The identity of unit problem (Проблема тождества слова).

When one word ends the other begins? It’s a problem in English.

The nature of the English is one more problem which complicates the matter:

1) English is an analytical language

2) words are invariable and syntactic relations between them are shown by word order

3) English tends to bring its units into complex. F.e.: merry-go-round; sit-by-the-fire; no-nothing; forget-me-not.


1) strict compounds.

Hyphen – дефис.

Let sleeping dog lie – 4 words. Let-sleeping-dog-lie – 1 word.

2) loose compounds. F.e.: blue bottle; speech sound.

Different scholars treat this problem differently:

- Some scholars treat the first component as an adjective formed from the noun. In this case the whole complex is a word combination “adjective + noun”. F.e. stone wall.

- The first component is a noun. It means that the whole complex is a compound word because there is such a rule in English that two nouns in common case are always connected by a preposition or conjunction. This problem hasn’t yet been solved. It is “the stone wall” problem.

Scholars try to work out different criteria to solve the problem:

- If it is possible to add to this complex the word “very”, it is a word combination. If it is not, it is a word. But this criteria doesn’t always work (f.e. black market).

- If it is possible to transform this complex into an of-phrase or a phrase with another preposition, it is a compound word. F.e. stone wall – a wall of stone; armchair – a chair with arms. But this criteria doesn’t always work (f.e. toothpick – a pick for tooth – it is impossible).

- If this complex is pronounced with one stress, it is a word (‘blue bottle, ‘blackboard), If each component is stressed, it is a word combination (‘black ‘board). But this criteria doesn’t always work. Compound adjectives in English have two stresses, but they are words, not word combinations (‘blue-‘eyed).

- Nomination criterion. If two elements of this complex express a single notion, they become a word.

3) cases of phonetic, morphological and lexical variation

3.1 phonetic variation – can be accentual (разница в ударении)

3.2 morphological variation takes place when different derivational morphemes are used. F.e. academic – academical, morphologic – morphological; but historic – historical, economic – economical.

3.3 lexical variation – appears as the result of different styles, formal and informal, spoken and written. F.e. examination – exam, laboratory – lab.


Language as a system of signs.

Saussure was the first who spoke about Language as a system of signs.

Sapir: language is a purely human and non instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of a system of symbols.

Saussure also proposed the necessity of a special science that would study the life of signs within society. Saussure called this science semiology. Semiology is a very general science and linguistics is only part of it.

The science really appeared in the beginning of the 20th century and it was called semiotics. The founders of the science are considered to be Charles Pierce and Charles Morris.

Semiotics is a science which studies signs, sign phenomena and sign using behavior.

The scheme of linguistic communication (The transmitter – receiver circuit):

Person A C + S
Person B C + S
C – concept; S – sound image  

The process of communication is the exchange of linguistic signs. The linguistic sign units a concept and sound image.

The scheme of linguistic sign:

Concept = Signified (означаемое) = the plane of content (план-содержание, Hjelmslev)
Sound image = Signifier (означающее) = the plane of expression (план-выражение, Hjelmslev)

Trends in semiotics:

1) lingua semiotics – studies both natural and artificial languages

2) ethno semiotics – studies sign using behavior of people in connection with their culture

3) bio semiotics – studies signs produced by humans and animals

4) art semiotics – studies how different massages can be conveyed with the help of signs in art (ballet, music)

5) computer semiotics


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