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LECTURES

1. Lexicology as a branch of linguistics

  1. The object of lexicology.

  2. General and special lexicology. Historical and descriptive lexicology.

  3. Links of lexicology with other branches of linguistics.

  4. The word as the main language unit.

  5. Main approaches to the study of lexical units.

1.1. The term "lexicology" is comprised of two Greek morphemes: lexis "word, phrase" and logos "learning, word". Thus the literal meaning of the term "lexicology" is "the study of the word".

Lexicology as a branch of linguistics studies the vocabulary of a language as a system of lexical units, primarily words. Another term for vocabulary is "word-stock", i.e. the word store, the sum total of words.

Traditionally, vocabulary units include words, e.g. dog, get, silly; morphemes, e.g. unfairly consists of the morphemes un-, -fair-, -ly; phraseological units, e.g. red tape, to break the ice.

The English vocabulary is enormous, it includes more than 600.000 words.

1.2. Distinction is made between general and special lexicology.

General lexicology is a part of general linguistics, it studies universal features of vocabularies of all or most languages,

Special lexicology is concerned with the vocabulary of a particular language,

e.g. Russian, English, French, etc.

Historical lexicology studies the origin and development of vocabulary as well as its separate units.

Descriptive lexicology deals with the vocabulary of a given language at a particular stage of its development,

e.g. lexicology of Modern English.

1.3. Lexicology is closely connected with other branches of linguistics, such as phonetics, grammar, stylistics, which also study words from various angles.

Lexicology is connected with Phonetics because the word is a two-facet unit which has both a form and meaning. Thus, the word can be defined as a series of sounds making up its form, and phonetics is concerned (among other things) with the study of the sound-form of words.

The link between phonetics and lexicology is based on the following:

(a) The recognition and understanding of a word is impossible without its proper pronunciation.

(b) The position of stress is used to distinguish words of identical sound-forms but different parts of speech,

e.g. 'rebel, n. - re'bel, v.; 'frequent, a. - fre'quent, v.

(c) Stress may also be used to distinguish between compound words and word groups made up of identical components,

e.g. a 'dark 'room (a phrase, each component has its own stress),

a 'dark-room (a compound, only one stress).

Lexicology is linked with Grammar because the word is used in speech as a grammatical unit, in certain grammatical forms and functions. Grammar studies means of expressing grammatical relations between words in speech and patterns after which words are combined into word-groups and sentences.

The connection between lexicology and grammar is seen in the following:

(a) Each word belongs to some part of speech and has characteristics typical of it.

(b) The grammatical form and function of a word may determine its lexical meaning,

e.g. brother - brothers "sons of the same parents", brethren "fellow members of a religious society, trade union, regiment, guild, order, etc."

(c) A grammatical form of a word may split off and acquire a new lexical meaning, becoming a new word. This is called lexicalization of grammatical forms,

e.g. arm - arms (pl) , arms "weapons"; developments "events".

(d) Words are divided into notional words and form words. A word in one meaning may function as a notional word and in another as a form word,

e.g. He looked indifferently at the food. He looked indifferent.

(e) The morpheme is the central unit of morphology, a branch of grammar, and also a unit of which words are built, thus studied also in lexicology.

(f) The system of all grammatical forms of a word is called its paradigm. The paradigm is used as a derivational means in conversion, one of the ways of word-building.

There is also a close link between lexicology and Stylistics. Stylistics is concerned with the study of stylistic devices, on the one hand, and functional styles, on the other. Stylistics studies meaning, synonymy, antonymy, etc. not as such, but for the purpose of analysing texts, the effect they produce on the reader, in order to help the reader grasp the author's message.

1.4. The word is the basic unit of language. The principle characteristics of the word are as follows:

1) The word is a unity of the external and the internal structure, i.e. a unity of form and content; thus, it is a two-facet unit.

By the external structure of the word we mean its sound form, morphemic composition, and derivational structure.

The internal (or semantic) structure of the word is all its meanings together.

2) The word is characterized both by external (formal) unity and internal unity.

Its external unity means that a word possesses a single grammatical framing,

e.g. blackbird – blackbirds (pl). The first component black can't have any grammatical forms of its own, whereas in a word-group each constituent can have its own grammatical forms, e.g. the blackest birds I've ever seen.

In a word-group, other constituents can be inserted between its components,

e.g. a black night bird, which is impossible so far as the word is concerned. Its component morphemes are permanently linked together, unlike word-groups, whose components possess a certain amount of structural freedom.

Semantic (internal) unity means that each meaningful word conveys one concept,

e.g. in the word-group a green house each word conveys its own concept: green "coloured like grass", house "a building". The word greenhouse conveys only one concept "a building of glass for rearing delicate plants".

3) The word is a cluster of forms and variants:

a) phonetic variants, e.g. schedule ['skedju:l], again [ə'geın] ;ʒʒə

b) morphological variants, e.g. dreamed/dreamt, dived/dove (AmE);

c) parallel formations of the type geographic/geographical;

(but compare historic - historical, which are separate words);

d) lexico-semantic variants, by which we mean one polysemantic word in its different meanings,

e.g. bird 1) a feathered living creature

2) (sl) young woman

3) (coll) person.

In speech, a certain variant of a word is used in every speech act, but all its variants are identified by language users as making up one and the same word.

4) The word is capable of grammatical employment. In speech, it is used in one of its grammatical forms, which are the smallest units at syntactic level, in a certain function.

The word is a nominative language unit, an association of a particular meaning with a particular series of sounds, capable of grammatical employment.

1.5. There are several approaches to the study of the word.

1) Some decades ago lexicology was characterized by an atomistic approach, which is now obsolete, i.e. lexical units were studied as unconnected separate items.

2) The vocabulary is studied as a system (systemic approach), i.e. the word is studied in its relations to other words in the vocabulary as a component of various sets, groups, fields.

e.g. the word high is studied through its relations to other words: high - tall (synonymy), high - low (antonymy), high - highly, highness (derivational cluster), etc.

(3) The word is studied through its relation to its referent as a nominative unit (nominative approach). The nominative approach is concerned with how things get their names.

e.g. The escalator began life as the "Reno Inclined Elevator", named after its inventor, Jesse Reno, who installed the first one in 1896. "Escalator" was the trade name used by the Otis Elevator Company when it joined the market with a version of its own four years later, but for years afterwards most people called it "a movable stairway".

4) The functional approach studies how words are combined in speech, i.e. a word is observed, studied and described in its typical contexts,

e.g. the notion "group of the same kind of living things" is expressed by the words herd, flock, flight, shoal, school, pack, troop, colony, but flock is used only with sheep, goats, or birds.

5) The communicative approach studies how words are used for purposes of communication, e.g. it studies pragmatic conventions about language use (social and cultural), speech etiquette, i.e. the appropriate use of language unites in various situations.

e.g. OK is one of the most important discourse markers in English.

a) It indicates you accept an offer, suggestion, request.

b) It serves as a bridge between two topics or stages of a talk.

c) It shows the talk is drawing to a close, etc.

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