Semantic structure of the word in modern english
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2007
Автор: Дудник А. А.
Speaking of the semantic
structure of the word, I’d like to point out that, the branch of the study of
language concerned with the meaning of words is called semasiology. The
name comes from the Greek semasia ‘signification’ (from sema ‘sign’
and semantikos ‘significant’). As semasiology deals not with every kind
of linguistic meaning but with lexical meaning only, it may be regarded as a
branch of lexicology.
This does not mean that the semasiologist
needn’t pay attention to grammatical meaning. On the contrary, grammatical
meaning must be taken into consideration in so far as it bears a specific
influence upon lexical meaning. This influence is manifold and will be
discussed at length later. At this stage it will suffice to point out that a
certain basic component of the word meaning is described when one identifies
the word morphologically, i. e. states to what grammatical word class it
belongs. If treated diachronically, semasiology studies the change in meaning,
which words undergo. Descriptive synchronic approach demands a study not of
individual words but of semantic structures typical of the language studied,
and of its general semantic system.
We will have noticed that two
terms, “semasiology” and “semantics”, have so far been used indiscriminately as
if synonymous (What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name
would smell as sweet… (W. Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Sc.2)).
fact, they are synonyms but not equally appropriate for our purpose. The first
term is preferable because it is less ambiguous. The term “semantics” on the
other hand, is used to cover several different meanings. It is also used to
denote the phenomena studied, i. e. the meaning of words and phrases. Had this
been all, it might have been tolerated, because the same double purpose is
served by the terms “phonetics” and “grammar”. In the case of “semantics”,
however, there are other meanings, not sufficiently divorced from linguistics and
apt to create confusion.
can much time ask a question: What is a word? What is Lexicology? We can
compare with such an expression as:
These famous lines reflect one
of the fundamental problems of linguistic research: what is in a name, in a
word? Is there any direct connection between a word and the object it
represents? Could rose have been called by “ any other name” as Juliet says?
These and similar questions are answered by lexicological research. Lexicology, a branch of linguistics, is the study of words. For some people studying words
may seem uninteresting. But if studied properly, it may well prove just as
exciting and novel as unearthing the mysteries of Outer Space.
It is significant that many
scholars have attempted to define the word as a linguistic phenomenon. Yet none
of the definitions can be considered totally satisfactory in all aspects. It is
equally surprising that, despite all the achievements of modern science,
certain essential aspects of the nature of the word still escape us. Nor do we
fully understand the phenomenon called “language”, of which the word is a
fundamental unit. We know nothing- or almost nothing – about the mechanism by
which a speaker’s mental process is converted into sound groups called “
words”, nor about the reverse process whereby a listener’s brain converts the
acoustic phenomena into concepts and ideas, thus establishing a two - way
process of communication. We know very little about the nature of relations
between the word and the referent (i.e. object, phenomenon, quality, action,
etc. denoted by the word). If we assume that there is a direct relation between
the word and the referent - which seems logical- it gives rise to another
question: how should we explain the fact that the same referent is designated
by quite different sound groups in different languages.
We do know by now -
though with vague uncertainty- that there is nothing accidental about the
vocabulary of the language; that each word is a small unit within a vast,
efficient and perfectly balanced system. But we do not know why it possesses
these qualities, nor do we know much about the processes by which it has
acquired them. The list of unknowns could be extended, but it is probably high
time to look at the brighter side and register some of the things we do know about the nature of the word.
First, we do know that a word is a
unit of speech, which, as such, serves the purposes of human communication.
Thus, the word can be defined as a unit of communication.
Secondly, the word can be perceived as
the total of the sounds, which comprise it.
Third, the word, viewed
structurally, possesses several characteristics.
modern approach to word studies is based on distinguishing between the external
and internal structures of the word.
By external structure of the
word we mean its morphological structure. For example, in the word post-impressionists the following morphemes can be distinguished: the prefixes post-, im-, the
root press, the noun- forming suffixes –ion, -ist, and the
grammatical suffix of plurality –s. All these morphemes constitute the
external structure of the word post-impressionists.
The internal structure of the
word, or its meaning, is nowadays commonly referred to as the word’s semantic
structure. This is certainly the word’s main aspect. Words can serve the
purposes the human communication solely due to their meanings, and it is most
unfortunate when this fact is ignored by some contemporary scholars who, in
their obsession with the fetish of structure tend eludes mathematical analysis.
And this is exactly what meaning, with its subtle variations and shifts is apt
question posed by the title of it is one of those questions, which are easier
to ask than to answer. The linguistic science at present is not able to put
forward a definition of meaning which is conclusive. However, there are certain
facts of which we can be reasonably sure, and one of them is that the very
function of the word as unit of communication is made possible by it possessing
a meaning. Therefore, among word’s various characteristics, meaning is
certainly the most important.
speaking, meaning can be more or less described as a component of the word
through which a concept is communicated, in this way endowing the word with the
ability of denoting real objects, qualities, actions and abstract notions. The
complex and somewhat mysterious relationships between referent (object,
etc. denoted by the word), concept and word are traditionally
represented by the following triangle:
By the “symbol” here is meant
the word; thought or reference is concept. The faltering line suggests that
there is no immediate relation between word and referent: it is established
only through the concept.
If speaking about components
of semantic structure of the word, we can say that, the leading semantic
component is usually termed denotative component (also, the term referential component may be used). The denotative component expresses the
conceptual component of a word.
following list presents denotative components of some adjectives and verbs:
To glare, v.
To glance, v.
To shiver, v.
is quite obvious that the definitions given in the right column only partially
and incompletely describe the meanings of their corresponding words. To give a
more or less full picture of the meaning of the word, it is necessary to
include in the scheme of analysis additional semantic components, which are
termed connotations, or connotative components.
Let us complete the semantic structures of the words given
above introducing connotative components into the schemes of their semantic
above show how by singling out denotative and connotative components one can
get a sufficiently clear picture of what the word really means. The schemes
presenting the semantic structures of glare, shiver, shudder also show
that a meaning can have two or more connotative components.
given examples do not exhaust all the types of connotations but present only a
few: emotive, evaluative connotations, and also connotations of duration.
the branch of linguistics, which specializes in the study of meaning, is called semantics. As with many terms, the term “semantics” is ambiguous for it can
stand, as well, for the expressive aspect of language in general and for the
meaning of one particular word in all its varied aspects and nuances (i.e. the
semantics of a word= the meaning(s) of a word). Meaning can be described as a
component of the word through which a concept is communicated, endowing the
word with the ability of denoting real objects, qualities, actions, and abstract
notions. The semantic structure of the word does not present an indissoluble
unity (that is actually, why it is referred to as “structure”), nor does it
necessarily stand for one concept. Most words convey several concepts and thus
possess the corresponding number of meanings. A word having several meanings is
called polysemantic, and the ability of the word to have more than one
meaning is described by the term polysemy. The vocabulary is the most
flexible part of the language and it is precisely its semantic aspect that
responds most readily to every change in the human activity in whatever sphere
it may happen to take place. Speaking about different types of semantic
structure they play their own role and affect in various aspect on the word and
its structure but so that to make any changes, elements of the word exist and
have an important part in changes of the word causes by different changes of
the epoch, and different races.
English Word I.V. Arnold, Moscow 1973 (the second edition).
английского языка. Ворно Е.Ф., Кащеева М.А., Малишевская Е.В., Потапова И.А..Ленинград
3. A Course
in Modern English Lexicology, R.S. Ginzburg, S.S. Khidekel, G.Y. Knyazeva, A.A.
английского языка (практический курс) Т.И. Арбекова 1977
5. www. yahoo.com.
6. www. google.ru
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2007