Теоретические материалы по лексикологии современного английского языка

НазваниеТеоретические материалы по лексикологии современного английского языка
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V.M.Shirokikh, L.P.Koudrevatykh


Theoretical materials for seminars

В.М. Широких, Л.П. Кудреватых

Теоретические материалы

по лексикологии современного

английского языка

Глазов 2004

Широких В.М., Кудреватых Л.П. Теоретические материалы по лексикологии современного английского языка. - Глазов, 2004.

Рецензент: доцент каф. ром.-герм, филологии В.Н. Ивонина (ГГПИ)

Учебное пособие по курсу лексикологии современного английского языка предназначено для студентов старших курсов факультета иностранных языков педагогического вуза. Оно может быть использовано в процессе под­готовки к семинарским занятиям, при написании курсовых и дипломных ра­бот по лингвистике.

© В.М. Широких, 2004 © Л.П. Кудреватых, 2004



  1. Lexicology as a science.

  2. Two approaches to language study.

  3. Connection of lexicology with other sciences.

  4. Theoretical and practical value of lexicology.

Lexicology as a Science

The term consists of Greek morphemes:

lexis logos

(word, phrase) (learning).

Lexicology studies words and phrases, i.e. vocabulary of a language.

Vocabulary consists of:

words - basic units of a given language which are the result of the asso­ciation of a given meaning with a given group of sounds;

set-expressions = phraseological units - traditional stable phrases like «to rain cats and dogs», «as hungry as a wolf».

Lexicology investigates the problems of words, word-structure, word-formation in the language, the meaning of the words, the main principles of classification of the words, the laws governing the enlarging (replenishment) of the vocabulary.

Kinds of lexicology:

general - deals with the general study of words irrespective of the spe­cific features of any particular language;

special - studies the characteristic features of the vocabulary of a given language;

historical - studies the origin, change and development of the words;

descriptive - studies the vocabulary of a given language at a given stage of its development.

Two Approaches to Language Study

Synchronic (syn = together, chronos = time).

The synchronic approach is concerned with the vocabulary of a language at a given period of time.

Diachronic (dia = through, chronos = time).

The diachronic approach deals with the changes and the development of the vocabulary in the course of time.

Synchronic approach deals with special descriptive lexicology, diachronic approach deals with special historic lexicology.


The two approaches should not be contrasted: they are interconnected and interdependent.

Language is the reality of thought, and thought develops together with the development of society, therefore language and its vocabulary must be studied in the light of social history. Every new phenomenon in human society and in human activity in general finds a reflection in vocabulary.

E.g.: nylon (technology), sputnik (science), perestroika (social and politi-cal life).

A word, through its meaning rendering some notion, is a generalized reflection of reality.

Connection of Lexicology with Other Sciences

Lexicology is connected with other sciences which also study words, though, from different sides:

general linguistics ,

the history of the language (etymology of words) ,

phonetics (acoustic level of the words) ,

grammar (morphemes as parts of words and grammatical rules of their combining) ,

stylistics (words as stylistic devices).

Theoretical and Practical Value of Lexicology

The theoretical value consists in stimulating a systematic approach to the facts of vocabulary; in linguistic training of philologists and teachers.

The practical value of lexicology is also very great for future teachers as it improves the knowledge of the vocabulary and helps users of the language master the speaking skills.


by Henry Sweet

The Real Difficulty Is in the Vocabulary

The fact that the languages commonly learnt by Europeans belong mostly to the same Aryan stock, and have besides a large vocabulary in common of borrowed Latin, French, and greek words, is apt to blind them to a recognition of the fact that the real intrinsic difficulty of learning a foreign language lies in that of having to master its vocabulary. (…)

We can master enough of the grammar of any language for reading purposes within a definite period – generally less than six months – but we cannot do the same with the vocabulary unless it is already partially familiar to us in the way that the vocabulary of Italian is to all English speakers. (…)

It is evident that every language in its colloquial form must be adapted to the average capacity of its speakers. Although each language is constructed to a great extent by the philosophers and poets of the race, it cannot in the form of it which serves for ordinary intercourse go beyond the capacity of the average mind. Learning a language, therefore, is not in any way analogous to learning mathematics or metaphysics: it does not imply any attempt to enter into higher regions of thought – to commune with a higher mind. On the contrary, as the greater part of all existing languages was evolved by people in a rudimentary state of civilization, it implies the very reverse. Hence, it is often a positive obstacle to learning a language to be rigorously logical and minutely analytical. (…)

(pp. 64-68)


  1. Some basic assumptions.

  2. Words of native origin.

  3. Borrowings in the English language.

  4. Assimilation of borrowings.

Some Basic Assumptions

The most characteristic feature of English is its mixed character. While it is wrong to speak of the mixed character of the language as a whole, the com-posite nature of the English vocabulary cannot be denied.


Some special terms:

  1. native words - words of Anglo-Saxon origin brought to the British
    Isles from the continent in the 5th century by the Germanic tribes - the Angles,
    the Saxons and the Jutes;

  2. borrowing - l)the process of adopting words from other languages and
    2) the result of this process. Not only words, but also word-building affixes
    were borrowed into English (-able, -ment, -ity). Some word-groups, too, were
    borrowed in their foreign form (coup-d'etat, vis-a-vis).

In the second meaning the term borrowing is also used to denote transla­tion-loans, or loan-translations (кальки) - words and expressions formed from the language material under the influence of some foreign words and expres­sions, e.g.: mother tongue < L. lingua materna, it goes without saying < Fr. cela va sans dire, wall newspaper < Russ. стенгазета.

3. The term source of borrowing is applied to the language from which a
particular word was taken into English. The term origin of the _word should
be applied to the language the word may be traced to. E.g., the French borrow­
ing table is Latin by origin (L. tabula), the Latin borrowing school came into
Latin from the Greek language (Gr. schole).

Whereas the source of borrowing is as a rule known and can be stated with some certainty, the actual origin of the word may be rather doubtful.

Words of Native Origin

Words of native origin consist for the most part of very ancient elements - Indo-European, Germanic and West Germanic cognates. The bulk of the Old English word-stock has been preserved, although some words have passed out of existence. The Anglo-Saxon stock of words makes 25-30% of the English vocabulary.

Almost all of them belong to very important semantic groups, among them form-words:

  • auxiliary and modal verbs: shall, will, should, would, must, can, may;

  • pronouns: I, you, he, my, your, his, who, whose;

  • prepositions: in, out, on, under;

  • numerals: one, two, three, four, etc.;

  • conjunctions: and, but, till, as.
    Notional words of Anglo-Saxon origin:

  • parts of the body: head, hand, arm, back;

  • members of the family and closest relatives: father, mother, brother, son,

  • natural phenomena and planets: snow, rain, wind, frost, sun, moon, star;

  • animals: horse, cow, sheep, cat;


  • qualities and properties: old, young, cold, hot, heavy, light, dark, white,

  • common actions: do, make, go, come, see, hear, eat.

Native words are highly polysemantic, stylistically neutral, enter a num­ber of phraseological units.

Borrowings in the English Language

In its 15 century long history the English language has come in long and close contact with several other languages, mainly Latin, French and Old Norse (or Scandinavian). The great influx of borrowings from these sources can be accounted for by a number of historical causes.

Due to the great influence of the Roman civilization Latin was for a long time used in England as the language of learning and religion, e.g.: absolute < absolutus, algebra < algebra, arm < armare, autumn < autumnus, beast < bes-tia, calculate < calculus, habit < habitum, intelligence < intelligentia, machine < machina, number < numerum, propaganda
comendare, sentence < sentential, square < quadrus.

Old Norse was the language of the conquerors who were on the same level of social and cultural development and who merged rather easily with the local population in the 9th, 10th and the first half of the llth century. Exam­ples of Scandinavian borrowings are: anger < anger, angr (горе, печаль), fel­low < fellawe, felagi (товарищ, компаньон, парень), fit < fitten, fitja (уст­раивать, связывать), fro < fro, fra (от, из), hap < hap, happ (случай, везение, счастье), hit < hitten, hitta (попадать в цель, ударять, поражать), leg < leg, leggr (нога, кость ноги; ствол), low < low, lagr (низкий, невысокий), swain < swayn, sveinn (мальчик, парень, молодой человек), sky < skye, sky (об-
лако, небо), skill < skile, skil (отличие, мастерство, различие, понятие), take < taken, taka (брать, хватать, начинать), they < they (они), want < want(e), vant (недостаток, нужда, недостающий).

French (to be more exact its Norman dialect) was the language of the other conquerors who brought with them a lot of new notions of a higher social system - developed feudalism, it was the language of the upper classes, of official documents and school instruction from the middle of the 11th century to the end of the 14th century: action < accioun, accusation < accusacioun, agreable < agreable, arms < armes, baron < baron, baroun, chamber < chambre, chivalry < chyval(e)rie, crown < coroune, duke < duk, empress < emperesse.


Assimilation of Borrowings

Assimilation - the process of adaptation of foreign words to the norms of the language.

Types of assimilation - phonetic, grammatical, lexical.

Degree of Assimilation

Completely assimilated words do not differ from the native ones in pro­nunciation, spelling, frequency, semantic structure and sphere of application. It is difficult to distinguish them from words of Anglo-Saxon origin, e.g.: pupil, master, city, river, window, dish, box. The majority of early borrowings have acquired full English citizenship.

Partly assimilated loan words fall into subgroups:

- words not assimilated semantically, e.g.: sari, sombrero, shah, radja,
-sfeih; bei, toreador, rickshaw/picksha;

  • loan words not assimilated grammatically, e.g. nouns borrowed from
    Latin or Greek preserve their original plural inflexion: phenomenon - phe­
    nomena, addendum - addenda, radius - radii, antenna - antennae;

  • loan words not assimilated phonetically: communique, chaussee, cafe ;
    machine, cartoon, police; bourgeois, camouflage, prestige, regime, sabotage,
    memoir/(Fr.); spits (G.); pneumatics, psychology, ptolomey (Gr.);

  • loan words not completely assimilated graphically: ballet, buffet, corps,
    cafe, cliche, bouquet, brioche( Fr.).

Completely unassimilated words, or barbarisms, e.g.: addio, ciao (It.), af-fiche (Fr.) - «placard», ad libitum (Lat.) - «at pleasure».




  1. Morphemes. Their structural and semantic classifications.

  2. Historic changeability of word structure.

  3. Productive and non-productive ways of word-formation.

Morphemes. Their Structural and Semantic Classifications

A great many words have a composite nature and are made up of smaller units each having sound form and meaning. These are called morphemes, e.g. teach-er, help-less-ness, sports-man.

Like a word, a morpheme is a two-facet language unit, an association of a certain meaning with a certain sound-pattern.

Unlike a word, a morpheme is not an autonomous unit and can occur in speech only as a constituent part of the word.

Morphemes cannot be segmented into smaller units, without losing their constitutive meaning.

So, according to the complexity of the morphemic structure the words fall into segmentable (child-hood) and non-segmentable (dog).

Semantic Classification of Morphemes

Root morphemes - they are lexical centres of the words, the basic con­stituent parts of the words: black-ness, London-er;

affixational morphemes (prefixes/suffixes) - they have a generalized lexical meaning and the part-of-speech meaning: -er, -ist, -ее = doer of an ac­tion (N-forming suffixes).

Structural Classification of Morphemes

Free morphemes (those which coincide with the stem) - root morphemes: friend, day, week.

Bound morphemes (occur only as constituent parts of words) - affixes: dis-; re-; -ment; -hood.

Semi-bound (semi-free; can function both as an affix and as a free mor­pheme): half an hour - half-done, half-eaten; do well - well-known; sleep well - well-done.

Historic Changeability of Word-Structure

Language is never stable: it undergoes changes on all its levels: phonetic, morphological, lexical, phraseological, etc.

As for some morphemes, in the course of time they may become fused together or may be lost altogether. As a result of this process, radical changes


in the structure of the word may take place: root-morphemes may turn into affixational or semi-affixational morphemes, polymorphic words may become monomorphic, compound words may be transformed into derived or even simple words.

E.g.: the present-day suffixes -hood, -dom, -like, -ship were in OE root-morphemes and stems of independently functioning words.

The present day English monomorphemic words «husband» and «woman» were in OE compound words, consisting of two stems:

hus-bond-a - хозяин, владелец дома

wif-man (OE) - woman (a simple word).

In the process of historical development some word-structures underwent reinterpretation: there are cases when simple root-words came to be under­stood as derived words consisting of two constituents.

E.g.: beggar, editor, cobbler - the representation of such words led to the formation of simple verbs like - «to beg», «to edit», «to cobble».

Productive and Nonproductive Ways of Word-Formation

There are different ways of forming words. Word-formation is the proc­ess of creating words from the material available in the language after certain structural and semantic formulae and patterns, e.g.: paint-er, week-end, TV, doctor - to doctor.

Productive word-formation is widely used to form a lot of new words with the help of: 1) affixation, 2) word-composition, 3) conversion, 4) shortening.

Non-productive ways of word-formation are not used now to form new words, they are: 1) back-formation, 2) sound-and-stress interchange.


  1. Affixation as a type of word-formation.

  2. Kinds of affixes.

  3. Prefixation.

  4. Suffixation.

Affixation as a Type of Word-Formation

Affixation is the formation of new words by adding derivational affixes to different types of stems.

On the derivational level derived words consist of a primary stem (sim­ple, derived, compound) and a derivational affix.

E.g.: specialist = A (a simple stem) +-ist.

helplessness = (N + less - a derived stem) + -ness.


chairmanship = (N + N - a compound stem) + -ship.

Degrees of derivation:

the zero degree - the stem of such words coincides with a root mor­pheme: penny, help, black;

the 1st degree - the stem of such words consists of a root-morpheme and a derivational affix: penni-less, help-less, black-ness;

the 2nd degree - words formed by two consecutive stages of coining: help-less-ness, friend-li-ness

Kinds of Affixes


  1. Prefixation is mostly typical of verbs.

  2. Prefixes change the lexical meaning of the stems (read - reread).

  3. Only some prefixes change the part of speech formed: to en-train, to


1 .Suffixation is mostly characteristic of noun and adjective formation.

2. Suffixes also change the lexical meaning of words: helpless.

3.The majority of suffixes change the part of speech formed: child-less, to black-en. Only some suffixes do not change part of speech: brown - brownish, child - childhood, friend - friendship. They transfer a word into another se­mantic group (from concrete to abstract): child-childhood.


Prefixation is the formation of words with the help of prefixes. There are about 51 prefixes in the system of Modern English word-formation.

Prefixes may be classified into several groups on different principles: in accordance with their l)origin, 2)meaning, 3)function and according to 4)the parts of speech formed.

Diachronical Classification

Native prefixes: be - beset, mis - misdeed, un - unable, out - outlet, un­der - undergo, over - overall, after - afterthought.

Foreign prefixes: pre - predominate, post - postword,j:o - coordinate, in­ter - interchange, super - superstar, sub - subdivide, proprorate, extra - ex-traofficial, anti - antiwar, ultra - ultramodern.

Many of the native prefixes were originally independent words, gradually they lost independence and turned into prefixes (out-, under-, over-). Prefixes mis-, un- have always functioned as prefixes.


In the course of time English has adopted a great many prefixes from for­eign languages. One must bear in mind that prefixes are borrowed not sepa­rately, but as constituent parts of borrowed words.

Quite a number of borrowed prefixes have become of international cur­rency: extra-, inter-, sub-, anti-, counter-, super-.

Synchronical Classification According to the meaning:

  1. negative prefixes: un - unemployed, non - nonproductive, in - incor­
    rect, dis - disarmament, a - amoral;

  2. reversative prefixes: un - unfasten, de - deform, dis - disconnect;

  3. prefixes of time and order: fore - foretell, pre - prewar, post - postwar,
    ex - expresident;

  4. prefix of repetition: re - reread;

5. locative prefixes: super - supersonic, sub - subway, inter -
intercontinental, trans - transatlantic, over - overcoat;

6. pejorative prefixes: (содержит отрицательную оценку с неодобри­-
тельным оттенком): mal - maltreat (вести себя жестоко по отношению к
человеку), pseudo - pseudoscientific.

According to the part of speech formed:

be - belittle, de - deface, detrain, en - entrap, enslave.

According to stylistic reference:

  • stylistically neutral (native, Latin),

  • stylistically coloured (some Greek ones).
    According to productivity:

  • productive (re-, un-, dis-),

  • nonproductive (a-, for-, with-, forth-).


Suffixation is the formation of words with the help of suffixes.

Diachronic Approach

Native suffixes:-ness, -ish, -dom, -hood, -ing, etc.

Foreign suffixes: -ation, -ment, -ance,-tron, -ist, -ism, -ess, -all, -ade.

Many of the suffixes of native origin were originally independent words. In the course of time they gradually lost their independence and turned into derivational suffixes. E.g., such noun suffixes as -dom, -hood, -ship, may be traced back to words:

-dom (OE dom = judgement, sentence - приговор)

-hood (OE had = state, condition)


Many suffixes, however, have always been known as derivational suf­fixes in the history of the English language: -ish, -less, -ness, etc.

Foreign suffixes, as well as prefixes, were borrowed from other languages in the words, not separately.

Synchronical Classification According to the part of speech:

  1. noun-forming suffixes: -er, -dom, -ness, -ist, -ation, -ism, -ment, -age, -
    ant, -ее, -ty, -ess;

  2. adjective-forming suffixes: -able, -less, -ful, -ic, -ous, -ent, -ish, -аl,

  3. verb-forming suffixes: -en, -fy, -ize, -ate;

4) adverb-forming suffixes: -ly, -ward.
According to the meaning:

1. noun suffixes:

  1. agent, profession, occupation: -er, -eer, -ant, -ist, etc.;

  2. appurtinence: -an - Arabian, -ian - Russian, -ese - Japanese;

  3. collectivity: -age, -dom, -ery, -hood, -ship;

  4. abstract ideas: -age, -ence, -ancy, -dom, -hood, -ship, -ment, -ism, -
    tion, -sion, -th, -ty, -ness;

2. adjective suffixes:

  1. presence of quality: -ous, -ful, -able (-ible);

  2. absence of quality: -less.
    According to stylistic reference:

  • stylistically neutral,

  • stylistically coloured: -oid, -i/form, -tron.
    According to productivity:

  • productive,

  • non-productive: -ock, -lock, -t.


  1. Compounding as a type of word-formation.

  2. Structure of compound words: their inseparability.

  3. Meaning of compound words. Motivation in compounds.

  4. Classification of compounds.

  5. Sources of compounds.


Compounding as a Type of Word-Formation

Compounding (or word-composition) is a productive type of word-formation. Compounds are made up by joining together at least two stems, mostly stems of notional parts of speech. Compounds have different degree of complexity: they may consist of simple and derived stems.

Structure of Compound Words: Their Inseparability

Compounds are structurally and phonetically inseparable. Structurally
compounds are characterized by the specific order and arrangement of stems.
The order in which the two stems are placed together within a compound is
strictly fixed in Modern English and it is the second stem which is the struc­-
tural and semantic centre of the compound, e.g.: baby-sitter, writing-table.

Phonetically compounds are also marked by a specific structure of their own. No phonetic changes of stems take place in composition, but the com­pound word gets a new stress pattern, different from the stress in the words with similar stems, e.g.: 'key, 'hole -> 'key-hole. Compounds have three stress patterns:

  1. A high or unity stress on the first component: 'doorway, 'drawback,

  2. A double stress: with a primary stress on the first component and a
    weaker, secondary stress on the second component: 'blood,vessel, 'washing-

  3. A level stress: 'open-'eyed, 'icy-'cold, 'grass-'green.

Graphically most compounds have two types of spelling: they are written either solidly or with a hyphen. It differs from author to author and from dictionary to dictionary,

e.g.: war-path = warpath;

blood-transfusion = bloodtransfusion

word-group = wordgroup

Meaning of Compound Words. Motivation in Compounds

Semantically the majority of compounds are motivated units: their mean­ing is derived from the combined lexical meanings of their components. The semantic centre of the compound is the lexical meaning of the second compo­nent modified and restricted by the meaning of the first,

e.g.: a handbag = a bag carried in the hand;

an ear-ring = a ring to wear in the ear.

But the meaning of a compound is not a simple sum of lexical meanings of its components: the new meaning dominates over the individual meanings


of the components. The lexical meanings of both components are closely fused together to create a new semantic unit,

e.g.: a time-bomb = a bomb designed to explode at a certain time.

The meaning of the compound is also derived from the meaning of its distributional pattern.

A simple change in the order of stems with the same lexical meanings re­sults in a drastic change in the lexical meaning of the compound,

e.g.: fruit-market is different from market-fruit;

boat-life is different from life-boat.

So, the lexical meaning of a compound is derived from the combined lexical meanings of its components and the structural meaning of its distribu­tional pattern.

According to different degrees of motivation compounds are:

completely motivated - both components are used in their direct mean­ings: shoe-maker, sportsman;

partially motivated - one component - in the direct, the other - in indirect meaning: flower-bed, castle-builder;

completely nonmotivated (with lack of motivation) - there is no connec­tion between the meaning of the compound and the lexical meanings of the components: fiddlesticks (nonsense), eye-wash (smth. said or done to deceive a person).

Classification of Compounds

According to the degree of semantic independence of stems; according to the part of speech; according to the means of connection of stems; according to the types of stems.

According to the degree of semantic independence of stems compounds are:

1) subordinative - the components are neither structurally nor semanti-
cally equal in importance, the head member is the 2nd component:

baby-sitter, speedometer;

2) coordinative - both stems are semantically equally important, both
words are structural and semantic centres.

Coordinative compounds may be:

  1. reduplicative - made up by repetition of the same word: fifty-fifty,
    hush-hush, goody-goody;

  2. phonetically variated rhythmic twin forms: chit-chat, zig-zag, clap­
    trap, helter-skelter;

  3. additive - are formed from stems of the independently functioning
    words of the same part of speech. They denote a person or an object that is two
    things at the same time.


Functional classification - compounds are viewed as different parts of speech, which is indicated by the second stem:

  • nouns: birthday, week-end, mother-in-law;

  • adjectives: peace-loving, long-legged;

  • adverbs: somewhere, indoors, inside;

  • pronouns: somebody, something;

  • connectives: within, without;

  • verbs:

  1. verbal and adverbial stems: to bypass, to inlay, to offset,

  2. verbs formed by means of conversion: to week-end, to gooseflesh, to

According to the means of connection:

-formed by placing one simple stem with a linking element after the other: spedometer, Afro-Asian (o), handicraft (i); statesman, sales-man (s);

-without any linking element: headache, man-made.

According to the type of stems joined together:

-compounds proper: formed by joining together stems of words available in the language, with or without the help of special linking element, e.g. street-lamp, age-long;

-derivational compounds: one of the stems is derived, e.g. bed-sitter, type-writer, long-legged.

Patterns of Compounds Compound nouns: N + N - pencil-case [N + (V + er)] - peace-fighter

[N + (V + tion/ment)] - office-management, price-reduction

In general compounds are formed from the stems of words available in the language according to productive patterns: dog-days, rosy-cheeked.

Compounds can also be the result of a gradual process of semantic isola­tion and structural fusion of free word-groups, e.g.: forget-me-not, bread-and-butter, hook-and-ladder, man-of-war, up-to-date.

Compounding is a very interesting and problematic phenomenon. Though many investigations have been done in this field still there are many problems to be solved: typological study of patterns of compounds, motivation, com­pounds formed by means of conversion, the stone wall-problem (is it a free word-group or a compound word ?).


  1. Definition. Treatment of conversion.

  2. Semantic relations between conversion pairs.

  3. Traditional and occasional conversion.

Definition. Treatment of Conversion

Conversion (to convert - превращать) - is highly productive in replen­ishing the English word-stock with new words. The term «conversion» refers to numerous cases of phonetic identity of two words belonging to different parts of speech, e.g.: paper - to paper, work - to work.

From the angle of their morphemic structure these words are root-words. On the derivational level, however, one of them (the 2nd) is a derived word, as it belongs to a different part of speech and is understood through semantic relations with the other, i.e. is motivated by it. The question arises: what serves as a word-building means in these cases? The answer is that the two words differ in the paradigm, and it is the paradigm that is used as a word-building means in cases of conversion. Hence, conversion is the formation of a new word through changes in its paradigm.

There are two main cases of conversion:

  • formation of verbs from nouns and rarely from other parts of speech:
    doctor - to doctor (from noun); thin - to thin (from adjective); down - to down
    (from preposition);

  • formation of nouns from verbs and rarely from other parts of speech: to
    cut - a cut (from verb); but - to but (from conjunction); ups and downs (from

Conversion has been studied since 1891, and it was H. Sweet who first used this term in his «New English Grammar».

Conversion has been treated differently:


  1. The treatment of conversion as a morphological way of forming words
    was suggested by prof. Smirnitsky, and according to this approach a
    paradigm is considered a morphological category.

  2. Syntactic approach to conversion (functional). A number of English
    and American linguists regard conversion as a kind of functional change, i.e.
    they consider that a word may function as two different parts of speech at the
    same time. If so, they no longer distinguish between parts of speech, i.e. be­
    tween nouns and verbs, nouns and adjectives, etc. But one and the same word
    cannot simultaneously belong to different parts of speech.

  3. Morphological - syntactic approach to conversion (by I.V. Arnold) as
    it involves both a change of the paradigm and a change of the syntactic func­
    tion of the word. But it is not correct because the syntactical factor is a se­
    quence of changes in the paradigm, that is irrelevant.

Approaches to Conversion

Diachronic approach analyses which of the two words was derived and the semantic development of each word:

smoke (дым) - to smoke (дымить) in 1663,

to smoke - коптить in 1715,

to smoke – коптиться; smoke – копоть (at present).

Synchronical approach deals with the semantic relations between words related through conversion.

Semantic Relations between Conversion Pairs

As one of the two words within a conversion pair is semantically derived from the other, it is of great theoretical and practical importance to determine the semantic relations between the words related through conversion.

I. Verbs converted from nouns. If the noun refers to some object of reality (both animate and inanimate) the converted verb may denote:

  1. action characteristic of the object, e.g. witness - to witness; ape - to
    ape; dog - to dog;

  2. instrumental use of the object, e.g. elbow - to elbow; hammer - to
    hammer; stone - to stone;

  3. acquistion, or addition of the object, e.g. fish - to fish; tail - to tail;
    grass - to grass; dust - to dust;

  4. deprivation of the object, e.g. skin - to skin; dust - to dust; bone - to
    bone; stone - to stone; tail - to tail;

  5. location (with nouns denoting places, buildings, containers), e.g. bag -
    to bag; pocket - to pocket; house - to house; tail - to tail;

6. temporal relations, e.g. winter - to winter; week-end - to week-end.
II. Nouns converted from verbs may denote:


  1. instance (moment) of an action, e.g. to jump - a jump; to swim - a
    swim; to step - a step; to laugh - a laugh;

  2. agent or doer of an action, e.g. to help - a help; to cheat - a cheat; to
    bore - a bore;

  3. manner of the action, e.g. to drive - a drive; to walk - a walk; to stand

- a stand;

4. object or result of action, e.g. to peel - peel; to cut - a cut; to find - a
find; to make - a make.

There are cases of polysemy of verbs or nouns in conversion pairs, e.g.: to dust, to tail, to stone.

Traditional and Occasional Conversion

Modern English vocabulary is exceedingly rich in conversion pairs. Con­version in Modern English is extremely productive: new conversion pairs ap­pear in fiction, newspaper articles and in oral communication in all spheres of human activity gradually forcing their way into the existing vocabulary and into the dictionaries as well. New conversion pairs are created on the analogy with those which already exist in the word-stock according to the semantic patterns described above.

In Modern English conversion has become highly productive in the for­mation of verbs, especially from compound nouns and of words formed by conversion and affixation, e.g.: microfilm - to microfilm; baby-sitter - to baby-sit; tear-gas - to tear-gas; bloodtransfusion - to bloodtransfuse.

Types of conversion:

  • traditional - the accepted use of words which are recorded in dictionar­
    ies, e.g. cook - to cook;

  • occasional - such words are used in a given context only, for some oc­
    casion and do not enter the word-stock of the language, e.g. girl - to girl; boot

- to boot; butcher - to butcher. «I want to boot you of this house» (Priestly).


  1. Shortening as a minor way of word-formation.

  2. Graphical shortening.

  3. Lexical shortening.

  4. Blending.

Shortening as a Minor Way of Word-Formation

Shortening of words is the way of the formation of new words by means of substituting a part of the word for a whole. This process affects both words


and word-groups. Therefore, the term «shortening of words» is to be regarded as conventional.

Types of shortening:

  • graphical abbreviations,

  • lexical shortening - lexical abbreviations, clippings, blendings.

All shortened words function in the language as any other ordinary word does, so they can take on grammatical inflections: exams, MPs , PMs; may be used with both types of articles: the BBC, a bike, the lib; they may be combined with derivational affixes and may be used in compounding: YCL-er; MP-ess; Euro-MP; etc.

Graphical Shortening

These are signs representing words and wordgroups of high frequency of oc­currence in written speech: scientific books, articles, advertisements, letters, etc.


St - Street; Rd - Road; c/o - care of; Mr., Mrs., Dr., i.e.; P.S.; P.P.S.

Scientific books, dictionaries:

п., v., a., adv., prep., e.g., usu.; cf. - compare; L., &, Fr., p.m., p., pp., par - paragraph; f. - following; P.t.o.; ib., op., cit, etc.

Advertisements, announcements:

Jan., Feb., Apr., Sept., Oct., Nov., d - penny, L - denarius; oz - ounce (28,3 gm); in - inch (2,54 cm); sec. - second; gm - gramme; cm - centimetre; ft- foot (0,35m); Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri., Sat.; L.P.- Long Playing; Tel.; a.o.b. - any other business; B.L.W. - black and white (film); m.p.h. - miles per hour.

English graphical abbreviations include rather numerous shortened vari­ants of Latin and French words and word-groups,

e.g., a.m. (L. ante meridiem) - in the morning;

p.m. (L. post meridiem) - in the afternoon;

i.e. (L. id est) - that is;

a.d. (L. Anno Domini) - of our era;

B.C. (L. Before Christ) - of the past era;

ib. (L. ibidem) - in the same place;

b.f. (Fr. bona fide) - sincerely;

e.g. (L. exempli gratia), etc.

Latin abbreviations are usually read as their English equivalents.

Ways of formation of graphical abbreviations:

  • initial shortening: a.m.; P.t.o.;

  • syllable shortening: Oct.

In reading many of them are substituted by the words and phrases that they represent: Dr. - Doctor; Nov. - November; govt. - government.


Lexical Shortening

Lexical Abbreviation

It is natural that in the course of time and language development some graphical abbreviations should penetrate into the sphere of oral speech and turn into lexical abbreviations, used both in oral and written speech, e.g.: MP, S.O.S., TV, etc.

They are formed by a simultaneous operation of shortening and com­pounding. They are made up of the initial sounds, e.g. TV, or syllables of the com­ponents of a word-group, e.g. pop-music, or a compound word: V-day.

Ways of reading lexical abbreviations:

  • as a succession of alphabetical reading of the constituent letters:
    G.M.T.- Greenwich mean time; a V.I.P. - a very important person; EEC -
    European Economic Community.

  • as a succession of sounds denoted by the constituent letters, i.e. as if the
    abbreviations were ordinary words: UNO - United Nation Organization;
    NATO; UNESCO - United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Or­-

As a rule, lexical abbreviations do not include functional words (preposi­tions, articles, etc.), although there are some exceptions, e.g.: R. and D. - re­search and development programme.

In two-member word-groups as a rule the first component is shortened: V-day; H-bomb; M-day (the first day of mobilization); D-day (decimal) - день введения десятичной монетной системы 15.02.1971; L-driver (learner driver).

In three-member word-groups the first two components are shortened, e.g.: V.J.-Day; H.M. The Queen.


Clipping consists in the cutting off one or several syllables of a word. In some cases it is the stressed syllable which is left after cutting off, e.g.: sis -sister; doc. - doctor; telly - television; Alf - Alfred; Ed - Edward; Sam -Samuel.

Sometimes, however, the unstressed syllable remains, e.g.: phone - tele­phone; Alec - Alexander; plane - airplane; Bess - Elizabeth.

Kinds of clipping:

  1. aphaeresis - initial clipping, e.g.: phone - telephone; cologne - aude-

  2. apocope - final clipping, e.g.: demo - demonstration; steno - stenogra­
    pher; disco - discotheque; limo - limousine; lib - liberation;


  1. syncope - middle clipping, e.g.: maths - mathematics; pants - panta­
    loons; specs - spectacles;

  2. mixed type - clipping at the beginning and at the end, e.g.: frig, fridge

- refrigeration; tec - detective; flu - influenza.

As a rule in Modern English nouns are shortened; there are very few clipped adjectives and they all belong to jargonisms, e.g.: dilly - delightful; comfy - comfortable; impass - impossible; mizzy - miserable. As for clipped verbs they are usually formed from clipped nouns by means of conversion, e.g.: to taxi - taxi; to phone - phone.

In most cases a shortened word exists in the language together with the longer word from which it is derived and usually has the same lexical mean­ing, differing only in emotive charge and style. In this case we speak about the variants of one and the same word, e.g.: exam - examination, sis - sister. When there is a semantic difference between a shortened unit and a longer one they must be called two distinct words, e.g.: cab - наемный экипаж, cabriolet

- кабриолет.

Shortening affects not only words but word-groups as well. Clipped phrases appear as a result of:

  • ellipses - omission of a word or words in a phrase when the remaining
    part keeps the lexical meaning of the whole phrase,

  • substantivation - dropping out of the final noun in an attributive phrase,
    when the remaining adjective keeps the meaning and all the syntactical func­
    tions of the noun,

  • clipping of substantivated words followed by ellipses,

e.g.: pub (subst.) = public (clipping) house (ellipses); a sit-down (subst.) = a sit-down (subst.) demonstration (ellipses); pop (subst.) = popular (clipping) music (ellipses); nuke (subst.) = nuclear (clipping) bomb (ellipses).

Substantivation is often accompanied by productive suffixation, e.g.: a two-decker - a two-deck bus; outdoorsy - outdoors types of people; old-timer

- old time man (старик).


Blending is a specific type of shortening. Blends are formed by means of merging parts of words (not morphemes) into one new word. In other words blending is compounding by means of clipped words. Many blends are short­lived, others - long-lived, e.g.: Oxbridge; medicare; popcert (popular concert); fruice (fruite + juice); pomato (potato + tomato); medinews (medical news); bo-tel (boat + hotel); yarden (yard + garden); Irangate; cashomat (cash + automat); breathalyser (breath + analyser); chifforobe (chiffonier + wardrobe); docudrama (documentary + drama); learn (lazer + beam); eurocommunism, etc.


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