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Word-groups vs. phraseological units
Words put together to form lexical units make phrases or word-groups.
The largest two-facet lexical unit comprising more than one word is the word-group observed on the syntagmatic level of analysis. The degree of structural and semantic cohesion of word-groups may vary.
Functionally and semantically inseparable word-groups like at least, point of view, by means of, take place are phraseological units.
Semantically and structurally more independent word-groups a week ago, man of wisdom, take lessons, kind to people are defined as free or variable word-groups or phrases
Valency of words
The two main linguistic factors to be considered in uniting words into word-groups are:
1) the lexical valency of words
2) the syntactic valency of words.
Words are used in certain lexical contexts, i.e. in combination with other words.
The noun question is often combined with such adjectives as vital, pressing, urgent, disputable, delicate, etc.
This noun is a component of a number of other word-groups, e.g. to raise a question, a question of great importance, a question of the agenda, a question of the day, and many others.
Lexical valency is the possibility of lexical-semantic connections of a word with other words.
Lexical collocability is the realisation in speech of the potential connections of a word with other words.
Lexical valency acquires special importance in case of polysemy as through the lexical valency different meanings of a polysemantic word can be distinguished, e.g.
heavy weight (safe, table, etc.),
heavy snow (storm, rain, etc.),
heavy drinker (eater, etc.),
heavy sleep (disappointment, sorrow, etc.),
heavy industry (tanks, etc.), and so on.
These word-groups are called collocations or such combinations of words which condition the realization of a certain meaning
The range of the lexical valency of words is linguistically restricted by the inner structure of the English word-stock.
Though the verbs lift and raise are treated as synonyms, only raise is collocated with the noun question.
The verb take may be interpreted as ‘grasp’, ’seize’, ‘catch’, etc. but
only take is found in collocations with the nouns examination, measures, precautions, etc.,
only catch in catch smb. napping
and grasp in grasp the truth.
The restrictions of lexical valency of words may manifest themselves in the lexical meanings of the polysemantic members of word-groups.
The adjective heavy, e.g., is combined with the words food, meals, supper, etc. in the meaning ‘rich and difficult to digest’.
But not all the words with the same component of meaning can be combined with this adjective *heavy cheese or *heave sausage.
The lexical valence of correlated words in different languages is different: pot flowers – комнатные цветы
Syntactic valency -
the aptness of a word to appear in different syntactic structures.
The minimal syntactic context in which words are used when brought together to form word-groups is described as the pattern of the word-groups.
E.g., the verb to offer can be followed by the infinitive (to offer to do smth) and the noun (to offer a cup of tea).
The verb to suggest can be followed by the gerund (to suggest doing smth) and the noun (to suggest an idea). The syntactic valency of these verbs is different.
The adjectives clever and intelligent are seen to possess different syntactic valency as clever can be used in word-groups having the pattern:
Adjective-Preposition at+Noun: clever at mathematics, whereas intelligent can never be found in exactly the same word-group pattern.
The syntactic valency of correlated words in different languages is not identical, cf.: in English to influence a person, a decision, a choice (verb +noun) - in Russian влиять на человека, на решение, на выбор (verb+ preposition+noun).
The individual meanings of a polysemantic word may be described through its syntactic valency:
Keen + N: keen sight, hearing, etc.
Keen + on + N: keen on sports, tennis, etc.
Keen + V(inf): keen to know, to find out, etc.
Thus word-groups may be regarded as minimal syntactic (or syntagmatic) structures that operate as distinguishing clues for different meanings of a polysemantic word.
INTERDEPENDENCE OF STRUCTURE AND MEANING IN WORD-GROUPS
Syntactic structure and pattern of word-groups is the description of the order and arrangement of member-words in word-groups as parts of speech.
The syntactic structure of the word-group an old woman, a blue dress, clever man, red flower is an adjective and a noun, i.e. A+N;
The syntactic structure of the word-groups wash a car, read books, take books, build houses – as a verb and a noun, i.e. V+N.
The syntactic structure of the word-groups a touch of the sun, a matter of importance - as a preposition and a noun, i.e. N+prp+N.
V+N: (to build houses),
V+prp+N: (to rely on somebody),
V+N+prp+N: (to hold something against somebody),
V+N+V(inf.): (to make somebody work),
V+ V(inf.): (to get to know), and so on.
Syntactic structure of word-groups
Word-groups may be described through the order and arrangement of the component members:
To see sth – verbal-nominal group;
To see to sth – (If you see to something that needs attention, you deal with it) verbal-prepositional-nominal, etc.
Word-groups may be classified according to their headwords into:
Nominal: red flower;
Adjectival: kind to people;
Verbal: to speak well, etc.
The head is not necessarily the component that occurs first in the word-group: very great bravery, bravery in the struggle the noun bravery is the head whether followed or preceded by other words.
Thus the structure of word-groups may also be described in relation to the head-word.
In this case it is usual to speak of the pattern but not of formulas.
E.g., the patterns of the verbal groups to read a book, to wash a car are to read + N, to wash + N; to rely on somebody – to rely+on+N.
Syntactic pattern implies the description of the structure of the word-group in which a given word is used as its head.
The interdependence of the pattern and meaning of head-words can be easily perceived by comparing word-groups of different patterns in which the same head-word is used.
Three patterns with the verb ‘get’ as the head-word represent three different meanings of this verb:
get+N (get a letter, information, money, etc.);
get+ +to +N (get to Moscow, to the Institute, etc.);
get+N+V(inf.) (get somebody to come, to do the work, etc.).
Notional member-words are habitually represented in conventional symbols whereas prepositions and other form-words are given in their usual graphic form. This is accounted for by the fact that individual form-words may modify or change the meaning of the word with which it is combined, as in, e.g.:
anxious+for+ N (anxious for news),
anxious+about+N (anxious about his health).
the difference in the meaning of the head-word is conditioned by a difference in the pattern of the word-group in which this word is used
Syntactic patterns are classified into:
1. predicative word-groups have a syntactic structure similar to that of a sentence, they comprise the subject and the predicate, e.g. he went, John works.
2. non-predicative word-groups do not comprise the subject and the predicate and may be subdivided into
a) subordinative (e.g. red flower, a man of wisdom);
b) coordinative (e.g. women and children, do or die).
Classification of word-groups
have one central member functionally equivalent to the whole word-group.
In the word-group blue dress, friendly to people, the head-words are the noun dress and the adjective friendly correspondingly.
According to their central members
word-groups may be classified into:
a) nominal groups or phrases (blue dress),
b) adjectival groups (friendly to people),
c) verbal groups (to sing well), etc.
2. EXOCENTRIC WORD-GROUPS
have no central component and the distribution of the whole word-group is different from either of its members.
For instance, the distribution of the word-groups side by side, at first, grow smaller is not identical with the distribution of their component-members, i.e. the component-members are not syntactically substitutable for the whole word-group.
TYPES OF MEANING OF WORD-GROUPS
The lexical meaning –
the combined lexical meaning of the component words, e.g. a blind man may be described denotationally as the combined meaning of the words blind and man.
In most cases the lexical meanings of the word-group predominates over the lexical meanings of its components, e.g. blind alley, blind date.
Polysemantic words are used in word-groups only in one of their meanings. These meanings of the component words in such word-groups are mutually interdependent and inseparable. Semantic inseparability of word-groups treats them as self-contained lexical units.
The structural meaning
of the word-group is the meaning conveyed mainly by the pattern of arrangement of its components, e.g., such word-groups as school grammar and grammar school are semantically different because of the difference in the pattern of arrangement of the component words.
The structural meaning is the meaning expressed by the pattern of the word-group.
Interrelation of lexical and structural meaning in word-groups
The lexical and structural components of meaning in word-groups are interdependent and inseparable. The structural pattern in all the day long, all the night long, all the week long in ordinary usage and the word-group all the sun long is identical. The generalised meaning of the pattern ‘a unit of time’.
Replacing day, night, week by another noun the sun structural meaning of the pattern does not change. The group all the sun long functions semantically as a unit of time. But the noun sun included in the group continues to carry the semantic value or the lexical meaning that it has in word-groups of other structural patterns (cf. the sun rays, African sun, etc.).
It follows that the meaning of the word-group is derived from the combined lexical meanings of its constituents and is inseparable from the meaning of the pattern of their arrangement.
a factory hand − ‘a factory worker’
a hand bag − ‘a bag carried in the hand’.
Though the word hand makes part of both its lexical meaning and the role it plays in the structure of word-groups is different which accounts for the difference in the lexical and structural meaning of the word-groups under discussion.
Thus, the meaning of the word-group is derived from the combined lexical meanings of its constituents and is inseparable from the meaning of the pattern of their arrangement.
Polysemantic and monosemantic patterns
Word-groups represented by different structural formulas are as a rule semantically different because of the difference in the grammatical component of meaning.
Structurally identical patterns, e.g. heavy+N, may be representative of different meanings of the adjective heavy which is perceived in the word-groups heavy rain (snow, storm), cf. heavy smoker (drinker), heavy weight (table), etc. all of which have the same pattern — heavy+N.
Structurally simple patterns are as a rule polysemantic, i.e. representative of several meanings of a polysemantic head-word, whereas structurally complex patterns are monosemantic and condition just one meaning of the head-member.
The simplest verbal structure V+N and the corresponding pattern are as a rule polysemantic (compare, e.g. take+N (take tea, coffee); take the bus, the tram, take measures, precautions, etc.), whereas a more complex pattern, e.g. take+to+N is monosemantic (e.g. take to sports, to somebody).
MOTIVATION IN WORD-GROUPS
A word-group is lexically-motivated if the combined lexical meaning of the group is deducible from the meaning of its components, e.g. red flower, heavy weight, take lessons.
If the combined lexical meaning of a word-group is not deducible from the lexical meanings of its constituent components, such a word-group is lexically non-motivated, e.g. red tape (official bureaucratic methods) take place (occur).
The degree of motivation can be different. Between the extremes of complete motivation and lack of motivation there are innumerable intermediate cases.
E.g., the degree of lexical motivation in the nominal group black market is higher than in black death, but lower than in black dress, though none of the groups can be considered completely non-motivated.
Completely motivated word-groups are correlated with certain structural types of compound words.
Verbal groups having the structure V+N, e.g. to read books, to love music, etc., are habitually correlated with the compounds of the pattern N+(V+er) (book-reader, music-lover);
adjectival groups such as A + +prp+N (e.g. rich in oil, shy before girls) are correlated with the compounds of the pattern N+A, e.g. oil-rich, girl-shy.
Seemingly identical word-groups are sometimes found to be motivated or non-motivated depending on their semantic interrelation. Thus, apple sauce is lexically motivated when it means ‘a sauce made of apples’ but when used to denote ‘nonsense’ it is clearly non-motivated.
Completely non-motivated or partially motivated word-groups are called phraseological units or idioms.
Summary and Conclusions
1. Words put together to form lexical units make up phrases or word-groups. The main factors active in bringing words together are lexical and syntactic valency of the components of word-groups.
2. Lexical valency is the aptness of a word to appear in various collocations. All the words of the language possess a certain norm of lexical valency. Restrictions of lexical valency are to be accounted for by the inner structure of the vocabulary of the English language.
Lexical valency of polysemantic words is observed in various collocations in which these words are used. Different meanings of a polysemantic word may be described through its lexical valency.
Syntactic valency is the aptness of a word to appear in various syntactic structures. All words possess a certain norm of syntactic valency. Restrictions of syntactic valency are to be accounted for by the grammatical structure of the language. The range of syntactic valency of each individual word is essentially delimited by the part of speech the word belongs to and also by the specific norm of syntactic valency peculiar to individual words of Modern English.
The syntactic valency of a polysemantic word may be observed in the different structures in which the word is used. Individual meanings of a polysemantic word may be described through its syntactic valency.
Structurally, word-groups may be classified by the criterion of distribution into endocentric and exocentric.
Endocentric word-groups can be classified according to the head-word into nominal, adjectival, verbal and adverbial groups or phrases.
Semantically all word-groups may be classified into motivated and non-motivated. Non-motivated word-groups are usually described as phraseological units.
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Гинзбург Р.З. Лексикология английского языка. М.: Высшая школа, 1979. – С. 64-74.
Антрушина Г.Б., Афанасьева О.В., Морозова Н.Н. Лексикология английского языка. М.: Дрофа, 2006. – С. 225- 256.