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Seminar 3 Semasiology

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3. /Sem3_3.PolysyLexConcept.pdf
4. /Seminar 3.doc
Seminar 3 Semasiology

Seminar 3


Topics for discussion

  1. Language as a specific system of signs:

  • the notion of a sign;

  • semiotics as the general science of signs;

  • properties of the linguistic sign.

  1. Semasiology as a branch of linguistic semantics:

  • basic notions of semasiology;

  • semasiology vs onomasiology;

  • methods of semasiological analysis.

  1. Theories of word meaning:

  • approaches to the definition of word meaning;

  • typology of meaning.

  1. Semantic change. Causes and types of semantic change.

  2. Polysemy in Modern English, its nature and types. The semantic structure of polysemantic words.

  3. Homonymy in Modern English: its nature, sources and classification.

Assigned Readings

  1. Arnold I. V. The English Word. Лексикология современного английского языка: Учеб. для ин-тов и фак. иностр. яз. / И. В. Арнольд – 3-е изд., перераб. и доп. – М. : Высш. шк., 1986. – Р. 50-57.

  2. Ganetska L. V. Lexi-Maker: Modern English Lexicology in Tables, Figures and Exercises. – К. : Ленвіт, 2004. – P. 77-82.

  3. Ginzburg R. S. et al. A Course in Modern English Lexicology. Лексикология английского языка: Учеб. для ин-тов и фак. иностр. яз. / Р. 3. Гинзбург, С. С. Хидекель, Г. Ю. Князева и А. А. Санкин. – 2-е изд., испр. и доп. – М. : Высш. школа, 1979. – C. 13-46.

  4. Rayevska N. N. English Lexicology. Лексикологія англійської мови. – K. : Вища школа, 1977. – P. 116-182.

  5. Харитончик З. А. Лексикология английского языка. – Минск: Высшая школа, 1992. – С. 25-69.

This seminar will enable students:

    • to extend their knowledge of the semiotic nature of language;

  • to engage in the analysis of the semantic structure of English words using various methodological tools;

    • to develop their understanding of the notion of the semantic change, its causes and types;

    • to analyze homonyms with regard to their sources, origin, typology and stylistic functions.


Task 1. Give the definition of the linguistic terms below. Transcribe the terms:

semiotics, semiosis, semantics, semasiology, onomasiology, a sign, a semiotic triangle, meaning, componential analysis, a seme, a semantic marker, a semantic distinguisher, semantic change, semantic derivation, metaphor, metonymy, generalisation of meaning, specialisation of meaning, amelioration of meaning, pejoration of meaning, a euphemism, political correctness, polysemy, a lexico-semantic variant, homonymy, a homonym, a homograph, a homophone, context.

Task 2. Using an explanatory dictionary, carry out componential analysis of these groups of words. Determine their semantic markers and semantic distinguishers. Define types of connotation.

  1. smell – odour – pong – scent – aroma – stink – fragrance – reek;

  2. whizzkid – prodigy – precocious – bright;

  3. famous – eminent – notorious – legendary;

  4. to eat – to dine – to guzzle – to gobble – to munch – to nibble;

  5. to look – to stare – to gaze – to gape – to scowl – to glare – to ogle.

Task 3. Using an etymological dictionary, comment on the semantic development of the words below:

holiday, notorious, ready, voyage, queen, picture, saloon, gossip, ketchup, censure.

Task 4. What linguistic phenomenon does this excerpt from the poem ‘Burnt Norton’ by T. S. Eliot illustrate? Give linguistic evidence to your answer.

Words strain,

Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,

Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,

Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,

Will not stay still.

Task 5. Explain the logic of the transference of meaning in the words and word-groups given below. Group them in accordance with the type.

a shark (‘a person who has an unusual ability in a particular field’), to count heads, sandwich, the heart of a city, an Adonis, to have an eye for fashion, brave hearts, to fish for a compliment, a gateway to success, an Othello, flourishing black market, naked facts, Fleet Street, to burn with desire, a Don Quixote, factory hands, a fox (‘clever and good at deceiving people’), Wellingtons, to digest the information, to have a word with sb.

Task 6. Give direct words to the euphemisms below. What can be the logical reasons for using them?

  1. to be in the family way, to be in an interesting position, to have a bun in the oven, to have a watermelon on the vine;

  2. without a roof over one’s head, to be displaced;

  3. intoxicated, tired and emotional, disciple of Bacchus, elevated;

  4. to be long in the tooth, mutton dressed as lamb, to be no spring chicken, to make old bones;

  5. to be given time to other interests / commitments, golden handshake, to spend more time with your family;

  6. to be economical with truth, to paint a picture, to speak with forked tongue, a stranger to the truth;

  7. as God made him, to wear a smile, in one’s birthday suit, au naturel;

  8. people of size, quantitatively challenged, well-fleshed, to go to the fat farm, devoted to the table.

Task 7. What linguistic phenomenon are the following jokes based upon: polysemy or homonymy? Give reasons for the choice made.

  1. Caller: I wonder if I can see your mother, Willie. Is she engaged?

Willie: Engaged! She’s married!

  1. Judge: Have you ever appeared as a witness before?

Mr Brown: Yes, Your Honour!

Judge: In what suit?

Mr Brown: In my blue serge.

  1. Customer: I would like a new book, please?

Shop-assistant: Something light?

Customer: That doesn’t matter. I have my car with me.

  1. Pam: Hasn’t Harry ever married?

Tom: No, and I don’t think he intends to, because he's studying for a bachelor's degree.

  1. It’s tough to pay £5 a pound for meat. But it’s tougher when you pay only £3.

  2. Ann: Now that we’re engaged, dear, you’ll give me a ring, won’t you?

Sam: Yes, dear, certainly. What’s your telephone number?

  1. Mike: Let me present my wife to you.

John: Many thanks, but I have one.

Task 8. Identify the linguistic phenomenon the groups of words below illustrate. Establish their types and define the difference in their meanings.

August – august; a well – well; a sight – a site – to cite; He – he; to bow – a bow; friends – friend’s – friends’; lean – to lean; air – an heir; Italic – italic; to desert – a desert; Lent – lent; a night – a knight; a minute – minute; a suite – sweet; to lead – lead; a jam – jam; Polish – polish, a pine – to pine.

Task 9. Read the extract from the article Forget Fame: Eurovision Crown No-Names from Azerbaijan taken from the weekly magazine The Time and do the tasks that follow.

In the run-up to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, celebrity contestants dominated the headlines and the bookies’ odds tables. But during the grand finale European voters bypassed all the celebrity hype in favour of Ell & Nikki – two unknowns from Azerbaijan singing a ballad about the madness of love.

Although critics dismiss Eurovision as a cultural eyesore for its garish outfits and lyrics seemingly written with Google Translate, it remains the world’s most watched non-sporting event, drawing more than 120 million viewers annually. For the devoted fans who make pilgrimages to these finals, and for the contestants dreaming of pan-European stardom, Eurovision is practically their religion, its songs their holy scripture.

But look past the glitter and sequins, and the contest transforms into a barometer of contemporary Europe. This year’ Belarusian contestant delivered a patriotic ode to her motherland called “I Love Belarus,” an effort to give the nation something to sing about following months of mass demonstrations against the embattled President <...>.

At Eurovision, though, European voters sent the popular, outspoken group packing in the semifinals. Perhaps they should have taken a cue from the Azeris, who ignored politics in favour of good old-fashioned schmaltz – the cornerstone of any strong Eurovision ballad. Their song “Running Scared” tells the story of a man and woman frightened by their mutual obsession. “I’m running, I’m scared tonight / I’m running, I’m scared of life / I’m running, I’m scared of breathing / ‘Cause I adore you”. After the victory, it looks like Europe adores them too.

  1. Providing linguistic evidence to your answer, find words in the text possessing the same:

  • grammatical meaning;

  • lexical meaning.

  1. Using an explanatory dictionary, carry out componential analysis of the words schmaltz, scripture, garish, hype, to adore. Define types of connotation.

  2. Study the semantic structure of the polysemantic words embattled and to draw. Determine what meanings of these words are realised in the excerpt.

  3. Define the type of transfer of meaning in a barometer of contemporary Europe and find more examples of the same process in the fragment. Give linguistic evidence to your answer.

  4. Analyse the context in which the verb to make is used in the fragment. Give examples to illustrate other possible contexts for this verb and define its meaning.

  5. Name homonyms to the words their, a cue, too, and define their types.

Self-Study Work

Reproductive level

Creative level

Innovative level

Tasks and exercises // Методичні рекомендації для самостійної роботи з курсу лексикології англійської мови для студентів ІІІ курсу / Укл. Л.Ф. Бойцан. – К.: Вид. Центр КНЛУ, 2000. – C. 14-20.

Choose one of the following problems, read and summarize the main points in 120-150 words:

1) Polysemy and Ambiguity. In Zalizniak A.A. The Phenomenon of Polysemy and Ways to Describe It // The Cognitive Basis of Polysemy. – Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2007. – P. 93-100.

2) Meaning Superposition and Ways to Represent Polysemy (ibid.). – P.100-110.

3) The Meaning of a Lexical Item as a Realisation of Its Conceptual Schema (ibid.). – P.110-118.

The scans are attached!

Study the semantic structure of 10 educational / linguistic / environmental / art / sports / economic or political terms of your choice and write a report on your research (approximately 3 pages).

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