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Chapter 1 A General survey of English vocabulary

Chapter 1  A General survey of English vocabulary

Chapter 1

A General survey of English vocabulary

一. Basic concepts of words and vocabulary 1 - The definition of a word comprises the following points: (1) a minimal free form of a language; (2) a sound unity; (3) a unit of meaning; (4) a form that can function alone in a sentence. A word is a minimal free form of a language that has a given sound and meaning and syntactic function. 2- Sound and Meaning: symbolic connection is almost always arbitrary and conventional. A dog is called a dog not because the sound and the three letters that make up the word just automatically suggest the animal in question. 3- Old English, the speech of the time was represented very much more faithfully in writing than it is today. The internal reason for this is that the English alphabet was adopted from the Romans, which does not have a separate letter to represent each sound in the language so that some letters must do double duty or work together in combination. Another reason is that the pronunciation has changed more rapidly than spelling over the years, and in some cases the two have drawn far apart. A third reason is that some of the differences were created by the early scribes. Finally comes the borrowing, which is an important channel of enriching the English vocabulary. 5 - Vocabulary: All the words in a language make up its vocabulary. Not only can it refer to the total number of the words in a language, but it can stand for all the words used in a particular historical period. We also use it to refer to all the words of a given dialect, a given book, a given discipline and the words possessed by an individual person. The general estimate of the present-day English vocabulary is over million words.


6 - Words may fall into the basic word stock and nonbasic vocabulary by use frequency, into content words and functional words by notion, and into native words and borrowed words by origin. 7 - The basic word stock is the foundation of the vocabulary accumulated over centuries and forms the common core of the language. Though words of the basic word stock constitute a small percentage of the English vocabulary, yet it is the most important part of it. These words have obvious characteristics. 8 - All national character. Words of the basic word stock denote the most common things and phenomena of the world around us, which are indispensable to all the people who speak the language Natural phenomena/Human body and relations/Names of plants and animals/Action, size, domain, state/Numerals, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions 9 - Stability. Words of the basic word stock have been in use for centuries. 10 - Productivity . Words of the basic word stock are mostly root words or monosyllabic words. They can each be used alone, and at the same time can form new words with other roots and affixes. 11 - Polysemy. Words belonging to the basic word stock often possess more than one meaning because most of them have undertone semantic changes in the course of use and become polysemous. 12 - Collocability . Many words of the basic word stock quite a number of set expressions, idiomatic usages, proverbial sayings and the like. 13 - Terminology consists of technical terms used in particular disciplines and academic areas . 14 - Jargon refers to the specialized vocabularies by which members of particular arts, sciences, trades and professions communicate among themselves such as in business. 15 - Slang belongs to the sub-standard language, a category that seems to stand between the standard general words including informal ones available to everyone and in-group words like cant, jargon, and argot, all of which are associated with, or most available to, specific groups of the population.

Slang is created by changing or extending the meaning of existing words though some slang words are new coinages altogether. Slang is colourful, blunt, expressive and impressive. 16 - Argot generally refers to the jargon of criminals. 17 - Dialectal words are words used only by speakers of the dialect in question. 18 - Archaisms are words or forms that were once in common use but are now restricted only to specialized or limited use. 19 - Neologisms are newly-created words or expressions, or words that have taken on new meanings. 20 - By notion, words can be grouped into content words and functional words. Content words denote clear notions and thus are known as notional words. They include nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and numerals, which denote objects, phenomena, action, quality, state, degree, quantity. 21 - Functional words do not have notions of their own. Therefore, they are also called empty words. As their chief function is to express the relation between notions, the relation between words as well as between sentences, they are known as form words. Prepositions, conjunctions, auxiliaries and articles belong to this category. 22 - However, functional words do far more work of expression in English on average than content words. 23 - Native words are words brought to Britain in the fifth century by the German tribes; the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes, thus known as Anglo-Saxon words. 24 - Apart from the characteristics mentioned of the basic word stock, in contrast to borrowed words, native words have two other features: Neutral in style. they are not stylistically specific. Stylistically, natives words are neither formal nor informal whereas the words borrowed from French or Latin are literary and learned, thus appropiate in formal style. Frequent in use. Native words are most frequently used in everyday speech and writing.

25 - Words taken over from foreign languages are known as borrowed words or loan words or borrowings in simple terms. It is estimated that English borrowings constitute 80 percent of the modem English vocabulary. The English language is noted for the remarkable complexity and heterogeneity of its vocabulary because of its extensive borrowings 26 - Aliens are borrowed words which have retained their original pronunciation and spelling. These words are immediately recognizable as foreign in origin. 27 - Semantic-loans. Words of this category are not borrowed with reference to the form. But their meanings are borrowed. In other words, English has borrowed a new meaning for an existing word in the language. 二. The development of the English vocabulary

1 - It is assumed that the world has approximately 3, 000 (some put it 5, 000 ) languages, which can be grouped into roughly 300 language families on the basis of similarities in their basic word stock and grammar. 2 - The Indo-European is one of them. It is made up of most of the languages of Europe, the Near East, and India. 3 - They accordingly fall into eight principal groups, which can be grouped into an Eastern set: Balto-Slavic , Indo-Iranian , Armenian and Albanian ; a Western set: Celtic, Italic, Hellenic, Germanic. 4 - In the Eastern set, Armenian and Albanian are each the only modern language respectively. The Balto-Slavic comprises such modern languages as Prussian, Lithuanian, Polish, Czech, Bulgarian, Slovenian and Russian. 5 - In the Indo-Iranian we have Persian. Bengali, Hindi, Romany, the last three of which are derived from the dead language Sanskrit. 6 - In the Western set, Greek is the modern language derived from Hellenic. 7 - The Germanic family consists of the four Northern European Languages: Norwegian, Icelandic, Danish and Swedish, which are generally known as Scandinavian languages. Then there is German, Dutch, Flemish and English. 8 - Old English (450-1150)

Anglo-Saxon as Old English. Old English has a vocabulary of about 50, 000 to 60, 000 words. It was a highly inflected language just like moderm German. Anglo-Saxon as Old English. Old English has a vocabulary of about 50, 000 to 60, 000 words. It was a highly inflected language just like moderm German. 9 - Middle English (1150-1500) Although there were borrowings from Latin, the influence on English was mainly Germanic. Between 1250 and 1500 about 9000 words of French origin poured into English. Seventy-five percent of them are still in use today. If we say that Old English was a language of full endings. Middle English was one of leveled endings. 10 - Modern English (1500-up to now) Modern English began with the establishment of printing in England. Early (1500-1700) and Late (1700-up to the present) Modern English In the early period of Modern English, Europe saw a new upsurge of learning ancient Greek and Roman classics. This is known in history as the Renaissance. Latin and Greek were recognized as the languages of the Western world’s great literary heritage and of great scholarship In fact, more than twenty-five per cent of modern English words come almost directly from classical languages. It can be concluded that English has evolved from a synthetic language (Old English) to the present analytic language. 11 - Three main sources of new words: the rapid development of modern science and technology(45%); social, economic and politicalchanges(24%); the influence of other cultures and languages(11%).


12 - Modern English vocabulary develops through three channels: creation, semantic change, borrowing. Creation refers to the formation of new words by using the existing materials, namely roots, affixes and other elements. In modern times, this is the most important way of vocabulary expansion. Semantic change means an old form which takes on a new meaning to meet the new need. This does not increase the number of word forms but create many more new usages of the words, thus enriching the vocabulary. Borrowing has played a vital role in the development of vocabulary, particularly in earlier times. Borrowed words constitute merely six to seven percent of all new worlds. In earlier stages of English, french, Greek and Scandinavian were the major contributiors. Reviving archaic or obsolete words(复活古词和废弃词 also contributes to the growth 复活古词和废弃词) 复活古词和废弃词 of English vocabulary though quite insignificant.


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