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Lexicology of the English Language

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This course of lexicology which forms a part of the curriculum for the English sections of linguistic departments of teacher-training colleges is intended for students of the third year of the day department. It includes 15 lectures and 12 seminars which cover the main themes of Modern English lexicology: wordbuilding, semantic changes, phraseology, borrowings, semasiology, neology, lexicography. The material for seminars includes topics to be discussed, test questions and lexical units to be analized. Lexical units for the analysis were chosen mainly among neologisms. There is also a brief list of recommended literature.

The aim of the course is to teach students to be word-conscious, to be able to guess the meaning of words they come across from the meanings of morphemes, to be able to recognize the origin of this or that lexical unit.




Language units



Compound words



Stone wall combinations


Seconadary ways of wordbuilding

Semantic changes



Metaphor and metonymy


Ways of forming phraseological units

Semantic classification of phraseological units

Structural classification of phraseological units

Syntactical classification of phraseological units


Classification of borrowings according to the borrowed aspect

Classification of borrowings according to the degree of assimilation

Classification of borrowings according to the language from which they were borrowed.

Romanic borrowings/ Latin, French, Italian, Spanish/.

Germanic borrowings /Scandinavian, German, Holland/ .

Russian borrowings.

Etymological doublets.


Word - meaning.

Lexical meaning - notion.



Synonyms .

Antonyms .

Local varieties of English.

British and American English.







































The term lexicology is of Greek origin / from lexis - word and logos - science/ . Lexicology is the part of linguistics which deals with the vocabulary and characteristic features of words and word-groups.

The term vocabulary is used to denote the system of words and word-groups that the language possesses.

The term word denotes the main lexical unit of a language resulting from the association of a group of sounds with a meaning. This unit is used in grammatical functions characteristic of it. It is the smallest unit of a language which can stand alone as a complete utterance.

The term word-group denotes a group of words which exists in the language as a ready-made unit, has the unity of meaning, the unity of syntactical function, e.g. the word-group as loose as a goose means clumsy and is used in a sentence as a predicative / He is as loose as a goose/.

Lexicology can study the development of the vocabulary, the origin of words and word-groups, their semantic relations and the development of their sound form and meaning. In this case it is called historical lexicology.

Another branch of lexicology is called descriptive and studies the vocabulary at a definite stage of its development.



The main unit of the lexical system of a language resulting from the association of a group of sounds with a meaning is a word. This unit is used in grammatical functions characteristic of it. It is the smallest language unit which can stand alone as a complete utterance.

A word, however, can be divided into smaller sense units - morphemes. The morpheme is the smallest meaningful language unit. The morpheme consists of a class of variants, allomorphs, which are either phonologically or morphologically conditioned, e.g. please, pleasant, pleasure.

Morphemes are divided into two large groups: lexical morphemes and grammatical (functional) morphemes. Both lexical and grammatical morphemes can be free and bound. Free lexical morphemes are roots of words which express the lexical meaning of the word, they coincide with the stem of simple words. Free grammatical morphemes are function words: articles, conjunctions and prepositions ( the, with, and).

Bound lexical morphemes are affixes: prefixes (dis-), suffixes (-ish) and also blocked (unique) root morphemes (e.g. Fri-day, cran-berry). Bound grammatical morphemes are inflexions (endings), e.g. -s for the Plural of nouns, -ed for the Past Indefinite of regular verbs, -ing for the Present Participle, -er for the Comparative degree of adjectives.

In the second half of the twentieth century the English wordbuilding system was enriched by creating so called splinters which scientists include in the affixation stock of the Modern English wordbuilding system. Splinters are the result of clipping the end or the beginning of a word and producing a number of new words on the analogy with the primary word-group. For example, there are many words formed with the help of the splinter mini- (apocopy produced by clipping the word miniature), such as miniplane, minijet, minicycle, minicar, miniradio and many others. All of these words denote obects of smaller than normal dimensions.

On the analogy with mini- there appeared the splinter maxi- (apocopy produced by clipping the word maximum), such words as maxi-series, maxi-sculpture, maxi-taxi and many others appeared in the language.

When European economic community was organized quite a number of neologisms with the splinter Euro- (apocopy produced by clipping the word European) were coined, such as: Euratom Eurocard, Euromarket, Europlug, Eurotunnel and many others. These splinters are treated sometimes as prefixes in Modern English.

There are also splinters which are formed by means of apheresis, that is clipping the beginning of a word. The origin of such splinters can be variable, e.g. the splinter burger appeared in English as the result of clipping the German borrowing Hamburger where the morphological structure was the stem Hamburg and the suffix -er. However in English the beginning of the word Hamburger was associated with the English word ham, and the end of the word burger got the meaning a bun cut into two parts. On the analogy with the word hamburger quite a number of new words were coined, such as: baconburger, beefburger, cheeseburger, fishburger etc.

The splinter cade developed by clipping the beginning of the word cavalcade which is of Latin origin. In Latin the verb with the meaning to ride a horse is cabalicare and by means of the inflexion -ata the corresponding Participle is formed. So the element cade is a combination of the final letter of the stem and the inflexion. The splinter cade serves to form nouns with the meaning connected with the procession of vehicles denoted by the first component, e.g. aircade - a group of airplanes accompanying the plane of a VIP , autocade - a group of automobiles escorting the automobile of a VIP, musicade - an orchestra participating in a procession.

In the seventieths of the twentieth century there was a political scandal in the hotel Watergate where the Democratic Party of the USA had its pre-election headquarters. Republicans managed to install bugs there and when they were discovered there was a scandal and the ruling American government had to resign. The name Watergate acquired the meaning a political scandal, corruption. On the analogy with this word quite a number of other words were formed by using the splinter gate (apheresis of the word Watergate), such as: Irangate, Westlandgate, shuttlegate, milliongate etc. The splinter gate is added mainly to Proper names: names of people with whom the scandal is connected or a geographical name denoting the place where the scandal occurred.

The splinter mobile was formed by clipping the beginning of the word automobile and is used to denote special types of automobiles, such as: artmobile, bookmobile, snowmobile, tourmobile etc.

The splinter napper was formed by clipping the beginning of the word kidnapper and is used to denote different types of crimesters, such as : busnapper, babynapper, dognapper etc. From such nouns the corresponding verbs are formed by means of backformation, e.g. to busnap, to babynap, to dognap.

The splinter omat was formed by clipping the beginning of the word automat (a cafe in which meals are provided in slot-machines). The meaning self-service is used in such words as laundromat, cashomat etc.

Another splinter eteria with the meaning self-service was formed by clipping the beginning of the word cafeteria. By means of the splinter eteria the following words were formed: groceteria, booketeria, booteteria and many others.

The splinter quake is used to form new words with the meaning of shaking, agitation. This splinter was formed by clipping the beginning of the word earthquake. Ther following words were formed with the help of this splinter: Marsquake, Moonquake, youthquake etc.

The splinter rama(ama) is a clipping of the word panorama of Greek origin where pan means all and horama means view. In Modern English the meaning view was lost and the splinter rama is used in advertisements to denote objects of supreme quality, e.g. autorama means exhibition-sale of expensive cars, trouserama means sale of trousers of supreme quality etc.

The splinter scape is a clipping of the word landscape and it is used to form words denoting different types of landscapes, such as: moonscape, streetscape, townscape, seascape etc.

Another case of splinters is tel which is the result of clipping the beginning of the word hotel. It serves to form words denoting different types of hotels, such as: motel (motor-car hotel), boatel (boat hotel), floatel (a hotel on water, floating), airtel (airport hotel) etc.

The splinter theque is the result of clipping the beginning of the word apotheque of Greek origin which means in Greek a store house. In Russian words: , , the element corresponding to the English theque preserves the meaning of storing something which is expressed by the first component of the word. In English the splinter theque is used to denote a place for dancing, such as: discotheque, jazzotheque.

The splinter thon is the result of clipping the beginning of the word marathon. Marathon primarily was the name of a battle-field in Greece, forty miles from Athens, where there was a battle between the Greek and the Persian. When the Greek won a victory a Greek runner was sent to Athens to tell people about the victory. Later on the word Marathon was used to denote long-distance competitions in running. The splinter thon(athon) denotes something continuing for a long time, competition in endurance e.g. dancathon, telethon, speakathon, readathon, walkathon, moviethon, swimathon, talkathon, swearthon etc.

Splinters can be the result of clipping adjectives or substantivized adjectives. The splinter aholic (holic) was formed by clipping the beginning of the word alcoholic of Arabian origin where al denoted the, kohl - powder for staining lids. The splinter (a)holic means infatuated by the object expressed by the stem of the word , e.g. bookaholic, computerholic, coffeeholic, cheesaholic, workaholic and many others.

The splinter genic formed by clipping the beginning of the word photogenic denotes the notion suitable for something denoted by the stem, e.g. allergenic, cardiogenic, mediagenic, telegenic etc.

As far as verbs are concerned it is not typical of them to be clipped that is why there is only one splinter to be used for forming new verbs in this way. It is the splinter cast formed by clipping the beginning of the verb broadcast. This splinter was used to form the verbs telecast and abroadcast.

Splinters can be called pseudomorphemes because they are neither roots nor affixes, they are more or less artificial. In English there are words which consist of two splinters, e.g. telethon, therefore it is more logical to call words with splinters in their structure compound-shortened words consisting of two clippings of words.

Splinters have only one function in English: they serve to change the lexical meaning of the same part of speech, whereas prefixes and suffixes can also change the part-of-speech meaning , e.g. the prefix en- and its allomorph em can form verbs from noun and adjective

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