MINISTRY OF HIGHER AND SECONDARY SPECIAL EDUCATION OF THE REPUBLIC OF
GULISTAN STATE UNIVERSITY
The English and Literature department
Shergoziev Abror’s qualification work on speciality 5220100, English
philology on theme:
“Synonyms and their translation”
Supervisor: Tojiev Kh.
1.1. Aims and purposes of the work
2.1 General definition of the phenomenon of synonymy in Modern English.
II. The Main Part
2.1 Kinds of synonyms and their specific features
2.2 Distributional features of the English synonyms
2.3 Changeability and substitution of meanings
2.4 Semantic and functional relationship in synonyms
2.5 Interchangeable character of words and their synonymy
2.6 Combinability of synonyms
2.7 Peculiar features of semantics and combinability of the English
verbs on the examples of the synonyms “to amuse”, “to entertain”, “to
grip”, “to interest”, “to thrill”
2.8 Conceptual synonymy
2.9 Synonymy and collocative meaning
2.10 Semantic peculiarities of synonyms
1.3. Summary to the whole work
2.3 Ways of applying the work
1.1. AIMS AND PURPOSES OF THE WORK
The theme of my qualification work sounds as following: “Synonyms and
their translation” This qualification work can be characterized by the
The actuality of this work caused by several important points. We seem
to say that the problem of synonyms is one of the main difficult ones
for the English language learners. It can be most clearly seen in the
colloquial layer of a language, which, in its turn at high degree is
supported by development of modern informational technologies and
simplification of alive speech. As a result, a great number of new
meanings of one and the same word appear in our vocabulary. So the
significance of our work can be proved by the following reasons:
a) The problem of synonymy is one of the developing branches of
b) Synonymy reflects the general trend of enrichment of a language
c) Synonymy is closely connected with the development of modern
d) Being a developing branch of linguistics it requires a special
attention of teachers to be adequated to their specialization in
Having based upon the actuality of the theme we are able to formulate
the general goals of our qualification work.
a) To study, analyze, and sum up all the possible changes happened in
the studied branch of linguistics for the past fifty years.
b) To teach the problem of synonymy to young English learners.
c) To demonstrate the significance of the problem for those who want to
brush up their English.
d) To mention all the major of linguists’ opinions concerning the
If we say about the new information used within our work we may note
that the work studies the problem from the modern positions and analyzes
the modern trends appeared in this subject for the last ten years. In
particular, the new computer-based meanings of some habitual words were
The practical significance of the work can be concluded in the following
a) The work could serve as a good source of learning English by young
teachers at schools and colleges.
b) The lexicologists could find a lot of interesting information for
c) Those who would like to communicate with the English-speaking people
through the Internet will be able to use the up-to-date words with the
help of our qualification work.
Having said about the linguists studied the material before we can
mention that our qualification work was based upon the investigations
made by a number of well known English, Russian and Uzbek lexicologists
as A.I.Smirnitsky, B.A. Ilyish, N.Buranov, V.V. Vinogradov, O.Jespersen
and some others.
If we say about the methods of scientific approaches used in our work we
can mention that the method of typological analysis was used.
The newality of the work is concluded in including the modern meanings
of habitual words to our qualification work.
The general structure of our qualification work looks as follows:
The work is composed onto three major parts: introduction, main part and
conclusion. Each part has its subdivision onto the specific thematically
items. There are two points in the introductory part: the first item
tells about the general content of the work while the other gives us the
general explanation of the lexicological phenomenon of shortening in a
language. The main part bears the eight points in itself. The first
point explains the shortening of spoken words in particular. The second
item analyzes the phenomenon of graphical abbreviations and acronyms. In
the third point we study abbreviations as the major way of shortening.
In the fourth paragraph of the qualification work we deal with the
secondary ways of shortening: sound interchange and sound imitation. The
fifth paragraph takes into consideration the question of blendening of
words. The sixth item shows us the back formation examples. The last
paragraph of the main part analyzes the homonymy influence onto the
appearing of shortening. The conclusion of the qualification work sums
up the ideas discussed in the main part (the first item) and shows the
ways of implying of the qualification work (in the second item).
Word-building processes involve not only qualitative but also
quantitative changes. Thus, derivation and compounding represent
addition, as affixes and free stems, respectively, are added to the
underlying form. Shortening, on the other hand, may be represented as
significant subtraction, in which part of the original word is taken
The spoken and the written forms of the English language have each their
own patterns of shortening, but as there is a constant exchange between
both spheres, it is sometimes difficult to tell where a given shortening
1.1 GENERAL DEFINITION OF THE PHENOMENON OF SYNONYMS IN. MODERN ENGLISH
Synonyms (in ancient Greek syn ‘???’ plus and onoma ‘ьнпмб’ name) are
different words with similar or identical meanings and are
interchangable. Antonyms are words with opposite or nearly opposite
meanings. (Synonym and antonym are antonyms.)
An example of synonyms is the words cat and feline. Each describes any
member of the family Felidae. Similarly, if we talk about a long time or
an extended time, long and extended become synonyms. In the figurative
sense, two words are often said to be synonymous if they have the same
“a widespread impression that … Hollywood was synonymous with
immorality” (Doris Kearns Goodwin) Ginzburg R.S. et al. A Course in
Modern English Lexicology. M., 1979 pp.72-82
Synonyms can be nouns, adverbs or adjectives, as long as both members of
the pair are the same part of speech.
More examples of English synonyms:
· baby and infant (noun)
· student and pupil (noun)
· pretty and attractive (adjective)
· sick and ill (adjective)
· interesting and fascinating (adjective)
· quickly and speedily (adverb)
Note that the synonyms are defined with respect to certain senses of
words; for instance, pupil as the “aperture in the iris of the eye” is
not synonymous with student. Similarly, expired as “having lost
validity” (as in grocery goods) it doesn’t necessarily mean death.
Some lexicographers claim that no synonyms have exactly the same meaning
(in all contexts or social levels of language) because etymology,
orthography, phonic qualities, ambiguous meanings, usage, etc. make them
unique. However, many people feel that the synonyms they use are
identical in meaning for all practical purposes. Different words that
are similar in meaning usually differ for a reason: feline is more
formal than cat; long and extended are only synonyms in one usage and
not in others, such as a long arm and an extended arm. Synonyms are also
a source of euphemisms.
The purpose of a thesaurus is to offer the user a listing of similar or
related words; these are often, but not always, synonyms. In a way,
hyponyms are similar to synonyms.
In contrast, antonyms (an opposite pair) would be:
· dead and alive (compare to synonyms: dead and deceased)
· near and far (compare to synonyms: near and close)
· war and peace (compare to synonyms: war and armed conflict)
· tremendous and awful (compare to synonyms: tremendous and remarkable)
2.1 KINDS OF SYNONYMS AND THEIR SPECIFIC FEATURES
Synonyms are words different in their outer aspects, but identical or
similar in their inner aspects. In English there are a lot of synonyms,
because there are many borrowings, e.g. hearty / native/ – cordial/
borrowing/. After a word is borrowed it undergoes desynonymization,
because absolute synonyms are unnecessary for a language. However, there
are some absolute synonyms in the language, which have exactly the same
meaning and belong to the same style, e.g. to moan, to groan; homeland,
motherland etc. In cases of desynonymization one of the absolute
synonyms can specialize in its meaning and we get semantic synonyms,
e.g. «city» /borrowed/, «town» /native/. The French borrowing «city» is
specialized. In other cases native words can be specialized in their
meanings, e.g. «stool» /native/, «chair» /French/.
Sometimes one of the absolute synonyms is specialized in its usage and
we get stylistic synonyms, e.g. «to begin»/ native/, «to commence»
/borrowing/. Here the French word is specialized. In some cases the
native word is specialized, e.g. «welkin» /bookish/, «sky» /neutral/.
Stylistic synonyms can also appear by means of abbreviation. In most
cases the abbreviated form belongs to the colloquial style, and the full
form to the neutral style, e.g. «examination’, «exam».
Among stylistic synonyms we can point out a special group of words which
are called euphemisms. These are words used to substitute some
unpleasant or offensive words, e.g. «the late» instead of «dead», «to
perspire» instead of «to sweat» etc.
There are also phraseological synonyms, these words are identical in
their meanings and styles but different in their combining with other
words in the sentence, e.g. «to be late for a lecture» but «to miss the
train», «to visit museums» but «to attend lectures» etc.
In each group of synonyms there is a word with the most general meaning,
which can substitute any word in the group, e.g. «piece» is the
synonymic dominant in the group «slice», «lump», «morsel». The verb « to
look at» is the synonymic dominant in the group «to stare», «to glance»,
«to peep». The adjective «red’ is the synonymic dominant in the group
«purple», «scarlet», «crimson».
When speaking about the sources of synonyms, besides desynonymization
and abbreviation, we can also mention the formation of phrasal verbs,
e.g. «to give up» – «to abandon», «to cut down» – «to diminish».
Grouping of words is based upon similarities and contrasts and is
usually called as synonymic row. Taking up similarity of meaning and
contrasts of phonetic shape we observe that every language has in its
vocabulary a variety of words, kindred in meaning but distinct in
morphemic composition, phonemic shape and usage, ensuring the expression
of the most delicate shades of thought, feeling and imagination. The
more developed the language, the richer the diversity and therefore the
greater the possibilities of lexical choice enhancing the effectiveness
and precision of speech.
The way synonyms function may be seen from the following example:
Already in this half-hour of bombardment hundreds upon hundreds of men
would have been violently slain, smashed, torn, gouged, crusted, and
The synonymous words smash and crush are semantic-ally very close; they
combine to give a forceful representation of the atrocities of war.
Richness and clearness of language are of paramount importance in so far
as they promote precision of thought. Even this preliminary example
makes it obvious that the still very common definitions of synonyms as
words of the same language having the same meaning or as different words
that stand for the same notion are by no means accurate and even in a
way misleading. By the very nature of language every word has its own
history, its own peculiar motivation, and its own typical contexts. And
besides there is always some hidden possibility of different connotation
arid which is feeling in each of them. Moreover, words of the same
meaning would be useless for communication: they would encumber the
language, not enrich it.
If two words exactly coincide in meaning and use, the natural tendency
is for one of them to change its meaning or drop out of the language.
Thus synonyms are words only similar but not identical in meaning-. This
definition is correct but vague. A more precise linguistic definition
should be based on a workable notion of tie semantic structure of the
word and of the complex nature of every separate meaning in a
polysemantic word. Each separate lexical meaning of a word has been
described in Chapter VII as consisting of a denotational component
identifying the notion or the object and reflecting the essential
features of the notion named, shades of meaning reflecting its secondary
features, additional connotations resulting from typical contexts in
which the word is used, its emotional component arid stylistic coloring;
connotations are not necessarily present in every word. The basis of a
synonymic opposition is formed by the first of the above named
components, i.e. the denotational component. It will be remembered that
the term opposition means the relationship of partial difference between
two partially similar elements of a language. A common denotational
component brings the words together into a synonymic group. All the
other components can vary and thus form the distinctive features of the
Synonyms can therefore be defined in terms of linguistics as two or more
words of the same language, belonging to the same part of speech and
possessing one or more identical or nearly identical denotational
meanings, interchangeable, at least in some contexts, without any
considerable alteration in denotational meaning, hut differing in
morphemic composition, phonemic shape, shades of meaning, connotations,
affective value, style, valence and idiomatic use. Additional
characteristics of style, emotional coloring and valence peculiar to one
of the elements in a synonymic group may be absent in one or all of the
The definition is of necessity very bulky and needs some commenting
upon. By pointing out the fact that synonyms belong to the same part of
speech the definition makes it clear that synonymic grouping is really a
special case of lexico-grammatical grouping based on semantic proximity
To have something tangible to work upon it is convenient to compare some
synonyms within their group, so as to make obvious the reasons of the
definition. The verbs experience, undergo, sustain and suffer, for
example, come together because all four render the notion of
experiencing something. The verb and the noun experience indicate actual
living through something and coming to know it first hand rather than
from hearsay. Undergo applies chiefly to what someone or something bears
or is subjected to, as in to undergo an operation, to undergo changes.
Compare also the following example from L. P. Smith: The French language
has undergone considerable and more recent changes since the date when
the Normans brought it into England. In the above example the verb
undergo can be replaced by its synonyms without any change of the
sentence meaning. This may be easily proved if a similar context is
found for some other synonym in the same group. For instance: These
Latin words suffered many transformations in becoming French.
The denotational meaning is obviously the same. Synonyms, then, are
interchangeable under certain conditions specific to each group. This
seems to call forth an analogy with phonological neutralization. Now, it
will be remembered that neutralization is the absence in some contexts
of a phonetic contrast found elsewhere or formerly in the language, as
the absence of contrast between final [s] and [z] after [t]. It appears
we are justified in calling s e-m antic neutralization the suspension of
an otherwise functioning semantic opposition that occurs in some lexical
And yet suffer in this meaning (‘to undergo’), but not in the example
above, is characterized by connotations implying wrong or injury. No
semantic neutralization occurs in phrases like to suffer atrocities, to
suffer heavy losses. The implication is of course caused by the
existence of the main intransitive meaning of the same word, not
synonymous with the group, i. e. ‘feel pain’. Sustain as an element of
this group differs from both in shade of meaning and style. It is an
official word and it suggests undergoing affliction without giving way.
A further illustration will be supplied by a group of synonymous nouns:
hope, expectation, and anticipation. They are considered to be
synonymous because they all three mean ‘having something in mind which
is likely to happen’. They are, however, much less interchangeable than
the previous group because of more strongly pronounced difference in
shades of meaning. Expectation may be either of good or of evil.
Anticipation, as a rule, is a pleasurable expectation of something good.
Hope is not only a belief but a desire that some event would happen. The
stylistic difference is also quite marked. The Romance words
anticipation and expectation are formal literary words used only by
educated speakers, whereas the native monosyllabic hope is stylistically
neutral. Moreover, they differ in idiomatic usage. Only hope is possible
in such set expressions as: to hope against, hope, to lose hope, to pin
one’s hopes on smth. Neither expectation nor anticipation could be
substituted into the following quotation from T. S. Eliot: You do not
know what hope is until you have lost it.
Taking into consideration the corresponding series of synonymous verbs
and verbal set expressions: to hope, for anticipate, to expect, to look
forward to, we shall see that separate words may be compared to whole
set expressions. To look forward also worthy of note because it forms a
definitely colloquial counterpart to the rest. It can easily be shown,
on the evidence of examples, that each synonymic group comprises a
dominant element. This synonymic dominant is the most general term of
its kind potentially containing the specific features rendered by all
the other members’ of the group, as, for instance, undergo and hope in
In the series leave, depart, quit, retire, clear out the verb leave,
being general and both stylistically and emotionally neutral, can stand
for each of the other four terms. The other four can replace leave only
when some specific semantic component must prevail over the general
notion. When we want to stress the idea of giving up employment and
stopping work quit is preferable because in this word this particular
notion dominates over the more general idea common to the whole group.
Some of these verbs may be used transitively, e. g. He has left me…
Abandoned me! Quitted me! (BENNETT). Arnold I.V. The English Word M.
High School 1986 pp. 143-149 In this synonymic series therefore the
dominant term is leave. Other dominants are, for instance, get, a verb
that can stand for the verbs obtain, acquire, gain, win, earn; also ask,
the most general term of its group, viz. inquire, question or
interrogate. The synonymic dominant should not be confused with a
generic term. A generic term is relative. It serves as the name for the
notion of the genus as distinguished from the names of the species. For
instance, animal is a generic term as compared to the specific names
wolf, dog or mouse (which are not synonymous). Dog, in its turn, may
serve as a generic term for different breeds such as bull-dog, collie,
The definition on p. 224 states that synonyms possess one or more
identical or nearly identical meanings. To realize the significance of
this, one must bear in mind that the majority of frequent words are
polysemantic, and that it is precisely the frequent words that have many
synonyms. The result is that one and the same word may belong in its
various meanings to several different synonymic groups. The verb appear
in …an old brown cat without a tail appeared from nowhere (MANSFIELD)
Jespersen ,Otto. Growth and Structure of the English Language. Oxford,
1982 pp.246-249 is synonymous with come into sight, emerge. On the other
hand, when Gr. Greene depicts the far-off figures of the parachutists
who …appeared stationary, appeared is synonymous with look or seem,
their common component being ‘give the impression of. Appear, then,
often applies to erroneous impressions.
Compare the following .groups synonymous to five different meanings of
the adjective fresh, as revealed by characteristic contexts: To begin a
fresh paragraph—fresh:: another :: different :: new.
Fresh air — fresh:: pure :: invigorating.
A freshman —fresh:: inexperienced :: green :: raw.
To be fresh with smb —fresh:: impertinent :: rude.
The semantic structures of two polysemantic words sometimes coincide in
more than one meaning, but never completely.
Synonyms may also differ in emotional coloring which may be present in
one element of the group and absent in all or some of the others. Lonely
as compared with alone is emotional as is easily seen from the following
examples: …a very lonely boy lost between them and aware at ten that
his mother had no interest in him, and that his father was a stranger.
(ALDEIDGE) Shall be alone as my secretary doesn’t come to-day (M.
DICKENS). Both words denote being apart from others, but lonely besides
the general meaning implies longing for company, feeling sad because of
the lack of sympathy and companionship. Alone does not necessarily
suggest any sadness at being by oneself.
If the difference in the meaning of synonyms concerns the notion or the
emotion expressed, as was the case in the groups discussed above, the
synonyms are classed as ideographic synonyms, and the opposition created
in contrasting them may be called an ideographic opposition. The
opposition is formulated with the help of a clear definitive statement
of the semantic component present in all the members of the group. The
analysis proceeds as a definition by comparison with the standard that
is thus settled. “It is not enough to tell something about each word.
The thing to tell is how each word is related to others in this
particular group.” 3 The establishment of differential features proves
very helpful, whereas sliding from one synonym to another with no
definite point of departure creates a haphazard approach with no chance
of tracing the system. In analyzing the group consisting of the words
glance n, look n and glimpse n we state that all three denote a
conscious and direct endeavor to see, the distinctive feature is based
on the time and quickness of the action. A glance is ‘a look which is
quick and sudden’ and a glimpse is quicker still, implying only
In a stylistic opposition of synonyms the basis of comparison is again
the denotational meaning and the distinctive feature is the presence or
absence of a stylistic coloring which may also be accompanied a
difference in emotional coloring.
It has become quite a tradition with linguists : when discussing
synonyms to quote a passage from “As You Like It” (Act V, Scene I) to
illustrate the social differentiation of vocabulary and the stylistic
relationship existing1 in the English language between simple, mostly
native, words and their dignified and elaborate synonyms borrowed from
the French. We shall keep to this time-honored convention, Speaking to a
country fellow William, the jester Touchstone says: Therefore, you
clown, abandon, — which is in the vulgar leave, — the society, — which
in the boorish is company, — of this female, — which in the common is
woman; which together is abandon the society of this female, or, clown,
thou perishes t; or to thy better understanding diets; or, to wit, I
kill thee, make thee away, translate thy life into death.
· The general effect of poetic or learned .synonyms when used in prose
or in everyday speech is that of creating alit elevated tone. The point
may be proved by the very first example in this chapter (see p. 223)
Smirnitsky A.I. Synonyms in English M.1977 pp.57-59,89-90 where the
poetic and archaic verb slays is-substituted for the neutral kill. We
must be on our guard too against the idea that the stylistic effect may
exist without influencing the meaning: in fact it never does. The verb
slay not only lends to the whole a poetical and solemn ring, it also
shows the writer’s and his hero’s attitude to the fact, their horror and
repugnance of war and their feeling for its victims.
The phrases they are killed, they are slain, they are made away with may
refer to the same event hut they are different ill meaning, in so far as
they reveal a different attitude to the subject in question on the part
of the speaker.
The study of synonyms is a borderline province between semantics and
stylistics on the one hand and semantics arid phraseology on the other
because of the synonymic collocations serving as_ a means of emphasis.
The following example from “A Taste of Honey”, j remarkable for the
truthfulness of its dialogue, shows how they are used in modern speech;
Helen: …”The devil looks after his own,” – they say.
2.2 DISTRIBUTION FEATURES OF THE ENGLISH SYNONYMS
Synonymic pairs like wear and tear are very numerous in modern English
and often used both in everyday speech and in literature. They show all
the typical features of idiomatic phrases that ensure their memorable
ness such as rhythm, alliteration, rhyme and the use of archaic words
seldom occurring elsewhere.
The examples are numerous: hale and hearty, with might and main,
nevertheless and notwithstanding, modes and manners, stress and strain,
rack and ruin, really and truly, hue and cry, wane and pale, without let
or hindrance, act and deed. There are many others which show neither
rhyme nor alliteration, and consist of two words equally modern. They
are pleonastic, i. e. they emphasize the idea by just stating it twice,
and possess a certain rhythmical quality which probably enhances their
unity and makes them easily remembered. These are: by leaps and bounds,
to pick and choose, pure and simple, stuff and nonsense, bright and
shining, far and away, proud and haughty and many more.
In a great number of cases the semantic difference between two OP more
synonyms is supported by the difference in valence. Distributional
oppositions between synonyms have never been studied systematically,
although the amount of data collected is very impressive. The difference
in distribution maybe syntactical, morphological, lexical, and surely
deserves more attention than has been so far given to it. It is, for
instance, known that bare in reference to persons is used only
predicatively while naked occurs both predicatively and attributively.
The same is true about alone, which, irrespectively of referent, is used
only predicatively, whereas its synonyms solitary and lonely occur in
both functions. The function is predicative in the following sentence:
you are idle, be not solitary, if you are solitary be not idle. (s.
JOHNSON) Akhmanova O.S. Lexicology: Theory and Method. M. 1972 pp. 59-66
It has been repeatedly mentioned that begin and commence differ
stylistically, ft must be noted, however, that their distributional
difference is not less important. Begin is generalized in its lexical
meaning and becomes a semi-auxiliary when used with an infinitive. It
follows naturally that begin and not commence is the right word before
an infinitive even in formal style. Seem and appear may be followed by
an infinitive or a that-claw. see whereas look which is stylistically
equivalent to them is never used in these constructions. Aware and
conscious are followed either by an o/-phrase or by a subordinate
clause, e. g. to be aware of one’s failure, to be aware that one’s
failure is inevitable. Their synonym sensible is preferably used with an
Very often the distributional difference between synonyms concerns the
use of prepositions: e. g. to answer a question, but to reply to a
question. The adjectives anxious and uneasy are followed by the
preposition about, their synonym concerned permits a choice and is
variously combined with about, at, for, with. The misuse of prepositions
is one of the most common mistakes not only with foreigners but with
native speakers as well.
Lexical difference in distribution is based on the difference in
valence. An example of this is offered by the verbs win and gain. Both
may be used in combination with the noun victory: to win a victory, to
gain a victory. But with the word war only win is possible: to win a
war. We are here trespassing on the domain of set expressions, a problem
that has already been treated in an earlier chapter. Here it will
suffice to point out that the phraseological combining possibilities of
words are extremely varied.
It has been repeatedly stated that synonyms cannot be substituted into
set expressions; as a general rule each synonym has its own
peculiarities of phraseological connections. The statement is only
approximately correct. A. V. Koenig has shown that set expressions have
special properties as regards synonymy, different from those observed in
free phrases. l Some set expressions may vary in their lexical
components without changing their meaning, e. g. cast (fling or throw]
smth in smb’s. teeth. Moreover, the meaning may remain unchanged even if
the interchangeable components are not synonymous: to hang on by one’s
eyelashes (eyelids, eyebrows),-to bear or show a resemblance. The nouns
glance, look and glimpse are indiscriminately used with the verbs give
and have: to give a look (a glance, a glimpse), to have a look (a
glance, a glimpse). With (he verbs “cast arid take the word glimpse is
not used, so that only the expressions to cast a glance (a look) or to
take a glance (a look) are possible. With the verbs steal, shoot, throw
the combining possibilities are further restricted, so that only the
noun glance will occur in combination with these. It goes without saying
that phraseological interchangeability is not frequent.
2.3 CHANGEABILITY AND SUBSTITUTION OF MEAMINGS
Since the exact meaning of each synonym is delimited by its
interrelatedness with the other elements of the same group, comparison
plays an important part in synonymic research. It has already been
tentatively examined in the opening paragraph of this chapter; now we
offer a slightly different angle of the same problem. The
interchangeability and possible neutralization are tested by means of
substitution, a procedure also profitably borrowed by semasiology from
phonology. 1 The values of words 2 can best be defined by substituting
them for one another and observing the resulting changes. When the
landlady in John Waif’s “Hurry on down” says to the main personage: And
where do you work? I’ve asked you that two or three times, Mr. Lumley,
but you’ve never given me any answer, the verb ask has a very general
meaning of seeking information. Substituting its synonyms, question or
interrogate, will require a change in the structure of the sentence (the
omission of that), which shows the distributional opposition between
these words, and also ushers in a change in meaning. These words will
heighten the implication that the landlady has her doubts about Lumley
and confesses that she finds his character suspicious. The verb question
would mean that she is constantly asking her lodger searching questions.
The substitution of interrogate would suggest systematic and thorough
questioning by a person authorized to do so; the landlady could have
used it only ironically and irony would have been completely out of
keeping with her mentality and habits. Observations of this sort can be
supported by statistical data. Most frequent combinations such as
teachers question their pupils, fudges interrogate witnesses and the
like also throw light on the semantic difference between synonyms.
Synonyms have certain common ground within which they are
interchangeable without alteration of meaning or with a very slight loss
in effectiveness. Ask and inquire, for instance, may be used
indiscriminately when not followed by any object 3 as in the following:
“And where do you live now, Mr. Gillespie?” Mrs. Pearson inquired rather
archly and with her head on one side. (PRIESTLEY)
To this connection some more examples may be cited. The words strange,
odd, queer, though different in connotations, are often interchangeable
because they can be applied to define the same words or words naming
similar notions: strange feeling (glance, business)’, queer feeling
(glance, business), odd feeling (glance, business). E. g.: It seems the
queerest set-up I ever heard of. (WYNDHAM) Canon G. Historical Changes
and English Wordformation: New Vocabulary items. N.Y., 1986. p.284
Compare also: she agreed to stay :: she consented to stay; she seems
annoyed :: she appears annoyed :: she looks annoyed; to discharge an
employee :: to sack an employee :: to fire an employee (a servant,
It should be borne in mind that substitution in different contexts has
for its object not only probing interchangeability but bringing into
relief the difference in intellectual, emotional and stylistic value of
each word. An additional procedure suggested by Ch. Bally consists in
assigning to the words suitable antonyms. The difference between firm
and hard, for example, is explained if we point out that firm contrasts
with hose and flabby (firm ground:: loose ground, firm chin :: flabby
chin), whereas the opposite of hard is soft (hard ground :: soft
The meaning of each word is conditioned the meaning of other words
forming part of the same vocabulary system, and especially of those in
semantic proximity. High and tall, for instance, could be defined not
only from the point of view of their valence (tall is used about people)
but also in relation to each other by stating how far they are
interchangeable and what their respective antonyms are. A building may
be high and it may be (all. High is a relative term signifying ‘greatly
raised above the surface or the base’, in comparison with what is usual
for objects of the same kind. A table is high if it exceeds 75 cm; a
hill of a hundred meters is not high. The same relativity is
characteristic of its antonym low. As to the word tall, it is used about
objects whose height is greatly in excess of their breadth or diameter
and whose actual height is great for an object of its kind: a tall man,
a tall tree. The antonym is short.
The area where substitution is possible is very limited and outside it
all replacement either destroys the beauty and precision, or, more
often, makes the utterance vague, ungrammatical and even unintelligible.
This makes the knowledge of where each synonym differs from another of
paramount importance for correctness of speech.
The distinctions between words similar in meaning are often very fine
and elusive, so that some special instruction on the use of synonyms is
necessary even for native speakers. This accounts for the great number
of books of synonyms that serve as guides for those who aim at good
style and precision and wish to choose the most appropriate terms from
the varied stock of the English vocabulary. The study of synonyms is
especially indispensable for those who learn English as a foreign
language because what is the right word in one situation will be wrong
in many other, apparently similar, contexts.
It is often convenient to explain the meaning of a new word with the
help of its previously learned synonym. This forms additional
associations in the student’s mind, and the new word is better
remembered. Moreover, it eliminates the necessity of bringing in a
native word. And yet the discrimination of synonyms and words which may
be confused is more important. -The teacher must show that synonyms are
not identical in meaning or use and explain the difference between them
by comparing and contrasting them, as well as by showing in what
contexts one or the other may be most fitly used.
Translation cannot serve as a criterion of synonymy; there are cases
when several English words of different distribution and valence are
translated into Russian by one and the same word. Such words as also,
too and as well, all translated by the Russian word mooted, are never
interchangeable. A teacher of English should always stress the necessity
of being on one’s guard against mistakes of this kind.
Contextual synonyms are similar in meaning only under some specific
distributional conditions. The verbs bear, suffer and stand are
semantically different and not interchangeable except when used in the
negative form; can’t stand is equal to can’t bear in the following words
of an officer: Gas. I’ve swallowed too much of the beastly stuff: I
can’t stand it any longer. I’m going to the dressing-station.
There are some other distinctions to be made with respect to different
kinds of semantic similarity. Some authors, for instance, class groups
like ask :: beg :: implore or like :: love :: adore, gift :: talent ::
genius as synonymous, calling them relative synonyms. This attitude is
open to discussion. In fact the difference in denotative meaning is
unmistakable: the words name different notions, not various degrees of
the same notion, and cannot substitute one another. An entirely
different type of opposition is involved. Formerly we had oppositions
based on the relationships between the members of the opposition, here
we deal with proportional oppositions characterized by their
relationship with the whole vocabulary system and based on a different
degree of intensity of the relevant distinctive features. We shall not
call such words synonymous as they do not fit the definition of synonyms
given in the beginning of the chapter.
Total synonymy, i.e. synonymy where the members of a synonymic group can
replace each other in any given context, without the slightest
alteration in denotative or emotional meaning and connotations, is an
extremely rare occurrence. Examples of this type can be found in special
literature among technical terms peculiar to this or that branch of
knowledge. Thus, in linguistics the terms noun and substantive,
functional affix, flections and inflection are identical in meaning.
What is not generally realized, however, is that terms are a peculiar
type of words, totally devoid of connotations or emotional coloring, and
that their stylistic characterization does not vary? That is why this is
a very special kind of synonymy: neither ideographic nor stylistic
oppositions are possible here. As to the distributional opposition, it
is less marked because the great majority of terms are nouns. Their
irater change ability is also in a way deceptive. Every writer has to
make up his mind right from the start as to which of the possible
synonyms he prefers and stick to it throughout his text to avoid
ambiguity. Thus, the interchangeability is, as it were, theoretical and
cannot be materialized in an actual text.
The same misunderstood conception of interchangeability lies at the
bottom of considering different dialect names for the same plant, animal
or agricultural implement and the like as total (absolute) synonyms.
Thus a perennial plant with long clusters of dotted whitish or purple
tubular flowers that the botanists refer to as genus Digitalis has
several dialectal names such as foxglove, fairy bell, finger/lower,
finger root, dead men’s bells, ladies’ fingers. But the names are not
interchangeable in any particular speaker’s idiolect. 1 The same is true
about the cornflower (Centauries yeans), so called because it grows in
cornfields; some people call it bluebottle according to the shape and
color of its petals. Compare also gorse, furze and whim, different names
used in different places for the same prickly yellow-flowered shrub.
The distinction between synchronistic and dichromatic treatment is so
fundamental that it cannot be overemphasized, but the two aspects are
interdependent and cannot be understood without one another. It is
therefore essential after the descriptive analysis synonymy in
present-day English to take up the historical line of approach and
discuss the origin of synonyms and the causes of either abundance in
The majority of those who studied synonymy in the past have been
cultivating both lines of approach without keeping them scrupulously
apart, and focused their attention on the prominent part of foreign loan
words in English synonymy, e. g. freedom :: liberty or heaven :: sky,
where the first elements arc native and the second, French and
Scandinavian respectively. O. Jazzperson and many others used to stress
that the English language is peculiarly rich in synonyms because
Britons, Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans fighting and settling upon
the soil of the British Isles could not but influence each other’s
speech. British scholars studied Greek and Latin and for centuries used
Latin as a medium for communication on-scholarly topics.
Words borrowed from Latin to interrogate abdomen to collect vacuous to
complete to ascend instruction Native English words to ask belly to
gather empty to end to raise teaching Synonymy has its characteristic
patterns in each language. Its peculiar feature in English is the
contrast between simple native words stylistically neutral, literary
words borrowed from French and learned words of Greco-Latin origin. This
results in a sort of stylistically conditioned triple “keyboard” that
can be illustrated by the following: Words borrowed from French to
question stomach to assemble devoid to finish to mount guidance English
also uses many pairs of synonymous derivatives, the one Hellenic and the
other Romance, e. g.: periphery :: circumference’, hypothesis ::
supposition; sympathy :: compassion; synthesis :; composition.
The pattern of stylistic relationship represented in the above table,
although typical, is by no means universal. For example, the native
words dale, deed, fair are the poetic equivalents of their much more
frequent borrowed synonyms valley, act or the hybrid beautiful.
This subject of stylistic differentiation has been one of much
controversy in recent years. It is universally accepted, however, that
semantic and stylistic properties may change and synonyms which at one
time formed a stylistic opposition only, may in the course of time
become ideographically contrasted as well, and vice versa.
It would be linguistically naive to maintain that borrowing re-silts
only in quantitative changes or those qualitative changes are purely
stylistically. The introduction of a borrowed word almost invariably
starts some alteration both in the newcomer and in the seminary tic
structure of existing words that are close to it in meaning. When in the
13th century the word soil (For soil, soil) was hour-rowed into English
its meaning was ‘a strip of land’. The upper layer of earth in which
plants grow had been denoted since Old English by one of the synonyms:
elope, land, folder. All these words had other central meanings so (hat
the meaning in question was with (hem secondary. Avow, if two words
coincide in meaning and use, the tendency is for one of them to drop out
of the language. Folder had the same function and meaning as elope and
in the fight for survival the latter won. The polysemantic word land
underwent an intense semantic development in a different direction and
so dropped out of this synonymic series. In this way it became quite
natural for soil to fill the obvious lexical gap, receive its present
meaning and become the main name for the corresponding notion, i.e. ‘the
mould in which plants grow’. The noun earth retained (his meaning
throughout its history, whereas the word ground in which this meaning
was formerly absent, developed it. As a result this synonymic group
comprises at present soil, earth and ground.
The fate of the word folder is not at all infrequent. Many other words
now marked in the dictionaries as “archaic” or “obsolete” have dropped
out in the same competition of synonyms: others survived with a meaning
more or less removed from the original one. The process is called
synonymic differentiation and is so current that M. Boreal regarded it
as an inherent law of language development. It must be noted that
-synonyms may influence each other semantically in two diametrically
opposite ways: one of them is dissimilation, the other the reverse
process, i. e. assimi1ation. The assimilation of synonyms consists in
parallel development. An example of this is furnished by the sense
development of Middle English adverbs meaning ‘swiftly’, and
subsequently ‘immediately’. This law was discovered and described by G.
Stern. H. A. Treble and G. H. Villains give as examples the pejorative
meanings acquired by the nouns wench, knave and churl which originally
meant ‘girl’, ‘boy’ and ‘laborer’ respectively, and point out that this
loss of old dignity became linguistically possible because there were so
many synonymous terms to hand. The important thing to remember is that
it is not only borrowings from foreign languages hut, other sources as
well that; have made increasing contributions to the stock of English
synonyms. There are for instance words that come from dialects, and, in
the last hundred years, from American English in particular. As a result
speakers of British English may make use of both elements of the
following pairs, the first element in each pair coming from the USA:
gimmick :: trick, dues :: subscription, long distance (telephone) call
:: trunk call, radio :: wireless. There are also synonyms that originate
in numerous other dialects as, for instance, clover:: shamrock, liquor
;: whiskey (from Irish), girl :; lass, lassie or charm :: glamour (from
The role of borrowings should not be overestimated. Synonyms are also
created by means of all word-forming processes productive in the
language at a given time of its history. The words already existing in
the language develop new meanings. New words may be formed by
affixation, or loss of affixes, conversion, compounding, shortening and
so on, and being coined, form synonyms to those already in use.
Of special importance for those who are interested in the present-day
trends and characteristic peculiarities of the English vocabulary are
the synonymic oppositions due to shift of meaning, new combinations of
verbs with postpositive and compound nouns formed from them,
shortenings, set expressions and conversion.
Set expressions consisting of a verb with a postpositive are widely used
in present-day English and may be called one of its characteristic
features. l Many verbal synonymic groups contain such combinations as
one of their elements. A few examples will illustrate this statement: to
choose :: to pick out; to abandon :: to give up; to continue :: to go
on; to enter :: to come in; to lift :: to pick up; to postpone :: to put
off; to quarrel :: to fall out; to return :: to bring back. E.g. By the
way, Toby has quite given up the idea of doing those animal cartoons.
The vitality of these expressions is proved by the fact that they really
supply material for further word-formation. Very many compound nouns
denoting abstract notions, persons and events are correlated with them,
also giving ways of expressing notions hitherto named by somewhat
lengthy borrowed terms. There are, for instance, such synonymic pairs as
arrangement :: layout; conscription :: call-up; precipitation ::
fall-out; regeneration :: feedback; reproduction :: playback; resistance
:: fight-back; treachery :: sell-out.
An even more frequent type of new formations is that in which a noun
with a verbal stem is combined with a verb of generic meaning (have,
give, take, get, make] into a set expression which differs from the
simple verb in aspect or emphasis: to laugh:: to give a laugh; to sigh::
lo give a sigh; to walk:: to take a walk; to smoke:: to have a smoke; to
love:: to fall in love. E.g. now we can all have a good read with our
coffee. (SIMPSON) Bloomsbury Dictionary of New Words. M. 1996
N. N. Amosova stresses the patterned character of the phrases in
question, the regularity of connection between the structure of the
phrase and the resulting semantic effect. She also points out that there
may be cases when phrases of this pattern have undergone a shift of
meaning and turned into phraseological units quite different in meaning
from, and not synonymical with, the verbs of the same root. This is the
case with to give a lift, to give somebody quite a turn, etc.
Quite frequently synonyms, mostly stylistically, hut sometimes
ideographic as well, are due to shortening, e. g. memorandum :: memo;
vegetables :: vegs; margarine :: merge; microphone :: mike; popular
(song] :: pop (song).
One should not overlook the fact that conversion may also be a source of
synonymy; it accounts for such pairs as commandment:: ceriman, laughter
:: laugh. The problem in this connection is whether such cases should be
regarded as synonyms or as lexical variants of one arid the same word.
It seems more logical to consider them, as lexical variants. Cf. also
cases of different affixation: anxiety :: anxiousness, effectively ;:
effectiveness, and loss of affixes: amongst :; among or await :: wait.
Essence of synonymy, synonymous relations between words yore attracted
and still attracts the attention of linguists, who develop the problems
of semasiology, since decision of the problems of synonymy is closely
connected with antonym and polysemy and the studying of synonyms is
important not only for semasiology, but as well as for lexicography,
literature studying, methodic of teaching the English language, etc.
In spite of the existence of relatively large numbers of the studies,
denoted to the opening of the different sides to synonymy, hitherto
there is no a unity glance in respect to determinations of the synonyms,
methods of their study, principles of the separation and categorizations
of the synonyms, and borders of the synonymous row.
The majority of scholars share the opinion that synonymy presents by
itself the “microcircuit” of the language, which is characterized by
their own relations and that it falls into quality of the component part
in lexical system of the language as a whole.
As it concerns the determinations of synonymy, there is no existence of
the unity among the scholars’ opinions: one researchers come from the
generality of the meaning of synonyms, while the others – from the
correlation of semantic and subject – logical begin in a word, while the
thirds try to prove that synonyms are defined on the base of generality
of the structured model of the use and alike combinability of the words.
Such kind of analysis of these determinations happens to in the works of
Russian philologists V.A. Pautynskaya, “Review of the literature on
question of the synonymy”, V.A. Zvegintsev “Semasiology”, “Questions to
theories and histories of the language”, “Theoretical and applied
linguistics” and V.T. Valium “About determinations of the synonymy and
their synonymy in modern English.
2.4 SEMANTIC AND FUNCTIONAL RELATIONSHIP IN SYNONYMS
This chapter is denoted to the analysis of semantic and functional
relationships and words and their synonymy in modern English. V.G.
Vilyuman, in detail analyzing all signs of synonymy, comes to conclusion
that necessary and sufficient for confession of the words as the
synonymical ones features are general for the analyzed words semantic
and functional signs, but, however, the problem of synonymy according to
Volume’s opinion is being lead to the discovering of resemblances and
differences of the meanings and functions of the words on the base of
their combinability. This idea might be truly supported by the
investigations of other linguists such as A.V.Smirnitsky and G.Khidekel.
We must also notion here that the understanding of the essence of the
synonymous relations is closely connected with the understanding of the
essence and structures of the semantic structure of a word. We know
different ways of interpretations of the semantic structure of the word
in theories of lexicology. Let us give some of these suggestions below.
V.G. Viluman defines the semantic structure of the word as a set of
semantic signs, which are revealed at the determination of semantic
adjacency of the synonymical words. According to his opinion, one of the
possible ways of the determination of semantic adequacy of the words is
offered by the analysis of the description of meanings for these words
in explanatory dictionaries. Two words are considered as semantically
correspondent to each other if their vocabulary meaning is explained one
through another. The relationship between two words can also be direct
and mediated. For example, having studied the semantic relationship
between verbs which are united by the semantic meaning of “to look”,
V.G. Vilyuman builds the matrix of the semantic structures of the
synonymical verbs analyzed. The matrix presentation of the semantic
structures serves not only as a demonstrative depiction of the material,
but it also creates the picture a unit systems in a language – we mean
synonymy, since the semantic structure of each word in the matrix is
represented by itself as a ranked ensemble of importance’s
interconnected and opposed to each other.
The deep penetration to the essence of language phenomena, their nature
and laws of the development is promoted by the collation of these
phenomena in two and more languages.
The problems of the comparative study of lexicon in different languages
have found their reflected images in the works of such kind famous
lexicologists as A.V. Scherba, R.A. Budagov, V.G. Gak, B.A. Uspensky,
V.N. Yartseva, Sh. Balley, S. Uliman, U. Veinrich, A.V.Smirnitsky and
the others. Виноградов В. В. Лексикология и лексикография. Избранные
труды. М. 1977 стр 119-122
Many linguists consider as expedient to match the small systems between
themselves, the members of which are semantically bound between itself.
This enables us to define the lexical elements of each system by means
of investigation, and to note the moments of the coincidences between
them, as well as to explain why the semantic sidebars of each word or
words, which have the alike subject reference in compared languages, are
turned out to be different.
The comparative studies also serve as the base for typological
investigations, the production of typological universals, since, as a
result of such correspondences, are identically and non-identically
fixed with the determined standpoint elements.
For example, the Russian linguist M.M. Makovskiy in his article
“Typology of Lexical-Semantic Systems” emphasizes that the typological
analysis of lexicon must not only be reduced to the external, mostly
available establishments , which are often available for observation,
but often casual in coincidences in their lexical and semantically
meanings. In the course of studies we must necessary realize, if there
general structured lexical-semantic models, common for many languages
(Russian and Uzbek are included) exist, and if yes, what kind of
peculiarities and laws are observed for this.
Thereby, we see that the problem of synonymy was studied and is being
studied, but, regrettably, the majority of the studies in this area
belong to the foreign lexicologists, especially by the Russian ones. In
Uzbekistan the studding of the problem of synonymy is investigated by a
relatively small quantity of lexicologists, except for Prof. Buranov and
The following chapter of my qualification work studies the verbal
synonymy, which is one of the most fewly studied problems concerned with
linguistics at all and the problems of synonymy in particular.
2.5 INTERCHANGEABLE CHARACHTER OF WORDS AND THEIR SYNONYMY
Considering the semantic generality of the lexical units and their
partial interchangeability as the features of synonyms, that is to say,
the compatibility of words in one contextual meaning and the
inconsistency in others, we hereunder may confirm that two words
interchangeable in all contexts are not synonyms, because when two words
are used with no difference, there is no a problem of the choice between
Now let us analyze this problem from the viewpoint of the Russian
scholar S. Ulman. Citing on Aristotel, S. Uliman emphasizes that
synonymy of the words – a stylistic category and the style always
expects the choice between two words, at least, which are compatible or
incompatible. Hence it follows that where there are no grounds for
choice between two or more words, there are no grounds for speaking
about synonymy of these words.
Amongst the judgments about correlation of meanings in synonymy and
their interchangeable character, there are such, which reduce the
synonymy to unlimited interchange. For instance, A. Cherch writes that
if two names (the question is about the names presented as combinations
of the words) are synonyms (that is they have one and the same content),
it is always possible for a linguist to change one of them into another.
However, example, which A. Cherch gives on this cause, shows that the
interchangeable character of synonyms is limited. This example looks as
e.g. Sir Valiter Scott is the author of “Veverley”
In this example we can see that though Sir Walter Scott is not a
Veverley by its semantic content but Sir Walter Scott is Sir Walter
Scott, though when we say a word “Veverley” we may mention Walter Scott
as the author of the former.
In the linguistic literature on synonymy we can read that the
interchangeable character of lexical units is considered as the effect
to generalities of their lexical and grammatical importance. For support
of this idea we can take the works of A.L. Demidova, who, concerning
with synonymical pretext, comes to conclusion that some synonyms differ
in their semantically meaning and cannot be interchanged to each other,
while the others are of stylistic shade and can be interchanged into
each other. I agree with A.L. Demidova’s idea is that there also exists
the third group of synonyms, which combines in itself the features of
the first two previous groups. And, consequently, such synonyms are
interchangeable in one case and not interchangeable in another.
According to concepts accepted by me , the synonymy exists only under
the two above mentioned conditions of semantic generality, while the
words which correspond only to one of these conditions, are not of
2.6 COMBINABILITY OF SYNONYMS
The verbs which fall into one synonymous row, can possess the
miscellaneous character of composing restrictions. The composing
restrictions can be of lexical, semantic or referring character.
The lexical restriction reveals in the following fact: a synonym can be
used only with determined circle of words. However, the verbal synonyms
practically do not possess such type of restrictions, though there are
some examples which might be suitable, to some degree, to the given type
For example, if we analyze the two synonyms – «to creep” and “to crawl”,
the latter, is more preferable in usage with the names of animals who
are deprived with limbs (e.g. Snakes, gophers, etc.)
Cf: The snakes crawled around the tree.
Contrary to the above mentioned character, the semantic restriction is
assigned by denotation of determined semantic feature, which a synonym
must possess when correlating in syntactical relationship with the given
For instance, in the synonymic row «to escape”, “to flee”, “to fly”, “to
abscond”, “to decamp” in the meaning of “избегать” the first three
synonyms possess a broad combinability, than the last twos. That is, in
the case of semantic combinability the subject of the corresponding
actions are both people and animals.
Cf. :His best tow dogs escaped from the camp, the dog fled into the
Meanwhile, the subject action of the verbs “to abscond” and “to decamp”
are only people.
More complicated than the previously mentioned groups are the synonyms
with the referring combinability restrictions. The example of such
restrictions can be shown on the following synonymic row: “to reach” –
“to achieve” – “to gain” – “to attain” in the meaning of “добавляться”
The following noun expressions which denote the purpose or the result of
the action are of typical character for these three synonyms:
To reach / to achieve, to gain, to attain /one’s aim ( e,g. the abject
of one’s desires, success, fame, glory), “to reach (an understanding,
agreement), “to achieve the reputation for being rude”, “to achieve the
realization of a dream”, “to gain / to attain / the attention of the
clerk [ the confidence of the mountain people]. It should be borne in
the mind that the last examples the verbs “to gain” and “to attain”
mustn’t be substituted onto the verbs “”to reach”, or “to achieve”,
because the noun expression “to reach / to achieve / the attention of
the clerk [the confidence of the mountain people] are wrong (and not
only somewhat different in the meaning).
Supervising more attentively to the nouns “attention” and “confidence”,
which are capable to enter in the place of the direct object in the
sentences with the verbs “to gain” and “to attain”, but not as the
direct object to the verbs “to reach” and “ to achieve, we may notice
the following interesting peculiar feature of the studied synonymical
phrases: the subject for the state, marked by the words “attention” or
“confidence”, do not correspond to the subject of the action, marked by
the verbs “to gain” and “ to attain”, i.e. the attention of the clerk is
attracted not by the clerk himself , but by the other person, and the
confidence of highlanders is achieved by someone different from
However, the verbs “to gain” and “to attain” are capable to match with
the nouns, marking such conditions (the characteristics, situations),
the subjects of which coincide with the subjects of actions
corresponding to these subjects: that is in the case of the verbs “to
gain / to attain / one’s aim [success, glory]” the subject of the action
of “to gain / attain” is one and the same person.
So now we can formulate the referring restriction for the verbs “to
reach” and “to achieve”: they cannot be combined with the names of
conditions, the subjects of which do not coincide with the subject of
the action marked by these conditions.
The similar difference is presented in the pair of the synonyms “to
condescend” – “ to deign” ( in the meaning of “снисходить”): the first
of them is combined both with the name of the action or property, the
subject of which coincides with the subject for the verb “ to
condescend” (e.g. he condescend smile); and with the name or state the
subject of which does not coincide with the subject for the verb “to
condescend” (cf.: to condescend to smb’s folly). Meantime, the verb “to
deign” can be combined in its meaning only with the names of the proper
actions or the characteristics of the subject:
Cf.: He didn’t deign to smile, he didn’t deign to their folly.
The differences in combinability between the synonyms can, like
constructive differences, be motivated or non-motivated.
Let us take into consideration, for instance, the synonyms “to surprise”
– “удивлять” and “to amaze”, “to astound” – изумлять”,”поражать”. They
differ, in particular, on the feature of degree of a feeling. All the
three synonyms can be combined with the adverbial modifiers of measure,
but the verb “to surprise” can be combined with any circumstance of this
class (cf.: he was a little [not a little, very much] sup), while “to
amaze” and “to astound” can be combined only with those adverbial
modifiers of measure, which mark the super high or the maximal degree of
property, condition or feeling.
At least once unusual unless absolutely anomalous, word-combinations.
In the above mentioned case the differences in combinability are
naturally removed from the differences in the meanings of synonyms.
However, even the differences in combinability can be semantically
Below we shall take into consideration some more several examples of
differences in combinability between the synonyms.
The verb “gather” “собираться” differs from their synonyms “to assemble”
and “to congregate” by the following: the subject for the verbs “to
assemble” and “to congregate” can only be (in stylistically neutral
text) only the living beings, but the subject for the verb “to gather” –
can be expressed by any moving things:
e.g. The clouds are gathering, it will rain.
The verbs “to ponder”, “to meditate» and “to ruminate” in the meaning of
“размышлять” are combinable with the names of situation, characteristic,
products of thoughts as object (the theme) of reflections:
cf.: to ponder / to meditate/ upon the course of actions; to ruminate
over the past; to ponder / to meditate, to ruminate/ the point.
The verbs “to ponder” and “to meditate” are combinable with the names of
the person as object for reflections; the latter is characterized for
the verb “to ruminate”:
cf.: to ponder on modern young men, he meditated on all those people and
the things they represented in his life.
The verbs “to depress”, “to oppress” and “to weigh down (upon)” in the
meaning of “угнетать” can be combined with the names of feelings,
actions, characteristics, etc. as the reasons for the oppressed
cf.: a feeling of isolation depressed / oppressed / her, she was
oppressed by fear, oppressed / weighed down / by the heat. Besides, the
verbs “to depress” and “to oppress” can be combined with the names of
the concrete things and living beings in same meaning, which is not
characteristic for the phrasal verb “to weigh down (upon)”:
Cf.: the dim room depressed / oppressed / her, she depressed me. Abayev
V.I. Synonyms and their Semantical Features T. O’qituvchi 1981 pp. 4-5,
2.7 PECULIAR FEATURES OF SEMANTICS AND COMBINABILITY OF THE ENGLISH
VERBS ON THE EXAMPLE OF THE SYNONYMS “TO AMUZE”, “TO ENTERTAIN”, “TO
GRIP”, “TO INTEREST”, “TO THRILL”.
The problems of semantics on – former call the rapt attention to
themselves by the leading scientists of the whole world. At the modern
stage of development of linguistically science the important
meaningfulness is gained both in the questions of the determination and
revision of the background notions of semasiology, and the narrower
problems of the concrete studies which are finally also directed on
solving of the global philosophical problems of the correlation between
the language, thinking and reality.
We analyze this chapter from the viewpoint of the Russian philologist
E.V.Drozd. According to this work E.V. Drozd has denoted the study of
the semantics and the peculiarities of the combinability of the English
verbs “to amuse”, “to entertain”, “to grip”, “to interest”, “to thrill”
The given group of verbs was chosen not accidentally. The verbs “to
amuse”,” to entertain”, “to grip”, “to interest”, “to thrill” reflects
the important social and psychological notions, connected with
intellectual – cognitive and emotional sphere of human activity and this
group differs in a rather big frequency of its usage. The interest to
this group is also undutiful from the purely a linguistically standpoint
because of its extent semantic structure, and the various possibilities
Proceeding with the concrete procedure of analysis of semantic
composition of the given verb, we put the following problems before
1) clearly delimit and describe the verbal word as a nominative and
structured unit of the language, to analyze the peculiarities of the
semantic structure of each verb and match them;
2) to install on the base of semantic composition what the subject of
the name comprises in itself: only the main verbal component of action,
condition, motion or it comprises the accompanying features: the manner,
the source, the purpose – and to compare the verbs on this parameters.
In our study we used the method of vocabulary definition, by means of
which the set of seams of the given lexical importance was analyzed, and
any vocabulary mark was taken for instruction on semantic component. The
observations show that the vocabulary definition comprises in itself, on
the one hand, the instruction on attribute to the more general semantic
area, but, on the other hand, – the enumeration of individual semantic
features of a word. Uniting the synonymous, (excluding the rare cases of
usage) we have got the set of components for the meaning of each
investigated verb (See: Table 1).
The Analysis shows that the general component for all the investigating
verbs is a seam “to affect the emotions”, which gives us, as we seem,
the right to refer the considered verbs to the category of the emotional
ones. It is Interesting to note that no even one of the dictionaries,
describing the meaning of the verbs “to amuse” and “to entertain”, gives
the word “emotion” as such, but the presence of the component “joy”,
“happiness”, “revelry” (purely emotional features) allows us to fix the
presence of the component “to affect the emotions” in these verbs as
The general component for four from five considered verbs a was the
following: “ to engage” and “keep the attention”. According to the
investigations, this element in miscellaneous degrees is expressed in
the meanings of the analyzed words in the following number: for “to
amuse” it is fixed in 14, for “to entertain” – 11, for “to grip” – 19,
for “to interest” – in 25 dictionaries. The component of meaning of the
verb “to excite” is met in four from five verbs, that puts the verb “to
trill” in somewhat specific position. The other components are of purely
As conclusion, we may say that the verb, as no other part of speech, has
a broad set of differential features, vastly complicating the semantics
In the meaning of a verb there might be a denotation to the specifying
of the denoted actions, to the conditions of persons, subjects, ways,
types of the action, correlations to its communicators, modality of the
content assignment of the utterance, time of the speech act, etc.
So, we say that two words are synonymous if substituting one for the
other in all contexts does not change the truth value of the sentence
where the substitution is made. Synonymy dictionaries include something
that native speakers have very clear intuitions about. They have the
intuition that a number of words may express the same idea.
Ex: You can find ‘kill’ as a synonym of ‘murder’, and ‘strong’ as a
synonym of ‘powerful’, but not the other way round:
When you say they A and B are synonymous because they express the same
object, you expect also that if A is synonymous of B, B is also
synonymous of A. but this isn’t reflected in dictionaries. If A is a
synonym of B and B is a synonym of A, these are true or absolute
synonyms. They are interchangeable. But there are no absolute synonyms,
it’s an intellectual creation. Native speakers feel that some pairs of
synonyms are more synonymous than others. This gives us the idea of a
scale of synonymy. Obviously, the idea behind synonymy is that of
sharing meaning that is that two words share (part of) their meaning. It
has become a problem to establish how much overlapping do we need for
two words for being considered synonyms.
Ex: truthful: honest they are synonyms although they share only part of
their meaning; truthful: purple they are not at all synonyms.
E. Cruse says that an important thing here is contrast. When a speaker
uses them indistinctively, he emphasizes their similarities not their
Ex: kill: murder they share part of their meaning
The greater the number of features two words share, the more synonyms
A and B share almost all of their meaning components.
Ex: – creature animal dog + Alsatian philosophy tree cat Spaniel.
Alsatian’ and ‘Spaniel’ share more atoms of meaning than creature’ and
‘philosophy’ but they are not synonyms. So this claim is wrong, because
we need two things for synonymy: we need overlapping of meaning and, at
the same time, the two words do not have to be contrastive.
Cruse says that synonyms must not only share high degree of semantic
overlapping but also a low degree of implicit contractiveness. So, a
high degree of semantic overlap results in a low degree of implicit
Ex: – John is honest
John is truthful
· He was cashiered, that is to say, dismissed.
He was murdered, or rather executed
Cashiered’ and ‘dismissed’ are synonyms, while ‘murdered’ and executed’
are contrastive synonyms
Arthur’s got himself a dog -or more exactly, a cat.
The inherent relationship between ‘cat’ and ‘dog’ is that of contrast,
for that reason this sentence is odd.
It is impossible to put an end in the scale of synonyms.
Ex: + rap: tap rap: knock rap: thwack – rap: bang
They are not prototypical synonyms. They are peripheral synonyms
Behind any study of synonymy is the idea of the quest for the
establishment of true synonyms. Cruse reviews some apparently true
Ex: begin: commence munch: chew hate: loathe
Cruse takes into account the question of the contextual relations. For
two words to be true synonymous we need two conditions: equivalence of
meaning and equivalence of contextual relations. This is highly
problematic because words don’t behave like that. They tend to
specialize in their contextual relations.
Ex: Begin and ‘commence’ mean exactly the same but in terms of
contextual relations they are not.
Johnny, tell Mummy when Playschool begins and she’ll watch it with you.
Johnny, tell Mummy when Playschool commences and she’ll watch it with
Arthur is always chewing gum (+)
Arthur is always munching gum (-)
I don’t just hate him, I loathe him (+)
I don’t just loathe him, I hate him (-)
Apart from this there are minus aspects we have to take into account
Syntax: two syntactic terms have to behave syntactically the same
Ex: Where is he hiding?
Where is he concealing?
Conceal’ needs an argument (DO)
Johnny, where have you hidden Daddy’s slippers? (+)
Johnny, where have you concealed Daddy’s slippers? (-)
· Sense: you have to choose the correct sense of the word if you want to
prove that two words are synonymous.
Ex: Arthur’s more recent car is an old one (+)
Arthur’s most recent car is a former one (-)
He had more responsibility in his old job
He had more responsibility in his former job
2.8 CONCEPTUAL SYNONYMY
Words are felt to be synonymous independently of their contextual
relations. Leech makes the distinction between synonymy and conceptual
synonymy. The equivalence of meaning of synonymy has to adhere to the
equivalence of concepts, independently from the stylistic overtones.
Ex: Steed (poetic) Horse (general) Nag (slang) Gee-gee (baby language)
“World Book Encyclopedia S part” Macmillan Publisher 1996 p 134
The concept ‘horse’ is evoked by these words. So these words are
synonymous although they are different in their stylistic overtones.
This has been strongly criticized because to prove that we all have the
same concept is very doubted. Our system of conceptualization may be
different from one speaker to other. The most evident example of this is
baby language. When a baby says gee-gee he may be saying it to any
animal that moves.
So conceptual synonymy is alright but it has faults and objections.
Warwick says that it isn’t possible to distinguish semantic meaning and
factual meaning. Her lexicographic descriptions are very lengthy because
she has into account all knowledge of the world that is, the habitat,
size, appearance, behavior, and relation to people…
Componential analysis of conceptual synonymy.
It is an analysis very popular in the 1970’s and turned itself to be
very useful in the identification of atoms of meaning of words. One of
the applications of componential analysis is in the identification of
synonyms, because if two words share atoms of meaning, they are
Ex: John is a bachelor
John is an unmarried man
Componential analysis serves quite well for the analysis of fairly
uncompleted words (nouns, adjectives, some verbs), but there are whole
areas of the vocabulary of the language that don’t lend themselves for
Barbara Warren makes a distinction between synonyms and variants. She
says that we have synonyms if the words have similar meaning and if they
are interchangeable without affecting meaning in some context or
contexts. Variants are words which have similar meaning but without the
interchangeability in some contexts.
Ex: extending Deep far below; profound the surface.
‘Deep’ and ‘profound’ has always been considered synonyms and it’s true
they are interchangeable but it’s also true that in some contexts one
cannot replace the other.
He had a deep / profound understanding of the matter
This river is deep / profound. They are not interchangeable in this
Ex: Sweet: candy dialectal variants
Decease: pop off stylistic variants
Lady: woman connotative variants
In one context you use one word and in the other you use the other one.
Human 1) lady adult woman 2) female’
The point here is to try and prove that synonyms exist. The result of
this research is quiet distressing. There are no synonyms following
Warren’s definition. What Person did was to scrutinize the use of ‘deep’
and ‘profound’. His research is especially valid because he bases his
research on lexicographic words, corpus data and importance. The wide
range of sources and the number of them is what makes this valid.
The conclusions: ‘Deep’ and ‘profound’ show a difference in
collocability, that is, they tend to collocate with different words.
Deep tends to collocate with words of affection, conviction, feeling,
regret, satisfaction, sorrow… Whereas ‘profound’ tends to collocate with
words of difference, distaste, effect, failure, influence… They enter
different collocations because they mean slightly different things. They
specialize in certain areas of meaning and that makes them slightly
different. He also talks about metaphorical status. Metaphorically
speaking, they can mean position on the one hand or quality of depth on
the other. Only ‘deep’ enters for the position metaphor, but the quality
of depth can be expressed by both of them.
Ex: deep structure (profound structure)
He was deep (profound) in thought
It was deep (profound) in the Middle Ages
Deep / profound learning
Deep / profound sleep
Intellectual – emotive dichotomy: ‘deep’ and ‘profound’ tend to relate
respectively to intellectual and emotive words. The idea is that ‘deep’
tends to collocate with emotive nouns, whereas ‘profound’ tends to
collocate with intellectual words.
There is a difference in the degree of depth and intensity of these
words. ‘Profound’ is deeper that ‘deep’. When both are possible, then
there is a distinction.
Ex: He has a deep understanding of the matter (‘pretty good’)
He has a profound understanding of the matter (‘very good’) Maurer D.W.
, High F.C. New Words – Where do they come from and where do they go.
American Speech., 1982.p.171
English words associations give us a very useful way to prove this.
There are nouns whose inherent meaning is superlative. With such a noun
you can only have ‘profound’ because it means deeper.
Ex: profound distaste *deep distaste
Profound repugnance *deep repugnance
Of course in terms of truth-conditions one entails the other one but not
vice versa, that is ‘profound’ includes ‘deep’ but not vice versa.
Ex: His profound insight into human nature has stood the test of
His deep insight into human nature has stood the test of centuries.
His deep insight into human nature has stood the test of centuries. *
His profound insight into human nature has stood the test of centuries
Synonymy is understood within mutual entailment (A-B) but ‘deep’ and
‘profound’ doesn’t correspond to this. Native speakers feel that
‘profound’ is stylistically more elevated or more formal that deep? So
with all this evidence it is impossible to say that they are synonymous.
This is why Person gives the following figure as the analysis for them.
Concrete ‘situated, coming abstract; abstract from, or extending
intellectual; emotive far below the strongly; surface emotive.
Stylistic Attributes (SA): informal SA; formal.
In Person’s model we have three categories: CC, TA, SA. The thing is
that not all words include SA box, so it’s left open. Person also
reviewed other examples analyzed by Warren.
Ex: child / brat child CC brat TA
Child’ and ‘brat’ are an example of connotative variant in Warren. They
are given as variants but if we apply the test of hyponymy we see that
it works. ‘Brat’ is a kind of ‘child’ but not vice versa. ‘Brat’
includes ‘child’ plus the feature ‘bad-mannered. Person finds the
collocation in which ‘brat’ appears; it tends to appear with adjectives
that reinforces this feature of bad-mannered what proves that that atom
of meaning (…)
The same happens with ‘woman’ and ‘lady’.
Ex: She is a woman, but she is not a lady.
She is a lady, but she is not a woman
Person questions the fact that two words can be synonymous out of the
blue. He defends contextual information as the key to determine if two
words are synonymous or not.
Ex: readable: legible
At to what extent can we say that they are synonyms?
(of handwriting or point) able to be read easily’
pleasurable or interesting to read’
(of handwriting or print) ‘able to be read easily’
They are only synonymous when they mean ‘able to be read easily’
“The child, quite obviously, would not be expected to produce a
composition, but would be expected to know the alphabet, where the full
stops and commas are used, and be able to write in a readable / legible
manner, something like, ‘The cat sat on the mat’.”
“It is not easy to see why her memory should have faded, especially as
she wrote a most readable / *legible autobiography which went quickly
through several editions.”
Legible; readable; able to with pleasure; be read’ and /or; interest.
They share senses number 1 but to ‘readable’ it’s also added sense
number 2. This claims that in some contexts they are fully
interchangeable, but we have also to take into account their stylistic
feature and the register.
In principle, scientific words have discrete meanings.
Ex: mercury: quicksilver
They appear as full synonyms because they say that their relationship is
that of mutual inclusion (A-B)
Conceptually, the concept ‘mercury’ can be expressed with both words.
However, style draws the line between both words. Native speakers and
corpora of data give us what we have in the following figure:
Mercury: formal, quicksilver; scientific whitish; fluid informal; metal.
Mercury formal, scientific (Romance origin): Quicksilver informal (Saxon
However something peculiar has happened with this words. The popular
word ‘quicksilver’ is starting to disappear and what usually happens is
that the formal words are the one that disappears. But in this case, it
is the contrary.
General tobacco in slang’
It for smoking’ ‘narrow, made of finely cut tobacco rolled in thin
This figure contains not only CC but typical attributes too.
2.9 SYNONYMY AND COLLOCATIVE MEANING
They have been considered similar in meaning but never fully synonyms.
They belong to the same categorical concept
Collocations by Leech: girl, boy, woman, flower, pretty garden, color,
Boy, man, car, vessel, handsome overcoat, airliner, typewriter, etc.
Collocations found in the Lob and the British Corpora:
Pretty, Batman, Case, Co-ed, Dress, Headdresses, Girl, Piece of
seamanship, Quilt, Range of pram sets, Shoe, Shop, Sophie
Street: Teacher (female ref.), Trick, Woman, Handsome, Cocktail cabinet,
Connor Winslow, Face (male ref.), Man, Mayor, Offer, Pair of salad
servers, Person (male ref.),(Red brocade) curtains, Son, Staircase,
Sub-Alpine gloom, Trees, Vessel, Volume (book), Woman, ‘pretty’ female
nouns, ‘handsome’ male nouns.
This is the first division we could make but there are more differences.
It cannot be based on terms of male / female words.
The idea, then, is that if an adjective tends to collocate to certain
nouns means that its partner is slightly different to it. So when they
are applied to the same noun, the same rule is applied.
Ex: pretty: handsome
Mary is a pretty woman
Mary is a handsome woman
A handsome woman is more elegant that a pretty woman. She also has
stronger facial features. A handsome woman isn’t a pretty woman at the
same time and vice versa. So they are exclusive terms.
Pretty Street’ but ‘handsome avenue’
If they are exclusive terms, they are nor synonyms but co-hyponyms
If two items are closely synonymous, a coordination test will lead to a
Ex: Scientists have so far failed to find for this deadly and fatal
However if we coordinate ‘pretty’ and ‘handsome’ what we have is a
That woman is pretty and handsome
(Photocopy of definitions of ‘deep’, ‘profound’, ‘handsome’, ‘lovely’
Some of the dictionaries specialize it more deeply than others.
Profound’ in the Longman is defined as deep but not vice versa. This
also happens in ‘lovely’ and ‘beautiful’.
Uninformative; it doesn’t give really the sense of the words.
This isn’t correct because ‘profound’ emphasizes stronger that ‘deep’
and this isn’t true. There is a contradiction there.
Introduction of the notion of ‘delicacy’ for defining a pretty woman.
This is the only dictionary which says that something pretty isn’t
something beautiful. They exclude each other. ‘Grand’ is a feature of
handsome -‘making a pleasant
lovely – impression on the pretty
Here, ‘beautiful’ and ‘pretty’ appear as co-hyponyms so they have to
exclude each other. The CC is actually the definition given for
‘beautiful’, so it’s the generic word for the four words. ‘Lovely’ is
slightly more intense than ‘beautiful’. (It’s the same relationship
‘deep’ and ‘profound’ have)
This shows how language establishes degrees of intensity.
2.10 SEMANTIC PECULIARITIES OF SYNONYMS
Semantic fields are the answer to the problem / question of structuring
the lexicon of a language. Those who defend the existence of semantic
fields believe that the language is structured. They say that the words
can be classified in sets, which are related to conceptual fields and
these words divide the semantic space / domain in different ways. It’s
to be preferred that the label to use here is field rather than theory
because theories are supposed to be complete and have explicit
definitions of the matter in question, and this isn’t what happens in
the semantic field approach. We just have ideas of how things seem to
be. Moreover, the semantic field approach isn’t formalized and it was
born on the basis of just a handful of ideas of how words work.
The basic notion behind any semantic field approach is the notion of
association: words are associated in different words. We also have the
idea of a mosaic. The words form it in such a way that for it to be
complete you need all the words in their correct place. We also have to
distinguish between lexical and semantic fields. Semantic fields have
something to do with prototypically. One of the main difficulties in the
semantic field approach is to establish the exact number of words that
are part of a set. Here is where Prototype Theory enters because it
defines the basic features of a category.
Model of focal points.
Martin and Key concluded that the basic words of a category are very
easy to identify by a native speaker but they say that the interesting
point is the area a native speaker doubts whether to call something A or
B. There are concepts which cannot be expressed in words. From the
psychological point of view there are concepts which cannot be
verbalized but that really exist in the mind. The aim of this model is
to identify the relationship between the lexical fields and the semantic
fields. And there are fields where the relationship doesn’t exist.
The idea behind semantic fields is the arrangement of words in sets
depending on the organizing concepts. Many semantic linguists say that
it’s difficult to think of a word outside a semantic field because if
you say that a word is outside a semantic field, you say it’s outside
the lexicon. The problem with this is what happens with words which
don’t evoke a concept. Many words in English are meaningful but don’t
have a concept
Ex: Even / only
These words clearly make a semantic contribution to the sentence. It’s
not the same to say: Only John drinks milk. Then: Even John drinks milk.
3.1 SUMMARY TO THE WHOLE WORK
So, the conclusion is that some words of a language don’t lend
themselves well to the analysis in terms of semantic fields. Other
important idea is the difficulty of finding finite sets of words. In any
case, there’s an internal contradiction between the ideas of a set with
the structuring of words of a language. A set is a close set. A word can
belong to several fields depending on the organizing concept. Speakers
of the language clearly identify the central example but not the
peripheral ones. This doesn’t mean that it would never happen that. The
degree of flexibility in the discrepancy of the categorization of words
Ex: Please give me some more tables (‘Table’ is here a mass noun meaning
‘space in a table’).
E.G. Two races are grown in India. Here two races’ refers to ‘two types
The idea behind this is that the dynamic character of a vocabulary
cannot be reflected in the static character of the semantic fields,
which are a static way of organizing the vocabulary of a language.
3.2 WAYS OF APPLYING THE WORK
Having analyzed the problem of synonymy in Modern English we could do
the following conclusions:
a) The problem of synonymy in Modern English is very actual nowadays.
b) There are several kinds of analysis of synonyms: semantical,
stylistic and componentional.
c) A number of famous linguists dealt with the problem of synonymy in
Modern English. In particular, Profs. Ullmann and Broal emphasized the
social reasons for synonymy, L. Lipka pointed out non-binary contrast or
many-member lexical sets and gave the type which he called directional
opposition, V.N. Comissarov and Walter Skeat proved the link of synonymy
with other kinds of lexical devices.
d) The problem of synonymy is still waits for its detail investigation.
Having said about the perspectives of the work we hope that this work
will find its worthy way of applying at schools, lyceums and colleges of
high education by both teachers and students of English. We also express
our hopes to take this work its worthy place among the lexicological
works dedicated to synonymy.
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6.V.D. Arakin English Russian Dictionary M., Russky Yazyk
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25. Hornby The Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English. Lnd.
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29 Internet: http://www.wikipedia.com/English/articles/synonyms.htm
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