Thus, the meaning is a certain reflection in our mind of objects, phenomena, or relations that makes part of the linguistic sign - its so-called inner facet, whereas the sound-form functions as its outer facet.
There distinguished grammatical and lexical meanings within grammatical and lexical aspects of a language.
Grammatical meaningis defined as the expression in speech relationships between words. The grammatical meaning is more abstract and more generalized than the lexical meaning. It is recurrent in identical sets of individual forms of different words as, for example, the meaning of plurality.
The definitions of lexical meanings given by various authors, though different in detail, agree in the basic principle: they all point out that lexical meaning is realization of concept or emotion by means of a definite language system.
The conceptual content of a word is expressed in its denotative meaning. To denote means to serve as a linguistic expression for a concept or a name for an individual object. It is the denotational meaning that makes communication possible.
Connotationis the pragmatic communicative value the word receives depending on where, when, by whom, for what purpose and in what context it may be used. There are four main types of connotations: stylistic, emotional, evaluative and expressive/intensifying.
Stylistic connotation is what the word conveys about the speaker’s attitude to the social circumstances and the appropriate functional style (kill vs slay); evaluative connotation shows the speaker’s attitude (approval or disapproval) towards the object spoken of (clique vs group); emotional connotationconveys the speaker’s emotions (mommy vs mother); the degree of intensity (adore vs love; вітер-вітерець-вітрюган) is expressed by intensifying/expressive meaning.
The interdependence of connotative and denotative meanings is different for different types of connotations. Foe instance, emotional connotation comes into being on the basis of denotative meaning but in the course of time may substitute it by other types of connotations with general emphasis, evaluation and colloquial stylistic overtone. E.g.: terrific originally meant “frightening” but now it means “very good” (colloquial style) (terrific pleasure); or fucking in “You look fucking good today”.
Fulfilling the significative and communicative functions of the word the denotative meaning is present in every word and may be regarded as the central factor in the functioning of the language.
The expressive function of the language (the speaker’s feelings) and the pragmatic function(the effect of words upon the listener) are rendered in connotations. They are optional.
Connotation differs from implicational meaningof the word.Implicated meaning is the implied information associated with the word, with what the speaker knows about the referent. A wolf is known to be greedy and cruel (implicational meaning) but the denotative meaning of this word does not include these features. The denotative meaning of it is “a wild animal resembling a dog that kills sheep and sometimes even attacks men”. Its figurative meaning is derived from implied information from what we know about wolves –“a cruel greedy person”, also the adjective wolfish means “greedy”.
Most words convey several concepts and thus possess the corresponding number of meanings. A word having only one meaning is called monosemantic. A word having several meanings is called “polysemantic”and the ability of words to have more than one meaning is called polysemy. Most English words are polysemantic. The wealth of expressive resources of a language depends on the degree to which polysemy has developed in it. The process of enriching the vocabulary does not consist merely in adding new words to it, but in constant developing of polysemy. The system of meanings of any polysemantic word develops in the course of time, when some new meanings are added to the old ones, and some old ones are cast out. The general tendency with the English vocabulary at the modern stage of its development is to increase the total number of its meanings and in this way to provide a qualitative and quantitative growth of the language’s expressive resources. E.g.: the word stone has the following meanings:
1) hard compact nonmetallic material of which rocks are made;
3) the woody central part of such fruits as reach and plum;
4) jewellery, short for gemstone;
5) a unit of weight, used in Britain to express human body weight;
6) a calculous concretion in the body, as in the kidney.
In Ukrainian the word земля conveys the following meanings:
1) третя від Сонця планета;
2) верхній шар земної кори;
3) речовина темно-бурого кольору, що входить до складу земної кори;
6) країна, край, держава.
Polysemy is very characteristic of English vocabulary due to its monosyllabic character and the predominance of root words. The greater the frequency of the word, the greater number of meanings that constitute its semantic structure. There exists a law (Zipf’s law) that expresses the correlation between frequency, word length and polysemy: the shorter the word, the higher its frequency of use; the higher its frequency, the wider its combinability; the wider its combinability, the more meanings are realized in its contexts.
The word in one of its meanings is termed a lexico-semantic variant of this word.All the lexico-semantic variants of a word taken together form its semantic structure or semantic paradigm. No general or complete scheme of types of semantic meanings have so far been adopted by linguists. The following terms are used: meaning can be either direct or figurative; main or derived; primary and secondary; concrete and abstract; general or special; narrow and extanded.
Meaning is direct when it nominates the referent without the help of context, in isolation: meaning is figurative when the referent is named and at the same time characterized through its similarity with other objects, e.g.:
| Direct meaning
|| Figurative meaning
| Tough meat
|| Tough politician
|| Head of cabbage
|| Foot of a mountain
Primary meaning is the one existed in old variations of the language from which the later ones developed: table in Old English meant “a flat slab (плита) of stone or wood”, the derived meaning in Modern English is “a piece of furniture used for having a meal on its surface”.
Synchronically polysemy is understood as the coexistence of various meanings of one and the same word at a certain historical period of its development. In that case the problem of interdependence of individual meanings making up the semantic structure of a word must be investigated from the point of view of both their central/ peripheral meanings and main/derived ones. An objective criterion of determining the main or central meaning is the frequency of its occurrence in speech.
Polysemy is a phenomenon of language, not speech. As a rule the contextual meaning represents only one of the possible lexico-semantic variants of the word. So polysemy does not interfere with the communicative function of the language because the situation and the context cancel all the unwanted meanings.
There are several principles of analysis of the structure of meanings of poly-semantic words. According to the first one (different meanings analysis), the semantic structure of a word is considered as a system of meanings. Meaning I holds a kind of dominance over meanings II and III conveying the concept in the most general way. Meanings II and II are associated with special circumstances, aspects of existence of the same phenomenon. Meaning I (usually referred to as the main meaning) presents the centre of the semantic structure of the word holding it together. It is only through meaning I that meanings II and III (they are called secondary meanings) can be associated with one another though each separately is easily associated with meaning I. E.g.: meaning I of the word bar – any kind of a barrier preventing people from passing; meaning II is – the profession of a barrister, lawyer (to stand for the bar =to take exams for becoming a lawyer), meaning III – a counter or room in a hotel where drinks are served.
Yet, some semantic structures are arranged on a different principle. If we compare the meanings of the adjective dull we will not be able to find any generalized meaning covering and holding together the rest of the semantic structure:
Dull – 1) uninteresting, monotonous; 2) slow in understanding, stupid; 3) not clear or bright; 4) not sharp; 5) not active; 6) not loud or distinct; 7) seeing badly; 8) hearing badly.
All these meanings have an implication of some deficiency in common: that of colour, of intellect, interest, sharpness. The implication of insufficient quality, something lacking is clearly distinguished in each separate meaning. Such transformed scheme of the semantic structure of the adjective dull clearly shows that the centre holding together the complex semantic structure of this word is not one of the meanings but a certain componentthat can be easily singled out within each separate meaning. Each separate meaning can be subject to structural (componential) analysisin which it may be represented as sets of semantic components. In terms of componential analysis, the meaning of a word is defined as a set of elements of meaning, which are not part of the vocabulary of the language, but rather of theoretical elements, postulated in order to describe the semantic relations between the lexical units of a given language.
The leading semantic component in the semantic structure of a word is termed denotative component.The denotative component expresses the conceptual content of the word. But in order to give a more or less full picture of the meaning of a word, it is necessary to include in the scheme of analysis additional semantic components which are termed connotative components or connotations:
|| Denotative components
|| Connotative components
|| Widely known
|| For criminal acts or bad traits of character
|| Widely known
|| For special achievements in art, science etc.
| To glare
|| To look
|| Steadily, lastingly, in anger
| To glance
|| To look
|| Briefly, passingly
| To shiver
|| To tremble
|| Lastingly, with cold
| To shudder
|| To tremble
|| Briefly, with horror, disgust
The system of meanings of poly-semantic words evolves gradually, The older the word is, the better developed is its semantic structure. The normal pattern of a word’s semantic development from monosemy to a simple semantic structure encompassing only two or three meanings, with a further movement to an increasingly more complex semantic structure.