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Diachrony of Semantic Conversives in English (дипломна робота)



Part I. Semantic Conversives in Competence and Performance:

1.1. The Overview of Semantic Conversives

1.2. Classification of Semantic Conversives:

1.2.1. Classification of Semantic Conversives According to their Morphological Features

1.2.2. Classification of Semantic Conversives According to Their Semantic Features

1.2.3. Quasi Conversives

1.3. Componential Analysis of Semantic Conversives:

1.3.1. "To sell” – Semantic Structure in the Language System

1.3.2. "To buy” - Semantic Structure in the Language System

Part II. The Overview of Semantic Changes:

2.1. Classification of Semantic Changes According to the Logical Relations Between Successive Meanings

2.2. Etymology and Cultural Traces Implied by Semantic Changes

2.3. Hermann Paul’s Assumptions:

2.3.1. The Process of Isolation

2.3.2. Special Factors

2.4. General Assumptions

Part III. Diachrony of Semantic Conversives:

3.1. Text / Discourse Definition

3.2. Diachronic Aspects of Semantic Conversives Development

3.3. Diachrony of the Conversive Pairs "to give : to take” and "to sell : to buy”:

3.3.1. Semantic Structure of the Old English "ãyfan” and the Middle English "yiven”

3.3.2. The Functioning of the Verbs with the Meaning of "to take” in Anglo-Saxon and Middle English

3.3.3. Diachrony of the Semantics of the Verb "to sell”

3.3.4. Evolution of the Semantic Conversive "to buy”



Supplement 1. The Semantic Structure of the Conversive "To Sell”

Supplement 2. The Semantic Structure of the Conversive "To Buy”

Supplement 3. Extracts from "Beowulf” Containing the Verb "to sell”

Supplement 4. Extracts from "Beowulf” Containing the Verb "to buy”


The language is a phenomenon which can be represented as a system of systems. Semantics can also be presented as a system of subsystems. Besides, all the languages fall under the influence of semantic changes. History of the language deals with the descriptive analysis of the changes that took place during the latter’s development. For example, the history of the English language traces the changes that occurred in one of the dialects of Primitive West Germanic during the last 1500 years. More specifically, historic semantics is the study of the semantic diachronic changes that took place in the word stock of a certain language during a certain period of time.

Thus, the objective of this paper is the study of semantic conversives in English competence and performance and examining of the changes in their semantic structure that occurred from the Old English period and later on.

With the exception of the units, "conversive by themselves" (that are further analyzed in the present thesis), conversion occupies a definite place among the types of the lexical semantic correlations: it is characterized by the equipollent opposition of the units (that are differentiated by "converse" sememes), their contrastive distribution, and the conversives' ability of being used in the same context (cf. to win/to lose (a game), to sell/to buy a house, etc).

The topicality of this paper is determined by the following factors:

§ Semantic conversives expressing "oppositions of meaning" is one of the most important semantic correlations in the lexical system of the language. It can lay the basis of organizing some lexical units into a semantic field and can be successfully implemented in the translation theory (especially concerning lexical and grammatical transformations in the translation process).

§ Semantic changes that took place in the lexical conversives’ structure can give us a glimpse of the world outlook of primitive Germans and can enable us to clarify their causes and results.

§ The inadequacy of studies of conversive correlation and conversives functions in the discourse.

§ A tendency of complementary examination of conversives (as well as other lexical "oppositions".

§ A necessity of developing a contemporary linguistic theory, in which semantics (and, particularly, types of semantic fields correlation) can play a crucial role.

The research is based on theoretical postulates of the linguistic and historic semantics, semasiology and semantic fields theory, primarily - ones of the Moscow Semantic School formulated by Yu.Apresyan, I.Melchuk, L.Novikov, A.Ufimtseva, V.Levytskyi and others.

The scientific significance of the investigation lies in the use of reliable methods of analysis (such as component and contextual analysis) and the broad scope of the lexicographic and theoretical sources, the analysis of texts of Old English, Middle English and New English periods dated from IIV c. AD ("Beowulf”) to XIX c. ("Don Juan” by G. Byron).

As the data of the contextual analysis of semantic conversives, we've taken three OE, ME and NE texts ("Beowulf”, "The Canterbury Tales” by G. Chaucer and "Don Juan” by G. Byron accordingly) that constitute total number of 928 cases of the semantic conversives "to give - to take" and "to sell - to buy" usage. The lexicographic sources include 5 dictionaries of contemporary British and American English (dated from 1982 to 1993), on which basis the component analysis of semantic conversives has been carried out.

Thus, the main objective of the thesis is to give a systematic analysis of semantic conversives in competence and performance, to determine their position in the lexical system of the language and to show their paradigmatic semantic relations id the language.

To reach the end-goal we are to solve the following problems:

§ Comparative analysis of the main approaches to conversive correlation betwen lexical units in competence and performance;

§ Determination of the semantic structure of conversives (of the semantic pair "to buy - to sell" in particular);

§ Diachronic analysis of the conversives;

§ Approximative-quantitative study of the expression of conversives in the texts of different periods of the English language development;

§ Designing the principles of compiling a glossary of conversives.

The theoretical significance of the paper lies in a thorough analysis of both diachronic and synchronic aspects of conversion. We have tried to discuss such essential linguistic concept as a semantic change. Careful attention is paid to the classification of conversives according to their syntactic and semantic features.

The scientific novelty of the thesis lies in the approach to linguistic conversion which is analyzed not only on the horizontal (synchronic), but also in the vertical plane, evolving the data from main European languages (Greek, Latin, English, German, Hittite, Russian, Ukrainian and others), and particularly – the English language. Besides, we have done the contextual analysis of selected conversives in the texts belonging to OE, ME and NE periods and examined their semantic structure (with subsequent determination of their dominants).

The practical application of the given research is possible in compiling a glossary of conversives; in teaching semantics, lexicology, translation and cognitive linguistics classes. The results of the research can be further verified in students' term-papers, B.A. and University Degree theses, seminars in semantic and historic linguistics and semasiology.

The main objective, problems solved and the methodology of the research stipulated the composition of the paper: Introduction, Part I "Semantic Conversives in Competence and Performance", Part II "The Overview of Semantic Changes", Part III "Diachrony of Semantic Conversives”, Conclusions, Bibliography and Supplements.

Part I. Semantic Conversives in Competence and Performance.

1.1. The Overview of Semantic Conversives.

The conversive correlation unites the words that define the same situation from the points of view of the participants that are engaged in its different aspects. The examples of this correlation are the following pairs of words: "to win - to lose”, "over - under", "to have - to belong (to)", "younger - older", etc.

Thus, conversives constitute members of pairs which are antonymic, though their meanings are interrelated and are often synonymic.

E.g. engl. "give - take" - "To provide or supply someone with something" vs. "To get something in your possession ";

"sell - buy" - "To give up, deliver, or exchange (property, goods, services, sc.) for money or its equivalent" vs. "To acquire by paying or agreeing to pay money or some equivalent".

(Cf. Latin "emo", gothic "niman", and German "nehmen" "to take" with Greek "nemo" "to distribute".)

I.A. Melchuk defines conversives as one of the linguistic functions [23, p.78]. Linguistic function (LF) describes the correlations that connect the words with their lexical correlatives. Lexical correlative is the paradigmatic variants and syntagmatic partners of the word. Namely, the LF f describes the correlation that determines (for a certain word or phrase X) such a multitude of the words or phrases {Yi} = f (X), that the following statement is true for any X1 and X2: if f(X1) and f (X2) do exist, between f (X') and X2 on one hand and /(X2) and X1 on the other hand the following semantic correlation always takes place:

f (X1)’ : 'X1’ =f (X2)': ‘X2, where

X (the keyword or keyphrase of the statement) is the argument of the lexical function f, and {Yi} is its expression.

The theory of conversion is abundant in algebraic formulae and expressions, as the notion of conversibility, or converse relation, first appeared in the higher algebra. Following statement is extremely important for studying of the conversives and sounds as follows: the binary relation R-1 is considered to be conversive to the relation R in the given multitude of the elements M, if bRa results from aR -1b, and vice versa. The definition illustrates that the direct and conversed relations possess the identical properties.

Conversive correlation (the expression of the "reverse relation" between the language units) as a linguistic phenomenon first claimed the linguists' attention in the syntax, particularly concerning the interrelation between a subject and an object. The expression of such relations can be clearly illustrated by the grammatical category of voice.

E.g. The workers build a house. <=> A house is built by the workers.

This fact was also examined by John Lyons: "In the English language there exist passive constructions in which the "surface" subject is identical to the "oblique object" of the corresponding active sentence" [22, p.496]:

E.g. John's father gave him a book.

John was given a book by his father.

Such parallel constructions were later connected with broader universal correlations. Certain pairs of words were found to be in the same relations as the words over and about, bigger and smaller, older and younger, etc:

A precedes B < => B follows / succeeds A

The action in the first sentence is viewed from the point of view of A, whereas sb the second sentence it is viewed from the point of view of B. The famous English semasiologist John Lyons considers conversibility to be one of the varities of the lexical "opposition" [22, p.496]. He states that the opposition between the meanings is already acknowledged as one of the most important semantic correlations.

The lexical substitution of a word by its conversive is connected with the syntactic transformation, due to which the nominal groups (i.e. the subject and the object with the dependent words) are changing their places and certain "automatic changes" concerning the selection of a preposition or a declensional ending are made:

Peter sells the books to Andrew. < => Andrew buys the books from Peter.

Thus, during the process of conversion two main changes are done: 1) the preceding and the following elements are exchanging their places, and 2) the lexical unit that expresses the relations between the antecedent and the consequent is substituted by its conversive. The following formula will illustrate this process:

ARB <=> BR -1A,


AR ( = X) B <=> BR-1 ( = Y) A,

where X and Y are conversives that express the converse actions R and R-1, and A and B are the participants of the action. The necessary condition of the whole process is the complete denotative identity of the initial and converse statements:

E.g. Susan is Paul's wife. <=> Paul is Susan's husband.

If we compare the conversives "older -younger", "to include - to be a part of”, "teacher - student", "husband - wife", "to sell - to buy" with polysemantic words (and homonyms as well), we will notice what differentiates and what unites them. On one hand, conversives have different component structures, whereas both polysemantic words and homonyms are characterized by the similarity and continuity of their forms. On the other hand, the simultaneous usage in the discourse, or the so called "coocurrence in the text", is not typical of both conversives and polysemantic words. One of the conversives is used in the discourse, while another is staying apart, in the "system of possibilities". The latter is always implied due to the natural initerchange between the subject and the object that are connected by the conversive correlation:

E.g. "The Moon and Sixpence" is a work by W.S. Maugham" vs. 'W.S.Maugham is the author of "The Moon and Sixpence ".

The mutual substitution between the initial and conversed statements always takes part freely, as they are completely synonymic, which cannot be said about the conversives themselves. Conversives (usually there are two of them, in contrast to the lexico-semantic variants of the word), like the meanings of a polysemantic word, perform the function of mutual addition, but have the same meaning in the phrases.

The use of the whole paradigm of conversives in the text is a rare phenomenon. It is a specific expressive means that emphasizes the significance of a certain opinion: In the hostile struggle the victory of one part is the defeat of another. Compare also the stylistic means that is based on the implied conversive relations of the figurative nature that are "hidden" in the paradigm:

"The novel possessed brevity, but there was a lack of its brother" (O. Donskoy). Cf. Brevity is a sister of talent. <=-> Talent is a brother of brevity.

Conversive correlation as a lexico- grammatical category is the linguistic expression of the converse relations with the help of different words (or lexico-semantic variants), the opposite sememes of which enable such words to express subjective-objective relations in the sentences that denote the same situation, i.e. have the same denotatum [25, p.214]. Being a mainly "onomasiological" category, like synonymy and antonymy, it is characterized (in contrast to the above-mentioned two kinds of correlation) by the "remote" usage of lexical units.

The following example will help illustrate the basic features of conversive correlation and conversives. The semantically equal sentences "She sells the house to us” and "We buy the house from her" express the same situation, which is viewed from the points of view of its participants (actors). The conversive predicates "to sell" and "to buy" express the two-sided subject-object relations (which is the necessary condition of conversive correlation), as though presenting the same contents in two directions - (1) from A to B and (2) from B to A:

(1) sells to (R = x)

(R - 1) buys from (2)

She/her We/us

From the point of view of the situation, the predicates have the same meaning: selling the house to one of the participants is the same as buying it by that participant from the seller.

In the syntactic respect, such lexical pairs are characterized by the presence of correlative direct and converse role structures [25, p.215]. It should be added that the predicates X and Y are supposed to have converse role structures, if they have at least two semantic valencies that satisfy the following conditions:

a) the set of roles for these valencies is the same;

b) in the "semantic trees" of X and Y the valencies with the same number correspond to different roles.

In accordance with this fact, the subject of the initial statement becomes the object in the conversed one. Consequently, the word that expresses the subject-object relatons in the sentence is substituted in the conversed sentence by its conversive:

It is obvious that the participants of such statements have the ability to exchange the roles of the antecedent (the preceding element) and the consequent (the subsequent element), while the conversives themselves are acting as pairs of lexical units (words) with the conversed role structures.

Denoting the same fact of reality, conversives possess at me same time different significative meanings. In the componential respect, conversives are much like synonyms and antonyms. They are differentiated by their distinction – i.e. the opposition of contradictous semes: e.g. to win - to lose, to sell - to buy, to export - to import, etc. Therefore the conversives, like antonyms, correspond to the logically incompatible notions. However, in contrast to the latter (that can be univalent) conversives are necessarily bivalent and express subject-object relations of different kinds. Therefore the conversives' semes are not only incompatible, but can enable them (due to the reversed role structures) to give both "direct" and "conversed" reflection of the same action. It can be illustrated by the common, coinciding structure of the conversives: e.g. A wins (gains a victory over B), but B loses, i.e. gives the victory up to A.

Consequently, the initial and conversed statements are synonymic. However, like lexical synonyms, they possess some semantic nuances: with the help of conversives the differences in the logical emphasis of the utterance can be conveyed, as well as the semes of definiteness and undefiniteness that cannot be expressed in Ukrainian (cf. the definite and indefinite articles in the English language). E.g. in the sentence "The novice defeated the pro " the success of the novice is emphasized, whereas the conversed statement "The pro lost to the novice" points out the poor performance on the behalf of the pro changing the roles of the actants.

Thus, it should be mentioned that the interaction between conversives and synonyms, as well as formation of the former on the basis of the latter is impossible due to their different role structures (i.e. conversed and identical accordingly). On the contrary, conversives and antonyms interact fruitfully: a number of conversives are based on the certain use of antonyms (e.g. young - old: X is younger than Y <=> Y is older than X, etc).

As conversives are united into a paradigm according to their associative features and as they are the units the component contents of which is extremely close and homogeneous, they are differentiated only by the opposite sememes that makes it impossible for the conversives to be used in the same context. It was already mentioned that 1) the substitution between the subject and the object of the action and 2) certain syntactic changes (that are required by the conversives' features) are necessary for the transformation of the statement.

Also, it should be observed that the words that constitute a semantic field receive their meaning only as a part of corresponding field. The speaker of a certain language fully knows the meaning of the word only if he knows the meanings of the other words belonging to the same field. Similarly, it is impossible to separate the meaning of the constituent of the conversive pair from the word opposed to it.

Conversives are not to be mistaken for the so-called correlative, or nominal sentences [17, p. 339]. Such constructions are peculiar to proverbs and sayings and are considered by many linguists to be the relic of the nominal sentences that were obviously more frequent in the Indo-European language than in modern ones. Thus, the components of the German proverb "Neuer Arzt neuer Friedhof” ("New doctor – new cemetery") can not be transposed, as we get quite another meaning of the utterance. The logical process of conversive correlation cannot take place in such cases, as the conversed statements must have the same meaning, i.e. be synonymic.

Besides, conversive correlation is often confused with conversion (or zero-inflection), which is a word-building technique that lies in one part of speech becoming another, i.e. conversion is a special non-affixal type of transposition of words.

1.2. Classification of Semantic Conversives.

Lexical conversibility belongs to the categories that are not explored enough. Nevertheless, generalization of the available data about conversive correlation makes it possible to outline a number of structural types of this linguistic phenomenon. As a rule, conversives are classified according to 1) their morphological features and 2) their semantic features, i.e. in accordance with the general semantic categories inherent to them. Besides, the classification suggested by Yu.Apresyan and I.Melchuk is based on the number of transformations performed during the process of conversive correlation. This division is rather arbitrary, so all these types of classification are interrelated and often presented as a single unity (it can be illustrated by the classification given by Yu.Apresyan [14, p. 266-272]).

1.2.1. Classification of Semantic Conversives According to Their Morphological Features.

According to the morphological and syntactic features of conversives, L.A.Novikov divided them into a number of groups [25, p. 217 - 219]. It should be mentioned that conversive correlation, above all, is characteristic of verbs which has also designed its own means of conversiveness expression: the grammatical category of voice.

I. Verbal conversives:

1) Voice structures of the type to build - to be build, to describe - to be described, to decide - to be decided, to discuss - to be discussed, etc. This type is in essence purely grammatic.

2) Verbs (predicates) with the meaning of cause and consequence: to frighten - to be afraid, to make happy - to be happy, to cause death - to die (of), etc. Such predicates are often viewed as "deep verbs", thus this variety is very close to the purely grammatical one.

3) Verbs (predicates) with the meaning of an action and the object of this action: to export - to be the object of export, to study - to be the subject of study. The following conversive statements have the same meaning:

We study math. < = > Math is the subject of our study.

4) The verbs that are opposite according to the participants of the action: to sell- to buy, to export - to import, to let - to rent (an apartment), to give - to take, to lean (on) - to support, to win - to lose, etc.

5) The verbs that can be found in both initial and conversed statements without being substituted by their conversives (due to their specific features). They are "conversives by themselves", i.e. the words that that do not have their conversive counterparts and contain the conversive correlation in their semantic structure (e.g. to talk with, to quarrel with, to make friends with, to rhyme with, etc.).

E.g. Susan made friends with Paul <=> Paul made friends with Susan. "Mine" rhymes with "thine" <==> "Thine" rhymes with "mine".

II. Substantival conversives.

Substantival conversives are represented by a number of oppositions: e.g. producer – production/output, author – work/piece (of fiction, music, etc.), inventor – invention, teacher – student, proprietor – property, husband – wife, brother – sister, etc.

However, quantitative data show that the number of substantival conversives is rather limited. Moreover, the majority of them are verbal nouns of action or condition: X's domination over Y < ==> Y's submission toX.

Attention should be paid to the noun "cousin" which is a substantival conversive "by itself”. It can be clearly illustrated by the example given by John Lyons [22, p. 497]: "NP1 is NP 2's cousin" implies and is implied by the sentence "NP2 is NP1's cousin ".

III. Adjectival conversives.

Adjectival conversives are represented by the adjectives used in the comparative degree: e.g. bigger - smaller, taller - shorter, heavier - lighter, more expensive - cheaper, younger - older, etc.

IV. Adverbial conversives (on the right - on the left).

V. Prepositional conversives (over – under, in front of – behind).

VI. Conjunctional conversives:

Conjunctional conversives often have two active valencies, in particular concessive, comparative conjunctions and conjunctions of reason.

E.g. The director fell ill and therefore the premiere was postponed. <==> The premiere was postponed, as the director felt ill.

VII. Phraseological conversives:

E.g. She looked death in the face. – She was within a hair's breadth of death.

1.2.2. Classification of Semantic Conversives According to Their Semantic Features.

Lexical conversives can be classified according to their meaning. In accordance with the nature of such words, they express converse relations, correlation, interdependency, interaction, etc. between the corresponding objects and phenomena of reality. The following semantic categories are peculiar to the conversives:

1) "Transmission":

E.g. 1) He gave her a dictionary. - She took a dictionary from him. 2) She is selling her country-house to us. - We are buying a country-house from her.

2) "Acquisition / loss":

E.g. The word acquires a new meaning. – A new meaning of the word appears.

3) "Composition":

E.g. Three departments make up College of the Modem European Languages of the University. — College of the Modem European Languages of the University consists of three departments.

4) ''''Availability, possession":

E.g. The director has three deputies. - There are three deputies of the director.

5) "Filling the volume / contents":

E.g. The description of the technology took up the whole paragraph. - It took the whole paragraph to describe the technology.

6) "Submersion / absorption":

E.g. The ocean swallowed up the cutter. - The cutter submerged into the ocean.

7) "Co-position of the objects in the space and time":

E.g. 1) The dictionary is situated on the magazine. - The magazine is situated on the dictionary. 2) A follows B. – B precedes A.

8) "Dependence":

E.g. A determines B. – B depends on A.

It has already been pointed out that this division is rather arbitrary. Thus, L.Novikov differentiates between only 8 semantic categories inherent to conversives, whereas Yu. Apresyan points out 24 of them [14, p. 268 - 272]. It is not worth while mentioning all of them, as the rest of the conversives types are either infrequent, or derived from the main eight types described above. E.g. the linguist specifies such semantic categories as "definition" (e.g. The word "family" denotes the members of the household" <=> "The members of the household are denoted by the word "family"), "emission" (the process contrary to submersion/absorption}, "the demonstration of the inherent property", "uncontrolled motion", "covering the surfice of something", "radiation", "emotional states", "opinion ", "providing" and others.

Besides, Yu.Apresyan's classification of the conversives according to their semantic features includes the number of transformations performed during the process of conversion. Particularly, the scientist differentiates between the two-transformations (1 type), three-transformations (5 types) and four-transformations (23 types) conversives. The topicality of this question (i.e. performing certain transformation during the process of conversion) enabled him as well as some other linguists (e.g. I. Melchuk [23, p. 152]) to specify another kind of classification of semantic conversives – according to their syntactic features.

1.2.3. Quasi-conversives.

Quasi-conversives should be differentiated from from proper conversives. Quasi-conversives are "approximate'' conversives, i.e. the ones that do not have completely the same meaning. The differences between them can be either neutralized in the context, or inessential for the given text.

E.g. 1) We were taken aback by the committee's arrival (the sentence has the sememe of suddenness). - We were not prepared for the committee's arrival (the sememe of suddenness is not present).

2) She has outgrown the dress (she got taller). - The dress got too small for her. (it could shrink as well).

1.3. Componential Analysis of Semantic Conversives.

The componential analysis deals primarily with the semantic structure of a linguistic unit, i.e. the sememes that the meaning of a certain word contains. Meaning is the sense that a word or a group of words conveys. Linguists usually distinguish between "grammatical" meaning as the relationships that may be said to exist between linguistic elements such as the words within a sentence, and "lexical" meaning as the sense a speaker attaches to linguistic elements. In this case, we are more concerned with the lexical meaning of the semantic conversives.

The componential analysis of the conversive pairs revealed their complex structure. We designed the semantic structure of the conversives "to sell - to buy" on the basis of 5 modern dictionaries of the contemporary English language (both British and American). Thus, the semantic structure of the verb "to sell" contained 13 major sememes, and that of the verb "to buy" contained 11. Also, the main components of meaning were determined. The dominant components can be represented by the opposition "supply : demand".

1.3.1. "To sell" - Semantic Structure in the Language System.

1) American Heritage Dictionary (Dl)

1. To exchange or deliver for money or its equivalent.

2. To offer for sale, as for one's business or livelihood: The partners sell textiles.

3. To give up or surrender in exchange for a price or reward: sell one's soul to the devil.

4. To be responsible for the sale of; promote successfully: Publicity sold that product.

5. To persuade (another) to recognize the worth or desirability of: They sold me on the idea…


6. To exchange ownership for money or its equivalent; engage in selling.

7. To be sold or be on sale: Grapes are selling high this season.

8. To attract prospective buyers; to be popular on the market: …an item that sells "well.

9. To be approved of; gain acceptance.

2) New Webster's Dictionary and Thesaurus (D2)

1. To dispose of the ownership of (goods, property or rights) to another or others in exchange for money: he sold his house to them.

2. To effect such a transfer as an agent: he sold their house for them.

3. To offer for sale: he sells antiques.

4. To lead to the sale of: advertising sold a million copies.

5. To betray for a reward: he sold them to the police.

6. (pop.) To cheat, deceive: he was sold over the deal.


7. To offer something for sale: is she thinking of selling?

8. To find a buyer: these goods sell quickly.

3) Webster's New World Dictionary of American English (D3)

Реферат на тему: Diachrony of Semantic Conversives in English (дипломна робота)

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