Different types of lexical meaning

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Different types of lexical meaning

Figures of speech are stylistic devices that make use of a figurative meaning of the language elements and thus create a vivid image.

Dictionary meaning is the meaning which is registered in the language code as an easily recognized sign for an abstract notion designating a certain phenomenon or object.

Words in context may acquire additional lexical meanings not fixed in dictionaries, what we have called contextual meanings. The latter may sometimes deviate from the dictionary meaning to such a degree that the new meaning even becomes the opposite of the primary meaning.

Transferred meaning is practically the interrelation between two types of lexical meaning: dictionary and contextual meaning. The contextual meaning will always depend on the dictionary meaning to a greater or lesser extent.

The interaction between the primary dictionary meaning and a contextual meaning may be maintained along different lines:

1) the author identifies two objects which have nothing in common but in which he sees a function, a property, a feature that may make the reader perceive these two objects as identical. That is metaphor, based on identification;

2) the author finds it possible to substitute one object for another on the grounds that there is some kind of interdependence or interrelation between the two corresponding objects. That is metonymy, based on substitution;

3) a certain property of an object is used in an opposite or contradictory sense. That is irony, based on contrary concepts.


Metaphor, types

Metaphordenotes transference of meaning based on resemblance or on associated likeness between two objects.

Not only objects can be compared in a metaphor but also phenomena, actions or qualities:

He's not a man, he is just a machine.

The leaves fell sorrowfully.

Some books are to be tasted, others swallowed.

A metaphor expresses the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar: eg. Love is a rose.

Metaphors can be classified according to their degree of unexpectedness:

1) Metaphors, which are absolutely unexpected, i.e. are quite unpredictable, are called genuine:

Juliet is the sun.

No man is an island.

2) Metaphors, which are commonly used in speech and therefore are sometimes even fixed in dictionaries as expressive means of the language. They are trite or dead metaphors. They had been created in poetry, in the Bible, in imaginative prose and have gained wide occurrence and become known to everybody: eg.: t he seeds of evil, a flight of imagination.

That gymnast is a diamond in the rough.

According to their structure metaphors may be:

1) simple, containing a work or phrase:

Man cannot live by bread along.

2) complex (prolonged or sustained) - when a broader context in required to understand it, or when the metaphor includes more than one element of the text.

A sustained metaphor may consist of trite metaphors expressing or implying a certain logical development of ideas, and yet the objects mentioned in each of them pertain to different semantic spheres. The general impression is incongruous, clumsy and comical:

Mr. Pickwick bottled up his vengeance and corked it


The verb to bottle means to keep in check, to restrain. To cork down is used in direct meaning thusreviving the almost dead metaphor.

Genuine metaphors are mostly to be found in poetry and emotive prose. Trite metaphors are generally used as expressive means in newspaper articles, in oratorical style and even in scientific language.



Metonymy is based on a different type of relation between the dictionary and contextual meanings, a relation based not on iden­tification, but on some kind of association connecting the two concepts which these meanings represent.

Metonymy used in language-in-action, i.e. contextual meton­ymy, is genuine metonymy and reveals a quite unexpected substitu­tion of one word for another, or one concept for another, on the ground of some strong impression produced by a chance feature of the thing. Here is another example of genuine metony'my:

"Then they came in. Two of them, a man with long fair mous­taches and a silent dark man... Definitely, the moustache and I had nothing in common."

the types of relation metonymy

1. A concrete thing used instead of an abstract notion. In this case the thing becomes a symbol of the notion, as in "The camp, the pulpit and the law For rich men's sons are free." (Shelley)

" 2. The container instead of the thing contained: • The hall applauded.

3. The relation of proximity, as in:

"The round game table was boisterous and happy." (Dickens)

4. The material instead of the thing made of it, as in: "The marble spoke." ,

5. The instrument which the doer uses in performing the action instead of the action or the doer himself, as in:

"Well, Mr. Weller, says the gentPmn, you're a very good whip, and can do what you like with your horses, we know

Polysemy, Zeugma and Pun

Polysemy is a category of lexicology and as such belongs to language-as-a-system. In actual everyday Speech polуsemy vanishes unless it is deliberatly retained for certain stylistic purposes. A context that does not seek to produce any particular stylistic effect generally materializes but one definite meaning. when a word begins to manifest an interplay between the primary and one of the derivative meanings we are confronted with a stylistic device.

Zeugma is the use of a word in the same grammatical but dif­ferent semantic relatiohs to two words in the context. Zeugma is a effective device to maintain the purity of primary meaning when the two meanings clash. Ex. "Dora, plunging at once into privileged intimacy and Into the middle of the room".

The pun is another st.device based on the interaction of 2 well-noun meanings of a word or a phrase. Puns are often used in riddles and jokes, for example, in this riddle:

Ex. What is the difference between a schoolmaster and an engine-driver?

Pun is more independent.but the pun mustdepend on a context.



The epithet is a stylistic device based on the interplay of emotiv,e and logicaT meaning in an attributive word/phrase or even sentenc§ used to characterize an object and pointing out to the reader, and f re-quently imposing on him, some of the properties or features of the ob-ject with the aim of giving an individual perception and evaluation of these features or properties. The epithet is markedly subjective and evaluative Semantically, epithets may be divided into 2 groups: 1) associated. Associated epithets are those which point to a feature which the essential to the objects their described: the idea expressed in the epithet is to

a certain extent inhearent in the concept of the object.

Example.Carefully attention, Pfantastic..

2) Unassociated epithets are attributes used to characterize the object by adding a feature not inherent in it a feature which may be so unex­pected as to strike the reader by its novelty.

for instance, 'heart­burning smile', 'bootless cries', 'sullen earth'

There are stable word combinations:example-bright face,fixed-true love.

Compositional structure epithets may be 1)simple(a silvary love),2)compound(carly headed),3)phrase-epithet

(say-nothing-to-me,or,I will-contradict you expression of his face)

The reversed epithet is compose of 2 nouns link in an phrase.

Ex. The shadow of a smile he brud of a brother.


Oxymoron and Antonomasia


Oxymoron is a combination of two words (mostly an adjective and a noun or an adverb with an adjective) in which the meanings of the two clash, being opposite in sense, for example:

'low skyscraper', 'sweet sorrow', 'nice rascal',

Ant.(говорящие имена-telling names) The interplay between the logical and nominal meanings of a word is call-ed antonomasia. As in other stylistic devices based on the inter-acttotr't^-tettal^meaiilngs, the two kinds of meanings must be realized in the word simultaneously. If only one meaning is materialized in the context, there is no stylistic device, as in hooligan, boycott and other examples given earlier. Antonomasia is a much favoured device in the belles-lettres style. In Russian literature this device is employed by many of our classic writers. It will suffice to mention such names as Vralman, Molchalin, Korobochka and Sobakevich to illustrate this efficient device for character­izing literary heroes, a device which is now falling out of use.


Simile and periphrasis

The intensification of some one feature of the concept in question is realized in a device called simile. Ordinary comparison and simile must not be confused. They represent two diverse processes. "Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare" (Byron), we have a simile. 'Maidens' and 'moths'.Similies have formal elements in their structure.Connective words:example such as,like ,as,if,seen.

Ex.Fresh as a rose. Such similyes often term into chiche.

Periphrasis.This device has a long history. It was widely used in the Bible and in Homer's Iliad. As a poetic device it was very popular in Latin poetry.P. is a device which denotes the use of a longer phrase instead of a shoter and playner one. Pbe devided into:1)logical-is baced on 1 of the inhearent properties or perhaps a passing feature of the obgect.

Ex.instruments of distraction(weapon)

2)figurative is based on the metaphor

Ex. To tie the nodd(to get married)


Hyperbole and meiosis

Hyperbolehas the function of intensifying one certain property of the object. It can be defined as a deliberate overstatement or exaggeration of a feature essential to object or phenomenon: He was so tall that I was not sure he had a face. Hyperbole may lose its quality as a stylistic device trough frequent repetition and becomes a unit of the language as a system, reproduced in speech in its unaltered

form: a thousand pardons, scared to death. In colloquial speech, expressions of this kind are the

natural outcomc of emotions or just habit. No one notices the exaggerations.

An expressive hyperbole is exaggeration on a big scale. There must be something illogical in it, something unreal, utterly impossible, contrary to common sense: One after another those people lay down on the ground to laugh - and two of them died, (падали на землю от смеха и двое из них умерли). One of survivors remarked. It is evident that illogical hyperboles are employed for humoristic purposes.

Meiosis or understatement.

Meiosisis a logical and psychological opposite of hyperbole. It is lessening, weakening, reducing the real

characteristics of the object of speech: It will cost you a pretty penny (expensive). – Это влетит тебе в копеечку. It is meiosis only when the speaker understates) normal or more than normal things: Little town of New-York; a few lights of Broadway. Otherwise it is a hyperbole. Meiosis has various forms of formal expression: I kind of liked it; I am not quite too late. Understatement (meiosis) is typical of the British

manner of speech, in opposition to American where hyperbole prevails.


Euphemism and litotes

Euphemismis a variety of periphrasis, a more gentle or favorable name used for an object or phenomenon so as toavoid undesirable or unpleasant associations: To die - to pass away, to join the majority, to kick the bucket; to have a bee in a bonnet. Euphemistic expressions may have the structure of a sentence: China is a country where you often get different accounts) of the same thing. There are euphemisms replacing taboo - words, words forbidden in use in a community: The Devil = the Evil One (Дьявол); Hell = The Kingdom of Darkness (Ad); Upper and low extremities - верхние и нижние конечности; То go to Bedford (like to go to Oxford) - пойти

спать. The most common cases of using euphemism are:Disability and handicap: idiot, imbecile – mentally challenged, with an intellectual disability, learning difficulties lame —* crippled —*• handicapped —• disabled —> physically challenged —> differently abled; Religion: God and Jesus - gosh and gee; hell, damnation, and the devil - what the dickens; what the heck, get the heck out. Death and murder: to die - to have gone to a better place, was taken to Jesus, met his Maker. Warfare: the word "pacification" is sometimes usedto refer to activities designed to make life more comfortable for civilians, the term can also be used to imply intervention by coercive force, including warfare; — armed conflict; aggression; action; tension; unrest; crisis are used in many respects for battles, skirmishes, prolonged wars, and undeclared wars. Job titles: CPA - car parking attendant; sanitation engineer - janitor, transparent-wall maintenance officer - window cleaner, rodent officer - a rat-catcher, cemetery operative - a gravedigger.


Litotesdenotes a specific form of meiosis. It is expressing an idea by means of negating the opposite idea: With his assistance (с его помощью) -> without his assistance (без его помощи) -> not without his assistance (не без его помощи). The result is double negation, it is affirmative but the meaning is weakened, it produces a meiotic effect. The negation may be doubled in different ways: Negative prefix:

Jeff is in the line of unillegal graft. Negative antonym: Good - not had.Negative particle: A ruddy face completed the not unhandsome picture.

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