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Questions

  1. What is naming?

  2. What is the referent?

  3. What is the concept?

  4. What are the ways of converting concepts into language units?

  5. What is the inner form of the lexeme?

  6. What is motivation?

  7. What types of motivation are distinguished in Lexicology?

  8. What are the possible results of motivation?

1.3 General characteristics of the english vocabulary

The final stage of the process of nomination brings into existence lexemes. As there are three main possibilities of new lexemes to appear the problem of their being primary or secondary nominations arouses. To primary nominations belong the lexemes the sound form of which was invented or borrowed from another language. The lexemes which were created by already existing in the language means make up the class of secondary nominations.

Primary nominations take up a small part of the lexicon; the majority of the lexical units are secondary nominations. The problem of distinguishing primary and secondary nominations can be approached synchronically and diachronically. The diachronic approach reveals the historic development of the linguistic unit and shows the way it appeared in the language. This problem is studied in the framework of Etymology which establishes not only whether the lexeme is primary or secondary nomination, but whether it is of native or loan character.

The English language belongs to the Germanic group of the Indo-European family of the languages. It is only logical to suppose that there must be lexemes of common Indo-European roots as well as Germanic origin. Most of such lexemes form the most ancient layers of the vocabulary: close relationships, parts of the body, simple kinds of tools and instruments, names for the relief environment and so on. In the Anglo-Saxon language, which is considered to be the earliest form of English, to the common Indo-European roots belong such lexemes as father, mother, son, daughter, birch, one, two and others. To common Germanic roots belong the lexemes arm, finger, wind, snow, old young, go, see, horse, sheep, in, on, and, but and many other lexemes which name natural phenomena, animals, qualities and properties. These lexemes build up the native element of the English vocabulary.

Most of the native lexemes have undergone considerable changes. They have become polysemantic and possess a wide range of grammatical and lexical valency. For example, the word “finger” is used to denote not only a part of a hand as in Anglo-Saxon but also a part of a glove covering one of the fingers; a finger-like parts in various mechanisms; a hand of a clock; an index and a unit of measurement. The lexeme “heel” is referred to a certain type of relief. But due to the development it is nowadays used in a number of phraseological units: head over heels (upside down), cool one’s heel (be kept waiting), show a clean pair of heels (run away) and others.

The majority of the English native lexemes are root-words. This fact facilitated greatly to the appearance of new lexemes by means of derivation, i.e. suffixation, prefixation and conversion. The combining of root-words in Old English was so simple and so often used that many words have acquired the status of derivational affixes, for example, kingdom, childhood and others.

It would be incorrect to say that the Old English language consisted only of words of common Indo-European and Germanic origin. Studied from the point of the variety of tribes that inhabited, invaded or conquered the modern territory of Great Britain it should be admitted that Celtic and early Latin borrowings were used in speech as frequently as Anglo-Saxon words. The traces of Celtic can be found in the names of the rivers, hills and mountains. Latin borrowings are connected with the Roman Invasion in 55-56 B.C. For example, in such names as Winchester, Cirenchester the first element is of Celtic origin while the second of Latin.

In this respect we come to the conclusion that the term native is referred to lexemes of common Indo-European, common Germanic, Celtic and early Latin units relying on the earliest manuscripts of the English language available. Thus, the term native is used in linguistics conventionally. Some scientists use it in reference to words that are dated back to the fifth century, i.e. before the settlement of Anglo-Saxons on British Isles. The others state that the history of the English language begins in the seventh century when the island came to be called Angleland and its language Englisck and later Anglish which we know today as English.

The term borrowings is referred to that part of the English vocabulary that was caused by a number of historic events which influenced the development of the language and enriched the lexicon. They are dated back to the seventh and later centuries. The introduction of Christianity in Britain was marked by appearance of the words connected with religion. These are lexemes altar, bishop, devil, school, church, priest and some others. It should be said that such native words as God, godspell, synn and some others remained in the language. They appeared in the times when the population was pagan and showed strong resistance to the synonymic loan words.

The next change in the lexicon was caused by the Danish invasion. The Vikings who were the Swedes, Norwegians and Danes spoke a related Germanic language. The Scandinavian contribution to the English language is said to be recognized by the initial sound cluster sk- in such lexemes as ski, skin, sky, skill, skirt and scrub. Some traces can be found in the toponymic names, for example, Askby, Westby, Brimtoft and Nortoft in which the Scandinavian element –by stands for “village” and toft for “a site for a dwelling and additional land.” A much larger amount of lexemes is hardly recognized today as borrowings from Old Norse, the language that the Vikings spoke. Here belong such examples as both, call, die, egg, fog, get, happen, knife, law, odd, take, they, want and so on.

The Norman Conquest brought about great changes not only in the language but in the way of life of the British society. After the conquest French became the language of the upper class and many lexemes that denote titles, some literary and cooking terms are of French origin. For example, baron, noble, servant, sauce, boil, fry. Some names for the inner organs are French as well: artery, nerve, stomach vein, etc. The borrowings of this period are usually divided into two waves. The majority of them appeared in English not during the Conquest but after a rather long period when English was reborn and French was felt as a foreign language. The borrowings from French are connected with governmental, social and military relations, arts, fashion and cuisine. For example, arrest, demand, battle, soldier, navy, false, judge, prison, parliament, mirror, labour, painting, coat, beef, jewel, etc.

The revival of the interest in ancient civilizations brought about the period known in history as the Renaissance. The English language was enriched with words from Latin, Greek and Italian. Such words as allegro, capacity, chronology, criterion, epic, laconic, native, opera, piano, system and others appeared in English.

The borrowings of the recent time came to be used in English because of the cultural and political relations of Britain with many countries in the world. Their amount is smaller in comparison with other historical periods but the number of languages from which the words were borrowed increased. For example, the words marmot, parquet came from French, the words rucksack, kindergarten from German, the words parade, buffalo from Spanish, the words deck, yacht from Danish, the words tsar, samovar from Russian, the words tea, fan tan from Chinese, the words barbeque, hurricane from West Indies, and the word anorak from Eskimos.

Borrowings enter the language either through oral speech or through written speech. The oral borrowings are the result of immediate contact between peoples. They usually take place in early periods of history. Oral borrowings are often short and undergo considerable changes while being adapted to the system of the language they come to be used in. Written borrowings preserve their spelling and very often sound form. They are not easily adapted to the new language system.

Though each language has a number of borrowings in its lexicon, not all the borrowed words are felt as alien. This is due to the process of assimilation which the new-comers into the language undergo. All the changes may be divided into phonetic assimilation, grammatical assimilation and lexical assimilation.

Phonetic assimilation concerns the changes in sound form and accentuation in accordance with the norms of the receiving language. Thus, the long sound [e] especially at the end of a word is not characteristic of English. So in course of time the long [e] at the end of French borrowings such as communiqué or café were substituted by the English diphthong [ei]. Some of sounds which seemed strange for English because of their position were replaced by typically English orthoepic form. Thus the German sound [sh] in the word spitz was replaced by the English sound [s]. In many French and Latin borrowings the stress was shifted to the first syllable which is characteristic of English but not of the mentioned languages. Thus the words honour, reason came to be pronounced with the stress on the first syllable while in the native languages the position of the stress was different.

The usual result of grammatical assimilation is the loss of the native categories and paradigms. The borrowed words acquire new categories and paradigms by analogy with other English words. However, there are some borrowings which retain their native inflexions being used in English. Thus, many terms preserve their original inflections: phenomenon – phenomena or parenthesis – parentheses. Some borrowings that had composite structure in their native language appeared in English as indivisible simple words. The former Italian diminishing suffixes in the words ballot, stiletto and umbrella cannot be distinguished without special historical analysis, unless one knows the Italian language. Sometimes in borrowed words foreign affixes are replaced by those available in English. The Latin inflection “–us” was replaced by the English suffixes “–ous” or “–al”: barbarus – barbarous; botanicus – botanical.

Lexical assimilation concerns the change in the semantic structure of the word. Most borrowings come into a different language from their native one as monosemantic. For example, the word “timbre” had a number of meanings in French but was borrowed into English as a musical term only. Sometimes, however, a borrowing acquires a new meaning that could not be found in its native language. The French “mouvoir” which has developed into English “move” does not have such meanings as “propose”, “change one’s flat” or “mix with people”. There are cases when the primary meaning of a borrowing with which it was adopted in a new language becomes its secondary meaning. The borrowed from the Scandinavian word “fellow” denotes nowadays “a man or a boy” but its historical primary meaning was “comrade, companion”.

The process of acquiring of new meanings in borrowings is sometimes accompanied by associating of words which sound similarly but are not at all related. This is known as folk etymology. For example, the French verb sur(o)under had the meaning of “overflow”. In English –r(o)under was associated by mistake with the word “round” (круглый) and the verb “surround” was interpreted as “enclose on all sides, encircle”.

A classification of loan words according to the degree of assimilation divides the borrowings into complete, partially and non-assimilated loan words or barbarisms.

Completely assimilated words are found in all the layers of older borrowings. They may belong to the first layer of Latin borrowings: cheese, street, wall, wine. Among Scandinavian loan words such frequent nouns as husband, fellow, gate, root, wing; such verbs as call, die, take, want, such adjectives as happy, ill, low, odd, wrong can be found. Completely assimilated French loans are especially numerous even among everyday words: table, chair, face, figure, finish, matter, etc. A considerable number of Latin words borrowed during the revival of learning are at present almost indistinguishable from the rest of the vocabulary. Neither animal nor article differs noticeably from native words.

Partially assimilated borrowings fall into several groups. Loan words not assimilated semantically because they denote objects and notions peculiar to the country from which they come: sari, sombrero, shah, rajah, toreador, rickshaw, pilav, etc. Loan words not assimilated grammatically: bacillus, crisis, datum, phenomenon, etc. Loan words not completely assimilated phonetically: in stress – machine, cartoon, police, parachute; in pronunciation – bourgeois, prestige, regime, memoir; in the whole pattern in the word’s phonetic make-up: confetti, incognito, macaroni, tomato, potato. Loan words not completely assimilated graphically: ballet, corps, café, cliché, bouquet.

Loan words that are called barbarisms and are not assimilated in any way. They are used in speech or in writing by the native speakers and have corresponding English equivalents: addio meaning “good-bye”, affiche for “placard”, ad libitum denoting “at pleasure” and the like.

The peculiar feature of borrowings in English nowadays is a considerable number of internal loans, i.e. lexemes that come from dialects or variants of the language. Thus American names instead of pure English ones are used, for example “gas” for “petrol” or “movie” for “film”.

Another important characteristic is the existence of etymological doublets. These are lexemes of the same etymological origin but of different phonemic structure and meaning. The reason for their functioning in the language lies in the historic development. Such lexemes were borrowed at different time or from different sources. For example, lexemes “dish” and “disc” (or disk) are borrowings from Latin, but the time of their appearance in English is different: “dish” is an early borrowing while disc” is a new borrowing from Latin.

One more group of lexemes presents special interest for the learners of English. They are usually called “false friends” of the translator. Some words in English sound very much alike the Russian words and can be interpreted in the same way as in the mother tongue. In reality such items do not coincide in all respects and may have different meanings or at least aspects of meaning. The learners of English mix up such lexemes as “physicist” and “physician” which denote different professions. The lexemes “control” in English and “контроль” in Russian are not full equivalents. This group of lexical units should be distinguished from international words which illustrate the linguistic relations between more than two countries. For example, “opera, sputnik, dealer” and many others can be found in practically all the languages with the same meaning.

Borrowings can be divided according to the way they came to be used in English. Usually we distinguish between translation loans, semantic borrowings and words coined from Greek and Latin roots. Such English lexemes as “homesickness” or “standpoint” were coined after the patterns characteristic for the English language but under the influence of German by morpheme-for-morpheme translation (Heimweh and Standpunkt). Semantic borrowings are connected with the influence of the related word in a foreign language. The English lexeme comrade has acquired a new meaning under the influence of the Russian товарищ as an address in the former USSR. The last group is most often characteristic of technological and scientific terms: telephone, phonoscope and the like.

The functioning of the borrowings in English led to some changes in the language system. Some of native words fell out of the usage; some were shifted to lower stylistic layers in comparison with the borrowed ones. On the grammatical level they led to the simplification of the paradigms of the notional parts of speech. At the same time they enriched the vocabulary of the English language, gave way to appearance of new lexemes which demonstrate the ability to assimilate the borrowings not being assimilated by foreign items.

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