Methods of Lexicological Analysis

  Арнольд И.В. Лексикологя современного английского языка. -3-е изд., перераб. и доп.- М.: Высшая школа, 1986.-295 с. Ахматова О.С., Глушко М.М.

Methods of Lexicological Analysis



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Факультет лінгвістики

Кафедра теорії, практики та перекладу англійської мови






з порівняльної лексикології англійської та української мов

на тему:

„Methods of Lexicological Analysis”







студентка ІІІ курсу ФЛ










І. Methods of Lexicological Analysis 5

І.1. Contrastive Analysis 5

І.2. Statistical Methods of Analysis 7

І.3. Immediate Constituents Analysis 9

І.4. Distributional Analysis and Co-occurrence 10

І.5. Transformational Analysis 13

І.6. Componential Analysis 14

І.7. Method of Semantic Differential 16

І.8. Contextual Analysis 18







Growing interest in methods of study is one of the most symptomatic features of present-day linguistics.

The research methods used in lexicology have always been closely connected with the general trends in linguistics. The principles of comparative linguistics have played an important role in the development of a scientific approach to historical word study. They have brought an enormous increase in ordered and classified information about the English vocabulary in their proper perspective. The methods applied consisted in observation of speech, mostly written, collection and classification of data, hypotheses, and systematic statements. Particular stress was put on the refinement of methods for collecting and classifying facts. The study of vocabulary became scientific.

19th century scientific language study having recognized variety and change in language, comparative philology insisted on regarding the descriptive statements as subordinate, not worth making for their own sake. Its aim was to reconstruct the fundamental forms and meanings which have not come down to us. With the use of sets of phonetic correspondence philologists explored and proved genetic relationships between words in different languages. They rejected prescriptive trends characteristic of the previous stage. It was realized that the only basis for correctness is the usage of the native speakers of each language. They destroyed the myth of a Golden Age when all the words had their primary "correct" meaning and when the language was in a state of perfection from which it has deteriorated. It became clear from intensive work on the great historical dictionaries that multiple meaning for words is normal, not an "exception". Comparative studies showed that, save for specific technical terms, there are no two words in two languages that cover precisely the same area.

The process of scientific investigation may be subdivided into several stages:

  • Observation
  • Classification
  • Generalization

Due to these processes the certain classification of the methods of lexicological analysis has appeared.

Nowadays scientists distinguish:

  • Contrastive analysis
  • Statistical methods of analysis
  • Immediate Constituents analysis
  • Distributional analysis and co-occurrence
  • Transformational analysis
  • Componential analysis
  • Method of semantic differential
  • Contextual analysis

The detailed description of these methods will be shown further.



I.1. Contrastive Analysis


In fact contrastive analysis grew as the result of the practical demands of language teaching methodology where it was empirically shown that the errors which are made recurrently by foreign language students can be often traced back to the differences in structure between the target language and the language of the learner. This naturally implies the necessity of a detailed comparison of the structure of a native and a target language which has been named contrastive analysis.

It should be borne in mind that though objective reality exists outside human beings and irrespective of the language they speak every language classifies reality in its own way by means of vocabulary units. In English, the word foot is used to denote the extremity of the leg. In Ukrainian there is no exact equivalent for foot. The word denotes the whole leg including the foot.

Classification of the real world around us provided by the vocabulary units of our mother tongue is learned and assimilated together with our first language. Because we are used to the way in which our own language structures experience we are often inclined to think of this as the only natural way of handling things whereas in fact it is highly-arbitary.

One example is provided by the words watch and clock. It would seem natural for Ukrainian speakers to have a single word to refer to all devices that tell us what time it is; yet in English they are divided into two semantic classes depending on whether or not they are customarily portable. We also find it natural that kinship terms should reflect the difference between male and female: brother or sister, father or mother, uncle or aunt, yet in English we fail to make this distinction in the case of cousin (the Ukrainian двоюрідний брат, двоюрідна сестра).

Contrastive analysis also brings to light what can be labelled problem pairs, the words that denote two entities in one language and correspond to two different words in another language.

Compare, for example годинник in Ukrainian and clock, watch in English, художник in Ukrainian and artist, painter in English.

Contrastive analysis on the level of the grammatical meaning reveals that correlated words in different languages may differ in the grammatical component of their meaning.

To take a simple instance Ukrainians are liable to say the news are good, the money are on the table, her hair are black, as the words новини, гроші, волосся have the grammatical meaning of plurality in the Ukrainian language.

Contrastive analysis brings to light the essence of what is usually described as idiomatic English, idiomatic Ukrainian the peculiar way in which every language combines and structures in lexical units various concepts to denote extra-linguistic reality.

For example, a typical Ukrainian word-group used to describe the way somebody performs an action, or the state in which a person finds himself, has the structure that may be represented by the formula adverb followed by a finite form of a verb (or a verb + an adverb), він кріпко спить, він швидко/повільно/ засвоює. In English we can also use structurally similar word-groups and say he smokes a lot, he learns slowly (fast). The structure of idiomatic English word-groups however is different. The formula of this word-group can be represented as an adjective + deverbal noun, he is a heavy smoker, a poor learner, “The Englishman is a slow starter but there is no stronger finisher" (Galsworthy). Another English word-group used in similar cases has the structure verb to be + adjective + the infinitive, (He) is quick to realize, (He) is slow-to cool down,which is practically non-existent in the Ukrainian language. Commonly used English words of the type (he is) an early-riser, a music-lover, have no counterparts in the Ukrainian language and as a rule correspond to phrases of the type (він) paнo встає, (він) дуже любить музику.

Last but not least contrastive analysis deals with the meaning and use of situational verbal units, words, word-groups, sentences which are commonly used by native speakers in certain situations.

For instance when we answer a telephone call and hear somebody asking for a person whose name we have never heard the usual answer for the Ukrainian speaker would be Ви помилились (номером). The Englishman in identical situation is likely to say Wrong number .

To sum up contrastive analysis cannot be overestimated as an indispensable stage in preparation of teaching material, in selecting lexical items to be extensively practiced and in predicting typical errors. It is also of great value for an efficient teacher who knows that to have a native like command of a foreign language, to be able to speak what we call idiomatic English, words, word-groups and whole sentences must be learned within the lexical, grammatical and situational restrictions of the English language.


I.2. Statistical Methods of Analysis


An important and prom

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