Figurative Component as an Inherent Part of a Word Semantic Structure

© The Editorial Council and Editorial Board of Linguistic Studies

Linguistic Studies
Volume 35, 2018, pp.  
84-90

Figurative Component as an Inherent Part of a Word Semantic Structure

Peftieva Olena

Article first published online: June 06, 2018 


Additional information

 Author Information: 

Peftieva Olena, associate professor of Mariupol state university. Correspondence: peftieva@gmail.com; o.peftieva@mdu.in.ua

Citation: 
Peftieva, O. Figurative Component as an Inherent Part of a Word Semantic Structure [Text] // Linhvistychni Studiyi / Linguistic Studies : collection of scientific papers / Donetsk National University; Ed. by Anatoliy Zahnitko. Vinnytsia : Vasyl' Stus DonNU, 2018. Vol. 35. Pp. 84-90ISBN 966-7277-88-7

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.31558/1815-3070.2018.35.10

Publication History:

Volume first published online: June 06, 2018
Article received: January 28, 2018, accepted: May 15, 2018 and first published online: June 06, 2018

Annotation.

TУ статті розглядається місце образного компонента як невід’ємної частини у структурі лексичного значення слова. Оглядаються сучасні класифікації семантичних компонентів у структурі лексичного значення слова. Простежується кореляція образного компонента з іншими компонентами конотації. Досліджується лексикографічна фіксація образного лексико-семантичного варіанта слова та визначаються його специфічні риси.

Keywords: figurative component, semantic structure of a word, lexical meaning, lexico-semantic variant of a word.



Abstract.

FIGURATIVE COMPONENT AS AN INHERENT PART OF A WORD SEMANTIC STRUCTURE

Olena Peftieva

Department of English Translation, Mariupol state university, Ukraine

Abstract

Background: The connotative meaning of a word is a complicated model and a heterogeneous unit, that’s why to date there is no unanimous opinion among the scholars about the ultimate classification of connotative components. They differ in number and diverse in terminology.

Purpose: It is to make an attempt to classify the connotative components; to include the figurative component into the semantic structure of a word; to determine the specific features of figurative lexico-semantic variant of a word; and to consider an invariable stylistic, variable emotive, evaluative, and figurative components among the connotative meaning of a word.

Results: The figurative component, as an inherent component in the structure of the connotative structure of a word, is based on the expression of one object or phenomenon by means of another. These two objects are not identical but real or imaginative associations are found between them. The figurative component is tightly intertwined with other connotative elements and characterized by five cognitive parameters. Figurative component is based on a potential, differential and nuclear semes of the denotative meaning. Figurative component of a word differs from other connotative elements in the ability to produce a new lexico-semantic variant of a word, which expresses speaker’s subjective opinion, his emotional state, and his attitude to another person. Figurative component is a transitional element between semantic structure of a word and a semantic paradigm of a word.  The emergence of a figurative nomination, as one of the most important ways of semantic derivation and its passage into the active vocabulary, reflects the continuity of the process of cognitive activity of a man.

Discussion: The problem of semantic structure of a word, its theoretical understanding requires the complex coverage of all connotative components of a word meaning with their specific features   and their locations in the hierarchy of  word meaning.

Keywords: figurative component, semantic structure of a word, lexical meaning, lexico-semantic variant of a word

Vitae

Olena Peftieva is an associate professor of Mariupol state university. The domain of research interests include cognitive linguistics, comparative linguistics, and lexicographic linguistics.

Correspondence: peftieva@gmail.com; o.peftieva@mdu.in.ua.


Article.

Олена Пефтієва

УДК 811.111’37(045)=111

FIGURATIVE COMPONENT AS AN INHERENT PART OF A WORD SEMANTIC STRUCTURE

 

У статті розглядається місце образного компонента як невід’ємної частини у структурі лексичного значення слова. Оглядаються сучасні класифікації семантичних компонентів у структурі лексичного значення слова. Простежується кореляція образного компонента з іншими компонентами конотації. Досліджується лексикографічна фіксація образного лексико-семантичного варіанта слова та визначаються його специфічні риси.

Ключові слова: семантична структура слова, образний компонент, лексичне значення, лексико-семантичний варіант слова

 

1. Introductory remarks  

The figurative component, as a semantic universal provokes the interest of linguists since ancient times. The focal point of this article is the figurative component, which is considered as an integral part in the structure of the lexical meaning of a word.

A significant contribution to the contemporary study of figurativeness was done by E. Bebchuk, L. Belekhova, A. Blinova, M. Lebedeva, O. Peftieva, A. Yurina, where a variety of approaches to the understanding of verbal figurativeness was presented. Besides Jens Allwood researched meaning potential and context, variation in meaning (Allwood). Seana Coulson and Todd Oakley examined the relationship between literal and figurative meanings in view of mental spaces and conceptual blending theory (Coulson and Oakley). Rachel Giora also considered literal and figurative language (Giora).

Each word, even unfamiliar one, provokes certain associations and a close point of view was expressed by Kerstin Norén and Per Linell “the meaning potential of a lexical item … is the set of properties which together with contextual factors, including features of the linguistic co-text as well as various situational conditions, make possible all the usages and interpretations of the word or construction that language users find reasonably correct, or plainly reasonable in the actual situations of use. Speakers and listeners use the potentials of words and other expressions to mean and understand specific things in context” (Norén and Linell 389).

However, the acquaintance with a considerable amount of literature on this issue shows the lack of papers, devoted to the place of figurative component in the hierarchy of a word semantic structure and its specific features, makes this research topical. The object of the study is a word lexical meaning. The subject is the figurative component as an inherent part of a word semantic structure. The empiric data of the research numbers 1,567 English figurative nouns designating a person. All lexical units were obtained by the continuous sampling from the fifth edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles (hereinafter SOED) edited by William Trumble and Angus Stevenson.

The specificity of the object and the subject resulted in the use of basic research methods which included: the componential analysis for studying the semes whence a figurative meaning originates; lexicographic analysis to find out the ways of figurativeness fixation; quantitative analysis to determine the productivity of semes and dictionary labels.

2. Classifications of connotative components of a word

The semantic structure of the word is rather complicated model consisting of certain parts, and for the time being there is no unanimous opinion among the scholars about the ultimate classification of its components. Commonly accepted among the linguists is the opinion that, above all, the semantic structure is divided into lexical and grammatical meanings. In its turn lexical meaning, which is the focal point of this article, is subdivided into denotative (designatum) and connotative (optional) meanings. Denotative meaning nominates the referent without the help of a context, and reflects the same meaning for all speakers of the language. Thus, the denotative meaning is a lexical meaning proper, which makes communication possible. The connotative meaning is a set of all possible general and individual associations connected with a word. It is here where the figurative meaning is allocated.

The term connotation originates from medieval Latin connotatio(n-), from connotare ‘mark in addition’, the verb to connote means to imply or suggest an idea or feeling in addition to the literal or primary meaning (SOED). So connotation is understood here as a part of a lexical meaning which consists of stylistic, emotive, evaluative, and figurative components.

The connotative aspect of the lexical meaning is heterogeneous in its content and a variety of classifications exists concerning the connotative components. For example, N. Mel’nychuk considers emotiveness and expressiveness as main components of connotation (Mel’nychuk). V. V. Levyts’kyi, following L. Bloomfield, recognizes emotive, expressive, evaluative and stylistic components as the connotative elements (Levyts’kyi). J. A. Sternin delineates the following components of connotation: an emotional one that takes into account the emotions and feelings expressed by the word; expressive connotation is understood as an intensification of the word meaning; the evaluative connotation takes into account the approving or disapproving evaluation (Sternin).

Analyzing connotation, V. I. Goverdovsky, in the article "History of the concept of connotation (in linguistics)", highlights the three types of its direction: a) the expressive-evaluative; b) the context type; c) the historical-cultural type (Goverdovsky). As a result, different set of components is given even in the works whose authors adhere to a similar understanding of this phenomenon.

Ginzburg R. Z., Khidekel S. S., Knyazeva G. Y., Sankin A. A. in their book A Course in Modern English Lexicology distinguish only two connotative components: “the emotive charge and the stylistic value of the word” (Ginzburg 20). Buldakov V. A., who researched connotation in categorimatic lexis and phraseological units of modern German language, states “According to the formal criterion, that is, by the method of expression, two types of connotation are distinguished: a) a formal-substantial phonetic and semantic in the broad sense, a morpho-semantic one; and b) a derivational-semantic (metaphorical, metonymic, phraseosemantic) connotation” (Buldakov).

Thus, classifications of connotative components differ from one linguist to another, they are diverse in terminological apparatus, and there is no exhaustive list of them. The connotation model of I.V. Arnold is the most commonly used in modern linguistics. Arnold I. V. in her seminal work “The English Word” (1986) proposes four main types of connotations, which are stylistic, emotional, evaluative, and expressive or intensifying (Arnold 48).

However, in spite of the presence of expressive component in a lot of classifications, this fact may be challenged. It may be argued, that emotive and expressive components are one and the same thing, the only difference between them is in the degree of the emotion intensity, which the word expresses, but still it is emotive component. The intensification of noun meaning is usually achieved with the help of emphatic constructions, like in the following example, What a bear he is, or intensifiers and other additional words, can be of help also: C. Marlowe A night growne mushrump, Such a one as my Lord of Cornewall is. S. Brett He was of those showbiz mushrooms who spring up overnight (SOED). In conclusion, expressiveness is perceived contextually. Besides, Arnold I. V. herself gives similar examples of expressiveness, for instance, beastly weather or beastly cold (Arnold 49).

Summing up the aforementioned it should be reiterated, that four connotative components in this work are recognized, namely, stylistic, evaluative, emotive, and figurative. Stylistic component is an invariable part of a word, since each word belongs to a certain sphere of communication. Evaluative (expressing approval or disapproval), emotive (expressing feelings and emotions), and figurative components may be available in a word and may not, so they are considered as variable or optional.

2.1. Figurative component of connotation

The figurative meaning of a word is interpreted in various ways by different linguists. In this article verbal figurativeness is understood as the expression of one object by means of another, which do not belong to the same class, furthermore these two objects are not identical but real or imaginative associations are found between them.

The analysis of the literature on the figurativeness status testifies to the existence of figurative component, which can be interpreted as a separate part in the word lexical meaning, according to the number of linguists (E. Bebchuk, L. Belekhova, O. Blinova, V. Buldakov, M. Lebedeva, O. Peftieva, E. Yurina, etc.).

When figurativeness is singled out as a separate component of a word meaning, there is a problem in defining its specific features and determining its location in the hierarchy of the semantic word structure.

2.1.1. Specific features of figurative component

2.1.1.1. First, the figurative component is rooted in a certain seme (the smallest meaningful unit of a word meaning) of the denotative meaning and this seme serves as a source for the coinage of a figurative lexico-semantic variant (hereinafter LSV) of a word. Figurative component is predominantly based on a potential seme (78%), e.g.:

(1) tabby 1) a kind of silk taffeta, formerly striped, later with a uniform waved or watered finish; 2) an elderly spinster  (SOED).

As can be seen from the example, the figurative meaning of the figurative LSV of the word is based on the potential (i.e. it is not present) seme of the denotative meaning (1) ‘a fabric that was usually worn by elderly unmarried women’.

(2) Greek - 1) a native or inhabitant of Greece; 2) a cunning or wily person (SOED).

In the example above, the potential semes cunning or wily of denotative meaning contain ethnic stereotypes and it is resulted in a figurative LSV.

A differential seme (20%) is not so productive as potential, e.g.:

(3) giant 1. an imaginary or mythical being of human form but superhuman size 2. an abnormally or extremely tall or large person, animal, or plant

R. Dahl Their… father, an amiable giant nearly seven foot tall (SOED).

As is shown in the example, figurative component is based on the differential seme superhuman size of the denotative meaning (1) and it serves as a source for the figurative LSV (2) which denominates a person as an extremely tall or large. It is of significance to note that figurative LSV contains stylistic (conversational layer of the vocabulary), evaluative (good), and emotive components, the latter may express a feeling of admiration, enchantment or surprise. Usually figurative designation of a person expresses an emotional state of a speaker and subjective attitude to another person.

And only 2% of nuclear semes give the ground to a figurative meaning, e.g.:

(4) date – 1) the day of the month; 2) term of life or existence; 3) the period to which something old belongs; 4) the limit or end of a period of time; 5) an appointment or engagement at a particular time (esp. with a person of the opposite sex) // colloq. the person with whom such an appointment is made (SOED).

The nuclear seme of the fifth LSV appointment or engagement serves as the source for figurative nomination of a person, but this nomination is devoid of freshness and brightness, a memorable image is not created.

2.1.1.2. Second, the figurative component is a transitional element between semantic structure of a word and its semantic paradigm (a set of LSV of a word), e.g.:

(5) snake 1) a reptile characterized by elongated cylindrical limbless body, tapering tail, and smooth scaly skin, and including many kinds whose bite is venomous 2) fig. a treacherous or deceitful person; аlso, a despicable or contemptible person (SOED).

The word denotative meaning (1) contains only stylistic reference (neutral vocabulary). But English community associates this reptile with treachery and deception because it can ambush and attack you with a venomous bite. These associations, being elusive in the denotative meaning (based on potential seme), become apparent in a figurative LSV (2). Thus an ephemeral figurative component of a denotative meaning is transferred into a tangible figurative LSV. As a result, it may be presupposed that a figurative component serves as a stepping stone between semantic structure of a word and its semantic paradigm. 

2.1.1.3. Third, the figurative LSV of a word is characterized by four cognitive parameters.

The first parameter is the semantic duality found in a common seme of a word denotative meaning, e.g.:

(6) songbird 1. a bird having a musical song; 2. transf. a superb singer (SOED).

The differential seme song is common for literal (1) and figurative (2) meanings.

The psycho-linguistic (synonyms: subjective, anthropocentric) parameter is based on the personal experience, interpreting or regarding the designated person in terms of his own values, e.g.:

(7) tomtita popular name for a number of small songbirds // transf. a little man  (SOED).

The parameter of addressability to the second or third person determines the productivity of figurativeness as a means of person characterization. Figurative nomination is addressed to the interlocutor as an expression of speaker’s own emotional state and desire to describe somebody in a certain way, e.g.:

(8) mushroom any fungus having a fleshy fruiting body, regarded as the type of rapid growth // fig: a person who has suddenly sprung into notice; an upstart (SOED). The ability of the mushroom to appear quickly, to be discovered in the morning where it was not yesterday, is associated with undeserved glory or popularity of a person and expresses speaker’s annoyance.

An axiological parameter is based upon universal values from the low vulgar nominations to subtle poetic ones, e.g.:

(9) scuma layer of dirt, froth, impurities, forming on the surface of a liquid, esp. in boiling or fermentation // a worthless despicable person (SOED).  

(10) kingfish 1) a fish notable for its size, appearance; 2) slang. a leader, a boss (SOED).

(11) dove a pigeon // іn Christian symbolism typifying gentleness and harmlessness // a person, esp. a woman, for whom one feels tender affection (SOED).  

As is seen from the examples, figurative nomination ranges from a low status of a person (9) up to a high one (10), and up to a poetic (11).

The compression parameter is based on the usage of a word instead of a descriptive phrase. The thrift law works in a language to express much with minimum words and at the same time to create a vivid image, e.g.:

(12) brain 1) an organ of soft nervous tissue contained in the skull of vertebrates, functioning as the coordinating centre of sensation and intellectual and nervous activity 2) a clever person. C. Kingsley The accomplished Mysseri … was in fact the brain of our corps (SOED).

As is shown in the example, the figurative LSV reflects the characteristic feature of a clever person and tells much with minimum of linguistic units.

Thus figurative component is as an inherent element of a word lexical meaning. It is predominantly based on a potential seme of a denotative meaning. Figurative component serves as a stepping stone between denotative meaning and a figurative LSV, which expresses speaker’s emotions and subjective attitude to another person. Figurative LSV is characterized by parameter of addressability, semantic duality, psycho-linguistic, axiological, and parameter of compression.

2.1.1.4. Fourth, figurative LSV of a word may be fixed and may not in lexicographic sources.

To select figurative nouns designating a person the following set of criteria was established. The first is an invariable marker which denote a person (a person of, a person who, a person like, a person with, adjective+person, woman, girl, man, etc.); the second is a common seme (potential, differential, nuclear) of original and figurative LSV of a word; the third is a label explicitly indicating figurativeness (fig., transf.); the fourth is a label implicitly indicating figurativeness (colloq., contempt., derog., iron., joc., slang). As far as it is possible to judge, the transf. label marks metonymic transference (see example 6, 15); the fig. label – metaphorical (see example 5, 14).

The LSV of a word is fixed with the help of such dictionary labels as figurative, transferred, transferred and figurative, literal and figurative; colloquial, contemptuous, derogatory, dialectical, ironical, jocular, slang, depreciating, offensive, abusive, endearment, poetic.

The lexicographic analysis of English nouns designating a person shows that the figurative LSV is represented implicitly and explicitly in the dictionary. Figurative nouns without a label (53%) are usually trite or hackneyed stylistic devices. The presence of labels (47%) in a dictionary entry may be interpreted by a subjective opinion of lexicographers who perceive this figurative LSV as a fresh and image-provoking. The quantitative analysis shows that figurative LSV may be presented in a word paradigm with or without labels (see the table 1).

Table 1

Lexicographic fixation of figurative lexico-semantic variant of a word

Label availability

Quantity

%

Label absence  

825

53

Label  availability

742

47

Total

1567

100

It should be noted that figurative LSV in many cases is accompanied with several labels. Therefore the lexicographers reflect the tight interrelation of the figurative component with other connotative components. The calculations have been done taking into account the first label as the most crucial. The emergence of figurative nouns in the course of communication and their usage with the following fixation in the lexicographic sources reflects the continuity of the semantic derivation process.

2.2. Correlation of figurative and other connotative components

2.2.1. Figurative and emotive components of connotation

The words with the emotive component convey the speaker’s feelings and emotions. Anger, fear love, hatred, joy, grief, shame, pride and various shades of these emotions can be closely associated with strong excitement and belong to the class of emotionally coloured lexis, which is usually figurative, e.g.:

(13) аpe an animal of the monkey tribe: the generic name before “monkey” // an apelike person; a fool. аlso as a term of abuse (SOED).

When a speaker uses the word ape in figurative meaning he expresses his desire to reduce the social significance of a designated person and thereby to increase his own; speaker demonstrates his contemptuous attitude to another person. That’s why figurative noun is perceived as a unity of figurativeness and emotiveness. Here we share the opinion with V. I. Karasik who states that if a speaker gives a negative evaluation to another person, this way he concurrently  increases his own significance and importance (Karasik).

On the whole the system of figurative meanings is focused on the emotional reflection of real world phenomena. Any figurative transference tends to hyperbolize, to express a higher degree of emotional manifestation of the speaker.

2.2.2. Figurative and evaluative components of connotation

Figurativeness closely interacts with evaluative component, which expresses approval or disapproval, thus figurative nouns designating a person serve as a specific kind of assessment in various manifestations. The social cause of this phenomenon is undeniable; it is a constant need for the evaluation and individualization of a person. Language facts indicate that it is the evaluation which is a leading feature in a figurative meaning, e.g.:

(14) peach – the round sweet juicy stone-fruit of the peach tree // fig. a person of exceptional value or quality; A particularly suitable or desirable person (SOED).

In the mentioned example, the differential semes sweet and juicy, which are in a close association with a treat, enjoyment, delight, and pleasure, give the basis for the formation of a figurative meaning where evaluation prevail. Working together figurativeness and evaluation provide a positive effect upon a listener giving him the opportunity to conceptualize the image of a pleasant person. The quantitative characteristics of figurative nouns in terms of evaluation is shown in the table 2.

Table 2

Evaluation types of figurative nouns designating a person

Type of evaluation

Quantity

%

negative evaluation

683

44

positive evaluation

194

12

zero evaluation

690

44

Total number

1567

100

The result of quantitative analysis demonstrates that the number of the figurative nouns containing evaluation (56%) exceeds the noun group with zero evaluation (44%).

(15) tarpaulin a waterproof protective covering // transf. а sailor (SOED).

As can be seen from the example, both the first LSV and the figurative one belong to the neutral layer of vocabulary.

There are only 194 nouns with a positive evaluation (see the example 11, 12, 14). The analysis also shows that quantity of nouns with negative evaluation prevails (see the example 2, 5, 8, 9, 13). It can be explained by the perception of positive person’s qualities as a norm, but a deviation from it leads to denunciation which is expressed with figurative LSV.

The analysis of nouns shows, that the combination of figurative and evaluative components leads to a far and away vivid figurativeness.

2.2.3. Figurative and stylistic components of connotation 

 Any figurative word is in possession of essential stylistic connotation, which is observed in different kinds of labels accompanied the word. Since each word is used in a certain type of communication, it acquires literary, neutral, or conversational colouring. Stylistically neutral words have adherent or occasional stylistic connotations acquired in a certain context.

The inseparability of stylistic and figurative components is illustrated by the following example:

(16) blister a thin vesicle on the skin filled with serum caused by friction, a burn, or disease // an offensive or troublesome person; a worthless fellow. slang (SOED).

As observation of the researched data shows that there is no sharp demarcation line between semantic components of a word.

2.2.4. Semantic structure of a word

The aforementioned information gives the opportunity to infer that the semantic structure of a word meaning includes first of all lexical and grammatical meaning; second, lexical meaning is divided into denotative and connotative meanings; the latter in its turn subdivided into stylistic, evaluative, emotive and figurative meanings. The semantic structure of a word meaning is offered in the scheme 1.

Scheme 1

Semantic structure of a word meaning

 


3. Conclusion

Summing up the information, it should be emphasized that the figurative component is considered among the word connotative meaning along with stylistic, emotive and evaluative constituents. Figurative component is a transitional element between semantic structure of a word and a semantic paradigm of a word. Figurative component, based on a potential, differential and nuclear semes of the denotative meaning, differs from other connotative elements in the ability to be resulted in a new LSV of a word, which expresses speaker’s subjective opinion, his emotional state, and his attitude to another person.

The figurative LSV incorporates other connotative constituents and characterized by five cognitive parameters.

The emergence of a figurative nomination, as one of the most important ways of semantic derivation and its passage into the active vocabulary, reflects the continuity of a person’s cognitive activity.

References. 

Література

Алтицева 2003: Алтицева, Л.Ю. Функціонально-семантичні параметри іменників з неповною числовою парадигмою : автореф. … канд. філол. наук [Текст] / Л. Ю. Алтицева / Національний педагогічний університет імені М.П. Драгоманова. – К., 2003. – 20 с.

...

Gawelko 1985: Gawelko, M. Semantyczne aspekty pluralizacji w języku franzuskim i polskim [Text] // Języki obce w szkole. – 1985. – № 29. – S. 195-200.

 

Установлены основные / неосновные функции форм числа существительных, охарактеризированы закономерности расширения функционального диапазона форм множественного числа, обусловленных особенностями идентификации данных форм и одномоментной реализации такими формами тенденций идеации → ментализации → идентификации. Обнаружен более широкий диапазон форм множественного числа вследствие поглощения ими препозитивных форм двойственного, тройственного числа и их функций.

Ключевые слова: морфологическая категория, единственное число, множественное число, идеация, ментализация, идентификация.

 

The basic / non-basic functions of substantive number forms have been set, the patterns of expansion of the functional range of plurals have been characterized, due to the identificative peculiarities of these forms and some one-stage implementation with such types of tendency of ideation → mentalization identification. A wider range of plurals through they absorb the prepositive forms of dual, trial number and their functions has been revealed.

Keywords: morphological category, singular, plural, ideation, mentalization, identification.

Надійшла до редакції 17 листопада 2011 року.