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Synonyms and Antonyms in English. Hyponyms.

  1. Synonyms and synonymic sets;

      1. Functions of synonyms in speech

      2. Types of synonyms

      3. Sources of synonymy in English

      4. Euphemisms as a specific type of synonyms

  2. Antonyms. The definition and classification.

  3. Hyponyms in English.

I. Synonyms and synonymic sets

Synonyms are usually defined as words similar in meaning; as words that express the same idea but it is wrong to say that synonyms are identical in meaning since the range of the idea they express may be very wide. In comparing synonyms we are mostly interested in their difference than in their similarity, although the latter is also of importance.

English is very rich in synonyms. There are about 8000 synonymic groups in English. A group of synonyms is called a synonymic set, e.g. famous, celebrated, renowned, illustrious may make a synonymic set.

A polysemantic word may enter as many synonymic groups as it has lexical semantic variants, e.g. the word “fresh” goes into 5 synonymic sets:

Fresh – original – novel – striking – up-to-date

Fresh – another – different – new

Fresh – invigorating – pure

Fresh – inexperienced – green- raw

Fresh – impertinent – rude

Each synonymic set has a word, which expresses the most general idea and holds a commanding position over other words – it is called the synonymic dominant. For instance in the series to leave – to depart – to quit – to retire – to clear out the word “to leave” is general and neutral and can stand for each of the other four terms being the synonymic dominant of this group. Thus the synonymic dominant is the most general word belonging to the general stock of words stylistically neutral, of greater frequency and of widest colloqability.

Synonyms are grouped according to their similarity in their meaning and are contrasted within a group on a principle of dissimilation, e.g. weak, feeble, powerless.

In traditional linguistics synonyms are defined on basis of the notional criteria; according to it synonyms are words of the same category of parts of speech conveying the same notion but differing either in shades of meaning or in stylistic characteristics. This definition was given by Russian academician Vinogradov.

The definition of synonyms based on the semantic criteria runs as follows: “Lexical synonyms are different words of the same part of speech (having the same grammatical distribution) which have some common denotational components in their semantic structure but differ either in some denotational components and/or in some connotational components and thus usually have different lexical colloqability.” This definition was given by Pr. Elena Borisovna Cherkasskaya.

In modern research of synonyms the criteria of interchangeability is sometimes applied. According to this, synonyms are defined as words, which are interchangeable at least in some context without any considerable alteration in denotational meaning. The application of these criteria is limited due to the differences in the semantic components of meanings of synonyms leading to the differences in their colloqability.

In fact all the definitions of synonyms are opened criticism and further perfection.

  1. Functions of synonyms in speech

Synonyms have 3 main functions in speech:

  • The function of substitution in order to avoid repetition and monotony

  • The function of précising in meaning in order to reach a greater accuracy and avoid vagueness.

  • The expressive stylistic function, e.g. clean (free from dirt) – neat (clean and tidy) – trim (in good order, neat and spruce) – spruce (neat, trim and smart)

  1. Types of synonyms

According to the classification of synonyms developed by academician Vinogradov, there are 3 types of synonyms:

  • Idiographic synonyms. He describes idiographic synonyms as words conveying the same notion but differing in meaning. Idiographic synonyms refer to the same general concept but they differ sometimes in the denotational meaning, e.g. a look (a conscious and direct in devour to see) – a glance (a look, which is quick and sudden) – a glimpse (a look implying only momentary sights). These idiographic synonyms differ in quickness of the action and the time of duration.

  • Stylistic synonyms are words of the same denotational meaning used in different speech styles. They have the same denotational components but differ in stylistic components of their semantic structure, e.g. enemy/farter (neutral) – foe/sire (poetical) – adversary/parent (bookish) – opponent (official) / Dad (coloq.).

  • Absolute synonyms in English are words of exactly the same meaning, words identical in meanings, e.g. fricatives and spirants; fatherland and motherland. Absolute synonyms are very rare. According to F.R. Palmer it would seem unlikely, “that two words with exactly the same meaning would both survive in a language”.

  1. Sources of synonyms in English

The following points are usually considered as sources of synonyms:

  • Borrowings.

Borrowings from French, Latin and Greek are the most numerous ones in English. They often express an idea or name a thing for which they already exist in a native word. That’s how synonyms appear in the vocabulary. In most cases the native word is more ordinary tan its foreign counterpart, e.g. to buy – to purchase, brotherly – fraternal, world – universe.

But there exit plenty of cases of all borrowings having become thoroughly assimilated. Some of them even express the most general idea in synonymic sets and serve as synonymic dominants: valley – dale, piece – lump/cake, to decide – to settle, action – did

There are examples of triplets: one native – one from French – one directly from Latin, e.g. ask–question-interrogate; teaching-guidance-instruction; to gather-to assemble-to collect; kingly-royal-regal.

  • Dialectisms.

Dialectisms are words from local dialects, which have entered the English vocabulary as regular words creating synonyms to the words of Standard English, e.g. Scotch synonyms: lass – girl, bonny – pretty, daft – crazy/foolish/wild.

  • Word-building processes.

Word-building processes, which are at work in the English Language, create synonyms to words already in use. The following cases are to be considered here:

      • composite or phrasal verbs (составные глаголы), e.g. to choose – to pick out; to abandon – to give up; to enter – to come in; to descend – to go down; to ascend – to go up;

      • compounding which comprises composition and conversion working simultaneously, e.g. fight-back – resistance; precipitation – fall-out; conscription – a call up;

      • conversion, e.g. to verbalize – to word; laughter – a laugh; to moisten – to wet;

      • shortening, e.g. microphone – mike; popular – pop; examinations – exams;

      • affixation or loss of affixes, e.g. anxiety – anxiousness; affectivity – affectiveness; amongst – among; await – wait;

      • set expressions, e.g. to laugh – to give a laugh; to walk – to take a walk;

In this connection the problem of synonyms and lexical variants arises: should these cases be regarded as synonyms or lexical variants.

  1. Euphemisms as a specific type of synonyms

Euphemism is a Greek word (EU means “well” and PHEMOS means “speaking” thus “Euphemism” means speaking well). A euphemism is a substitution of a harsh, obscene, indelicate or otherwise unpleasant word by a less offensive word or periphrastic expression, e.g. quieer is a euphemism for mad; intoxicated is a euphemism for drunk; in one’s birthday suit = naked.

Euphemisms are divided into 2 main groups according to the character of words they subdtitute:

  • Religious and superstitious taboos are words and set phrases which are avoided in speech for religious reasons or because of superstition, e.g. God – goodness, gracious, gosh; Devil – deuce, Dickens, Nicolas, old Nick, Darwin; to die – to pass away, to go to one’s last home, to go to the way of all flash, to join the majority, to kick the bucket;

  • Social and moral taboos are words and idioms which are avoided in speech as not acceptable in the polite conversation, e.g. trousers – unmentionables; toilet – powder-room, retiring-room, wash-room, restroom, lady’s room, public comfort station, WC (Windsor Castle), public conveniences; pregnant – in an interesting/delicate condition; in a family way, with the baby coming, pig with child; drunk – intoxicated, tipsy, under the influence, mellow, fresh, high, merry, flustered, overcome, full, to be drunk as a lord/owl, boiled, fried, tanked, tight, stiff, pickled, soaked;

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