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The role of native and borrowed elements in English

The number of borrowings in Old English was small. In the Middle English period there was an influx of loans. It is often contended that since the Nor­man Conquest borrowing has been the chief factor in the enrichment of the English vocabulary and as a result there was a sharp decline in the productivity of word-formation. Historical evidence, however, testifies to the fact that throughout its entire history, even in the periods of the mightiest influxes of borrowings, other processes, no less intense, were in operation — word-formation and semantic development, which involved both native and borrowed elements.

If the estimation of the role of borrowings is based on the study of words recorded in the dictionary, it is easy to overestimate the effect of the loan words, as the number of native words is extremely small compared with the number of borrowings recorded. The only true way to estimate the relation of the native to the borrowed element is to con­sider the two as actually used in speech. If one counts every word used, including repetitions, in some reading matter, the proportion of native to borrowed words will be quite different. On such a count, every writer uses considerably more native words than borrowings. Shakespeare, for example, has 90%, Milton 81%, Tennyson 88%. It shows how impor­tant is the comparatively small nucleus of native words.

Different borrowings are marked by different frequency value. Those well established in the vocabulary may be as frequent in speech as native words, whereas others occur very rarely.





The main variants of the English language

In Modern linguistics the distinction is made between Standard English and territorial variants and local dialects of the English language.

Standard English may be defined as that form of English which is current and literary, substantially uniform and recognized as acceptable wherever English is spoken or understood. Most widely accepted and understood either within an English-speaking country or throughout the entire English-speaking world.

Variants of English are regional varieties possessing a literary norm. There are distinguished variants existing on the territory of the United Kingdom (British English, Scottish English and Irish English), and variants existing outside the British Isles (American English, Canadian English, Australian English, New Zealand English, South African English and Indian English). British English is often referred to the Written Standard English and the pronunciation known as Received Pronunciation (RP).

Local dialects are varieties of English peculiar to some districts, used as means of oral communication in small localities; they possess no normalized literary form.

Variants of English in the United Kingdom

Scottish English and Irish English have a special linguistic status as compared with dialects because of the literature composed in them.

Variants of English outside the British Isles

Outside the British Isles there are distinguished the following variants of the English language: American English, Canadian English, Australian English, New Zealand English, South African English, Indian English and some others. Each of these has developed a literature of its own, and is characterized by peculiarities in phonetics, spelling, grammar and vocabulary.


Basic problems of dictionary-compiling

Lexicography , the science, of dictionary-compiling, is closely connected with lexicology, both dealing with the same problems — the form, meaning, usage and origin of vocabulary units — and making use of each other’s achievements.

Some basic problems of dictionary-compiling:

1) the selection of lexical units for inclusion,

2) their arrangement,

3) the setting of the entries,

4) the selection and arrangement (grouping) of word-meanings,

5) the definition of meanings,

6) illustrative material,

7) supplementary material.


1) The selection of lexical units for inclusion.

It is necessary to decide: a) what types of lexical units will be chosen for inclusion; b) the number of items; c) what to select and what to leave out in the dictionary; d) which form of the language, spoken or written or both, the dictionary is to reflect; e) whether the dictionary should contain obsolete units, technical terms, dialectisms, colloquialisms, and so forth.

The choice depends upon the type to which the dictionary will belong, the aim the compilers pursue, the prospective user of the dictionary, its size, the linguistic conceptions of the dictionary-makers and some other considerations.

2) Arrangement of entries.

There are two modes of presentation of entries: the alphabetical order and the cluster-type (arranged in nests, based on some principle – words of the same root).

3) The setting of the entries.

Since different types of dictionaries differ in their aim, in the information they provide, in their size, etc., they of necessity differ in the structure and content of the entry.

The most complicated type of entry is that found in general explanatory dictionaries of the synchronic type (the entry usually presents the following data: accepted spelling and pronunciation; grammatical characteristics including the indication of the part of speech of each entry word, whether nouns are countable or uncountable, the transitivity and intransitivity of verbs and irregular grammatical forms; definitions of meanings; modern currency; illustrative examples; derivatives; phraseology; etymology; sometimes also synonyms and antonyms.

4) The selection and arrangement (grouping) of word-meanings.

The number of meanings a word is given and their choice in this or that dictionary depend, mainly, on two factors: 1) on what aim the compilers set themselves and 2) what decisions they make concerning the extent to which obsolete, archaic, dialectal or highly specialised meanings should be recorded, how the problem of polysemy and homonymy is solved, how cases of conversion are treated, how the segmentation of different meanings of a polysemantic word is made, etc.

There are at least three different ways in which the word meanings are arranged: a) in the sequence of their historical development (called historical order ), b) in conformity with frequency of use that is with the most common meaning first ( empirical or actual order ), c) in their logical connection ( logical order ).

5) The definition of meanings.

Meanings of words may be defined in different ways: 1) by means of linguistic definitions that are only concerned with words as speech material, 2) by means of encyclopaedic definitions that are concerned with things for which the words are names (nouns, proper nouns and terms), 3) be means of synonymous words and expressions (verbs, adjectives), 4) by means of cross-references (derivatives, abbreviations, variant forms). The choice depends on the nature of the word (the part of speech, the aim and size of the dictionary).

6) Illustrative material.

It depends on the type of the dictionary and on the aim the compliers set themselves.




Sources of compounds

The actual process of building compound words may take different forms: 1) Com­pound words as a rule are built spontaneously according to pro­ductive distributional formulas of the given period. Formulas productive at one time may lose their productivity at another period. Thus at one time the process of building verbs by compounding adverbial and verbal stems was productive, and numerous compound verbs like, e.g. out­grow, offset, inlay (adv + v), were formed. The structure ceased to be productive and today practically no verbs are built in this way.

2) Compounds may be the result of a gradual process of semantic isolation and structural fusion of free word-groups. Such compounds as forget-me-not; bull's-eye —'the centre of a target; a kind of hard, globular can­dy'; mainland— 'acontinent' all go back to free phrases which became semantically and structurally isolated in the course of time. The words that once made up these phrases have lost their integrity, within these particular for­mations, the whole phrase has become isolated in form, " specialized in meaning and thus turned into an inseparable unit—a word having acquired semantic and morphological unity. Most of the syntactic compound nouns of the (a+n) structure, e.g. bluebell, blackboard, mad-doctor, are the result of such semantic and structural isolation of free word-groups; to give but one more example, highway was once actually a high way for it was raised above the surrounding countryside for better drainage and ease of travel. Now we use highway without any idea of the original sense of the first element.



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