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2.2.2 Denotational and Connotational meaning of the word

Proceeding with the semantic analysis we observe that lexical meaning is not homogenous either and may be analysed as including denotational and connotational components.

As was mentioned above one of the functions of words is to denote things, concepts and so on. 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 physicist knows more about the atom than a singer does, or that an arctic explorer possesses a much deeper knowledge of what arctic ice is like than a man who has never been in the North. Nevertheless they use the words atom, Arctic, etc. and understand each other.

The second component of the lexical meaning is the connotational component, i.e. the emotive charge and the stylistic value of the word.

2.2.3 Emotive Charge

Words contain an element of emotive evaluation as part of the connotational meaning; e.g. a hovel denotes ‘a small house or cottage’ and besides implies that it is a miserable dwelling place, dirty, in bad repair and in general unpleasant to live in. When examining synonyms large, big, tremendous and like, love, worship or words such as girl, girlie; dear, dearie we cannot fail to observe the difference in the emotive charge of the members of these sets. The emotive charge of the words tremendous, worship and girlie is heavier than that of the words large, like and girl. This does not depend on the “feeling” of the individual speaker but is true for all speakers of English. The emotive charge varies in different word-classes. In some of them, in interjections, e.g., the emotive element prevails, whereas in conjunctions the emotive charge is as a rule practically non-existent.

The emotive charge is one of the objective semantic features proper to words as linguistic units and forms part of the connotational component of meaning. It should not be confused with emotive implications that the words may acquire in speech. The emotive implication of the word is to a great extent subjective as it greatly depends of the personal experience of the speaker, the mental imagery the word evokes in him. Words seemingly devoid of any emotional element may possess in the case of individual speakers strong emotive implications as may be illustrated, e.g. by the word hospital. What is thought and felt when the word hospital is used will be different in the case of an architect who built it, the invalid staying there after an operation, or the man living across the road.

2.2.4 Stylistic Reference

Words differ not only in their emotive charge but also in their stylistic reference. Stylistically words can be roughly subdivided into literary, neutral and colloquial layers.1

The greater part of the literаrу layer of Modern English vocabulary are words of general use, possessing no specific stylistic reference and known as neutral words. Against the background of neutral words we can distinguish two major subgroups – standard colloquial words and literary or bookish words. This may be best illustrated by comparing words almost identical in their denotational meaning, e. g., ‘parent - father - dad’. In comparison with the word father which is stylistically neutral, dad stands out as colloquial and parent is felt as bookish. The stylistic reference of standard colloquial words is clearly observed when we compare them with their neutral synonyms, e.g. chum - friend, rot - nonsense, etc. This is also true of literary or bookish words, such as, e.g., to presume (to suppose), to anticipate (to expect) and others.

Literary (bookish) words are not stylistically homogeneous. Besides general-literary (bookish) words, e.g. harmony, calamity, alacrity, etc., we may single out various specific subgroups, namely: 1) terms or scientific words such as, e g., renaissance, genocide, teletype, etc.; 2) poetic words and archaisms such as, e.g., whilome - ‘formerly’, aught - ‘anything’, ere - ‘before’, albeit - ‘although’, fare - ‘walk’, etc., tarry - ‘remain’, nay - ‘no’; 3) barbarisms and foreign words, such as, e.g., bon mot - ‘a clever or witty saying’, apropos, faux pas, bouquet, etc. The colloquial words may be subdivided into:

1) Common colloquial words.

2) Slang, i.e. words which are often regarded as a violation of the norms of Standard English, e.g. governor for ‘father’, missus for ‘wife’, a gag for ‘a joke’, dotty for ‘insane’.

3) Professionalisms, i.e. words used in narrow groups bound by the same occupation, such as, e.g., lab for ‘laboratory’, a buster for ‘a bomb’ etc.

4) Jargonisms, i.e. words marked by their use within a particular social group and bearing a secret and cryptic character, e.g. a sucker – ‘a person who is easily deceived’, a squiffer – ‘a concertina’.

5) Vulgarisms, i.e. coarse words that are not generally used in public, e.g. bloody, hell, damn, shut up, etc.

6) Dialectical words, e.g. lass, kirk, etc.

7) Colloquial coinages, e.g. newspaperdom, allrightnik, etc.


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