Semantic Characteristics and Collocability

Almost all words of Anglo-Saxon origin belong to very important semantic groups. They include most of the auxiliary and modal verbs (shall, will, must, can, may,etc.), pronouns (I, you, he, my, his, who,etc.), prepositions (in, out, on, under,etc.), numerals (one, two, three, four,etc.) and conjunctions (and, but, till, as,etc.). Notional words of Anglo-Saxon origin include such groups as words denoting parts of the body (head, hand, arm, back,etc.), members of the family and closest relatives (farther, mother, brother, son, wife),natural phenomena and planets (snow, rain, wind, sun, moon, star,etc.), animals (horse, cow, sheep, cat),qualities and properties (old, young, cold, hot, light, dark, long),common actions (do, make, go, come, see, hear, eat,etc.), etc.

Most of the native words have undergone great changes in their semantic structure, and as a result are nowadays polysemantic, e.g. the word fingerdoes not only denote a part of a hand as in Old English, but also 1) the part of a glove covering one of the fingers, 2) a finger-like part in various machines, 3) a hand of a clock, 4) an index, 5) a unit of measurement. Highly polysemantic are the words man, head, hand, go,etc.

Most native words possess a wide range of lexical and grammatical valency. Many of them enter a number of phraseological units, e.g. the word heelenters the following units: heel over heador head over heels -upside down; cool one's heel - be kept waiting; show a clean pair of heels, take to one's heels run away, turn on one's heels -turn sharply round, etc.

Derivational Potential

The great stability and semantic peculiarities of Anglo-Saxon words account for their great derivational potential. Most words of native origin make up large clusters of derived and compound words in the present-day language, e.g. the word woodis the basis for the formation of the following words: wooden, woody, wooded, woodcraft, woodcutter, woodworkand many others. The formation of new words is greatly facilitated by the fact that most Anglo-Saxon words are root-words,

New words have been coined from Anglo-Saxon simple word-stems mainly by means of affixation, word-composition and conversion.

Some native words were used as components of compounds so often that they have acquired the status of derivational affixes (e. g. -dom, -hood, -ly, over-, out-, under-),others are now semi-affixational morphemes..

What has been said above shows that the native element, has been playing a significant role in the English language. To fully estimate the importance of the native element in English, it is essential to study the role of English derivational means and semantic development in the life of borrowings, which will be dwelt upon in the sections below.


Causes and Ways of Borrowing

In its 5 century long history recorded in written manuscripts the English language happened to come in long and close contact with several other languages, mainly Latin, French and Old Norse (or Scandinavian). The great influx of borrowings from these sources can be accounted for by a number of historical causes. Due to the great influence of the Roman civilisation Latin was for a long time used in England as the language of learning and religion. Old Norse was the language of the conquerors who were on the same level of social and cultural development and who merged rather easily with the local population in the 9th, 0th and the first half of the th century. French (to be more exact its Norman dialect) was the language of the other conquerors who brought with them a lot of new notions of a higher social system - developed feudalism, it was the language of upper classes, of official documents and school instruction from the middle of the th century to the end of the 4th century.

In the study of the borrowed element in English the main emphasis is as a rule placed on the Middle English period. Borrowings of later periods became the object of investigation only in recent years. These investigations have shown that the flow of borrowings has been steady and uninterrupted. The greatest number has come from French. They refer to various fields of social-political, scientific and cultural life. A large portion of borrowings (4%) is scientific and technical terms.

The number and character of borrowed words tell us of the relations between the peoples, the level of their culture, etc. It is for this reason that borrowings have often been called the milestones of history. Thus if we go through the lists of borrowings in English and arrange them in groups according to their meaning, we shall be able to obtain much valuable information with regard to Englands contacts with many nations. Some borrowings, however, cannot be explained by the direct influence of certain historical conditions, they do not come along with any new objects or ideas. Such were for instance the words air, place, brave, gayborrowed from French.

The number and character of borrowings do not only depend on the historical conditions, on the nature and length of the contacts, but also on the degree of the genetic and structural proximity of languages concerned. The closer the languages, the deeper and more versatile is the influence. This largely accounts for the well-marked contrast between the French and the Scandinavian influence on the English language. Thus under the influence of the Scandinavian languages, which were closely related to Old English, some classes of words were borrowed that could not have been adopted from non-related or distantly related languages (the pronouns they, their, them,for instance); a number of Scandinavian borrowings were felt as derived from native words (they were of the same root and the connection between them was easily seen), e.g. drop(AS.) - drip(Scand.), true (AS.) - tryst(Scand.); the Scandinavian influence even accelerated to a certain degree the development of the grammatical structure of English.

Borrowings enter the language in two ways: through oral speech (by immediate contact between the peoples) and through written speech (by indirect contact through books, etc.).

Oral borrowing took place chiefly in the early periods of history, whereas in recent times written borrowing gained importance. Words borrowed orally (e.g. L. inch, mill, street)are usually short and they undergo considerable changes in the act of adoption. Written borrowings (e.g. Fr. communiqué, belles-lettres, naiveté)preserve their spelling and some peculiarities of their sound-form, their assimilation is a long and laborious process.

Criteria of Borrowings

Though borrowed words undergo changes in the adopting language they preserve some of their former peculiarities for a comparatively long period. This makes it possible to work out some criteria for determining whether the word belongs to the borrowed element.

In some cases the pronunciation of the word (strange sounds, sound combinations, position of stress, etc.), its spelling and the correlation between sounds and letters are an indication of the foreign origin of the word. This is the case with waltz (G.),. psychology(Gr.), soufflé(Fr.), etc. The initial position of the sounds [v], [d], [] or of the letters x, j, zis a sure sign that the word has been borrowed, e.g. volcano (It.), vase(Fr.),vaccine(L.), jungle(Hindi), gesture (L.),giant (OFr.), zeal(L.), zero(Fr.), zinc(G.), etc.

The morphological structure of the word and its grammatical forms may also bear witness to the word being adopted from another language. Thus the suffixes in the words neurosis (Gr.) and violoncello (It.) betray the foreign origin of the words. The same is true of the irregular plural forms papyra(from papyrus, Gr.), pastorali(from pastorale, It.), beaux (from beau, Fr.), bacteria, (from bacterium, L.) and the like.

Last but not least is the lexical meaning of the word. Thus the concept denoted by the words ricksha(w), pagoda(Chin.) make us suppose that we deal with borrowings.

These criteria are not always helpful. Some early borrowings have become so thoroughly assimilated that they are unrecognisable without a historical analysis, e.g. chalk, mile (L.), ill, ugly (Scand.), enemy, car (Fr.), etc. It must also be taken into consideration that the closer the relation between the languages, the more difficult it is to distinguish borrowings.

Assimilation of Borrowings

It is now essential to analyse the changes that borrowings have undergone in the English language and how they have adapted themselves to its peculiarities.

All the changes that borrowed elements undergo may be divided into two large groups.

On the one hand there are changes specific of borrowed words only. These changes aim at adapting words of foreign origin to the norms of the borrowing language.

The suffixes-ar, -or, -atorin early Latin borrowings were replaced by the highly productive Old English suffix -ere,as in L. Caesar>OE. Casere, L. sutor>OE. sūtere.

It is very important to discriminate between the two processes - the adaptation of borrowed material to the norms of the language and the development of these words according to the laws of the language.

© 2013 wikipage.com.ua - wikipage.com.ua |