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Lecture # 2. Theme: “Semasiology” (2 hours)

Subtheme # 1: “Semasiology and semantics”


The brunch of the study of language concerned with the meaning of words is called semasilogy. It is the central branch of Lexicology. The word comes from the Greek semasia “signification” (from “sema”- sign and “semantikos”- significant). Semasiology deals with not only the lexical meaning of the words, but also grammatical meaning, if to say semasilogy studies the change in meaning which words undergo. Semasiology is singled out as an indepemdent branch of lexicology alongside word-formation, etymology, phraseology and lexicography. However, at present there is no universally accepted definitions of meaning or rather a definition reflecting all the basic characteristic features of meaning. However, different definitions of meaning help to sum up the general characteristics of the notion.

Problematic questions:

- What is the difference between semasiology and semantics?

- What is the origin of semasiology?

- What are the problems of semasiology?

- Is semasiology or semantics the same or different?

Subtheme # 2: “The objects of semasiological study”


The main objects of semasiological study are semantic development of words, its causes and classification, relevant distinctive features and types of lexical meaning, polysemy and semantic structure of words, semantic grouping and connections in the vocabulary system, i.e. synonyms, antonyms, terminological systems. Semasiology, the brunch of linguistics which studies the semantics of linguistic units, semantics, the meaning of words, expressions or grammatical forms.

Problematic questions:

- What are the main objects of semasiological study?

- What semantic groupings and connections in the vocabulary system?

- Which structure is important for a word either morphological or semantic?

Subtheme # 3: “The meaning of the words and its types”


Meaning is the inner form of the word. There are three main categories of definitions which may be referred to as : analytical or referential definition of meaning, functional or contextual definition of meaning, operational or information-oriented definition of meaning.

1) Analytical or referential definition of meaning seek to find out the essence of meaning establishing the interdependence between words of the objects or phenomena they denote. If we hear a sound-form a certain idea arises in our mind and the idea brings out a certain referent that exists in the reality. The dotted line suggests that there is no intermediate relation between word and referent, it is established only through the concept, because there are no objects or phenomena in the reality that predict a certain sound-form.

2) Functional or contextual definition of meaning seeks that the true meaning of a word is to found by observing what a man does with it not what he says about it, the proponents of functional approach to meaning define it as the use of the word in the language. It has been suggested that the meaning of a word is revealed by substituting different contexts. Here the meaning of a linguistic unit may be studied only through its relation to other linguistic units.

3) Operational or information-oriented definition of meaning seeks to define meaning through its role in the process of communication. They are more interested in how the words work, how the meaning works than what the meaning is. Meaning is defined as information conveyed from the speaker to the listener in the process of communication.

Word-meaning is made up various components. These components are usually described as types of meaning. They are grammatical, lexical, part-of-speech, denotational, connotational, differential, distributional.

1) The Grammatical meaning may be defined as the component of meaning recurrent in identical sets of individual forms of different words, as, e.g. the tense meaning in the word forms of verbs (asked, thought, walked) or the case meaning in the word forms of various nouns (girl’s, boy’s night’s). when we distinguish between the functional meaning which operates at various levels as the interrelation of various linguistic units and referential meaning as the interrelation of linguistic units and referents (or concepts). By grammatical meaning we designate the meaning proper to sets of word forms common to all words of a certain class.

2) The Lexical meaning is identical in all the forms of the word. They possess different grammatical meanings of tense, person and so on, but in each of these forms we find one and the same semantic component denoting the process of movement. By lexical meaning we designate the meaning proper to the given linguistic unit in all its forms and distributions.

3) The part-of-speech meaning is used to classify lexical items into major word-classes (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs) and minor word-classes (articles, prepositions, conjunctions).

4) The Denotational or denotative meaning means that component of the lexical meaning which makes communication possible. To denote is to serve as linguistic expression for a notion or as a name for an actually existing object referred to by a word (also referential or extentional meaning) The first or given meaning of the words. Denotation- the expression of the main meaning, meaning proper of a linguistic unit.

5) The connotational or connotative meaning means the emotive charge and the stylistic value of the word. It means the emotive charge and the stylistic value of the word. The emotional content of the word is its capacity to evoke or directly express emotion (also called emotive charge, intentional or affective connotations of words). The figurative, secondary meaning of the words. Connotation- supplementary, complementary meaning or stylistic shade which is added to the word’s main meaning and which serves to express all sorts of emotional, expressive, evaluative overtones.

The emotional charge is one of the objective semantic features proper to words as linguistic units and forms part of the connotational component of meaning. But as for stylistic meaning of the word we mean their stylistic reference (about literary, neutral and colloquial layers).

6) The Distributional meaning is the meaning of the order and arrangement of morphemes making up the word. It is found in all words containing more than one morpheme.

7) The Differential meaning is the semantic component that serves to distinguish one word from all others containing identical morphemes. In words consisting of two or more morphemes one of the constituent morphemes always has differential meaning.

Problematic questions:

- What is the difference between a meaning and a notion?

- What are the characteristic features of lexical, grammatical, parts-of-speech, denotational, connotational, differential and distributional types of word meaning?

- Why the meaning of words is represented by three (analytical, functional, operational) categories of definition of meaning?

- What types of connotations do exist in Lexicology?

- What is the role of context in identifying the given meaning of words?

- How we differentiate types of meaning from each other?

- Is meaning or notion the same or different?

- Which of three categories of definition of word-meaning is more effective?

Subtheme # 4: “Motivation and its types”.


One more notion you should know when we speak about the meaning of the word is motivation.

There are three types of motivation.

The morphological motivation is a direct connection between the structural pattern of the word and its meaning. It is the relationship between morphemes. F: one morpheme words sing, tell, eat are non-motivated, if we add suffixes or prefixes and form words as singer, rewrite, eatable they are described as motivated.

The phonetical motivation is a direct connection between the phonetical structure of the word and its meaning. F: words swish, sizzle, boom, splash they may be defined as phonetically motivated because the soundclusters are a direct imitation of the sounds these words denote.

The semantic motivation is a relationship between the central and coexisting meaning or meanings of a word which are understood as a metaphorical extension of the central meaning. It means generalization of the denotational meaning of a word permitting it to include new referents which are in some way like the original class of referents. F: a woman who has given birth is called a mother, by extension, any act that gives birth is associated with being a mother. A necessity is the mother of invention, a mother looks after a child, so that we can say she became a mother to her orphan nephew, also mother country, a mother tongue.

Problematic questions:

- What is the difference between motivated and non-motivated words?

- Is it possible that one word may combine different types of motivation?

- What types of motivation there are in English vocabulary system?

Subtheme # 5: “Polysemy”


When we study about the semantic structure of the word, it is necessary to make a brief survey of another semantic phenomenon which is closely connected with it. It is generally known that most words have number of meanings. A word having several meanings is called polysemantic and the ability of words to have more than one meaning is described by the term polysemy. Most English words are polysemantic. The system of meanings of any polysemantic word develops gradually, mostly over the centuries as more and more new meanings are either added to old ones, or oust some of them. So complicated process of polysemy development involve both the appearance of new meanings and the loss of old ones. One of the most important drawbacks of polysemantic words is that there is sometimes a chance of misunderstanding when a word is used in a certain meaning but accepted by a listener or reader in another. That is why context is a powerful preventative against any misunderstanding of meanings. It leads us to the conclusion that context is a good and reliable key to the meaning of the word.

Problematic questions:

- Why words have an ability of having several meanings?

- What is the drawback of polysemantic words?

- What is the role of context for polysemantic words?

- Is it advantage or disadvantage having polysemantic words in certain languages?