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FOREWORD .....................................................................................................................9 I. LEXICOLOGY THE SCIENCE OF WORDS ..................................................11 1.1. LEXICOLOGY..............................................................................................................11 1.2. THE WORD ................................................................................................................11 1.2.1. Orthographic words ......................................................................................12 1.2.2. Phonological words ......................................................................................12 1.2.3. Words as vocabulary items .........................................................................13 1.2.4. Grammatical words .....................................................................................14 1.3. BRANCHES OF LEXICOLOGY ......................................................................................15 1.4. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LEXICOLOGY AND OTHER BRANCHES OF LINGUISTICS .........................................................................................................................................15 II. SOURCES OF THE ENGLISH VOCABULARY ..............................................17 2.1. HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE ENGLISH VOCABULARY...................................17 2.1.1. The Old English period (450-1066).............................................................17 2.1.2. The Middle English period (1066-1500) ....................................................18 2.1.3. The Early Modern English period (15001800) ......................................19 2.1.4. The Modern English period (from 1800 onwards) ..................................21 2.2. SOURCES OF THE ENGLISH VOCABULARY ................................................................22 2.2.1. Native words in English ...............................................................................22 2.3. BORROWED WORDS IN ENGLISH .............................................................................23 2.3.1. Reasons for borrowing.................................................................................24 2.3.2. Adaptation (nativisation) of loanwords ...................................................26 2.3.3. Direct and indirect borrowing ...................................................................27 2.3.4. Latin words in English.................................................................................27 2.3.5. Scandinavian words in English ..................................................................29 2.3.6. Greek words in English................................................................................31 2.3.7. French words in English ..............................................................................31 2.3.8. Words from other European languages in English ................................34 2.3.9. Words from non-European languages in English ..................................36 2.3.10. Recent loans in English ..............................................................................38 III. WORD FORMATION ...........................................................................................39 3.1. FREE AND BOUND MORPHEMES ...............................................................................39 3.2. ROOT ........................................................................................................................40 3.3. AFFIX........................................................................................................................40 3.4. STEM ........................................................................................................................43 3.5. MAIN MEANS OF WORD-FORMATION .......................................................................43 3.5.1. Derivation.......................................................................................................43 Prefixation .............................................................................................................43 Suffixation ............................................................................................................46

3.5.2. Compounding ................................................................................................50 Orthographic characteristics of compounds ....................................................50 Phonological characteristics of compounds .....................................................50 Morphological characteristics of compounds ..................................................51 Syntactic characteristics of compounds ...........................................................54 Semantic characteristics of compounds ...........................................................55

3.5.3. Conversion .....................................................................................................56 Nouns obtained by conversion ...........................................................................57 Adjectives obtained by conversion ....................................................................59 Verbs obtained by conversion ............................................................................59 Adverbs obtained by conversion .......................................................................60

3.6. MINOR MEANS OF WORD FORMATION .....................................................................61 3.6.1. Clipping ..........................................................................................................61 3.6.2. Contraction ....................................................................................................62 3.6.3. Back-formation .............................................................................................63 3.6.4. Folk etymology..............................................................................................63 3.6.5. Deflection .......................................................................................................64 3.6.6. Change of accent ...........................................................................................65 3.6.7. Abbreviation ..................................................................................................65 3.6.8. Alphanumerics ..............................................................................................66 3.6.9. Eponyms ........................................................................................................66 3.6.10. Nonce words ................................................................................................69 IV. WORD MEANING..................................................................................................70 4.1. SAUSSURES APPROACH TO THE LINGUISTIC SIGN ....................................................70 4.2. OGDEN AND RICHARDS SEMIOTIC TRIANGLE .....................................................71 4.3. BHLERS ORGANON MODEL ...............................................................................72 4.4. WORD MEANING ......................................................................................................73 4.4.1. Denotation and reference ............................................................................73 4.4.2. Denotation and sense ...................................................................................74 4.4.3. Denotation, connotation and markedness ...............................................75 4.5. SENSE RELATIONS BETWEEN WORDS .......................................................................77 4.5.1. Synonymy.......................................................................................................78 General characteristics of synonyms .................................................................78 Types of synonyms ..............................................................................................79 Sources of synonymy ...........................................................................................83

4.5.2. Antonymy ......................................................................................................85 General characteristics of antonyms .................................................................86 Types of antonyms ..............................................................................................87

4.5.3. Hyponymy and meronymy .........................................................................88 4.5.4. Homonymy ....................................................................................................90 Types of homonyms ............................................................................................90 Sources of homonymy ........................................................................................92

4.6. POLYSEMY ................................................................................................................93 4.7. POLYSEMY AND HOMONYMY ....................................................................................94 4.8. SEMANTIC CHANGE ..................................................................................................96 4.8.1. Causes of semantic change ..........................................................................96 Extra-linguistic causes of semantic change ......................................................96 Linguistic causes of semantic change ...............................................................97

4.8.2. Results of semantic change .........................................................................98 Extension or widening of meaning....................................................................98 Narrowing or restriction of meaning ................................................................98 Degradation of meaning.....................................................................................98 Elevation of meaning ..........................................................................................99

4.8.3. Transfer of meaning ..................................................................................100 Metaphor ............................................................................................................100 Metonymy ..........................................................................................................101

V. MULTI-WORD UNITS IN ENGLISH ..............................................................103 5.1. COLLOCATIONS .......................................................................................................103 5.1.1. Definition ......................................................................................................103 5.1.2. Characteristics and classification.............................................................104 5.2. IDIOMS ...................................................................................................................113 5.2.1. Definition ......................................................................................................113 5.2.2. Characteristics and classification ............................................................114 5.2.3. Pragmatic idioms .......................................................................................123 5.3. MULTIWORD VERBS ...............................................................................................124 5.3.1. Definition ......................................................................................................124 5.3.2. Characteristics and classification ............................................................124 5.4. BINOMINALS ..........................................................................................................126 5.4.1. Definition ......................................................................................................126 5.4.2. Characteristics ............................................................................................126 5.5. PROVERBS ..............................................................................................................127 5.5.1. Definition ......................................................................................................127 5.5.2. Characteristics ............................................................................................128 VI. LEXICAL STRATA IN ENGLISH ....................................................................129 6.1. DIACHRONIC LEXICAL STRATA ...............................................................................129 6.1.1. Archaisms .....................................................................................................129 6.1.2. Neologisms ...................................................................................................130 6.2. SYNCHRONIC LEXICAL STRATA...............................................................................134 6.2.1. Geographical varieties of English ............................................................134 6.2.2. Ethnic varieties of English ........................................................................139 6.2.3. Social varieties of English .........................................................................142 Standard English ...............................................................................................142 Slang ...................................................................................................................146

6.2.4. Written and oral varieties of English ......................................................149 VII. WORDS IN DICTIONARIES ..........................................................................156 7.1. TYPES OF DICTIONARIES .........................................................................................156 7.2. ENGLISH LEXICOGRAPHY .......................................................................................158 7.2.1. British lexicography....................................................................................158 7.2.2. American lexicography ..............................................................................163 7.3. DICTIONARIES FOR ENGLISH AND ROMANIAN ......................................................165 REFERENCES ..............................................................................................................172 INDEX .............................................................................................................................178

This book developed out of the course in English lexicology that I have taught at the University of Timioara over the past few years. Its primary target audience are students of English (as a foreign language). The book focuses on main matters concerning the vocabulary of English, is descriptive in nature and is written in a reader-friendly manner, with both the specific terminology introduced and the approach to the issues discussed not exceeding an average level of difficulty. The material is organized in seven chapters which should, ideally, be read in numerical sequence, but may be consulted in any other order that the readers find suitable. It opens with a chapter that focuses on what lexicology is, attempts at defining its object of study - the word - from various perspectives and briefly talks about the branches of lexicology and its relationship with other areas of linguistics. The second chapter provides information about the sources of the English vocabulary. After a brief look at its evolution - since the fifth century, through the Middle and the Early Modern stages, on to the Modern period - and at its main features during these intervals, the focus switches to where the current lexical stock of English comes from. Native words are discussed alongside words borrowed from Latin, Greek, French, Scandinavian and other European and non-European languages. The adaptation of the loan words to the recipient language is also touched upon. The overview of the sources of the English vocabulary is completed, in chapter three, with details about word formation processes that lead to the enrichment of the language, starting from elements available on its own territory. The means by which new words come into being derivation, compounding and conversion are enlarged upon, but minor ways of word formation such as clipping, contraction, back-formation, folk-etymology, deflection, change of accent, abbreviation, etc are also given their fair share of attention. Chapter four builds on a semantic approach to words. Basic theories of the linguistic sign Saussures double-sided view of it, Ogden and Richards Semiotic Triangle and Bhlers Organon Model lead the way to the discussion of aspects connected to denotation, sense, connotation and markedness. A lengthy part of this chapter is dedicated to sense relations between words synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy, meronymy, homonymy and polysemy. The details about them are followed by those about semantic change, extra-linguistic and linguistic causes of this phenomenon and its results extension, narrowing, elevation and degradation of meaning being the matters under scrutiny. Considerations about the transfer of meaning based on similarity, whose result is metaphor, and about that based on contiguity, whose result is metonymy, round off the fourth chapter. Multi-word lexical units collocations, idioms, multi-word verbs, binominals and proverbs are talked about in chapter five, special emphasis being laid on their classification and characteristics. Lexical strata of English are approached in chapter six, from a diachronic as well as a synchronic perspective. Archaisms and neologisms are examined to illustrate the diachronic perspective, while geographical, ethnic, social, written and oral varieties are enlarged upon from a synchronic one. Thus, the way English

Words about Words varies according to the part of the world where it is used is discussed in terms of Kachrus theory of inner, outer and expanding circles. Inner circle varieties of English are exemplified by describing the most obvious features of American English, outer circle varieties are illustrated by speaking about Indian English, while varieties belonging to the expanding circle are tackled with reference to English used in Romania as the most important foreign language, to the effects its having this status has had on Romanian itself and to the adaptation of the English loan words to our language. The approach of lexical strata of English from an ethnic viewpoint prompted the discussion, in short, of African American Vernacular English and of Chicano English, while viewing the matter from a social angle brought forward details about Standard English and slang. Some remarks on written and spoken English, with an emphasis on how electronic communication has influenced the once clearly cut distinction between the two, close chapter six. The last chapter of this book is dedicated to lexicography. After types of dictionaries are introduced, the history of their making in Britain and America is focused on, special attention being paid to landmark English monolingual lexicographic works printed here. In the last part, general bilingual (English Romanian and Romanian English) dictionaries and dictionaries for specific lexical elements are brought to the fore. In order to illustrate the evolution of the former, a comparison is drawn between two editions of (initially) the same general dictionary, printed half a century apart, while two dictionaries of collocations are referred to in more detail so as to demonstrate the usefulness of such instruments not only for learners of English as a foreign language, but also for translators and various categories of linguists. The authors hope is that the topics covered in the seven chapters of this introductory course will arouse its readers interest in lexicology matters, will stir their curiosity to find out more in the field, and, ultimately, will equip them with information that may help them use English not only correctly, but also creatively.

Loredana Fril



1.1. Lexicology
As its name shows (the term lexicology comes from the combination of the Greek words lexis, meaning word and logos, meaning science), lexicology is, broadly speaking, the science of words. Starting from this very simple definition, attempts have been made at providing others, enlarging upon various aspects connected either with its word part or with its science part. Thus, some of the definitions of lexicology found in general dictionaries of English include the following: the study of the form, meaning and behaviour of words (The New Oxford Dictionary of English, 2005); a branch of linguistics concerned with the signification and application of words (Merriam Websters Collegiate Dictionary, 2003); the branch of linguistics that deals with the lexical component of language (American Heritage College Dictionary, 2002). Numerous linguists have also provided definitions of lexicology in their books. For Bejan and Asandei (1981: 110), lexicology is the part of linguistics dealing with the vocabulary of a language and the properties of words as the main units of language. Mc Arthur (1992: 5) defines lexicology as an area of language study concerned with the nature, meaning, history and use of words and word elements and often also with the critical description of lexicography, while Jackson and Amvela (2007) suggest that it represents the study of lexis, understood as the stock of words in a given language, i.e. its vocabulary or lexicon (from Greek lexis, word, lexikos of / for words). Once we have seen that there is general agreement upon the fact that words represent the object of study of lexicology, it would be useful to answer the question of what words themselves are.

1.2. The word

Unlike lexicology, the word has not been given very clear definitions, the lack of clarity being due to the multitude of angles from which it has been approached. Things have got more and more complicated since Bloomfield suggested in 1926 that the word is a minimum free form, meaning that it is the smallest meaningful linguistic unit that can be used independently to convey meaning. For example, child is a word that cannot be divided into smaller units that can convey meaning when they stand alone; if we contrast it with the word childish, we notice that the latter is


Words about Words

made up of the independent meaningful word child and the particle ish, which no speaker of English recognizes as capable of conveying some meaning when used in isolation (though, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means something like having the qualities of). One of the endeavors to shed some light upon what is understood by a word belongs to Katamba (2005), who bases his explanations on recognizing a number of different senses in which the term word may be used. Before proceeding with the explanations proper, he usefully introduces the term word-form, the physical form which realizes or represents a word in speech or writing (Katamba 2005: 11).

1.2.1. Orthographic words

The easiest way to recognize a word is to consider it the strings of letters (and orthographic signs) occurring between two blank spaces in written language. Seen from this perspective, the word may be considered an orthographic word. However, as simple as this approach may seem, it is not universally valid. There is a degree of flexibility in the way words are written down. Being or not being separated by a space may in itself not be a sure sign of words status. Attention should be drawn upon the fact that, if, for example, compound words, either solid or hyphenated (e.g. blackboard, schoolboy, bedroom or mother-in-law, forget-me-not) may be correctly identified as single units of the vocabulary on the basis of the orthographic criterion, what are known in linguistics as clitic groups may not. A clitic group is made up of a host word and the clitic itself. There are two classes of clitics in English: the class 1 clitic the s genitive, and the class 2 clitics the reduced auxiliaries ll, re, m, d coming from shall / will, are, am, had / would and the contracted negation nt for not. All of these clitics are appended to full words, the host words, but do not function as words themselves (although the full lexical items whose reduced forms they are do so). One more reason for which clitics do not qualify for word status is of a phonological nature in order for a group of sounds to qualify for a word in English, there must be a vowel among them. The requirement that words must contain vowels not being met, clitics cannot function as independent words.

1.2.2. Phonological words

Words as physical objects exist not only in writing, but also in speech. Seen from this perspective, they are known as phonological words. The recognition of spoken words seems to be a more difficult task than their recognition in writing, primarily due to the fact that the readily identifiable breaks at the boundaries of a written word are no longer present in speech. When spoken, words are not separated distinctly from


Lexicology The Science of Words

each other, they come in a torrent, they overlap. Yet, even if individual words do not stand out discretely in the flow of speech, separated by a pause that could be equated to a space in writing, speakers are able to identify them. There are hundreds of pages written on speech recognition but, for the purpose of this book, it will suffice to say that the process of the identification of a spoken word begins with the phonetic stage, when the listener hears a number of noises. S he then goes through the phonological stage, when s/he identifies what sound a particular noise represents and then, on the basis of his / her linguistic competence (s he is unlikely to be conscious of), the relevance of the sounds uttered for the actual context in which they are produced and the syntactic-semantic environment of those sounds, s he is able to instantaneously retrieve a word with the appropriate meaning from the tens of thousands of vocabulary items stored in his / her mental lexicon.

1.2.3. Words as vocabulary items

Lexicology distinguishes between words as word-forms and words as lexical items or lexemes. The lexeme is an abstract entity with different variants that is found in dictionaries and that has a particular meaning. Word-forms are the concrete objects that we write (orthographic words) or utter (phonological words), whenever we use language. The relationship between a lexeme and its word-forms is, according to Katamba (2002: 20) one of realization, representation or manifestation. For example, the lexeme ring occurs in dictionaries as such and may be represented when language is actually used by one of the following wordforms: ring, rang, rung, rings, ringing. The lexeme good may manifest itself in actual speaking or writing as good, better, the best. The lexeme child may be realized as child or children, etc. The distinction between word-forms and lexemes is not difficult to understand. It is a matter we, as language users, are aware of even at a very early age and it is the distinction on which word-play in puns and in intentional ambiguity in everyday life depends. In their Ladybird Book of Jokes and Rhymes, the Youngs (1981) suggest the following joke, illustrative in a very clear way of the difference between words as lexical items and words as word-forms:
Waiter, do you serve shrimps? We serve anyone, sir. We dont mind what size you are!

The humor lies in recognizing that the word-form shrimp can belong to two different lexemes with unrelated senses: one meaning an edible, long, slender crustacean and the other meaning, in colloquial English, tiny person. The word serve may also be given two interpretations: to dish up food and to wait upon a person at table. If we


Words about Words

combine meanings 1 and 2 of each of these words, we get completely different meanings of the short conversation. Thus, word-play exploits the lexical ambiguity arising from the fact that the same word-form represents two distinct lexemes with very distinct meanings.

1.2.4. Grammatical words

Seen from a grammatical perspective, words play an essential role in syntax, since sentences contain strings of words. A word as a lexical item with a particular meaning and certain morphological and syntactic characteristics is referred to as a grammatical word. The same word-form of a lexeme may be used as different grammatical words, a phenomenon known in linguistics as syncretism. If we consider sentences (1) and (2) below: (1) She paid the telephone bill yesterday. (2) She has paid the telephone bill., we notice that the verb pay is realized by the same word-form, namely paid in both sentences, although in sentence (1), paid, as a grammatical word, indicates that the action took place at a definite moment in the past, while, in sentence (2), it indicates that the action has been completed recently. In sentence (1), paid is described grammatically as the past tense of the verb pay, in sentence (2), it is described as the past participle of the same verb. Syncretism does not characterize verbs only. It may be the attribute of other word classes as well. Sentences (3) and (4) below illustrate the phenomenon of syncretism in the case of nouns: (1) I saw a sheep and a deer. (2) She saw two sheep and two deer. Although the word-forms sheep and deer belong to the same lexemes and are unchanged in form in both sentences, in sentence (3), they realize the words with the grammatical properties [+noun, +singular], while in sentence (4), they represent the plurals of the same nouns. According to Katamba (2002), grammatical words are characterized by positional mobility on the one hand, and by stability or internal cohesion on the other. By positional mobility, the author means that words can be shifted around in a sentence, without affecting its global grammatical meaning, but with giving it a somewhat different emphasis, as it can be seen from the sentences below that contain the same words, but have different word orders and slightly different grammatical features:
(5a) The Roman army started the war, unfortunately.


Lexicology The Science of Words (5b) Unfortunately, the Roman army started the war. (5c) Unfortunately, the war was started by the Roman army. (5d) The war, unfortunately, was started by the Roman army.

However, if the position of words in a sentence may be changed to suit the speakers or the writers communicative intentions, the elements inside a word itself occur in a rigidly fixed order e.g. in a word such as impossibility, the order of the component elements im-, possible, -ity cannot be reversed to ones liking. *Possibleimity, *ityimpossible, *ityposisbleim are not acceptable words in English. This is what Katamba (2002) means by stability or internal cohesion of grammatical words. Thus, a generally acceptable definition of the word, based on the four approaches mentioned above, may be that suggested by Bejan and Asandei (1981: 8): The term word denotes the basic unit of a given language resulting from the association of a particular meaning with a particular group of sounds [and letters] capable of a particular grammatical employment.

1.3. Branches of lexicology

Lexicology has two main divisions, established according to the degree of generality in tackling phenomena specific of words. The general study of words and vocabulary, irrespective of the specific features of any particular language, is known as general lexicology. Special lexicology concentrates on the description of the characteristic peculiarities of the vocabulary and its specific phenomena in a given language. This book is an introduction to such a study. Both these major branches of lexicology may be further divided into at least two other sub-branches. On the one hand, the approach of the vocabulary of a language from a diachronic point of view forms the domain of investigation of historical lexicology, which counts at length on etymology, the study of meaning, origin and development of individual words. Descriptive lexicology, on the other hand, operates synchronically, i.e. it deals with the characteristics of vocabulary at a given stage in its evolution. A third sub-branch of lexicology is lexicography, the compilation and writing of dictionaries.

1.4. The relationship between lexicology and other branches of linguistics

As Ttaru (2002) points out, it is clear, from the manner in which the word has been defined, that lexicology relies heavily on other mainstream branches of linguistics: phonology, morphology and syntax,


Words about Words

semantics. In addition to these, etymology, lexicography, pragmatics, dialectology, socio-linguistics and psycholinguistics may also relate to lexicology. Phonology accounts for the ways in which words are spelt and pronounced. Morphology dictates the acceptable combinations of particles that generate words. Functionally, it accounts for the different morphosyntactic values of words and, consequently, for their status as parts of speech. The relationships between words, both along the syntagmatic and along the paradigmatic axis (to be enlarged upon later in the book) can best be defined in context. Therefore, syntax also plays an important role in a lexicological study. Semantics deals with the meaning of words, a kind of study without which the compilation of dictionaries would be impossible. Etymology studies the history of words, with an emphasis on their origin, while lexicography, which Jackson (1988) considers applied lexicology, plays an undeniably important role in the writing and compilation of dictionaries. Pragmatics goes beyond the surface level of words and teaches us, for example, how to infer the right meaning of a word in a particular context. Dialectology studies the peculiarities of words from a given region or from a given historical period, for example. Socio-linguistics shows, for instance, how the use of words is determined by the characteristics of the participants in a linguistic exchange, while psycholinguistics deals with matters such as how words are stored in our brains and how it is possible for language users to retrieve the right word at the right time from this warehouse. These are only some of the possible ways in which lexicology interacts with other branches of linguistics. They are by no means exhaustive, but they suffice to demonstrate that an introduction to lexicology carries the advantage of offering insights into other areas of knowledge and investigation of words as well.



2.1. Historical development of the English vocabulary
The most important intervals in the development of the English vocabulary are the Old, the Middle, the Early Modern and the Modern periods. Each of these will be briefly described below, following Jackson and Amvelas (2007) description.

2.1.1. The Old English period (450-1066)

The first Old English (OE) manuscripts were nothing more than a few inscriptions, unable to offer much information about the characteristics of the language, brought by the Anglo-Saxons in the fifth and the sixth centuries. Only after the arrival of the Christian missionaries from Rome (587), did the literary age modestly begin, with a number of glossaries of words from Latin and their translation in OE, and a few inscriptions and poems. The most important literary work that survived from this period is the heroic poem Beowulf, written around the year 1000. Together with it, a number of shorter poems, some with Christian topics, others reflecting Germanic traditions, have been preserved. Although a greater number of OE texts were written after 900, when many Latin texts were translated, including Bedes (731) Ecclesiastical History, the corpus of such texts remains reduced. As Crystal (1995: 10) points out, the number of words in the corpus of OE compiled at the University of Toronto, which contains all the texts, is only 3.5 million the equivalent of about 30 medium-sized novels. The alphabet used in these writings resembles the one still in use today quite closely. Major dissimilarities are the absence of capital letters in OE, the different shapes of a few letters and the inexistence of the letters j, v, f, q, x and z in the older times. The spelling of OE was rather inconsistent, with variations within the same text and even on the same page of a manuscript. OE is characterized by the frequent use of coinages, known as kennings, a terms from Old Norse used to describe colourful figurative descriptions often involving compounds. Sometimes, the meaning of kennings is transparent, but there are cases when it is rather obscure and its interpretation is not a straightforward endeavour. Famous kennings include hronrad, whale-road for the sea, banhus, bone-house for the body. Often, phrases and compound words are used as kennings. God is, for example, described as heonfonrinces weard, i.e. guardian of heavens kingdom or as moncynnes weard, i.e. guardian of mankind.


Words about Words

Besides spelling and the extended number of kennings, OE exhibits a number of other characteristics that make it differ from the present day situation in the language. On the one hand, the Anglo-Saxon preference for synonyms and the ingenuity of forming compounds exceeds by far that found in Modern English. On the other hand, the absence of an extensive number of loanwords, forced OE to rely on word-formation processes based on native elements to build the lexical items needed. The consequence of this is the fact that OE had much larger families of morphologically related words than Modern English does. Thirdly, late OE was characterized by the introduction of numerous calques or loan translations. These are lexical items obtained by word-forword translation of words belonging to another language (eg. superman is a calque of the German Ubermensch). Examples of calques from Latin in OE include (as quoted by Jackson and Amvela 2007: 29):
Latin praepositio conjunction unicornis aspergere OE foresetnys gedeodnys anhorn onstregdan

Fourthly, grammatical relationships used to be expressed mainly with the help of inflections in OE (unlike they are today, mainly by word order). The explanation Jackson and Amvela (2007) offer for the disappearance of OE inflections is that it became increasingly difficult to hear them because of the way words came to be stressed with the evolution of Germanic languages. By placing the stress at the beginning of words, their different endings, especially the ones that were phonetically similar, became more and more inaudible until they disappeared completely (e.g. en, on, an in faren, faron, faran). Finally, the OE corpus is believed to have numbered about 24,000 words which were, however, different from the words English speakers use today. About 85% of the OE lexical items have fallen out of use. Furthermore, only about 3% of the words in OE were borrowed from other languages, compared with over 70% in Modern English. While the OE vocabulary was predominantly Germanic, this is no longer the case in present day English.

2.1.2. The Middle English period (1066-1500)

As compared to OE, Middle English (MidE) has a much richer documentation. At the beginning of the period, the number of public and private documents increased due to the national and local surveys made by


Sources of the English Vocabulary

the newly centralized monarchy. Having been written in Latin and French, these are of a lesser documentary value for the evolution of English (the only English data that can be selected refer to personal and place names). Materials in English started to appear beginning with the thirteenth century and increased in number in the next one hundred years, under the form of translations of Latin and French texts and textbooks for teaching these languages. Beginning with the fourteenth century, ME enriched under the influence of the literary works written by authors such as John Gower, John Wycliff, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Langland. It is this body of literature, in the modern sense of the word, that bridged the transition from MidE to Modern English. Like in OE, spelling in MidE was quite diverse. Variation even within the same text continued to be a feature of the language for some time: variants of neuer, never, such as naure, noeure, ner, neure could be found within the same text. However, the more the period progressed, the more spelling changed to approximate that of Modern English. Unlike OE, MidE is characterized by intensive and extensive borrowing from other languages (in particular, the Norman Conquest, in 1066, paved the way for massive borrowing from French into the English vocabulary). Loan words that entered English affected the balance of the vocabulary in such a way that, while in early MidE, 90% of the words were of Anglo-Saxon origin, at the end of the period, the native stock decreased to 75%. However, loan words were by no means the only source that led to the enrichment of the English vocabulary. Word formation processes, such as affixation and compounding, already established in OE, continued to be active and were extended in various ways.

2.1.3. The Early Modern English period (15001800)

Early Modern English (EME) represents a period of transition from MidE to Modern English. However, while the existence of this period is generally acknowledged, there seems to be disagreement as to when its beginning should be set. Some consider an earlier date, around 1400 or 1450, others speak about a later date, around 1500, to mark its beginning. But many consider the printing revolution, initiated in 1476, when Caxton set up his printing press in Westminster, the safest starting point of Early Modern English. The introduction of printing by Caxton lead, on the one hand, to more and more books being published and spread over wider areas and, on the other hand, to spelling and punctuation starting to become standardized. Furthermore, in the sixteenth century, scholars began to discuss language problems more seriously, making observations on grammar, vocabulary, the writing system and style. EME encompasses the Renaissance (which runs from the middle of the fifteenth century to around 1650), a period of revived interest in the


Words about Words

classical languages, rapid development of sciences and the arts and exploratory voyages to Asia, Africa and the Americas. All these factors had a major impact on the vocabulary of English, especially under the form of new loan words having been introduced from languages the Brits entered in contact with. Writers began to borrow from other European languages to refer to the new concepts, techniques and inventions originating in Europe. As explorations developed worldwide, words came into English from languages spoken on the other continents as well, some directly, some indirectly, via other European languages. Moreover, thousands of Latin and Greek words were introduced as a result of the English translators inability to find precise equivalents for these terms, especially in fields such as medicine and theology. The massive influx of foreign words was, in fact, considered the most prominent feature of English in the Renaissance, despite the opposition it was faced with on the part of purists supportive of the native stock of English. The last decades of the Renaissance witnesses the two most important influences on the development of the English language in the EME period: the works of William Shakespeare and King James Bible of 1611. The former offers valuable information on areas such as pronunciation, word formation, syntax and language use and plays an important role in the development of the English lexicon, by having introduced and promoted thousands of new words in the language. The latter, however, had an opposite impact. It contributed to the preservation of the native stock by opting for a more conservative style than Shakespeares and for older forms of the language, even when modern alternatives were available. Many phrases in King James Bible entered both literary and everyday English and have been preserved and extensively used ever since (at places, with minor changes): can the leopard change his spots, an eye for an eye, fight the good fight, if the blind lead the blind, a wolf in sheeps clothing, money is the root of all evil, the skin of ones teeth, new wine in old bottles, a thorn in the flesh, etc. Between 1530 and 1660, the lexicon of English grew very fast. Borrowings continued to enter the language at an accelerated pace, new words were formed by various internal means and many of the existing ones underwent semantic changes. With such a rapid and extensive development, the need was felt to stabilize the language. Unlike in France and Italy, where linguistic norms were imposed by the Academy, neither Britain nor the United States resorted to such a body to preserve the stability and consistency of the English language. Instead, grammars, spelling and pronunciation guides and dictionaries were produced by various scholars. In 1604, Robert Cawdrey published the first dictionary of hard words, which comprised about 3000 entries of difficult words in English, mostly borrowings. His work was followed by Nathaniel Baileys A Universal Etymological English Dictionary (1721). This represented an


Sources of the English Vocabulary

improvement as compared to its predecessor work, with more numerous and extensive entries. However, the definitions were still not relevantly enough illustrated and the author offered little guidance on usage. The first really remarkable dictionary of English is Samuel Johnsons Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755. As Crystal (1995) points out, although this was a smaller book than Baileys, it is considered more wide-ranging. The preface to the alphabetical entries contains an outlining of the authors aims and procedures, a short history of the language and a grammar, with sections on orthography and prosody. Johnson changed the earlier prescriptive approach into a descriptive one, since, as he himself pointed out in the preface to his dictionary, his aim was not to form, but to register the language, a principle which marked the beginning of a new era in lexicography. The 1755 Dictionary of the English Language, the first attempt at a truly principled lexicography (Crystal 1995: 75), remained an authoritative work for almost a century, until it began to be criticized.

2.1.4. The Modern English period (from 1800 onwards)

The Modern English (ME) period is characterized by three main features: an unprecedented growth of the scientific vocabulary, the establishment of American English as a dominant geographic variety and the emergence of other varieties known collectively as the New Englishes. On the one hand, English scientific and technical vocabulary has been developing steadily since the Renaissance, but, in the nineteenth century, the rhythm of growth accelerated, as an outcome of the industrial revolution and the period of scientific exploration and discovery following it. With a higher and higher level of education, people became more and more interested in science and technology and, consequently, more knowledgeable of their specific terminology. By the end of the nineteenth century, one could speak of the English of science as a well-defined variety of the language, whose characteristics were highlighted quite often in grammar books and in the style sheets of scientific journals. On the other hand, the strength American English gained may be explained, at least partly, by the fact that the United States became the leading economic power of the twentieth century. The assertion of American English is made even stronger by the fact that the Americans are the most numerous speakers of English as a mother tongue. In fact, as Jackson and Amvela (2007) point out, the USA has nearly four times as many speakers of English as a first language than the UK and, according to Crystal (1995), these two countries comprise about 70% of all the native English speakers in the world. The impact of American English on British English as well as on other (European) languages is felt especially in the lexical area, under the


Words about Words

form of borrowings from the former into the latter. It is true though, that British English and these other languages have also input words to American English. This two-way transfer of words is due to the improvement of the communication systems and the development of the mass media beginning with the twentieth century, to the USAs enhanced involvement into the world affairs and to the opening of various countries to the American culture. Thirdly, a number of new Englishes have developed during the modern period in the colonial area, as a result of the adaptation of British English to the regional linguistic and cultural needs of the speakers in countries such as India, the Philippines, Singapore, Cameroon, Ghana or Nigeria. The part of the language in which the peculiarities of these new varieties of English are best identifiable is vocabulary. In addition to the geographical varieties of English, those based on subject matter have also known an accelerated development in the ME period. Of these, some, such as the language of computers or that of telecommunication and business are relatively new, other such as the legal and religious varieties originate in earlier periods.

2.2. Sources of the English vocabulary

English belongs to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family, which includes the following: Hellenic, the mother of ancient Greek, Germanic languages (e.g. German, English, Dutch, Flemish, Afrikaans, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic), Romance languages (e.g. French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian - all descendants of Latin), Celtic languages (e.g. Breton, Welsh, Welsh, Irish), Slavic languages (e.g. Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian, Czech) and Indo-Iranian languages (e.g. Sanskrit, Hindi, Punjabi, Kurdish, Persian). Languages of the same family inherit from the parent language phonological, morphological and syntactic features as well as core lexical items (the more closely related two languages are the greater their resemblance). Being a Germanic language, English has preserved its Germanic inheritance, which, together with the Old English and Anglo-Saxon elements, lie at the core of its present day vocabulary.

2.2.1. Native words in English

The native words are estimated to represent only 25-35% of the English vocabulary, but they form the bulk of the most frequently used lexical items. They include most of the form words such as auxiliary and modal verbs, some of the pronouns, numerals, prepositions and conjunctions and the majority of content words - nouns, adjectives, verbs


Sources of the English Vocabulary

and adverbs. Native words denote, according to Crystal (1995: 124) parts of the body (arm, bone, chest, ear, eye, foot, hand, heart), the natural landscape (field, hedge, hill, land, meadow, wood), objects connected to domestic life (door, floor, house), members of the family (mother, father) divisions of the calendar (day, month, moon, sun, year), animals (cow, dog, fish, goat, hen, sheep, swine), natural phenomena (rain), common properties (black, dark, good, long, white, wide) and actions (do, eat, fly, go, help, kiss, live, life, love, say, see, sell, send, think). The words that arrived with the Germanic invaders and are still used in modern English are usually short. According to Crystal (1995: 18), the most frequent two hundred words, both in British (BrE) and in American English (AmE), are monosyllabic. There are a few two-syllable words (40 in AmE and 24 in BrE) and a handful of trisyllabic forms (3 in AmE and 2 in BrE) which have a concrete meaning and a great wordforming power. There is only one four-syllable item in AmE, the word American itself, while, in BrE, there is none. Native words are also concrete and have a great word-forming power. They tend to be preferred in everyday speech due to their being vague enough to convey many shades of meaning, as opposed to borrowed words, which are more precise and concrete and less easy to handle. Furthermore, as Jackson and Amvela (2007: 54) point out, native English words are considered more human and emotional, whereas many polysyllabic loans from Greek, Latin or the Romance languages are considered cold and formal. For example, in an informal everyday situation, when faced with the choice between initiate, commence and start, or between nourishment, nutrition and food, most people would opt for the short, Anglo-Saxon word. In formal situations, however, it may seem more appropriate to allude to a nauseating odour or even an obnoxious effluvium rather than a nasty smell.

2.3. Borrowed words in English

Apart from the native stock, English is a mosaic of words borrowed from a number of other languages, in various moments along its development (reference will be made to the periods in its evolution mentioned above, to highlight the most generous sources from which English has taken some elements of its vocabulary). Lexical items from other languages have been borrowed into English for various reasons, some of which are analyzed by Katamba (2005). His ideas in this respect will be summarized in the following section.


Words about Words

2.3.1. Reasons for borrowing

One of the reasons for borrowing vocabulary items from one language into another is identity. Language is not only a means of communication but also a symbol of its users identity. By using a particular language, a speaker suggests ways in which s/he perceives herself / himself and would like to be perceived by the others. Thus, if in a Spanish doctors surgery in Great Britain or the United States, a patient of the same nationality initiates a discussion in Spanish, s/he might want to signal solidarity, to emphasize their belonging to the same ethnic group. Alternatively, the two may resort to code-switching, i.e. to interspersing English with Spanish words. In mentioning the role played by codeswitching in the process of borrowing, Katambas (2005: 139) opinion is that if foreign words are used habitually in it, they may pass from one language into another and eventually become fully integrated and cease being regarded as foreign. That is probably how words like chutzpah (brazen impudence), schlemiel (a very clumsy, bungling idiot who is always a victim), schmaltz (banal sentimentality) and goyim (gentile) passed from Yiddish into (American) English. The fact that there is no elegant English equivalent to these Yiddish words was no doubt also a factor in their adoption. Closely connected to identity is prestige. The desire of some to signal that they are related to a fashionable foreign culture, they are modern, the crme de la crme, manifests itself in these peoples using words belonging to the language of that culture. French, for example, has been a source of such loan words for English as well as for other European languages. Katamba (2005: 139) quotes the words of Shakespeares Mercutio, who, in his parody of the pardonnez-moi brigade, emphasizes this point succinctly:
Why, is not this a lamentable thing, grandsire, that we should be thus afflicted with these strange flies, these fashion-mongers, these pardonnezmoi, who stand so much on the new form that they cannot sit at ease on the old bench? O, their bons, their bons! (Romeo and Juliet, II, iv).

Another reason for borrowing is to fill a gap created by the unavailability in English of a word to refer to a particular concept, creature, artefact, institution, religion initially belonging to a foreign culture. At various periods in history, different civilizations have been in leading positions in a particular domain and, as a normal consequence of this, their language in that domain has become the lingua franca of the field. Thus, in the late medieval and early modern periods, when many voices raised against the inadequacy of English for poetry, an infusion of


Sources of the English Vocabulary

Latin and Greek words was found to be the solution for the improvement of a prosaic language that lacked the sophisticated metrical resources and poetic devices that the classical languages boasted of. One of those who shared this concern was Sir Thomas Elyot, who, in his The Governor, a book meant for training the gentlemen who were going to be employed at court, enthusiastically introduced Latin and Greek words in order to improve English. Some such words are: devulgate, describe, attempate, education, dedicate, esteme. Others followed in his footsteps so that words from the classical languages flooded in: commemorate, invidious, frequency, expectation, thermometer, affable (Baugh and Cable 2002: 214215, quoted by Katamba 2005: 140). Not all borrowings were from Latin or Greek in the Middle Ages. Arabic was, for example, another rich source of words that passed into English during this period, especially in the field of science and the Islamic religion. Examples for the former category include alchemy, alcohol, alembic, algebra, alkali, zenith, zero, while the latter category may be illustrated with words such as Koran, imam, caliph, muezzin, mullah, Ramadan, etc. Many of these have made their way into English via French, which borrowed them itself from Spanish, a very important carrier of the Arabic science and culture to Europe, since Spain was occupied by the Moors. For centuries, French was the language of politics, protocol, diplomacy, the government and the military. Hence, a large amount of words in these semantic fields that are used in English originate in French. Katamba (2002: 141) provides the following examples to support this statement:
Military: cordon sanitaire, barrage, hors de combat, materiel, reveille; Diplomacy and protocol: corps diplomatique, charge daffaire, communiqu; Government and politics: ancien regime, dirigiste, coup detat, laissezfaire, agent provocateur, etc.

Names of people, animals, birds and plants have entered English from all kinds of languages spoken around the world: Sherpa, Gurka (Nepal), chimpanzee (Angola), koala (Australia), zebra (Congo). The arts and culture domain is represented in terms of borrowings by words such as samba (Brazil), rhumba (Cuba), tango (Argentina), didgeridoo (Australia). Numerous words referring to food have been imported in English: goulash (Hungarian), enchiladas, tacos, nachos (Mexican Spanish), moussaka (Greek), etc. The interference of English culture with other cultures of the world has resulted into the formers having borrowed foreign words referring to articles of dress as well. Included in this category are: sarong (Malay), parka (Aleutian), anorak (Greenlandic Eskimo), kimono (Japanese), shawl (Persian), etc. In principle, new words may be coined in


Words about Words

English to describe all of the above, but importing the object together with its name has proved a simpler and more appropriate solution. The same way out was resorted to in situations when English had a word or phrase to refer to a particular person, object, phenomenon or abstraction, but this was considered insufficiently appropriate to render all the features of its referent. This is how French words such as chic, flair, esprit de corps, nave, blas or mnage a trois have been borrowed into English. Any speaker of English would agree that the loan translations a feeling of loyalty that exists between the members of a group for esprit de corps or a household with three partners for mnage a trois lack the flavoured connotation of the French phrases and do not quite roll off the tongue (Katamba 2002: 142). Last but not least, some of the English euphemisms are borrowed lexical items. In their case, it seems that less embarrassment is caused when awkward things are said using words from a foreign language. Decency lies behind the use of the euphemistic words pudenda and genitalia, of Latin origin, and it is also the rationale behind the importation of several words used to talk discreetly about shady sexual activities and the participants in them. Maison de randezvous and madame from French and gigolo and bordello from Italian are illustrative of the latter.

2.3.2. Adaptation (nativisation) of loanwords

The foreign words that are borrowed into English may undergo changes under the influence of the recipient language or they may survive in their original form. In the former case, depending on the degree to which they change, we speak about completely and, respectively, partially assimilated loan words. In the latter case, we speak about unassimilated loans. Completely assimilated loans have become fully integrated in the system of English from an orthographic, phonetic and morphological point of view, so that someone who is not particularly knowledgeable in the field of etymology can no longer distinguish them from indigenous English words. Many of the French loanwords are included in this category: animal, aunt, chair, change, colour, cost, dinner, escape, flower, poor, table, etc. On the other hand, completely unassimilated loans have preserved all the characteristics they had in the language of origin. English has not exerted any influence either on their spelling or on their pronunciation and morphological peculiarities. If the recognition of the examples just quoted as originally French words is problematic, no speaker of English would find it difficult to identify words and phrases such as auberge, gendarme, mistral, maitre dhotel, mauvais sujet, facon de parler as being French imports into English. In between the completely assimilated and the fully unassimilated loans, there are those which are not totally foreign but not totally Anglicised


Sources of the English Vocabulary

either. Even after a long period of use in English, some words fail to become fully adopted. Instead, they remain on the fringes, as tolerated aliens with one foot in and one foot out of the English lexicon(Katamba 2002: 145). Loanwords that have preserved their original grammatical characteristics or spelling but have adapted to the English pronunciation Lat. radius-radii, bacterium bacteria, Fr. reveille (pronounced /rivli/ in English) - are such aliens.

2.3.3. Direct and indirect borrowing

If a language takes a word directly from another, as English has taken omelette from French, we talk about direct borrowing. If, on the other hand, a word is passed from one language to another and then to another and to another, as it is the case of the English coffee, taken from the Dutch koffie, arrived here from the Arabic kahva, itself an adaptation of the Turkish kahveh, the process is called indirect borrowing (we may consider the English coffee an indirect loan word of the Turkish kahveh). If words are borrowed indirectly, a distinction must be made between the source and the origin of the borrowing. The source is the language from which a particular word or phrase has entered another language, while the origin is the language to which the etymon of the loan lexical item can be traced back. Thus, in the above example, the source of the English coffee is the Dutch word koffie, while its origin is the Turkish word kahveh. In the case of direct borrowing, since there is no intermediary means between the donor and the recipient language, the source and the origin of the loan words coincide.

2.3.4. Latin words in English

To varying degrees, Latin has exerted a major influence on English from the OE period up to the modern times. The first borrowings from Latin date from the very beginning of the Anglo-Saxon period and are the result of the contacts the Anglo-Saxons had with the Roman population and, especially, with the Roman armies, on the continent. Some of the Latin words that the former brought back to their island were concerned with the military domain, commerce and agriculture. Others were related to plants, animals, clothing, the domestic life, legal institutions and religion (the last penetrated English beginning with 597, the year that marks the introduction of Christianity in England). Examples include: cheese, pepper, wine, butter, dish, beet, pear, lily, lion, ass, candle, shrine, monk, nun, abbot, bishop, belt, shirt, shoemaker, city, wall, tile, etc. The process of borrowing Latin words in the OE period has modest beginnings and it cannot boast a tremendous enlargement up to the end of this interval either. It is generally estimated that a total of around five


Words about Words

hundred words passed from Latin into English during the entire period. As Jackson and Amvela (2007) explain, this is a relatively small number if compared with that of the Latin lexical items borrowed at later times. Furthermore, many of the words borrowed from Latin in the OE period were not widely employed and some of them fell out of use quite soon. Some, however, were borrowed again later, sometimes with a slightly different meaning. Modern English sign and giant seem not to be survivors from the OE Latin loans sign and gigant, but rather recent borrowings from French, where their original form is signe and geant. Borrowings from Latin in the OE period are frequently split into two categories in terms of register: popular and learned (Pyles, Algeo 1993: 288). The former, such as wine, plant, cat, street, were transmitted orally and are part of the everyday vocabulary used in non-specialized communication. The latter, such as clerk, demon, martyr, came into English either through the church or through various classical written sources which increased in number especially after 1000, owing to renewed interest in learning encouraged by King Alfred and the tenth century Benedictine monastic revival (Jackson, Amvela 2007: 40). In the Middle English period, it was French that was the most productive source of loan words into English. Though outnumbered by French loans, Latin ones kept entering English. The latter belonged to fields such as religion: mediator, redeemer, collect (short prayer); law: client, conviction, subpoena; the sciences: dissolve, equal, essence, medicine, mercury, quadrant; scholastic activities: library, simile, scribe. Seen from a morphological perspective, the great majority of the words borrowed from Latin in the Middle English period were nouns: meditation, prolixity; adjectives: complete, imaginary, instant, populous; and verbs: admit, commit, discuss, seclude. A distinctive feature of Modern English is rooted in the process of simultaneous borrowing from French and from Latin characteristic of the time span under discussion: sets of three lexical items, all expressing the same fundamental notion, but slightly differing in meaning or connotation. Kingly royal regal; rise mount ascend; fast firm secure; holy sacred consecrated are examples of such triplets. In these synonymic series, the first element is a native word and it belongs to the common language, the second is borrowed from French and it pertains to the literary language, and the third comes from Latin and is considered more learned. Borrowing from Latin continued into the Modern English period (when words were borrowed from Greek via Latin, too). The avalanche of Latin words that entered English between 1500 and 1800 includes: abdomen, area, digress, editor, fictitious, folio, graduate, imitate, lapse, medium, notorious, orbit, peninsula, quota, resuscitate, sinecure, urban, vindicate (Jackson, Amvela 2007: 41). The later Modern period was the time when English fashioned the loans from Latin in an original way, under the form of neo-classical or neo-


Sources of the English Vocabulary

Latin words which are, at present, used not only in the international vocabulary of science and technology, but also in other areas of modern life. Examples of such coinages offered by Jackson and Amvela (2007: 41) are: aleatoric meaning dependent on chance (from the Latin aleator meaning gambler), circadian, meaning functioning or recurring in 24-hour cycles (from circa diem, around the day), pax americana meaning peace enforced by American power (modeled on pax romana), vexillology, study of flags (from the Latin vexilum meaning flag).

2.3.5. Scandinavian words in English

The second major influence of a foreign language on the vocabulary of English was the result of the Vikings (mainly Danes, but also Norwegians) raids on Britain, which began in 787 and continued intermittently for about two hundred years. By the mid ninth century, the Danes came to control most of the north and eastern part of England which was named, after the invaders, the Danelaw. Further invasions in the tenth century culminated in 991, with the English king having been forced to take the way of exile and the throne having been taken by the Danes. England remained under Danish rule for 25 years after this event. The prolonged contact between the native population and the Danish settlers had, as Jackson and Amvela (2007) explain, a threefold linguistic consequence. First, a large number of Scandinavian place names entered English. Second, many proper names of Danish origin were borrowed and third, a lot of Danish common words became part of the everyday English vocabulary. Examples of place names of Scandinavian origin include words ending in by, the Scandinavian word for farm or town: Derby, Grimsby, Rugby, Naseby. Other such words end in thorpe, meaning village (Baugh, Cable 2002: 98): Althorpe, Astonthorpe, Linthorpe, while still others have thwaite, clearing or toft, homestead in their composition: Braithwaite, Applethwaite, Storthwaite, Lowestoft, Eastoft, Sandtoft, etc. A strong Scandinavian influence on proper names is felt especially in the north and east, in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, where over 60 percent of these seem to be the result of the native and foreign cultures having been in contact for so long. The majority of proper names of Scandinavian origin end in son: Davidson, Jackson, Henderson. When the Vikings settled in England, they did so largely as equals of the natives, a fact which resulted in adstratum influence (Allegrini 2003: 4) i.e. neither of the two languages was politically or culturally dominant. They were supposedly mutually intelligible and bilingualism was most likely fairly spread among the Scandinavians (Kastovsky 1992: 329). This, together with the fact that the English and the Scandinavians had pretty similar cultures, enabled a close unity between them. Moreover,


Words about Words

Scandinavian was mostly a spoken language in the conquered territories, usually banned from writing on the grounds of the existence of equivalent English forms used on paper, which were considered more formal and more literary and, therefore, more appropriate for this variant of the language. Consequently, many of the Scandinavian loan words were informal everyday lexical items, belonging to the core of the vocabulary, which is, according to Barber (2000: 133), one of the most obvious of their characteristics. Most of the words of Scandinavian origin were made to conform to the English sound and inflectional systems. For example, as Pyles and Algeo (1993) emphasize, very common verbs such as get and give came to be used in Modern English not as variants of the OE gitan and giftan, but as survivors of their Scandinavian cognates. The personal pronouns they, them, their replaced earlier native forms. In addition, the replacement of sidon by are is almost certainly the result of Scandinavian influence, as is the spread of the third personal singular s ending in the present tense in other verbs (Crystal 1995: 25). Numerous words beginning with the consonantal cluster sc- / skare of Scandinavian origin: scathe, scorch, score, scowl, scrape, scare, scrub, skill, skin, skirt, sky. Sometimes, the process of borrowing from Scandinavian languages involved the mere substitution of the native word or phrase with the foreign one (as in the case of window which replaced vindauga). Other times, however, loan words were introduced to fill in a lexical gap in the recipient language this was, for example, the case of Scandinavian legal terms or words denoting Viking warship. A large number of duplicates (pairs of words having the same referent, of which one was native and the other was borrowed) also arose from the contact of English with the Scandinavian languages. In some cases, the loan word was preserved, while the native one was discarded: egg vs. OE ey, sister vs. OE sweoster, silver vs. OE sealfor. In others, the OE word survived, while the Scandinavian was lost: path vs. ON reike, sorrow vs. ON site, swell vs. ON bolnen. There were situations, however, when both words made their way in the language up to the modern times, but developed a difference in meaning. Below are a few examples of such pairs (Jackson, Amvela 2007: 43):
ON dike hale raise sick skill skirt OE ditch whole rise ill craft shirt

Sometimes, in cases of duplicates that survived, one member of the pair is used in the standard language, while the other is restricted to


Sources of the English Vocabulary

dialectal use. In the following examples, the former word, of OE origin, is considered standard and the latter, a loan from ON, is dialectal: cast werpan, yard garth, church kirk, leap laup, no nay, true trigg. After the 11th century, Scandinavian languages ceased to be a rich source of borrowings for English. However, modest influences continued to be felt along the centuries up to the period of Modern and present day English, when words such as muggy, rug, scud, ski, geyser, rune, saga, ombudsman have been imported.

2.3.6. Greek words in English

Though less influential than Latin, which was the language of literature, science and religion as well as the medium of instruction for about fifteen centuries (even longer in some parts of the world), Greek played its role in the evolution of the English vocabulary. Initially, words of Greek origin were imported into English indirectly, mostly via Latin, before the Norman conquest, in 1066 and via French and Latin from the Middle English period onwards. It was only at the beginning of the Early Modern English period, after 1500, that English started borrowing directly from Greek. This must have been the consequence of the boost that Greek studies received with the coming of the Greek scholars to Europe after Constantinopole was conquered by the Turks, in 1453. Greek provided English with a considerable number of technical terms from almost all branches of human knowledge. Greek words that were borrowed via Latin include: allegory, anaesthesia, chaos, dilemma, drama, enthusiasm, history, metaphor, paradox, phenomenon, rhythm, theory, zone. Center, character, chronicle, democracy, ecstasy, harmony, machine, tyrant came from Greek via French, while acronym, autocracy, idiosyncrasy, pathos, telegram, xylophone were taken directly from Greek. As representatives of technical vocabulary mainly, the majority of the words of Greek origin in English are considered learned and are restricted to the specialized varieties of the language. A smaller part of them managed to pass into the stock of everyday vocabulary.

2.3.7. French words in English

The most far-reaching contact that English has had through the ages has been with French. Undoubtedly, it was the period following the Norman Conquest in 1066 that witnessed the greatest impact that French had ever exerted over English. However, borrowing from French took place in an anterior epoch and has been an active phenomenon in the modern times as well. Before 1066, the English and the French cultures got into contact with the exile of Edward the Confessor to Normandy. Edward lived there


Words about Words

for twenty-five years and returned to England in 1041. Many of the French nobles who accompanied him on his return were given high positions in court when he acceded to the throne. Furthermore, the monastic revival started in France and many of the English monks must have studied there. The consequence of these upon the English language was that a number of French words were imported into OE (though not very many). Among them, there were: servian (to serve), bacun (bacon), arblast (weapon), prison (prison), castel (castle), cancelere (chancellor). Following William, Duke of Normandys accession to the English throne, in 1066, French became the language of the government, the courts, the church and the upper social classes. However, the lower classes of the English society, which represented about 80% of the population, never learned French. They continued to speak English which thus remained a vibrant, though low-status language. In between the two ends of the social scale, there used to be the middle echelons of the lower level officials of both church and state [who] needed to speak to the people in order to try to save their souls, to exact taxes from them, to administer justice to them, to make them work in the fields of the monastery or in the lord of the manors household and so on (Katamba 2005: 152). This relatively small group of people were bilingual. With the advance of the period, the situation changed. Many of the nobles had properties both in Normandy and in England and had split loyalties so that, in many cases, they were closer to France and the French culture than to England and its culture. The Norman kings remained dukes of Normandy and some of them were present in France for longer than they were in England. Through marriage and conquest, their French possessions expanded so much that Henry II (1154 1189), for example, was not only king of England, but had become the ruler of almost two thirds of France. However, gradually, through intermarriage and closer and closer contact, the Normans were integrated into the English society. For the upper classes, this resulted into their having learnt some English, which however, they were able to use only within limits in the beginning, and mostly in code-switching contexts. Most of the borrowing took place after the middle of the thirteenth century, after French had been knocked off its perch as the most prestigious language in everyday use in high places and had increasingly become a written language (Katamba 2005: 153). About 10,000 French words made their way into English in The Middle Ages, most of them in the area of government: president, government, minister, territory, counselor, council, people, power; nobility: sovereign, royal, monarch, duke, prince, count, princess, principality, baron, baroness, noble; law: assizes, judge, jurisdiction, advocate, jury, court, law, prison, crime, accuse; war: peace, battle, admiral, captain, lieutenant. In the period 1200 1500, further steps towards reviving the fortunes of English were recorded. Not least among them was King Johns


Sources of the English Vocabulary

loss of Normandy in 1204. Yet, it was the Hundred Year War between England and France, which began in 1337, that put an end to the linguistic hegemony of French. The ruling classes were forced to take on the task of learning and using English properly, as a consequence of giving up their French interests and becoming truly English having been imposed on them. The adoption of French words that followed the Norman Conquest continued unabated in contemporary English. The reasons behind this phenomenon are talked about by Chirol (1973), quoted by Katamba (2005). She suggests that using French projects upon the speaker or upon the matter or object talked about a positive image of France (Katamba 2005: 155). In broad lines, this image is that of the French way of life, of high culture, sophistication in dress, food and social relations (Katamba 2005: 155). The French contribution to civilization as a whole is widely known and acknowledged. France is perceived as the land of the arts of literature, music architecture, ballet, painting and sculpture. Therefore, it is natural that many of the technical terms used in the vocabulary of arts should be French. Examples of such terms in English include, in literature: ballade, brochure, genre, denouement, rsum, dada, faux amis, pastiche; in painting: critique, avant garde, art nouveau, collage, baroque, renaissance, salon; in music: rverie, ensemble, bton, musique, concrete, conservatoire, suite, pot-pourri; in ballet: ballet, pirouette, gavotte, pas de deux, pli, tutu, jet, etc. Society, refinement and fashionable living are also believed to be domains in which the French occupied a leading position. Hence, the borrowing of words and phrases such as the following, which enabled English speakers to take on the elegance of French: finesse, bizarre, tte-tte, rendez-vous, lite, protg(e), savoire-vivre, personnel, fianc(e), dbutante, prestige, nouveau riche, lan, blas, chauffeur, facile, cest la vie, touch, etc. Victorian values encourage the hypocritical No-sex-please-wereBritish mentality. Figures in public life in Britain are hounded out of office and governments may collapse because of sexual peccadilloes. Probably this is why there is a secret admiration for the French who do not have such hang-ups about sex. The British admire the sexual prowess of the French or, more precisely, the French attitude to sex, Katamba says (2005: 157). This must be the reason for the borrowing of quite numerous words of French origin connected to love and sexual life. Among these, there are: amour, beau, belle, chaperon, liaison, affaire de Coeur, madame, etc. The French have always been renowned for their cuisine, so, many French words having to do with food and cooking have also been borrowed along the ages. Some were anglicized, others preserved their original form. On the menu, the latter always add to the quality of the gastronomic experience and are deemed to be worth an extra pound or two on the bill (Katamba 2005: 157). The cuisine French words and phrases that have


Words about Words

been imported into English count among them examples such as: mustard, vinegar, beef, sauce, salad, cuisine, haricot, pastry, omelette, meringue, haricot, cognac, crme caramel, ptisserie, liqueur, clair, flan, nougat, glac, saut, flamb, garni, brasserie, la carte, entre, rtisserie, horsdoeuvre, etc. French fashion has also been held in high esteem for centuries. Therefore, the list of loans from French includes words in the area of clothes, hair, cosmetics, etc, such as: coiffure, blonde, brunette, lingerie, bouquet, bret, chic, boutique, haute couture, aprs-ski, culottes, brassire. Some fashionable means of transportation get their names from French as well: coup, cabriolet.

2.3.8. Words from other European languages in English

Besides French, English has borrowed from a number of other modern European languages. Starting with its Early Modern period, it has taken over words from Dutch and German, in the context of the commercial relationships that have been established between the Flemish / Dutch and the Englishspeaking peoples. As a consequence of the Dutchs skillfulness in seafaring activities, English enriched with terms connected to sea life and navigation such as: bowline, bowsprit, buoy, commodore, cruise, deck, skipper, smuggle, yacht. The Dutch and the Flemish have also been famous for their cloth making and the commercial activities connected to it so that English borrowed terms in this area as well: cambric, duck, jacket, nap, spool. Loanwords from other Low German dialects include: boor, broke, isinglass, luck, snap, wagon, etc. The contact of the Americans with the Dutch settlers, especially in and around New York, resulted into a number of words referring to Dutch American food having been imported into English. Among these, there are; coleslaw, cookie, cranberry, waffle. Lexical items from various other fields may be added to the list: boodle, boss, caboose, dope, Santa Claus, spook, from Dutch spoken in America, and apartheid, commandeer, commando, kraal, outspan, spoor, trek, veld, from Dutch spoken in South Africa (Afrikaans). Unlike Low German, High German has had a less poignant impact on English. A number of words have been borrowed in specialized fields such as geology and mineralogy: cobalt, feldspar, gneiss, nickel, quartz, seltzer, zinc. Some food and drink terms have been imported together with the items they designate: delicatessen, frankfurter, noodle, schnapps, alongside a small miscellanea of other borrowings, including angst, ersatz, Gestalt, hinterland, leitmotiv, rucksack, umlaut, waltz, etc. Of the Romance European languages, English has borrowed from Italian, Spanish and Portuguese mainly.


Sources of the English Vocabulary

Italian words started their way into English as early as the sixteenth century, with the adoption of items pertaining to the vocabulary of music, one of the arts particularly representative for the Italians. Jackson and Amvela (2007: 48) quote a number of words dating from that period. Their examples include: duo, fugue, madrigal, violin. These were followed, they say, in the seventeenth century by allegro, largo, opera, piano, presto, sonata, solo and, in the eighteenth century, when the interest of the English for Italian music reached its peak, by adagio, andante, aria, cantata, concerto, crescendo, duet, finale, forte, oratorio, trio, trombone, viola. The process continued in the nineteenth century, with the adoption of alto, cadenza, legato, piccolo, prima-donna. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Italians immigrated in large numbers to the United States. Many of them went into the food business and popularized Italian cuisine. Consequently, many Italian words connected to food and cooking entered American English and subsequently spread to other dialects of English as well. Some such words are: pizza, pasta, spaghetti, macaroni, ciabatta, cannelloni, lasagna, zucchini, pesto, tagliatelle, macaroni, scampi. Italian words from areas other than music and cuisine that have been borrowed include: balcony, balloon, carnival, dilettante, fresco, ghetto, regatta, stiletto, studio, torso, umbrella, vendetta, volcano. Spanish and Portuguese became suppliers of words to English in the sixteenth century. The former has been a rich direct source of loans, while the latter was less so. In addition, many non-European words from the colonies found their way into English via Spanish and Portuguese. As Jackson and Amvela (2007: 48) point out, many of these loanwords came from the New World: alligator, avocado, barracuda, canoe, chocolate, cigar, cockroach, domino, embargo, mosquito, peccadillo, potato, sombrero, tobacco, tomato, tornado, tortilla, vanilla. The nineteenth century seems to have been the period when Spanish words penetrated English, especially its American variety, in large numbers. Among the words adopted then, there are: bonanza, canyon, lasso, mustang, patio, ranch, sierra, siesta, stampede. The twentieth century is characterized by loan translations such as moment of truth, a linguistic calque of the Spanish momento de la verdad, referring to the moment when the bull is killed by the toreador in the arena. As far as Portuguese words that were taken over into English are concerned, though the process of borrowing started much earlier, the great majority of them entered English during the modern period. This majority included: albino, copra, flamingo, Madeira, mango, marmalade, molasses, palaver, teak. From other European languages, English has borrowed few words. Sable came into English in Middle English times via French, from Slavic languages; polka came via French in the nineteenth century, from Czech, alongside later borrowings such as howitzer, pistol, robot. Mammoth was


Words about Words

borrowed in the eighteenth century directly from Russian. Other more recent borrowings from Russian have not become completely naturalized: bolshevik, czar, glasnost, intelligentsia (ultimately from Latin), perestroika, tundra, vodka. From Hungarian, English has borrowed directly goulash and paprika; while coach came via French, from the Hungarian kosci. Turkish and Tatar words in English include: bosh, caique, coffee, cossack, divan, fez, horde, kaftan, kavass, kebab, khan, kumiss, mammoth, pasha, shish, Tartar, turkey, turquoise, yoghurt.

2.3.9. Words from non-European languages in English

With the expansion of the British Empire, which facilitated the spread of English to all continents between the seventeenth and the twentieth centuries, and with the ascendancy of the United Stated immediately after the Second World War, when the British Empire started its decline, English came in contact with many languages around the world. The result of this contact has been two fold: English has influenced these languages to a lesser or a greater degree and has itself been affected by them. In North America, English borrowed from the Native American languages common words such as avocado, barbecue, buccaneer, cacao, cannibal, canoe, wampum, toboggan, iguana, maize, moccasin, papaya, tomahawk, skunk, squash, tobacco, coyote, caribou, poncho, tomato, yucca and a number of proper nouns such as mountain names: Appalachians, Alleghenies, the names of the Great Lakes: Erie, Ontario, Huron, Michigan, Superior, names of states: Oklahoma, Massachusetts and names of cities: Chicago, Saratoga, Tallahassie. On the other side of the world, the languages spoken in what are now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have been a source of verbal source to English that cannot be overlooked. Rao (1954), quoted by Katamba (2005) gives a quite comprehensive account of the Indian loans in English. He points out that the nature of the borrowed words has changed with the centuries, mirroring the developments outside the language. There are a few words designating trade goods which predate the Raj: copra, coir, pepper, sugar, indigo. Most of these words entered English indirectly, via Latin, Greek or French. Indian became a direct source of loan words starting from the very early years of the British colonization of India. Quite understandably, the words borrowed at this time were a reflection of the commerce between Britain and the newly colonized territory and included terms such as calico, chintz and dungaree. As time passed, the range of Indian words borrowed into English widened so that, besides words referring to mundane trade goods which continued their way into English, lexical items in the areas of religion,


Sources of the English Vocabulary

philology, articles of dress and various other domains have also been imported. Katamba (2005: 161) reproduces Raos (1954) table to demonstrate the diversity and wealth of the Indian loan words:
Hinduism: Buddha, Brahmin, karma, pundit, yoga, mantra, nirvana; Food: chutney, chapatti, curry, poppadom; Clothing: cashmere, pyjamas, khaki, mufti, saree; Philology (19th century): sandhi, bahuvrihi, dvandva; People and society: Aryan (Sanskrit), pariah, mem-sahib, sahib, coolie; Animals and plants: mongoose, zebu, bhang, paddy, teak; Buildings and domestic: bungalow, pagoda, cot; Assorted: catamaran, cash, chit, lilac, tattoo, loot, polo, cushy.

Though a smaller number of words coming from farther east have entered English, at least some of them cannot pass unnoticed since they have come to be used quite frequently. Thus, the AskOxford website mentions the following as loan words from Chinese languages: china, chinchin, chopsticks, chopsuey, chow chow, chow mein, dim sum, fan-tan, feng shui, ginseng, gung-ho, kaolin, ketchup / catsup, kowtow, kung fu, lychee, loquat, mahjong, pekoe, sampan, tai chi, taipan, Tao, tea, yang, yen, yin. According to the same source, aikido, banzai, bonsai, bushido, futon, geisha, haiku, hara-kiri, judo, jujitsu, Kabuki, kamikaze, kimono, koan, mikado, sake, samisen, samurai, sayonara, Shinto, shogun, soy(a), sushi, teriyaki, tofu, tycoon, yen, Zen have been taken from Japanese, while lama, Sherpa, yak, yeti, now present in English, originate in Tibetan. Languages from south and south-east Asia, though less known to non-linguists, have also given words to English. Hindi / Urdu is the source language for bungalow, crore, dacoit, deodar, dinghy, dungaree, ghee, gymkhana, jodphurs, lakh, loot, paisa, pakora, Raj, samo(o)sa, shampoo, tandoori, tom-tom, wallah. Bantam, batik, gamelan, junk come from Javanese. Malay has contributed amok, bamboo, caddy, camphor, cassowary, cockatoo, dugong, durian, gecko, gingham, gong, kampong / compound, kapok, kris, lory, mangosteen, orangutan, paddy, pangolin, rattan, sago, sarong. From Sanskrit, mainly indirectly, English received ashram, avatar, banya, banyan, beryl, brahmin, carmine, chakra, cheetah, chintz, chutney, crimson, guru, juggernaut, jungle, jute, karma, lacquer, mandarin, nirvana, palanquin, pundit, sapphire, sugar, suttee, swastika, yoga, etc. From Sinhala, it enriched with anaconda and tourmaline. and from Tagalog with boondock, ylang-ylang. Tamil has given English catamaran, cheroot, curry, mango, mulligatawny, pariah.


Words about Words

2.3.10. Recent loans in English

English is borrowing words on a regular basis. The process of importing lexical items from other languages has never stopped, it has only changed its characteristics lately. The main features that are peculiar to it at present are the fact that the frequency of borrowing is considerably reduced and that English seems to be spreading its tentacles and borrow from less and less known languages. To prove this, Jackson and Amvela (2007) quote Pyles and Algeo (1993: 310) who mention a study by Cannon (1987) of more than a thousand recent loan words from almost one hundred languages, which shows that about 25% [of these] are from French, 8% each from Japanese and Spanish, 7% each from Italian and Latin, 6% each from African languages, German and Greek, 4% each from Russian and Yiddish, 3% from Chinese, and progressively smaller percentages from Arabic, Portuguese, Hindi, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Afrikaans, Malayo-Polynesian, Vietnamese, Amerindian languages, Swedish, Bengali, Danish, Indonesian, Korean, Persian, Amharic, Eskimo-Aleut, Irish, Norwegian, and 30 other languages. With all this diversity of sources, as the study itself demonstrates, the largest supplier of loan words to English remains, at present, French. This may be because of the geographical proximity of France and England. A reason of the same kind, Mexicos vicinity with the United States, might lie behind the frequent borrowing from American Spanish by American English. The increase in importance of Japanese as a source of loans might be the consequence of Japans having gained more and more power on the global market in general. As far as Latin, a former rich source of loans, is concerned, Jackson and Amvela (2007) explain its decline as a provider of words to English both by the fact that, since English borrowed from it so extensively in previous ages, there is relatively little left to be borrowed and by the fact that, rather than borrowing directly from Latin, English often now creates new Latinate words from English morphemes originally from Latin. The discussion so far about the sources of the English vocabulary has taken into account the native stock of the language and the various sources of borrowing, in different periods of time. Besides importing words from other languages, the English vocabulary has been continuously enriching by another means the formation of new lexical items. The next chapter will explore word formation processes in more detail.



Before surveying the techniques of word formation that have given birth to new words in English, the introduction of the main concepts involved in such a presentation - free and bound morphemes, root, affix, and stem might prove useful.

3.1. Free and bound morphemes

Originally, morphology meant the study of biological organisms. But nineteenth century students of linguistics borrowed the term and applied it to the study of word structure, so that, in linguistics, morphology came to mean the study of the formation and internal organization of words. The basic concept morphology operates with is the morpheme, the smallest unit that has meaning or serves a grammatical function in a language. Morphemes are the atoms with which words are built (Katamba 2005: 29). However, they are just theoretical constructs since, in practice, it is the variants of a morpheme that are used to form new words. These variants are called allomorphs and they are in a relation of mutual exclusiveness, i.e. only one allomorph can occur in a given context. For example, im-, in-, il-, ir- are variants of the same morpheme, employed on phonetic principles, according to the starting sound of the element to which they are added: im-possible, in-cautious, il-literate, ir-responsible; the selection of the morpheme (e)s, the marker of the regular plural of nouns, is also determined by phonological factors so that it may be realized under the form of one of the following allomorphs: /s/ in hats, /z/ in games and /iz/ in oranges. The morphemes that constitute the core for the formation of new words are less sensitive to the phonetic environment and more so to the grammatical context in which they occur. This is obvious for irregular verbs morphemes, whose allomorphs differ on grammatical grounds: eg. the allomorphs drove and driven correspond, respectively, to the past simple and the past perfect of the morpheme drive. According to their distribution, morphemes fall into two broad categories, free morphemes and bound morphemes. The former can appear independently in an utterance and have a meaning of their own, while the latter cannot be used independently and do not have a notional or full meaning, but a functional or derivative one. Bound morphemes are always appended to free forms (eg. drive is a free morpheme, while er is a bound one; if the latter is added to the former, we obtain the word driver which, in its turn, is another free morpheme, according to the above definition).


Words about Words

3.2. Root
The root is, Ttaru (2002: 22) says, the necessary and sufficient structural constituent for a word to exist, the part common to all the words in a word family (the whole series of words and word-substitutes obtained from one root by all possible word-forming mechanisms (Ttaru 2002: 38)), which is not further divisible into smaller parts that have a meaning (eg. care in the words careful, careless, carelessness, caring). If roots are equivalent to a word in the language and carry the notional meaning of this word into all the new words they form, they are considered free roots (eg. civil in civility, region in regional or person in personify). If, on the other hand, they are totally barred from occurring independently, they are considered bound roots (eg. sanct in sanctify, tox in toxic or loc in local).

3.3. Affix
The bound morphemes that are appended to the root are called affixes. Depending on their position to the root, affixes may be prefixes, if they are added before the root, suffixes, if they are added after the root and infixes, if they are added somewhere within the root (modern English has no infixes in its regular vocabulary; however, they may be employed in expressive language such as absobloominglutely used by Alan Jay Lerner in My Fair Lady and quoted by Adams (1973: 8) or cuck-BLOODY-oo, the way the cuckoo sounds for Dylan Thomas (1940)). Affixes may be derivational or inflectional, also called functional. The former, which will be discussed in more details in what follows, help to form completely new words (eg. ful in beautiful or un- in unimportant), while the latter, which Jackson and Amvela (2007) call relational markers, help to build new grammatical forms of the same basic word, according to the syntactic environment in which this word is used (eg. s in writes helps to form the present tense form of the verb to write, when it is the predicate of a third person singular subject; -ed in loved is used for the formation of the past and past participle of to love, while er in cleverer is added to change the positive degree of the adjective clever into its comparative of superiority; however, in all the previous examples, the notional content of the root words remains unaltered). Inflectional affixes are characterized by a number of features, the most important of these being the fact that they lend themselves to paradigms which apply to the language as a whole. The paradigm of a major word class consists of a single stem of that class with the inflectional suffixes which the stem may take. The paradigm may be used as a suitable way of defining the word class in the sense that, if a word belongs to that


Word Formation

class, it must take at least some of the suffixes characteristic of that set as opposed to suffixes characterizing other paradigms (Jackson, Amvela 2007: 84). The inflectional affixes of nouns, adjectives and verbs are illustrated in a tabular form by Cook (1969: 122-3) as it is shown below. Nouns display the following inflectional contrasts:
base form boy child student stem + plural boys children students stem + possessive boys childs students stem + plural+possessive boys childrens students

Mono- or disyllabic gradable adjectives show the following inflectional contrasts:

base form cold happy sad stem + comparative colder happier sadder stem + superlative coldest happiest saddest

Verbs (except the verb to be and the modals) show the following inflectional contrasts:
base form eat sing work stem + 3rd pers. sg. eats sings works stem + past tense ate sang worked stem + past part. eaten sung worked stem+ present part. eating singing working

For some verbs, including the regular ones, the five-parts paradigm has only four elements, since the past and past participle inflectional affixes have the same form. However, since they confer the stem they are added to different morphological characteristics, they should be considered different morphemes with identical forms (homonyms). Pronouns are a class of function words which do not add inflectional affixes. Their forms fit the noun inflectional paradigm, as Jackson and Amvela (2007) show:
child I, me you he, him she, her it, it children we, us you they, them childs mine yours his hers its childrens ours yours theirs


Words about Words

The forms listed in each column of the paradigm are in complementary distribution, i.e. they are context dependent (where one occurs the other ones do not). For example, I occurs before the verb, as the grammatical subject in sentences such as I wrote a letter or I shall buy flowers, while me occurs after the verb, as the direct, the indirect or the prepositional object as in My friend gave me the book; He wrote me a letter; My father explained the theory to me. The possessive pronoun mine replaces the whole nominal phrase my + noun as in This is my book This book is mine. The auxiliary verbs pertain to the class of function words as well. They constitute a closed sub-class of verbs which can take certain forms in the verbal paradigm, though not all. While most of the verbs have four or five forms, most of the modal auxiliaries have two, the modal must has only one form, while the auxiliary be is the most polymorphic of all verbs, with eight different forms. The paradigm of auxiliaries is presented by Jackson and Amvela (2007: 85) as it is shown below:
base form eat be can may shall will must stem + 3rd pers. sg. eats am / is / are stem + past tense ate was were could might should would stem + past part. eaten been stem+ present part. eating being

Some mono- and disyllabic adverbs (with the exception of those formed with the suffix ly) show the same inflectional contrasts like the gradable mono- and disyllabic adjectives:
base form fast soon stem + comparative faster sooner stem + superlative fastest sonnest

Finally, Jacskon and Amvela (2007) also distinguish between regular inflections and irregular inflections. The former are formed following a regular pattern, e.g. s for the plural of nouns, -ed for the past and past participle of regular verbs, -er for the comparative of gradable mono- and disyllabic adjectives, etc. However, even within the class of regular inflectional affixes, variation may be present, in spelling, e.g. the addition of e before the plural suffix s (masses, classes), and


Word Formation

pronunciation, e.g. compare the pronunciation of the plural (e)s in rats, cows, houses and that of the past tense inflection ed in talked, clogged, glided. Irregular inflections do not follow a regular pattern and usually apply to only some of the members of a morphological class. For example, the following nouns form their plural irregularly: child children, man men, woman women, ox oxen, mouse mice, louse lice, tooth teeth, deer deer, salmon salmon, etc. The number of verbs that form their past tense and their past participle irregularly is even greater: run ran run, see saw seen, lie lay lain, write wrote written, etc.

3.4. Stem
When affixes are stripped away from the word, what we obtain is the stem or, conversely, the stem is the part of the word to which an affix is added in order to form a new word (eg. in the word carelessness, care is the root, -less and ness are affixes, and careless is the stem). A stem may coincide with the root of the new word (eg. small in smaller). In this case, it is called a simple stem. If it contains other elements as well, affixes or other simple stems in combination with which a compound word is formed, it is considered a derived stem (eg. improbable in improbability or air-condition in air-conditioning).

3.5. Main means of word-formation

The most productive means by which new words are brought into being in a language are derivation, compounding and conversion. Separate sections are dedicated to each.

3.5.1. Derivation
Derivation is the process of forming new words in a language by means of adding prefixes and / or suffixes to roots or stems. Prefixation By prefixation, prefixes are added in front of roots or stems so that new words are created. Prefixes do not usually carry functional meaning, i.e. they do not change the morphological class of the roots or stems to which they are appended, though they change their meaning. The classification of prefixes should, therefore, be made on semantic grounds primarily. Thus, according to the meaning they convey, English prefixes fall into the following main categories:


Words about Words

negative prefixes, by far the largest group of prefixes in English, express various shades of negative meaning: - de- / dis- (not, the contrary of): depress, disapprove, dishonour; - in- / il- / ir- / il- (allomorphs of the same bound morpheme that are employed according to the initial sound of the root or stem to which they are added not, the contrary of): insane, impossible, irrelevant, illiterate; - non- (not): non-stop, non-resident, nonsense, nonconformist. The basic word stock of English includes a number of quite old words built with the prefix non-, in which the prefix is not identifiable in full: nowhere, nothing, never, nobody, neither, nor, etc. - mis (bad(ly), wrong(ly)): mislead, mistrust, misfortune, misunderstanding; - un- (the opposite of, not): unfair, unwise, unexpected, unbalanced; - mal- (bad(ly), wrong(ly)): malfunctioning, malformation, malpractice. reversative and privative prefixes: - un- (to deprive of, to reverse the action, to release from): unveil, unlock, unleash; - de- / dis- (to reverse the action, to get rid of, to deprive of): defrost, decentralize, deforestation, disconnect, discoloured. prefixes of degree and size: - arch- (supreme, chief, most important): archenemy, archbishop; - hyper- (extra): hypersensitive, hypertension, hyperinflation; - mini- (little, small): miniskirt, minicomputer, minivacation; - over- (too much): overreact, overdone, overdressed, overconfident; - out- (more, better, faster, longer): outnumber, outstanding, outrun, outlive; - super- (above, more than, better, bigger): supernatural, superhuman, superman, supermarket; - sub- (less than): subhuman, substandard, subnormal; - under- (too little): underdeveloped, underestimate, undercharge; - ultra- (beyond, extremely): ultrasonic, ultraviolet, ultrarevolutionary. prefixes of attitude: - co- (accompanying, with, together): cooperation, coordination, co-author, co-produce;


Word Formation

- pro- (for, on the side of): pro-democratic, pro-European; - anti- (against): antiwar, antifreeze, anticlimax, antiimperialist; - counter- (against, in opposition): counteract, counterproductive, counterblast. prefixes of time and order: - ante- (before): antenatal, anteroom, antediluvian, antepenultimate; - fore- (before): forearm, forehead, foretell, fore-mentioned; - pre- (before): prehistoric, preheat, precondition, pre-election; - ex- (former): ex-wife, ex-president, ex-friend; - post- (after): post-war, post-date, post-position. prefixes of space, direction and location (the majority of these prefixes originate in prepositions and adverbs of place that still function as such in English): - in- (going in, being in): influx, income, intake, inmate; - out- (going out, being out): outflow, output, outdoors; - up- (in an ascending direction): uphill, uptown, upstairs; - down- (in a descending direction): downhill, downstairs, downfall; - super- (over, above): superstructure, superellevation; - sub- (under): subway, suborbital, subsoil; - inter- (between, among): international, interface, interactive; - trans- (across, into another place): transatlantic, transmigration, transcontinental. the iterative prefix re- (one more time, again): reread, rebuild, redecorate, reconsider. According to their origin, English prefixes may be: Germanic prefixes: - be-: besprinkle, bewilderment, become; - for-: forbid, forbear; - mis-: mislead, misinterpret, miscalculate; - out-: outlive, outgrow, outstanding; - over-: overeat, overloaded, overhear; - un-: unfriendly, uncommon, unbelievable; - up-: upright, upshot, uptake; - with-: withstand, withdraw, withhold; Latin prefixes: - bi-: bimonthly, bifocal, bidirectional; - de-: decompose, deconstruct, declutch; - dis-: disagree, disadvantage, discontinue; - em- / en-: empower, enslave; - inter-: interlocutor, intergalactic, intercontinental;


Words about Words

- non-: non-success, non-resistant, non-payment; - pre-: prerequisite, prepaid, preadmission; - pro-: pro-ally, pro-British; - super-: superman, superfrequency, superheated; - trans-: transformer, transmutation, transpose. Greek prefixes: - a- / an-: anomalous, analphabet; - anti-: antibody, antithesis, anticlerical; - hyper-: hypercritical, hypermetrical. According to their productivity, English prefixes may be classified as: productive prefixes (involved into the process of new words creation at the present stage in the development of English): - re-: retake, rethink, rewind, review; - un-: unbelievable, unnecessary, undo; - non-: non-verbal, non-stop; - de-: deconstruct, denominalization, defrost; - dis-: disengage, dismiss, disconnect; - out-: outome, outright, outstanding; - re-: reconstruct, refine, re-establish; - mis-: misunderstanding, misfire, mislaid. semi-productive prefixes (at present, relatively inactive in the formation of new words in English): - co-: co-author, co-editor, cooperation; - counter-: counteractive, counteract, counterattack; - sub-: subway, submarine, sublet; - up-: upward, update, upload; - vice-: vice-president, vice-rector; unproductive prefixes (at present, no longer used in the process of forming new words in English, though they might have been productive at earlier stages in the evolution of the language): - be-: beloved, becalm, besprinkle; - with-: withholder, withdraw, withstand. Finally, prefixes may also be approached from the perspective of the phonological changes they trigger in the roots or stems to which they are attached. Prefixes which cause such changes are known as non-neutral, while those which do not, are considered neutral. Most of the English prefixes fall within the latter category. Suffixation By suffixation, suffixes are added to roots or stems in order to create new words. Unlike prefixes which do not change the morphological


Word Formation

class of the elements to which they are appended, suffixes do. Therefore, the handiest classification of suffixes would not follow semantic criteria, but rather grammatical ones. According to the part of speech they generate, suffixes fall into the subclasses below: nominal suffixes nouns may be formed from other nouns, from adjectives or verbs: a1) suffixes denoting the doer of the action: - -er (generally, it forms names of occupations from the corresponding verbs): driver, teacher, singer, advisor; - -ster: gangster; - -eer / -ier: profiteer, pamphleteer, gondolier; - -ist: typist, artist; - -ent / -ant: student, attendant. a2) feminine suffixes (in English, gender morphological markers are quite rare; however, there are cases when the feminine is formed from the masculine of nouns by means of suffixes): - -ette: usherette; - -ess: lioness, duchess, actress; - -ix: aviatrix; - -euse: chauffeuse. a3) suffixes denoting nationality: - -ese: Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese; - -an / -ian: Korean, Hungarian, Estonian; - - ard: Spaniard. a4) diminutive suffixes: - -ette: kitcinette; - -let: booklet; - -y / -ie: daddy, auntie. a5) abstract noun-forming suffixes: - -ing: breaking, reading, asking; - -age: coverage, mileage, tonnage; - -ance -ence: appearance, assistance, experience; - -ism / -icism: criticism, Catholicism, post-modernism, deconstructivism; - -hood: boyhood, neighbourhood, childhood; - -dom: freedom, martyrdom; - -ment: nourishment; - -ness / -ess: happiness, tenderness, prowess; - -ty: certainty, honesty; - -ship: kinship, friendship, leadership. adjectival suffixes adjectives may be formed from other adjectives, from nouns or from verbs. The most frequent of the adjectival suffixes in English are the following: - -ish: tallish, foolish, greenish, Turkish;


Words about Words

- -y / -ly: cloudy, silky, manly, brotherly, womanly; - -less: sugarless, harmless, flawless; - -ful: joyful, useful, delightful, eventful; - -ed: wooded, pointed, horned; - -able / -ible: readable, understandable, adaptable, accessible; - -ive: progressive, possessive, aggressive; - -some: handsome, cumbersome, tiresome. The suffixes forming the comparative of superiority and the relative superlative of the mono and some disyllabic adjectives er (cleverer, smarter) and est (cleverest, smartest) respectively should be mentioned here as well. In the case of disyllabic adjectives, there is oscillation between the synthetic way of forming the comparative and the superlative and the analytical one, by using the adverbs more and the most in front of the adjective in the positive degree. The latter way seems to be taking over the former, as a proof of the tendency to regularize this area of the vocabulary as well. verbal suffixes verbs are formed mainly from nouns and adjectives. In modern English, the number of verb-forming suffixes are rather reduced; however, those that are still in use today are highly productive and therefore, extremely frequent: - -ise / -ize: utilize, fertilize, Latinize, organize; - -ify: intensify, simplify, diversify; - -en: brighten, enlighten, deepen, widen. adverbial suffixes derived adverbs are formed by adding suffixes to nouns and adjectives mostly: - -ly (added to most of the adjectives): happily, strangely, badly, beautifully; - -wise: likewise, clockwise, crabwise; - -ward / -wards: northward(s), westward(s), backward(s), foreward(s). numeral suffixes: - -teen (it generates the cardinal numerals between 13 and 19): thirteen, fifteen, eighteen, nineteen; - -ty (it is used to form the cardinal numeral designating multiples of 10): thirty, forty, sixty, ninety; - -th (it is the suffix forming ordinal numbers other than one, two, three and those that have these in their structure; it may be appended either to simple numerals, to already derived ones or to compound ones): fourth, sixth, twentieth, fiftieth, twenty-fourth, eighty-seventh. English suffixes are of the following main origins: Germanic suffixes: - -er: Londoner, worker, poker; - -art: drunkard, braggart; - -hood: boyhood, brotherhood;


Word Formation

- -ing: learning, reading, interesting; - -man: gentleman, townsman; - -ness: hardness, cleverness; - -ship: friendship, authorship; - -ed: wooded, added; - -some: handsome, twosome; - -ward: backward, forward; - -wise: likewise, clockwise; - -en: darken, deepen, whiten; - -ish: selfish, reddish, boyish; - -y: dirty, silky, hairy; - -ly: manly, slowly, hardly; - -th: tenth, growth. Romance (Latin, French and Italian) suffixes: - -ette: kitchinette, usherette, novelette; - -or: actor, inspector; - -ee: employee, payee, trainee; - -ess: lioness, actress, hostess; - -age: marriage; - -al: arrival, betrayal, dismissal; - -ance / -ence: assistance, resistance, dependence; - -ery / -ry: flattery, bakery, dentistry; - -ment: acknowledgement, movement, amazement; - -ant / -ent: claimant, correspondent; - -fy / -ify: signify; - -ize / -ise: modernize, organize, moralize. Greek suffixes: - -ist: modernist, classicist; - -ism: communism, colloquialism, organism. Like prefixes, suffixes may be grouped, according to their ability to create new words at the present stage in the development of English, into: productive suffixes (which are, at present, active in terms of new words formation): - -able: profitable, regrettable, understandable; - -ed: loved, grouped, played; - -ing: interesting, clearing, meaning; - -less: sugarless, harmless, speechless; - -ness: calmness, brightness, happiness; - -y: edgy, bloody, cloudy; - -ly: scarcely, evenly, likely; - -ish: selfish, childish, Turkish. semi-productive suffixes (at present, less active in the process of word formation): - -dom: kingdom, freedom, boredom; - -ful: spoonful, mouthful, hurtful;


Words about Words

- -hood: boyhood, childhood; - -ee: employee, trainee, payee; - -ship: kinship, relationship. unproductive suffixes (at present, no longer used to form new words): - -ance: deliverance, acceptance; - -age: coinage; - -ment: movement, development; - -some: handsome, gruesome; - -th: tenth, eleventh.

3.5.2. Compounding
Compounding or composition is the process of coining new words by grammatically and semantically combining two or more roots or stems (i.e., at least two constituents that occur or can, in principle, occur in isolation). Compound words may be described from the point of view of their orthographic, phonological, morphological, syntactic and semantic characteristics. Orthographic characteristics of compounds Compounds in English may be spelt in three different ways: solid (in one word): bullfighter, theatergoer, colorblind, whetstone, etc; hyphenated (in words separated by a hyphen): self-determination, heartbreaking, man-made, high-born, easy-going, grass-green, etc; and in completely separate words: tea bag, nail brush, oil well, price cut, etc. Phonological characteristics of compounds Bloomfield (1973), Cook (1969) and Arnold (1966) are some of the linguists who pointed out the importance of the phonic criterion of stress in the case of compounds. Compounds usually have one main stress as any other simple words, and lack juncture. Based on this criterion which, according to Hulban (1975), shows the advanced level of the process of integration of the two stems, it is possible to distinguish between compounds such as bluebell and blackboard and their corresponding phrases blue bell and black bird which have two heavy stresses and a juncture. However helpful the phonological criterion may be in establishing the difference between compounds and mere combinations of free lexemes, it does not always clearly set the boundaries between the two. All Fools Day and All Saints Day are compounds which contradict the above mentioned rule.


Word Formation

Compounding is driven by phonological factors in the case of reduplicatives such as pooh-pooh, goody-goody, roly-poly, wishywashy, flip-flop, sing-song, harum-scarum, bow-wow. These are examples of words created on the basis of reduplication,the repetition of the base of a word in part or in its entirety (Katamba 2005: 72). According to Bauer (1983), there are two main types of reduplicatives in English: rhyme motivated nitwit, teeny-winny, hurlyburly and ablaut motivated riff-raff, tittle-tattle, mish-mash. Rhyme should be understood here as it is understood in poetry the vowel and the consonant(s) that occur after it in the final syllable of a word are identical, while ablaut means a change in the root vowel (which usually signals a change in grammatical class, eg. the o e alternation in the pairs long length, strong strength marks the difference between the adjective and its corresponding noun respectively). The labels Bauer (1986) suggests for the two categories of reduplicatives highlights the fact that the repetition of the base in compounds of this kind involves either copying the rhyme, in the case of the so-called rhyme motivated reduplicatives, or copying the consonants and altering the vowel in the so-called ablaut motivated reduplicatives. The two elements that alternate in the structure of a reduplicative may be both bases that exist independently in English Black-Jack, brain-drain, or one or both of the elements may be pseudostems that are not recognizable as independent units of the language ding-dong, wibble-wobble, zigzag, ping-pong. In the case of the latter, many of the components are onomatopoeic words. Morphological characteristics of compounds Compounds may be classified according to the morphological class to which they belong (a finer subclassification, introduced by Marchand (1969), is made according to the presence or absence of a verbal element in the compound. This leads him to speak about verbal nexus combinations as opposed to non-verbal nexus compounds). Basically, all morphological classes may have compound members. compound nouns: - noun + noun. According to Ttaru (2002), possible semantic relationship between the two nominal elements may be, among others, of: o purpose: baby carriage, bachelor flat, backpack; o place: city-dweller; o resemblance: bullfrog, swordfish. Sometimes, one of the nominal stems may be in the genitive as in tailors dummy, barbers itch / rash. The two nominal stems may also be linked by prepositions or conjunctions as in bird of paradise, father-inlaw, bed-and-breakfast, lily-of-the-valley. Quite often, nominal compounds in English are made up of more than two stems. Examples of


Words about Words

such nouns include: box end wrench, heart-lung machine, birds eye view, etc. - verbal noun + noun: meeting place, writing desk, fishing rod; - noun + verbal noun: air-conditioning, sleepwalking; - adjective + noun. Several cases can be identified here: o adjective proper + noun: blackbird, highlands, bluebell; o participial adjective ending in -ing + noun: peeping Tom, blotting paper, boarding card; o participial adjective ending in past participle specific endings + noun: built environment, bonded warehouse, wrought iron. - pronoun + noun. Generally speaking, these compounds help to distinguish the masculine and the feminine from the common gender: she-wolf, he-doctor; - verb + noun: pickpocket, dare-devil; - noun + verb. The verbal stem may take either the form of an infinitive or that of an -ing participle: sunset, rainfall, bodybuilding, bird-watching, sight-seeing; - verb + verb. Sometimes, the verbal stems are linked by conjunctions: makeshift, make-believe, park-and-ride, pick-andmix, hit-and-run; - adverb + noun: after-thought, back-talk, down-grade, yes-man, outer space; - adverb + verb: upkeep, upstart; - verb + adverb: cut-back, turn-round; - preposition + noun: afternoon, underworld; - preposition + verb: undergraduate. The compounds made up of more than two elements mostly belong to the nominal class in English. These have a rather irregular structure and include words such as: stick-in-the mud, rule-of-thumb, good-for-nothing, mother-in-law, forget-me-not, merry-go-round, much-talked, about, alltoo-accurate, etc. compound adjectives: - adjective + adjective: metallic-green, bitter-sweet; - noun + adjective: duty-free, sea-sick, earth-bound. The linguistic model of the comparative of equality (asas) lies at the basis of the stylistic device of simile as well. Some similies that have become clichs due to overuse have also turned into compound adjectives: pitch-dark, snow-white, blood-red, sea-green. As Ttaru (2002) observes, the denominal stem self- also generates compound adjectives, generally with an adjective of participial origin: selfgoverning, self-effacing, self-educated, self-sustained, self-made, self-controlled; - adjective + noun + -ed: light-hearted, hot-blooded, evil-minded; - noun + verb (participle): ocean-going, love-struck, storm-beaten;


Word Formation

- noun + noun + -ed: lion-hearted, honey-mouthed; - adverb + verb (participle): ill-behaved, well-meant, everlasting; - adverb + adjective: evergreen. compound verbs: - noun + verb: hen-peck, baby-sit, house-keep; - adjective + verb: white-wash, dry-clean, sweet-talk; - verb + verb: dive-bomb, drop-kick, blast-freeze; - adverb + verb: overhear, underestimate, down-grade. Composition proper in the case of the English verbs is rather poorly represented. A deeper analysis of what are, at first sight, considered compound verbs reveals a mixture of composition with other wordformation mechanisms. To blackmail, for example, is formed by both composition and conversion, to baby-sit, stage-manage or vacuum-clean are the result of both composition and backformation. compound adverbs: - adverb + adverb: throughout, hereabout(s); - adjective + noun: uphill, downhill, outdoor; - adverb + preposition: wherefrom, thereby, hereby. compound numerals: All cardinal numerals between round figures, starting with twentyone, are compound words. From one hundred upward, round figures are denoted by compound numerals built with the help of the copulative conjunction and: two hundred and four, nine hundred and fifty-eight, ten thousand three hundred and forty. Distributive numerals are obtained by reduplicative composition along with the insertion of the preposition by: two-by-two, nineby-nine, twenty-by-twenty. Fractions are compounds, too: 2/3=two thirds, 6/8=six eights. When the fraction is preceded by a full number, the compound numeral is obtained using the conjunction and between the full number and the fraction proper: 4 2/3=fourand-two-thirds. If there is a decimal comma in its structure, the compound numeral is read using the word point between the full numbers in front and after the comma: 56.4=fifty-six point four. compound pronouns: Compound pronouns are pretty old in the language. They occurred in the Middle Ages and have remained unchanged since then. There are several structural models according to which they were formed: - possessive adjective + the noun self: myself, yourself, ourselves; - personal pronoun in the accusative + the noun self: himself, herself, themselves; - the predeterminers some-, any-, no-, or the adjective every + the nouns body, thing: nothing, anybody, something, everybody; - the relative-interrogative words who, what, when, which, where + the adverb ever: whoever, whatever, whenever, etc. In archaic and


Words about Words

more emphatic forms, so was inserted between the components in some of the compound pronouns of this kind: whatsoever, whosoever. compound prepositions: Ttaru (2002) suggests several morphological patterns according to which compound prepositions have been obtained. Generally, she says, they contain one or several prepositions grouped around: - a nominal nucleus: in the middle of, in spite of, thanks to, on the other side of; - an adverbial nucleus: underneath, close to, faraway from, ahead of, in front of, prior to, previous to; - a verbal nucleus, where the verb may be either in a finite or in a non-finite form: as concerns, due to, owing to, notwithstanding; - a prepositional nucleus: but for, onto, as to. compound conjunctions: Both among coordinating and among subordinating conjunctions, there are compounds which fall in the same structural classes as the compound prepositions. Thus, they can be grouped around: - a nominal nucleus: for the reason that, in spite of, for fear that, despite the fact that; - an adverbial nucleus: as well as, along with, never again; - an adjectival nucleus: long before; - a verbal nucleus: seeing that, supposing that, provided that; - a prepositional nucleus: but for, after which, what with. Compound relative pronouns may also function as conjunctions when they introduce relative clauses. Since they function jointly, the correlatives eitheror, neithernor, bothand may be considered compound conjunctions. compound interjections: English compound interjections follow a number a morphological patterns. The most frequent of these are: - reduplicatives: blah-blah, pooh-pooh, puff-puff, hush-hush; - ablaut combinations: ticktack; - onomatopoeia: cook-a-doodle-doo, gobbledygook. Syntactic characteristics of compounds Together with their phonological features, the syntactic characteristics of compounds contribute to their being different from phrases. Thus, word order, i.e. the position of the different constituents of a compound in relation to one another, is sometimes ungrammatical or at least unusual in English. For example, the noun + adjective construction is not a usual pattern. However, it occurs in compounds such as home-sick, sea-sick or weather-sensitive. Similarly, in normal, unemphatic word


Word Formation

order, objects usually follow their verbs in sentence structure, but not necessarily in compounds such as knee-jerk. According to Jackson and Amvela (2007: 93), all compounds are non-interruptible in the sense that, in normal use, their constituent parts are not interrupted by extraneous elements. The example they give to illustrate this point is that of the compound dare-devil, in which, if the article the is inserted, the stability of the whole structure is affected to such an extent that the resulting string of words dare-the-devil is turned into a phrase and can no longer be considered a compound. The special type of modification and inflectibility that apply in the case of compounds also help to set them apart from phrases. Modification refers to the use of other words to modify the meaning of a compound. Since the compound is a single unit, its components cannot be modified independently. It is the compound as a whole which is modified by other words. For instance, air-sick may not be modified either as hot air-sick, with the component air being determined by the adjective hot, or as airvery sick, with the component sick being determined by the adverb very. However, a construction such as seriously air-sick is possible, with the adverb seriously modifying the whole compound. In terms of flexibility, as a lexical unit, a compound may be inflected according to the grammatical class it corresponds to, while its constituents cannot be inflected each in its turn. Thus, the compound nouns ash-tray, fingerprint, textbook, dish-washer form the plural by adding a final s to the whole compound: ash-trays, fingerprints, textbooks, dish-washers. Downgrade, sweet-talk, baby-sit as compound verbs become downgraded, sweet-talked, baby-sat in the past tense. Semantic characteristics of compounds From a semantic point of view, compounds may be grouped in two major classes: compounds with an idiomatic meaning and compounds with a compositional meaning. The former tend to acquire a rather specialized meaning which cannot be grasped on the basis of the meaning of its constituents: a turnkey for example, is a person who, in the past, used to hold the keys of the prison, while a turncoat is a traitor. The meaning of the compounds in the latter class is transparent and easier to understand, since it is arrived at by adding the meanings of their constituents: a bulldog is a breed of dog, an easy chair is a type chair. In between the two classes, there is a third, comprising compounds in whose case the meaning of at least one of the constituents is somehow obscured. We may include here words such as dustbin, which is a container not restricted to the collection of dust alone, or blackboard, the object one writes on, which may have colours other than black and may be made of materials other than wood. As Katamba (2005: 67) suggests, an interesting property of most compounds is that they are headed. This means that one of the words that


Words about Words

make up the compound is syntactically dominant. Quite frequently, the syntactic head is the semantic head of the compound as well, while the nonhead element usually indicates some of its characteristics. The two examples above, bulldog and easy chair help to illustrate this as well: a bulldog is a dog with short hair, a short neck, a large head, and short thick legs, while an easy chair is a large comfortable chair. If a compound contains a semantic head, i.e., if its meaning incorporates the meaning of at least one of its components, it is called an endocentric compound. If it has no semantic head, i.e., if its meaning is idiomatic and therefore different from the meanings of its constituents, like the meanings of turnkey and turncoat above, the compound is an exocentric compound. Hulban (1975) approaches the semantic relationship between the constituents of a compound from a different perspective. He describes them as restrictive and relational compounds, with a series of nuances existing in between the two. Thus, the material something is made of is revealed in compounds such as paper bag, lather jacket, ironware. Place relationships are implied in downtown, upstream, seashore. Purpose is obvious in blow-pipe, looking-glass, goldfield, while comparison is present in good-for-nothing, larger-than-life. In words such as male-doctor, shewolf, womankind, boy-friend, woman teacher, the idea of gender is involved. Purpose and comparison show relationships, while material and gender show restrictions. Place may indicate both restriction sunset and relation sea shore. An example of a compound whose internal semantic organization may be viewed from more than one perspective is eye-glasses which, depending on the point of view, may express purpose, material or the idea of place.

3.5.3. Conversion
Conversion is the process of forming new words by means of transferring them from one morphological class to another, without any changes, either in their form or in their pronunciation. The procedure is extremely productive in English. In fact, this technique is so frequent that many scholars see it as a matter of syntactic usage rather than as a wordformation device. Among them, there are, for example, Pyles and Algeo (1993), who use the term functional shift to refer to the process and to highlight the fact that, by it, words are converted from one grammatical function to another, without their form being affected in any way. Cristina Ttaru (2002) follows the same line of thinking in calling what is traditionally known as conversion - functional polysemy, as opposed to lexical polysemy which involves only a change in lexical meaning, leaving the grammatical class of the words unaltered. She further explains that, even if, at first sight, the type of polysemy implied by conversion is clearly a functional one, lexical polysemy accompanies the process as well. The new meaning, although semantically related to the first, contains markers


Word Formation

typical of the new part of speech that has been generated, which is not the case with lexical polysemy. Hence, the necessity of analyzing the semantic ties obtained between the converted item and its original, in order to capture the essence of the phenomenon (Ttaru 2002: 79). The most frequent cases of conversion involve nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Nouns obtained by conversion The parts of speech that are most frequently converted into nouns are adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions and conjunctions. nouns converted from adjectives: Since there is a great variety of adjectives in English, the nouns obtained from them are very numerous and they present various types of semantic relationships with their originals, thus making the subclass they belong to highly diversified. Some of the types of deadjectival nouns are the following: - collective nouns obtained from adjectives by definite articulation: the good, the bad, the cripple, the young; - nouns denoting characteristic features, obtained by the same mechanism: the beautiful, the ugly, the absurd; - proper collective nouns denoting nationalities, obtained by definite articulation as well: the English, the Dutch. Other such nouns are obtained by adding the plural ending s to the adjective, the article becoming then optional: (the) Romanians, (the) Americans, (the) Italians; - nouns denoting the presence of the quality in a person: an academic, an alarmist, an anarchist; - nouns denoting the presence of the quality in an object: an acid, an adhesive, an adverbial, an absolute. As Ttaru (2002: 82) suggests, the attempt at grouping various types of meanings should not ignore the possibility of the nominalization of any other adjective by conversion: a red reminding of Titian (=kind, type of red); in the dark (=confused), or: Dont go out after dark! a bitter of very good quality (=type of drink) nouns converted from verbs: De-verbal nouns may express: - the result of the action denoted by the original verb: an abstract, a drive; - the process to which the original verb referred: an ache, an alert, an arrest; - the agent of the action denoted by the verb: an advocate, an ally, an affix, a cheat, a bore; - the name of the action denoted by the verb: a hunt, a cry, a jump, an attempt. This subcategory of converted nouns is best represented


Words about Words

by the ing nouns which name the action implied by the verb: falling, driving, swimming; - the patient of the action denoted by the verb: a castaway, a catch; - the instrument of the action denoted by the verb: a lift, a ransom, a cover, a wrap; - the state corresponding to the action denoted by the verb: wish, want, desire, doubt, envy; - the place of the action denoted by the verb: retreat (cumpna apelor), turn, rise. nouns converted from adverbs, prepositions and interjections: There are rather few nouns originating in adverbs in English. Some of the basic directional adverbs, such as front, back, behind, aside, left, right have been nominalised, sometimes by being used with a definite article. Other times, directional adverbs may be marked for the plural and used nominally in binominals such as the ups and down, the ins and outs. However, the fact that these nouns are not used outside set phrases or in the singular demonstrates that the conversion of the adverbs is not yet a fully completed process. Ttaru (2002) mentions another category of adverbs that have undergone nominalization: the adverbs relating to the frequency of musical tempo (at their origin, simple adverbials of frequency in Italian which became internationalisms with a specialized meaning): an andante, an allegro, an adagio. The adverb altogether may also be used figuratively as a noun in a phrase such as to be in the altogether (to be completely naked). The examples of prepositions that have been turned into nouns are even fewer: the pros and cons (where pros comes from the Latin preposition pro and cons has been obtained by adding the plural inflection s to the abbreviation of counter). Pro may be used nominally with the definite article a, then meaning not argument for, but person favouring a certain idea, view, option. All interjections may be nominalised by articulation either with a definite or with an indefinite article, their meaning becoming name of the sound, noise: a bang, a screech, the squeal, the Hm Hm. It may happen that, by nominalization, the meaning of the initial interjection changes completely via a transfer from a proper sense to a figurative one. This is the case of the interjection gobbledygook, initially denoting the sound made by the turkey which has now come to mean very complicated or technical language that you cannot understand or nonsense.


Word Formation Adjectives obtained by conversion According to Ttaru (2002: 85), it could be said that anything that fulfils an attributive and / or a predicative function is an adjective in English. Nouns, for example, can function both as descriptive adjectives: girl friend, technology boom, trail-and-error judgment and as limitative adjectives: family duties, trial match, songbird. Pronouns can also engender adjectives by conversion. All compounds built with the personal pronouns he and she, which generate the masculine and the feminine from the common gender, can be considered to reflect this phenomenon. Demonstrative, relativeinterrogative, indefinite and reflexive pronouns may function as adjectives without any change in their form. Numerals also take up adjectival functions when they are used in adjectival distribution: three books, nine point seven percent, the second answer. However, the part of speech that is most frequently converted into adjectives is the adverb. Directionals such as above, front, back, upstairs, outdoors may function both as adverbs and as adjectives (sometimes, in a noun and converted adjective group, they follow the noun): the above statement (the statement above), the front gate, the back door, the rooms upstairs, the furniture outdoors. Adverbs of time such as yearly, monthly, weekly, daily may become adjectives when used in adjectival distribution: yearly event, monthly seminar, weekly meeting, daily routine. Phrases and idiomatic expressions can undergo conversion to adjectives: a do-it-yourself manual, a cut-and-dried speech, a butter-wouldnt-melt-inhis-mouth attitude. Verb forms other than the participle converted into adjectives are quite infrequent. Verbs obtained by conversion The most productive area in which conversion manifests itself is that of verbs. Very many English verbs have been obtained by conversion, from nouns especially. verbs obtained from nouns: The semantic relationships between the nouns and their converted verbal counterparts are very diverse and, therefore, quite difficult to classify. Consequently, the patterns of meaning which can be identified form a rather non-homogenous class: - verbs denoting the action resulting in the situation designated by the noun: to rain, to snow, to frost;


Words about Words

- verbs denoting the action generating the notion designated by the noun: to point, to spot, to drop, to stripe; - verbs with an instrumental meaning: to finger, to elbow, to shoulder, to saw, to hammer, to screw, to gun, to nail; - verbs with an agentive meaning (to be / to act like what the nouns designates): to wolf, to ape, to monkey, to parrot, to pig, to nurse, to father; - verbs with a locative meaning: to pocket, to corner, to garage; - verbs meaning to put in what the noun designates: to bottle, to catalogue, to list; - verbs meaning to deprive of what the noun designates: to peel, to skin, to scalp; - verbs meaning to send / go by what the noun designates: to mail, to ship. - verbs meaning to provide with what the noun designates: to cover, to wrap, to plaster, to coat. verbs obtained from adjectives: The basic meaning of the de-adjectival verbs is to bring about the characteristic expressed by the adjective in an object: to calm, to dirty, to square, to round, to alert, to aggregate, or to make a subject suffer the instatement of the quality expressed by the adjective: to wrong, to dry, to wet, to sour, to clean. verbs obtained from adverbs, conjunctions, interjections: Verbs obtained from adverbs, conjunctions or interjections are pretty rare in English. Nevertheless, verbs such as to forward, to but (But me no buts!), to chirp, to squeal, to hum, to meow are present in the language. Adverbs obtained by conversion Quite frequently, adverbs are obtained from adjectives by derivation with the suffix ly, therefore the cases of adverbs converted from adjectives are rather rare. Sometimes, in non-literary language, forms homonymous to adjectives occur in adverbial distribution, but, as Ttaru (2002: 88) points out, it is rather doubtful whether these are cases of conversion or simply manifestations of the tendency to drop the ending in the adverb. Awful rare used instead of awfully rare is such a case. However, the use of augmentatives such as pretty, mighty, jolly, of adjectival origin, in order to form the absolute superlative (besides very) could be more readily interpreted as instances of conversion. Since conversion does not imply any changes in the form of words, it is sometimes difficult to tell which item should be treated as the base and which as the converted form. One criterion lying at the basis of drawing


Word Formation

such a distinction is the semantic dependence of one item upon the other. For example, the meaning of the verb to net may be explained by means of the noun net as to put into a net and, therefore, the verb may be said to be the converted form. Another criterion is the ability of the word to serve as the root for derivatives and to form compounds. If the word has such ability, it is considered the base word, if it lacks it, it is usually regarded as the converted word. According to this approach, the noun water, as the root for derived words such as watery, waterless, and as one of the elements in compounds such as waterbed, waterborne, watercolour, watercourse, waterfall, waterline is seen as the base word, while the verb water, which cannot yield either derivatives or compounds is regarded as the converted lexical item. When the period when a particular word entered the language is known, it is easier to establish that the older word is the base form, while the younger one is the converted item. Converted words may be common vocabulary items, with a reduced stylistic potential, or, by conversion itself, they may have acquired expressive force and become poetic. Hulban (1975) quotes a number of examples of converted words in the latter category:
The sun is yellowing to decline. (D.H. Lawrence); you wolf down great mouthfuls of lamb and green peas (S. Maugham) How does it pay a man of your talent to shepherd such a flock as this? (G.B. Shaw); Whatever it is, dont blue it.(S. Maugham).

3.6. Minor means of word formation

Besides derivation, conversion and compounding described above, there are a number of minor means of word formation in English.

3.6.1. Clipping
Clipping compounds, blends or portmanteau words1 are lexical items that have come into being by combining two other words of which at least one is fragmentary.
Portmanteau words is a term coined by Lewis Carroll in his Through the Looking Glass. The author introduces it for the first time when, Alice, the main character of the book, asks Humpty Dumty to explain to her what the words in the Jabberwocky poem mean. Among these words, there are slithy and mimsy, which Humpty Dumty explains as follows, pointing at how they have been formed: Well, slithy means lith and slimy. Lith is the same as active. You see, its like a portmanteau there are two meanings packed up into one word Well


Words about Words

According to where the clipping occurs, this type of compounds may be classified as: clippings having a full former element and a clipped latter element: cablegram = cable + telegram, mailomat = mail + automat, dumbfound = dumb + confound; clippings having a full latter element and a clipped former element: Eurasian = Europe + Asian, paratroops = parachute + troops, telescreen = television + screen; clippings having both the former and the latter elements clipped: brunch = breakfast = lunch, motel = motorist + hotel, Oxbridge = Oxford + Cambridge. Clipping has been very productive, giving birth both to words that are easily recognizable and that have entered the everyday vocabulary of English (such as camcorder = camera + recorder, Bollywood = Bombay + Hollywood, used for the Indian film industry, brunch = breakfast + lunch) and to words that are either rather technical and recognizable by scientists more readily than by the non-specialists or coined by journalists and meaningful for a limited number of readers (edutainment = education + entertainment, agitprop = agitation + propaganda). The technical fields and the newspapers are areas in which the high rate by which clippings are formed is fully justified in the former, the shortness of clippings help scientists avoid the confusion using too many words to designate a concept might create, in the latter, novelty brought by clippings is a readerattraction strategy.

3.6.2. Contraction
Clipping occurs not only in the case of compound words, but in the case of isolated words as well. When words are shortened to just a part of them, they are said to be contracted. Contraction may be performed in three ways: by aphaeresis, which is the elimination of the beginning of the word: cello (from violoncello), bus (from omnibus), plane (from airplane), pike (from turnpike), phone (from telephone); by syncope, which is the elimination of the middle part of the word: maam (from madam), oer (from over), dont (from do not), fancy (from fantasy), specs (from spectacles); by apocope, which is the elimination of the final part of the word: fab (from fabulous), caff (from caf), bicarb (from bicarbonate), exam (from examination), cinema (from cinematopgraph), memo (from memorandum), gas (from gasoline), etc.
then, mimsy is flimsy and miserable (theres another portmanteau for you). (Carroll 1980: 271)


Word Formation

3.6.3. Back-formation
If clipping is a special type of compounding, back-formation might be considered a special instance of derivation (regressive or back derivation). Back formation is a process based on the analogy between words that contain affixes and words that have component parts homonymous to affixes. These parts are removed in order to restore (or back-form) what is believed to have been the original. For example, babysitter did not appear in English by adding the suffix er to the verb compound baby-sit, but rather er was first added to the sit part of the compound and only after the verbal noun sitter was obtained, did the word baby-sitter come into being. By back formation, the verb baby-sit was formed as if the compound noun baby-sitter had been obtained from this verb by suffixation. Likewise, peddle is back-formed from peddler, while edit is a back formation from editor. As Ttaru (2002: 95) points out, certain words were borrowed into English that already had suffix-like components in their structure. This is the case of the word puppy, for example, borrowed from the French poupee. Its original being presumed to have been obtained by derivation with the diminutive suffix y, pup was back-formed. Active since the 19th century, back-formation is a process that has proved productive especially in the case of compound verbs, an area not very well represented in Modern English. Recent back-formed verbal compounds include force-land, blood-transfuse, sleepwalk, housekeep, electrocute, etc. It has also been much used in technical terminology, where one encounters terms such as aerodyne from aerodynamic, lase from laser or hydrotrope from hydrotropic.

3.6.4. Folk etymology

Like back-formation, folk etymology is based on analogy as well, this time, a partial or total analogy in pronunciation between borrowed words and words already existing in the language. As Katamba (2005: 136) observes, false etymology as he calls the process, plays an important role in the phonological adaptation of foreign words to the English sound system. People tend to rationalize; they want a reason for the imported word sounding the way it does. So they link it with a plausible real word in their language, distorting the actual etymon of the word borrowed by English from another language. Thus, crayfish, meaning crab was formed as a consequence of the misinterpretation of the French etymon ecrevisse, which was believed to be a kind of fish. The Greek word asparagus came to be borrowed into English as sparrowgrass, while the Latin appenditium finally gave penthouse in English. Hulban (1975: 103) explains that the meaning of penthouse, at


Words about Words

present, a very expensive and comfortable apartment or set of rooms on the top floor of a building, used to be a subsidiary structure attached to the wall of a main building, usually having a sloping roof. Its etymon, appenditum, meant a small building dependent upon a large church and gave apentis in Old French. As the building is a house which has a roof with a slope, the word was associated with the French pente, meaning slope, hence penthouse in Modern English. Though not as frequent as the major means of word formation, folk etymology is not all that rare. In English, there are a number of words formed by combining pseudo-roots to affixes. This is the case of trimaran, a vessel with three hulls, which seems to be formed from catamaran, a twin hulled sailing boat, as if maran were a root meaning hull. Conversely, a form may be considered an affix that may be attached to roots. holic, for example, has been attached to work and gave workaholic and to ice-cream and gave ice-cream-a-holic, on the basis of the pattern represented by alcoholic. It follows from here that holic has been treated as a suffix meaning someone who overindulges in something, although that was not its original meaning. Folk etymology is a process that works in the opposite direction as well, i.e. other languages that have borrowed words from English have adapted them to their system altering the original to suit the regularities in them. The more indirect the borrowing, the greater the alterations are likely to be. For instance, as Katamba (2005) exemplifies, Luganda borrowed pakitimane from Swahili which, in turn, borrowed it from English pocket money. Pakitimane means wallet rather than pocket money. When words pass from one language to another, there is always the danger of misunderstanding what exactly these words denote or what aspects of an object they specifically pick out. A degree of drift is almost inevitable when a game of Chinese whispers is played (Katamba 2005: 137).

3.6.5. Deflection
Deflection, also called sound interchange or root derivation consists of a sound (vowel, consonant or both vowel and consonant) change in the root of a word, a new word being thus obtained. The process is not very productive at present, but it used to be one of the major means by which grammatical categories were marked and by which new words were formed in Old English. It affected words belonging to the word stock which have survived up to now in the language. The Indo-European ablaut change in the root vowel of strong verbs, due to differences in stress, has been preserved in Modern English in irregular verbs such as sing sang sung; drink drank, drunk; speak spoke; abode abide; bit bite; ride road. A number of causative verbs have been formed from other verbs by this means: sit set (to cause too sit), fall fell (to cause to fall by


Word Formation

cutting, beating or knocking down), lie lay (to put or set down). Verbs have also been turned into nouns by deflection: bleed blood; break breach; feed food; sing song; speak speech. Ablaut combinations illustrating the voiced voiceless consonant alternation include: advise advice; prove proof; devise device; believe belief.

3.6.6. Change of accent

By this mechanism, in a pair made up of a noun and its homograph verb, the two elements (generally, of Romance origin) differ from one another by distinctive accent. Thus, the noun accent is stressed on the first syllable, while its corresponding verb is stressed on the second syllable. Such pairs of words are pretty numerous in English: attribute attribute, torment torment, contract contract, import import, permit permit, present present.

3.6.7. Abbreviation
At least two things may be understood by abbreviation: the reduction of a word to several letters and the reduction of a group of words designating a notion to the initials of these words. According to Ttaru (2002), the former is due to the discrepancy between spelling and pronunciation in English, as well as to the unusual length of some words as against the majority of the other words, especially those in the basic word stock (Ttaru 2002: 91). It is a phenomenon that is quite frequent in English, especially in its American variety, and it tends to become very productive. Examples of words abbreviated by reduction to several letters in their structure include: brolly for umbrella, hanky for handkerchief, nighty for nightgown or p.js for pyjamas. The latter type of abbreviation is extremely productive in Modern English. Some words obtained by reduction to the initial letters of the component elements of a multi-word notion have become so common in the language that speakers do not recognize or do not know what these abbreviations stand for. Some of them are pretty transparent (UFO unidentified flying object, NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization), while others require a scientists knowledge to be traced back to what they stand for (HTML hypertext mark-up language, http hypertext transfer or transport protocol). There are several ways in which these abbreviations may be read: by pronouncing the letters connected as if they formed a word proper: AIDS Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, Nasdaq The National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, laser light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and


Words about Words

Cultural Organisation. When abbreviations are pronounced this way, they are known as acronyms; by pronouncing the letters in their structure in isolation: pm post meridian, MP Member of the Parliament, B&B bed and breakfast, bpi bits per inch; by reading the word of group of words that has been abbreviated: dr, Ms. Mr., BTW (by the way), Mt. (mount), St. (saint), Rd. (road). Abbreviations from Latin that have an international character are found in English as well, both in the everyday and in the specialized language: am ante meridian, i.e. id est (that is), e.g. exempli gratia (for example), ap. apud (according to), sup. supra (above), etc.

3.6.8. Alphanumerics
Alphanumerics are a special case of abbreviations combinations of letters and numbers - which have gained in importance with the advance of the email and the SMS language, due to the fact that they meet the requirements of reduced space and expedient communication. They have penetrated the language of advertising as well, since they are striking and informal at the same time. Alphanumerics are to be read component by component, being based on homophony with other words in the language. Examples include: CUL8R (see you later), BU (be you), 4U (for you), D8 (date), CU2NITE (see you tonight). Alphanumerics combine with abbreviation to letters in words such as B2B (business-to-business), B2C (business-to-consumer).

3.6.9. Eponyms
Eponyms are words derived from proper names. If considered from the point of view of the morphological class to which they belong, eponyms are best represented by nouns. They are the most numerous, more so than adjectives and verbs put together. As demonstrated by Brook (1981), the sources that gave English proper names that became eponyms are extremely varied. Many of them have passed into the language from names in the Greek and Roman mythology, some as derivatives. Antropos was, for example, one of the three Fates who had the task of cutting the thread of life to the required length. Atropine, the eponym derived from it, became a picturesque term for the poisonous substance found in the deadly nightshade. Another word derived from Greek legends is procrustean, meaning tending to produce uniformity by violent methods. Its origin lies in the name of a violent robber of Attica, Procrustes, who used to stretch or amputate his victims to make them fit his bed. Eros, the Greek god of love has given erotic, while hermetic is derived from Hermes, a versatile god


Word Formation

whose responsibilities included alchemy. It is used today mainly in the phrase hermetic seal, to refer to an airtight closure that alchemists initially made use of. From Roman mythology, English has cereal, derived from Ceres, the name of the goddess of agriculture. The name of Cupid, the god of love, is clearly related to cupidity. Fortuna, the goddess of chance as a power in human affairs, gave fortune, while Gratia, one of the three goddess sisters who bestowed beauty and charm, gave grace. Literature (both British or American and worldwide) was another rich source of eponyms. Defoes Robinson Crusoe was the origin of Man Friday, sometimes meaning an aboriginal, but also a cheerful, hardworking and versatile assistant. Brook (1981: 41) suggests that the phrase has become so much a part of [our] language that newspapers sometimes contain advertisements from would-be employers of Girl Fridays. Gargantuan, meaning enormous comes from Gargantua, Rabelais giant character in La Vie tres horrifique of Grand Gargantua, while quixotic is well established in English to denote people, ideas or plans that are not practical and rarely succeed, by analogy with Cervantes Don Quixote, a generous, but unworldly and self-deluding character, in the book by the same name. The names of real life persons which have evolved into common nouns in English may be grouped into a few quite large categories. Many names of flowers have been formed by derivation with the suffix ia from the name of the botanist who discovered them or of someone the explorer wanted to honour. Examples include well-known words such as begonia after Michel Begon, an administrator in the West Indies who discovered the flower, dahlia, after the Swedish botanist Anders Dahl, forsythia after the English botanist William Forsyth, lobelia after the Flemish botanist Matthias de Lobel and magnolia, named by Linnaeus in honour of Pierre Magnol, a French physician. Products have often preserved the name of their inventors. Bakelite is a synthetic resin invented by a Flemish chemist named Leo Baekeland. The chesterfield, a sofa with padded seat, arms and back, was named after a nineteenth century Earl of Chesterfield, while the bunsen burner, a piece of equipment that produces a gas flame and is used in laboratories, received its name from Robert Wilhelm von Bunsen. In electrical engineering, the names of various measurement units are taken from the names of the scientist who first used them. The most familiar are volt, the unit of electric force, from Count Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist, watt, the unit of power, from James Watt, a Scottish engineer, and amp, the unit of electric power, from Andre Amper, a French scientist. Others, less frequently used in everyday language, are ohm, the unit of resistance, from the German physicist Georg Simon Ohm, and coulomb, the unit of electric charge, from the French engineer Charles de Coulomb.


Words about Words

The item invented may be very simple, but, if it proves useful, its name spreads quickly into the common language. Sandwich is derived from the name of the Earl of Sandwich, a keen gambler who is said to have once spent a whole day and night at the gaming-table, eating nothing else but pieces of meat placed in between two small slices of bread. Articles of dress may derive their names from those of famous people who once wore them. Thus, the raglan, a kind of overcoat without shoulder seams, was named after the commander of the British forces in the Crimean War, Baron Raglan. The Earl of Cardigan gave his name to the cardigan, a knitted woolen jacket buttoned at the front. The wellingtons, knee-high rubber waterproof boots, took their name from that of the Duke of Wellington. Place names have been as productive as people names in contributing to the enrichment of English with eponyms. They may be recognized as the origin of the names of various wines and varieties of cheese. Examples include chablis, made near the small town of Chablis, burgundy, from the ancient province of Burgundy, champagne, originally the sparkling beverage made in the region of Champagne, now any kind of beverage made according to the initial Champagne method, gorgonzola, the cheese originally made in the town by this name in Lombardy, camembert, deriving its name from that of a village in France and cheddar, which acquired its name from that of the village where it was first made, Cheddar, in Somerset. Finally, (though this is not a comprehensive approach, as extensive as it may be), breeds of dogs are frequently named after their real or supposed places of origin. Thus, the alsacian comes from Alsace, the dalmatian, from the Dalmatian Coast and the saint bernard from the Hospice of the Great St. Bernard, a pass in the Alps. Words formed from proper names may behave just like the rest of the lexical items in the vocabulary of English. They may undergo shortening as in strad for Stradivarius and they may serve as the basis for derivatives, as in macadamize, from the root macadam, an eponym connected to the name of John Macadam, the inventor of the pavement with cubic stones. Eponyms may also be blended with other words, as in gerrymander, meaning to divide a region in which people vote in a way that gives a particular political group an unfair advantage. The word is a blend of salamander with gerry, from Elbridge Gerry, who, at a certain moment, used this device to make sure that the Republicans remained in power in Massachusetts. Some of the types of eponyms discussed here will be mentioned in the chapter dedicated to word meaning, more exactly, to metonymy, as an instance of transfer of meaning. Justifiably, transfers such as the use of the name of the inventor for the thing invented or that of the place name for the product coming from there are considered by some linguists kinds of metonymy.


Word Formation

3.6.10. Nonce words

There are words in English, as in any other language, that have been coined by various users (fiction writers and journalists especially) but are not yet accepted by the whole English speaking community. These are called nonce words. Diachronically, nonce words may remain just a fashion of the moment and drop out of use or they may come to enter the accepted vocabulary and be mentioned in dictionaries. This was the case of words attributed to Shakespeare such as auspicious, to accost (somebody), to dwindle, nayward, dauntless.



Before introducing the problem of word meaning, briefly talking about the evolution of the theories of the linguistic sign from Saussure to Buhler, to which the former is closely connected, might prove useful.

4.1. Saussures approach to the linguistic sign

In modern linguistics, Saussure (1916, 1965) was the first scholar to consider language a system of signs. For him, the linguistic sign and the system it is part of are mutually dependent, since the former functions only within the latter, on the basis of its relations to the other signs. For the French scientist, the linguistic sign has two sides: a given notion (concept) that is associated in the brain with a certain phonic image (acoustic image). The two, just like the system and the sign, are mutually conditioning, they evoke or call each other up. In his famous course in general linguistics, Saussure (1916, 1965) repeatedly stresses the idea that the linguistic sign is a mental unit and that it does not establish a link between a thing and a name, but between a concept and a phonic image. This image is, for him, nothing material or physical, but the mental impression of a sound. The connection between the concept and the phonic image represents the linguistic sign for Saussure, who later replaces the notions concept and acoustic image by signifie and signifiant, which have since become internationally accepted technical terms. Saussure (1965) postulates two principles connected to the linguistic sign: its arbitrariness and its linearity. For him, the relationship between the two sides of the linguistic sign is fundamentally arbitrary, nonmotivated or conventional. Even in the case of interjections and onomatopoeic words, he sees no motivation and considers that they are acquired conventions of a specific language system, a point of view to which many have objected since it was expressed. Saussure (1965) himself rethinks his definite opinion concerning the arbitrary character of the linguistic sign and speaks about degrees of arbitrariness and about the transition from arbitrary to motivated formations. Thus, the principle of arbitrariness holds only for simple linguistic signs, while complex structures may be morphologically motivated by their constituents. The linguist considers the components of a compound structure transparent formative elements, though it would be more logical to view the whole construction as transparent. According to Saussures second principle, that of the linear character of the linguistic sign, this is made up of a chain of temporally


Word Meaning

successive elements. The principle is based on the fact that the speakers of a language cannot produce a multitude of sounds at the same time. To summarize, for Saussure, the linguistic sign is a binary mental entity, abstracted both from its users and from the extra-linguistic object denoted by it. However, if the object in reality the linguistic sign refers to plays no role in Saussures theory, it does in the triadic model developed by Ogden and Richards (1923).

4.2. Ogden and Richards Semiotic Triangle

The model of the linguistic sign developed by Ogden and Richards (1923) is represented below:

SYMBOL (word) stands for (thing) REFERENT

The semiotic triangle, the triangle of signification or the referential triangle, as it is called in the literature, suggests that there is no direct relationship between the word or the symbol and the extra-linguistic thing or the referent it denotes (this is indicated by the dotted line connecting them). The two are linked indirectly, by means of the abstract thought or reference in our brains (reference is used by Ogden and Richards in a different way than in most of the more recent linguistic theories, where it denotes either the relationship between a full linguistic sign and an extralinguistic referent, or the action of a speaker / writer referring to an extra-linguistic object by means of a linguistic sign). According to Ogden and Richards, there is then no direct relationship between the word or the symbol dog and a particular class of living beings or a specific element of this class. They stress the point that the meaning of the linguistic symbol (sign), as a concept or thought, has to be clearly distinguished from the extra-linguistic object denoted by it. Words, as linguistic signs, are therefore indirectly related to extra-linguistic referents. Saussures binary model is thus expanded into the three-sided model of the semiotic triangle, which, however, still excludes the users of the linguistic sign the speaker / writer and the hearer / reader. In 1934, Karl Buhler gave the model of the linguistic sign a pragmatic dimension and included the two in the theory.


Words about Words

4.3. Bhlers Organon Model

Bhlers theory, following Plato, who sees language as a tool (organon) is represented in a simplified form in the diagram below (cf Lipka 2002: 58):

Fig. 1. Bhlers Organon Model

The picture above has to be understood in the following way. The sign in the center links a sender (normally, the speaker) with an addressee (normally, the hearer) and the represented objects and relations. The connecting lines between the sign and the three elements just mentioned symbolize the three most important functions of the complex linguistic sign, i.e. of the language: expression (also called the emotive function), representation (also called the referential function) and appeal (also called the conative / vocative function). The linguistic sign, as an instrument, is an expression of the sender (speaker or writer) who uses it to appeal to the addressee (hearer or reader). At the same time, it serves for the representation of objects, states of affairs and relations, i.e. for the representation of extra-linguistic referents. As an expression of the speaker or writer, in other words, being dependent on the sender, the linguistic sign is, according to Buhler (1934), a symptom. Because of its correlation with an extra-linguistic referent, it is also a symbol. Seen from the point of view of its relation to an addressee, whose behaviour it is meant to direct and control, the sign is, finally, a signal. These three approaches to the linguistic sign may be


Word Meaning

correlated with the language functions suggested by Buhler in the following way:
EXPRESSION (speaker, writer) ____________ symptom REPRESENTATION (referent) ____________ symbol APPEAL (hearer, reader) ____________ signal

4.4. Word meaning

The discussion of the three successive models above hinted at aspects connected to word meaning. Word meaning is a pretty controversial issue in linguistics, which has been dedicated thousands of pages to and has been approached from hundreds of angles. It is beyond the scope of this book to attempt at summarizing the available theories of meaning. However, instead of going into the intricacies of the various aspects of meaning, a concise overview of the most common terms associated with word meaning would be useful. Denotation, reference, sense and connotation will be considered in what follows.

4.4.1. Denotation and reference

The relation of denotation links a lexeme, as it was defined in the introductory chapter, with a whole class of extra-linguistic objects. As Lyons (1977: 207) puts it, the denotation of a lexeme is the relationship that holds between that lexeme and persons, things, places, properties, processes and activities external to the language system. He uses the term denotatum for the class of objects, properties, etc., to which the expression correctly applies (Lyons 1977: 207). The linguist characterizes the denotatum of the word cow, for example, as a particular class of animals and adds that the individual animals in this class are its denotata. He further points out that the denotation of a lexeme is independent of the concrete context of an utterance. However, expressions such as the cow, Johns cow, those three cows over there may be used to establish a relationship of reference with individual elements in the class generally denoted by cow as their referents (the reference of the above expressions containing cow is partly determined by the denotation of the lexeme cow in English). Reference is thus defined as the relationship which holds between an expression and what that expression stands for on particular occasions of its utterance (Lyons 1977: 174). Since, for Lyons, reference depends on concrete utterances and not on abstract sentences, it follows that single lexemes cannot be related to extralinguistic objects by means of reference, or, to put it in his own words, reference is an utterance-dependent notion. Furthermore, it is not


Words about Words

generally applicable in English to single word-forms; and it is never applicable to lexemes (Lyons 1977: 176). Lyons use of the term reference is summarized and illustrated by Lipka (2002: 75) as follows:

Fig. 2. Lyons use of the term reference

4.4.2. Denotation and sense

Denotation having been defined following Lyons, for consistency of approach, I shall introduce the notion of sense according to his views as well. Thus, initially, he (1968: 427) defined the sense of a word as its place in a system of relationships which it contracts with other words in the vocabulary. Later, still regarding sense from a relational perspective, he redefines it as the relationship which holds between the words or expressions of a single language independently of the relationship, if any, which holds between those words or expressions and their referents or denotata (Lyons 1977: 206). What we understand from here is that sense is a language-internal relationship, bearing no connection with the extralinguistic world. Both individual lexemes and larger expressions have denotation and sense, while only the latter have reference. As Jackson and Amvela (2007: 66) explain, the sense of an expression is a function of the sense of the lexemes it contains and their occurrences in a particular grammatical construction. The sense of the word table will vary in the following sentences: Dont put your feet on the table! and It will be finalized under the table. A comparison between denotation and sense indicates that the two are equally basic relationships that are dependent on each other. According to Lyons (1977: 210), there are some words which do not have denotation, i.e. they cannot be associated with a class of real objects, but, nevertheless, have sense, i.e. they establish relationships with the other words in the language system. This is the case of the word unicorn, which Lyons (1977: 210) illustrates by suggesting the following pairs of sentences:


Word Meaning

There is no such animal as a unicorn. There is no such book as a unicorn.

The former sentence is perfectly acceptable, while the latter is semantically odd. They demonstrate that, while the lexemes book and unicorn are incompatible, animal and unicorn are related in sense. Of denotation, reference and sense, it is the last that will lie at the basis of the discussion of sense relations between words later in this chapter.

4.4.3. Denotation, connotation and markedness

In lexical semantics, some linguists (though there is no total agreement on the matter) draw a binary distinction between denotation and connotation, or denotative and connotative meaning (Kastovsky 1982, Hansen et al 1985, Ullmann 1962, etc). Approaching meaning in terms of denotation and connotation is closely linked to synonymy (which shall be detailed upon later) in that synonyms are regarded as having the same denotation, i.e. the same cognitive or conceptual meaning, but different connotations (in other words, synonyms may be specifically marked by connotations). This additional aspect of meaning, as opposed to the central denotational core, may be illustrated with the following examples of stylistic or social and affective meaning from Leech (1981: 14), as they are reproduced by Lipka (2002: 80):
(a) steed (poet.) (b) domicile (leg.) horse residence (fml.) throw nag (sl.) abode (peot. / old) gee-gee (baby l.) home chuck (sl.) (c) cast (lit.)

The twofold distinction between denotation and connotation may be justified by the fact that denotation refers to the relationship holding between a linguistic sign and its denotatum. Connotations are, however, additional characteristics of lexemes. Leech (1981: 14) marks steed as poetic, nag as slang and gee-gee as baby language. Various dictionaries label them differently: steed may be, according to some, literary rhetorical / humorous, nag may be colloquial, while gee-gee may be used by or when spoken to children. Domicile is considered very formal, official by Leech, while, in dictionaries, it is labeled formal or legal. Abode is viewed as poetic by Leech, and old / literary / legal by various dictionaries, etc. It follows from here that the words in each of the three columns above have the same denotation, but differ in connotation, in other words,


Words about Words

they are marked, or instances of marking or markedness (cf. Lyons 1977: 305). Lyons characterizes the words written in italics as general. The notion of marking or markedness is derived from phonology, where the marked member of a pair of phonemes has some additional features as compared to the other member (/d/ in the pair /t/ - /d/ is voiced, for example, while /t/ is not; consequently, /d/ is considered marked). By analogy, the words horse, home and throw in Leechs example may be considered unmarked, while the others are marked in one way or another. The unmarked lexemes are neutral and not restricted to a particular instance of use, while de marked ones are most readily used in some contexts and excluded from others. Connotatively marked lexemes in a language may be subcategorized in various ways. As Lipka (2002: 82) indicates, certain aspects of linguistic variation may serve to distinguish between regional, temporal and social connotations. Besides stylistically, affectively, or emotionally marked lexemes, we could furthermore group lexical items according to regional or dialectal, archaic or neologistic, and sociolinguistic variation (cf. Lipka 1988a). We could draw on parameters like medium, field, mode, tenor, or, like Leech, on province, status, modality. Some of these approaches to connotations are comprised in the system suggested by Hansen et al (1985). Its most important points are indicated below in a diagrammatic form, though with much fewer examples than those offered by the authors. The three main classes of connotations are, according to them, the following:
A. stylistic: edifice, swain, apothecary, bakshees, buddy, bugger; B. expressive: niggard, bastard, dolly bird; C. regional: elevator, streetcar, truck, wee.

These are further sub-classified by the authors as represented in the following diagrams (Lipka 2002: 83):


Word Meaning

Fig. 3. Categories of connotation

Regional variation is not divided into other sub-classes by Hansen et al (1985). However, the authors mention varieties such as British, American, Scottish, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, South African, Indian English and also point at interior differentiations within these (eg. Northern English). They only give examples of Americanisms, stating that American English is currently exerting a great influence over British English and that the process of fluctuation of words from one of these two varieties into the other is, at present, very active. What I understand from the taxonomy of connotations suggested by Lipka and his colleagues (1985) is that, according to them, the same referent may be referred to by using different words, with different connotations. Thus, they seem to neglect the fact that even the same word, used to refer to a single referent, may gain various connotative dimensions depending on the context of its being used. A simple word such as home may carry connotations of joy, excitement, sadness or boredom, depending on who utters it and when (somebody saying Ill stay home tonight doing nothing may attach the idea of boredom to it, while somebody else exclaiming We are back home! after a long journey may link joy to it, etc.).

4.5. Sense relations between words

As it was pointed out in 4.2., sense is a relational concept, referring to the links between the lexemes and expressions of a language. In what


Words about Words

follows I shall survey the types of such links, under the general heading sense relations.

4.5.1. Synonymy General characteristics of synonyms Synonyms are words belonging to the same morphological class which have the same core meaning, though they may differ in shades of meaning, connotation, distribution, collocation and idiomatic use. Synonyms are interchangeable at least in some, if not in all contexts of use. Thus, for example, busy and occupied are synonyms in Im afraid Mr. Brown is busy / occupied, but busy cannot substitute occupied in This seat is occupied. Liberty and freedom are interchangeable in They fought for their liberty / freedom, but one can only say Im not at liberty to tell you the truth in English. To start and to begin may both be used in She started / began to cry upon hearing the news, but only start may correctly collocate with car (I started my car). In the same way, one can either win or gain a victory, but one can only win a war. When synonyms are interchangeable in particular contexts, they are considered to be in equipollent distribution (Hulban 1975: 155). Alone may be used only predicatively, while its synonyms solitary and lonely may be employed both as attributes and as predicative adjuncts. In the grammatical contexts which are not shared, words such as alone, solitary and lonely are considered grammatical distributional opposites (Hulban 1975: 156). Synonyms may be arranged in synonymic series containing two or more elements. In such series, one of the terms acquires a dominant position, being the most general among the others and the most frequently used in the language. This term is labeled the synonymic dominant and it becomes the head word in dictionaries. To illustrate, in the synonymic series to leave to depart to clear out to retire, it is to leave that is the synonymic dominant, since it is neutral stylistically and can replace any of the other members of the group. Going back to the matters connected to connotation, I may say that the synonymic dominant is the unmarked term of the series, while all the other terms are marked in terms of connotations of various kinds. Simple words may establish correlative synonymic relationships with collocations, phrases or idioms as in the pairs to win to gain the upper hand, to decide to make up ones mind, to hesitate to be in two

Although this is the generally accepted point of view, linguists such as Jones (2002) suggest that antonymy may hold between words that belong to different word classes. For example, in Lighten our darkness, we pray, the verb lighten and the noun darkness form an antonymic pair. In She remembered to shut the door but left the window open, the verb to shut and the adjective open are in a relation of antonymy.


Word Meaning

minds, to swing the lead to exaggerate, neck and crop entirely, to laugh to give a laugh, to prefer to show preference, to go after to follow, to go on to continue, to give in to surrender. As Hulban (1975) observes, correlative synonymic relations are also met in the case of some special stylistic synonyms, in which the name of a writer, inventor, etc. is replaced by a descriptive phrase, as in Chaucer the father of English literature or Shakespeare the sweet swan of Avon. Correlative synonymic relations may also be recognized in certain phrases that are made up of two synonyms linked by the copulative conjunction and: with might and main, lord and master, stress and strain, each and every, liberty and freedom, really and truly, last will and testament, exiled and banished, etc. As Cruse (1986) points out, synonyms occur together in another type of expressions, namely when a synonym is employed as an explanation or clarification of the meaning of another word. The relationship between the two words is frequently signalled by something like that is to say, or a particular variety of or as in: He was cashiered, that is to say, dismissed and in This is an ounce, or snow leopard. When synonyms are used contrastively, as they sometimes are, it is customary to indicate the fact that it is their different peripheral meanings which must be attended to, by phrases such as more exactly or rather as in the following examples offered by Cruse (1986: 267): He was murdered, or rather executed, On the table there were a few grains or, more exactly, granules of the substance. Polysemantic words have different synonymic series for each of their senses. For example, ill in the sense of not in full physical or mental health is synonymous with ailing, indisposed, sick, unwell. If it means bad, possible synonyms for it are evil, wicked, wrong. Synonyms occur in a number of idioms and proverbs in English. Examples of the former include to be on pins and needles, while the latter may be illustrated by It never rains but it pours. They may also be employed as stylistic devices contributing to giving more expressive force to a particular description or to nuancing it, as Hulban (1975: 162 -164) illustrates quoting G.B. Shaw:
I give you up. You are factproof. I am lazy; I am idle; and I am breaking down from overwork. Dont you like these dear old-world places? I do. I dont. They ought all to be rooted up, pulled down, burnt to the ground. Types of synonyms There are several types of synonyms, such as: strict / perfect / absolute synonyms, ideographic synonyms and stylistic synonyms.


Words about Words

Two lexical units would be perfect synonyms (i.e. would have identical meanings) if and only if all their contextual relations were identical says Cruse (1986: 268). The linguist adds that it would be impracticable to prove that two lexical items are perfect synonyms following this definition, since that would mean checking their occurrences in all conceivable contexts, a thing that is surely impossible, the number of such contexts being infinite. However, proving that absolute synonymy remains at the level of theory and does not practically exist in real contexts of language use (a point of view expressed by numerous other linguists) should not be very difficult, since a single discrepancy in the pattern of the contextual relations of the candidates to absolute synonymy would be sufficient proof in this sense. Cruse (1986: 268)) chooses to demonstrate the practical impossibility of absolute synonymy starting from his opinion that equinormality in all contexts is the same as identity of meaning. Based on this approach, two lexical items that are not equally normal in at least one syntactic context cannot be considered strict synonyms. This is the case of the pairs begin commence, munch chew, hate loathe, scandalous outrageous, for which discriminating contexts can be found, though they might seem perfectly interchangeable in all instances of use (Cruse (1986: 269) marks the more normal contexts with + and the less normal ones with -):
Tell Mummy when Playschool begins and shell watch it with you. (+) Tell Mummy when Playschool commences and shell watch it with you. (-) Arthur is always chewing gum. (+) Arthur is always munching gum. (-) I dont just hate him, I loathe him. (+) I dont just loathe him, I hate him. (-) That is a scandalous waste of money. (+) That is an outrageous waste of money. (-)

Besides the test of normality, there are other arguments brought against perfect synonymy. One of these is, for example, the fact that the economy of language would not tolerate (except, perhaps, for a very limited period of time) the existence of two lexical items with exactly the same meaning. Another one is of a historical nature. If absolute synonyms do occur at a certain moment in the development of a language, what happens is that, usually, one of the items falls into obsolescence and is, ultimately, no longer used, it remains to be used in particular dialects or stylistic varieties only or it begins to be employed in contexts from which the other is excluded. Thus, Jackson and Amvela (2007: 109) offer a list of archaic or obsolete words which have fallen out of use and have been replaced by the items mentioned in brakets: culver (pigeon), fain (willing), divers


Word Meaning

(various), levin (lightning), dorp (village), trig (neat), warrener (gamekeeper), wight (human being), erst (formerly). On the other hand, when enemy was imported into English from French, its Anglo-Saxon correspondent foe began to be used more in the literary than in the everyday language. In the same way, mutton (from the French mouton) and sheep were perfect synonyms for a very limited period of time, up to the moment when the former specialized to designate the meat of sheep, while the latter got restricted to refer to the animal itself. The discussion of synonymy so far has attempted at demonstrating by arguments that perfect synonymy is rejected by actual language use. When we speak of synonymy, then, we mean varying degrees of loose synonymy, where we identify not only a significant overlap in meaning between two words, but also some contexts at least where they cannot substitute for each other (Jackson, Amvela 2007: 109). Loose synonymy is illustrated by at least two types of synonyms, ideographic and stylistic. Ideographic synonyms share the core meaning, but differ in shades of meaning in that certain notes characteristic of the notions, phenomena, objects denoted by these words are accented. They may also differ in connotation, collocation patterns and idiomatic use. In the pair of synonyms to love to adore, for example, to love is rather neutral, while to adore bears connotations of worship or passion. Crowd refers to a disorganized group of people, while its synonym, mob refers to the same group, but connotes the idea of riotous intentions as well. As it is pointed out in the Longman Dictionary of the English Language (1991: 141), quoted by Jacskon and Amvela (2007: 108), Beg, entreat, beseech, implore, supplicate and importune all signify the making of an appeal which is likely to be refused or demurred at. A person begs for what s/he cannot claim as a right; beg suggests earnestness, insistence, and sometimes self-abasement. By entreating someone, one hopes to persuade him / her by earnest pleading and reasoning. Beseech and implore convey eager anxiety which seeks to inspire sympathy or pity. Implore may be stronger than beseech, with a suggestion of tearfulness or evident anguish. Supplicate adds to entreat a humble, prayerful attitude <invite, entreat, supplicate to accompany you - Lord Chesterfield>. Importune denotes persistence with ones requests to the point of annoyance or even harassment. The category of stylistic synonyms includes words having the same notional components of meaning, but differing in their stylistic reference or degree of formality. Jackson and Amvela (2007: 111) offer examples of pairs of synonyms in which one of the members is used in informal or less formal contexts, while the other is used in more formal contexts. Such examples include: archer toxophilite, argument disputation, beauty pulchritude, cross traverse, die decease, give up renounce, letter missive, praise eulogy, warning caveat, western occidental. They also mention pairs of synonymous words of which one


Words about Words

belongs to standard English and the other to English slang. The following examples illustrate this type of stylistic synonyms: astonished gobsmacked, crash prang, destroy zap, drunk - sloshed, face phizog, heart ticker, insane - barmy, money rhino, steal nick. Besides the formal informal, standard slang pairs of synonyms, distinctions such as technical non-technical, neutral poetic, speech writing may also be made as in: incision (technical) cut (non-technical), lesion (technical) cut (common), happiness (neutral) bliss (poetic), merry (neutral) jocund (poetic), youre (speech) you are (writing). A particular stylistic synonymic relationship is established between a taboo word and its corresponding euphemistic words or expressions. A euphemism is a mild, indirect or less offensive word or expression substituted when the speaker / writer fears that more direct wording might be harsh, unpleasantly direct or offensive (when resorted to by officials such as members of the Parliament, officers, lawyers, etc., the use of euphemisms is known as doublespeak). Thus, the verb to die enters a stylistic synonymic relationship with the following euphemistic (idiomatic) phrases: to breathe ones last (breath, gasp), to depart this life, to pay ones debt to nature, to go to ones last home, to go the way of all flesh, to kick the bucket, to hop the twig, to join the majority, to be no more, to buy a pine condo, to cross the river to reach the eternal reward, to go to the other side, etc. A stupid person has a couple of eggs shy of a dozen, a few beers short of a six-pack, a few clowns short of a circus, a few bricks short of a wall, a kangaroo loose in the paddock, s/he is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, not the brightest light in the harbour / on the Christmas tree, not tied too tight to the pier, knitting with only one needle, not firing on all cylinders, s/he is as useful as a wooden frying pan, as a screen door on a submarine or as tits on a bull, s/he is a person whose elevator stuck between floors, who got into the gene pool when the lifeguard wasnt watching, who fell out of the family tree or who goes fishing in Nebraska. Somebody who is old is mature or a senior, surveillance is a stylistic euphemistic synonym of spying, a theft is an inventory shrinkage or a property redistribution, a jail is a secure facility, public donation and shared sacrifice refer to paying taxes, a sanitation worker is a trash collector and a drug addict is euphemistically called a substance abuser. No matter what useful and innovative linguistic elements euphemisms might be, they are short-lived. Their presence in the language is conditioned by social and cultural conventions which are continuously changing so that what is considered taboo at a certain moment might be soon accepted and the need for the euphemisms referring to it might well fall out of use. What might save them from disappearing from the language is their stylistic potential. Dysphemisms, roughly the opposites of euphemisms, are coarser and more direct words and phrases that are used to replace both more refined and quite common lexical items, for humorous or deliberately


Word Meaning

offensive purposes. The relationship between the euphemism and the common word designating its referent may be considered stylistic synonymy as well. Thus, a bean counter is an accountant, a grease monkey is a mechanic, a sawbones - a surgeon and a quack - a doctor. Brain bucket is the dysphemism used for motorcycle helmet, Jesus juice - for wine and muffin top - for the flesh that erupts over the sides of low-rider tight jeans. A dead tree edition is the paper edition of an online magazine, while somebody who has become worm flesh has actually died. Like euphemisms, dysphemisms cannot boast but a momentary presence in the language, conditioned by cultural and social conventions. A word or phrase that is, at a certain moment, used as a euphemism may evolve into an unacceptable taboo itself and the need of replacing it by a new euphemism arises. The process has been called the euphemism treadmill by Steven Pinker (2002: 212) and may be illustrated by examples of successive replacements of euphemisms such as: imbecile mentally retarded developmentally disabled / mentally challenged / with an intellectual disability / with special needs or lame crippled handicapped disabled differently abled. Similar to the concept of euphemism treadmill, a complementary dysphemism treadmill exists, though it is more rarely observed. In its case, words and phrases once considered offensive are later described as objectionable, then as questionable, and, in some cases, as nearly or outright acceptable in the end. One modern example, according to Wikipedia online, is the word sucks. That sucks began as American slang for that is very unpleasant, and is a shortened version for oral sex / fellatio. It developed over the late-20th century from being an extremely vulgar phrase to lower-class, nearly mainstream slang. The same may be said of the use of screw, often used as slang for sexual intercourse, in such usages as to screw up, meaning to make a major mistake. Sources of synonymy English is a language that is very rich in synonyms. The main reason for the abundance of synonymous words is connected with the history of the language, in particular, with its having borrowed an impressive number of lexical items from other languages. In a pair of synonyms made up of a native and a borrowed word, it is the native element that is felt to be neutral and, therefore, it is this element that is used most frequently. In literature, however, many of the words for which there is a native correspondent are French, while in the scientific jargon, terms of Greek and Latin origin are preferred. When described, such synonyms are usually organized on a double or a triple scale, in which the source of borrowing into English is indicated and not the language to which the etymon of the words can be traced back. Hulbans (1975; 158-159) examples of double and triple scales of synonymy include:


Words about Words

Native swine ox calf body ghost friendship help ship world room end ask answer buy Native player wire bodily heartly brotherly learned happy hard

French pork beef veal corpse spirit amity aid vessel universe chamber finish request reply purchase Latin / Greek actor telegram corporeal cordial fraternal erudite fortunate solid

Native strength time forerunner bond outstanding end ask

French power age herald bail glorious finish question

Latin energy epoch precursor security splendid conclude interrogate

In literary language, especially in the case of abstract notions, synonymic series may be detected that are formed only of words borrowed from French or Latin:
pushing (Fr.) assent (Fr.) cherish (Fr.) assertive (L.) agree (Fr.) prize (Fr.) militant (L.) consent (Fr.) treasure (Fr.)


Word Meaning

Besides borrowings, another source of synonymy in English, seen from a diachronic perspective, is represented by archaisms. Many of these are at present used only in dialectal speech, having been replaced in the common language by various synonyms. Thus, as Hulban (1975: 159) illustrates, king-stool has been substituted for throne, book-hoard for library, leechcraft and leechdom for medicine, seamer for tailor, to betake for to deliver over and to occupy. Neologisms often lead to synonymy. An interesting phenomenon sometimes takes place in their case: the neologism is replaced by an earlier word which undergoes transfer of meaning, the two words eventually becoming synonyms: automobile is very frequently replaced by motor-car, shortened to car. However, not all attempts that linguists in favour of preserving the native stock of English made to replace neologisms have been successful. Saxonists failed with such words as wheelman, wordhoard, folk-wain which had been meant to replace cyclist, vocabulary and omnibus. The existence of ideographic and stylistic synonyms of the kind discussed in the previous section proves that the geographical and stylistic varieties of English are a rich source of synonymy. Thus, charm, chest and church in standard British English may be paired with glamour, kist and kirk in Scottish English, to add to the examples of ideographic synonyms already given. The British words autumn, tin, lorry, insect, sweet and maize as synonyms of the American words fall, can, truck, bug, candy and corn respectively may enlarge the same category as may Cockney words and phrases such as trap, chap or ill speed together with their standard English synonyms sailor, friend and bad luck. As far as stylistic synonyms are concerned, it is already obvious that euphemisms are another important source of synonymy as in the pairs of words: illiterate uneducated, chaotic unformed, sterile unfruitful, short vertically challenged, pregnant having a bun in the oven, etc. The belonging of words to various styles in the language may lead to synonymy as well. For instance, lazy is the standard neutral word for which the colloquial lazybones may be substituted, trousers is neutral, while its synonym pants is colloquial, evening, morning, valley and sorrowful are neutral, while their synonyms eve, morn, vale and doleful, respectively, are poetic, heart attack and headache belong to the everyday language, while their synonyms myocardial infarct and cephalalgia are medical technical terms.

4.5.2. Antonymy
Antonymy is the sense relation holding between words belonging to the same morphological class and having opposite meanings.


Words about Words General characteristics of antonyms Antonymy is possible only if the words entering this semantic relationship share a common component of their senses. Thus, old and young share the component age, long and short share the component length, while deep and shallow both refer to depth. Antonyms are found in certain typical configurations in English: A and B: Young and old were present at the meeting, a matter of life and death, the long and the short of it; A or B: wanted dead or alive, Well see if she was right or wrong, Good or bad, Ill take it; neither A nor B: neither friend nor foe; A not B: He was alive, not dead as they thought; X is A and Y is B: Youth is wild and age is tame (Shakespeare). Another context in which antonyms are typically employed is when reference is made to a change of state as in The exhibition opens at nine and closes at noon or The poet was born in 1924 and died in 1991. I have previously mentioned that polysemantic words have a synonymic series for each of their meanings. They also have different antonyms according to their different senses. Thus, if even refers to numbers and means divisible by two, its antonym is odd; if it refers to character or mood and it means calm, its antonym is agitated; for its meaning dull, it enters an antonymic relationship with interesting, while sharp may be considered its antonym when it means unable to cut. On the other hand, polysemantic words may have a number of antonyms for some of their meanings and none for others. Thus, criticism has the antonyms praise, approval, when it means blame, while, when it is employed with the sense writing critical essays, it has no opposite meaning correspondent. Antonyms appear in a great number of idioms (to make neither head nor tail of something, to see something in black and white) and proverbs (What soberness conceals, drunkness reveals, What is done cannot be undone, A small leak will sink a great ship, You cant teach an old dog new tricks, One mans loss is another mans gain), as well as in several figures of speech extensively used in literature. Of the last, among which there are oxymoron, irony, and anticlimax, antithesis is the one that relies most heavily on antonymic relationships. To illustrate this, Hulban (1975: 169 170) quotes two excerpts selected from G.B. Shaws writings. In the former, contrast is established by using quite predictable antonyms. In the latter, however, the antonymic associations are not revealed through the semantic features of the words used, but rather thorough the innovative context in which they are used:
(1) Youth, which is forgiven everything, forgives itself nothing; age, which forgives itself everything, is forgiven nothing.


Word Meaning

(2) Your friends are the dullest dogs I know. They are not beautiful: they are only decorated. They are not clean: they are only shaved and starched. They are not dignified: they are only fashionably dresses. They are not educated: they are only college passmen. They are not moral: they are only conventional. They are not virtuous: they are only cowardly. They are not even vicious: they are only frail. They are not artistic: they are only lascivious. They are not prosperous: they are only rich. They are not loyal: they are only servile; not dutiful, only sheepish; not courageous, only quarrelsome; not determined, only obstinate; not masterful, only domineering, not self-controlled, only obtuse, not self-respecting, only vain; not kind, only sentimental; not social, only gregarious; not considerate, only polite; not intelligent, only opinionated liars everyone of them, to the very backbone of their souls. Types of antonyms If we refer to the type of oppositeness of meaning, we may speak about three major classes of antonyms (finer subclassifications are made by linguists such as Cruse (1986); they are, however, too detailed to be reproduced in a book on general lexicology): gradable antonyms, ungradable or contradictory antonyms and converses. The class of gradable antonyms includes pairs of words such as: beautiful ugly, small big, rich poor, wide narrow, fast slow, increase decrease. As their name suggests, the semantic relationship between gradable antonyms is not of the either or type, but rather of the more less type. They represent the end-points of a continuum or a scale. The more less relationship is made obvious by the fact that gradable antonyms allow comparison - My dress is longer than yours, The tree is less tall than the building and that they may be modified by intensifying adverbs: very good, extremely bad, extraordinarily beautiful. The assertion containing one of the gradable antonyms in a pair implies the negation of the other, but not always vice-versa. Thus, as Lipka (2002: 164) exemplifies, John is good implies John is not bad. But John is not good does not necessarily imply John is bad. The negation of one term does not necessarily imply the assertion of the other. Using a further example, The water is not hot does not necessarily imply The water is cold. However, from The water is cold, the negation The water is not hot does follow. Furthermore, The water is hot logically implies the negation The water is not cold. In a pair of gradable antonyms, one of the terms is unmarked, while the other one is marked. The unmarked member is the one that is normally expected in, for example, How old are you? or How long is the way to the museum?. When unmarked terms such as old or long in these sentences are used, the speaker / writer does not prejudge anything whereas, when their marked opposites are used, certain presuppositions


Words about Words

hold. If the two previous questions had been How young are you? and How short is the way to the museum?, the implications had been that the person asked about his / her age was young and the way to the museum was short. The class of ungradable or contradictory antonyms comprise pairs such as asleep awake, dead alive, on off, permit forbid, remember forget, win lose, shut open, true false. Unlike in the case of gradable antonyms, the semantic relationship between the two members of an ungradable antonymic pair is of the either or type, i.e. the assertion of one member always implies the negation of the other, with no options in between (in the case of adjectives, this is proven by the fact that they do not allow degrees of comparison). Thus, an animate being may be described as either dead or alive, but not as some degree of these or as being more one than the other. If certain behaviour is permitted, then it is not forbidden; if one lost a contest, then one has not won it; if a switch is off, then it is not on. The following are examples of converse antonyms (as quoted by Jackson and Amvela 2007: 116): above below, before after, behind in front of, buy sell, give receive, husband wife, parent child, speak listen. The meanings of the two antonyms are like the two sides of the same coin, one member of the pair expresses the converse meaning of the other. Buy and sell describe the same transaction, the difference lying in the vantage point from which it is viewed. If the transaction is seen from the point of view of the person who gives up the goods in exchange for money, we speak about selling, if it is seen from the point of view of the person who receives the goods upon paying a sum of money for them, we speak about buying. If we take into consideration the form of the antonyms, we may speak about root and affixal antonyms. root or radical antonyms are different lexical units with opposite meanings: warm cold, kind cruel, open shut; affixal antonyms are words having the same root, the relation of oppositeness of meaning between them being established by means of negative (and positive) affixes which are added to the common root: careful careless, important unimportant, to believe to disbelieve, to entangle to disentangle.

4.5.3. Hyponymy and meronymy

This section is dedicated to a pair of sense relations that relate words hierarchically. Its starting point is the fact that some words have a more general meaning, while others have a more specific meaning, though they refer to the same entity. Thus, for example, dog and spaniel may be both used to refer to the same creature, but spaniel is a more specific designation than dog and may be employed to refer to breeds other than the spaniels, which, however, share with them a number of essential


Word Meaning

features (they are four legged omnivorous animals, kept as pets or for guarding buildings, etc.). Similarly, as Jackson and Amvela (2007: 118) point out, a pain in the foot and a pain in the toe may refer to the same phenomenon; the second is merely a more specific way of designating the location of the pain. Both dog and spaniel and foot and toe are related to each other by a general specific type of semantic relationship. However, the two pairs of words mentioned illustrate slight differences in this relationship. In the case of dog and spaniel, the relationship is of the kind of type a spaniel is a kind of dog. This is the relation of hyponymy. The more general term that can be used for a number of more specific terms is the superordinate term, while its directly subordinate terms are its hyponyms. Mc Arthur (1981) exemplifies the semantic relation of hyponymy with a simplified variant of the taxonomies of natural elements, reproduced by Jacskon and Amvela (2007: 118):

Fig. 4. Hyponymy

According to this branched scheme, fungus, lichen, shrub, creeper and tree are the hyponyms of plant. In their turn, all but one of them may function as the superordinate terms of other hyponyms: fungus is the superordinate of mushroom and toadstool, creeper is the superordinate of ivy and bindweed, while tree is the more general term for the more specific conifer and deciduous. At the bottom level of the scheme, there are pine and spruce as hyponyms of conifer and oak and ash as hyponyms of deciduous. If there is a direct connection between the terms at the lower levels of the scheme and the terms at the upper levels, the former may be considered hyponyms of the latter, even if they are more than one level apart: for example, oak and ash are hyponyms of tree, pine and spruce are hyponyms of plant. In the case of foot and toe, the relationship is of the part of type the toe is part of the foot. Cruse (1986) calls it meronymy. Jackson and


Words about Words

Amvela (2007: 120) illustrate it schematically, under the form of a hierarchy of superordinate and subordinate (meronym) terms:

Fig. 5. Meronymy

Read from the bottom to the top, what this hierarchical model suggests is that petal and stem are meronyms of flower, as are cap and hair to root and stalk and blade to leaf. One more level up, leaf, bud, stem, root, flower and shoot are meronyms of plant. Part whole relationships like the one that has just been mentioned exist between numerous words in the English vocabulary. Most of the objects around us are made of parts that have their own names. A knife is made of a blade and a handle, the parts of a day are the dawn, the morning, the noon, the afternoon and the evening, while the head, the trunk and the limbs constitute the human body.

4.5.4. Homonymy
Homonymy, a pervasive phenomenon in English, is a relation of lexical ambiguity between words having different meanings, or, as Katamba (2005: 122) sees it, it is a situation where one orthographic or spoken form represents more than one vocabulary item. Types of homonyms If their pronunciation and spelling are taken into consideration, homonyms may be of the following types: perfect homonyms or homonyms proper - words identical in both spelling and pronunciation: light (adjective) light (noun); homophones - words that have the same pronunciation, but differ in spelling: air heir, I eye, buy bye by; homographs - words that have the same spelling, but differ in pronunciation: wound [wu:nd] wound [waund], bow [bu] bow [bau], lead [led] lead [li:d].


Word Meaning

As the examples below demonstrate, homonyms are a rich source of humour. They are, as well, a source of confusion for both users of English who do not master the language and, sometimes, for proficient speakers of it:
Why did the teacher wear sunglasses? Her students were too bright. Waiter, will the pancakes be long? No, sir, round. ( A family of three tomatoes was walking downtown one day when the little baby tomato started lagging behind. The big father tomato walks back to the baby tomato, stomps on her, squashing her into a red paste, and says Ketchup! (, reproduced by Katamba (2005: 122) Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case (

In the first two sentences, humour arises from the homonymy between bright meaning intelligent and bright meaning full of light and, respectively, between long referring to time in the phrase to be long and long referring to shape, extension in space. In the paragraph cited by Katamba, it is the homophones catch up and ketchup that produce a hilarious effect, while in the last quotation, a headline from a newspaper, due to the homographic relationship between case meaning a legal matter presented before a court and case meaning container, it is not clear, at a quick reading, whether the drunkard was sentenced for a crime connected to the violins box, not to mention that a person with an imaginative mind and the sense of humour might as well see the criminal squeezed in a violin box for nine months. According to the type of meaning that helps to differentiate words that have the same sound and / or form, homonyms may be grouped in three categories: lexical homonyms are homonyms which belong to the same grammatical class and have different lexical meanings: the noun seal meaning a kind of sea animal and the nouns seal meaning the special mark put on documents to prove that they are authentic; grammatical homonyms are homonyms which belong to different grammatical classes and have different lexical meanings: the noun bear referring to a particular kind of large wild animal with thick fur and the verb bear meaning inability to accept or to do something; lexical - grammatical homonyms are homonyms which differ in grammatical meaning only: that as a demonstrative noun and that as a demonstrative adjective, played as the past tense of the verb to play and played as the past participle of the same verb.


Words about Words Sources of homonymy There are three major phenomena which account for the existence of so many homonyms in English: phonetic convergence, semantic divergence and conversion. Phonetic convergence or convergent sound development lies at the basis of etymological homonyms, words that can be traced back to different etymons and that have come to be identical in form as a result of sound changes. These changes have been frequently accompanied by the loss of inflections. Thus, the verb bear (I cant bear to be talked to so impolitely) comes from the Old English (OE) beran, while the noun bear (Theres a big bear behind that tree) comes from the OE bera. The adjective fair has a Common Teutonic etymon which gave in OE fger, meaning beautiful, blond (My sister is a fair woman), the noun fair, meaning a periodical market sometimes with various kinds of entertainment (Theres a fair in the village every two weeks) comes from the Old French (OFr) feire, which is itself a transformed variant of the Latin feria, meaning holiday. Semantic divergence or disintegration / split of polysemy leads to semantic homonyms. The cause of this phenomenon in English is found, as one of its names suggests, in polysemy. Semantic homonyms have the same etymon and are the result of a process by which some meanings of polysemantic words have deviated so far from each other that they have gained an existence as completely separate words. Hulban (1975: 175) quotes a number of examples of such semantic homonyms. The Latin etymon capitalia, for instance, has given in English the homonymous adjectives capital (1), meaning relating to the head, punishable by death, deadly, mortal (The criminal received the capital punishment for his deeds) and capital (2), meaning standing at the head, upper case (Names of countries are spelt with capital letters), when referring to letters or words and chief, important, first-rate (This capital error will make you lose much money) in other contexts. The OE gesund gave sound (1), meaning free of disease, infirmity, having bodily health (He looked perfectly sound after he had taken those medicines) and sound (2), meaning in accordance with fact, reason, good sense, free from error (This is a sound statement). Another example that may be added to those offered by Hulban (1975) is that of the pair flower flour, which were originally one word, the Latin florem. In France, the word became variously flur, flour and flor and passed into English as flur, the blossom of a plant. During the Elizabethan period, the term flower came to mean the best. Millers of the era were still using a crude process to grind and sift the meal and only the finest of it was able to pass through a cloth sieve. This top quality wheat was reserved for the gentry and the royalty and was known as the flower of the wheat. Since, during that period, English used to be


Word Meaning

pretty flexible in spelling, the word was often spelled flour. Around the 1830s, the two words were officially differentiated. Conversion, the process by which one lexical item changes its morphological class without changing its form, accounts for a great number of homonyms. The pairs ship (noun), meaning large boat for longer voyages on the sea - ship (verb), meaning to send goods or people by ship and answer (noun), meaning a spoken or written reply to a question answer (verb), meaning to give s spoken or written reply to a question are examples of homonyms obtained by conversion.

4.6. Polysemy
Though not a sense relation between words, polysemy may be introduced here in order to later emphasize its connection with homonymy. Unlike monosemantic words (very few in English and mainly technical or scientific words such as saline, dioxide, ontology), polysemantic words are words which have more than one meaning. The noun box, for example, is mentioned in the Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners (2002) with the following meanings: (1) a container with straight sides, a flat base, and sometimes a lid Read the instructions before taking it out of its box.; (1a) the things in a box or the amount that a box contains Jim gave us some chocolate and we ate the whole box.; (2) a space on a printed form, in which you write Tick the boxes that apply to you.; (2a) a space on a computer screen, where you can read or write a particular kind of information the dialog / error box; (3) a small enclosed space with seats in a theatre or sports ground, separate from where the rest of the audience is sitting a corporate entertainment box; (4) BrE informal for television Is there anything on the box tonight?; (5) an address that some people use instead of having letters delivered to their houses My PO Box address is; (6) a tree with small shiny leaves that people grow especially around the edges of their gardens a box hedge; informal for coffin for a dead body The box was lowered into the grave.; BrE for a hard cover worn by men to protect their sex organs when playing sports Footballers always wear a box when playing. Most English words are polysemantic, the number of meanings ranging from three to about one hundred. The commomer the word, the more meanings it has. Polysemy may be approached diachronically and synchronically. From a diachronic point of view, polysemy may be considered a change in the semantic structure of a word, resulting in new meanings being added to the one or ones already existing. Diachronically, we speak about primary meaning, the meaning of the word when it first appeared in the language, and secondary meaning(s), the meaning(s) that


Words about Words

appeared after the primary one. Thus, the primary meaning of the word table is flat slab of stone or wood, corresponding to the OE period, when it was borrowed from Latin. All the other meanings one can find in a present-day dictionary are later additions and, therefore, secondary meanings: a piece of furniture that consists of a flat surface held above the floor, usually by legs, the people sitting at a table, a way of showing detailed pieces of information, especially facts or numbers, by arranging them in rows and lines across and down a page. From a synchronic point of view, polysemy represents the coexistence of various meanings of the same word, at a certain moment in the development of the language. The meaning having the highest frequency is usually representative of the semantic structure of the word and is considered the central or basic meaning. The other meanings are minor or marginal meanings. Synchronically then, the central meaning of table, the most widely used and the most general, is a piece of furniture. All the other meanings are marginal. If approached synchronically, the meanings of a polysemantic word may be split into direct and figurative meanings. A word is used with its direct meaning when it clearly nominates the referent out of a particular context, and with its figurative meaning when the referent is named and, at the same time, described through its similarity with something else. For example, in He got undressed behind the screen, it is the direct meaning of the word screen that is involved (a movable piece of furniture used to protect or hide something or somebody), while in He was using his business as a screen for crime, I could not see anything because of the thick smoke screen and Behind her house, there was a screen of trees, it is the figurative meaning of screen that is employed something that protects and hides.

4.7. Polysemy and homonymy

Difficulties arise when having to distinguish between polysemy, i.e. between one word with several meanings, and homonymy, i.e. two separate words with the same form and unrelated meanings. Though, according to Lyons (1968: 406), the distinction between homonymy and multiple meaning is, in the last resort, indeterminate and arbitrary, there are three criteria that may constitute the staring point in drawing a demarcation line between the two: etymology, formal identity or distinctness and close semantic relatedness. Words with different etymons that coincide phonetically only accidentally are considered homonyms. This is the case of the pair ear, meaning organ of hearing and coming from the OE eare and ear, meaning the part at the top of a cereal plant which contains the grains, coming from the OE ear. Following this argument, we would have to


Word Meaning

consider flower as part of a plant and flour, the powder made by crashing grain, a single word with two senses, since they have, as I have already mentioned, a common etymon, namely the Latin word florem. Lyons (1977: 550) points out that port, meaning harbour and port, meaning fortified wine, which are most probably considered separate words by the majority of the speakers of English, should, according to the etymology principle, be treated as two senses of a polysemantic word, since they both derive from the Latin portus, only that the latter entered English via the Portuguese Oporto, the name of the town where the wine used to be produced. Based on the last two examples and on other pairs of etymologically related words such as person parson, grammar glamour, shirt skirt, catch chase, which would rather be viewed as separate words, the conclusion might be drawn that etymology is not always a useful and reliable criterion for distinguishing between polysemy and homonymy. The second criterion is that of formal identity or distinctness of the words. Hansen et al (1985), quoted by Lipka (2002), speak about complete homonymy only in the case of spoken, written and grammatical identity of two words. Thus, for them, the identical form bat clearly has two different meanings and can be assigned to two separate lexemes, bat (1), noun, meaning a specially shaped stick for kicking the ball in cricket and bat (2), noun also, meaning a flying mouse-like animal. For them, distinctions in spelling or pronunciation that lead to homographs or homophones cancel homonymy. On the other hand, different morphological and syntactic characteristics of two words with the same form, but dissimilar meanings will lead to their being considered separate homonymous lexemes. As Lipka (2002: 156) exemplifies, we can clearly distinguish between can (1), can (2) and can (3) because we have a modal auxiliary in one case, a noun in the second and a transitive verb with the meaning put into a can in the third case. As far as the third criterion, close semantic relatedness, is concerned, Hansen et al (1985) suggest that we should opt for polysemy in two cases: when there is a semantic relation of inclusion or hyponymy between the two words under discussion or when semantic transfer under the form of metaphor or metonymy has been made between them. Thus, the lexeme man contains the lexical units man (1), meaning human being, in general and man (2), meaning adult male human being, but not man (3), meaning to furnish with man. Consequently, man is a polysemantic word with senses (1) and (2) and a homonym of man (3). In the case of the lexeme fox, we can distinguish fox (1), meaning wild animal, the metaphoric fox (2), meaning person as sly as a fox and the metonymic fox (3), meaning the fur of the fox. Transfer of meaning having taken place between fox (1) and fox (2) and (3) as illustrated above, fox may be said to be a polysemantic word.


Words about Words

4.8. Semantic change

In the evolution of a language, its vocabulary is continuously changing. Some words are added, while others disappear, their grammatical and phonetic features might change and so might their meaning. It is the last of these phenomena that the discussion in this subchapter focuses on.

4.8.1. Causes of semantic change

There are a number of reasons due to which the meanings of words do not remain stable in time. They may be grouped in two major categories: extra-linguistic and linguistic causes. Extra-linguistic causes of semantic change Extra-linguistic causes leading to change of meaning are determined by the close connection between language and the evolution of human society. Being the most dynamic and flexible part of a language, vocabulary reacts to almost every change in the outer reality it helps to picture. Thus, torch was used in Middle English (ME) to designate a piece of cloth damped in oil, lit and held in hand in order to make light. With the advance of technology, the word has come to also refer to the small electric lamp that runs on batteries and serves the same purpose in modern times. The noun mill was initially used for a building with machinery for grinding corn. Industrial developments influenced its meaning and extended the reference of the word to factory - any kind of building with equipment for manufacturing processes (we now have saw / cotton / silk / paper mills). Some of the present-day names of institutions are the result of change of meaning of older words, due to the evolution of culture and society. Hulban (1975) quotes the term academy in this respect. When the word was borrowed in the 15th century, it was used as the name of a garden near Athens, where Plato used to teach. Two centuries later, it referred to the school system of Plato, while, beginning with the end of the 17th century, it has been used to designate an institution for the promotion of art or science. Social causes of semantic change display a large variety of forms. One of them is the need for specialized terms in each branch of science that deals with specific phenomena and concepts. As Hulban (1975) exemplifies, the word cell, whose general meaning is compartment, has come to mean the space between the ribs of a vaulted roof in architecture, the space between the nerves of the wings of insects in entomology and a vessel containing one pair of plates immersed in fluid to form a battery in electricity.


Word Meaning

Another important reason that has lead to changes in the meanings of certain lexical items is the need of expressiveness, taboo and euphemisms in language. The last two have already been discussed. One way of achieving expressive effects in everyday language is through the use of slang words. In slang, everyday words and phrases acquire new meanings. Thus, baby is used for girl or sweetheart, the bread basket is the stomach, to lamp means to hit, a bag is an ugly woman or an objectionable unpleasant person, to rabbit is used for to talk unceasingly, gear refers to illicit drugs and choice is used as an adjective meaning best, excellent. Linguistic causes of semantic change The extra-linguistic causes responsible for semantic change go hand in hand with the linguistic ones - factors acting within the language system such as ellipsis, analogy, discrimination of synonyms and borrowings. Ellipsis consists of the omission of one part of a phrase. Quite frequently, the remaining part takes on the meaning of the whole: sale, obtained by ellipsis from cut-price sale, has come to be used with the meaning of the initial phrase an event or period of time during which a shop reduces the prices of some of its goods. Analogy occurs when one member of a synonymic series acquires a new meaning and this new meaning is extended to the other elements in the series as well. In the synonymic series to catch to grasp to get, the first verb acquired the meaning to understand, which was later transferred to the verbs to grasp and to get. The discrimination of synonyms is the result of the evolution of the meanings of certain synonyms. In OE, land meant both solid part of the earths surface and territory of a nation. Later on, in ME, the word country was borrowed from French and it became a synonym of land. In short time, however, country restricted its meaning to territory of a nation, while land remained to be used in everyday language for solid part of the earths surface (when land is used to refer to an area with recognized political borders, it bears connotations of mystery, emotion or obsolescence). Borrowings from other languages may also lead to semantic changes. Deer used to mean animal up to ME, when, under the pressure of the borrowed words beast, creature, animal, it restricted its meaning to a large brown wild animal with long thin legs.


Words about Words

4.8.2. Results of semantic change

The main directions in which the meaning of words may change are extension, narrowing, degradation and elevation (some of which have already been hinted at in the previous section). Extension or widening of meaning Extension or widening of meaning is the process by which the sense(s) of a word is / are enlarged or enriched. The word journal originally meant, as Hulban explains (1975: 117), a daily record of transactions or events. Through extension of meaning, at present, it means both a daily newspaper and any periodical publication containing news in any particular sphere. The early meaning of butler, a male servant in charge of the wine cellar was later extended to a male servant in charge of the household. Extension of meaning may sometimes involve the evolution of a word from concrete to abstract. Branch, for example, was used with the meaning a portion or limb of a tree or other plant. From this initial meaning, several abstract meanings have evolved and are recognized today: one of the portions into which a family or race is divided, a component portion of an organization or system, a part of a particular area of study or knowledge. Narrowing or restriction of meaning Narrowing or restriction of meaning is the process opposite to extension. By it, a word with a wider meaning acquires a narrower meaning that comes to be applied to some of its previous referents only. Very frequently, narrowing goes hand in hand with specialization of meaning. Mare, for example, meant horse up the moment in the evolution of English when its meaning was restricted to the female horse only. Likewise, any kind of dog was considered a hound. Nowadays, hound is used as such only poetically or archaically, its specialized meaning in the common language being dog used by hunters for chasing the game. Fowl is another example of narrowing of meaning. It was used to refer to any kind of bird, while now, it is only the domestic birds that are called fowls. Specialization of meaning, accompanying narrowing, is very clear in the case of trade names that originated in common nouns: Sunbeam, Thunderbird, Caterpillar. Degradation of meaning Degradation of meaning or pejorative development is the process by which a neutral word either loses its original meaning


Word Meaning

completely and acquires a new, derogatory one, or it preserves it and develops a new pejorative meaning in addition. The former case may be illustrated by means of the word quarrel, which meant complaint. By a first semantic change, as Hulban (1975: 120) indicates, it came to mean a ground or occasion of complaint against a person, leading to hostile feelings. The meaning of the word degraded even further from this and reached the point of a violent contention or altercation between persons, a rapture of friendly relations. Knave underwent the same process. It initially meant boy and later lost this meaning in favour of dishonest man. The word suburban is illustrative of the latter case. From the initial meaning, of or belonging to the suburbs of the town, a new derogatory one evolved, the former still being preserved. Today, suburban is used not only for what is not in the city, but also for typical of the attitudes and way of life of people who live in the suburbs, which some people consider rather boring, conservative, involving inferior manners and narrower views. Analogy plays an important role in the process of degradation of meaning. This is very obvious in the following examples of zoosemy, metaphors that implicitly compare humans with animals. Thus, besides the animal itself, a sheep is a poor-spirited, stupid or timid person. A fox is a cunning person, a monkey or an ape is one that plays the ape, an imitator, a mimic. Elevation of meaning Elevation of meaning is the reverse of degradation, implying the process by which a newly evolved meaning of a word acquires a higher status as compared to the initial one. Fame, for example, originally meant rumour, but later on, it became celebrity, good reputation. Bard was initially a term of contempt, designating a ministrel-poet. Later, when ministrels started to be idealized, the word referring to them suffered an elevation of meaning, quite obvious in Shakespeare himself having been called The Bard. Hulban (1975: 121) quotes the word piquant as an example of elevation of meaning. From the initial meaning, that pierces or stings; keen, severe, bitter, it has passed through two stages of elevation. First, it acquired the meaning agreeable pungent of taste; sharp, stinging, biting; appetizing and then, that of that stimulates or excites keen interest or curiosity; pleasantly stimulating (both of these elevated meanings are in use today). In some cases, elevation of meaning is partial only. Hulban (1975: 122) supports this claim by the example of the verb to blame, meaning to find fault with. A weakening in the original force of the word can be sensed if we consider its etymon, namely the Greek word for blaspheme. The


Words about Words

etymological doublet of to blame, to blaspheme, is much stronger, meaning to talk profanely, to speak evil of, to calumniate.

4.8.3. Transfer of meaning

Many of the cases of extension and narrowing of meaning mentioned in the previous sections are based on transfer of meaning. There are two main types of such transfer, according to the kind of association that they presuppose. Associations based on similarity lead to metaphor, while those based on contiguity, i.e., on the condition of being in contact, in proximity, in a broad sense, lead to metonymy. Unlike extension, narrowing, elevation and degradation, transfer of meaning is not a gradual process, but rather the result of a sudden change from one field to another, on a particular occasion of use (both metaphors and metonymies may be one-time only creations in language). Metaphor The generally accepted definition of metaphor is that indicating that its essence is understanding and experiencing one kind of things in terms of another (Lakoff, Johnson 1980: 5). In other words, metaphor involves an implicit comparison of two entities, based on an alleged resemblance between them. This implicit comparison is contained in the meaning of a word or phrase that has come to be different from its original meaning. There are several types of metaphor. Of them, the live metaphors, conscious creations used by writers as stylistic devices, are of less interest here. Instead, two sub-categories of linguistic metaphors will be discussed in more detail. One of these sub-categories is that of standardized lexical metaphors in whose case the idea of similarity is lost. They are usually considered dead metaphors and include examples such as daisy, whose origin is the OE daeges aege (the days eye) and wind, coming from the OE windes aege (the winds eye). The other sub-category includes the degrading or fading metaphors in whose case the idea of similarity is still evident. As Hulban points out (1975: 126), such metaphors may rely on: similarity of shape: the head of the pin, the mouth of the river, the foot of the hill, ball-point-pen; similarity of position: head-word, headstone; similarity of colour: red-admiral, blue-bell, blue-wing; similarity of destination or purpose: blood bank, data bank; space and duration in time: long run, long-lived, shortcircuit, shortcoming, short-dated;


Word Meaning

physical sensations: cold war, warm congratulations, sweet dreams, bitter remark; Ulmann (1970) offers another classification of degrading linguistic metaphors. According to him, they may be grouped into: anthropomorphic metaphors, involving the transfer of meaning from the human body and its parts to inanimate objects: the mouth of the river, the lungs of the town, the heart of the matter; animal metaphors: dogs tail (a plant), cat-o-the-nine-tails. People can also be called foxes, lions, doves, donkeys, etc; metaphors that translate abstract experiences into concrete terms: to throw light on, to enlighten, brilliant idea; synaesthetic metaphors, involving the transposition from one sense to another: cold voice, loud colours, piercing sounds. Metonymy Metonymy consists of the use of the name of one thing for that of something else, with which it is usually associated. This association is not a mental process that links two independent entities, like in the case of metaphor, but one that brings together entities which are in a certain proximity or contact. According to the type of relationship established between the two elements in a metonymy, the following types of associations are possible (partly as indicated by Loos, Day, Jordan (1999), who quote examples from Kovecses (1986) and Lakoff and Johnson (1980)): the use of the symbol for the thing symbolized: From the cradle to the grave, one has always something new to learn, The Crown visited the soldiers on the battle field; the use of the material an object is made of for the object itself: iron, glass; the use of the holder for the thing held: The gallery applauded, He is fond of the bottle, You should save your pocket if you want to buy a new computer; the use of the makers name for the object made: I like the Rembrand on that wall, Put that Dickens away and listen to me, I hate reading Heidegger, He bought a Ford; the use of the place name where the object is or was originally made for the object itself: At dinner, they served the soup in their best china; the use of the instrument for the agent: They answered the door / phone, The sax has the flu today, The gun he hired wanted 50 grants;


Words about Words

the use of the concrete for the abstract and of the abstract for the concrete: They dedicated their pens to a just cause, He is of noble blood; The leadership took action against thefts; the use of the name of an organization or an institution for the people who make a decision or work there: Exxon has raised its prices again, The Senate thinks abortion is immoral; the use of the place name where an event was recorded for the event itself: Do you remember the Alamo?, Pearl Harbour still has an effect on Americas foreign policy; the use of a place name where an institution is located for the institution itself: The White House voted against entering war, Wall Street has been in panic these days; the reference to the behaviour of a person experiencing a particular emotion for the emotion itself: She gave him a tonguelashing, I really chewed him out good; the use of the part for the whole (also called synecdoche) and of the whole for the part: They hired ten new hands, We dont accept longhairs here, She is wearing a fine fox.



In the previous chapter, meaning relations between words have been approached from a paradigmatic point of view. That is, the focus lied on words as alternative items in some contexts. In this chapter, emphasis is placed on syntagmatic sense relations, that is, on the meaning relations that a word contracts with other words occurring in the same sentence or text (Jackson and Amvela 2007: 131). What is highlighted is meaning arising from co-occurrence, more specifically, from predictable co-occurrence, manifested in what is known as multi-word units of the language. Multi-word units or fixed expressions form a class which covers a wide range of lexical items. What these items have in common is that they are often used as full units by native speakers of English, with varying degrees of change sometimes allowed, sometimes not. They appear to be learnable only as complete chunks of lexical semantic syntagmatic matter, as they are seldom reducible to their component parts (Alexander 1989: 16). The two major sub-classes of fixed expressions are collocations and idioms, to which phrasal verbs, binominals, trinominals and proverbs are added as minor members of the category.

5.1. Collocations
5.1.1. Definition
Collocations are groups of words that co-occur in a language in a way that sounds natural to a native speaker. They are connected to the mutual expectancy of words, or the ability of a word to predict the likelihood of another word occurring (Jackson and Amvela 2007: 106). In English, the presence of the verb to flex, for example, signals the potential occurrence of the words muscles, legs or arms as its objects, the adjective maiden predicts a limited number of nouns, among which there are voyage, flight and speech, while blond or brunette are expected to go together with hair. Halliday and Hasan (1976) argue that collocations as meaning relations of predictable co-occurrence may be found across sentence boundaries. The example that Jackson and Amvela (2007: 131) give to support the formers point of view is:
Would you mind filling the kettle and switching it on? I need boiling water for the vegetables.


Words about Words

Here, fill and switch on collocate directly with kettle in a verb + object structure, but boil, while collocating directly with water in an adjective + noun structure, also collocate across the sentence boundary with kettle, though less directly.

5.1.2. Characteristics and classification

The elements of a collocation are the node, i.e., the lexical item that is being studied and the collocate(s), i.e. the lexeme(s) that co-occur with the node. Each successive word in a text is both node and collocate, though never at the same time, Sinclair (1991: 115) posits. When a is a node and b is a collocate, Sinclair (1991) speaks about downward collocations, the collocations of a with some less frequent bs. On the other hand, when b is a node and a is collocate, the linguist speaks about upward collocations. He illustrates this distinction with an analysis of the collocational pattern of back. Thus, according to him, its upward collocates may be: prepositions / adverbs / conjunctions: at, from, into, now, on, then, to, up, when; personal pronouns: her, him, me, she, them, we; possessive pronouns: her, his, my; verbs: get, got. Downward collocates of back include: verbs: arrive, bring, climb, come, cut, date, draw, drive, fall, fly, fling, hand, hold, lay, lean, pay, pull, run, rush, sink, sit, throw, trace, walk, wave, etc; prepositions: along, behind, onto, past, toward; adverbs: again, forth, further, slowly, straight; adjective: normal; nouns: camp, flat, garden, home, hotel, office, road, village, yard / bed, chair, couch, door, sofa, wall, window / feet, forehead, hair, hand, head, neck, shoulder, car, seat / mind, sleep / kitchen, living room, porch, room. The number of lexemes a node may have represents its range. If the range of a node is taken into consideration, one may speak about various types of collocations. Fixed, unique or frozen collocations occur when a node can combine with one collocate only. This is the case of the adjective auburn which can collocate with the noun hair only. When the node may combine with a limited number of collocates, one speaks about restricted collocations. Rancid, which may modify nouns that refer to objects that contain fat, such as fat, butter, lard, lipstick, is illustrative for this type of collocations. Finally, when a node can combine with a large number of collocates, one speaks about unrestricted or multiple collocations, a sub-category whose existence some linguists do not recognize, on the grounds that the semantic relationship between the


Multi-Word Units in English

node and its collocate(s) are too vague to help distinguish unrestricted collocations from free word groups. One example will suffice to illustrate this last sub-class: anxious / worried / close / curious / strange / disapproving / meaningful / grim / pleading, etc look. The restricted and the unrestricted collocations are discussed by Fernando (1996) in comparison with idioms. What she suggests is that, although closely related, the two are not identical. Idioms are a narrow range of word combinations, viewed as indivisible units whose components cannot be varied or can be varied only within definable units (Fernando 1996: 30). Restricted and unrestricted collocations, on the other hand, rather represent a scale of different degrees of habitual co-occurrence of lexical items. Idioms, conventionally fixed in a specific order and lexical form, or having only a very limited number of variants, lie at the top of this scale. Somewhat lower on the scale of idiomaticity are the habitual collocations (Fernandos term which encompasses both restricted and unrestricted collocations), some of which share characteristics with certain sub-classes of idioms. The salient feature of such collocations is that all their components show variance restricted as in the semi-literal explode a myth / theory / notion, catch the post / mail, or in the literal addled eggs / brains, potato / corn chips, unrestricted as in the semi-literal catch a bus / plane / ferry, etc., run a business / company, or in the literal smooth / plump / glowing / rosy, etc. cheeks, beautiful / lovely / sweet, etc. woman. The comparison of collocations with idioms prompts another remark. While, in the case of idioms, meaning is holistic, i.e., it belongs to the group of words forming the idiom as a whole and cannot be arrived at by adding the individual meanings of these words, in the case of collocations, meaning is additive, i.e. it is the sum of the meanings of its components and it can be arrived at step by step, while advancing element by element of them. This is obvious in a collocation such as to blink ones eyes as opposed to an idiom such as to make eyes at somebody. Besides considering the range of nodes, collocations may be classified, from the point of view of the linguistic rules that govern them, into grammatical and lexical structures. A grammatical collocation is, according to Benson, Benson and Ilson (1991: ix), a phrase consisting of a dominant word (noun, adjective, verb) and a preposition or grammatical structure such as an infinitive or clause. Chomskys (1991: 191) examples are helpful starting points in illustrating this definition. His opinion is that decide on a boat, meaning choose (to buy) a boat contains the collocation decide on (in his terminology, decide on is a close construction), whereas decide on a boat meaning taking a decision while embarked on a boat is a free combination (in his terminology, a loose association). Any native speaker of English would feel that the components of decide on, when it means choose, and of other fixed phrases such as account for, accuse (somebody) of, adapt to,


Words about Words

agonize over, aim at, etc collocate with each other. S/he would reject violations of collocability such as *decide at a boat, *account over a loss, *accuse (somebody) on a crime, *adapt towards new conditions. That decide on a boat, when referring to making a choice of a boat, is a collocation becomes even more evident when comparing it to the countless free combinations of decide, whose elements are joined in accordance with the general rules of English syntax and freely allow substitution. Such free combinations include, among others: decide after lunch / before breakfast / at nine oclock / at the meeting / on the spot / in the library / on the bus / with a heavy heart / immediately / quickly / reluctantly / happily / unhesitatingly, etc. The Bensons and Ilson (1991) describe eight major classes of grammatical collocations, designated G1, G2, G3, etc, included in their BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English. The G1 class contains collocations which consist of noun + preposition combinations: apathy towards, abstinence from, blockade against, blight on, cry for, dig into, epilogue to, fellowship with, graduate in, hope for, inferiority to, leadership in, method for, prologue to, sympathy for, etc. Combinations with the genitive preposition of and the agential preposition by are excluded from the group. The G2 class comprises noun + long infinitive (or an ing verb form) collocations such as effort to, genius to, impulse to, need to, problem to, right to, found in a number of typical syntactic patterns:
It was a struggle (pleasure, mistake) to do it. They had the foresight (instructions, an obligation, permission) to do it. They felt a compulsion (an impulse, a need) to do it. They made an attempt (a promise, a vow) to do it. He was a fool (an idiot) to do it.

The nouns that are followed by infinitives normally associated with the whole sentence rather than with the nouns itself, usually expressing purpose They closed the window to keep the flies out, They sold their house to cut down on expenses, She is wearing a fur coat to impress her boyfriend - are not considered member of the class. Neither are phrases such as a procedure to follow, a book to read, a place to eat, a way to do it, in which the infinitives may be replaced by relative clauses, and constructions containing nouns preceded by a descriptive adjective of the kind an interesting book to read, a difficult person to understand, a clever thing to say. In the G3 group, the linguists include collocations made up of a noun and a that clause following it, if this clause is not a relative one (i.e. that should not be replaceable by which). Nouns that can be followed by a clause only when they are objects of a preposition are not included in the class; it was by chance that we met, it was with pride that he presented his


Multi-Word Units in English

findings. Examples of G3 collocations include: agreement that (he should represent us in court), chance that (she will win), decision that (the taxes will be cut), hunch that (they will not come), myth that (their army was invincible), rumour that (she was back to town). G4 collocations consist of preposition + noun combinations. Examples are: by accident, in confidence, on/off duty, in effect, without fail, at hand, within limits, by mistake, in need, under oath, in/within sight. G5 collocations are adjective + preposition collocations. Combinations of past participles of transitive verbs and the agential preposition by are left out of this class. The G5 pattern may be illustrated by: afraid of, blind with, careful about/of, demanding of, efficient in, frightened about/at/of, hopeful of, irate about, keen on, literate in, peripheral to, qualified for, soft on, talented at/in. G6 collocations consist of adjectives followed by long infinitives. The adjectives included in this class occur in two basic configurations with the infinitives: constructions with dummy it subjects of the type it was necessary to work and constructions with real, both animate and inanimate subjects such as she is ready to go and the machine was designed to operate under high pressure. Adjectives preceded by too and followed by enough + a long infinitive (it was too easy to give a simple answer, it was embarrassing enough to tell the truth) and past participles used in passive constructions and followed by long infinitives (she was chosen to represent us, the colonel was asked to lead the army on the battle field) are not considered members of the G6 class. Of the G6 collocations, the following may be quoted: advantageous to (wait), charming to (watch them), dangerous to (play in the street), evil to (kill), frustrating to (work in a place like that), healthy to (walk in dump weather), irrational to (react in that manner), mystified to (find her watch gone), outrageous to (permit such behaviour), practical to (do that), stimulating to (read science fiction books). G7 collocations are built on the adjective + that clause pattern (many of the adjectives that occur in these collocations are found in G6 as well): (she was) afraid that she will fail de examination, (it is) deplorable that such corruption exists, (it is) incredible that nobody pays attention to the dreadful news, (it is) lucky that we got here before dark, (it is) obvious that he is drunk, (it is) remarkable that the streets are so clean after the festival. G8 collocations consist of nineteen verb patterns, which the Bensons and Ilson (1991) designated by the letters A to S. Pattern A verbs allow the dative movement transformation, i.e. they allow the shift of an indirect object (usually human) to a position before the direct object, with deletion of to when both objects are nouns and when the direct object is a noun: he sent the book to his brother he sent


Words about Words

his brother the book and he sent the book to him he sent him the book. (Benson, Benson and Ilson 1991: xiv). Other verbs that may be part of G8A collocations are: bring, explain, give, grant, make, offer, promise, etc. Pattern B verbs, though transitive like those in pattern A, do not allow the dative movement transformation. Thus, we have They described the book to her, They mentioned the book to her, They returned the book to her, but not *They described her the book, *They mentioned her the book or *They returned her the book. Examples of verbs that fit pattern B include: babble, bark, cry, divulge, growl, introduce, shout, yell, etc. The transitive verbs in pattern C, used with the preposition for, allow the dative movement transformation, i.e. the deletion of the preposition and the movement of the indirect object (usually animate) before the direct object: She bought a shirt for her husband She bought her husband a shirt. Many of the verbs that collocate with a direct and indirect object in the way just illustrated are culinary verbs such as bake, boil, brew, chop, cook, fry, grill, grind, peel, scramble, slice, toast. In pattern D, verbs form collocations with specific prepositions followed by objects. Free combinations such as to walk in the park and combinations of verbs and prepositional objects preceded by by or with, when they denote the means or the instrument by which the actions are performed, are not part of the class, according to the authors of the BBI Combinatory Dictionary. Transitive D-pattern verbs used with to and Bpattern verbs produce the same constructions. The verbs that are normally used with an animate indirect object are assigned to class B We described the meeting to them, while verbs normally occurring with inanimate indirect objects are considered elements of class D We invited them to the meeting. Examples of pattern D verbs include: brood about/over, capitulate to, drill for, extract from, feature as, glow with, hamper in, improve in, join for/in/with, lead against/by/from, move from/into/to, notify about/of, open by/with, point at/to, rehearse for, scream at/for, turn into/off/to/towards, etc. Pattern E is illustrated by collocations formed of verbs followed by long infinitives, if these infinitives do not express purpose (they are nor replaceable by in order to): begin, continue, decide, endeavour, forget, hope, like, mean, need, offer, promise, remember, swear, want, etc. Pattern F includes the small number of collocations formed by the modal verbs followed by short infinitives: can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must. The verbal phrases had/would better, had/would rather also fit this pattern. In pattern G, the collocations are made up of verbs followed by gerunds. Typical examples of verbs that usually collocate grammatically with gerunds are: avoid, keep, recommend, remember, start, suggest, etc. Some of the verbs in pattern G that collocate with gerunds may be found in pattern E as well, as nodes collocating with long infinitives. Thus, sentences such as The baby began crying The baby began to cry, The


Multi-Word Units in English

ambassador continued speaking The ambassador continued to speak, My mother suggested to get the train My mother suggested getting the train are approximately synonymous constructions. Several verbs that occur as nodes in collocations both in the G and in the E class have a different meaning in each pattern. As the Bensons and Ilson (1991) explain, the sentence He remembered to tell them means that he intended to tell them and told them; He remembered telling them means that he remembered the act of telling them. In a similar manner, the construction He forgot to tell them means that he intended to tell them, but forgot to do so; He forgot telling them means that he forgot the he had told them. Note also the difference between the pattern G construction She stopped chatting she terminated her chat and She stopped to chat she interrupted whatever she was doing in order to chat, containing an infinitival phrase of purpose. The pattern H grammatical collocations consist of transitive verbs followed by an accusative + long infinitive construction. Most of these verbs, though not all, may be passivized, the result being a nominative + infinitive construction built around the verb in the passive voice. Examples of pattern H collocations include: ask me to come, force John to confess, get the television to work, invite Mary to join (us), permit the children to play, set them to write, tell them to leave, etc. Pattern I collocations resemble those in class H, the difference being that the infinitive that is used with the verbs is short. Unlike the verbs in the pattern H collocations, those in pattern I collocations cannot be, most of the times, used in the passive voice. Examples that illustrate class I are: hear them leave, help us move, let the children go, make the criminal talk, see her cry, etc. In pattern J, transitive verbs are followed by an accusative + participle construction and can, in their great majority, be passivized (some of these verbs are found in class H as well, so that approximately synonymous constructions occur: (She) heard them leave (She) heard them leaving; (We) watched the actors play (We) watched the actors playing, etc.). Typical examples of class J collocations are: catch the thieves stealing, feel ones heart throbbing, keep them waiting, leave me crying, set me thinking, watch the rain falling, etc. Pattern K collocations contain a transitive verb followed by a possessive (noun or pronoun) and a gerund (some of these constructions are close to those in pattern J) such as: excuse my saying (this), imagine his coming late, (They) remembered Bills having made a mistake, etc. In pattern L collocations, transitive verbs are followed by a clause introduced by that: (They) admitted that they were wrong, (He) denied that he had told her lies, (The travelers) hope that the train will arrive (on time), (We) suspect that she is guilty, (Mother) hopes that I will graduate (this year), etc. Some of these verbs take an obligatory noun or pronoun object before the that clause, others may be used with or without such an


Words about Words

object, while still others (often belonging to pattern G as well) may be followed by a prepositional phrase with to. In the first category, there are: to assure (She) assured me that she would join (the party), to convince (The rector) convinced the students that he would consider (their suggestions), to inform (I) was informed that I would be promoted, etc. The second category contains verbs such as: to bet (She) bet that it would snow; (She) bet me that it would snow, to promise (John) promises that he will learn (more); (John) promises his parents that he will learn (more), to show (We) showed that we were (good) teachers; (We) showed everybody that we were (good) teachers, etc. (He) explained to us that he would come later and (The man) swore to his wife that he would stop drinking are illustrative of the third category. Some verbs in the pattern L collocations are followed by that clauses containing an analytical or synthetic subjunctive. Examples of such verbs are: (He) demanded that we (should) be there tomorrow, (The captain) ordered that the soldiers (should) clean (their guns), (The manager) suggests that a new department head (should) be appointed, etc. A few Lpattern verbs regularly take dummy it as their subject: (It) appears that they will not be here, (It) follows that the results are wrong, (It) seems that you didnt understand, (It) turns out that he was lying, etc. In pattern M, transitive verbs can be followed by a direct object, the infinitive to be (verbs that combine freely with infinitives other than to be are part of pattern H collocations) and either an adjective, a past participle or a noun/pronoun. In most cases, the same verb may be followed by any of these three forms. Examples of pattern M collocations are: (We) consider her to be very polite/well trained/our leader, (The engineers) found the roads to be excellent/paved properly/a (national) problem, etc. Pattern N collocations are made up of a transitive verb followed by a direct object and an adjective, a past participle or a noun/pronoun. Examples of this construction include: She dyed her hair red, We found them interesting, The police set the prisoner free, The man had his car repaired, We heard the song sung in Italian, We appointed Bob president, My friends call me Dana, etc. Some of the verbs in pattern N collocations may be used in pattern M constructions as well: We consider her (to be) a competent engineer, The court declared the woman (to be) guilty, We found the streets (to be) cleared of snow, etc. On the other hand, some of the N-pattern collocations are fixed or restricted, in the sense that the verb in their structure can be accompanied by either only one or a limited number of adjectives. Thus, for example, the verb to paint accepts adjectives denoting colours only: I painted the walls blue/green/orange, etc., while to shoot may be used in to shoot somebody dead only. In pattern O, transitive verbs can take two objects, neither of which can be used in a prepositional phrase with to or for. Examples of collocations in which the verbs may take such double objects are: The


Multi-Word Units in English

teacher asked the pupil a question, Our neighbours envy us our new house, She punched him one in the eye, I tipped the waiter ten dollars, etc. Verbs pertaining to the semantic field of gambling may be heads of pattern O collocations. Some of them, such as bet, lay and wager are able to take in effect three objects one referring to a person, one to an amount and one denoting the point of the bet, as in We bet him ten pounds that the train wont arrive in time. Of the three, bet can be used with any of the three objects alone, lay seems to require the second and the third, while wager may be accompanied by either the second or the third alone. O-pattern verbs may be passivized. In most cases, at least one of the objects may become the subject of the passive construction: The pupil was asked a question (by the teacher)/a question was asked (by the teacher), He was punched one in the eye, The waiter was tipped ten dollars. Verbs in pattern P collocations are either intransitive, reflexive or transitive and their sense must always be completed by an adverbial an adverb, a prepositional phrase, a noun phrase or a clause. Without such an adverbial, sentences like the following would sound incomplete in English: *The meeting lasts, *A strange woman was lurking, *She puts pressure, *The box weighs, etc. Once an adverbial is used together with the verb, these sentences become acceptable: The meeting lasts two hours, A strange woman was lurking in the dark, She puts pressure on her children, The box weighs ten kilos. Pattern Q collocations are built around a verb followed by a whinterrogative word what, where, when, which, who, why - or by how. Quite frequently, the verb + wh- word construction precedes an infinitival phrase or a clause: She could not decide which car to choose, My sister knows how to drive, He wonders where to go, The man asked us what the time was, Guess where the money is, We had to infer what she meant by that, We discussed how to do it. Of the pattern Q verbs, most do not need to be used with an object, some may be used with or without one and some, such as tell, inform, must always be accompanied by an object. In pattern R collocations, transitive verbs (often expressing emotions) are preceded by a dummy it subject and are followed by a long infinitive or by a that clause (sometimes, following an object). Examples are: It amazed me to learn that he had been promoted, It burned me up to hear her lying, It hurts to see my sister crying, It puzzled us that they never answer the phone, It surprised them that their suggestion was rejected. Lexical collocations, in contrast to grammatical ones, normally do not contain prepositions, infinitives or clauses. Typical lexical collocations consist of nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs (Benson, Benson, Ilson 1991: xxiv). Just like in the case of grammatical collocations, lexical collocations differ from free combinations, the elements of which do not freely co-occur and are not bound specifically to each other. Thus, as explained in the


Words about Words

preface to The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English (Benson, Benson, Ilson 1991), condemn murder is a free lexical combination. The verb condemn may be used with an unlimited number of nouns: condemn the abduction / abortion / abuse of power / the acquittal, etc. In a similar manner, the noun murder combines freely with countless verbs: abhor / accept / acclaim / advocate murder, etc. On the other hand, commit murder is a collocation, since the verb commit is limited in use to a small number of nouns meaning crime, wrongdoing. Seven major types of lexical collocations are illustrated by entries in The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English (Benson, Benson, Ilson 1991). L1 collocations consist of a verb which is usually transitive, and a noun or a pronoun (which combine in a rather arbitrary, non-predictable way). Most verbs in L1 collocations denote creation or/and activation (the Bensons and Ilson 1991 call the collocations build round such verbs CA collocations): come to an agreement, make an impression, compose music, set a record, reach a verdict, inflict a wound, set an alarm, fly a kite, launch a missile, spin a top, wind a watch, to set off a bomb, etc. There are instances when the same noun collocates with a verb that denotes creation establish a principle, draw up a will and with another verb, that denotes activation apply a principle, execute a will. As explained in the preface to the BBI Dictionary (1991), there are also instances, which are quite numerous, when the meanings creation and activation are united in one verb: call an alert, display bravery, hatch a conspiracy, impose an embargo, produce friction, inflict an injustice, offer opposition, pose a question, lay a smoke screen, put out a tracer, commit treason, issue a warning, etc. The same noun may collocate with different verbs that refer to actions performed by specific subjects. Such nouns will form different CA collocations, according to which subject role is being described. Thus, a copyright office grants or registers a copyright, while an author or a publisher holds or secures one. CA collocations for polysemous nouns may prove difficult to form for non-native speakers. The verb nodes that a noun such as line may collocate with are dictated by its various meanings: draw a line (leave a trace on paper), drop somebody a line (write somebody a letter), form a line (line up). In the same way, possible collocations of operation are perform an operation (perform surgery in a hospital), carry out / conduct / launch an operation (do something on the battle field). L2 collocations also consist of a transitive verb followed by a noun (less frequently, a pronoun), but, unlike in L1 structures, the verb here essentially means eradication or nullification (due to the meaning of the verb that acts as the node of the unit, these collocations are called by Benson, Benson and Ilson 1991 EN collocations). Typical examples, as offered by the BBI Dictionary (1991) are the following: reject an appeal, lift a blockade, break a code, reverse a decision, demolish / raze / tear down a


Multi-Word Units in English

house, revoke a license, annul a marriage, suspend martial law, scrub / cancel a mission, withdraw an offer, ease tension, quench ones thirst, denounce / abrogate a treaty, exterminate vermin, override a veto, etc. L3 collocations are made up of a noun and an adjective (in some cases, only one form of the adjective may collocate with a particular noun best regards, *good regards): reckless abandon, chronic alcoholic, pitched battle, intensive care, crashing defeat, oral examination, implacable foe, eternal glory, cultural heritage, involuntary manslaughter, stiff opposition, vicious propaganda, etc. Nouns that are used attributively in English may replace adjectives in L3 collocations: house arrest, birth certificate, brain death, party elite, steel guitar, survival kit, paper money, insurance policy, sound-and-light show, etc. A noun and a verb that names the action characteristic of the person or the thing that this noun refers to combine in L4 collocations: adjectives modify, alarms go off, bees buzz, clocks tick, donkeys bray, elephants trumpet, a plague spreads, etc. As it is explained in the preface to the BBI Dictionary (1991: xxvii), L5 collocations, structured as noun 1 of noun 2, indicate the unit that is associated with a noun. Such collocations may indicate the larger group to which a single member belongs a colony / swarm of bees, a herd of buffalos, a pack of dogs, a pride of lions, a school of whales or the specific, concrete, small unit of something larger, more general a word of advice, an article of clothing, an act of violence, a grain of salt, a sheet of steel, a clove of garlic, a leaf of grass, a segment of orange, etc. L 6 collocations consist of an adverb and an adjective, while those in the L 7 group are composed of a verb and an adverb. Examples of structures in the former group include deeply absorbed, strictly accurate, closely / intimately acquainted, hopelessly addicted, keenly / painfully aware, actively engaged, fully insured, while collocations of the latter type may be illustrated by affect deeply, amuse thoroughly, anchor firmly, examine closely, guarantee fully, hope fervently / sincerely.

5.2. Idioms
5.2.1. Definition
The generally accepted definition of an idiom states that it is a group of words established by usage as having a meaning non-deductible from those of the individual words (Oxford Concise Dictionary 2002: 379) or an expression whose meaning is different from the meaning of the individual words (Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners 2002: 710), in other words, a phrase, the meaning of which cannot be predicted from the individual meanings of the morphemes it comprises (Jackson and Amvela 2007: 77).


Words about Words

5.2.2. Characteristics and classification

The clearest features of idioms, as it follows from their very definition and as it is mentioned by Fernando (1996: 3), are compositeness idioms are commonly accepted as a type of multiword expression (red herring any diversion meant to distract attention from the main issue; smell a rat to know instinctively that something is wrong or that somebody is telling lies; the coast is clear people supposed to watch one are not there and one is able to move or leave, etc.) (Fernando 1996: 3), they are particular phrases or turns of expression which, from long usage, have become stereotyped in English (McMordie 1972: 5) and semantic opacity, or idiomaticity the meaning of an idiom is not the sum of its constituents. In other words, an idiom is often non-literal, though there are cases of idiomatic phrases, such as to throw money away, to have a rare time, which have a direct meaning that may be easily understood on the basis of their component elements (Fernando 1996: 3). Idiomaticity is paralleled by grammatical inseparability idioms function as single units from a grammatical point of view as well. In a free word group, each lexical item has an independent meaning and its own grammatical function. By contrast, in an idiom, both lexical and grammatical meaning belong to the structure as a whole (if, in The old man kicked the bucket, kicked the bucket to die - is considered a free combination of words, grammatically, it is made up of a verb functioning as the sentence predicate and a noun which is, syntactically, its direct object. If, on the contrary, it is regarded as an idiom, the whole unit is a verbal phrase that functions as the predicate of the sentence). Most idioms are characterized by lexical integrity, in the sense that as a general rule, an idiomatic phrase cannot be altered; no other synonymous word can be substituted for any word in the phrase, and the arrangement of the words can rarely be modified (McMordie 1972: 6). While free word groups can be freely made up, according to the needs of communication, and any of their elements can be replaced without affecting the meanings of the others, idioms are used as ready-made units in which substitution is either impossible or very limited. Examples of idioms with invariable elements include red tape official paperwork and bureaucracy (negative connotation); to spend an arm and a leg to spend very much; on pins and needles very worried about something; a nine days wonder anything that arouses great excitement and interest, but for only a short time; to be out like a light to fall asleep very fast, etc. Variation of the parts of an idiom could be in terms of number and tense (inflectional changes) or the replacement of one structure word like an article by another or by zero, or it could be lexical, one content word being replaced by another (Fernando 1997: 43). Variation in tense is common to many verb idioms and it usually mirrors the time frame of the


Multi-Word Units in English

discourse: When both my parents were out of work, we lived from hand to mouth. / The economic crisis left us jobless and we are now living from hand to mouth. / They have been living from hand to mouth from quite some time now. (to live from hand to mouth to live in poor circumstances), etc. However, there are cases, such as that of proverbs, when verb idioms normally retain their original form. In none of the following sayings can the tense of the idioms in question be changed: A watched pot never boils; A stitch in time saves nine; As they brew, so let them bake; If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Number varies in idioms with the same freedom as tense does. Fernando (1997: 44 - 45) illustrates this type of variation with the following examples:
Student: Can I throw in a red herring? Tutor: Several. Red herrings and the Iraki breakfast But Mr. Whilam has to talk about these things any red herring will do(The Australian 4 March 1976: 6) We went there one evening. I twisted Richies arm. I said hes your brother-in-law too but they werent in. If you cant turn up, let us know if necessary I can twist the arms of a few friends and get them to come.

If pluralization is impossible in some idioms such as kick the bucket (*kick the buckets), smell a rat (*smell rats), out of step (*out of steps), apple of ones eye (*apples of ones eye / apple of ones eyes), so is the use of the singular in others such as twiddle ones thumbs (*twiddle ones thumb), raining cats and dogs (*raining a cat and a dog), a cat and dog life (*cats and dogs lives), for the birds (*for the bird), lovely weather for ducks (*lovely weather for duck), etc. As indicated above, content words may be replaced by other content words in a number of idioms: burn ones boats / bridges, get / give / have cold feet, get the sack / ax, have the cards / deck stacked, etc. Besides replacement, addition, permutation and deletion are also possible transformations in the structure of some idioms. Language users may introduce extra elements in idioms, not just to elaborate on the expressions per se, but to make the message they convey clearer or more emphatic (though, normally, addition is not allowed in an idiom). Fernandos (1997: 48) examples meant to illustrate this type of transformation are:
Rudyard Kipling took the art world bull by the horns when he wrote Its clever, but is it art? (The Sydney Morning Herald 4 December 1978: 16)


Words about Words Professor McDonald also suggested (with his tongue only partly in his cheek) that the current state of Australias economy could be attributed to analysts not able to interpret data (Macquarie University News Nov/Dec 1987: 16) It is very easy for those academics to look out of their carpeted ivory towers across the quagmire of business stagnation. (The Australian 8 December 1975)

As far as permutation possibilities are concerned, they vary from idiom to idiom. Some idiomatic expressions do not allow rearrangements in terms of their internal grammar, while others do, to a smaller or more extensive degree. In the former category, there are idioms such as say no more (*no more was said), take forty winks (*forty winks have been taken), smell a rat (*John is a rat smeller). In the latter, there are idioms which allow for particle shift (which can be optional) to beat up somebody / to beat somebody up, to blow up something / to blow something up, for conversion of the verb + object predicate into a nominal phrase drop a brick / a brick dropper, break the ice / an ice breaker or for passivization he shed crocodile tears / crocodile tears were shed, the president leaves no stone unturned / no stone is left unturned (by the president), etc. While some idioms are so well established in the language with their truncated form that this is considered the norm (red herring from draw / trail a red herring down the path, a rolling stone from a rolling stone gathers no moss), in the case of others, the hearers knowledge of the full expression is necessary to understand its meaning. Non-native speakers, for example, whose exposure to idioms has been through dictionaries, may find that deletions impede identification of some such expressions and obstruct their being interpreted correctly. Fernando (1996: 51) illustrates how deletion (and substitution) in the case of dangle a carrot before the donkey, for example, may result into expressions whose recognition and understanding may pose difficulties:
Sunshine dangles an issue carrot (headline) (The Australian 15 November 1975: 12) Thatcher waves trade carrot (headline) (The Australian 6 August 1988: 3) The Prime Minister has offered some very appealing political carrots in his economic program. (The Australian 28 November 1975: 10)

Other examples of truncated idioms, quoted by Fernando (1996: 52) are:

This fellow thought the Professor would drop him like a hot potato so he preferred a bird in the hand. (a bird in the hand is obtained through deletion from a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush)


Multi-Word Units in English Norman Sherry is the epitome of the no-stone-unturned school of biographers (The Sydney Morning Herald 10 June 1989: 85) (no-stoneunturned is truncated from to leave no stone unturned)

Institutionalization is also peculiar of idioms they are conventionalized expressions, conventionalization being the end result of initially ad hoc, and in this sense, novel, expressions (Fernando 1996: 3). From a stylistic point of view, idioms are characterized by such features as rhythm, rhyme, alliteration and imagery, which contribute to their euphony. Rhythm is specific to idioms which are made up of pairs of elements: tooth and nail with force and ferocity; by fits and starts intermittent, variable in intensity and prolonged by interruptions; heart and soul with complete faith; movers and shakers people of energetic demeanour, who initiate change and influence events, etc. Rhyme is peculiar to by hook or by crook by any means possible; wear and tear damage that naturally and inevitably occurs as a result of normal wear or aging; here, there and everywhere in or to many different places; while alliteration is found in idioms such as (to buy) a pig in a poke to buy something without seeing it; to leave in the lurch to leave in an uncomfortable or desperate situation; without rhyme or reason without purpose, order or reason; to rant and rave to shout angrily and wildly about someone or something, etc. Imagery in idioms may be achieved by simile as like as two peas very similar; as poor as a church mouse very poor; as brown as a berry very brown from the sun; as clear as crystal very clear; as stiff as a poker rigid and inflexible; to fit like a glove to fit perfectly; to drink like a fish to drink very much; metaphor in a nutshell in a few words, concisely; a cold fish a person who is distant and unfeeling; a wolf in sheeps clothing any hidden danger, or for any enemy putting on a false display of friendship; a white elephant a valuable possession which the owner cannot dispose of, but whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) exceeds its supposed usefulness; metonymy and synecdoche to go under the knife to have a medical operation; not to lay a finger on someone not to touch or harm someone or something; to have one foot in the grave to be very old and likely to die soon; to have sticky fingers to have a tendency to steal; hyperbole to make a mountain out of a molehill to exaggerate; to take the bull by the horns to do something difficult in a determined and confident way; to pay and arm and a leg to pay a high price; to feel on cloud number nine to feel very happy; to be dressed to kill to be dressed in fancy or stylish clothes; euphemisms to be knocked up to be pregnant; in ones birthday suit fully naked; six feet under dead; hendiadys safe and sound unharmed and whole or healthy; soft and tender delicate; at sixes and sevens in a state of confusion or disarray; antithesis short and the long of it the most important point, the summary of the matter; for better or for worth


Words about Words

whether the situation or consequences be good or ill; to make neither head nor tail of something not to understand anything, etc. Some idioms combine two or more figures of style as busy as a bee very busy or very active; as bold as brass with too much confidence; as fit as a fiddle in very good health (simile and alliteration); hale and hearty healthy; safe and sound unharmed and whole or healthy (alliteration and hendiadys); fair and square completely fair, justly, within the rules (rhythm, rhyme and hendiadys). The idioms discussed so far may be grouped into categories, according to their peculiarities - idioms with a direct / figurative meaning, with / without variable elements. Other possible categorizations concern the morphological class to which they belong, the semantic relationships between them, the domain of human activity to which they are connected or the image they evoke, the concept they refer to. Thus, from a morphological point of view, idioms may be: nominal idioms: the apple of ones eye, a bed of thorns, the lions share, a snake in the grass, a swan song, the man in the street, Gods acre, driving force, Johnny-come-lately; adjectival idioms: high and mighty, null and void, cut and dried, as neat as a new pin, off the cuff, rough and tumble, downhill all the way; verbal idioms: to cross the Rubicon, to cut corners, to hedge ones bets, to jump on the bandwagon, to keep something under ones hat, to play second fiddle, to make a clean breast of something, to nurse a grudge (against someone); adverbial idioms: off and on, by and by, out front, etc. Looked at from the point of view of the semantic relationship that holds between them, idioms may be: synonymic idioms: babes and sucklings a green / fresh / raw hand spring chicken (inexperienced people); to sleep like a log to sleep like a baby - to sleep the sleep of the just (to sleep soundly); down at the heels out at elbows (shabby, poorly dressed); to spill the beans to let the cat out of the bag (to reveal a secret, to confess to something); to skate on thin ice to swim in troubled waters (to do something risky, to take a chance); antonymic idioms: as sober as a judge (fully sober) as drunk as a lord (very drunk); a heart of gold (said about kind people) a heart of stone (said about cold people); to make up ones mind (to decide) to be in two minds (to hesitate); There are a number of polysemantic idioms in English. To go west, for example, has at least three meanings: 1) to die (The beggars knew that they would go west if they didnt find shelter soon.); 2) to be ruined (Both of us made wrong investments and we went west in a year.); 3) to go to a new location in order to start a better life (Go west,


Multi-Word Units in English

there is little hope for a good life here.). To draw a blank may refer to getting no response, to finding nothing (I asked him about Johns financial problems and I just drew a blank.) or to failing to remember something (It was a very difficult test, with only one question to answer and I drew a blank.), while to give someone a start may mean one of the following: 1) to help start someones car (My friend gave me a start when my car was stalled.); 2) to give someone training or a big opportunity in beginning ones career (My career began when my father gave me a start in the car industry.); 3) to startle someone, to make someone jerk or jump from sudden fright (I didnt mean to give you a start. I should have knocked before I entered.). As indicated above, idioms may be grouped into classes according to the field of activity to which they refer or to the image they call to mind. Thus, the largest of these classes are connected to: the body and bodily functions: to be all ears (to be interested in hearing about something Tell me what you know about this actress, Im all ears.); to be all fingers and thumbs (to be too clumsy to properly do something that requires manual dexterity Let me plant these small seeds, youre all fingers and thumbs.); to spend an arm and a leg (to spend a fortune My brother spent an arm and a leg on his new car.); to have a bad hair day (to have a time when things are not going the way one would like or has planned I have quarreled with my mother-in-law and I have locked the keys inside my car, I am definitely having a bad hair day.); not to bat an eyelid (not to react or show emotion when surprised, shocked, etc. I didnt bat an eyelid when he told me about the accident.); to beat ones brains out (to think hard about something, but cannot solve, understand or remember it Im beating my brains out to tell you her name. Im sure we have been introduced to each other.); to bite someones head off (to criticize someone angrily My boss bit my head off for not having finished the report in time.); to have a close shave (to nearly have a serious accident or get into trouble I had a close shave, I almost got bitten by a snake.); to give somebody the cold shoulder (to ignore or to reject somebody She gave him the cold shoulder when he asked her to the party.); as dry as a bone (completely dry Our lawn is as dry as a bone; lets hope it will rain tomorrow.); to fight tooth and nail (to fight energetically and with determination The police fought against the criminal tooth and nail.); to give someone a leg up (to help one achieve something that one couldnt have done alone My friend handed in the documents in time only because I gave him a leg up with their translation.); to have a hollow leg (to eat more than ones stomach seems to be able to hold Tom has already eaten ten sandwiches, he must have a hollow leg.); a kick in the teeth (bad news or sudden


Words about Words

disappointment His not having passed the final examination was a kick in the teeth for his parents.); to make ones blood boil (to make one very angry His not keeping his promises makes my blood boil.); to make ones flesh crawl (to scare or revolt one That strange man with a knife in his hand made my flesh crawl.); on the nose (right on time This project will be finished on the nose.); a pain in the neck (something that is very annoying, disturbing - Alice is such a pain in the neck when she unreasonably complains about being too fat.), etc; food: to put all ones eggs in one basket (to risk everything at once Dont put all your eggs in one basket unless you want to lose everything in case there is a catastrophe.); to go back to the salt mine (to go back to work I would like to keep chatting with you but I have to go back to the salt mine.); bread and butter (means of support, livelihood I cant miss another day of work. Thats my bread and butter; the essential element of something, the mainstay Sentimentality and politics were the bread and butter of the Academy Awards.); to chew the fat with someone (to talk at leisure with someone We are chewing the fat about our school days.); duck soup (an easy thing to do - Knitting a sweater is duck soup for Maria.); to have a finger in the pie (to have a role in something, to be involved in something Tess wants to have a finger in the pie, she doesnt think we can finish writing the project by ourselves.); to be on the gravy train (to have found an easy way to make a lot of money For many, not paying taxes to the state is being on the gravy train.); meat and potatoes (basic, sturdy, and hearty; it often refers to a robust person, with simple tastes in food and other things There is no point in trying to cook something special for the Wilsons. They are strictly meat and potatoes; Fred is a meat and potatoes kind of guy.); pie in the sky (something that seems good but is unlikely to be achieved Those plans of his to set up his own business are just pie in the sky.); to save somebodys bacon (to save someone from failures or difficulties You saved my bacon there. Id probably lost my job if you hadnt provided a good explanation for my foolish behaviour.); thats the way the cookie crumbles (said to mean that things do not always turn out the way one wants and there is nothing one can do about this I cant believe they chose Tom for the job and not me. Ah well, thats the way the cookie crumbles.), etc; animals: to be all bark and no bite (to talk tough but not to be so really Dont be afraid, he will not fire you, hes all bark and no bite.); as the crow flies (it refers to the shortest possible distance between two places There are 20 kilometers between Timisoara and Arad, as the crow flies.); at a snails pace (very slowly If you keep walking at a snails pace, we wont make it to the castle


Multi-Word Units in English

today.); to back the wrong horse (to give ones support to the losing part in something Youre backing the wrong horse, the local team will never win the championship.); to be on the pigs back (to be happy / content / in fine form I was on the pigs back when they told me that I had won a trip to Hawaii.); to have a bigger fish to fry (not to be interested in something because there are more important things for one I wont bother investing in this small business, I have a bigger fish to fry.); to lead a cat and dogs life (not to get along, to argue constantly - They have lead a cat and dogs life for some time now, they simply cant stop quarrelling.); to throw somebody to the wolves (to abandon somebody when s/he is in a difficult situation I shall never forgive her for having thrown me to the wolves when I most needed her help.); like a bull in a China shop (very clumsy He was like a bull in a china shop with our clients and they complained to our manager.); a calf lick (a parting where ones hair grows in a different direction I cant do my hair the way I want because of this calf lick.); to cast pearls before swine (to offer something of value to someone who doesnt appreciate it Offering her books for her birthday is just casting pearls before swine, she has never liked reading.); to put / let / set the cat among the pigeons (to create disturbance and cause trouble Jane let the cat among the pigeons when she announced she was going to join the army.); dog days (very hot summer days Id rather be in the mountains these dog days.); to have ones ducks in a row (to be well-organized My boss always has his ducks in a raw, he can find whatever document you need in seconds.); from the horses mouth (directly from the person concerned or responsible You have to believe me, I have heard it from the horses mouth.); the lions share (the biggest or best part of something, often obtained by unfair means If my partner gets the lions share again, Im out of this business immediately.); pecking order (the order of importance or rank Dont forget to place the guests at tables in the pecking order.); a birds eye view (a view seen from high above We got a birds eye view of New York as the plane began its descent; a brief survey of something All you need is a birds eye view of the events of World War II to pass the test.), etc; plants: to bark up the wrong tree (to have misunderstood something, to be totally wrong Youre barking up the wrong three; Ill move on to the next question before you give me another incorrect answer.); the apple of ones eye (ones favorite person Tom is the apple of Marys eye. She thinks hes great.); to clutch at straws (to try anything to get out of serious trouble Applying for credit at a bank that nobody trusts was just clutching at straws.); to come up smelling of roses (to emerge from a situation with ones


Words about Words

reputation undamaged Though the senator was seen endorsing a false document, he came up smelling of roses.); to gild the lily (to decorate something that is already ornate Three more stars in the Christmas tree means just gilding the lily.); to grasp the nettle (to deal bravely with a difficult situation He grasped the nettle and told her that he had been sentenced to five years imprisonment.); to let the grass grow round ones feet (to delay doing things instead of taking action If you let the grass grow round your feet, you will miss the chance of being nominated for the presidential elections.); a bed of roses (a situation or way of life that is always happy and comfortable They love each other so much that marriage has always been a bed of roses.); to put someone out to pasture (to force somebody to resign or give up some responsibilities The president of the company was put out of pasture for bad management.); to run around the bush (to take a long time to get to the point Stop running around the bush and tell me how much money you would like me to lend you.); a thorn in ones side (someone or something that causes trouble I told him to be in time for the trial and he keeps being a thorn in my side. Hes late again!); not to see the wood for the trees (not to perceive the overview or the important things because of concentrating too much on details The information in this textbook is so disorganized that I cant see the wood for the trees.); to wither / die on the vine (to be ignored or neglected and thereby be wasted, to be destroyed gradually - Fred thinks he is withering on the vine because he has not been given a role in the play; Plans to create cheap housing for the poor seem doomed to wither on the vine.), etc; sport: to hit (someone) below the belt (to do something unfair or unsporting to someone Bill is difficult to deal with in business. He often hits below the belt.); foul play (illegal activities, bad practices The police investigating this crime suspect it is connected to foul play; All students answered the test questions in exactly the same way; Therefore, their teacher imagined this was the result of foul play.); par for the course (typical, about what one could expect Did he leave you there alone in the dark? Thats not par for the course for somebody who pretends to be your friend.); swim with / against the tide (to do what other people are doing / the opposite of what other people are doing, to go against the trend Wearing worn out jeans is swimming with the tide for young people; John never agrees to what his team mates suggest; he tends to always swim against the tide.); to keep ones eye on the ball (to stay alert and pay close attention to what is happening If you want to be able to write a proper review of the play you have to keep your eye on the ball till its very end.); (whole) new ball


Multi-Word Units in English

game (a new set of circumstances You can no longer do the things that you used to do around here. Its been a whole new game since Mary became our manager.); down for the count (finished for the time being, having lost a struggle After the teacher rebuked me in class, I knew I was down for the count.); to learn the ropes (to understand new things The first week on the job you will just be learning the ropes.); out in left field (nowhere near being true, nowhere near doing something correctly All of the students laughed when Joe gave an answer which was out in left field.); to win hands down (to obtain an easy victory The other team was missing four of its players so we won hands down.); to throw in the towel (to give up If they dont accept our offer this time, we are going to throw in the towel and look for a new house somewhere else.); to get / set / start the ball rolling (to start something, to get some process going If I could get the ball rolling, Im sure others will help me later.), etc; trades: to have too many irons in the fire (to be doing too many things at once Tom had too many irons in the fire and missed some important deadlines.); between hammer and anvil (in a difficult situation, possibly having to make a difficult choice I felt between hammer and anvil when I was asked which of the two sisters was the more beautiful.); to bring grist to the mill (to turn something to profit or advantage He has made a lot of money using his connections. He certainly knows how to bring grist to the mill.); in full blast (using full power, in full activity Though it was early in the morning, the engineers were working in full blast.); jack of all trades (someone who can do several different jobs instead of specializing in one My brother can do plumbing, carpentry and roofing, but none of them well; hes a real jack of all trades.); to mend (ones) fences (to restore good relations with someone Sally called her uncle to apologize for having been rude and tried to mend fences.), etc.

5.2.3. Pragmatic idioms

Pragmatic idioms (routines or social formulas) are fixed, stereotypical expressions used as single unit utterances in everyday conversation and closely bound to a special function or communication situation (Aijmer 1996: 13). No change is possible within the unit and, generally, the immediate environment is quite predetermined (Kecskes 2003: 106). Examples of pragmatic idioms include:
Let me introduce my brother, Jack, to you. Nice to meet you, Jack. (introductions)


Words about Words Diane, are you all right? Oh, yes, Im fine, thanks. (inquiry and acknowledgement) Thank you for having us to stay for dinner. It has been a lovely evening. It was my pleasure. (thanks and acknowledgement) Can I help you, sir? No, thank you. Im just looking. (exchange between shop assistant and customer) Merry Christmas! Happy Easter! Happy Anniversary! (greetings) Happy New Year! Happy Birthday! Many happy returns




Id like to buy a ticket for London. Single or return? (exchange between ticket seller and customer) What would you like to drink? A cup of coffee, please. Black or white? (exchange between bar tender and customer)

5.3. Multiword verbs

5.3.1. Definition
Multiword verbal constructions consist of two elements - a main verb (usually of Germanic origin, such as: call, come, cut, get, go, make, put, set, take, etc.), and one or two particles (the most frequent of which are, as stated in the Collins Cobuild Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs: about, after, against, along, around, at, back, by, down, for, from, in, off, out, over, through, to, under, up, with, etc.) which are perceived as constituents of a single unit.

5.3.2. Characteristics and classification

There are two main criteria on the basis of which different categories of multiword verbs are identified. First, the presence of a preposition or an adverb after the main verb will establish the distinction between prepositional and phrasal verbs. Second, the number of particles following the main verb will help distinguish between prepositional and phrasal verbs on the one hand and phrasalprepositional verbs on the other. Prepositional verbs consist of a main verb and a preposition and are always followed by an object expressed by a noun or a pronoun (which


Multi-Word Units in English

cannot occur between the particle and the main verb): call for (John), look at (him), ask for (an invoice), believe in (justice), care for (pets), deal with (emergencies), refer to (an event), write about (a painter), etc. Phrasal verbs consist of a main verb and an adverb. They may be either transitive (followed by an object expressed by a noun or a pronoun) bring up (the matter), look up (a place) - or intransitive (not accompanied by any object) give in, sit down, shut up, blow up, catch on, stand up, play around, take off. By contrast with prepositional verbs, transitive phrasal verbs may be accompanied by mobile objects. These may occur either after the particle or between the main verb and this, without giving birth to grammatically unacceptable structures: bring up the children / bring the children up, look up the word / look the word up. However, the particle cannot precede personal pronouns: *they switched off it, *roll back this, *sew up it, etc. In the case of intransitive phrasal verbs, normally, the particle cannot be separated from the verb it accompanies phrases such as brake again down, stand now up, give soon in, etc. are ungrammatical. Nevertheless, particles referring to directions may be modified by intensifiers which split the verb + particle sequence: come right back, go straight ahead, go straight on. Phrasal-prepositional verbs are a bridge class between the two categories just mentioned. Since they can easily be identified as a consequence of the fact that they have two particles, transitivity is not necessarily considered a distinctive feature on the basis of which these multiword verbs are recognized: check up on (a friend), get away with (that), stand up for (ones rights), get on with (Jane), put up with (smokers), give up on (the cinema), get down to (work), jump out at (the reader), make up to (her), stay away from (danger), keep out of (trouble), etc. Some prepositional, phrasal and prepositional-phrasal verbs are more idiomatic than others. In the case of multiword verbs such as ask for (request), refer to (talk about), get in (enter), breathe out (exhale), divide up (separate into groups or parts), lie down (move into a horizontal position), stay away from (avoid), the individual meanings of the constituents are preserved in the combination and contribute each to its sense. However, in cases such as go into (investigate), come by (obtain), give in (surrender), catch on (understand), turn up (appear), double up (if two people double up, they share something), pull up (about a vehicle; slow down and stop), put up with (tolerate), walk out on (leave somebody suddenly and end the relationship with him / her), grow away from (develop different views and opinions), it is difficult, if not impossible to derive the meaning of the verbal construction from that of its component elements.


Words about Words

5.4. Binominals
5.4.1. Definition
Binominals are defined by Moon (1998: 152) as dyads or conjoined pairs, unrestricted as to word class, but normally occurring in fixed order: Adam and Eve, back and forth, bread and butter, chapter and verse, cut and paste, demand and supply, fair and square, fish and chips, give and take, ham and eggs, husband and wife, hide and seek, love and marriage, more or less, mother and child, now and then, pen and pencil, profit and loss, publish or perish, sir or madam, sound and fury, tip to toe, twist and shout, ups and downs, wine and dine, etc.

5.4.2. Characteristics
Many binominals are lexicalized as idiomatic units, i.e. their meaning is not compositional, but holistic, though they may also be used with their literal meaning. In general, the order of the elements in a binominal is irreversible. In purely compositional binominals, though not theoretically irreversible, obvious tendencies for preferred ordering are displayed. According to Moon (1998: 153), it is possible to hypothesize rules or at least crude principles from these tendencies, many of which are, as the author points out, language and culture-specific. The first item is typically the one considered positive or dominant, or logically prior; in some cases, it is the item considered nearer to home or nearer speakers viewpoint. Lakoff and Johnson (1980: 130) characterize this as the me-first orientation. Examples that illustrate this point of view include: profit and loss, home and abroad, in and out, here and there, life and death, cause and effect, men and women, women and children, etc. Other pairings show a tendency for the shorter or monosyllabic word to occur first: law and order, bed and breakfast, time and money, fruit and vegetables, etc. The norm for pairs made up of male / female counterparts is, in most cases, for the male term to precede (mother and father is probably the most frequently occurring exception to this rule): Mr and Mrs, men and women, boys and girls, brothers and sisters, etc. Moon (1998: 154-155) points out (quoting a personal communication with John Sinclair) that many antonymic binominals or conjoined antonyms have a meaning along the lines of everything or no matter what. This can be seen in pairs, not always linked with and, with conjoined temporals: from cradle to grave, beginning to end, day and night / night and day; spatials and directionals: head to foot, left and right, search high and low, top to toe, top to bottom, up hill and down dale; and


Multi-Word Units in English

other contrastives: by fair means or foul, come rain or shine, flotsam and jetsam, etc. Some conjoined antonyms, with a dynamic meaning, imply repetition: back and forth, come and go, in and out, on and off, push and pull, stop and start, etc, while others, which can be considered fixed expressions based on antonymic relationships, imply the idea of strong contrast: apples and oranges, chalk and cheese, oil and water. Pairs whose elements are linked with or provide even more obvious contrasted alternatives: feast or famine, black or white, sink or swim, trick or treat, publish or perish, all or nothing, sooner or later, etc. Linked synonyms or cases when the same word is repeated inevitably have an emphatic function or emphasis as part of their meaning: alive and kicking / well, bits and pieces, done and dusted, dead and gone, fair and impartial, far and away, by leaps and bounds, last will and testament, nooks and crannies, out and out, etc. Though less numerous than binominals, trinominals, strings of three elements belonging to the same morphological class, linked by a grammatical element and occurring in a fixed order, are also to be mentioned as illustrative as a type of multi word lexical units in English: cool, calm and collected (not angry or emotional), lock, stock and barrel (everything), coffee, tea or milk (a choice of beverage), here, there and everywhere / hither, thither and yon (everywhere), every Tom, Dick and Harry (anybody), hook, line and sinker (without reservation, completely), a hop, skip and jump (a short distance), tall, dark and handsome (about men; very attractive), etc.

5.5. Proverbs
5.5.1. Definition
Proverbs short, generally known sentences of the folk which contain wisdom, truth, morals and traditional views in a metaphorical, fixed and memorizable form and which are handed down from generation to generation (Mieder 1994: 24) allow very little variation (if any) and are therefore perceived as ready made units of a language. English is pretty rich in sayings: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, A Jack of all trades is master of none, Birds of a feather flock together, Dont judge a book by its cover, Failure is the stepping stone for success, Its the early bird that gets the worm, Long absent, soon forgotten, More haste, less speed, etc.


Words about Words

5.5.2. Characteristics
Beside brevity, proverbs exhibit typical stylistic features such as (some, according to Arora (1984)): metaphor Life is just a bowl of cherries, Failure is the stepping stone for success, Laughter is the shortest distance between two people; alliteration Forgive and forget, Better safe than sorry, In for a penny, in for a pound; parallelism Nothing ventured, nothing gained, Easy come, easy go, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; rhyme When the cat is away, the mice will play, Little strokes fell great oaks, A stitch in time saves nine; ellipsis - Once bitten, twice shy, All hat and no cattle; hyperbole All is fair in love and war, Give him an inch and hell take a yard, A person is king in his home; personification Hunger is the best cook, Actions speak louder than words; comparison Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what youre gonna get, A woman is like a cup of tea, youll never know how strong she is until she boils, etc.



Lexical strata of English may be approached diachronically and synchronically, i.e. from the point of view of the evolution of vocabulary and, respectively, at a certain point in this evolution (the synchronic perspective adopted here is of Modern English). If the diachronic approach is illustrated with reference to lexical phenomena exclusively, the synchronic point of view is exemplified by combining details about the lexical peculiarities of certain varieties of English with comments upon what is characteristic of them at a phonological, grammatical and stylistic level as well (after all, it is words themselves and their combinations that exhibit these features).

6.1. Diachronic lexical strata

6.1.1. Archaisms
Archaisms are words and phrases, their senses or grammatical forms that were current at one time, but that have passed out of use completely or are very rarely employed at present. Those that have completely disappeared from the language are considered absolute archaisms. Kacirk (2000) provides interesting examples of such linguistic fossils or yellowed time capsules, as he calls them, in his suggestively entitled book, The Word Museum. Entries in this list of archaic words include: alegar ale or beer which has passed through the acetous fermentation and was used as a cheap substitute for vinegar, ballop the old name for the flap in the forepart of the breeches which is buttoned up, buzznack an old organ, out of order and playing badly, upknocking the employment of the knocker-up who went house to house in the early morning hours to awaken his working-class clients. Equally interesting to the present day user of English are the archaisms quoted in The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, whose first 1889 edition, compiled by W.D. Whitney, has been available online since 2001. Among these, there are the following: dawkin a fool, a sinpleton, gubbertushed having projected teeth, kidcote common jail, postivde take measures too late, rax stretch oneself after sleep, tallat a hay loft, etc. Archaisms that are still used, but quite infrequently, are known as relative archaisms. They occur in a variety of contexts, for a multitude of purposes and reasons. Thus, film makers and writers of historical novels use them to render the past times they focus on as accurately as possible. Words such as druid, tournament, archer, thane (knight), gleeman (wondering minstrel), witan (kings council), oracle, etc. are not


Words about Words

surprising in these contexts (since such words refer to something that has disappeared from mans life, they are called historisms). A similar desire to evoke a former age justifies the use of relative archaisms in circumstances where doing so has political or emotional connotations, or when the official new name of a country, city or province is not generally accepted (such as Persia instead of Iran, Bombay rather than Mumbai, and Madras as the older variant of Chennai). So, a restaurant seeking to conjure up historic associations might prefer to call itself Old Bombay or refer to Persian cuisine, avoiding the employment of the newer place names. A notable contemporary example is the name of the airline Cathay Pacific, which uses the archaic Cathay for China ( In science and technology, fields of continuous and dynamic development, some specialized words or meanings may follow the trend and fall into disuse quite quickly. However, the emotional associations that some of these presuppose have kept them in use, even if within very narrow limits this is, according to the explanations in Wikipedia, the case of the meaning radio that the generation of Brits that lived through the Second World War still associate with the word wireless. Phrases associated with religion, rituals and traditions, though not considered common if they occur in general speech or writing, continue to be used in the circumstances in which they appeared long in the past. For example, thou shalt and thou shalt not are considered archaic in general use, but being part of the common English translation of the Ten Commandments, they continue to be repeated and used in that context without calling attention to themselves ( Similarly, the archaic I thee wed is perfectly consonant with a present day wedding ceremony.

6.1.2. Neologisms
The English language, as the largest and most dynamic collection of words and phrases ever assembled, continues to expand, absorbing hundreds of words annually into its official and unofficial rolls (Kacirk 2000: 7), so that the sacrifice of archaisms finds itself a counterpart in the addition of neologisms to the lexicon. The definition of neologisms as new words or expressions, or existing words used with new meanings (Macmillan English Dictionary 2002: 949) has been generally accepted so far. However, more recently, other points of view regarding how neologisms should be defined have also been expressed. One such point of view belongs to the editors of The Oxford Dictionary of New Words (1995: V), S. Tulloch, E. Knowles and J. Elliott. According to them, a neologism is any word, phrase or meaning which has come to be widely used by the speakers of English or which was in fashion in the 80s or 90s. What follows from this approach to neologisms is that they are not necessarily brand new lexical


Lexical Strata in English

items or meanings, but rather words, phrases and senses that, at the moment when they occurred in a language (in this case, in English, but in any other language for that matter), had a considerable impact on its users. As Volceanov (1998: 7) points out, British dictionaries of neologisms contain items such as acid rain, dating since 1850, greenhouse effect, born in 1920, misfortuned, first documented in 1881 and the three century-old condom. Such words and phrases are living their second youth now, at times when environmental protection and health care are issues on everybodys lips. Similarly, the Romanian senat, camere parlamentare, interpelare, jandermerie, used initially during the two World Wars, have been brought back into usage recently and may, therefore, be considered neologisms. Neologisms appear in a language as the result of the evolution of the historical, political, social and cultural context. In the introduction to her report on the evolution of the English vocabulary at the beginning of the second millennium, Susie Dent (2007) highlights the main events and concerns that this time span covered and that played a role in the creation of new words and phrases: the dramatic wars in the Middle East (which were the source of lexical items such as degrading, deconflicting or attriting for killing in a battle, unlawful combatant for prisoner of war, extraordinary rendition or irregular rendition for apprehension and transfer of a person from one state to another, the latter frequently a place where torture is practiced, etc.), the realities of global warming and preoccupations with our carbon footprint (Dent 2007: 3) (reflected at the level of the lexicon in the appearance of new phrases such as carbon budget the sum of all exchanges, inflows and outflows, of carbon compounds by a firm or country, carbon credit a certified carbon dioxide emission displacement credit, supposed to be equal to one ton of CO2 removed from the environment, carbon offsetting investment in a project or activity that reduces greenhouse gas emissions or removes carbon from the atmosphere (eg. solar energy) to compensate for the emissions attributable to another process or activity (eg. an air flight) all defined as such in various online dictionaries), the evolution of online technology, the Internet and mobile phones especially (due to which English has enriched with neologisms such as blog a web page that serves as an individuals electronic diary to which pubic access is permitted, cyberbullying the use of e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, cell phones or other forms of information technology to deliberately hares, threaten or intimidate someone, spam explained in Wikipedia as the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately), the rap and hip-hop music gaining ground outside the Afro-American community (responsible for idioms such as ghostriding the wip - explained in Wikipedia as when a person puts a vehicles transmission in gear, then exits the vehicle while it is still rolling to dance beside it or on the hood or roof and catching the vapours being caught up in someone elses


Words about Words

popularity), and last, but not least, the rise of a distinct us and them mentality which led to a new register of social labels (Dent 2007: 4) (including words such as chavs a derogatory term used to describe white teenagers of working class background, who frequently engage in antisocial behaviour, the returning Sloanes rich young men and women of the upper class and U and non-U, for upper class and middle class respectively, not long ago revived in the context of Prince Williams extensively talked about love relationship with Kate Middleton, a representative of the average social class in Britain). The linguistic phenomena mainly associated with the creation of neologisms are borrowing and word formation by various techniques. They will be illustrated in what follows with examples selected from Volceanovs (1998) dictionary of neologisms. As far as English is concerned, it has recently enriched its vocabulary with loan words from French (aestheticienne beautician, aromatherapy - a type of health treatment in which nicely smelling oils are rubbed into somebodys skin to make the person feel relexaed, ballotin small pacakage, bustier a piece of clothing for women that does fits close to the body and does not cover the shoulders and the arms, diamantaire diamond seller), Spanish (aficionado supporter, huaquero robber of ancient thombs in Chile, Peru and Bolivia, morcilla a special type of sausages that contain pig blood, mucho much), Russian (Afghantsi former Soviet soldier in Afghanistan, khozraschrot economic liability, demokratizatsiya process of democratization of society and its institutions, perestroika ample process of social, political and economic reform initiated in 1987 by M. Gorbaciov in the USSR), German (bedienung mention on a bill that the final amount indicated contains the waiters tip, kletten prinzip means of supervising hooligans in a crowd so as to prevent their riotous intentions), Japanese (basho traditional Japanese fight championship, karaoke the singing by amateurs of the lyrics of songs against recorded tunes, mawashi the competition attire of sumo fighters, Nikkei index of the relative prices of stocks at the Tokyo Stock Exchange), Czech (eyelyser optical apparatus for measuring the level of alcohol in ones blood, colourization process of colouring a film initially made in black and white), Italian (libero the last player at the back of the football field, mascarpone Italian cottage cheese), etc. Borrowing from foreign languages apart, transferring words and phrases from one regional dialect into another has also contributed to the enrichment of the recipient variety with neologisms. Speaking of English, it is the American dialect that has mostly acted as donor to the British one, to which it has lately transferred words and phrases such as: cliffhanger TV series of which each episode finishes with a scene full of suspense, ecodoomster supporter of the idea that life on earth will perish as the result of environmental degradation, Joshua test for


Lexical Strata in English

detecting anemia, oilflation inflation caused by the rise in the price of petrol, tagging painting on walls with coloured spray, etc. Of the word formation techniques on the basis of which neologisms are created, affixation and compounding seem to be the most productive. The former may be illustrated by examples such as: biodegradable which decomposes naturally, without harming the environment, biofuel fuel obtained from organic matters, depowerment the loss by the masses of their capacity to decide upon their own fate, derecognize to retrieve the official recognition of an organization, institution, etc, deselect to reject, to eliminate, to exclude, ecopolicy the strategy of an environmental movement, ecorefugee person who has left an area in which pollution made living almost impossible, proactive s/he who takes the initiative the first, pro-choice in favour of a womans right to opt for abortion, supercollider big and powerful particle accelerator, supersite double-sized advertising hoard, unplugged (about musical instruments) acoustic, without electronic components, unscoopy without sensational news, boring, unwaged - unemployed, etc. Compounding has lately given birth to words such as: airhead beautiful, but stupid woman, alcohol-abuse excessive consumption of alcoholic drinks, fuzzword word with an ambiguous sense, used to impress the interlocutor, hack-and-slash about games, which promotes violence, lockdown period of time when the inmates in a jail are isolated, middlemarket of average quality, meant for middle class consumers, shoutline text printed in italics at the beginning of an advertisement, etc. Though most of the English neologisms have come into being by derivation and / or compounding, minor means of word formation have also brought their contribution to the creation of new lexical items in the language under scrutiny. Blending and abbreviation have been especially prolific in this sense. It is due to them that English has recently enriched with words and phrases such as: agitpop (agitation + pop) protesting pop music, fertigation (fertilize + irrigation) method of fertilizing the soil by sprinkling it with water in which nutrient substances have been dissolved, middlescence (middle age + adolescence, used especially for women) middle age; AI (abb. for artificial intelligence), BEM (abb. for Bug-Eyed Monster) a monster in science fiction writings, HINT (abb. for Happy Idiot News Talk) stupid discussion between TV news readers, MAD (abb. for Mutual Assured Destruction) theory according to which the launching of a nuclear attack would bring the mutual destruction of the two enemies, etc. The examples of neologisms provided in this section have all been quoted from either printed or online dictionaries. However, only few of the newly coined words make it to dictionaries. Many remain as short-lived as the fashion of a certain moment and do not have the chance of becoming entries in reference books. If only the smallest percentage of new words


Words about Words

make it into current dictionaries, what are the determining factors in their success? Very roughly speaking, there are five primary contributors to the survival of a new word: usefulness, user-friendliness, exposure, the durability of the subject it describes, and its potential associations or extensions. If a new word fulfils these robust criteria, it stands a very good chance of inclusion in the modern lexicon (Dent 2007: 8).

6.2. Synchronic lexical strata

6.2.1. Geographical varieties of English
Undoubtedly, English has exceeded the borders of countries where it is spoken as the official language or one of the official languages and has become the language used globally today, from international trade to the world of politics, from major cultural and scientific events to the worldwide media. The spread of global English may be described in terms of the wellestablished three concentric circles model suggested by Kachru (1989): the inner circle, the outer circle and the expanding circle. The inner circle includes the territories where English is the first, official language, even if other languages are also spoken here the British Isles, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Since, as Crystal (1997: 53) points out, the USA has nearly 70 per cent of all English mother tongue speakers in the world, it is American English that will be briefly discussed in what follows (strictly speaking, American English is spoken not only in the USA, but also in Canada and certain parts of the Carribeans)2. The most influential inner circle variety is characterized by dialects having a more uniform structure than those of British English. Their boundaries have been significantly affected by the high degree of social and geographical mobility that has characterized American life through successive waves of settlement and immigration (Davies 2005: 48). As Davies (2005) explains, differences between dialects are more obvious in the East, where the primary settlement took place, while dialects are more homogenous in the West, where immigrants from different areas or speech communities have come together and influenced each other. Originally, the scholars belief was that American English dialects may be split into two broad categories: Northern dialects and Southern dialects. The 1930s and 1940s three-way split between Northern, Midland (subdivided into North and South Midland) and Southern dialects (Davies 2005: 48) was preserved for about half a century, when Carvers (1987) research dictated a
A look back at the lexical differences between British and American English, as the two major geographical varieties of the language in question, pointed out in chapter two, might be useful here.


Lexical Strata in English

return to the initial North South separation, though with a Lower North and Upper South subdivision. A number of pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary characteristics of regional dialects, as compared to General American English, are highlighted by Davies (2005). In terms of pronunciation, for example, in the Eastern dialects, rhotic /r/ is lost after vowels, while it is maintained in all positions in General American, a rounded vowel has been preserved in these varieties in words such as top and dot, while the standard language uses an unrounded vowel. The Southern droll is specific of Southern dialects. It is produced largely through a combination of slower enunciation and diphthongization of stressed vowels, so that a word like class is pronounced like [klis] or [kljs]. Final consonant clusters may also be weakened in words like kind, fast and slept. No distinction occurs in much of the South between words like pen and pin, the mid vowel /e/ being raised to a high front vowel before nasals (Davies 2005: 49). Of the grammatical peculiarities of Southern dialects, Davies (2005) mentions the use of the special pronoun you-all, [jal], for the second person plural, the use of a-prefixing, as in Shes a-working, the use of done with an adverbial function meaning already, as in He done got fired (restricted to working class speech), and the combination of two modal verbs, as in He might could bring the truck. One rather unusual non-standard feature found in informal usage in a number of American regional dialects is the use of anymore in positive sentences to mean nowadays, as in this example from Encarta World English Dictionary: We always use a taxi anymore (Davies 2005: 49). American dialects differ in terms of vocabulary, too. They have distinctive regional words, many of which are connected to food specific to the areas where they are used: as quoted by Davies (2005), corn chowder (a soup) and cruller (doughnut) for the North-Eastern parts of the USA, grits (boiled cornmeal) and gumbo (a soup or stew) for the South. Much of the lexicon of American English reflects a non-rooted spirit and the mobility associated with both the American past and the contemporary way of life. The arrival of train travel in the 19th century brought a large number of new words and expressions into the language, as can be seen in this second extract from the novel On the Road (Davies 2005: 50):
least in a and like During the depression, said the cowboy to me, I used to hop freights at once a month. In those days, youd see hundreds of men riding a flatcar or boxer, and they werent just bums, they were all kinds of men out of work going from one place to another and some of them just wandering. It was that all over the West. Brakemen never bothered you in those days (Kerouac 2004: 35)


Words about Words

The words written in italics are now recognized as belonging to the American geographical variety of English. Some are creations on the territory of this variety, others are loan words. To hop freights means to jump on a train without a paid ticket, a flatcar is a railway carriage with no roof or walls, used for carrying large or heavy goods, a boxer is a railway carriage for carrying goods, with high sides and a roof, bum (from the German Bummler) refers to a lazy person, while brakemen are people operating the brakes of a train. The outer circle groups together territories in Asia and Africa to which English was first transported in colonial contexts and where it has since existed alongside very different local languages. Many people use English as a second language within these multilingual contexts and the language also has an institutional and administrative importance (Davies 2005: 47). The Indian subcontinent follows the US and UK closely, in terms of the number of speakers of English. The varieties of English in this area, including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, are known collectively as South Asian English, with Indian English as its most representative exponent, due to the privileged relationships the British Crown held with India and the mass of users of English in this country. After India became independent, in 1947, despite its then prime ministers predictions that English would no longer be used in a generations time, it was eventually considered the best unifying element in a region where linguistic complexity has always been obvious. In the 1960s, the three-language-formula was agreed, stipulating that all citizens should learn a national, a regional and a local language. Since then, English has had several legislated roles in India: as an associated official language alongside Hindi as the official one, as a national language alongside Hindi, Bengali and Tamil, as the state language of Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura, and as the official language of eight Union territories (Davies 2005: 52). Standard, educated Indian or South Asian English is a pretty uniform variety that has become as internationally acceptable as British and American English, though occasional differences in grammar and style between them are sometimes present. However, the educated variety is not employed unanimously. The English actually used ranges, according to the educational, economic and social background of its speakers, from stigmatized pidgin varieties (Davies 2005: 54), spoken by those with a lower status, to the standard South Asian English, spoken by the well educated and more privileged classes of the Indian society. As Davies (2005) explains, at the phonetic level, Indian English is characterized by the presence of rhoticity (/r/ is pronounced in words like port, floor and worker), by the tendency to use fairly evenly stressed vowels in words like open, and the singsong quality of its intonation (Davies 2005: 54). In terms of grammar, the use of uninverted word order in wh-


Lexical Strata in English

questions is immediately noticeable (Why she is talking like that?) and so is the use of the adverb only in sentence final position, for emphatic purposes (We are going there three times a year only instead of We are going there only three times a year). Other peculiarities are the employment of the progressive aspect to refer to habitual actions (when the simple aspect should have been used), the undifferentiated use of the tag isnt it, as in She is with them now, isnt it? and the adverbial use of there instead of the introductory or dummy There is / are, for example, Fruit is there, plates are there (Davies 2005: 54). From a lexical perspective, a number of words and phrases may be said to be peculiar of Indian English. Among these, there are, according to Wikipedia: shift (move from one apartment to another), weatish complexion (light, creamy brown complexion), expire (to die, especially in reference to ones family member), acting pricey (playing hard to get), dearness allowance (payment given to employees to compensate for the effects of inflation), chargesheet (to file charges against someone in court), on the anvil (used frequently in the Indian press to mean about to happen, to take place), out of station (out of town), etc. Local words and expressions often intersperse with English ones. Dhobi-wallah (laundryman), bandh (local strike), lathi (police truncheon), lakh (one hundred thousand), crore (ten million), bheris (fish farms), dacoities (attacks), quoted by Davies (2005), are only some of these. The penetration of indigenous lexical items in South Asian English is not a novel process. It actually began in the colonial period, as British administrators adopted an ever-increasing number of local words and phrases, many of which, like brahmin, bungalow, jute, purdah and chutney, are still wellknown as borrowings into English today (Davies 2005: 54). The expanding circle includes territories in which English has become or is becoming the most important foreign language (Davies 2005: 46). Romania is, undoubtedly, one such territory. During the past twenty years, English has evidently become the most prestigious foreign language in our country, especially among the younger generations. Prlog (2004) explains that this is partly the consequence of the temptation of the youngsters to sprinkle their vocabulary with words belonging to the BritishAmerican super-civilization to which their parents had been denied access. By doing this, they feel closer to the Western man (usually American), perceived as a competent, enterprising, prosperous and reliable person (Prlog 2004: 94). On the other hand, Romanians nowadays are more frequently exposed to the English language - they can read a large number of newspapers, magazines and books in English; throughout the country, they can watch TV channels that broadcast in this language; and they have numerous occasions of hearing and using English during their travels abroad or as the language of communication in business settings. Journalists and public people also contribute to English having a high


Words about Words

status in Romania, by using Anglicisms quite often, both in their spoken and in their written materials. To these possible reasons why English ranks the first among the foreign languages circulating in Romania, I may add its increasing importance in the official school curricula, starting in kindergarten and ending at university level. Not to mention the fact that even subjects such as mathematics, physics or chemistry are taught in English in more and more bilingual schools. Higher education has its share of programs offered in English, too. The importance that English has gained in Romania resulted in our language being a good host for Anglicisms, which have become frequent in the language of domains such as IT, business, the entertainment industry, sports, etc. The words and phrases that Romanian has borrowed from English fall within two categories, in terms of their behaviour relative to the host language. Some have remained non-assimilated, others have adapted to Romanian in various ways, as I have recently demonstrated in an article on the language of youth entertainment magazines published in our country (Fril 2010). Examples of Anglicisms selected from the corpus analyzed that have been imported and have not undergone any changes include: nouns without inflections, determiners or modifiers or used as parts of verb collocations (software pentru gestionarea muzicii software for managing music; te duci cu gndul la shopping you think of shopping; s-a dat click de peste nou milioane de ori they gave a click over nine million times), adjectives used as attributes or as predicatives, in the postive degree (tot felul de pedepse funny all sorts of funny punishments; am rmas addicted I remained addicted; trebuie s rmi fair you have to remain fair) and adverbs used as attributes or as adverbials (caracteristici de navigare outdoor characteristics of outdoor navigation; comunitate online online community; backstage se afl cel mai mare fan his greatest fan is backstage), etc. In the same corpus, examples of borrowed words assimilated directly or indirectly are: nouns that have been assigned Romanian gender by various means, such as the presence of a Romanian indefinite or definite article or Romanian inflections for number, case, gender (masculine: am fost nsoii de un bodyguard we were accompanied by a bodyguard; designerii ne surpind constant designers constantly surprise us; feminine: sunt o fan Liza Minelli I am a Lisa Minelli fan; fanele mai pot spera the fans can still hope; neuter: completeaz cu un blush roz add a pink blush; target-ul l reprezint copiii the target is represented by children); nouns whose gender is assigned by the presence of a pronominal adjective or modifier marked for gender (neuter: cum poi pstra


Lexical Strata in English

acest look how you can preserve this look; masculine: este noul superstar al rockului he is the new superstar of rock); nouns obtained by derivation with Romanian suffixes, from English roots (diploma de cea mai bine mbrcat coolgirli diploma for the best-dressed coolgirli; o fashionist precum actria K.B. a fashionist like the actress K.B.; Eti cea mai dulce maroonic You are the sweetest maroonic); adjectives used in the Romanian comparative and superlative degrees (cea mai cool pereche de balerini the coolest pair of shoes; foarte simplu i foarte cool very simple and very cool); verbs conjugated according to the Romanian pattern (poi uploada fotografii you can upload photographs; nu tiu s managerieze problemele sufleteti they cannot manage soul problems; pe unde am mixat, lumea s-a distrat people had fun wherever I mixed music). The stable status that some English words already have in Romanian may be proven by the fact that they are used in the host language with more than one of their meanings. This is the case of the word net, for example, which circulates in Romanian both with its the thing that tennis players hit the ball over meaning and with the online network meaning. Similarly, modeling occurs both as the activity of making models of objects and as the job of working as a model. Besides borrowings proper, at least two other aspects that my research on Anglicisms in Romanian youth magazines uncovered may be considered illustrative of the influence English, as the major foreign language in Romania, has exerted on our language. On the one hand, phrases that adopt both the meaning and the structure of corresponding English phrases have occurred in Romanian. Some such phraseological calques are cod de bare (bar code), a avea fluturai n stomac (to have butterflies in ones stomach) and a ine prima pagin (to keep the front page). On the other, a number of Romanian words have been identified whose meanings seem to have enlarged under the influence of English words they share at least one sense with. For example, chimie - the scientific study of substances and of the way they react with other substances, got the extra meaning affective relationship between people, under the influence of the English chemistry, while scndur flat piece of wood, has come to also mean board with four wheels that one stands on and rides, influenced by its English partial synonym skateboard.

6.2.2. Ethnic varieties of English

Ethnicity, understood as the common ancestry, race and distinctive culture of a group of people (whose representatives live in smaller or larger communities in a certain country), is reflected in the language these people


Words about Words

use. In the case of English, at least two ethnic varieties are very wellestablished: the African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and Chicano English. The former is spoken by about 90 percent of the black population of African origin in the United States, the majority of which comes from innercity and working class backgrounds. AAVE exhibits a number of peculiar linguistic features. As Davies (2005) indicates, in its phonology, there are certain characteristics that are shared with Southern US English - the use of the monophthong /a/ rather than the diphthong /ai/ in words like hide, I and time, particularly before voiced consonants, and the merging of the short vowels /e/ and /i/ before nasals, the phonemic distinction between words such as ten and tin being thus lost. As far as its consonantal system is concerned, for example, post-vocalic /r/ is not pronounced in word-final position, before a consonant or in between vowels (in words such as door, short or Carol). Another distinctive feature is the reduction of word-final clusters (through the loss of the final consonant) in words like rest, child, cold (pronounced as if spelled res, chil, and col), although this does not apply where there is a cluster of voiced followed by voiceless consonants, as in felt or pump Aspects of the rhythm and intonation of AAVE are also distinctive. One rhythmical feature that is often reflected in written representations of the variety is the deletion of the first syllable in words like about or remember, shown as bout and member (Davies 2005: 67). From a grammatical perspective, the use of the verb in AAVE seems to be the most interesting, in terms of its divergence from Standard English or other US dialects. The verb, to be, for example, is often deleted, both as a copula (except for cases when it agrees with subjects of the first person) and as an auxiliary verb, so that sentences like She a doctor, instead of She is a doctor and He gonna leave instead of He is going to leave are common in AAVE. When referring to habitual, recurrent actions or lasting characteristics of things, an invariant form of be is used, so that a statement like This room is often warm becomes This room be warm. In AAVE, there is a contrast in aspect between the forms subject+be+verb-ing and subject+verb-ing without be: for example, she be singin means she often sings, whereas she singin means shes singing now (Davies 2005: 68). In addition, as Davies (2005) points out, non-standard subjectpredicate agreement is also peculiar of AAVE (They is there, She dont like it), alongside the use of aint in negative clauses, together with other negative words sometimes (She aint got a car, He aint got no money) and the inversion of the subject and the auxiliary in declarative sentences with a negative word as subject (Didnt nobody hear her Nobody heard her; Wasnt nobody there Nobody was there). Unsurprisingly, the vocabulary of AAVE contains words of African origin (juke, okra, tote, banjo) and words from English to which AfroAmerican speakers have attached meanings that differ from those of these


Lexical Strata in English

words in the mainstream language. Examples of lexical items in the latter category, as offered by Davies (2005) are: bad for good, uptight for anxious and jive for insincere talk. To these, Wikipedia adds grey, used as an adjective for whites (probably from the colour of Confederate uniforms) and kitchen for the particularly curly or kinky hair at the nape of ones neck. Last, but not least, AAVE is also characterized by certain identifiable discourse strategies and speaking styles (Davies 2005: 69), called by Smitherman (1995) the African American Verbal Tradition (AVT). These strategies are visible, for example, in the speech of public figures who are bidialectal, due to their having been brought up in AAVEspeaking communities and include specific intonation, address systems, the use of tag questions and so on,closely associated with the signaling of solidarity within the African American community (Davies 2005: 69). As Lippi-Green (1997:177), quoted by Davies (2005) has shown:
even when no grammatical, phonological or lexical features of AAVE are used, a person can, in effect, still be speaking AAVE by means of AVT rhetorical devices. Thus, while the core grammatical features of AAVE may be heard most consistently in poorer black communities where there are strong social and communication networks, AAVE phonology (particularly intonation) and black rhetorical style are heard, on occasion, from prominent and successful African Americans in public forums.

A considerably big ethnic group in the United States is that of the Hispanics people of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and other Spanishspeaking backgrounds. According to Baugh and Cable (2002), in the 1990 US census, 60 percent of the Hispanics reported their national origin to be Mexican and it has been estimated that Mexican-American English, or Chicano English is now spoken by around 30 million people in the US. Like AAVE, Chicano English is characterized by a number of distinctive features. The main differences from Standard English lie, in its case, in pronunciation. A selection of phonological characteristics of Chicano English has been made by Davies (2005), following Tottie (2002). It includes, among other features: the devoicing of /z/ to /s/, so that spies sounds like spice, and of /v/ to /f/, in word-final position, so that live come to be uttered like life; the reduction of consonant clusters, so its is pronounced /iz/; the lengthening of /e/ in words like intention, send; the shortening of /i/ in words like feel and week, etc. The tendency to place the stress on the final element of compounds (police department rather than police department) and to utter statements with a rising rather than falling intonation also characterize Chicano English from a phonological point of view. In terms of grammar, as Williams (2005) and Fought (2003) pointed out, divergence of Chicano English from the Standard variety, occurring mainly under the influence of the speakers mother tongue,


Words about Words

Spanish, may be illustrated by: the use of double negation (I didnt do nothing, She didnt want no advice); the expression of possession for the third person through prepositional phrases rather than nouns (The car of my brother is red, I live in the house of my mother) and non-standard form in the pronoun system in general (They have to start supporting theirselves at early ages, Hes a guy, he could take care of hisself); the regularisation of the past tense and other uses of non-standard verb-forms (I aint ok, I havent wrote in a long time, It spinned, Those were the people that I hanged around with, I had like three weeks that I had came out the hospital before I got shot); the use of the auxiliary would in conditional clauses (If I woulda been a gangster, I woulda been throwing signs up; If TT wouldntve dropped those fumbles, then the Bills wouldve won); the use of the preposition in instead of on (Macarena got in the bus, We got in our bikes and rode down the hill), of for instead of the adverbial phrase so that (For my mum can understand, For she wont feel guilty), etc. Just like users of AAVE, speakers of Chicano English employ a number of words present in mainstream English, with a peculiar meaning. What Fought (2003) finds interesting about these lexical items is the fact that, contrary to general expectations, the meanings they are used with seem to be influenced by the semantics of Spanish only in few cases. For illustrative purposes, she quotes from the interviews she took to speakers of Chicano English: fool, for guy, not necessarily pejoratively used (Man, fool, you can take the bread out the oven); kick it, to mean to hang around, but also, more generally, to wait for a while (Just kick it, do it tonight); talk to, meaning to date (We started talking and then I didnt talk to him no more; I talk to his sister); tell for ask (If I tell her to jump up, shell tell me how high; Can you answer questions in Spanish?/It depends on what you tell me); barely, meaning recently (I just barely checked in); American for European-American or white (It wasnt the American lady, it was the other one), etc. Ethnic varieties of English (and of any other language, for that matter) play an important role in preserving the shared identity of a particular minority group within a majority mass. It is because of this that members of an ethnic minority will not give up using its characteristic vernacular (although, on occasions, the standard language is used, especially by the upper educated classes) and will fight, by cultural and political means, to ensure its survival.

6.2.3. Social varieties of English Standard English Standard English (SE) is the variety of English considered the norm in an English-speaking country, usually associated with users belonging to the upper well-educated social classes on the one hand, and to


Lexical Strata in English

the media and the official social, scientific, political, cultural, etc. settings, on the other. SE is also the variety taught to learners of English as a foreign language. However, it should not be understood that it is spoken by members of the upper social classes and in the previously mentioned contexts only it is spread, admittedly, in a non-uniform way, across the whole social spectrum and it is encountered in less formal environments as well. Trudgills (1999) attempt at describing SE, in terms of both what it is and what it is not, resulted in highlighting the fact that, on the one hand, SE is not an accent. It can be identified mainly by its vocabulary, grammar and orthography, but not by its pronunciation. In Britain, there is a high status and widely described accent known as Received Pronunciation (RP), referred to during the former half of the 20th century as Kings English, Queens English and BBC English also, which is sociolinguistically unusual when seen from a global perspective in that it is not associated with any geographical area, being instead a purely social accent associated with speakers in all parts of the country, or at least in England, from upper-class and upper-middle-class backgrounds (Trudgill 1999: 118). There seems to be wide agreement, though, on the fact that, while users of RP also speak SE, not all speakers of SE speak it with an RP. According to Trudgill and Chesire (1998), about 10% of the population in Britain speak SE with some form of regional accent, even if this is not very distant from RP. Therefore, it is justified to say that while RP is, in a sense, standardized, it is a standardized accent of English and not Standard English itself. This point becomes even clearer from an international perspective. Standard English speakers can be found in all Englishspeaking countries, and it goes without saying that they speak this variety with different non-RP accents, depending on whether they came from Scotland or the USA or New Zealand or wherever (Trudgill 1999: 118). SE is not a style either (style being regarded as a language variety that can be placed on a continuum, ranging from very formal to very informal). Trudgill (1999) considers it appropriate to assert the independence (at least theoretical, if not always practical) of the parameter standard non-standard from the parameter formal informal. According to him, a sentence like The old man was bloody knackered after his long trip may be considered a clear instance of SE, though couched in a very informal style (Trudgill 1999: 120), while a sentence like Father were very tired after his lengthy journey would be, for most, an example of nonstandard English (due to the grammatically incorrect agreement between the subject and the verb), couched in a rather formal style (Trudgill 1999: 120). What follows from here is that, even if SE tends to be used at the formal end of the continuum mentioned (a fact imposed by context), it is not impossible for it to be employed in an informal way, too. Stylistic switching occurs within the variety in question and not between it and another one.


Words about Words

Following the same line of thinking, Trudgill (1999) argues that equating SE to register (seen as a variety of language connected to a particular topic, subject matter or activity, such as mathematics, medicine, physics, law, etc.) would be as inappropriate as equating it to style or accent. It is of course true that it is most usual in English-speaking societies to employ Standard English when one is using scientific registers this is the social convention, we might say. But one can certainly acquire and use technical registers without using Standard English, just as one can employ non-technical registers while speaking or writing Standard English. There is, once again, no necessary connection between the two. Thus, There was two eskers what we saw in them U-shaped valleys is a nonstandard English sentence, couched in the technical register of physical geography (Trudgill 1999: 121). As the author suggests, the way of mingling non-standard grammar with standardized vocabulary illustrated by the sentence just quoted is not uncommon in certain linguistic communities, such as, he says, the German-speaking Switzerland, where the local non-standard dialect is used in almost all contexts of communication, for nearly all purposes. Here, a discussion between two philosophy professors on Kants ideas, carried on employing the terminology specific to their area of expertise and, at the same time, the phonology and grammar of the local dialect, would not come as a surprise at all. Thus, what is emphasized is the fact that there seems to be no sound reasons why technical vocabulary should be considered the prerogative of standard varieties only and that if you are a nonstandard dialect speaker and it is possible to acquire new non-technical words within your own nonstandard dialect, it is sadly by definition impossible to acquire technical words without switching to the standard variety (Trudgill 1999: 121). In other words, there is no necessary connection between Standard English and technical registers (Trudgill 1999: 121). Once what SE is not has been made clear, the question of what it actually is arises naturally. As already stated at the beginning of this section, SE is a language variety, a dialect which displays characteristics that individualize it as pretty unusual among the other dialects of English. In general, as Trudgill (1999) points out, dialects are geographical and social varieties at the same time, situated along a continuum. Unlike them, SE cannot be considered part of such a continuum, due to the nature of standardization itself. There is really no continuum linking Standard English to other dialects because the codification that forms a crucial part of the standardization process results in a situation where, in most cases, a feature is either standard or it is not (Trudgill 1999: 122). As such, SE is considered by the author a purely social dialect and, due to its great sociological importance, no longer a geographical one, though, for some particular purpose, one may speak about Scottish Standard English, or American Standard English, or British Standard English. However, the differences between these are actually almost imperceptible and even in


Lexical Strata in English

England, we can note that there is a small amount of geographical variation at least in spoken Standard English, such as the different tendencies in different parts of the country to employ contractions such as Hes not as opposed to he hasnt. But the most salient sociolinguistic characteristic of Standard English is that it is a social dialect (Trudgill 1999: 123). SE is the dialect spoken as their native variety by about 12 to 15% of Britains population, this segment being concentrated at the top of the social scale. The further down this scale one gets, the more numerous nonstandard forms of language one comes across. From a historical point of view, SE was selected (though not through a conscious process of decision making by regulatory bodies such as academies, for instance) as the variety to become the standard one precisely because it was the variety associated with the social group with the highest degree of power, wealth and prestige. Subsequent developments have reinforced its social character: the fact that it has been employed as the dialect of an education to which pupils, especially in earlier centuries, have had differential access depending on their social class background (Trudgill 1999: 124). Once agreement has been reached on the fact that it would be inappropriate to talk about a specific SE accent or about peculiar SE vocabulary, the most obvious features that make SE differ from other nonstandard English dialects lie at the level of grammar. Though they are not very numerous, the social significance of these features seems to be undeniable. From among them, Trudgill (1999: 126) quotes the following: Standard English fails to distinguish between the forms of the auxiliary forms of the verb do and its main verb forms. This is true both of present tense forms, where many other dialects distinguish between auxiliary I do, he do and main verb I do, he does, and the past tense, where most other dialects distinguish between auxiliary did and main verb done, as in You done it, did you?; Standard English has an unusual and irregular present tense verb morphology in that only the third-person singular receives morphological marking: he goes versus I go. Many other dialects use either zero for all persons or -s for all persons; Standard English lacks multiple negation, so that no choice is available between I dont want none, which is not possible, and I dont want any. Most nonstandard dialects of English around the world permit multiple negation; Standard English has an irregular formation of reflexive pronouns with some forms based on the possessive pronouns e.g. myself, and others on the objective pronouns e.g. himself. Most nonstandard dialects have a regular system employing possessive forms throughout i.e. hisself, theirselves;


Words about Words

Standard English fails to distinguish between second person singular and second person plural pronouns, having you in both cases. Many nonstandard dialects maintain the older English distinction between thou and you, or have developed newer distinctions such as you versus youse; Standard English has irregular forms of the verb to be both in the present tense (am, is, are) and in the past (was, were). Many nonstandard dialects have the same form for all persons, such as I be, you be, he be, we be, they be, and I were, you were, he were, we were, they were; In the case of many irregular verbs, Standard English redundantly distinguishes between preterite and perfect verb forms both by the use of the auxiliary have and by the use of distinct preterite and past participle forms: I have seen versus I saw. Many other dialects have I have seen versus I seen; Standard English has only a two-way contrast in its demonstrative system, with this (near to the speaker) opposed to that (away from the speaker). Many other dialects have a three-way system involving a further distinction between, for example, that (near to the listener) and yon (away from both speaker and listener). What is considered SE from a grammatical point of view should be regarded without losing sight of the fact that language is continuously changing and that it might very well happen that what is labeled nonstandard at a certain moment should become the norm. The reverse phenomenon is also possible what is today considered standard language might enter the category of non-standard forms in the future. Slang If SE is a variety of language associated mainly with the upper and well-read classes of society, slang is considered the attribute of lower social classes chiefly. It may be contrasted with jargon (technical language of occupational or other groups) and with argot or cant (secret vocabulary of underworld groups), but the borderlines separating these categories from slang are greatly blurred, and some writers use the terms cant, argot, and jargon in a general way, to include all the foregoing meanings (Varanakov online: 4). However, just like in the case of SE, this does not mean that slang is never used by speakers not belonging to the portions of society just mentioned. Slang may be defined as a variety of language characterized by the use of very informal and generally short-lived non-standard words, phrases and meanings (coinages or arbitrarily changed words, clipped or shortened forms, extravagant, forced or facietous figures of speech (Varanakov online: 4), new meanings that have been attached to old words or narrow meanings of words that have become generalized). Thus, it is a language


Lexical Strata in English

variety that exhibits distinctive features at the level of vocabulary, grammar not being particularly different from that of mainstream language. Slang originates in various subcultures or occupational groups in a society (police, medical professionals, computer specialists, sports groups, religious denominations, drug addicts, criminals, etc.). Within these, slang words and phrases are initially suggested by an individual, usually, as a way of expressing hostility, ridicule or contempt (Varanakov online: 5) either towards the members, values, attitudes or behaviour of her / his own group or of a different group. However, only after these lexical elements are widely adopted by the group or subculture within which they were created do they have chances of becoming real slang (a one time usage does not guarantee their survival as part of the language variety under discussion). Following this stage, if the group or subculture has an extensive enough contact with the mainstream culture, these words and phrases may spread and become known to a greater number of language users. For example, cat (a sport), cool (aloof, stylish), Mr. Charley (a white man), The Man (the law), and Uncle Tom (a meek black) all originated in the predominantly black Harlem district of New York City and have traveled far since their inception. A slang expression may suddenly become widely used and as quickly dated (e.g. 23-skiddoo for get lost). It may become accepted as standard speech, either in its original slang meaning (bus, from omnibus) or with an altered, possibly tamed meaning (jazz, which originally had sexual connotations). Some expressions have persisted for centuries as slang (such as booze for alcoholic beverage). In the 20th century, mass media and rapid travel have speeded up both the circulation and the demise of slang terms, while television and novels have turned criminal cant into slang (five grand for $5000). Changing social circumstances may stimulate the spread of slang. Drug-related words (such as pot and marijuana) were virtually a secret jargon in the 1940s; in the 1960s they were adopted by rebellious youth; and in the 1970s and 80s they became widely known (Varankov online: 7). Besides expressing ridicule, hostility or contempt, as hinted at above, there seems to be other reasons that motivate the birth of slang. Possible such reasons, as Partridge (1933), quoted by Fox (online: 7) suggests, are: the exercising of ingenuity, wit and humour; the desire to be different, novel or picturesque (either positively or as in the wish to avoid insipidity negatively), to be unmistakably arresting, even startling, to escape from clichs, to lend an air of solidity, concreteness, to the abstract, of earthiness to the idealistic, of immediacy and appositeness to the remote (in the cultured, the effort is usually premeditated, while in the uncultured, it is almost always unconscious when it is not rather subconscious); to lesson the sting of, or, on the other hand, to give additional point to a refusal, a rejection, a recantation; to reduce, perhaps also to disperse the solemnity, the pomposity, the excessive


Words about Words

seriousness of a conversation (or of a piece of writing); to soften the tragedy, to lighten or to prettify the inevitability of death or madness, or to mask the ugliness or the pity of profound turpitude (e.g. treachery, ingratitude); and / or thus to enable the speaker or his auditor or both to endure, to carry on, to speak or write down to an inferior, or to amuse a superior public, or merely to be on a colloquial level with either ones audience or ones subject matter; to show that one belongs to a certain school, trade, or profession, artistic or intellectual set, or social class, in brief, to be in the swim or to establish contact and, hence, to show or prove that someone is not in the swim; to be secret - not understood by those around one (children, students, lovers, members of political secret societies, and criminals in or out of prison, innocent persons in prison, are the chief exponents). Slang is not restricted either temporally or geographically. All historical periods and all geographical areas have had their own slang. Chaucer used gab for talk and bones for dice as early as the 14th century, pansy became the slang word for weak or effeminate boy in the 15th century, while, during the Elizabethan period, words such as nun for prostitute, rake for a morally loose man, fishmonger for a woman who keeps a brothel and to die for to have an orgasm crossed the border from common language into the category of slang, together with Shakespeares costard (a big apple) for head and clay-brained / knotty pated for slow of wit. Examples of British slang include: air biscuit an expulsion of air from the anus, a fart, carry out alcohol brought from a bar with the intention of taking it home or away, legless very drunk, pearl harbour cold weather, spare tire a roll of fat around ones midriff, while, among the slang words and phrases peculiar in America, there are: fix dose of drugs, to go bananas to go crazy, honcho boss, megabucks a lot of money, mickey mouse nonsense and waste of time. In Australia, crow eater a person from Southern Australia, cut lunch sandwiches, liquid laugh vomit, to veg out to relax in front of the TV circulate as slang and so do bompie a fat girl that is easy to get into bed, to crash to go to sleep, to graze to eat, skinner gossip, spook and diesel cane spirits and Coca-Cola, in South Africa. As suggested above, though most extensively used by the lower social classes, slang makes itself room in the speech of educated members of the high society as well. To illustrate this, Varanakov (online) quotes George Washington who used redcoat for British soldier, Churchill who chose booze for liquor and Lyndon Johnson who opted for cool it to mean calm down, shut up. Professionals in various areas and representatives of particular groups of society use, each, their own sang. Thus, doctors, nurses and other medical staff refer to accidentally leaving a surgical instrument inside a patient as burying the hatchet, to a proctologist as a rear admiral, to an obstetrician as a baby catcher or to a surgeon as a slasher. They also call


Lexical Strata in English

the rheumatism department in a hospital rheumaholiday, on the grounds that it is, usually, a less busy department, and refer to performing varicose vein surgery as digging for worms, while a patient who is unable to get out of bed is, for them, a beached whale. Students sprinkle their talk with slang elements, too. On the website of the University of Leicester (, for example, the glossary of slang terms used by the students here includes: bees knees or mutts nuts for greatest, best, a brown nose for someone who makes fake friends to advance socially or professionally, death stick for cigarette, to talk to the hand as a sarcastic dismissal to show that the listener does not care what the speaker is trying to say. Thieves, on the other hand, have had their difficult to decipher slang ever since prisons first appeared. Thus, for those populating jails, a cadillac is an inmate dorm bed or single bunk, to do the Dutch refers to committing suicide, big jab, stainless steel ride and doctorate in applied chemistry are all used in connection with the lethal injection, to kill ones number means to serve ones time or to get out on parole, to cling rock to sell cocaine, sweet kid an inmate who allies with an older, more experienced inmate, possibly for protection or knowledge, etc. As previously indicated and exemplified so far, slang is based on coinages or arbitrarily changed words, clipped or shortened forms, abbreviations, new meanings that have been attached to old words or narrow meanings of words that have become generalized. Metaphor and comparison play an important role as figures of speech on which slang builds. The former combines with rhyme to give birth to a clear cut category of the variety under discussion the rhyming slang, especially well represented in the case of Cockney, the variety of English spoken by the working class Londoners. Illustrative examples of Cockney rhyming slang, selected from online sources, include: apples and pears (stairs), Jack and Jill (restaurant bill), Oxford scholar (dollar), pigs ear (beer), pleasure and pain (rain), street (field of wheat), trouble and strife (wife), etc. According to Katamba (2005: 170), the rhyming slang lexicon is quite fluid. There are some phrases like joy of my life and storm of my life, meaning wife, which are of long standing. But there are also many ephemeral rhymes, e.g. those that involve the name of a celebrity who is still in the limelight (e.g. Germain Greer beer, Al Pacino capuccino, etc.). Others fall somewhere in between: dancing flees keys, dog and bone phone, drum and fife knife, etc.

6.2.4. Written and oral varieties of English

The differences between the spoken and the written varieties of English are generally agreed upon. Although they have been a familiar subject in many linguistics books so far, the previously well drawn separation line between the two has become quite blurred recently, under the influence of the development and more and more extensive use of


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communication channels such as the email, mobile phones and online chat rooms. Thus, new varieties of English, specific to electronic communication, have evolved and deserve the same amount of attention as the language used in traditional oral and written settings. Spontaneous speech, one form of oral communication, occurs when people talk naturally and informally, without having planned in advance what they are going to say. This is not to mean that spontaneous talk is just small talk for the sake of talking, that the interlocutors have no conscious aim in their talk whatsoever, but rather that linguistically, they have not already worked out what form of the language they are going to use to express what they want to say. In their heads, they may well have quite clear intentions, but they will actually express these intentions spontaneously, if and when they get the chance to in the course of the conversation (Davies 2005: 92). Although informal conversation does not seem to be closely controlled, a set of rules is still applied by the speakers, even if unconsciously most of the times. These are connected to the use of formulas to open or close a dialogue, of greetings or pragmatic idioms (adjacency pairs of the kind Im George. / Nice to meet you; Im sorry! / No problem.; Have some more cake! / No, thank you, Ive had enough, etc.), to giving feedback (by using, for example, discourse markers such as yes, I know, exactly, sure, etc.), asking and answering questions, making and responding to suggestions, signaling the intention to keep or to yield the floor (in the former case, by, for instance, pausing at a moment when the sentence is still incomplete and when, therefore, the interlocutor feels discouraged to take over; in the latter, by pausing when an idea has been completely expressed, directly asking for the interlocutors opinion or displaying suggestive body language looking more steadily to the person to whom the speaker is willing to give the floor, nodding, etc). Davies (2005: 92) lists some of the non-fluency features that are characteristic of spontaneous talk as follows: abandoned / incomplete words such as thi-this and abandoned and / or reformulated sentence structure, such as I could always get the tickets from theres a new box office down you know, when you go through that new shopping archade syntactic blends, where the structure of the sentence changes in mid-stream, e.g. About two hundred years ago we had ninety-five percent of people in this country were employed in farming. mispronunciations and slips of the tongue, e.g. par cark for car park (syllable-onset consonants swopped); win a pin for with a pin (where an anticipated consonant is articulated early). fillers like er, erm. repetition (often combined with hesitation), such as itsitsnnot that I want to be critical but


Lexical Strata in English

Unlike spontaneous speech, rehearsed speech is, in some ways, prepared before it is uttered for an audience. This is, on the one hand, the case of speeches thought over and maybe even drafted before they are delivered to the listeners and, on the other, of drama, in whose case lines are learned by heart by the actors and then reproduced before the spectators. Therefore, though the aim of the speaker in these cases is to sound as spontaneous as possible, what s/he says does not come out in the same way as it does in the case of fully unprepared speech. Some nonfluency characteristics are preserved (syntactic blends, fillers, hesitation markers, etc.) though - intentionally in the case of theatre, possibly uncontrolled in the case of public speakers. Traditional written texts are characterized by features that are the consequence of their being produced in a more controlled manner than oral discourse. The final version of a written text, one that might have been arrived at after several revisions, is a string of coherent sentences that reflect a logical sequencing of ideas. These sentences tend to be much longer and more elaborated than those in spoken discourse, with no (intentional) grammatical mistakes and with a higher level of vocabulary. Features such as these, however, seem to no longer be detectable as such in recently evolved forms of electronic written texts like emails and text-messages. In such contexts, they rather mix with features of oral communication. The extent to which one category of features is better represented as compared to the other depends on the level of formality of the electronic texts. Features of orality prevail over those of written language in informal circumstances, while the situation is reversed in the case of electronic texts exchanged in more formal environments. The mixture of oral and written language features in the case of online messages enabled Danet (2002: 4) to consider digital communication as, paradoxically, both doubly attenuated and doubly enhanced. It is, as she explains, less rich than both speech and writing. As compared to face-to-face spoken interaction, it does not benefit from the contribution of non-verbal and paralinguistic cues to the meaning carried by words themselves (although, as I shall indicate below, attempts are made at substituting the absence of these cues by symbols that stand for feelings, attitudes, reactions, etc). By comparison to traditional writing, on the other hand, its digital variant is attenuated because the text is no longer a tangible physical object. Printing is optional, and in synchronous modes of typed chat, communication on the fly is the thing, not an optional textual log of what happened (Danet 2002: 4). However, electronic communication may be considered enhanced speech, since, unlike ordinary spoken language, it leaves traces, and can therefore be reexamined as long as we are logged on, the program is open and the text is retained in the computers memory. We can reread what the other person or we have jus written (Danet 2002: 5). It may also be looked at as enhanced writing, since in its real-time interactive modes, the medium


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restores the presence of ones interlocutor, long absent in the production of extensive texts. Moreover, it is far easier to establish immediate communication with the writer of an asynchronous message or text than in the past, making it more dialogic than in print culture (Danet 2002: 5). Davies (2005) points out some characteristics of emails and text messages that follow from their being produced at the intersection of speech and writing, and from their being delivered through the electronic medium. Thus, one major area in which emails differ from pen and paper letters is the extent of the variability (Davies 2005: 102) of the former, that is the author of an email can revise it, add parts to it or remove portions of it, without this literally leaving marks on the text itself. An email may also lose its formatting while it is being sent so that what the text looks like on the authors screen might not be similar to what it looks like when it reaches its addressee. Emails differ from traditional letters from a stylistic point of view, too. Bullet points are used quite frequently in the electronic texts and usual punctuation and spelling are sometimes consciously not adhered to. Commas are lightly used, capitalization is often missing where it should have been present, but it is employed when it would not have been expected in a traditional piece of writing (when, for example, emphasis is drawn on a particular portion of the text), typing errors occur repeatedly, etc. Emoticons (combinations of keyboard characters meant to indicate certain emotions) or smileys (faces used for the same purpose) are employed in emails, to replace the actual spelling out of feelings. Among these, as Davies (2005: 103) lists them, there are: smiling :-) frowning :-( laughing :-D shocked :-o winking ;-) hugging {} kissing :* Emoticons are used in text messages exchanged on mobile phones as well, here, more than in the case of emails, in order to ensure speed in communication. It is for the same reason why textese or chatspeak consisting, among others, of slang, alphanumerics of the kind B4 for before, M8 for mate, 2G2BT for too good to be true, GR8 for great and abbreviations such as CU for see you, RU for are you, BRB for be right back, UGTBK for you got to be kidding or OMG for oh, my God is also peculiar of this type of writing (however, if used in excess and between people who are not equally familiar with it, it may impede communication rather than facilitate it). In fact, writers of text messages quickly become adept at reducing every word to its minimum comprehensible length,


Lexical Strata in English

usually omitting vowels wherever possible, as in Wknd for Weekend, Msg for Message or deliberately using shorter misspellings, such as Wot for What. The spaces between words are also sometimes done away with in a text message, with word boundaries shown by upper case letters, as in ThxForYrMsg (Thanks for your message) (Davies 2005: 104). Other types of omissions in text messages, meant to ensure their brevity imposed by the set number of characters that can be typed, include the absence of opening and, sometimes, closing formulas, the usual exclusion of the senders name, of the subject personal pronoun I, of copulative verbs and certain prepositions. The above mentioned characteristics of text messages are as well peculiar of the conversations carried on in chat rooms. However, though not absent, they tend not to be that frequently encountered in another form of online writing, that specific of message boards. Unlike in the case of text messaging and the exchanges in chat rooms, which are synchronous forms of communication, message boards are net forums to which people can post messages at a more leisurely pace, often over days or weeks (Davies 2005: 104). The fact that communication is asynchronous in their case (points of view are recorded at a certain distance in time) allows the senders of the messages not to write them under the pressure of time and, therefore, to compose them (in quite numerous cases, though not all) with the amount of attention to vocabulary, grammar, spelling and punctuation usually paid in pen-and-paper letter writing. The following extract from an online exchange of opinions on the 2010 box office top movie Avatar (posted on the Rotten Tomatoes message board) may be considered illustrative for the way in which features of oral, informal communication, of previously discussed text messaging and of traditional, careful writing mix in a new form of text. Abbreviations such as cg for computer generated, lol for laugh out loud, reduced forms such as Cmon, for Come on, ellipsis in sentences such as you expected more?, were like the opposite (containing the filler like and a subject-verb agreement mistake), omissions such as I came in the movie for I came in the movie theatre, informal forms of words such as yep for yes, typing errors and the use of lower case where the upper case should have been employed combine with elaborated sentences and structures such as In my opinion, it was incredibly overhyped which naturally caused critics to analyze it more pessimistically than they normally would, a visually epic and narratively engaging film, emphatic word order as in It was not the violence at where it was flawed. It was that James Cameron converted acting, talent and plot to a Visual Eyegasm. It is as if all things which make movies great and elevated vocabulary of the kind flawed, laughable, detrimental effect, critical reception, etc:


Words about Words C. Fuchs. On March 11, 2010. 02:59 For all its powerful technologies, Avatar cant get out from under its essential cardboardness. Brittany W. On March 11, 2010. 06:14 Cardboardness? What movie theater were you sitting in? Try waking up to watch the movie before judging it. Derrick. On March 24, 2010. 06:19 Ill disagree with the comment above me. It was not the violence at where it was flawed. It was that James Cameron converted acting, talent and plot to a Visual Eyegasm. It is as if all things which make movies great are no longer important. Steeping Razor. On May, 18, 2010. 01:24 I agree. I finally saw Avatar, and many parts were overly silly and laughable. It was best when the military was attacking Pandora, but overall it felt like Saturday morning cartoons from the 80s. I found myself laughing when I knew it was trying to be serious. The dialogue was often awful, the acting too hammy for its own good. Stephen G. On May 20, 2010.02:50 Hu, you expected more? I came in the movie expecting it to be ****y, but i was wrong. Were like the opposite. Enoch, C. May 25, 2010. 13:20 lol some people in the theater cried when the marines killed that big*** tree in Pandora. i wanted to slap them. The Creeper. May 29, 2010. 6:42 I fully agree. Vicky M. June 9, 2010. 6:40 Dances with Wolves, thats all I have to say. Jason K. June 9, 2010. 11:08 yep dances with wolves, fern gully, Pocahontas. avatar doesnt have an original storyline and all it really is to most people who notice is just a giant cg effect which is really sad because the academy didnt even notice this when the put it up for an oscar Alyssa W. June 13, 2010. 11:35 Cmon, how can you not like this movie? A55 Velcro. July 3, 2010. 7:42 I can easily not like this movie for many reasons. Chris K. August 16, 2010. 3:56


Lexical Strata in English Its a shame that the film marketing has had a detrimental effect on its critical reception. In my opinion it was incredibly over-hyped which naturally caused critics to analyse it more pessimistically than they normally would. Although it doesnt quite fill the shoes its makers boast, the movie is still a visually epic and narratively engaging film I cant help loving!



Dictionaries are repositories of words so frequently resorted to that their inexistence would be unconceivable at present. Each of us must have opened such a book about language at least once to look up the meaning(s) of an unknown word, to check its spelling, to find information about its etymology, its history, its synonyms / antonyms or its equivalent(s) in (an)other language(s).

7.1. Types of dictionaries

The range of publications that are called dictionaries is very wide. One may distinguish between dictionaries that treat a single language monolingual dictionaries, and those that treat more than one, usually two and, less frequently, three languages bilingual or trilingual dictionaries. Within the former category, there are reference books whose purpose is primarily historical and whose aim is to describe the vocabulary of a language within certain limits of time. For English, the best known historical dictionaries are the Oxford English Dictionary (edited by James Murray in 1933, with a second edition in 1989, coordinated by John Simpson and Edmund Weiner), which describes the birth, death and semantic and formal development of English words since 1150 and its abbreviated version, the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (edited by Lesley Brown and printed in 1993), in which these aspects are charted beginning with 1700. Synchronic dictionaries of English include, among others, A Thesaurus of Old English (compiled by Jane Roberts, Ch. Kay and Lynne Grundy, in 1995), the Middle English Dictionary (edited by S. Kuhn and J. Reidy, in 1969) and quite numerous dictionaries of contemporary English, some of which will be dealt with in what follows. Dictionaries of contemporary English are not only the most numerous, they are also the most diverse. They differ according to dimension - from desk-size, through concise, to pocket and smaller, with varying numbers of pages and coverage, and according to format publishers have made their dictionaries available not only in print form, but also in the electronic medium, either on CDs or online. Moreover, they belong to different categories as far as their intended target users are. Some are meant for a young audience at various stages in their growth and educational development. Of these, the monolingual learners dictionaries, compiled to meet the needs of the intermediate to advanced learners of English as a second or foreign language, are an interesting class of works that have been at the forefront of lexicographical innovation in the last


Words in Dictionaries

half-century (Jackson 2002: 129). After the publication, in 1948, of Hornbys Advanced Learners Dictionary, which, since then, has been reprinted twelve times, at least four major dictionaries for learners of English have been compiled: the Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners (2002, 2009), the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1978, 1987, 1995), the Collins COBUILD English Dictionary (1987, 1995, 2001) and the Cambridge International Dictionary of English (1995). Other monolingual dictionaries the general-purpose ones - target the adult English native speakers and are as numerous and diverse as the learners dictionaries. Within this category, there are the Collins English Dictionary (1979, 1986, 1994, 1998), the Concise Oxford Dictionary (with eleven editions since 1911), the Longman Dictionary of the English Language (1984, 1991), the Websters Third New International Dictionary of the English Language (1961), etc. A wide range of specialist reference books adds to the two categories of monolingual dictionaries already mentioned. Some of these focus on linguistic aspects of language. There are dictionaries of pronunciation, such as the English Pronouncing Dictionary (1997) and the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (2000), dictionaries of spelling, such as A Dictionary of Spelling. British and American (1964), dictionaries of etymology, such as An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (1967) or Douglas Harpers continuously updated online etymological dictionary or dictionaries devoted to particular lexical units from among which one may quote the Cambridge Phrasal Verbs Dictionary (2006), the Longman Phrasal Verbs Dictionary (2007), the Cambridge Idioms Dictionary (2006), the Oxford Dictionary of Idioms (2005), A Dictionary of American Idioms (2003), the Oxford Collocations Dictionary for Students of English (2002), the Dictionary of Selected Collocations (1999), the Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs (1935), etc. Quite a number of monolingual dictionaries have been compiled based on semantic relations between words, especially, but not only, on synonymy and antonymy. Thus, the market has recent publications such as the Oxford Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms (2007), the Oxford Learners Thesaurus: A Dictionary of Synonyms (2008), the Wordsworth Dictionary of Homonyms (2007), etc. Besides these, there are various dictionaries that define the terminology specific to a domain (which share characteristics with encyclopedias, in terms of the extent of their definitions or explanations and in that they include entries for personalities in the field to which the dictionary is dedicated): the Longman Business English Dictionary (2007), A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (2006), the Dictionary of Law (2006), the Oxford Dictionary of Chemistry (2009), The Dictionary of Cell and Molecular Biology (2007), etc.


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7.2. English lexicography

7.2.1. British lexicography
As Jackson (2002) explains, the beginnings of English lexicography may be traced back to the Old English period, specifically to the sixth century, when the Roman form of Christianity was introduced and the monastic life flourished. The language of the Roman Church being Latin, the manuscripts that the priests studied at the time were written in it. On reading them, they would sometimes write corresponding English words for the foreign ones, below or above the latter, to help their own understanding of the texts or as a guide to future readers. These interlinear glosses (Hullen 1989) were later gathered in a separate manuscript, as a glossary, which may be considered a prototype dictionary (Jackson 2002: 31). In time, the words in the glossaries started to be ordered alphabetically, initially, after the first letter, then, by the second and subsequent letters or topically. During the Middle Ages, Latin continued to play a very important role not only in church, but also in the educational system. It used to be the lingua franca of teaching and learning at European universities (Cambridge and Oxford being at the forefront of these) so that, when schools for preparing students for entry to these universities were founded, the demand for instructional material for teaching and learning Latin vocabulary and grammar increased. As Jackson (2002) indicates, two dictionaries were compiled to meet this demand: the Latin-English Hortus Vocabulorum (printed in 1500) and the English-Latin Promptorium Parvulorum (printed in 1499). During the Renaissance, the significance of Latin reached another level, through the publication of Roman literature works either in the original or in translation. In numerous cases, translators chose to add a Latin-English glossary at the end of their translations, a practice which continued until lexicography developed enough to make it unnecessary. The Renaissance witnessed not only the revival of the classical Latin and Greek, but also an increase of the interest in Europes vernacular languages, due, especially, to a boost in traveling. Such interest lay at the basis of the publication of several bilingual dictionaries, among which there are, as pointed out by Jackson (2002): for French and English - John Palsgraves Esclarcissement de la langue francoyse (1530) and Randle Cotgraves A Dictionaire of the French and English Tongues (1611); for Italian and English - John Florios A Worlde of Wordes (1598); for Spanish, English and Latin - Richard Percyvalls Bibliotheca Hispanica (1591), etc. The first monolingual English dictionary is considered to be Robert Cawdreys A Table Alphabeticall, printed in 1604, and, as the author quoted by Jackson (2002: 33) explains, conteyning and teaching the true writing, and understanding of hard, usuall English wordes, borrowed from the


Words in Dictionaries

Hebrew, Greeke, Latine, or French. There are around 2500 words in this dictionary, for which synonyms or explanations in plaine English words (Cawdrey, cited in Jackson 2002: 33) are provided. John Bullokars An English Expositor followed A Table Alphabeticall in 1616, with more numerous and diverse entries and more extensive explanations. Both these publications led the way to Henry Cockermans The English Dictionarie, first published in 1623. Though inspired by the two previous publications, Cockermans dictionary differed from them in some respects. On the one hand, it addressed a larger audience, of which the learners of English as a foreign language were part. On the other, besides the lists of hard words with their explanations, it also contained a list of vulgar words together with their refined or elegant equivalents, as an aid to writing with good style and, following the practice of some Latin-English dictionaries, a list of Gods and Godesses (Jackson 2002: 35). Monolingual dictionaries continued to expand, mostly in the direction of lexemes outside the everyday vocabulary. Etymology began to be of concern to English lexicographers so that, by the end of the seventeenth century, two etymological dictionaries had been published: Stephen Skinners Etymologicon Linguae Anglicanae (1671) and the anonymous Gazophylacium Anglicanum (1689). The beginning of the eighteenth century brought changes as far as the focus in monolingual English dictionaries is concerned. Dictionary compilers began to show a more consistent interest in including in their works, besides borrowings, as numerous native words as possible. Such interest, together with that already manifested for etymology, is obvious in the two dictionaries that dominated the period, Nathaniel Baileys An Universal Etymological English Dictionary, published in 1721, and his Dictionarium Britannicum, of 1730, the latter, a rich source of inspiration to Samuel Johnson. Largely similar, these publications had a more extensive scope and addressed a wider group of users than their predecessors. As the author described the former dictionary (quoted by Jackson 2002: 37), it was meant for comprehending the derivations of the generality of words in the English tongue, either antient or modern, from the antient British, Saxon, Danish, Norman and Modern French, Teutonic, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, each in their proper characters and also a brief and clear explication of all difficult words and terms of art together with a large collection and explication of words and phrases usd in our antient statutes and the etymology and interpretation of the proper names of men, women, and remarkable places in Great Britain; also the dialects of our different countries. To which is added a collection of our most common proverbs, with their explication and illustration. Lexicographers attempt at introducing native words rather than so many borrowed ones in their dictionaries was paralleled in the eighteenth


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century by the scholars and authors concern for the state of the English language, especially for its being spoiled, as they considered, by loan words. The example of the Academie francaise, who thought of dictionaries as instruments that could help in codifying the French language and in prescribing what was acceptable in it, prompted similar opinions on the part of the English scholars. Of them, Samuel Johnson embodied, in a monumental work, his awareness of the important role a dictionary may play in ascertaining and fixing a language. His Dictionary of the English Language, printed in 1755, remained the foremost dictionary of the English language for a century, and its author was acclaimed as the one who had done for English single-handedly what it had taken forty French academicians to do for their language. Johnson not only produced a monumental dictionary by a method, involving the collection of evidence (citations) and using the evidence to construct the entries, which became standard lexicographical procedure, but he also reflected in the Plan on the nature of the dictionary compilers task and the issues that face lexicographers (Jackson 2002: 46). The methodological aspects that the author addresses in the Plan of a Dictionary of the English Language (1747) and which he adhered to in the making of the dictionary proper concern the selection of the words to be included, their orthography and pronunciation, their etymology, morphology, syntax and interpretation (i.e. definition) and the use of citations to support his statements. The chief intent of the dictionary was, the author declared (quoted by Jackson 2002: 42), to preserve the purity and ascertain the meaning of our English idiom, in other words, to include as many native words as possible, without completely excluding loans (those belonging to the professional jargons were considered of special interest to the users of the dictionary). In terms of orthography, Johnson suggested that no major changes away from the then practice should be made where this was clear and that innovation should be introduced only if it could have been given sound reasons for, while, in respect of pronunciation, the stability of which is of great importance to the stability of a language, because the first change will naturally begin by corruptions in the living speech (Johnson cited by Jackson 2002: 43), he proposed to determine the accentuation of all polysyllables by proper authorities and to fix the pronunciation of monosyllables, by placing them with words of correspondent sound (Johnson cited by Jackson 2002: 43). As far as etymology is concerned, Johnson distinguished between simple and compound words and, within the former category, between primitive and derivative ones. Primitive words were necessarily traced back to their original form, and those for which this could not be determined were excluded from the dictionary, in a declared attempt to secure the language from being over-run with cant, from being crowded with low terms, the spawn of folly or affectation (Johnson quoted by Jackson 2002: 43). The inflections of English words being irregular, they were diligently noted in


Words in Dictionaries

Johnsons dictionary, as was syntax, too inconstant to be reduced to rules (Johnson quoted by Jackson 2002: 43). Phraseology was also paid due attention. Defining the words and phrases with brevity, fullness and perspicuity seemed a difficult mission to the lexicographer, made so much so by the necessity of explaining the words in the same language. In order to accomplish this mission, Johnson did not only select monosemantic lexical items, but also set himself the task of distinguishing between the various senses of polysemantic words, which he decided to provide in the following order: the natural and primitive signification first, then the consequential meaning, then metaphorical sense, followed by the poetical, the familiar and the burlesque senses. All Johnsons observations were to be supported by citations. The popularity of the Dictionary of the English Language continued in the nineteenth century, when it was joined by another publication of the kind Charles Richardsons A New Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1837. By mid century, both these dictionaries were considered limited as far as their coverage of the English vocabulary, especially that of the earlier history of the language, was concerned. This opinion was made public by the representatives of the Philological Society, formed in 1842, for the investigation of the Structure, the Affinities, and the History of Languages; and the Philological Illustration of the Classical Writers of Greece and Rome (Jackson 2002: 47). The Societys concern about the lack of coverage by the then existing dictionaries prompted its members to consider the necessity of having a new dictionary of English imperative. Under the circumstances, Herbert Coleridge was appointed the first editor of the dictionary to be and work on gathering the material needed started. Coleridge was succeeded as editor by Frederick Furnivall and, due to his not being able to efficiently deal with the task of compiling the dictionary as the sole editor, he was joined by James Murray in 1878. Ten years later, after around five million slips of paper containing words and their full bibliographical details had been collected from about one thousand readers and processed by the two editors and their assistants, the first volume of the New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (later to become the Oxford English Dictionary - OED), containing words under letters A and B was published. It took forty years and the addition of Henry Bradley, William Craigie and Charles Onions to the team of editors to complete de dictionary. In the Preface to Volume I, Murray expresses its aim as follows (quoted by Jackson 2002: 51): the aim of this dictionary is to furnish an adequate account of the meaning, origin and history of English words now in general use, or known to have been in use at any time during the last seven hundred years. It endeavors to show, with regard to each individual word, when, how, in what shape, and with what signification, it became English; what development of form and meaning it has since received; which of its uses have, in the course of time, become obsolete, and which


Words about Words

still survive; what new uses have since arisen, by what process, and when; to illustrate these facts by a series of quotations ranging from the first known occurrence of the word to the latest, or down to the present day; the word being thus made to exhibit its own history and meaning; and to treat the etymology of each word strictly on the basis of historical fact, and in accordance with the methods and results of modern philological science. The editors followed this initially stated goal very closely, though not all the common words of the language were included - to observe Victorian sensibilities, coarse slang vocabulary was left aside and so were some scientific and technical terms. Words in the OED are divided into three classes: Main words, Subordinate words and Combinations. The first class includes single words simple, derived or compound which from their meaning, history or importance, claim to be treated in separate articles (Murray qtd. by Jackson 2002: 53). Subordinate words are variant and obsolete forms of main words, and such words of bad formation, doubtful existence, or alleged use, as it is deemed proper, on any ground, to record eg. afforse (obsolete variant of afforce); afforest (obsolete variant of athirst), etc. (Murray qtd. by Jackson 2002: 53). Both Main and Subordinate words are headwords in the dictionary, the latter being printed in smaller letters than the former. Combinations are derived or compound words that do not need to be defined or which can be briefly explained on the basis of their cognates. They are dealt with under the main word that represents their first element. The entry for a Main word consists of four parts: Identification (where spelling, pronunciation, grammatical class, inflections for irregular nouns and verbs and the particular domain or subject area to which the word belongs are mentioned), Morphology (where the form-history of the words is charted, by reference to their etymology, to subsequent changes of their form in English and to other various facts about their history), the Signification (where the focus falls on the meaning(s) of words) and the Illustrative Quotations (at least one for each century during which the meaning of a word was known to have been in use). Although the first edition of the OED might have had flaws, it was for sure a monumental accomplishment in the field of lexicography, a valuable tool for students of English and scientists who explored its content for all kinds of scholarly endeavors. Some of these flaws were eliminated in the two supplements (1933 and 1972-1986) and the second edition of the dictionary, which was published both in print (1989) and in electronic format (1992): a wide range of colloquial expressions and words belonging to regional dialects (English spoken in North America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, etc) were added alongside specific terminology in the fields of sociology, linguistics, computer science (the use of subject labels was significantly extended), the distinction between main and subordinate words was


Words in Dictionaries

abandoned (though the labeling of words as obsolete or archaic was preserved), Murrays transcription system for pronunciation was replaced by the International Phonetic Alphabet, etc. Needless to say, the electronic version of the dictionary offers ways of searching for the information it contains that are not possible in the case of the paper variant. The third edition of the OED, which Oxford University Press has planned to publish in the very near future, will surely bring even more improvements to the already existent dictionary.

7.2.2. American lexicography

Across the Atlantic, interest in asserting the identity of a new nation, freed from under the British influence (the American colonies became independent from Britain in 1776) fueled the scholarly concerns of a number of linguists. Of them, Noah Webster was a fervent proponent of the spelling reform which was supposed to individualize the American way of writing words as compared to the British (only a limited number of Websters suggestions were, however, put in actual practice and are still observed today the or spelling for our in words such as favour, colour, labour, the er for re in words like theater, center, meter, and the single consonant where British English has a double traveller, equalling, programme). Besides advocating the spelling reform as a means of strengthening a national American language (his endeavour in this area took the form of the Elementary Spelling Book, or the Blue-Back Speller as it was known to the very numerous readers who used it in the eighteenth century America), Webster attempted at compiling an American English dictionary, with the same nationalistic-oriented purpose in mind. This attempt was entitled A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. Published in 1806, it was not a fully original work, but rather an extension of John Entiks New Spelling Dictionary of the English Language, printed in Great Britain in 1764. To it, Webster added about 5000 new words collected from his readings and believed to have reflected life in America and an appendix containing a range of encyclopedic information such as foreign currency conversions, weights and measures, a list of local post offices, and Chronological Tables of Remarkable Events and Discoveries. The Compendious Dictionary paved the way to what was to be a truly American dictionary 20 years later. In 1828, Webster published An American Dictionary of the English Language, containing about seventy thousand entries, of which only a limited number were words belonging to American English (some of them not even native, but borrowed) - bobsled, gerrymander, moccasin, squash, wigwam, etc. Unfortunately, the authors preference for quotations from American authors rather than British ones to support the definitions of words in his dictionary only managed to illustrate the existence of insignificant differences between the two


Words about Words

geographical varieties of English. To counterbalance the criticism of this shortcoming and that of the often flawed etymologies, much appreciation was directed towards Websters definitions, which were considered more accurate, more comprehensive, and not less carefully divided and ordered than any previously done in English lexicography (Morton 1994: 43), reason enough for Murray, the editor of the OED to call the American lexicographer a born definer of words (Jackson 2002: 63). Websters view that America should distinguish itself linguistically from Britain was not supported unanimously. Some scholars continued to consider the latter the authority to look at for guidance in linguistic and lexicographic matters. One of these scholars was Joseph Worcester, who coordinated a new edition of Johnsons dictionary, which he entitled Johnsons English Dictionary, as Improved by Todd, and Abridged by Chalmers; with Walkers Pronouncing Dictionary, Combined. Two years after the publication of this work, in 1829, Worcester published an abridgement of Websters American Dictionary, from which he omitted many of the original etymologies and citations, but which, on the other hand, he enriched with words he encountered while editing Johnson. It was only in 1930 that Worcester published a work of his own The Comprehensive Pronouncing and Explanatory Dictionary. By comparison with the two previous dictionaries, this contained more words and a spelling system that combined features of what Johnson and Webster suggested. Special attention was paid to pronunciation, while considerations regarding etymology were abandoned altogether. Webster reacted with accusations of plagiarism towards Worcesters publications, which the latter denied. This exchange set the beginning of a twenty-year dictionary war, in which Worcesters dictionaries represented a conservative and Anglocentric approach to lexicography, and Websters championed the distinctiveness of American English and the necessity for America to set its own linguistic standards (Jackson 2002: 63). In 1841, Webster published the American Dictionary, a revised and enlarged version of his 1828 dictionary. Worcester responded with the Universal and Critical Dictionary of the English Language, in 1846. This was followed, in 1846, by a single-volume, improved version of the American Dictionary, published by the Merriam brothers, who bought the publication rights from Websters heirs, immediately after the lexicographers death. The next to fire in the war was Worcester, who brought out a completely new work, in 1860, the Dictionary of the English Language, soon acknowledged as the best available work of its kind, on both sides of the Atlantic. But Webster was to triumph in the end, by launching by the editors Noah Porter and Carl Mahn of a thoroughly revised version of the American Dictionary, in 1864. This became the dictionary of preferred use in education, the law and printing presses (Jackson 2002: 64) and it went stronger and stronger on the market (the second edition was especially praised by both critics and users) until it reached its third edition, in 1961. This last version contained


Words in Dictionaries

450,000 words (unfortunately, 150,000 less than the second edition), defined in an innovative manner. As Gove, the chief editor of the dictionary, indicated (quoted by Jackson 2002: 65), the primary objective of precise, sharp defining has been met through development of a new dictionary style based upon completely analytical one-phrase definitions throughout the book Defining by synonym is carefully avoided. Though praised for the defining procedures, the American Dictionary met with disapproval due to its stating word meanings in actual use, instead of giving editorial opinion on what these meanings should be. This approach was seen by many as a damaging drawback of the work, since if people could no longer look to their Websters dictionary for an authoritative pronouncement on what the meaning ought to be, how words ought to be pronounced, spelled and used, then they were adrift in a linguistic sea without any chart or compass (Jackson 2002: 65), a piece of criticism which will probably be taken into account in the preparation of the fourth edition of the dictionary, which began in 2008.

7.3. Dictionaries for English and Romanian

Though interest in English has risen considerably during the past twenty years, after the fall of the communist regime in Romania and the opening of the country towards the international world, a number of English-Romanian dictionaries were published before the 1989 Revolution that have remained landmarks in our lexicography. Even more numerous works of this kind have been printed starting with the late 90s. According to Arvinte and Chioran (1978), the first such dictionary was Marele dicionar romn englez, published by Virgil Hlceanu, in 1900. This was followed, in 1908, by Lolliots Dicionar englez-romn and by Weppers Dicionar englez-romn, in 1937. Other English-Romanian dictionaries are: Dicionar englez-romn (edited by Sdeanu, Andronescu, Pop and Streinu, in 1958), Levichis 1960 Dicionar romn-englez (with a revised and enlarged second edition published in 1965 and the latest version in 2005), Dicionar de buzunar englez-romn and Dicionar de buzunar englez-romn, both published by Andronescu in 1961, Bogdans Dicionar englez-romn, printed in 1965, Dicionar de buzunar englezromn i romn-englez (Banta 1969), the Romanian Academys Dicionar englez-romn, coordinated by Levichi and printed for the first time in 1974, with a second edition in 2004, Dicionar englez-romn. 70.000 de cuvinte by Levichi and Banta (1997, 2005), Dicionar englez-romn. 35.000 cuvinte, by Banta (2005), Dicionar romn-englez, printed in 2000 and reprinted in 2002 and coordinated by Nedelcu, Murar, Bratu and Banta, Levichis Dicionar romn-englez. 60.000 de cuvinte, with a first edition in 1998 and a second, enlarged one, in 2005.


Words about Words

The latest dictionaries show improvements as compared to those printed up to the 90s (which does not mean to say that older dictionaries are not still useful tools for todays linguists, translators, learners and teachers of English). The content of two Romanian English dictionaries of the same author, Leon Levichi, published at a distance in time of almost half a century, may stand proof of this evolution. For illustrative purposes, some elements of the two editions will be discussed comparatively in what follows. His 1960 Dicionar romn-englez comprises about 30.000 head words, most of them taken from Dicionarul limbii romne moderne, published by the Romanian Academy, in 1958, with a small number of words added from other sources. Archaisms, regional variants of words, double forms, diminutives and augmentatives in the monolingual source dictionary were left out of Levichis work. Instead, very frequently used words were given special attention (a fact reflected in the high number of constructions and examples that accompany them). Since the meaning or the shadow of meaning of a word is always context-dependent, synonyms and specific collocations should be used with great care. Therefore, these were given special attention in the dictionary. When the need was felt for the clarification of certain aspects of synonymy, various strategies were resorted to - explanations within brackets, abbreviations indicating the domain or the register to which certain synonyms belong or the use of these words in specific word combinations. For example, the Romanian adjective istoric may be translated into English by two ideographic synonyms - historic and historical. The entry in the dictionary makes the difference between the two clear: istoric I. adj. (privitor la istorie) historical; (de importan istoric) historic. On the other hand, for the Romanian adjective mic, for example, the dictionary mentions a rather reduced number of collocations in which it follows the noun: copil mic little child, degetul mic the little finger, efort mic slight effort, parte mic small / inconsiderable part. The translation of the Romanian words and phrases by stylistic equivalents seems to have been one of the authors constant concerns. Thus, on the one hand, where relevant, words and phrases are accompanied by implicit explanations such as F for familiar / familiar, S for savant / scholarly and sl for slang: acas adv a veni de ~ 1. to come from home. 2. fig. F to twig, to tumble; aa mai vii de ~ F (asta e alt poveste) thats another pair of breeches; gdilitor adj. tickling, S titillating; dovleac ...2. (cap) F pate, nut, sl thinking mug . On the other hand, the cases when the stylistic value of the word or phrase in Romanian does not correspond to the suggested English equivalent are highlighted by using arrows. For instance, in galerie s.f. 4. teatru gallery, Fthe gods, paradise, the arrow indicates that, while the Romanian teatru is neutral from a stylistic point of view, the English gods or paradise are marked stylistically as informal. In bele-arte s.f. pl.nv. fine arts, the arrow is used to point at


Words in Dictionaries

the fact that bele-arte is marked as an archaism in Romanian, while, in English, fine arts is not. As far as grammar is concerned, as indicated in the Preface of the dictionary, both the Romanian and the English words are given in their basic form (nouns, in the Nominative case, adjectives, with their positive degree, verbs, in the short infinitive, etc). The plural (pl.) indication is present when the noun in question (either with all or with only some of its meanings) does not have a singular form or is seldom used in the singular pomei s.m. pl..cheek bones; pierdere s.f. pl. (de viei) casualties, losses. Since nouns in the common gender are very numerous in English, the feminine forms of the Romanian masculine nouns are mentioned as separate entries in the dictionary only when English has such forms actri s.f. actress; baroneas s.f. baroness; arin s.f. ist. czarevna. The 2005 edition of Levichis Dicionar romn-englez (whose content was assembled in part by the authors daughter, on the basis of her fathers manuscripts) contains double the number of entries in the initial work as indicated in the Preface, those in the 1998 edition of the dictionary alongside other words and phrases selected from Dicionarul explicativ al limbii romne (1998). Unlike in the 1960 edition, Romanian poetic and technical terms, archaisms, regional variants of words, diminutives and augmentatives were given more prominence this time. Words such as insul (poetic) isle, crunt (poetic) hoary-headed, grizzled; albaspin (in botany) hawthorn, hedgethorn, barotermograf (in physics) barothermograph, cumen (in chemistry) cumene, labiovelar (in phonetics) labiovelar; a meremetisi (archaic) to repair, to restore, pisar (archaic) clerk, secretary, schingi (archaic) torturing, torture, zarif (archaic) beautiful, tremendous; ahotnic (regional use) passionate of, anxious, eager to do something, leuit (regional use) weakened, feeble, worn out, mntergur (regional use) towel, a meleui (regional use) to stir; gruncior (diminutive of grunte) small grain, granule, tiny particle, cscioar (diminutive of cas) little house, fetioar (diminutive of girl) little girl, lboaie (diminutive of lab) big hand, buboi (augmentative of bub) boil, furuncle have been introduced in the latest edition. Words in the common word stock of Romanian are given even more detailed attention here. The example below illustrates how the material in the 2005 dictionary has enriched as compared to the information offered in the 1960 edition:
1960 amintire s.f. 1. (memorie) memory. 2. (aducere aminte) memory, remembrance, recollection. 3. (suvenir) keepsake, token, souvenir. b) ca ~ for a 2005 amintire sf 1 remembering; reminding, mentioning etc. v. aminti; mention, insinuation; recollection; rememebrance; memory 2 (memorie)


Words about Words keepsake; n ~a (cu gen.) in memory / commemoration of rar memory 3 pl i remembrance, recollection, memory; reminiscence 4 pl i (suvenir dintr-o cltorie etc) token (of remembrance); souvenir; keepsake 5 pl i (meniune) rar mention 6 pl i (memorii) memoirs a) ~i din copilrie childhood memories / recollections, reminiscences of childhood; ~i triste sad memories b) ca ~ (din partea + gen) for a keepsake (from); de binecuvntat ~ of blessed memory; de trist ~ of sad memory; n ~ea +gen: a) in memory / remembrance of; in commemoration of; (d. un monument etc.) to the memory of b) (unei cltorii etc) as a souvenir / a memento of c) a pstra ~a cuiva to cherish smbs memory, to keep smbs memory green; a renvia ~ea + gen to refresh ones memory of / about; triete din ~i he lives on his memories

The authors initial concern with the differences between Romanian and English in terms of synonymy, collocations and stylistic matters increased, so that the explanations in these areas are more elaborate in the newer version of the work under scrutiny. Thus, the details in the entry istoric have been extended to: istoric I , -i, -e adj 1 (privitor la istorie) historical; (d. timpurile cnd s-au nregistrat fapte istorice) historic 2 (de importan istoric) historic. Also, the equivalents for the adjective mic, whose presence in the 1960 edition I have highlighted above, are much more numerous in the 2005 variant of the dictionary, and so are the collocations in which they occur. Among these collocations there are: ap mic shallow water, bere mic small beer, cadou mic small present, camer mic small / little room, cas mic small / little house, distan mic short distance, format mic small format/size, liter mic small letter, main de scris mic portable typewriter, noapte mic short night, soacr mic the brides/wifes mother, suflet mic - base/mean/selfish/ungenerous soul/spirit, etc. As far as stylistic aspects are concerned, in suggesting the English equivalents for the Romanian words and phrases, the indications F for familiar / familiar, S for savant / scholarly, scientific, and sl for slang have been preserved. However, a number of other indications are added to these in the more recent dictionary. Some are the following: euf for euphemism / euphemism, glum for glume / jocular, ir for ironic / ironical (detept - ir wise man, a wise man of Gotham, sapient), lb cop for limbajul copiilor / the language of children (mam lb cop mum(my), mom(my), momma), livr


Words in Dictionaries

for livresc / bookish and P for popular / folk (ma (furtun) P flexible tube). The arrow symbols and have been taken over to the newer edition - the former, to indicate that the Romanian equivalent does not correspond to the stylistic indication in English, the latter, to show that the English word or phrase does not have the same stylistic value as the one in Romanian. An arrow pointing down, , was added to the list of symbols in the 2005 edition, for especially (agonale - la vechii greci agons, libertate - ca lips de constrngere freedom, n sens abstract liberty, rzbuna - pe cineva to revenge). Additions were made to the 2005 edition of Levichis dictionary from a grammatical point of view, too. Nouns in Romanian are included both with their singular and with their plural form (wherever the latter exists) and, like in the older edition, the fact that some nouns have forms for the plural only and different forms for the two genders has been highlighted. If, in the first edition, it is only the masculine singular form of adjectives that is mentioned, in the 2005 dictionary, all possible forms of adjectives are indicated (as the case may be): masculine and feminine singular, masculine and feminine plural. In the case of verbs, besides the bare infinitive, the first person singular forms for the present, perfect simplu (approximately simple past in English) and past participle indicative are specified. Hard copies apart, the Internet has lately offered the possibility of working with online general dictionaries that are available on sites such as,,, etc. Unfortunately, many of these need obvious improvement in terms of both the number of words and phrases included and the way the existent ones are defined and described. The number of specialized dictionaries for English and Romanian, in the field of the science of linguistics, has remained much more reduced so far, by comparison with the quite numerous general bilingual dictionaries, some of which have been enumerated above. Among those that cover specific areas of linguistics, there are the following: Dicionar de neologisme ale limbii engleze (Volceanov 1998), a collection of about 6000 words and phrases that, as the author indicates, entered English during the last two decades of the twentieth century (the entries are in English, while the explanations are given in Romanian); Dicionar de argou, eufemisme i expresii familiare englez-romn (Balaban 1999), comprising slang selected from various regional varieties of English, for which Romanian equivalents are provided, special attention being paid to multiple meanings, synonyms, specific usages and examples that clarify certain senses; and a number of phraseological dictionaries such as Dicionar Englez Romn, Romn Englez frazeologic (Nicolescu et al. 2005), Dicionare Englez Romn de exprsii i locuiuni (Hulban 2007), The Great English Romanian Dictionary of Idioms (Sileanu, Poenaru 2007), Dicionar de colocaii


Words about Words

nominale englez-romn (Prlog, Teleag 1999), Dicionar englez-romn de colocaii verbale (Prlog, Teleag 2000). All these dictionaries are useful both for learners of English and for specialists and translators. Among them, the dictionaries of collocations seem to represent a particularly helpful category of linguistic tools. In learning a foreign language, usually, more attention is paid to grammar and basic vocabulary, than to combinations of words (idioms and phrasal verbs being, sometimes, exceptions from this approach). As stated in the argument to Dicionar englez-romn de colocaii verbale (Prlog, Teleag 2000), in order to use a foreign language correctly (whether for everyday or professional communication or in the process of translation), it is vital to know whether two or more words can be combined so that the lexical units thus obtained should sound natural. Collocability is a matter of language specificity rather than one of certain universal semantic restrictions and, as such, the correct employment of collocations is part of the native speakers linguistic competence. This is why even those proficient in a foreign language sometimes use inappropriate collocations. The usefulness of bilingual dictionaries of collocations is, therefore, unquestionable. The two works cited last offer information that shed light on differences between English and Romanian that a non-native speaker of English might disregard. Thus, as far as nominal collocations are concerned, for example, in many cases in Romanian, the latter noun is in the genitive case and the (pseudo)quantifier is accompanied by an adjective meant to render the meaning of the former as exactly as possible (a spurt of speed o creetere brusc a vitezei; a switch in opinion o schimbare brusc a opiniei); while, in English, the former noun is the quantifier, in Romanian, it is the latter noun that serves this function (lashings of drinks butur berechet; tons / a power of money bani cu carul / lopata); sometimes, the equivalent of an English nominal collocation is a noun + adjective / participle structure, in which the latter element plays the role of the Engish (pseudo)quantifier (the ghost of a smile un zmbet vag / un zmbet abia schiat); other times, a single Romanian noun corresponds to a collocation in English (a piece of information o informaie) or the English collocation may be rendered into Romanian only by paraphrasing (never does a scrap / a stitch / a stroke of work nu muncete / nu face / nu lucreaz nimic; nu pune mna pe nimic). Verbal collocations may pose difficulties to non-native users of English, too. Some of these difficulties are highlighted in the preface to Dicionar englez-romn de colocaii verbale (Prlog, Teleag 2000). For example, in English, certain nouns combine with the verb to make and others with the verb to do, while, in Romanian, only one verb is used a face. Thus, we say to make a journey (a face o cltorie), to make progress (a face progrese), a face patul (to make the bed), but to do the shopping (a face cumprturi), to do ones homework (a-i face temele) and to do ones


Words in Dictionaries

duty (a-i face datoria). There are also situations when English uses only one verb and Romanian uses several. For instance, the following collocations with the verb to brush are translated using different verbs in Romanian: to brush ones clothes a-i peria hainele, to brush ones nails a-i freca unghiile, to brush ones teeth a se spla pe dini. Sometimes, the entire English collocation is translated by a single verb in Romanian to take a hit a lovi, to give odds a avantaja or it is rendered into Romanian by paraphrase to split an infinitive a intercala un adverb ntre elememtele infinitivului. Also, the verb, the noun or the adverb in the English collocation finds itself an equivalent in a Romanian phrase to file an interrogatory a pune la dosar un interogatoriu, to run a relay a alerga n proba de tafet, to spread thinly a ntinde un strat subire, etc. Specialized bilingual dictionaries for English and Romanian, outside the area of linguistics as a science, have also been printed in quite large numbers during the last decade. Examples of such dictionaries include: Dicionar englez-romn pentru personalul medical (Brudacu 2008), Dicionar de chimie i industrie chimic englez-romn (Dobre 2009), Dicionar economic englez-romn i romn-englez (Niculescu 2009), Dicionar juridic englez-romn i romn-englez (Lister, Veth 2010), etc.


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Abbreviation, 65 acronyms, 66 adjectives, 22, 28, 41, 42, 47, 48, 52, 57, 59, 60, 66, 88, 92, 107, 110, 111, 113, 138, 139, 167, 169 Adverbs, 59, 60 affixes, 40, 41, 42, 43, 63, 64, 88 allomorphs, 39, 44 Alphanumerics, 66 American lexicography, 163 analogy, 63, 67, 76, 97 antonyms, 86, 87, 88, 126, 127, 156 antonymy, 9, 78, 157 archaisms, 85, 129, 130, 167, 177

Deflection, 64 denotation, 9, 73, 74, 75 derivation, 9, 43, 60, 61, 63, 64, 67, 133, 139 Diachronic lexical strata, 129 dictionaries, 10, 11, 13, 15, 16, 20, 69, 75, 78, 116, 131, 133, 156, 157, 158, 159, 161, 164, 165, 166, 169, 170, 171

Early Modern English, 19, 31 Eponyms, 66, 68 ethnic varieties, 140 expanding circle, 10, 134, 137

Back-formation, 63 binominals, 9, 58, 103, 126, 127 borrowed words, 23, 36, 63, 64, 97, 138 borrowing, 19, 24, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 38, 64, 83, 132 borrowings, 20, 22, 25, 27, 28, 31, 34, 35, 85, 97, 137, 139, 159 British lexicography, 158

folk-etymology, 9 French words, 26, 31, 32, 33

geographical varieties, 22, 134, 164 grammatical words, 14, 15 Greek words, 11, 20, 25, 31

Change of accent, 65 Clipping, 61, 62 code-switching, 24, 32 collocations, 9, 10, 78, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 138, 166, 168, 170 compound, 12, 17, 37, 43, 48, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 62, 63, 70, 160, 162 compounding, 9, 19, 43, 61, 63, 133 compounds, 17, 18, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 59, 61, 62, 63, 131, 141 connotation, 9, 26, 28, 73, 75, 77, 78, 81, 114 Contraction, 62 conversion, 9, 43, 53, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 92, 93, 116 converted, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 153, 154

historisms, 130 homographs, 90, 95 homonyms, 41, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94 homonymy, 9, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95 homophones, 90, 91, 95 hyponymy, 9, 89, 95

idioms, 9, 78, 79, 86, 103, 105, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 123, 131, 150, 170, 177 Indian loan words, 37 infixes, 40 inflections, 18, 42, 92, 138, 160, 162 Inner circle, 10 interjections, 54, 58, 60, 70


Italian words, 35

Latin words, 27, 28, 29 Lexical strata, 9, 129 lexicography, 10, 11, 15, 16, 21, 158, 162, 164, 165 lexicology, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 87 linguistic sign, 9, 70, 71, 72, 75

Portuguese words, 35 prefixation, 43 prefixes, 40, 43, 44, 45, 46, 49 prepositions, 22, 45, 51, 54, 57, 58, 104, 108, 111, 153

Recent loans, 38 reduplicatives, 51, 54 reference, 10, 23, 71, 73, 74, 75, 81, 86, 96, 102, 129, 133, 137, 156, 157, 162, 177 Richards, 71 root, 20, 39, 40, 43, 44, 51, 61, 64, 68, 88, 90 roots, 40, 43, 46, 50, 64, 139

markedness, 9, 75, 76 meaning, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 23, 28, 29, 30, 39, 40, 43, 44, 49, 55, 56, 58, 59, 60, 61, 63, 64, 66, 67, 68, 71, 73, 75, 78, 79, 80, 81, 83, 85, 86, 87, 88, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 103, 105, 109, 112, 113, 114, 116, 118, 125, 126, 127, 130, 135, 139, 142, 147, 149, 151, 156, 160, 161, 162, 165, 166, 170 meronymy, 9, 88, 89 metaphor, 9, 31, 95, 100, 101, 117, 128 metaphors, 99, 100, 101 metonymy, 9, 68, 95, 100, 101, 117 Middle English, 18, 28, 31, 35, 96, 156, 174 Modern English, 18, 19, 21, 28, 30, 63, 64, 65, 129, 157, 173, 176 morpheme, 39, 44 morphemes, 38, 39, 40, 41, 113 multi-word units, 103

Saussure, 9, 70, 71, 175 Scandinavian words, 29 semantic change, 9, 96, 97, 98, 99 Semiotic Triangle, 9, 71 sense, 9, 19, 40, 55, 58, 73, 74, 75, 77, 79, 80, 85, 86, 88, 91, 92, 93, 98, 100, 101, 103, 110, 111, 114, 117, 125, 133, 139, 143, 161 slang, 10, 75, 82, 83, 97, 146, 147, 148, 149, 152, 162, 166, 168, 169, 177 Spanish words, 24, 35 Standard English, 10, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 176 stem, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 52, 90 suffixation, 46, 63 suffixes, 40, 43, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 139 Synchronic lexical strata, 134 synonyms, 18, 75, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 85, 97, 127, 156, 159, 166, 169 synonymy, 9, 75, 80, 81, 83, 85, 157, 166, 168

native words, 22, 159, 160 neologisms, 9, 85, 130, 131, 132, 133 Nonce words, 69 Nouns, 41, 57, 59, 106, 113, 169

Ogden, 9, 71 Old English, 17, 22, 64, 92, 156, 158, 175 orthographic words, 13 outer circle, 10, 134, 136

trinominals, 103, 127

Verbs, 41, 59, 60, 65, 111, 124, 157, 176

phonological words, 12, 13 phrasal verbs, 103, 124, 125, 170 polysemy, 9, 56, 92, 93, 94, 95

word, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 38, 39,


40, 43, 44, 49, 50, 51, 53, 54, 56, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 68, 70, 71, 73, 74, 77, 78, 79, 82, 83, 85, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 103, 104, 105, 111, 113, 114, 125, 126, 127, 130, 132, 133,

134, 135, 136, 139, 140, 141, 148, 152, 153, 156, 161, 162, 165, 166, 167, 169 word meaning, 68, 70, 73 WORD MEANING, 70 Words as vocabulary items, 13 words from Dutch and German, 34