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Archaic, obsolete and historic words

In every period of a literary language development one can find words which will show more or less apparent changes in their meaning or usage from full vigour, through a moribund state, to death, i. e. complete disappearance of the unit from the language. Some words of English and Ukrainian have ceased to be recognizable by the native speakers or understandable due to their semantic changes.

We shall distinguish three stages in the aging process of words: 1. The beginning of the aging process when the word becomes rarely used. Such words are called obsolescent, i.e. they are in the stage of gradually passing out of general use. In English to this category first of all belong morphological forms belonging to the earlier stages in the development of the language. In the English language these are the pronouns thou and its forms thee, thy and thine; the corresponding verbal ending -est and the verb-forms art, wilt (thou makest, thou wilt); the ending - (e)th instead of -(e)s (he maketh) and the pronoun ye. To this category belong many French borrowings which have been kept in the literary language as a means of preserving the spirit of earlier periods, e. g. a pallet (=a straw mattress); a palfrey (=a small horse); garniture (= furniture); to enplume ( = to adorn with feathers or plumes). Among the lexical units that belong to this group in Ukrainian such words as , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and many othercan be listed.

2.The second group of archaic words are those that have already gone completely out of use but are still recognized by the community: e. g. methinks ( it seems to me); nay ( - no); ( ), ( ). These words are called obsolete.

3. The third group, which may be called archaic proper, are words which are no longer recognizable in modern language, words that were in use in Old English Old Slavonic and which have either dropped out of the language entirely or have changed in their appearance so much that they have become unrecognizable, e. g. troth (faith); a losel (a worthless, lazy fellow); (), (), (), ().

There is still another class of words which is erroneously classed as archaic, historical words. They are historical terms and remain as terms referring to definite stages in the development of society and cannot therefore be dispensed with, though the things and phenomena to which they refer have long passed into oblivion e.g. yeoman, sword, , , etc. Historical words have no synonyms, whereas archaic words have been replaced by modern synonyms.

Archaic and historical words should not be confused with the words which before the time a certain literary work was written had not been obsolete yet but belonged to the generally recognized bulk of the vocabulary. In this respect, for example, the underlined words in the following abstract from I. Kotliarevskyys poem Eneida have no stylistic value:

 

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Archaic and historic words are primarily and predominantly used to create the realistic background to historical novels. Thus, the main function of archaisms, finds different interpretation in different novels by different writers. Being sparingly introduces into the texture of the literary work a few words and expressions more or less obsolescent in character are enough to convey the desired effect.

Besides the function just mentioned, archaic words and phrases have other functions found in other styles. In English they are frequently to be found in the style of official documents. Among the obsolescent elements of the English vocabulary preserved within the style of official documents, the following may be mentioned: aforesaid, hereby, therewith, hereinafter named. The function of archaic words and constructions in official documents is terminological in character. They are used here because they help to maintain that exactness of expression so necessary in this style. In Ukrainian archaisms are seldom used in the style of official documents. They are substituted by their neutral equivalents. The word combinations , , , etc may serve as an example of the archaic remainders in the Ukrainian official style.

Archaic words and particularly archaic forms of words are sometimes used for satirical purposes. The situation in which the archaism is used is not appropriate to the context. There appears a sort of discrepancy between the words actually used and the ordinary situation which excludes the possibility of such a usage. The low predictability of an archaism when it appears in ordinary speech produces the necessary satirical effect.

Here is an example of such a use of an archaic form. In Shaw's play How He Lied to Her Husband a youth of eighteen, speaking of his feelings towards a "female of thirty-seven" expresses himself in a language which is not in conformity with the situation. His words are:

 

Perfect love casteth off fear.

 

English archaic forms thee, thou, thine are employed as an efficient way to differentiate the existing in other languages forms of addressing .

Archaisms can be introduced into the characters speech with the purpose to create his/her image:

 

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Archaic words, word-forms and word-combinations are also used to create an elevated effect or to express authors positive attitude towards the character or towards the events described:

 

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Some archaic words due to their inner qualities (sound-texture, nuances of meaning, morphological peculiarities, combinatory power) may be revived in a given period of the development of the language. This re-establishing in the vocabulary, however, is generally confined to poetry and highly elevated discourse. For example in recent periods of the Ukrainian language oppression such competent and frequent lexical units as , , , , , , , , were declared archaic and banished from the vocabulary. They are being revived now. A lot of archaic elements still remain in different dialects of English and Ukrainian. A.C. Baugh, a historian of the English language, points out that in some parts of America one may hear "there's a new barn a-building down the road". The form a-building is obsolete, the present form being building (There is a house building = A house is being built). This form has undergone the following changes: on building > a-building > building; consequently, 'a-building' will sound obsolete in England but will be considered dialectal in the United States. This predetermines the stylistic meaning when used in American or British texts.

 

 

Barbarisms and foreignisms

 

In the vocabulary of any language there is a considerable layer of words called barbarisms. These are words of foreign origin which have not entirely been assimilated into the language. They bear the appearance of a borrowing and are felt as something alien to the native tongue. The borrowings played an important role in the development of the literary language, and the great majority of these borrowed words have formed part of the rank and file of the vocabulary. Most of what were formerly foreign borrowings are now, from a purely stylistic position, not regarded as foreign, for example Ukrainian words , , , , . But still there are some words which retain their foreign appearance to a greater or lesser degree. These words, which are called barbarisms, are, like archaisms, also considered to be on the outskirts of the literary language. Most of them have corresponding synonyms in target language; e. g. chic, bon mot, en passant, ad infinitum, alma mater, happy end, tete-a-tete and many other words and phrases.

It is very important for purely stylistic purposes to distinguish between barbarisms and foreign words proper. Barbarisms are words which have already become facts of the language, though they remain on the outskirts of the literary vocabulary. Foreign words, though used for certain stylistic purposes, do not belong to the vocabulary of the target language. They are not registered by dictionaries, except in a kind of addenda which gives the meanings of the most frequently used foreign words.

Both foreign words and barbarisms are widely used in various styles of language with various aims, which predetermine their typical functions. One of these functions is to supply local colour. They are introduced into the text in order to depict local conditions of life, facts and events, customs and habits.

 

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Another function of barbarisms and foreign words is to build up the stylistic device of non-personal direct speech or represented speech. The use of a word, or a phrase, or a sentence in the reported speech of a local inhabitant helps to reproduce his actual words, manner of speech and the environment as well. Thus in James Aldridge's The Sea Eagle "And the Cretans were very willing to feed and hide the Inglis?', the last word is intended to reproduce the actual speech of the local people by introducing a word actually spoken by them, a word which is very easily understood because of the root.

In the belles-lettres style, however, foreignisms are sometimes used as separate units incorporated in the narrative. The author makes his character actually speak a foreign language, by putting a string of foreign words into his mouth. These phrases or whole sentences are sometimes translated by the writer in a foot-note or the foreign utterance is explained in the text. But this is seldom done.

Here are examples:

 

Revelation was alighting like a bird in his heart, singing: "Elle est ton rêve! Elle est ton rêve!" (J. Galsworthy).

 

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poeta semper tiro![2] (. ).

 

Foreign words and phrases may sometimes be used to exalt the expression of the idea, to elevate the language. This is in some respect akin to the function of elevation mentioned in the chapter on archaisms. Words which we do not quite understand sometimes have a peculiar charm. This magic quality in words, a quality not easily grasped, has long been observed and made use of in various kinds of utterances, particularly in poetry and folklore. The tendency to create the elevated atmosphere of the text using foreign elements is characteristic for different languages. In English this function is performed by French words, in Ukrainian by the words from Old Slavonic which still constitute the majority of religious texts. The following example of T. Shevchenkos poem is the bright example of the above mentioned statement:

 

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In publicistic and belle-lettres styles foreignisms and barbarisms are used in their direct or indirect, figurative meaning and become the bearer of imagery information of the text.

 

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Very often the mixture of native and foreign words in one and the same text (so called macaronic language) is the efficient way to create the image of the character, to describe him/her through his/her speech or to reflect the authors attitude towards the situation described, like in the following Lina Kostenko s poem where the Russian words and allusions on Pushkins poem To the poet are artfully interwoven into the Ukrainian text:

 

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Neologisms

Neologism is generally defined as a new word or a new meaning for an established word.

The coining of new words generally arises first of all with the need to designate new concepts resulting from the development of science and also with the need to express nuances of meaning called forth by a deeper understanding of the nature of the phenomenon in question. This first type of newly coined words, i. e. those which designate newborn concepts, may be named terminological coinages. Created in the language of science they penetrate into the sphere of publicistic, official and colloquial styles and because of their frequent usage lose their stylistic value.

New lexical units are also the result of a search for a more economical, brief and compact form of utterance which proves to be a more expressive means of communicating the idea. This type of neologisms, i. e. words coined because their creators seek expressive utterance may be named stylistic coinages. In the language of belle-lettres and publicistic style alongside with their nominative function they depict the peculiarities of the epoch, make the utterance sound solemn and official or on the contrary ironic and sarcastic.

A considerable layer of stylistic neologisms appear in the publicistic style, mainly in newspaper articles and magazines and also in the newspaper style mostly in newspaper headlines:

 

Total Global Nightmare Financial Apocalypse. It's all the papers are going on about apart from the Daily Mail, which has had a small lesbian-shapedbee in its bonnet recently about Cynthia Nixon and Jodie Foster respectively. For goodness' sake! It's just lesbians. Get over it!

He will be performing his gig in real, human form on February 3 while gadgetologists translate his words and movements into a 3D computer version.

 

Among the examples of Ukrainian neologisms the words , , , , , , , , , etc. can be listed.

It is also worth mentioning that a lot of words which now form the neutral layer of vocabulary were once neologisms and had a definite author:

 

a Sh. Bivor , from French alons which means well

van Gelmont

Olena Pchilka

I. Verzhratskyy

I. Franko

F. Rable

Separate type of neologisms, so called nonce-words, are individual coinages, i.e. words created to suit one particular occasion. Nonce-words remain on the outskirts of the literary language and not infrequently remind us of the writers who coined them. They are created to designate a subjective idea or evaluation of a thing or phenomenon and generally become moribund. They rarely pass into the language as legitimate units of the vocabulary, but they remain in the language as constant manifestations of its innate power of word-building.

Here are some of these neologisms which, by the way, have the right to be called so because they will always remain neologisms, i.e. will never lose their novelty:

 

Let me say in the beginning that even if I wanted to avoid Texas I could not, for I am wived in Texas, and mother-in-lawed, and uncled, and aunted, and cousined within an inch of my life (J. Steinbeck).

 

The past participles mother-in-lawed, uncled, aunted and cousined are coined for the occasion on the analogy of wived and can hardly be expected to be registered by English dictionaries as ordinary English words.

Here are some more examples of English and Ukrainian nonce-words, which strike us by their novelty, force and aesthetic aspect.

 

There is something profoundly horrifying in this immense, indefinite not-thereness of the Mexican scene" (Huxley).

That was masterly. Or should one say mistressly" (Huxley).

Surface knowingness (J. Updike).

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The creation of new words is the constant process in the development of any language. New, emotional and expressive neologisms are being actively created in everyday speech, but remain unfixed and disappear from the language.

 

 

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