Interrelation of denotational and connotational meanings of synonyms

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Лексикология, 3 курс, ИИЯ РУДН, преподаватель ЕГОРОВА Л. А. ...


INTRODUCTION ………………………………………………………….. 3
1. What are synonyms? ……………………………………………………... 5
2. Connotation and denotation ……………………………………………… 8
3. Interrelation of denotational and connotational meanings of synonyms ………………………………………………………………….... 10
CONCLUSION …………………………………………………………….. 13
REFERENCES ……………………………………………………………... 14


A synonym is a word of similar or identical meaning to one or more words in the same language. All languages contain synonyms but in English they exist in superabundance.
There are no two absolutely identical words because connotations, ways of usage, frequency of an occurrence are different.
Separating grammatical denotation from connotation is important because while one might assume that a word’s denotation is fully intended, whether a word’s connotations are intended is much more difficult to determine. Connotations are often emotional in nature, and thus if they are intended, it may be for the purpose of swaying a person’s emotional reactions rather than the logical evaluation of an argument.

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Grammatical meaning is defined as the expression in Speech of relationships between words. The grammatical meaning is more abstract and more generalized than the lexical meaning. It is recurrent in identical sets of individual forms of different words as the meaning of plurality in the following words students, boob, windows, compositions.
Lexical meaning. The definitions of lexical meaning given by various authors, though different in detail, agree in the basic principle: they all point out that lexical meaning is the realisation of concept or emotion by means of a definite language system [10; p. 907].
1) The component of meaning proper to the word as a linguistic unit, i.e. recurrent in all the forms of this word and in all possible distributions of these forms.
2) The semantic invariant of the grammatical variation of a word.
3) The material meaning of a word, i.e. the meaning of the main material part of the word which reflects the concept the given word expresses and the basic properties of the thing (phenomenon, quality, state, etc.) the word denotes.
Connotation and denotation are two principal methods of describing the meanings of words. Connotation and denotation are not two separate things/signs. They are two aspects/elements of a sign, and the connotative meanings of a word exist together with the denotative meanings.
Denotation refers to the literal meaning of a word, the "dictionary definition." ̈ For example, if you look up the word snake in a dictionary, you will discover that one of its denotative meanings is “any of numerous scaly, legless, sometimes venomous reptiles having a long, tapering, cylindrical body and found in most tropical and temperate regions.”
Connotation, on the other hand, refers to the associations that are connected to a certain word or the emotional suggestions related to that word. The connotative meanings of a word exist together with the denotative meanings. The connotations for the word snake could include evil or danger [9; p. 91].
Connotation refers to the wide array of positive and negative associations that most words naturally carry with them, whereas denotation is the precise, literal definition of a word that might be found in a dictionary [1; p. 1048].
Connotation is the emotional and imaginative association surrounding a word. It is a word's underlying meanings; it is all the stuff we associate with a word.
Connotation represents the various social overtones, cultural implications, or emotional meanings associated with a sign.
Denotation is the strict dictionary meaning of a word. It is when you mean what you say, literally. Denotation represents the explicit or referential meaning of a sign.
For example, fungus is a scientific term denoting a certain kind of natural growth, but the word also has certain connotations of disease and ugliness. Another example is this: a rose is indeed a type of flower, we also associate roses with romantic love, beauty and even special days, like Valentine’s Day or anniversaries. The word “rose” in the dictionary describes as “a bush or shrub that produces flowers, usually red, pink, white or yellow in color.”
Connotations can be both positive and negative; for example, lady carries a hint of both elegance and subservience. The influence of connotative meaning can also change the denotative meaning, one example being the thoroughly transformed word gay [12; p. 376].
The name ‘Hollywood’ connotes such things as glitz, glamour, tinsel, celebrity, and dreams of stardom. In the same time, the name “Hollywood” denotes an area of Los Angeles, worldwide known as the center of the American movie industry.
3. Interrelation of denotational
and connotational meanings of synonyms
Let us study the conceptual (notional) criterion of synonymy. These synonyms are words of the same category of parts of speech conveying the same notion but different either in shades of meaning or in stylistic characteristic.
The semantic criterion means that synonyms are words with the same denotation, or the same denotative component, but different in connotations, or in connotative components.
steadily, lastingly
in surprise, curiosity
steadily, lastingly
in anger, rage, fury
steadily, lastingly
in tenderness, admiration, wonder
briefly, in passing
The criterion of interchangeability is sometimes applied. According to this, synonyms are defined as words which are interchangeable at least in some contexts without any considerable alteration in denotational meaning.
e.g. pretty, good-looking, handsome, beautiful girl
e.g. He glared at her (angrily)
He glazed at her (with admiration or interest)
He glanced at her (briefly)
There are several types of connotations:
1) connotation of degree or intensity:
e.g. to like – to admire – to love – to adore – to worship
to surprise – to astonish – to amaze – to astound;
to satisfy – to please – to content – to gratify – to delight – to exalt;
to shout – to yell – to bellow – to roar;
2) connotation of duration:
e.g. to shudder (brief) – to shiver (lasting)
to stare – to glare – to gaze – to glance – to peep – to peer;
to flash (brief) – to blaze (lasting);
to say (brief) – to speak, to talk (lasting)
3) emotive connotations:
e.g. to tremble – to shiver – to shudder (emotion of fear, horror, disgust) – to shake
alone – single – lonely – solitary;
angry – furious – enraged;
fear – terror – horror
4) evaluative connotation – attitude towards the referent, labeling it as good or bad:
e.g. well-known – famous – notorious (negative connotation) – celebrated;
to produce – to create – to manufacture – to fabricate;
to sparkle – to glitter
5) causative connotation:
e.g. to blush from modesty, shame or embarrassment
to redden from anger or indignation
to shiver with cold, from a chill, because of the frost; to shudder with fear, horror, etc.
6) connotation of manner:
e.g. to stroll – to stride – to trot – to pace - to swagger – to stagger – to stumble

Список литературы

1) Allan K. The Pragmatics of Connotation // Elsevier, Journal of pragmatics. – 2007. – Vol. 39, Issue 6. – P. 1047-1057.
2) Crystal D. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. – Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. – 2003. – 488 p.
3) Goldberg A. Constructions at Work: The Nature of Generalization in Language. – Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. – 189 p.
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