Тypes of word meaning
Тypes of word meaning
Chapter 1. The
word as the basic unit of language
Chapter 2. The
meaning of the word
meaning of the word
meaning of the word
and Connotational meaning of the word
2.2.3 Emotive Charge
Charge and Stylistic Reference
Chapter 3. Word
meaning and motivation
Chapter 4. Word
meaning and meaning in morphemes
The word is one of the
fundamental units of language. It is a dialectal unity of form and content. Its
content or meaning is not identical to notion, but it may reflect human notion
and is considered as the form of their existence. So the definition of a word
is one of the most difficult in linguistics, because the simplest word has many
different aspects: a sound form, its morphological structure, it may occur in
different word-forms and have various meanings.
E. Sapir takes into consideration the syntactic and
semantic aspects when he calls the word “one of the smallest completely
satisfying bits of isolated “meaning”, into which the sentence resolves
itself.” Sapir also points out one more, very important characteristic of the
word, its indivisibility: “It cannot be cut into without a disturbance
of meaning, one or two other or both of the several parts remaining as a
helpless waif on our hands.”
A unit which most people
would think of as ‘one word’ may carry a number of meanings, by association
with certain contexts. Thus pipe can be any tubular object, a musical
instrument or a piece of apparatus for smoking; a hand can be on a clock
or watch as well as at the end of the arm. Most of the time, we are able to
distinguish the intended meaning by the usual process of mental adjustment to
context and register.
Word meaning is not homogeneous, but it is made up of
various components, which are described as types of meaning. There are 2 types
of meaning to be found in words and word forms:
the grammatical meaning;
the lexical meaning.
the world’s global language, English has played a very important role in
bringing people from different countries closer and closer, thus yielding great
mutual understanding. The author argues that the mastering of the grammatical
features of English words together with that of their semantic structures helps
to make the communication in English successful. The study on English words in
terms of grammar and semantics is, therefore, hoped to be of great value to
teachers and learners of English as well as translators into and out of
English. In this essay, English words are discussed in terms of their meaning,
which poses several problems for the teachers, learners and translators.
Chapter 1. The word as the basic unit of language
The word may be described
as the basic unit of language. Uniting meaning and form, it is composed of one
or more morphemes, each consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their
written representation. The combinations of morphemes within words are subject
to certain linking conditions. When a derivational suffix is added a new word
is formed, thus, “listen” and “listener” are different words.
When used in sentences together with
other words they are syntactically organized. But if we look at the language
“speech”, it becomes apparent that words are not neatly segmented as they are
by spaces in graphological realization. The pauses in speech do not
consistently correspond with word-endings; many languages, including English,
do not make it clear to a foreign listener where the utterance is divided into
The definition of a word is one of
the most difficult in linguistics because the simplest word has many aspects.
The variants of definitions were so numerous that some authors collecting them
produced works of impressive scope and bulk.
A few examples will suffice to show
that any definition is conditioned by the aims and interests of its author.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), one of
the great English philosophers, revealed a materialistic approach to the
problem of nomination when he wrote that words are not mere sounds but names of
matter. Three centuries later the great Russian physiologist I.P. Pavlov
(1849-1936) examined the word in connection with his studies of the second
signal system, and defined it as a universal signal that can be substitute any
other signal from the environment in evoking a response in a human organism.
One of the latest developments of science and engineering is machine
translation. It also deals with words and requires a rigorous definition for
them. It runs as follows: a word is a sequence of graphemes which can occur
between spaces, or the representation of such a sequence on morphemic level.
Within the scope of linguistics the
word has been defined syntactically, semantically, phonologically and by
combining various approaches.
According to John Lyons “One of the characteristics of
the word is that it tends to be internally stable (in terms of the order of the
component morphemes), but positionally mobile (permutable with other words in
the same sentence)”.
A purely semantic treatment will be found in Stephen
Ulmann’s explanation: with him connected discourse, if analyzed from the
semantic point of view, “will fall into a certain number of meaningful segments
which are ultimately compose of meaningful units. These meaningful units are
The semantic-phonological approach may be illustrated by
A.H. Gardiner’s definition: “A word is an articulate sound-symbol in its
aspect of denoting something which is spoken about.”
The eminent French linguist A. Meillet combines the semantic,
phonological and grammatical criteria and gives the following definition of the
word: “A word is defined by the association of a particular meaning with a
particular group of sounds capable of a particular grammatical employment.”
This formula can be accepted with some modifications adding that a
word is the smallest significant unit of a given language capable of
functioning alone and characterized by positional mobility within a sentence,
morphological uninterruptability and semantic integrity. All these criteria are
necessary because they permit us to create basis for the oppositions between
the word and the phrase, the word and the phoneme, and the word and the
morpheme: their common feature is that they are all units of the language,
their difference lies in the fact that the phoneme is not significant, and a
morpheme cannot be used as a complete utterance.
The weak point of all the above definitions is that they do not
establish the relationship between language and thought, which is formulated if
we treat the word as a dialectical unity of form and content, in which the form
is the spoken or written expression which calls up specific meaning, whereas
the content is the meaning rendering the emotion or the concept in the mind of
the speaker which he intends to convey to the listener.
Still, the main point can be summarized: “The word is the
fundamental unit of language. It is a dialectal unity of form and content.”
Its content or meaning is not identical to notion, but it may
reflect human notions, and in this sense may be considered as the form of their
existence. Concepts fixed in the meaning of words are formed as generalized and
approximately correct reflections of reality, therefore in signifying them
words reflect reality in their content.
Chapter 2. The meaning of the word
2.1 Grammatical meaning of the word
Every word has two aspects: the outer aspect (its sound
form) and the inner aspect (its meaning). Sound and meaning do not always
constitute a constant unit even in the same language.
It is more or less universally
recognised that word-meaning is not homogeneous but is made up of various
components the combination and the interrelation of which determine to a great
extent the inner facet of the word. These components are usually described as
types of meaning. The two main types of meaning that are readily observed are
the grammatical and the lexical meanings to be found in words and word-forms.
We notice, e.g.,
that word-forms, such as girls, winters, joys, tables etc. though
denoting widely different objects of reality have something in common. This
common element is the grammatical meaning of plurality which can be found in
all of them.
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, etc.) or the case meaning
in the word-forms of various nouns (girl’s, boy’s, night’s etc.).
In a broad
sense it may be argued that linguists who make a distinction between lexical
and grammatical meaning are, in fact, making a distinction between the
functional (linguistic) meaning which operates at various levels as the
interrelation of various linguistic units and referential (conceptual) meaning
as the interrelation of linguistic units and referents (or concepts).
linguistic science it is commonly held that some elements of grammatical
meaning can be identified by the position of the linguistic unit in relation to
other linguistic units, i.e. by its distribution. Word-forms speaks, reads,
writes have one and the same grammatical meaning as they can all be
found in identical distribution, e.g. only after the pronouns he, she, it
and before adverbs like well, badly, to-day, etc.
It follows that a
certain component of the meaning of a word is described when you identify it as
a part of speech, since different parts of speech are distributionally
different (cf. my work and I work).
2.2 Lexical meaning of the word
Comparing word-forms of one and the
same word we observe that besides grammatical meaning, there is another
component of meaning to be found in them. Unlike the grammatical meaning this
component is identical in all the forms of the word. Thus, e.g. the word-forms go,
goes, went, going, gone 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. This is the lexical
meaning of the word which may be described as the component of meaning proper
to the word as a linguistic unit, i.e. recurrent in all the forms of this word.
between the lexical and the grammatical components of meaning is not to be
sought in the difference of the concepts underlying the two types of meaning,
but rather in the way they are conveyed. The concept of plurality, e.g., may be
expressed by the lexical meaning of the world plurality; it may
also be expressed in the forms of various words irrespective of their lexical
meaning, e.g. boys, girls, joys etc. The concept of relation may
be expressed by the lexical meaning of the word relation and also
by any of the prepositions, e.g. in, on, behind etc.
It follows that by
lexical meaning we designate the meaning proper to the given linguistic unit in
all its forms and distributions, while by grammatical meaning we designate the
meaning proper to sets of word-forms common to all words of a certain class.
Both the lexical and the grammatical meaning make up the word-meaning as
neither can exist without the other. That can be also observed in the semantic
analysis of correlated words in different languages. E.g. the Russian word сведения
is not semantically identical with the English equivalent information
because unlike the Russian сведения the
English word does not possess the grammatical meaning of plurality which is
part of the semantic structure of the Russian word.
2.2.1 Part-of-Speech Meaning
It is usual to
classify lexical items into major word-classes (nouns, verbs, adjectives and
adverbs) and minor word-classes (articles, prepositions, conjunctions, etc.).
All members of a
major word-class share a distinguishing semantic component which though very
abstract may be viewed as the lexical component of part-of-speech meaning. For
example, the meaning of “thingness” or substantiality may be found in all the
nouns e.g. table, love, sugar, though they possess different grammatical
meanings of number, case, etc. It should be noted, however, that the
grammatical aspect of the part-of-speech meanings is conveyed as a rule by a
set of forms. If we describe the word as a noun we mean to say that it is bound
to possess a set of forms
expressing the grammatical meaning of number (table — tables), case (boy, boy’s) and so on. A verb is understood to possess
sets of forms expressing, e.g., tense meaning (worked — works), mood
meaning (work! — (I) work) etc.
meaning of the words that possess only one form, e.g. prepositions, some
adverbs, etc., is observed only in their distribution (to come in (here,
One of the levels
at which grammatical meaning operates is that of minor word classes like
articles, pronouns, etc.
Members of these
word classes are generally listed in dictionaries just as other vocabulary
items, that belong to major word-classes of lexical items proper (e.g. nouns,
One criterion for
distinguishing these grammatical items from lexical items is in terms of closed
and open sets. Grammatical items form closed sets of units usually of small
membership (e.g. the set of modern English pronouns, articles, etc.). New items
are practically never added.
proper belong to open sets which have indeterminately large membership; new
lexical items which are constantly coined to fulfil the needs of the speech
community are added to these open sets.
The interrelation of the lexical and
the grammatical meaning and the role played by each varies in different
word-classes and even in different groups of words within one and the same
class. In some parts of speech the prevailing component is the grammatical type
of meaning. The lexical meaning of prepositions for example is, as a rule,
relatively vague (one of the students, the roof of the house). The
lexical meaning of some prepositions, however, may be comparatively distinct (in/on,
under the table). In verbs the lexical meaning usually comes to the
fore although in some of them, the verb to be, e.g., the
grammatical meaning of a linking element prevails (he works as a teacher and
he is a teacher).
2.2.2 Denotational and Connotational meaning of the
Proceeding with the semantic analysis
we observe that lexical meaning is not homogenous either and may be analysed as
including denotational and connotational components.
As was mentioned
above one of the functions of words is to denote things, concepts and so on.
Users of a language cannot have any knowledge or thought of the objects or
phenomena of the real world around them unless this knowledge is ultimately
embodied in words which have essentially the same meaning for all speakers of
that language. This is the denotational meaning, i.e. that component of
the lexical meaning which makes communication possible. There is no doubt that
a physicist knows more about the atom than a singer does, or that an arctic
explorer possesses a much deeper knowledge of what arctic ice is like than a
man who has never been in the North. Nevertheless they use the words atom,
Arctic, etc. and understand each other.
component of the lexical meaning is the connotational component, i.e.
the emotive charge and the stylistic value of the word.
2.2.3 Emotive Charge
Words contain an
element of emotive evaluation as part of the connotational meaning; e.g. a
hovel denotes ‘a small house or cottage’ and besides implies that it
is a miserable dwelling place, dirty, in bad repair and in general unpleasant
to live in. When examining synonyms large, big, tremendous and like,
love, worship or words such as girl, girlie; dear,
dearie we cannot fail to observe the difference in the emotive
charge of the members of these sets. The emotive charge of the words tremendous,
worship and girlie is heavier than that of the words large,
like and girl. This does not depend on the “feeling”
of the individual speaker but is true for all speakers of English. The emotive
charge varies in different word-classes. In some of them, in interjections,
e.g., the emotive element prevails, whereas in conjunctions the emotive charge
is as a rule practically non-existent.
The emotive charge is one of the
objective semantic features proper to words as linguistic units and forms part
of the connotational component of meaning. It should not be confused with emotive
implications that the words may acquire in speech. The emotive implication
of the word is to a great extent subjective as it greatly depends of the
personal experience of the speaker, the mental imagery the word evokes in him.
Words seemingly devoid of any emotional element may possess in the case of
individual speakers strong emotive implications as may be illustrated, e.g. by
the word hospital. What is thought and felt when the word hospital
is used will be different in the case of an architect who built it, the
invalid staying there after an operation, or the man living across the road.
2.2.4 Stylistic Reference
Words differ not
only in their emotive charge but also in their stylistic reference.
Stylistically words can be roughly subdivided into literary, neutral and
The greater part of
the literаrу layer of Modern English vocabulary are
words of general use, possessing no specific stylistic reference and known as neutral
words. Against the background of neutral words we can distinguish two major
subgroups – standard
colloquial words and literary or bookish
words. This may be best illustrated by comparing words almost identical in
their denotational meaning, e. g., ‘parent - father - dad’. In
comparison with the word father which is stylistically neutral, dad
stands out as colloquial and parent is felt as bookish. The
stylistic reference of standard colloquial words is clearly observed when we
compare them with their neutral synonyms, e.g. chum - friend, rot - nonsense, etc. This is also true of literary or
bookish words, such as, e.g., to presume (to suppose), to anticipate (to
expect) and others.
words are not stylistically homogeneous. Besides general-literary (bookish)
words, e.g. harmony, calamity, alacrity, etc., we may single out
various specific subgroups, namely: 1) terms or scientific words such as, e g., renaissance,
genocide, teletype, etc.; 2) poetic words and archaisms such as, e.g., whilome - ‘formerly’, aught - ‘anything’, ere - ‘before’, albeit - ‘although’, fare - ‘walk’, etc., tarry - ‘remain’, nay - ‘no’; 3) barbarisms and foreign words, such as,
e.g., bon mot - ‘a clever or witty saying’, apropos, faux pas, bouquet, etc.
The colloquial words may be subdivided into:
Common colloquial words.
Slang, i.e. words which are often regarded as a
violation of the norms of Standard English, e.g. governor for
‘father’, missus for ‘wife’, a gag for ‘a joke’, dotty
Professionalisms, i.e. words used in narrow
groups bound by the same occupation, such as, e.g., lab for
‘laboratory’, a buster for ‘a bomb’ etc.
Jargonisms, i.e. words marked by their use
within a particular social group and bearing a secret and cryptic character,
e.g. a sucker – ‘a person who is easily deceived’, a squiffer – ‘a concertina’.
Vulgarisms, i.e. coarse words that are not
generally used in public, e.g. bloody, hell, damn, shut up, etc.
Dialectical words, e.g. lass, kirk, etc.
Colloquial coinages, e.g. newspaperdom,
2.2.5 Emotive Charge and Stylistic Reference
and emotive charge of words are closely connected and to a certain degree
interdependent. As a rule stylistically coloured words, i.e. words belonging to
all stylistic layers except the neutral style are observed to possess a
considerable emotive charge. That can be proved by comparing stylistically
labelled words with their neutral synonyms. The colloquial words daddy,
mammy are more emotional than the neutral father, mother; the
slang words mum, bob are undoubtedly more expressive than their
neutral counterparts silent, shilling, the poetic yon and
steed carry a noticeably heavier emotive charge than their
neutral synonyms there and horse. Words of neutral
style, however, may also differ in the degree of emotive charge. We see, e.g.,
that the words large, big, tremendous, though equally neutral as
to their stylistic reference are not identical as far as their emotive charge
Chapter 3. Word meaning and motivation
From what was said
about the distributional meaning in morphemes it follows that there are cases
when we can observe a direct connection between the structural pattern of the
word and its meaning. This relationship between morphemic structure and meaning
is termed morphological motivation.
The main criterion
in morphological motivation is the relationship between morphemes. Hence all
one-morpheme words, e.g. sing, tell, eat, are by definition
non-motivated. In words composed of more than one morpheme the carrier of the
word-meaning is the combined meaning of the component morphemes and the meaning
of the structural pattern of the word. This can be illustrated by the semantic
analysis of different words composed of phonemically identical morphemes with
identical lexical meaning. The words finger-ring and ring-finger,
e.g., contain two morphemes, the combined lexical meaning of which is the
same; the difference in the meaning of these words can be accounted for by
the difference in the arrangement of the component morphemes.
If we can observe a
direct connection between the structural pattern of the word and its meaning,
we say that this word is motivated. Consequently words such as singer,
rewrite, eatable, etc., are described as motivated. If
the connection between the structure of the lexical unit and its meaning
is completely arbitrary and conventional, we speak of non-motivated or
idiomatic words, e.g. matter, repeat.
It should be noted
in passing that morphological motivation is “relative”, i.e. the degree of
motivation may be different. Between the extremes of complete motivation and
lack of motivation, there exist various grades of partial motivation. The word endless,
e.g., is completely motivated as both the lexical meaning of the component
morphemes and the meaning of the pattern is perfectly transparent. The word cranberry
is only partially motivated because of the absence of the lexical
meaning in the morpheme cran-.
One more point
should be noted in connection with the problem in question. A synchronic
approach to morphological motivation presupposes historical changeability of
structural patterns and the ensuing degree of motivation. Some English
place-names may serve as an illustration. Such place-names as Newtowns
and Wildwoods are lexically and structurally motivated and
may be easily analysed into component morphemes. Other place-names, e.g. Essex,
Norfolk, Sutton, are non-motivated. To the average English speaker
these names are non-analysable lexical units like sing or tell.
However, upon examination the student of language history will perceive
their components to be East+Saxon, North+Folk and South+Town which
shows that in earlier days they .were just as completely motivated as Newtowns
or Wildwoods are in Modern English.
usually thought of as proceeding from form or structure to meaning.
Morphological motivation as discussed above implies a direct connection between
the morphological structure of the word and its meaning. Some linguists,
however, argue that words can be motivated in more than one way and suggest
another type of motivation which may be described as a direct connection
between the phonetical structure of the word and its meaning. It is argued that
speech sounds may suggest spatial and visual dimensions, shape, size, etc.
Experiments carried out by a group of linguists showed that back open vowels
are suggestive of big size, heavy weight, dark colour, etc. The experiments
were repeated many times and the results were always the same. Native speakers
of English were asked to listen to pairs of antonyms from an unfamiliar (or
non-existent) language unrelated to English, e.g. ching – chung and then to try to find the English
equivalents, e.g. light – heavy, big – small, etc.), which foreign word translates
which English word. About 90 per
cent of English speakers felt that ching is the equivalent of the
English light (small) and chung of its antonym heavy
It is also pointed out that this type
of phonetical motivation may be observed in the phonemic structure of some
newly coined words. For example, the small transmitter that specialises in high
frequencies is called ‘a tweeter’, the transmitter for low frequences ‘a
Another type of phonetical motivation is
represented by such words as swish, sizzle, boom, splash, etc.
These words may be defined as phonetically motivated because the soundclusters
[swi∫, sizl, bum, splæ∫] are a direct imitation of the sounds
these words denote. It is also suggested that sounds themselves may be
emotionally expressive which accounts for the phonetical motivation in certain
words. Initial [f] and [p], e.g., are felt as expressing scorn, contempt,
disapproval or disgust which can be illustrated by the words pooh! fie!
fiddle-sticks, flim-flam and the like. The sound-cluster [iŋ] is imitative of sound or swift
movement as can be seen in words ring, sing, swing, fling, etc.
Thus, phonetically such words may be considered motivated.
This hypothesis seems to require
verification. This of course is not to deny that there are some words which
involve phonetical symbolism: these are the onomatopoeic, imitative or echoic
words such as the English cuckoo, splash and whisper: And
even these are not completely motivated but seem to be conventional to quite a
large extent (cf. кукареку and cock-a-doodle-doo).
In any case words like these constitute only a small and untypical minority
in the language. As to symbolic value of certain sounds, this too is disproved
by the fact that identical sounds and sound-clusters may be found in words of
widely different meaning, e.g. initial [p] and [f], are found in words
expressing contempt and disapproval (fie, pooh) and also in such
words as ploughs fine, and others. The sound-cluster [in] which
is supposed to be imitative of sound or swift movement (ring, swing) is
also observed in semantically different words, e.g. thing, king, and
The term motivation
is also used by a number of linguists to denote the relationship between the
central and the coexisting meaning or meanings of a word which are understood
as a metaphorical extension of the central meaning. Metaphorical extension may
be viewed as generalisation of the denotational meaning of a word permitting it
to include new referents which are in some way like the original class of
referents. Similarity of various aspects and/or functions of different classes
of referents may account for the semantic motivation of a number of minor
meanings. For example, a woman who has given birth is called a mother;
by extension, any act that gives birth is associated with being a
mother, e.g. in Necessity is the mother of invention. The
same principle can be observed in other meanings: a mother looks after a child,
so that we can say She became a mother to her orphan nephew, or Romulus
and Remus were supposedly mothered by a wolf. Such metaphoric
extension may be observed in the so-called trite metaphors, such as burn
with anger, break smb’s heart, jump at a chance, etc.
extension is observed in the relationship of the central and a minor word
meaning it is often observed in the relationship between its synonymic or
antonymic meanings. Thus, a few years ago the phrases a meeting at the
summit, a summit meeting appeared in the newspapers.
portrayed the participants of such summit meetings sitting on mountain tops.
Now when lesser diplomats confer the talks are called foothill meetings.
In this way both summit and its antonym foothill
undergo the process of metaphorical extension.
Chapter 4. Word meaning and meaning in morphemes
linguistics it is more or less universally recognised that the smallest
two-facet language unit possessing both sound-form and meaning is the morpheme.
Yet, whereas the phono-morphological structure of language has been subjected
to a thorough linguistic analysis, the problem of types of meaning and semantic
peculiarities of morphemes has not been properly investigated. A few points of
interest, however, may be mentioned in connection with some recent observations
in “this field.
It is generally
assumed that one of the semantic features of some morphemes which distinguishes
them from words is that they do not possess grammatical meaning. Comparing the
word man, e.g., and the morpheme man-(in manful, manly, etc.) we see that we
cannot find in this morpheme the grammatical meaning of case and number
observed in the word man. Morphemes are consequently regarded as
devoid of grammatical meaning.
Many English words
consist of a single root-morpheme, so when we say that most morphemes possess
lexical meaning we imply mainly the root-morphemes in such words. It may be
easily observed that the lexical meaning of the word boy and the lexical
meaning of the root-morpheme boy — in such words as boyhood, boyish and others is very much the
Just as in words
lexical meaning in morphemes may also be analysed into denotational and
connotational components. The connotational component of meaning may be found
not only in root-morphemes but in affixational morphemes as well. Endearing and
diminutive suffixes, e.g. -ette (kitchenette), -ie(y) (dearie, girlie),
-ling (duckling), clearly bear a heavy emotive charge. Comparing the
derivational morphemes with the same denotational meaning we see that they
sometimes differ in connotation only. The morphemes, e.g. -ly, -like, -ish,
have the denotational meaning of similarity in the words womanly,
womanlike, womanish, the connotational component, however, differs and
ranges from the positive evaluation in -ly (womanly) to
the derogatory in -ish (womanish): Stylistic reference may also
be found in morphemes of different types. The stylistic value of such
derivational morphemes as, e.g. -ine (chlorine), -oid (rhomboid), -escence
(effervescence) is clearly perceived to be bookish or scientific.
The lexical meaning
of the affixal morphemes is, as a rule, of a more generalising character. The
suffix -er, e.g. carries the meaning ‘the agent, the doer of the
action’, the suffix-less denotes lack or absence of
something. It should also be noted that the root-morphemes do not “possess the
part-of-speech meaning (cf. manly, manliness, to man); in
derivational morphemes the lexical and the part-of-speech meaning may be so
blended as to be almost inseparable. In the derivational morphemes -er
and -less discussed above the lexical meaning is just as
clearly perceived as their part-of-speech meaning. In some morphemes, however,
for instance -ment or -ous (as in movement
or laborious), it is the part-of-speech meaning that
prevails, the lexical meaning is but vaguely felt.
In some cases the
functional meaning predominates. The morpheme -ice in the
word justice, e.g., seems to serve principally to transfer the
part-of-speech meaning of the morpheme just – into another class and namely that of
noun. It follows that some morphemes possess only the functional meaning, i.e.
they are the carriers of part-of-speech meaning.
Besides the types
of meaning proper both to words and morphemes the latter may possess specific
meanings of their own, namely the differential and the distributional meanings.
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. In such words as, e. g., bookshelf, the
morpheme -shelf serves to distinguish the word from other
words containing the morpheme book-, e.g. from bookcase,
book-counter and so on. In other compound words, e.g. notebook,
the morpheme note- will be seen to possess the differential
meaning which distinguishes notebook from exercisebook,
copybook, etc. It should be clearly understood that denotational and
differential meanings are not mutually exclusive. Naturally the morpheme -shelf
in bookshelf possesses denotational meaning which is the
dominant component of meaning. There are cases, however, when it is difficult
or even impossible to assign any denotational meaning to the morpheme, e.g. cran-
in cranberry, yet it clearly bears a relationship to the
meaning of the word as a whole through the differential component (cranberry
and blackberry, gooseberry) which in this particular case
comes to the fore. One of the disputable points of morphological analysis is
whether such words as deceive, receive, perceive consist of two
component morphemes. If we assume, however, that the morpheme -ceive
may be singled out it follows that the meaning of the morphemes re-,
per, de- is exclusively differential, as, at least synchronically,
there is no denotational meaning proper to them.
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. The word singer,
e.g., is composed of two morphemes sing- and -er
both of which possess the denotational meaning and namely ‘to make musical
sounds’ (sing-) and ‘the doer of the action’ (-er). There
is one more element of meaning, however, that enables us to understand the word
and that is the pattern of arrangement of the component morphemes. A different
arrangement of the same morphemes, e.g. *ersing, would
make the word meaningless. Compare also boyishness and *nessishboy
in which a different pattern of arrangement of the three morphemes boy-ish-ness
turns it into a meaningless string of sounds.
So in this work word-meaning is viewed
as closely connected but not identical with either the sound-form of the word
or with its referent. Proceeding
from the basic assumption of the objectivity of language and from the
understanding of linguistic units as two-facet entities we regard meaning as
the inner facet of the word, inseparable from its outer facet which is indispensable
to the existence of meaning and to intercommunication.
The two main types of word-meaning are
the grammatical and the lexical meanings found in all words. The interrelation
of these two types of meaning may be different in different groups of words. Lexical
meaning is viewed as possessing denotational and connotational components. The denotational component is actually what
makes communication possible. The connotational component comprises the
stylistic reference and the emotive charge proper to the word as a linguistic
unit in the given language system. The subjective emotive implications acquired
by words in speech lie outside the semantic structure of words as they may vary
from speaker to speaker but are not proper to words as units of language.
Lexical meaning with its denotational
and connotational components may be found in morphemes of different types. The
denotational meaning in affixal morphemes may be rather vague and abstract, the
lexical meaning and the part-of-speech meaning tending to blend.
It is suggested that in addition to
lexical meaning morphemes may contain specific types of meaning: differential,
functional and distributional.
We pointed out different motivations. Morphological
motivation implies a direct connection between the lexical meaning of the
component morphemes, the pattern of their arrangement and the meaning of the
word. The degree of morphological motivation may be different varying from the
extreme of complete motivation to lack of motivation. Phonetical motivation implies a direct connection between the
phonetic structure of the word and its meaning. Phonetical motivation is not
universally recognised in modern linguistic science. Semantic motivation implies a direct connection between the central
and marginal meanings of the word. This connection may be regarded as a
metaphoric extension of the central meaning based on the similarity of
different classes of referents denoted by the word.
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