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Lexical Meaning

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Grammatical Meaning

Types Of Meaning


The two main types of meaning are the grammatical and lexical meanings.



We notice, for example, that word-forms such as tables, chairs, bushes though denoting widely different objects of reality have something in common. This common element is the grammatical meaning of plurality.

Thus, grammatical meaning may be defined as the component of meaning recurrent in identical sets of individual forms of different words. e.g.: the tense meaning in the word-forms of verbs (asked, spoke) or the case meaning in the word-forms of various nouns (the girl’s, the night’s).

In modern linguistic science it is commonly held that some elements of grammatical meaning can be identified by their distribution. The word-forms asks, speaks have the same grammatical meaning as they can all be found in identical distribution (e.g. only after the pronouns he, she but before such adverbs and phrases as yesterday, last month, etc.). It follows that a certain component of the meaning of a word is described when you identify it as a part of speech, since different parts of speech are distributionally different. The part-of-speech meaning of the words that possesses but one form, as prepositions, is observed only in their distribution (cf: to come in (here) and in (on, under) the table.



Unlike the grammatical meaning this component of meaning is identical in all the forms of the word. e.g.: the words write – writes – wrote – written possess different grammatical meanings of tense, person but in each of these forms we find the same semantic component denoting the process of putting words on the paper. This is the lexical meaning of the word which may be described as a linguistic unit recurrent in all the forms of the word and in all possible distributions of these forms.

The difference between the lexical and the grammatical component of meaning is not to be sought in the difference of the concepts underlying the two types of meaning rather in the way they are conveyed. The concept of plurality, for example, may be expressed by the lexical meaning of the word plurality. It may also be expressed in the forms of different words irrespective of their lexical meaning (girls, boards).

The interrelation of the lexical and the grammatical meaning and the role played by each varies in different word classes and even in different groups of words within one and the same class. In some parts of speech the prevailing component is the grammatical type of meaning. The lexical meaning of prepositions is, as a rule, relatively vague (to think of somebody, independent of somebody, some of the students). The lexical meaning of some prepositions is however comparatively distinct (in, on, under the table).

The lexical meaning of the word can be of two types: denotational and connotational.

One of the functions of the words is to denote things, concepts, etc. Users of a language cannot have any knowledge or thought of the objects or phenomena of the real world around them unless this knowledge is ultimately embodied in words which have essentially the same meaning for all speakers of that language. This is the denotational meaning, i.e. that component of the lexical meaning which makes communication possible. There is no doubt that a doctor knows more about pneumonia than a dancer does but they use the word and understand each other.

The second component of the lexical meaning is the connotational component which has some stylistic value of the word, the emotive charge.

Words contain an element of emotive evaluation as part of the connotational meaning. The word hovel denotes a small house or cottage and besides implies that it is a miserable dwelling place, dirty, in bad repair and unpleasant to live in.

Many connotations associated with names of animals, birds, insects are universally understood and used.

e.g.: calf (теля)– a young inexperienced person;

donkey (осел)– a foolish person;

monkey (мавпа)– a mischievous child;

serpent (змія)– a treacherous, malicious person.

But it should be mentioned here that different peoples structure the world differently. E.g.: the word bug has such figurative meanings in the English language as a crazy, foolish person and an enthusiast, the word shark means a swindler. In the Ukrainian language the words жук and акула do not have such meanings. Sometimes words in different languages can have different meanings. E.g.: the word gull means a fool, a swindler, in the Ukrainian language the word чайка can be applied to a woman or a girl. The word hawk possesses a negative meaning in the English language (a deceiver), the word сокіл is applied to a handsome and strong young man.

Metals possess well-established connotations, derived from their individual qualities. The word gold is associated with great worth. Iron and steel connote strength, brass - audacity, lead – sluggishness or weight.

Words may also contain an element of emotive force as part of the connotational meaning. This is in fact one of the objective semantic features proper to some words as linguistic units and forming part of the connotative value. Such are, for example, stylistically coloured words synonymous with their neutral counterparts: child – kid – kiddie; girl – lass – girlie – lassie.

In interjections this meaning is known to prevail.

We must naturally distinguish between the emotive element as inherent in some words forming part of the connotation and the subjective use of words that are not otherwise emotionally coloured.

In actual speech expressive nuances may be obtained in different ways. In various contexts, linguistic or situational, words devoid of any emotive element may be endowed with a distinct expressive function depending on the speaker’s attitude towards his interlocutor or to the thing spoken about.

There are some other types of lexical meaning. They are abstract and concrete (hope, love - window, book); primary and secondary (wall of the room - wall of misunderstanding); bookish and colloquial (young man - chap, lad).


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