens the relationships between male and female. An even weaker relationship would hold between terms such left- handed and right- handed.

          Complementaries are, generally speaking, either verbs or adjectives.  According to Cruse (1986 :200) an interesting feature of verbal complementaries which distinguishes them from adjectival complementaries is that the domain within which the complementarity operates is often expressible by a single lexical item e.g. the verb command sets the scene for the complementarity of obey and disobey.

          Further examples are born- live- die, start- keep on- stop, learn- remember- forget, arrive- stay- leave, earn- save- suspend, request- grant- refuse, invite- accept- turn down, greet- acknowledge- snub, tempt- yield- resist, try- succeed- fail, compete- win- loose, aim- hit- miss.

          A final example of lexical triplets involving verbal complementaries are attack- defend- submit, change- refute- admit, shoot(in football)- save- let in, punch- parry- take.

          As can be noticed, the members of the complementary pair represent an active and a passive response to the original action or perhaps more revealing counteraction or lack of counteraction.

          The same holds true of the pair open- shut where shut is less gradable than open (slightly shut, moderately shut, more shut than before vs. wide open, slightly open, moderately open, more open than before).

          Over examples of more or less fully gradable complementary adjectives are the pairs true- false, pure- impure, clear- dirty, safe- dangerous : moderately clean, very clean, fairly  clean, cleaner, slightly dirty, quite dirty, fairly dirty, dirtier, moderately safe, very safe, fairly safe, safer, slightly dangerous, quite dangerous, fairly dangerous, more dangerous.

Antonymy proper

          Antonymy in the narrow, restricted sense of Lyons (    ) is the second subclass of oppositeness of meaning. The logical relationship is based on the fact that the assertion of one member does imply the negation other, but not vice versa. In other words, for pairs of  antonyms like good- bad, big- small, high- low, only one of the relations of implication (entailment) stated for complementarity holds.

          Thus, John is good, implies John is not bad. But John is not good does not necessarily imply John is bad. Therefore, the negation/ denial of one term does not necessarily imply the assertion of the other.

          In the case of antonymy proper, a third possibility exists. Antonymous adjectives (in the narrow sense) behave like comparatives, i.e. they are fully gradable unlike complementaries that are not.

Converseness

          Converseness is the third subclass of oppositeness of meaning distinguished by Lyons. The logical criterion used for the sense relation of converseness is the possibility of permuting noun phrases functioning as arguments (semantic roles) in sentences which remain otherwise equivalent; the sentences imply each other and thus have the same meaning. Thus, John bought the car from Bill implies Bill sold the car to John and vice versa. Schematically, the sentences may be represented in the following way :

NP1 bought NP3 from NP2.

NP2 sold NP3 from NP1.

          As can be noticed, the substitution of lexical converses causes a permutation of NPs functioning as arguments. The three types of oppositeness of meaning proposed by Lyons (1968) are based on the relation of lexical implication or entailment. In more recent works (Lyons, 1977; Cruse, 1986) semanticists refined the classical treatment of oppositeness of meaning by introducing a fourth type, called directional opposition. This fourth subclass is based on the notion of contrary motion (i.e. in opposite direction ) : up- down, come- go, arrive- depart.

5.2 Study questions and exercises

1. Are the following pairs of items exact synonyms which can be interchanged in all contexts? If possible, create examples sentences where the words cannot be interchanged:

   a) hurry / hasten         b) exit / way out    c) confess / admit

   d) consider / regard   e) injure / damage         f) customer/client      

   g) pavement / sidewalk     h) speed / potato    i) little/small          j) peak/summit

             

2. Look up the following pairs of synonyms in your dictionary and make a note of the origin of each lexeme:

  help - aid               heaven - sky         kingdom - realm

  teach - instruct         first - initial          annoy - irritate

3. Consider the following pairs of synonyms. Can you think of any sentence context in which one member of a pair may be used and the other member not? Make sentence frames to illustrate this point.

e.g. I am not at . to tell you (the word liberty may be inserted but not its synonym freedom)

discover - find    

busy - occupied  

decoration - ornamentation

keep - retain 

frequently - often             

4. Look up the following regional dialect words in your dictionary to discover the standard dialect synonyms (see Collins English Dictionary):

butty, culch, diddle, heartsome, lease, mullock, pawky, snap, stob, tum

 

5. Consider the following groups of synonyms and say how the members of each group differ in their connotation:

crowd - mob

pleased – delighted - glad

look at -  stare at - gaze at

modern - up to date

boring - monotonous – tedious - dull

6. Give the colloquial or slang equivalent for these euphemistic synonyms:  a. pass away; b. liquidate; c. intoxicated (inebriated)

7. Group these words into triplets of lexemes with overlapping meanings, i.e. sets of partial synonyms: brim, crush, decorate, edge, enlist, genuine, fire, income, make up (vb), mash, paint, pound (vb), real recruit (vb), rim, salary, sincere, wages.

8. Comment on the collocational range of these synonyms:

edge –border –rim –brim –brink –margin –verge.

Which of these words can be used metaphorically?

9. Comment on and exemplify these ideographic synonyms:

a. gaze – gape – glare – stare – glimpse – glance - peep – peer – eye.

b. chuckle –giggle –smile –simper –smirk –grin –chortle –titter –snicker.   

c. surprise – astonish – astound – amaze - bewilder 

d. warm – lukewarm – hot - boiling

                                                   

10. Comment on and exemplify in sentences of your own these ideographic synonyms:

a. fear – scare – fright – horror – terror

b. convention – agreement – contract – treaty - pact

c. irritation – anger – fury - rage

11. What kind of antonymy is represented by each of the following pairs of antonyms?

a) behind - in front;  b) captive - free; c) fast - slow; d) fixed - loose; e) high - low; f) in - out; g) leave - stay; h) north of - south of; i) parent - child; j) rich - poor; k) teacher - pupil; l) thin - fat;

12. List the antonyms of the following lexemes. Mention the class of antonyms they belong to: alive, male, narrow, open, over, receive, relinquish, sell, small, tall, weak, wife.

13. What are the possible opposites of the words hard and high in these phrases? Which has the most contextual varation:

                          high marks                hard exam

                          high opinion               hard chair

                          high building              hard journey

                          high price                  hard work

                          high temperature         hard person

                          high winds                  hard drugs

 14. A word may have different opposites in different contexts. What are the opposites of “light” and “rough” in these phrases:

a. light bag                          

b. light wind

c. light colours

d.  rough sea

e. rough calculation

f.   rough area

g. rough person

h. rough texture                              

15. What are the complementaries of the following:

             a.dead        c.same        e.imperfect

             b.true         d.animate

16. Consider the following verbal complementaries and find out the lexical items that set the scene for complementarity:

a) refute –admit                f) stay -leave

b) defend –submit             g) accept –turn down

c) obey –disobey               h) yield -resist

d) live –die                        i) win –lose

e) remember –forget

17. Fill in the gaps in these lexical triplets involving complementarity:

a) shoot (in football)  - save -……

b) punch -………- take

c) …… - keep on – stop

d) request -……. – refuse

e) greet -……. – snub

f) aim – hit -……

 18. Transform the sentences below by using converse terms:

                     1. Tom is Mary’s brother. Mary is

                     2. David is Margaret’s nephew. Margaret is

       Use the pattern above in further examples.

 19. To each of the following gradable antonyms add the rest of the scale:

e.g. BIG  : huge/ very big/ BIG / quite big/ medium -sized/ quite small/ SMALL/ tiny

            1. hot/ cold (water)                 3. interesting/ boring (a film)

            2. love/ hate                            4. good/ bad (a book)

20. Decide whether the following pairs contain gradable terms or not:

a) male –female             e) top -bottom

b) true –false                 f) clever -stupid

c) hot –cold                   g) married -unmarried

d) love –hate                 h) dead –alive

  21. Decide whether the following pairs are converses or not:

a) below – above                    d) conceal - reveal

b) like - dislike                         e) greater than – lesser than

c) grandparent – grandchild     f) own – belong to

6. Hierarchical Sense Relations: Hyponymy and Meronymy

6.1 Hyponymy

Hyponymy, like incompatibility and antonymy has been one of the topics of lively interest for lexical semantics since the structuralist period. Although Lyons (1968) declared that all sense relations were context dependent, they have almost universally been treated (including by Lyons himself) as stable properties of individual lexical items.

          Traditionally, sense relations are defined in terms of entailment, i.e. of the logical relation between two sentences such that the truth of the second sentence follows from the truth of the first. On this approach, a sentence like It’s a dog unilaterally entails It’s an animal so dog is a hyponym of animal.  Similarly, I always avoid the red skirts unilaterally entails I always avoid the scarlet skirts and John punched Bill unilaterally entails John hit Bill. As can be noticed, the normal direction in the entailment is from hyponym to superordinate.

          Hyponymy is one of the most fundamental paradigmatic relations, corresponding to the inclusion of one class in another. For example, terms such as daisy, daffodil and rose all contain the meaning of flower. That is to say, they are all hyponyms of flower.

          The set of terms which are hyponyms of the same superordinate term are co-hyponyms, for example, red, black and yellow, in the colour system, or ox, bull, calf that are covered by the superordinate term cattle.

Another way of describing the relationship is to say that the individual colours are sisters of the parent term colour or sisters of the parent term cattle.

          A hyponym is a word that is more specific (less general), which has more elements of meaning and is more marked than its superordinate. For example, it can be marked for age (puppy, kitten, calf, piglet, duckling and cygnet are marked, while dog, cat, cow, pig, duck, swan are unmarked) or for sex (bitch, drake, bull, hog, sow, cob, pen are marked, while dog, duck, cow, pig, swan are unmarked). Hence, we can define hyponyms in terms of the hypernym plus a single feature, as in stallion=’male horse’, kitten=’young cat’.

          The more general term with reference to which the subordinate term can be defined, as is the usual practice in dictionary definitions (‘a cat is a type of animal…’) is called the superordinate or hypernym. Sometimes a word may be superordinate to itself in another sense. This is the case with animal, as shown in the figure below. The first occurrence, opposed to vegetable, is the sense contained in the phrase ‘the animal kingdom’. The second occurrence is synonymous with mammal, and the third with beast.

Animal

 
 

Superordinate terms in turn may become hyponyms in relation to a more general superordinate term: e.g. cattle is a hyponym of animal. Pairs of lexical items related by hyponymy are far more frequently found among nouns than among adjectives or verbs. Hyponymy is a vertical relationship which is fundamental to the way in which we classify things. Most dictionaries rely on it for the provision of definitions (‘a chair is a type of furniture’, ‘a flute is a type of musical instrument’ and so on). Hyponymy offers a good organizing principle for vocabulary learning and teaching. Most language coursebooks use this feature of organization implicitly or explicitly in grouping names of flowers together or garnments or articles of furniture.

Autohyponymy

Autohyponymy is a variety of polysemy (Cruse, 2004: 108) and occurs when a word has a default general sense and a contextually restricted sense which is more specific in that it denotes a subvariety of a general sense. For example, dog has two senses, a general sense, ‘member of the canine race’ as in Dog and cat owners must register their pets and a more specific meaning as in That’s not a dog, it’s a bitch.

 What is interesting to note is that in the lexicalization of a distinction of sex, for some species it is the lexeme denoting males, and for other species the lexeme that denoting females that is semantically marked (for more details about markedness see the next chapter).An instance of generalization of a feminine term is the use of cow as in those cows over there or a field full of cows to refer to bovines of both sexes, especially when there is a mixed group.

6.2 Meronymy

Meronymy is a term used to describe a part-whole relationship between lexical items. For instance, cover and page are meronyms of book. We can identify this relationship by using sentence frames like X is part of Y, or Y has X, as in a page is a part of a book or a book has pages.

          The lexical relation of meronymy, sometimes referred to as partonymy, is usually informally described as ‘part-whole relation. Croft and Cruse (2004: 151) claim that meronymy is a relation between meanings, whereas the part-whole relation links two individual entities and generates chains of elements: A is a part of B, B is a part of C, C is a part of D and so on. For instance,

A fingertip is a part of a finger.

A finger is a part of hand.

A hand is a part of arm.

An arm is a part of a body.

          An important point is that the networks identified as meronymy are lexical: it is conceptually possible to segment an item in countless ways, but only some divisions are coined in the vocabulary of a language. Every language has a range of ways of referring to parts of things. Many of these ways involve specialized lexical items.

          Meronymy is similar to hyponymy because it reflects a hierarchical and asymmetrical relationship between words, represented by the ‘less than’ sign. For example, stanza is a meronym of poem, but poem is not a meronym of stanza. Or, sonnet is a hyponym of poem but poem is not a hypomym of sonnet. However, unlike hyponymic relations, meronymic hierarchies are less clear cut and regular. Meronyms may vary in how necessary the part is to the whole. Some are for normal examples, for example, nose is a meronym of face, others are usual but not obligatory, like collar, as a meronym of shirt, still other are optional, like cellar for house.

Meronymy also differs from hyponymy in transitivity. Hyponymy is always transitive, but meronymy may or may not be. A transitive example is nail, a meronym of finger and finger of hand. We can see that nail is a meronym of hand as we can say A hand has nails. A non-transitive example is: pane is a meronym of window (A window has a pane) and window of room (A room has a window); but pane is not a meronym of room, for we cannot say A room has a pane. Or hole is a meronym of button and button of shirt, but we wouldn’t say that hole is a meronym of shirt (A shirt has holes).

Automeronymy

Cruse (2004: 104) argues that automeronymy, like autohyponymy, is a variety of polysemy. While in the case of autohyponymy the more specific reading denotes a subtype, in the case of automeronymy the more specific reading denotes a subpart. For instance, door can refer to either the whole set-up with jambs, lintel, threshold, hinges and the leaf panel as in Go through that door or just to the leaf, as in Take the door off its hinges. Further, a sentence such as We took the door off its hinges and walked through it illustrates zeugma.

Hyponymic and meronymic enrichment

The effects of context on the meaning of a word can be seen in what Cruse (2004: 119) calls ‘contextual modulation’ that can manifest itself in two forms or varieties: enrichment, i.e., the addition of semantic content to the meaning of a word and impoverishment, i.e. the removal of semantic content from the meaning of a word.

Hyponymic enrichment arises when the context adds features of meaning to a word which are not made explicit by the lexical item itself:

Our maths teacher is on maternity leave (gender is determined)

My brother always bumps his head when he goes through the door (height is determined)

My coffee burnt my tongue. (temperature is determined)

Our house was burgled while we were away. They only took the video, though (legality is determined)

          Sometimes the context points to a specific kind of the class normally denoted by the lexical item employed, rather than adding a feature, like in I wish that animal would stop barkink/miaowing  or John is going well in the 1500–metres freestyle.

Meronymic enrichment arises when there is specification to part of what the lexical item used normally refers to. This part may be definite and identifiable (e.g. a tyre as in A car has a puncture) or less definite (e.g. a car’s damaged area as in The car was damaged when John drove it into a tree). This kind of narrowing down to a part, that is, meronymic enrichment, is widespread in language use and speakers are not usually aware of this. For instance, a red book has red covers, not red letters, whereas a red warning sign most likely has red letters. Further examples include noun phrases made up of a colour adjective and a head noun; very often the colour does not apply globally to the object denoted by the head noun but only to a part: a red apple (a significant portion of outer skin is red), a yellow peach (inner flesh is yellow), a pink grapefruit (inner flesh is pink), red yes (white of eyes is red), blue eyes (iris is blue). In all these examples the colour adjective indicates that the referent of the head noun is distinctive by virtue of its possession of an area with certain perceptual properties.

6.3 Study questions and exercises

1. Comment on the reading of the italicized items in the following pair sentences:

1. a. It is man that is responsible for environmental pollution.

    b. That man entered the room in a hurry.

2. a. You must not drink anything on the day of the operation

    b. John doesn’t drink – he’ll have an orange juice.

2. Build up the hierarchy of terms for birds in English, including chicken, eagle, sparrow, duck, hen, humming bird, chick, ostrich, fowl, owl, penguin, dobin, falcon. Find names for each group.

                     

3. Construct the hyponymy tree for car.

   What is the superordinate term and what co-hyponyms can you find?

4. Make up hyponymy - trees for the following words:

   a) tomato          b) hammer          c) bench

   What are the most general words that you have included?

   What are the most specific?

5. Construct the hyponymy tree for BIRD.

7. Semantic Organization

7.1. The Lexicon

Lexicon assumptions

The lexicon is a collection of all the words and lexical items, i.e. associations between sound and meaning that a language has (Hoffman, 1993: 26). Lehrer (1974:190) maintains that the lexicon is an unordered set of lexical entries and as such it can be arranged in a number of ways – alphabetically, as a dictionary, by semantic fields, as a thesaurus. According to Lyons (1983) the information that is found in a lexical item is of three kinds: morphological, syntactic and semantic.

          In generative grammar, the lexicon has a special status and it refers to the component containing all the information about the structural properties of the lexical items in a language. Thus, a lexical entry includes phonological, semantic and syntactic information. Recent syntactic theories ascribe a more significant role to the lexicon, some claming that much of the syntax is projected from the lexicon (Bresnan, 1982; Chomsky, 1981). In other words, the semantic organization of the lexicon can predict and explain at least some regularities.

          According to Dirven (1985) the lexicon has an internally structured character and is only theoretically finite. It contains a number of rules for creating new lexical items or for extending the meaning of given lexical items. New lexical items are formed by the rules of compounding, derivation, borrowing, the creation of neologisms, acronyms. The meaning of given lexical items can be extended by processes such as the metaphor and the metonymy.

          Starting with 1990’s there has been a surge of interest in the lexicon. The demand for a fuller and more adequate understanding of lexical meaning required by developments in computational linguistics, artificial intelligence and cognitive science has stimulated a refocused interest in linguistics, psychology and philosophy.

          The basic problem that distinguishes the different views of the lexicon relates to the nature of the information in the lexicon. Murphy () argues that knowledge about words (i.e. lexical knowledge) does not always overlap with knowledge about the things words denote (conceptual knowledge). The lexicon contains information that is necessary for linguistic  competence, i.e. our capacity to produce grammatical and interpretable sentences.

          The fact that we can fail to make the association between things that we recognize and words that we know for those things indicates that our means of storing and/or accessing the name of that thing is the same of our means of storing and/or accessing other knowledge about the thing. The piece of evidence for this is tip-of-the tongue syndrome, i.e. the case when we have complete access to the concept, because we can picture it, reason about it and describe it, but we are not able to access its name. Other evidence for the separation of lexical and conceptual information is related to the lack of the one-to-one relationship between words and concepts proved by the existence of polysemy and synonymy in language. Words can be used to indicate more than a single concept, and the name that we attach to a thing may vary by context. In the first case, the word knife can refer to things like scalpels, daggers, butter knoves and letter openers; in the second, a single kind of furniture may be reffered to by a variety of terms like table, bedstand, and chest of drawers.

Although they are two distinct types of knowledge, lexical knowledge and conceptual knowledge interact in the processes of language production and comprehension.

Contents and structure of the lexicon

The lexicon contains both linguistic expressions that are greater than words and ones that are smaller that words. Phrasal  expressions like throw up or paint that town red and morphemes such as – ness and pre – are also to be includes in the definition of lexical item or lexeme (Murphy, 199: 14). A lexical item in the lexicon is an abstract representation that is instantiated as a lexical unit in language use, which has a particular form and a particular sense. For example, highest in the phrase the highest note in the song and high in I threw the ball high are both lexical units instantiating the lexical item high. The term lexical entry denotes the collection of information (phonological, morphological and semantic) about a lexeme that is includes in the lexicon.

          Most linguists agree that the lexicon is the repository of what is exceptional and idiosyncratic in language (the part that has to be learned), while grammar expresses the regularities of a language. Psychologically, the lexicon is a more tangible entity that grammar because speakers are aware that they know and use words, but they are hardly aware that they know and use rules of the grammar. (Cornilescu, 1995: 95).

5.2. Semantic fields

Field theories

A semantic field is an area of meaning containing words with related senses. Semantic field theory derives very largely from the work of German and Swiss scholars in the 1920s and 1930s. According to this theory, meanings of words cluster together to form fields of meaning, which is turn cluster into even larger fields until the entire language is encompassed. So, for example, we can identify a semantic field of madness containing words like insane, demented, batty, schizophrenic, paranoid, some of which are synonyms of mad, and others which are types of madness. This field belongs in turn within a larger one of mental states, which includes a wider selection of words. Similarly we can identify a field of running including words such as sprinting, running and jogging, which itself clusters into the field of human motion.

          Before Saussure’s Course of linguistique generale (1955) the study of semantics was predominantly diachronic and the concern was with the changes in the meaning of individual words. The concept of semantic field was introduced by Humboldt (1936), Trier (1931), Porzig (1950) and Weisgerber (1950) and more recently developed by Lyons (1963, 1977) Lehrer (1974), Kittay (1987) and Grandy (1987).

          Among the German linguists Trier was the most important and influential. The procedure followed by Trier in diachronic semantics was to compare the structure of a lexical field at time t1 with the structure of a lexical field at tme 2. He pointed out that the slightest change in the meaning of a term in a semantic field brings about changes in the neighbouring terms as well. Therefore, a word acquires  its meaning by its opposition to its neighbouring words in the pattern.

          Trier distinguished between lexical and conceptual fields, whereby the lexical field divides the conceptual field into parts, like a mosaic. Lehrer (1974) believes that the study of linguistic field should prove to be a rich source about human conceptualization and that the correct or at least the best semantic analysis is one that describes a speaker’s conceptual structure. Although Trier opened a new phase in the histor of semantics (Ullmann, 1962:7) he has been criticised for a number of assumptions that are highly controversial.[4] One of them is that he assumes that lexical fields are closed, well-defined sets. The disagreement is founded especially if one considers peripheral items in a field. For example, in the semantic field of cooking verbs, we have bake, boil, fry, but scald, caramelize (e.g. caramelize fruits), render (e.g, render fat) and clarify (e.g. clarified butter) are peripheral.

          According to Lehrer (1974: 8) a semantic field as a group of words closely related in meaning, often subsumed by a general term. For instance, the words in the field of colour in English fall under the general term COLOUR and include red, blue, green, white, scarlet and dozens other. In their study of colour terms (1970) Brent Berlin and Paul Kay[5] found that speakers disagree among themselves as to where to draw the line between colours, e.g. red and orange. Moreover, the judgments of a single speaker differ at various times. The solution the two American scholars have proposed is that of focal points for colours, e.g. the most typical red or the best example of yellow. The prototype – based model has to be more useful for the analysis of semantic fields because it allows for fuzzy borders among lexical items. The study by Berlin and Kay also shows that there are some parts of the colour spectrum are not happily covered by any term or at least by any basic term. Lehrer (1974) rightly states that a very interesting question to investigate is what speakers do when they want to express some concept not covered by any lexical item in the language.

Lexical gaps

The absence of a lexeme at a particular place in the structure of a lexical field is generally referred to as a lexical gap. For instance, in English there is a word ‘corpse’ meaning roughly ‘body of a dead human being’ and a word ‘carcass’ meaning ‘body of a dead animal’, but no word which is applied to dead plants. In general, conceptual fields are heavily lexicalized. When part of a field is unlexicalized, it constitutes a lexical gap. For instance, it can be argued that there is a gap for a term superordinate to aunt and uncle and another for niece and nephew.    

          Fundamental to field theory is the assumption that words can belong to more than one field. In addition to meaning ‘insane’, for example, mad can also mean ‘angry’, and as such belongs within the field of anger. Or, orange1 ‘a colour’ belongs to the field of COLOURS, while orange2 ‘a fruit’ belongs to the field of FOODS.

          A natural consequence of field theory is the idea that words, or more particularly the senses of words, define themselves against each other. So, for example, in the field of medical personnel, part of our understanding of doctor is ‘not nurse/surgeon/matron or orderly’.

          Therefore, the meanings of words must be understood, n part, in relation to other words that articulate a given content domain. The goal of the analysis of semantic fields is to collect all the words that belong to a field and show the relationship of each of them to one another and to the general term.

Conceptual field, lexical field, semantic field

Some of the concepts in a conceptual field become lexicalized to form a semantic field (Grandy, 1987; Kittay, 1987; Lehrer, 1974; Lyons, 1977; Miller and Johnson Laird, 1976). For example, in the field for ‘cook’, ‘simmer’ lexicalizes field for ‘animal’, ‘mare’ means ‘horse-female-adult’ and ‘puppy’ means ‘dog-infant’.

          Basic to field theory is the view that words occupy a certain amount of semantic space within the language, which is distributed among the specific lexical items available. So, for example, the field of residences is divided up into castle, maisonette, home, bungalow and flat, to name just a few. These terms constitute the lexical set, or lexical field which realise the semantic field. The meaning of any one of them is affected by the other terms to which it is related. As a consequence, fields are constantly expanding and contracting. If the term ‘maisonette’ was removed from the set, then one of the others, possibly house, or flat, would expand to occupy the space.

          Field theory is very useful in the contrastive analysis of different languages. Languages differ quite widely even in apparently basic lexical divisions, and fields such as temperature, kinship, colour, parts of the body, and animal and vegetable worlds, divide the semantic space differently with respect to them. For instance, some languages like English use eleven colour terms which name the following colour categories: BLACK, WHITE, RED, YELLOW, BLUE, BROWN, PURPLE, PINK, ORANGE, and GREY. Other languages use only two basic colour terms (black and white), three basic colour terms (black, white and red) etc. Actually, when there are fewer than eleven basic colour terms[6] in a language, one basic term names a union of basic colour categories; for example, BLUE + GREEN.

According to the cognitive linguistic view the words of a language reflect conceptual distinctions made by a particular culture. Dirven and Radden (1997:4) illustrate how the Anglo culture and the German culture carve up the conceptual continuum atmospheric conditions for which the German culture provides two categories:

Anglo culture

Fog                      mist                         Haze    

German culture

Nebel                                     Dunst

                                                                                      Figure 1

As a result, speakers place their experience of visibility and air moisture under one of the categories provided by their culture.

The cognitive approach claims that meanings do not exist independently of human perception and cognition but are created by the way in which humans experience and think of the phenomena that surround them. The cognitive view could account for the flexibility of word meaning and explain why definitions of words are often too difficult to make precise. It concentrates on how language is shaped by human experience and cognitive processes. Cognitive linguists argue that categories are conceptual in nature and that many, if not all of our conceptual categories are laid down in language as linguistic categories.

An illustration: the semantic field of cooking terms

Lehrer (1974) illustrates the theory of semantic fields with words from two lexical fields: cooking and sounds.  One of her arguments for this choice is that the sets seem to contain many of the subtleties, asymmetries and indeterminacies which are characteristic of other lexical fields.

          The basic words in the field of COOKING are cook, bake, boil, roast, fry and broil (or grill for British English) and for some speakers, steam. Grill and toast denote the same action or process from the point of view of the agent, but different patients are involved. Grilling is a method of cooking, whereas toasting is not; things that get toasted are normally already cooked, whereas items for grilling are raw. The set also includes simmer, stew, poach, braise, saute. French fry, deep fry, barbeque and charcoal. The most general are cook and bake; words such as deep-fry saute, parboil, plank, shirr, scallop, flamber, rissoler or compounds like steam-bake, pot-roast, oven-poach, pan-broil, pan-fry and oven-fry are considered peripheral.

          The first three basic cooking terms, i.e. cook, bake and boil have both general and specific senses. It is interesting to note that only basic words show this characteristic. Cooking words can be placed in a chart like in the figure below:

                                                                cook1                                                                                                   bake1

                                                                cook2

steam              boil1                          fry                            broil                                  roast   bake2

                       simmer                   boil2         saute    deep-fry     grill  grill  barbeque

                                                                              French-fry                   charcoal

                  poach stew braise

As can be noticed, words are synonyms if they appear in the same square; incompatible terms are separated by a vertical bar, and hyponyms appear directly under the superordinate one. Thus, steam, boil fry, broil, roast and bake2 are hyponyms of cook2. French fry and deep fry are synonyms, etc.; cook1 and bake1 differ from the rest in that they refer to human activities – in one case the preparation of food for meals and in the other the preparation of a number of items commonly called bakery products – bread, pastry, cookies, etc. Only cook1 and bake1 freely occur intransitively with human subjects. I cook and He bakes are more acceptable than *John simmered yesterday or Helen is frying. Cook2 and all the words under it are process words which can be analysed grammatically as causatives. Boil1 and its subordinates differ from others in the semantic field in that water or some water-based liquid must be used (wine, stock, milk) while the absence of water is necessary for fry, broil, roast, and bake. Simmer differ from boil2 by specifying that the liquid is just below the boiling point, without the rolling bubbles that characterise boil2. The hyponyms of simmer bring in highly specific aspects of meaning. Poach specifiesthat the food is slowly cooked in water carefully so that the shape is preserved. Stew is applied when the food is to be cooked slowly for a long time usually until it is soft. Braise is even more complex – the food is first browned (quickly fried on the outside) and then allowed to cook slowly in a tightly covered pot with a small amount of water.

          In general, the more specific the meaning of the word, the fewer collocational possibilities there are: boiled meat, boiled eggs, boiled vegetables are linguistically acceptable, but poached vegetables and stewed eggs are less so (Lehrer, 1974: 33). Steam and boil are closer in meaning than to any other basic term. Steam constrast with boil in that the food, which must be a solid, is not submerged; it is cooked by the rising vapour. Fry and its hyponyms contrast with other in the field by requiring the presence of fat or oil in the cooking process although the fat can be in the food itself. Like bacon. Deep-fry and its synonym French-fry require a large amount of oil or fat – enough to cover the item being cooked. Saute, on the other hand, refers to quickly cooking something in a frying pan with a small amount of fat. Fry is used when food is cooked in a frying pan whether or not fat is added (in the latter case there is some fat in the food cooked, e.g. steack, or a non-stick frying pan is used). Broil and its hypnyms refer to cooking something directly under a heating unit or over or under an open fire. Grill has a range of meaning that overlaps with fry slightly, sincer grilled cheese sandwiches are fried, not broiled. Grill also applies to cooking food on an open grill, but sometimes it is used synonymously with broil. Barbeque, is one of its senses synonymous to charcoal, and both refer to cooking food over hot coals. Bake2 is applied to cooking food in an oven, such that the heat is indirect, rather than direct as in broiling. Roast and broil are close in meaning.

          The semantic field of cooking verbs can finally be set up to look like a series of +/- features as in the table below, where 0 means that the feature does not apply distinctly one way or the other. For example, frying as a kind of cooking that involves the use of fat in contact with a flame and is not ussualy gentle.

                                  water            fat             oven              flame                gentle

Cook                             0                0                  0                     0                          0

Boil                               +                -                 -                      +                           -

Simmer                        +                 -                  -                     +                           +

Fry                                -                 +                 -                     +                           0

Roast                             -                 -                  +                    -                            0

Toast                             -                  -                  -                    +                           0

Bake                             -                  -                  +                    -                            0

Metaphorical extension

Most of the terms in the field of COOKING may have metaphorical extensions in other semantic fields. They may be used for states of emotions (boil, burn, simmer, steam, stew) or temperature:

      e.g.  t’s roasting / steaming in this room.

7.3 Study questions and exercises

1. List as many verbs as you can think of in English for the notion of LAUGH

(e.g. giggle, chuckle ).Does your native language offer more or fewer words for the overall field, and to what extent are there one-to-one correspondences? For further practice do the same with these semantic notions:

- ways of WALKING

- words in the TALK domain

-words indicating the SPEED of an action.

2. Some of the verbs in the WALK domain can be used figuratively to refer to TALKING (e.g. ramble, stumble, plod ). Make up sentences to illustrate their figurative meanings.



[1]  The   idea that linguistic expressions,  e.g.  Words as well as larger linguistic structures (phrases, clauses, sentences) are containers for meanings comes from Reddy (1979:284-324) and Lakoff and Johnson (1980:10-13). According to Reddy’s view of the “conduit metaphor”, ideas (or meanings) are regarded as objects, which can be stored in containers and sent between language users.

An instance of linguistic evidence supporting this view is the sentence “It is very difficult to put this concept into words.”

[2] Hence, expressive meaning falls within the scope of semantics, stylistics and pragmatics

[3] Hence, expressive meaning falls within the scope of semantics, stylistics and pragmatics

[4] Trier has been challenged for assuming that (1) lexical fields can be organized into neat rigid patterns based on oppositions and differences  (2) there are no gaps or overlaps in a lexical field. Finally he has been criticized for his concentration upon paradigmatic relations of sense to the exclusion of sintagmatic relations.

[5] Colour categories have been investigated by Brent Berlin and Paul Key (1969) two American cognitive anthropologists who contributed to the development of prototype theory.

[6] For a colour term to be basic it must meet the following requirements (Lakoff, 1987: 25):

-          it must consist of one morpheme, like blue, rather than one, as in dark-blue.

-          te colour denoted by the term must not be contained in another colour. Scarlet, is, for example, contained within red.

-          it must not be restricted to a small number of objects; for example blond.

-          Iit must be common and generally known, like yellow as opposed to saffron.

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