Lexicology of the English Language

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The lexical meaning of a word is the realization of a notion by means of a definite language system. A word is a language unit, while a notion is a unit of thinking. A notion cannot exict without a word expressing it in the language, but there are words which do not express any notion but have a lexical meaning. Interjections express emotions but not notions, but they have lexical meanings, e.g. Alas! /disappointment/, Oh,my buttons! /surprise/ etc. There are also words which express both, notions and emotions, e.g. girlie, a pig /when used metaphorically/.

The term notion was introduced into lexicology from logics. A notion denotes the reflection in the mind of real objects and phenomena in their relations. Notions, as a rule, are international, especially with the nations of the same cultural level. While meanings can be nationally limited. Grouping of meanings in the semantic structure of a word is determined by the whole system of every language. E.g. the English verb go and its Russian equivalent have some meanings which coincide: to move from place to place, to extend /the road goes to London/, to work /Is your watch going?/. On the other hand, they have different meanings: in Russian we say : , in English we use the verb come in this case. In English we use the verb go in the combinations: to go by bus, to go by train etc. In Russian in these cases we use the verb .

The number of meanings does not correspond to the number of words, neither does the number of notions. Their distribution in relation to words is peculiar in every language. The Russian has two words for the English man: and . In English, however, man cannot be applied to a female person. We say in Russian: . In English we use the word person/ She is a good person/

Development of lexical meanings in any language is influenced by the whole network of ties and relations between words and other aspects of the language.


The word polysemy means plurality of meanings it exists only in the language, not in speech. A word which has more than one meaning is called polysemantic.

Different meanings of a polysemantic word may come together due to the proximity of notions which they express. E.g. the word blanket has the following meanings: a woolen covering used on beds, a covering for keeping a horse warm, a covering of any kind /a blanket of snow/, covering all or most cases /used attributively/, e.g. we can say a blanket insurance policy.

There are some words in the language which are monosemantic, such as most terms, /synonym, molecule, bronchites/, some pronouns /this, my, both/, numerals.

There are two processes of the semantic development of a word: radiation and concatination. In cases of radiation the primary meaning stands in the centre and the secondary meanings proceed out of it like rays. Each secondary meaning can be traced to the primmary meaning. E.g. in the word face the primary meaning denotes the front part of the human head Connected with the front position the meanings: the front part of a watch, the front part of a building, the front part of a playing card were formed. Connected with the word face itself the meanings : expression of the face, outward appearance are formed.

In cases of concatination secondary meanings of a word develop like a chain. In such cases it is difficult to trace some meanings to the primary one. E.g. in the word crust the primary meaning hard outer part of bread developed a secondary meaning hard part of anything /a pie, a cake/, then the meaning harder layer over soft snow was developed, then a sullen gloomy person, then impudence were developed. Here the last meanings have nothing to do with the primary ones. In such cases homonyms appear in the language. It is called the split of polysemy.

In most cases in the semantic development of a word both ways of semantic development are combined.

: 21/06/2009