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English vocabulary as a system. Hyponymy. Hyperonymy. The theory of semantic field.

In linguistics, a hyponym is a word or phrase whose semantic field[1] is included within that of another word, its hypernym (sometimes spelled hyperonym outside of the natural language processing community[citation needed]). In simpler terms, a hyponym shares a type-of relationship with its hypernym. For example, scarlet, vermilion, carmine, and crimson are all hyponyms of red(their hypernym), which is, in turn, a hyponym of colour.[2]

Computer science often terms this relationship an "is-a" relationship. For example, the phrase Red is-a colour can be used to describe the hyponymic relationship between red and colour.

Hypernymy is the semantic relation in which one word is the hypernym of another. Hypernymy, the relation in which words stand when their extensions stand in the relation of class to subclass, should not be confused with holonymy, which is the relation in which words stand when the things that they denote stand in the relation of whole to part. A similar warning applies to hyponymy and meronymy.

As a hypernym can be understood as a more general word than its hyponym, the relation is used in semantic compression by generalization to reduce a level of specialization.

Hypernym/hyponym (sometimes termed Inclusion) pairs can be found in text corpora by looking for certain syntactic patterns. One of the first suggestions on how to find hypernym/hyponym pairs in a text came from Marti Hearst, who suggested looking at the output of a parser and taking all of the terms linked by constructions such as X and other Y; X could be considered a possible hyponym of Y. This method was extended by Snow et al., who developed an automated method of finding possible constructions that could signal such a pair.

Their process works by taking hypernym/hyponym pairs from WordNet and finding many noun-noun pairs from a parsed text corpus. They train a classifier to select those pairs of words that have a high probability of being hypernym pairs given the constructions which link the terms in the corpus.

Most people are familiar with the terms synonymy and antonymy. Both refer to a relationship between words: synonymy to words having the same meaning, and antonymy to words having the opposite meaning. Fewer people, however, are familiar with a term that refers to an even more important sense relationship between words:hyponymy, the relationship between a specific word and a general word when the former is included within the latter.

That relationship is illustrated by the common formula "An A is a kind of B." For example, "A dog is a kind of animal," or simply "A dog is an animal." The specific word, "dog," which is included within, or under, the general word, is known as a hyponym (Greek "under" + "name"). The general word, "animal," which heads a list of many specific words under it, is a hypernym (Greek "above" + "name"). In this case, those other specific words, or hyponyms, could include, besides "dog," a vast number of other animal names, such as "bird," "horse," and "monkey." Those specific words under the same hypernym are related to each other as cohyponyms.

Some words belong to no clear, useful hypernym. Abstract nouns, such as "chaos," and adjectives, such as "interesting," are among the words that have only vague general terms, like "state," as possible hypernyms.

Nevertheless, hyponymy is an important study for at least two major reasons. One of those reasons is that understanding hyponymy helps people define and differentiate many words used in everyday life. Hyponymous relationships form the basic framework within standard dictionaries.

A typical definition of a specific word (hyponym) consists of a general classification word (hypernym) along with modifying details that distinguish the specific word from similar words in the same group (cohyponyms). For example, a clarinet is "a single-reed woodwind instrument having a cylindrical tube with a moderately flared bell..." (Webster's). The hypernym is "woodwind instrument," and among the cohyponyms (words whose definitions begin with the same hypernym) are "bassoon," "flute," and "oboe."

Experienced dictionary users know that they can trace many hierarchical paths of increasingly abstract hypernyms through a dictionary. For example, starting with "cheddar," one path of hypernyms would be "cheese," "food," "material," "substance," "essence." A different path leading to the same abstract hypernym would be "sapphire," "corundum," "mineral," "substance," "essence."

Another major reason for studying hyponymy is its usefulness in building a vocabulary. The process of learning about sets of hyponyms begins in early childhood, when infants soon recognize both similarities and differences in the meanings of sounds (Crystal, pp. 167, 430). Later in life people intuitively use the concept of hyponymy to add words to their vocabulary.

For example, most people know that "alligator" and "crocodile" are words denoting similar reptiles, but many people are not sure how to tell the animals apart. Exploring the sense relationship that binds the words together (as cohyponyms of the hypernym "reptile") and examining the modifying details that differentiate them, people can add these two clarified words to their permanent vocabulary.

The term hyponymy is relatively new, being recorded only since the mid-1900s (Oxford English Dictionary). However, the study of hyponymy has quickly proven to be one of the most useful ways of understanding how words relate to each other, an understanding that can lead to clearer communication between users of the English language.

Synonymy and euphemisms.

Synonymy is one of the modern linguistics’ most controversial problems. The duality of synonyms is their most confusing feature. They are somewhat the same and yet they are obviously different. Their function in speech is revealing different aspects, shades and variations of the same phenomenon.

Synonyms are words of the same category of part of speech conveying the same concept, but different either in shades of meaning or in stylistic characteristics.

The only existing classification system for synonyms was established by Academician V.V.Vinogradov. In his classification there are 3 types of synonyms: 1. ideographic; 2. stylistic; 3. absolute.

Ideographic are words conveying the same concept, but different in the shades of meaning.

Stylistic are words different in stylistic characteristics.

Absolute once coincide in all their shades of meaning and in all their stylistic characteristics.

A more modern approach to the classification of synonyms may be based on the definition of synonyms as words differing in connotations:

1. the connotation of degree or intensity.

Can be traced in such groups of synonyms as:

To surprise- to astonish – to amaze – to astound

To like – to admire – to love – to adore – to worship

2. the connotation of duration.

Can be traced in such groups of synonyms as:

To stare – to glare – to gaze – to glance – to peep – to peer

3. the emotive connotation.

e.g. alone – single – lonely – solitary

4. the evaluative connotation conveys the speaker’s attitude labeling it as good or bad:

e.g. well-known – famous – notorious –celebrated

5. the causative connotation:

e.g. to sparkle (сиять(глаза) положительные эмоции) – to glitter (блестят, но эмоции отрицательные)

to shiver (with cold, from a chill, because of a frost) – to shudder (with fear).

6. the connotation of manner:

e.g. to stroll – to stride – to trot – to pace – to swagger – to stagger. All these synonyms denote different ways and types of walking encoded in their semantic structure: the length of space, tempo, gait, carriage, purposefulness or lack of purpose.

7. the connotation of attendant circumstances.

To peep smb. – through a hole, from behind a screen, a half-closed door, a newspaper, a fan, a curtain.

8. the connotation of attendant features.

e.g. pretty – handsome – beautiful.

9. stylistic connotation.

e.g. to leave – to be off – to clear out(col.) – to beat it – to hoof it – to take the air (col.) – to depart – to retire – to withdraw (formal).

All or at least most synonymic groups have a central word whose meaning is equal denotation common to all the synonymic groups. This word is called the dominant synonym.

e.g. to produce – to create – to fabricate –to make – to manufacture.

The following characteristic features of the dominant synonym can be underlined:

1. high-frequency of usage; 2. broad combinability (ability to be used in combination with various classes of words); 3. broad general meaning; 4. lack of connotation.

Euphemisms. There are words in every language which people instinctively avoid because they are considered indecent, indelicate, rude, direct or impolite. They are often described in a round – about way by using substitutes, called euphemisms.

e.g. lavatory – powder-room, washroom, restroom, retiring-room, (public) comfort station, lady’s (room), gentlemen’s (room), water-closed, W.C., public conveniences, toilet, wind-sort castle.

The love or affection which displays itself in the excessive use of euphemisms has never been a sign of good taste. Fiction writers have often reduced pretentious people for their attempts to express themselves in too delicate and refined way.

Euphemism may be used due to genuine concern not to hurt someone’s feelings (a stupid person can be said to be not exactly brilliant).

Euphemisms are used to avoid the so-called social taboos. Superstitious taboos have their roots in the distant past of mankind, when people believed there was a supernatural link between a name and the object or creature it represented (devil – the Prince of Darkness, the Black One, the evil one, dickens(col.), dince(col.), (Old) Nick(col.)).

People are not superstitious nowadays and yet they are reluctant to use the verb “to die” which has a long chain of both solemn and humorous substitutes: to pass a way, to be taken, to breathe one’s last, to depart this life, to close one’s eyes, to yield (give) up the ghost, to go the way off all flash, to kick off(slang), to check out(slang), to keep the basket(slang)).

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