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Lectures in Contrastive Lexicology of the English and Ukrainian Languages

Lectures in Contrastive Lexicology of the English and Ukrainian Languages



T.O. Mizin

                                                Kyiv - 2005                                               

Мизин Т.О. Курс лекцій з порівняльної лексикології англійської та української мов. Навчальний посібник для студентів III курсу факультету лінгвістики. – Київ,

2005. – с.

Рецензенти: кандидат філологічних наук, доцент Т.А. Мирончук (Міжнародна Академія управління персоналом);

кандидат філологічних наук, доцент І.В. Тіменко (Київський міжнародний університет)

Даний посібник включає лекції, які охоплюють програму курсу порівняльної лексикології англійської та української мов. Розглядаються питання теорії слова та словотвору, семантичної структури слова, фразеології англійської та української мов, етимології, загальної характеристики вокабуляру.

Посібник розрахований на студентів III курсу факультету лінгвістики.

Друкується за рішенням Вченої Ради Київського міжнародного університету.


Lectures in Contrastive Lexicology of the English and Ukrainian Languages are intended for students of English at universities. Lectures are devoted to the following topics: the Morphological and Semantic Structures of Words; Synonyms. Antonyms. Homonyms; Word Combinations and Phraseology in Modern English and Ukrainian Languages; the Etymology of English and Ukrainian Words; General Characteristics of the Vocabulary.

The aim of the lectures is to lead the students to a deeper understanding of the Modern English and Ukrainian lexical systems.

The list of bibliographical references will serve as a guide to those who would like to attain a more complete view of the topics discussed.


1. General problems of the theory of the word.

2. The structure of the word. Types of morphemes and their specific features.

3. Affixation.

4. Conversion.

5. Composition.

6. Shortening.

7. Back-formation.

8. Blending.

9. Gradation.

10. Stress interchange.

11. Sound imitation.

1. General Problems of the Theory of the Word. The Definition of the Word

The problems associated with the definition of the word have always been most complex and remain disputable. Determining the word involves considerable difficulties for the criteria employed in establishing it are of different character and each language presents a separate system with its own patterns of vocabulary items, its specific types of structural units and its own ways of distinguishing them. The matter is that the simplest word has many different aspects. It has a sound form because it is a certain arrangement of phonemes.

It has its morphological structure, being a certain arrangement of morphemes.

Being the central element of any language system, the word is a sort of focus for the problems of phonology, lexicology, syntax, morphology and also some other sciences that have to deal with language and speech, such as philosophy, psychology and probably quite a few other branches of knowledge. All attempts to characterise the word are necessarily specific for each domain of science and are considered one-sided by the representatives of all the other domains and criticised for incompleteness,

The definition of the word from the point of view of philosophy:

Words are not mere sounds but names of matter (T. Hobbes).

The definition of the word from the point of view of physiology:

A word is a universal signal that can substitute any other signal from the environment in evoking a response in a human organism (I. Pavlov).

The definition of the word from the point of view of Machine Mathematical Linguistics:

A word is a sequence of graphemes between two blanks.

The definition of the word from the point of view of syntax:

A word is a minimum sentence (H. Sweet).

A word is a minimum free form (L. Bloomfield).

The definition of the word from the point of view of semantics:

Words are meaningful units (S. Ullmann).

The definition of the word from the point of view of syntax and semantics:

A word is one of the smallest completely satisfying bits of isolated units into which the sentence resolves itself (E. Sapir).

The definition of the word from the point of view of semantics and phonology:

A word is an articulate sound-symbol in its aspect of denoting something which is spoken about ( A. Gardiner).

The definition of the word from the point of view of semantics, phonology and grammar:

A word is the association of a given meaning with a given group of sounds susceptible to a given grammatical employment (A. Meillet).

Many scholars have attempted to define the word as a linguistic phenomenon. Yet none of the definitions can be considered totally satisfactory in all aspects. The definition which is a bit extended but takes into account different aspects and hence can be considered optimal is the definition of the word given be I. Arnold:

The word is a speech unit used for the purposes of human communication, materially representing a group of sounds, possessing a meaning, susceptible to grammatical employment and characterised by formal and semantic unity.

2.  The Structure of the Word. Types of Morphemes and their Specific Features

If viewed structurally, words appear to be divisible into smaller units which are called morphemes. Like a word a morpheme is an association of a given meaning with a given group of sounds. But unlike a word it is not autonomous. Morphemes occur as constituents of words. But there are quite a lot of words which contain only one morpheme.

The word morpheme is of the Greek origin. Morphe means form, the suffix –eme means the smallest unit.

Morphemes can be divided into two main types: free (those that can occur alone) and bound (those which cannot occur alone).The word wool, for instance, has one free morpheme, the word woolen consists of two morphemes: wool (which is free) and –en (which is bound). The word лісистий consists of the free morpheme ліс and the bound morpheme –ст.

A word has at least one lexical morpheme represented by a root by which we mean the ultimate constituent element which remains after the removal of affixes and it does not admit any further analysis. It is the common element of words within a word-family. It is the primary element of the word, its basic part conveys its fundamental lexical meaning. There are many root-morphemes which can stand alone as words: table, car chair, room. It is one of the specific features of the English language. Free morphemes can be found only among roots. But not all roots are free morphemes. Only productive roots are free.

Unlike roots affixes are usually bound morphemes. According to their function and meaning prefixes and suffixes are divided into derivational and functional. There are several differences between them. Derivational affixes are those by means of which new words are formed: to teach – a teacher. Functional are those by means of which new forms of words are formed: teach – teaches. Derivational affixes permit the substitution of one word by another without this affix. Functional affixes do not permit such substitution without violating grammar rules. Derivational affixes permit further derivation: teach – teaching – teaching-room. Functional affixes do not permit such derivation. Derivational affixes do not combine freely. Functional affixes combine more or less freely. The suffix

–s can be added practically to any noun to form the plural form.

3. Affixation

Affixation is the creation of a word by modifying its root with an affix. It is a very productive type of word formation.

In conformity with the division of derivational affixes into suffixes and prefixes affixation is subdivided into suffixation and prefixation.

A careful study of a great many suffixal and prefixal derivatives has revealed an essential difference between them.

First of all in modern English suffixation is characteristic of noun and adjective formation. Prefixation is typical of verb formation.

Prefixes modify the lexical meaning of stems to which they are added. A prefixal derivative usually joins the part of speech the unprefixed word belongs to.

e.g.: definite – indefinite; convenient – inconvenient.

In a suffixal derivative the suffix does not only modify the lexical meaning of the stem it is affixed to, but the word itself is usually transferred to another part of speech.

e.g.: care(N) – careless (A), good (A) – goodness (N).

A suffix closely knit together with a stem forms a fusion retaining less of its independence than a prefix which is, as a general rule, more independent semantically.

e.g.: writing – the act of one who writes; the ability to write;

to rewrite – to write again.

In the English language there prevails either suffixation or prefixation, in the Ukrainian language they can be used in the same word.

English suffixes usually transfer a word from one part of speech into another, Ukrainian affixes never do it.


Derivational morphemes affixed before the stem are called prefixes. They modify the lexical meaning of the stem, but in doing so they seldom affect its basic lexico-grammatical component. Unlike suffixation, which is usually bound up with a paradigm of a certain part of speech, prefixation is considered to be neutral in this respect. The only exceptions are the prefixes be-, en-, a-, pre-, post.

e.g.: little (A) – belittle (V);

friend (N) – befriend (V);

able (A) – enable (V);

courage (N) – encourage (V);

sleep (N) – asleep (word of the category of state);

foot (N) – afoot (Adv);

war (N) – prewar (A) ;

war (N) – postwar (A).

But usually prefixes do not change a part of speech.

The Source of Prefixes

Prefixes originated from notional words, which in the course of time lost their independent meanings and became prefixes.

e.g.: re (Lat. Adv.) – once again or back;

under (OE Adv., Prep.) - under;

fore (OE Adv., Prep) – foresee.

Nowadays this process continues. In Modern English there exist the so-called semi-prefixes - words which are losing their meanings.

e.g.: stone-blind, stone-deaf, ill-tempered, ill-fated.

The Classification of Prefixes

Prefixes can be classified from the point of view of their meanings.

Among them we can single out prefixes of the negative meaning: un-, in-, dis-, mis-.

e.g.: comfortable – uncomfortable, convenient – inconvenient, satisfied – dissatisfied, understand – misunderstand.

Prefixes denoting reversal or repetition of an action: un-, dis-, re-, роз-, пере-.

e.g.: lock – unlock, regard – disregard, consider – reconsider, єднати – роз’єднати, писати – переписати.

In the Ukrainian language the most productive is the prefix не-, which is used to form adjectives and nouns, but never verbs: нелегкий, невільний. A very productive prefix is the prefix без-: безпомічний. In the English language this prefix corresponds to the suffix –less: defenceless. The prefixes де-, дис-, а- are used as parts of borrowed words and they are unproductive: децентралізація, дисбаланс, асиметричний.

Prefixes denoting space and time relations: fore-, pre-, post-, over-, super-, до-, перед-, над-, під-, пере-, після-.

e.g.: tell – foretell, war – prewar, war – postwar, spread – overspread, structure – superstructure, історичний – доісторичний, воєнний – післявоєнний, водний – підводний.

Prefixes can be international:

-          Anti-/анти- (antifascist, антифашист);

-          Counter-/контр (countermarch, контрмарш);

-          sub-/суб (submarine, субмарина).

Some prefixes can have a semantic identity only (but no linguistic similarity):

-          foresee – передбачити;

-          extranatural – надприродний.

There can be semantically alien prefixes pertaining to one of the contrasted languages:

-          de- (decamp);

-          mis- (misstate);

-          по- (по-українському);

-          що- (щонайкраще).

A specifically Ukrainian phenomenon is the usage of the prefix по- (попоїсти).


Suffixation is the formation of words with the help of suffixes. Suffixes usually modify the lexical meaning of stems and transfer words to a different part of speech. There are suffixes, however, which do not shift words from one part of speech into another. A suffix of this kind usually transfers a word into a different semantic group.

e.g.: A concrete noun becomes an abstract one: child – childhood.

Suffixes can be classified according to their ability to form a new part of speech, to their origin, productivity.

Noun-forming suffixes:

-        -er (teacher, worker),

-        -ing (living, reading);

-        -ness (kindness, tenderness). These suffixes are productive.

-        -age (voyage, courage);

-        -ard (coward, drunkard);

-        -ment (agreement, employment);

-        -th (strength, length). These suffixes are non-productive.

In the Ukrainian language these are the following suffixes:

-        -ар (шахтар, лікар);

-        -ик (історик, радник);

-        -ець (гравець, українець);

-        -ач (оглядач, наглядач);

-        -ак (співак, мастак);

-        -нь (учень, здоровань).

Adjective-forming suffixes:

-        -able (movable, readable);

-        -ful (powerful, delightful);

-        -ish (whitish, bookish);

-        -less (useless, hopeless);

-        -y (noisy, sunny). These are productive suffixes.

-        -en (golden, woollen) – non-productive.

In the Ukrainian language these are the following suffixes:

-        ов- (зимовий, раптовий)

-        н- (хмарний, класний)

-        ив- (щасливий, кмітливий)

-        ськ-/ цьк- (англійський, німецький).

Some suffixes are homonymous. For example, the suffix ful- can form adjectives and nouns: careful (Adj) – handful (N).

In the Ukrainian language (but not in English) diminutive suffixes are often used:

-ньк (малесенький), -чк (дівчатко), -ець(вітерець).

Numeral-forming suffixes:

-        -teen (thirteen, fifteen);

-        -ty (sixty, seventy);

-        -th (seventh, eighth). These are non-productive suffixes.

Pronoun-forming suffixes:

-        -s (ours, yours). The suffix is non-productive.

Verb-forming suffixes:

-        - ate (complicate, navigate);

-        - en (darken, strengthen);

-        - fy (signify, simplify);

-        - ute (attribute, execute). These suffixes are non-productive.

In the Ukrainian language these are the suffixes: (ув)ати-, ити-(сушити, головувати).

Adverb—forming suffixes:

-        - ly (quickly, lately);

-        - long (sidelong, headlong);

-        - ward(s) forward, toward(s);

-        -ways, wise (clockwise, otherwise, crabways). Of all these suffixes only the suffix

-ly is productive.

In the Ukrainian language that is the suffix о-: високо, широко.

From the point of view of semantics suffixes can be classified in the following way:

1.    Agent suffixes:

-        -ist/ -іст/-ист (journalist, артист) ;

-        ar/ -ар/-яр (scholar, школяр);

-        ier-/-yer/ -ир (cashier, бригадир).

2.    Suffixes denoting abstract notions:

-        -ism/ -ізм (socialism, комунізм);

-        -tion/ -ац (demonstration, демонстрація);

-        -dom/ -ств/-цтв (kingdom, газетярство);

-        -hood/ -ств (brotherhood, братство).

3.    Evaluative suffixes:

-        -ette (kitchenette);

-        -y/-ie/-ey (sissy);

-        -ling (duckling).

-        -атк/ ятк (дівчатко, оленятко)

-        -ик (ротик);

-        -ечк (донечка);

-        -ичк (сестричка);

-        -ньк (дівчинонька).

All Ukrainian diminutive suffixes are productive. In English only –ie/ey, -ette are productive.

4.    Gender/sex expressing suffixes.

In the Ukrainian language they can express masculine gender:

- -ар/яр (лікар, школяр);

- -ист/іст (бандурист);

- -ій (водій);

- -ант/ент (студент).

Feminine gender can be expressed by means of the following suffixes:

-        -к (артистка);

-        -их (кравчиха).

Neuter gender is expressed by means of:

-        -атк (курчатко);

-        -к (вушко);

-        -ц (винце).

English gender suffixes are only sex expressing: actor – actress.

5.    International suffixes:

-        -er/or ор(conductor, кондуктор);

-        -ist/іст (socialist, соціаліст);

-        -tion/ц (revolution, революція);

-        -able/абельн(readable, читабельний).

In both languages there are semi-affixes. In English these are the elements:

loadsa-, friendly, -something.

In Ukrainian the semi-suffixes are: повно-, ново-, само-, авто-, -вод, -воз (повноправно, автопілот, водовоз, тепловоз).

4. Conversion

Conversion (zero derivation, root formation, functional change) is the process of coining a new word in a different part of speech and with different distribution characteristics but without adding any derivative element, so that the basic form of the original and the basic form of derived words are homonymous. This phenomenon can be illustrated by the following cases: work – to work, love – to love, water – to water.

If we regard these words from the angle of their morphemic structure, we see that they are root words. On the derivational level, however, one of them should be referred to a derived word, as having the same root morpheme they belong to different parts of speech. Consequently the question arises here: “What serves as the word-building means in such cases?” It would appear that the noun is formed from the verb (or vice versa) without any morphological change, but if we probe deeper into the matter, we inevitably come to the conclusion that the two words differ only in the paradigm. Thus, it is the paradigm that is used as a word-building means. Hence, we can define conversion as the formation of a new word through changes in its paradigm.

The change of the paradigm is the only word-building means of conversion. As the paradigm is a morphological category, conversion can be described as a morphological way of forming words.

As a type of word-formation conversion exists in many languages. What is specific for the English vocabulary is not its mere presence, but its intense development.

The main reason for the widespread development of conversion in present-day English is no doubt the absence of morphological elements serving as classifying signals, or, in other words, of formal signs marking the part of speech to which the word belongs. The fact that the sound pattern does not show to what part of speech the word belongs may be illustrated by the word back. It may be a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb.

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