Chapter 8Context is very important for the understanding of word-meaning because the meani…

Chapter 8

Context is very important for the understanding of word-meaning because the meaning is influenced immediately by the linguistic context, and in many cases by the whole speech situation as well.

Types of context

In a narrow sense, it refers to the words, clauses, sentences in which a word appears.

This is known as languished context with may cover a paragraph, a whole chapter and even the entire book.

In a broad sense, it includes the physical situation as whole. this is called extra-linguistic or non-linguistic context, which embrace the people, place, and even the whole culture background.

The extra-linguistic context may extend to embrace the entire culture background.

trade union in western countries/in China

Landlord in Chinese/in western country weekend

Linguistic context can be subspanided into lexical context and grammatical context

Lexical Context – refers to the words occur together with the word in question. The meaning of the word is often affected and defined by the neighboring word.

Grammatical context – The meanings of a word may be inflected by the structure in which it occurs.

Generally speaking, the immediate verbal context, either lexical or grammatical, will suffice for interpreting meaning of a word

As indicated. however, there are cases where the meaning of a word may remain a puzzle until a whole paragraph, a chapter or even a whole book covered.

the role of context content has three major function

elimination of ambiguity

Ambiguity often arises due to polysemy and homonymy. When a word with multiple meanings used in inadequate context, it creates ambiguity.

He is a hard businessman.

Jone ran the egg and spoon race.

John ran the egg and spoon race and won second place.

Homonymy is another cause of ambiguity as tow separate words share the same form.

Grammatical structure can also lead to ambiguity.

indication of referents

English has a large number of words used to refer directly to people, time, place, etc. without clear context, the reference can be very confusing

provision of clues for inferring word meaning

1. definition

2. explanation

3. example

4. synonym

5. antonym

6. hyponym

7. relevant details

8. word structure

Chapter 9

1.Idiom—idioms consist of set phrases and short sentences, which are peculiar to the language in question and loaded with the native cultures and ideas. Strictly speaking, idioms are expressions that are not readily understandable from their literal meanings of inspanidual elements. In a broad sense, idioms may include colloquialisms, catchphrases, slang expressions, proverbs,etc.

2.Characteristics of idioms

a. Semantic unity – Idioms each consist of more than one word, but each is a semantic unity. Though the various words which make up the idiom have their respective literal meanings, in the idiom they have lost their inspanidual meaning. Their meanings are not often recognizable in the meaning of the whole idiom. The part of speech of each element in no longer important. Quite often the idiom functions as one word.

E.g. till the cows come home forever

The relationship between the literal meaning of each word and the meaning of the idiom is illogical. Many idioms are semantically inexplicable.

E.g. How do you do

Wear one’s heart upon one’s sleeve show one’s feeling plainly

Rain cats and dogs

b. Structural Stability – the structure of an idiom is to a large extent unchangeable.

1.The constituents of idioms cannot be replaced. The structure is fixed.

E.g. in a brown study deep in thought

lip service support only in words, not in fact

kick the bucket die

bury the hatched (come to friendly or peaceful terms)

2.The word order cannot be inverted or changed.

E.g. by two and threes 三三两两

tit for tat 针锋相对

the lion’s share 最大的分额

3.The constituents of idioms cannot be deleted or added to, not even an article.

E.g. out of the question impossible

out of question no question

in question being considered

4.Many idioms are grammatically unanalysable.

e.g. diamond cut diamond two parties are equally matched

like cures like 以毒攻毒

(as) sure as eggs is eggs quite certain

the idomaticity of idioms is gradable and may best be thought in terms of scale.

True idioms – the meaning of the idiom cannot be deduced from those of the inspanidual constituents.

E.g. step up improve or enhance

In the raw naked

Regular combination – the speaker of the regular collocations, the meaning of the idiom can be understood from the literal meaning of the constitute.

E.g. make friends with

break silence

Semi-idioms – the meanings are in a way related to the meanings of the constitute but are not themselves explicit.

E.g. turn over anew leaf begin a new life

as cool as a cucumber 泰然自若

draw the curtain end or conceal

The fixity (固定性) of idioms depends on the idiomaticity (习用性).

The more idiomatic the idioms, the more fixed the structure.

Classification of idioms

The criterion of ’grammatical function’

1. Idioms nominal in nature (名词性) – have a noun as the key word and function as a noun.

E.g. white elephant sth. useless and unwanted but big and costly

brain trust a group of people with special knowledge who answer questions or give advice

flesh and blood relatives or family

an apple of discord cause of disagreement or argument

Jack of all trades a person who can so many different kinds of work but may not good at any of them

fly in the ointment sth. that spoils the perfection of sth.

2.Idioms adjective in nature (形容词性)- function as adjectives but the constituents are not necessary adjectives.

E.g. cut and dried already settles and unlikely to be changed

as poor as a church mouse having, or earning, barely enough money for one’s needs

wide of the mark not at all suitable

beyond the pale beyond the limit of proper behavior

up in the air uncertain

3.Idioms verbal in nature(动词性) – this is the largest group.

Phrasal verbs – idioms which are composed of a verb plus a prep and/or a particle.

E.g. look into investigate

go on continue

put off

turn on

get away with do sth. Wrong without being punished

put down to state that sth. is caused or explained by

Verb phrases – the phrases that serve as verb

make it arrive in time, succeed

follow one’s nose go straight ahead, go in the same direction

fall flat fail completely

give sb. the bag fire sb.

sing a different tune change one’s opinion

call it a day decide to stop temporarily or for good

chop and change keep changing one’s opinion

swim against the stream do the opposite of what most people want to do

come back to earth stop dreaming

make ends meet earn what it costs to live

keep the pot boiling earn enough to maintain an adequate standard of living, keep a situation active

let the dog see the rabbit do not get the way of another who wishes to see or so sth.

bite the hand that feeds one repay kindness with wrong

4. Idioms adverbial in nature (副词性)

E.g. tooth and nail with great violence and determination

in nothing flat soon

through thick and thin through all difficulties

5.Sentence Idioms – are mainly proverbs and sayings including colloquialisms and catchphrases. Each function as a sentence.

The forms and functions of idioms are not necessarily identical.

E.g. pepper and salt

His hair is pepper and salt.

Use of idioms- we need to be aware of the rhetoric characteristics of idioms such as stylistic features, Rhetorical features and their occasional variations.

Stylistic features (语体色彩)



3. Literary expressions

The same idioms may show stylistic difference when it is assigned different meanings.

E.g. screw up make sb. nervous, tense——informal

Mishandle, mess up —— slang

Slang expressions are often peculiar to social or regional varieties.

Rhetorical features

1. Phonetic manipulation

I. Alliteration

II. Rhyme

2. Lexical manipulation

I. Reiteration

II. Repetition

III. Juxtaposition (of antonyms)

Figure of speech


2.Metaphor「n.隐喻」——is a figure of speech containing an implied comparison, in which a word or phase ordinarily and primarily used of one thing is applied to another.

I. Animal to refer to people

e.g. back sheep

a dark horse

grey mare

snake in the grass

II. Inanimate things to refer to people

III. Things to refer to sth. else

IIII. Actions, state to refer to abstract ideas or other actions, state

3.Metonymy「n.借代」——is the device in which we name something by one of its attributes, as in crown for king, the White House for the President. The kettle is boiling. (kettle for water in the kettle)

4.Synecdoche「n.提喻法」——means using a part for a whole, an inspanidual for a class a material for a thing or the reverse of any of these.

For example, bread for food, the army for a soldier. He is a poor creature. ——creature for man.

5.Personification (拟人)

6.Euphemism (委婉)

Some idioms are used in a humorous way

Variation of idioms

1.Replacement – a constituent may be replaced by a word of the same part of speech, resulting in synonymous or antonymous idioms.

2.Addition or deletion – some constituent can be added or deleted without any change of meaning

3.Position-shifting – the position of certain constituent is some idioms can be shifted without any change of meaning

4.Shorting – in proverbs and sayings, where only a part of them is used instead of the whole

5.Dismembering – breaking up the idioms into pieces, an unusual case of idioms particular in literature or popular press to achieve special effect.

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