Classification of synonyms

The only existing classification system for synonyms was established by Academician V. V. Vinogradov, the famous Russian scholar. In his classification system there are three types of synonyms: ideographic(which he defined as words conveying the same concept but differing in shades of meaning), stylistic (differing in stylistic characteristics) and ab­solute (coinciding in all their shades of meaning and in all their stylistic characteristics).

A more modern and a more effective approach to the classification of synonyms may be based on the definition describing synonyms as words differing in connotations. It seems convenient to classify connotations by which synonyms differ rather than synonyms themselves. It opens up possibilities for tracing much subtler distinctive features within their semantic structures.

I. The connotation of degree or intensitycan be traced in such groups of synonyms as to surprise - to astonish - to amaze - to astound;

to satisfy - to please — to content - to gratify - to delight - to exalt;

to shout - to yell - to bellow - to roar;

to like - to admire - to love - to adore - to worship.

Some words have two and even more connotative components in their semantic struc­tures. In the above list the synonymic groups headed by to satisfy and to like contain words which can be differentiated not only by the connotation of intensity but also by the con­notation of manner.Each of them describes a feeling of a different type, and not only of different intensity.

II. In the group of synonyms to stare - to glare — to gaze — to glance — to peep – to peer, all the synonyms except to glance denote a lasting act of looking at somebody or something, whereas to glance describes a brief, passing look. These synonyms may be said to have a connotation of durationin their semantic structure.

Other examples are: to flash (brief) - to blaze (lasting); to shudder (brief) - to shiver (lasting); to say (brief) - to speak, to talk (lasting).

All these synonyms have other connotations besides that of duration.

III. The synonyms to stare - to glare - to gaze are differentiated from the other words of the group by emotive connotations,and from each other by the nature of the emotion they imply.

In the group alone - single - lonely - solitary, the adjective lonely also has an emotive connotation.

She was alone implies simply the absence of company, she was lonely stresses the feeling of melancholy and desolation resulting from being alone. A single tree on the plain states plainly that there is (was) only one tree, not two or more. A lonely tree on the plain gives essentially the same information, that there was one tree and no more, but also creates an emotionally coloured picture.

In the group to tremble - to shiver - to shudder - to shake, the verb to shudder is fre­quently associated with the emotion of fear, horror or disgust, etc. (e. g. to shudder with hor­ror) and therefore can be said to have an emotive connotation in addition to the two others.

One should be warned against confusing words with emotive connotations and words with emotive denotative meanings, e. g. to love — to admire - to adore - to worship;

angry -furious - enraged; fear - terror - horror.

In the latter, emotion is expressed by the leading semantic component whereas in the former it is an accompanying, subsidiary characteristic.

IV. The evaluative connotation conveysthe speaker's attitude towards the referent, labelling it as good or bad. So in the group well-known -famous - notorious - celebrated, the adjective notorious bears a negative evaluative connotation and celebrated a positive one. Cf.: a notorious murderer, robber, swindler, coward, lady-killer, flirt, but a celebrated scholar, artist, singer, man-of letters.

In the group to produce - to create - to manufacture - to fabricate, the verb to cre­ate characterises the process as inspired and noble. To manufacture means "to produce in a mechanical way without inspiration or originality". So, to create can be said to have a positive evaluative connotation, and to manufacture a negative one.

V. The causative connotationcan be illustrated by the examples to sparkle and to glitter, one's eyes sparkle with positive emotions and glitter with negative emotions. However, this connotation of to sparkle and to glitter seems to appear only in the model Eyes + Sparkle/Glitter.

The causative connotation is also typical of the verbs to shiver and to shudder, in whose semantic structures the cause of the act or process of trembling is encoded: to shiver with cold, from a chill, because of the frost; to shudder with fear, horror, etc.

To blush and to redden represent similar cases: people mostly blush from modesty, shame or embarrassment, but usually redden from anger or indignation. Emotive connota­tion can easily be traced in both these verbs.

VI. The connotation of mannercan be singled out in some groups of verbal synonyms. The verbs to stroll - to stride - to trot - to pace - to swagger — to stagger - to stumble all denote different ways and types of walking, encoding in their semantic structures the length of pace, tempo, gait and carriage, purposefulness or lack of purpose. The verbs to peep and to peer also have this connotation in their semantic structures: to peep = to look at smb./smth. furtively, by stealth; to peer = to look at smb./smth. with difficulty or strain.

VII. The verbs to peep and to peer are connotations of duration and manner.But there is some other curious peculiarity in their semantic structures.

One peeps at smb./smth. through a hole, crack or opening, from behind a screen, a half-closed door, a newspaper, a fan, a curtain, etc. It seems as if a whole set of scenery were built within the word's meaning. Of course, it is not quite so, because "the set of scenery" is actually built in the context, but, as with all regular contexts, it is intimately reflected in the word's semantic structure thus demonstrating theconnotation of attend­ant circumstances.

This connotation is also characteristic of to peer: one peers at smb./smth. in dark­ness, through the fog, through dimmed glasses or windows, from a great distance; a short­sighted person may also peer at things. So, in the semantic structure of to peer are encoded circumstances preventing one from seeing clearly.

VIII. The synonyms pretty, handsome, beautiful art more or less interchangeable. Yet, each of them describes a special type of human beauty: beautiful is mostly associated with classical features and a perfect figure, handsome with a tall stature, a certain robustness and fine pro portions, pretty with small delicate features and a fresh complexion. This connotation may be defined as the connotation of attendant features.

IX. Stylistic connotationsstand somewhat apart for two reasons. Firstly, some scholars do not regard the word's stylistic characteristic as a connotative component of itssemantic structure. Secondly, stylistic connotations are subject to further classification, namely: colloquial, slang, dialect, learned, poetic, terminological, archaic, cf:

(Meal). Snack, bite (coll.), snap (dial.), repast, refreshment, feast (formal).

These synonyms, besides stylistic connotations, have connotations of attendant features.

Snack, bite, snap all denote a frugal meal taken in a hurry; refreshment is also a light med\\ feast is a rich or abundant meal.

(Girl).Girlie (coll.), lass, lassie (dial.), bird, birdie, jane, fluff, skirt (si), maiden (poet.), damsel (arch.).

(To leave). To be off, to clear out (coll.), to beat it, to hoof it, to take the air (si), to depart, to retire, to withdraw (formal).

According to whether the difference is in denotational or connotational component synonyms are classified into ideographicand stylistic.


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