Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 15. Nr. Spetember 2004

4.9. Transkulturelle Stereotype in den Kunst- und Literaturwerken
HerausgeberIn | Editor | Éditeur: Tamara Fessenko (Tambov/Russland)

Buch: Das Verbindende der Kulturen | Book: The Unifying Aspects of Cultures | Livre: Les points communs des cultures

Lexical meaning of the word: problems of realization.

Alina Fessenko (Tambov, Russia)


In the process of nomination only the lexical meaning of a word is formed, unlike the grammatical meaning which is not always conditioned. We can define that reason for the generation of such units as to hand, to water, to face is the nomination of their original nouns. Their existence is caused by the nominative productivity and the syntactical function in the expression that is a characteristic of it. But such units as «coke» that means either Coca-Cola or coal derivative or cocaine can be decoded correctly only in the context.

So to be on coke in the expression they are on coke might denote either they are drinking Coca-Cola or they have solid-fuel heating or they use cocaine. Despite the fact that to be on coke is the derivative from coke, its meaning in the new function is comparatively simple to explain. The example A Buy Nothing Day is similar. It's easy to decode in spite of the fact that the meaning of the components differs in a certain way from the original one and demonstrates some combination which is not typical.

Though in the abstract we don't make much of the fact that the context itself influences the function of a unit, it should be stressed that it's the context that is important for the decoding of verbalized information. The meaning or its change, intended by a producer of expression, can be illuminated by its context. G. V. Kolshansky defined the problem and the ways of solving it as follows: "Every word has the typical context that is predetermined by it, but not the other way round as is sometimes thought...". In this case the context is given the role of turning some standard into its varieties. On account of that every abstract standard of speech can be transformed and validated by: "its sound from the new stylistic point of view" (Kolshansky, 1980,47, 49).

From what has been said above we can derive the conclusion that the perceived meaning is decoded mainly with the help of context. If it is so, we can consider the context generating or changing its meaning. Though the role of the context is rather essential, we have to consider it as not so important, taking into account N.Chomsky's words: "Reference to context in phrase structure rules is restricted to rules such as that assign lexical items to their syntactical categories"(Chomsky 1986: 81)

The contextual predetermination of the syntactical form, in our opinion, is displayed in its orientation towards macro- and microstructure of the expression (in other words, the so called "wide" and "narrow" context).

The category of foreseeing realized through the correlativeness and valency of language units in the structure of expression is relevant. The syntactical connections are considered from the point of view of how they reflect the features of lexical units. The syntactical features of a phrase mainly reflect the meaning of the words that are the central components of these phrases. Correlation between the difference of meaning of a word and the difference in syntactical construction including that word is also important.

A person's brain represents the meaning of word and reflects it grammatically (Jackendoff,1994).

The context as the result of language activity is the source of information about the performed valencies of language units. The study of the features of valency and the features of context are united. Word valency is the word's feature in language memory, opportunities for semantic-grammatical combination with other words and substitution of the syntactical function in a sentence. Grammatical valency represents the word's ability to be syntactically situated and to be combined with the appropriate parts of a sentence.

Lexical valency is the word's ability to be combined with other words semantically in grammatical valency. Besides, according to Mjachin's point of view, the type component in the word's meaning should be used as the basis for the theory of valency (Mjachin, 1974,152-153).

The type component of meaning is the reserve of forming new combinations, not fixed in expressions before. It is the potential source of the functional reorientation of language units. It creates an opportunity for a word to be combined with other words.

The following combinations are rather difficult to imagine in use, aren't they? A clever chair; a memory table, etc.

Language memory blocks are formed by using combinations from prior language experience. So a word is able to be combined with other words that have already been used in context. There is no contradiction between usual and occasional valencies (occasional valency is based on person's ability to produce new expressions). Occasional valency is based on language experience but the combination has not been produced before.

From this point of view the type component of meaning gives a splendid opportunity to display occasional valency. Besides a word's relevant and type features and different components, a word acquires some contextual components of its structure. This idea can be well illustrated by the following: the situation when the narrator introduces a new character under a certain name in the novel. First we can distinguish him only by his name, later we are able to do this by his features, his behavior, speech, etc. The sounding of the name is contextual, as it is concretized by the semantics of the context. When two words are combined their meanings are mutually restricted. It causes the re-formation of both the entire combination and its separate elements. As a result lexical meanings of adjoining words are mutually restricted. So the denotate can be defined as a certain imagination of what's meant by this language expression as a whole. In such situations words can extend their valencies, that is they can be used in new microtexts, in order to connect with other signs to form in a way great values (Losev, 1983,132). All the main models of the contemporary English word-building are fixed in microtext. They are the result of functional reorientation. Word-building is one of the basic ways of the functional extension of language. It is connected with a person's communicative activity. Many word-building processes based on functional reorientation, can be explained by means of an expression. They are: conversion, functional transposition, lexicalization of plural forms of nouns, substantivation, adverbialization, adjectivation, pronominalization, forming new words with the help of prepositions and postpositions, syntactic word-building. These can be defined as morphological-syntactic and the syntactic types of word-building.

This is determined by the fact that such a functional reorientation concerns syntactical structures. Its fixation is therefore not possible on the morphological level of language system alone. Word-building models are activated according to the necessity of organizing expression itself that predetermines the generation of new dictionary units despite the fact that there are a lot of words to express each meaning in the lexical system of language.

Native-speakers often create new lexical units. The reason is the necessity of verbalizing a meaning that hasn't been reduced to a word before or not fully according to the producer's intention. Contextual words are very often the result of word-creating.(contextual words are units that create and realize their potential only in a certain context).

The unusual syntactic function of a language unit can also be considered contextual. This is based on the fact that the syntactic function of a certain unit without any morphological adjustment can be specified in the context. The functional reorientation of nominative units might be understood by taking into account various "narrow" contexts, while communicating within one "wide context. The external form of any English word in itself conveys no meaning. It is not the form but the meaning of a word, it's own semantics that limits acceptable varieties of a word usage. The syntactic form of a word doesn't set any formal indexes characterizing these words as they are used in an expression.

Such special features which are given to a word syntactically are reflected in its lexical form and semantic structure. Words in a contemporary English sentence acquire various qualities in accordance with their syntactical form and their functions. Thus the syntactic function turns the syntactic index of a word into the lexical one. The relationships between words so positioned within a narrow context get more complicated on account of the fact that some words perform their basic function in the sentence, the function of others is an unusual one. This case complicates the process of decoding a message, e.g.: "Then I started horsing around a little bit (J. Salinger); He had chosen not to think about money, knowing that it was un-American, natural and in a way ridiculous not to think about money...(J.Krantz); Well, you little so-and-so (Ibid); I kept thinking about that beat-up old straw basket they went around collecting money with which they were not teaching school (Ibid)".

In all these sentences the unusual function of the underlined words combines with the traditional functions of other components the microtext consists of.

Lexical unit might in some way influence context. It can be oriented to the following:

a) The choice of lexical unit according to its semantic features.

b) The choice of semantical position of a word within a context.

The first is more typical of synthetic languages, the second one of analytical languages. In modern English the morphological features of a word take a back seat in context unlike some functional peculiarities connected with semantical and morphological-syntactic indexes.

Thus the comprehension of the expression Thoughts father ideas depends on the comprehension of the predicate. In other words, the regular syntagmatic word connections, predetermining its functional peculiarities are realized in context. The most important function of the context for clearing up the meaning is, in E.Mednikova's opinion, that it predetermines the semantics, pragmatics and grammar realized in it. Paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations of a word can't be considered in isolation, as all its syntagmatic relationships predetermine what paradigm it belongs to. In its syntagmatic relationships a word is also realized as a paradigmatic unit. This is the basis of the functional reorientation of nominative units.

Each seme of a word can be syntagmatically realized in contexts with the help of its actualization with adjusted words. The paradigmatic inequality in rights is reflected in its syntagmatics. The more important a seme is for a word, the sooner it will be realized in context (Norman,1994,87). This realization is not always performed by using a person's communicative experience :"It turns out to be psychologically impossible to hear or to see two words together, without any attempt to comprehend them in a way"(Norman,1994,49).

Even if two words are not connected with each other originally, a speaker makes the syntagmatic chain in his mind to reproduce it in a similar context.

So a beginner as well as a native speaker has to combine the semantic and the syntactic components in the structure of the meaning, based on his/her language experience.

As far as the structure of logical meaning is concerned, we should pay attention not only to how a certain language unit is used, but also to how it is used from the point of view of certain contextual adjustments. This raises the importance of the functional and the contextual aspects of word meaning.

It would be rather interesting to observe this mechanism from the point of view of the one who has to comprehend the statement, e.g.: a cracking good story causes a problem when decoding this expression, as the learner's experience is based mainly on some information he gets from dictionaries. In this case they are not enough. The position of "cracking" in the expression points out that the word functions as an adverb of degree. It helps to make clear its logical meaning, and the wider context helps to define the personal attitude, and some connotations the word introduces. When we are aware of the situation we can comprehend the textual meaning "behind the text", so we can define the contextual meaning of the language unit.

The function of language is to represent language units on the basis of their potential forms and the intercommunication existing in language system. Being aware of system forms and their combinations means their occasional meanings or their functions in an expression can be construed.

Similar to grammatical categories that can be either objective or subjective, lexical units are also divided into objective and subjective units - language signs of full meaning and functional language signs.

So a person has some ideal representation of reality with the help of his imaginative world, some definitions or fancies. Thus the objective nature of a language unit is in representing the reality, expressing the two sides of a sign, defining some concepts and their combinations. To define the meaning of a word it's of great importance to make clear its connection with the person using such language units, and the relationships between the words themselves in the lexical system of language and in a certain sentence.

Lexical meaning is a complex thing based on the procedure of reflecting the reality in a person's mind.

The choice of the necessary nominative units is always performed within a limited quantity of units and their forms. On account of that some variants of separate forms are possible.

Despite the fact that the amount of lexical indices is limited in a person's mind, the realization of meaning in expression can be considered unlimited.

It might be also underlined that the communicative realization of any language unit functions is in their potential. These potential abilities are embodied in the communication first and then they become a part of language system.

© Alina Fessenko (Tambov, Russia)


1) N.N.Boldyrev "Kognitivnaja semantika: kurs lekcij po anglijskoj filologii" Tambov: Izd-vo Tamb. Uiv-ta, 2000.-123s.

2) 2) Alefirenko N.F.:" Znachenie I koncept// AlefirenkoN.F.:" Spornye problemy semantiki". Volglgrad: Peremena, 1999, s.59-67.

3) Arutjunova N.D.:"Diskurs//Lingvisticheskij Enciklopedicheskij slovar. M.:Sov. Encikl., 1990. s.136-137

4) Kravchenko A.V. "Jazyk I vosprijatije. Kognitivnye aspekty jazykovoj kategorizacii."-Irkutsk, 1996.

5) Crystal David. "The Penguin Dictionary of Language. Second Edition.-Penguin Books, 1999.

6) Lingvisticheskij Enciklopedicheskij slovar.-M.,1990.

4.9. Transkulturelle Stereotype in den Kunst- und Literaturwerken

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