Semasiology as a branch of linguistics

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Краткое описание

Цифры количества продемонстрировать наиболее примитивный тип переименования. Их основой является неточность измерения, диспропорции объекта и его словесного оценки. Гипербола создается в случае одна общая количественная характеристика характеризует объект в большей степени. Это преднамеренное преувеличение, преувеличение, который используется для активизации одной из особенностей объекта. Это выражение эмоционального оценки реальности оратора, который является либо безудержный этическими конвенций или знает, что преувеличение будет приветствоваться.


Семасиология как отрасль языкознания.
Общая характеристика деятелей замещения как семасиологической выразительных средств.
Классификация фигур замещения.
Фигуры качества
Цифры количества

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Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine

National Pedagogical Dragomanov University

Institute of Foreign Philology











Stylistics of English Language

An Essay:

“Semasiology as a branch of linguistics. General characteristics of figures of substitution as semasiological expressive means. Classification of figures of substitution: figures of quality, figures of quantity.”









Made by:

4th Year Student

Group 42








Kyiv – 2014


  1. Semasiology as a branch of linguistics.
  2. General characteristics of figures of substitution as semasiological expressive means.
  3. Classification of figures of substitution.
    1. Figures of quality
    2. Figures of quantity
  4. Citation 























Semasiology is a branch of linguistics, which studies the meaning of the language units.

Lexical semasiology analyses the lexical meaning of the words and word combinations.

Stylistic semasiology deals with those semantic changes and relations, which create an additional / connotative meaning, the so-called figures of speech.

Figures of speech have traditionally been classified into two types in the study of rhetoric – tropes and figures. These terms are not always clearly distinguished.

As the subject matter of stylistic semasiology is stylistic semantics, it deals with additional meanings of language units, which may be created in two ways:

    1. the unusual denotative reference of words, w/c, utterances, etc.( tropes);
    2. the unusual distribution of meanings of these units (figures).

The unusual denotative reference of words, w/c, etc. means different ways of secondary nomination. Secondary nomination is based on the usage of existing words or w/c to give a new name to the already known objects.

All kinds of renaming (secondary nomination or transfer of names from one object to another) bear the name of tropes (from the Greek “tropos” = turning). Every trope demonstrates a combination, a coincidence of two semantic planes (actually two different meanings) in one unit of form (one word, one phrase, one sentence). A trope, then is a linguistic unit (word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, text) with two senses, both felt by language users.

E.g., on hearing the exclamation “Oh, you pig!”  (with reference to a person) the listener is aware of the traditional, original meaning of the word “pig” (a domestic animal) and its actual reference  which imparts an additional sense to the word – “an untidy, greedy, or rude person”. The word acquires a new meaning, but its original meaning also remains (otherwise it would be senseless to use the word).

Hence, the psychological essence of a trope is just the prominence given to two units of sense in one unit of form. Only the double meaning creates what is called the image: we observe a trope only of we see both meanings. If, however, the original meaning is obliterated, or at least no longer associated with the secondary one, there is no trope any more, although there may have been one when it was first created. There is no trope in leg of a table, neck of a bottle, foot of a hill, hand of a clock and the like. No one thinks of human legs, necks, feet, or hands when using these expressions. So they are a kind of “etymological tropes” (metaphors), dead tropes that are dealt with in lexicology, not in stylistics. The use of tropes is, properly speaking, a false, erroneous qualification of an object. It is a device inconsistent with the primary reason for being of language, whose purpose and motto is “calling a spade a spade”.

Tropes serve to create images that combine notions and as a result express something different from them both. An image, as a psychic phenomenon, arises before and outside its verbalisation: imaginative perception of analogies, connections, contrasts of reality, overestimation or underevaluation of its properties – all these acts of cognition can take place without language. Thus tropes are not only language properties. Music, the Japanese ikebana (art of flower arrangement) are metaphorical throughout. Metaphors (allegories and symbols) lie at the foundation of painting, sculpture, and architecture. The principal of metonymy – a detail in the foreground, a detail instead of the whole – is typical of the cinema.  Exaggeration and restraint (hyperbole and meioses) can be seen in dancing.

It is just this indifference of tropes to the means and forms of their expression, to language in general that necessitates searching for a purely logical classification of types of renaming. The problem has been discussed for many centuries, the tradition going back to antiquity. The literature on tropes is immense, but the majority of scholars were not interested in presenting them as a generalised system. Most authors, however, either never attempt to solve the problem or propose purely subjective classifications. 

Stylistic semasiology analyses and classifies these tropes from the point of view of the mechanism of different semantic changes and their stylistic functions.

There are different approaches to the classification of tropes and figures. E.g., I. Arnold, K. Dolinin, M. Brandes name them as rhetoric means, tropes and figures; I. Galperin and V. Kukharenko call them lexical EM and SD.

Prof. Galperin singles out three big subdivisions in this class of devices and they all deal with the semantic nature of a word or phrase. However the criteria of selection of means for each subdivision are different and manifest different semantic processes:

    1. the interplay of dictionary and contextual or logical and emotive or primary and derivative meanings of a word;
    2. the interaction between two lexical meanings simultaneously materialised in the context;
    3. the interaction of stable word combinations with the context.

Yu. Screbnev differentiates between paradigmatic and syntagmatic semasiology; A. Morokhovsky singles out semasilogical EM and SD.

According to prof. Screbnev paradigmatic semasiology deals with transfer of names or what are traditionally known as tropes. In his classification these expressive means received the term based on their ability to rename: figures of replacement. In prof. Morokhovsky’s terminology these are EM of semasiology or figures of substitution

They either exist in language-as-a-system for the purpose of logical and emotional intensification of the utterance, or are formed in speech on the basis of recurrent patterns. Secondary nomination units stand in paradigmatic (synonymic / homofunctional) relations to corresponding primary nomination units. They are marked members of the stylistic opposition because they have connotations or additional stylistic meanings. Secondary nomination is not an arbitrary process; it is carried out according to certain rules. Secondary nomination presupposes the transfer of a name on the basis of:

    1. contiguity or a real connection between the object of nomination and the object whose name is given or some  logical relations or associations between different objects – E.g.: He amused the table; the blue coat = the policeman;
    2. similarity / affinity / likeness (real or imaginary) of two objects – E.g.: the rat = the spy
    3. difference of two meanings or transfer by contrast when the two objects are opposed – E.g.: You are so punctual!

Both Screbnev and Morokhovsky classify figures of substitution/ replacement into two groups:

    1. figures of quantity
    2. figures of quality

Figures of quantity are based on comparison of two different objects having one common quantitative feature: hyperbole and meiosis.

Figures of quality are based on comparison of two different objects, which have one common qualitative feature: metonymical group (metonymy, synechdoche, periphrasis, euphemism); metaphorical group (metaphor, antonomasia, allegory, metaphorical epithet); irony.

As distinct from paradigmatic semasiology investigating the stylistic value of nomination and renaming (tropes), syntagmatic semasiology deals with stylistic functions or relationship of names in texts. It studies types of linear arrangement of meanings, singling out, classifying and describing what is called figures of speech. In Yu. Screbnev’s terminology “figures of co-occurrence”, according to A.Morokhovsky “figures of combination”. The realisation of the figures of combination is possible only in context. 

The basic, most general types of semantic relationships can be reduced to three: meanings can be either

    • identical/similar
    • opposite
    • different
    1. in case of similar / synonymous meanings the speaker combines within an utterance or text the units whose meanings he/she considers similar/identical – E.g.: My heart is like a singing bird. (Rosetti)
    1. in case of opposite / contrasting meanings the speaker combines within an utterance or text two semantically contrasting units E.g.: His fees were high, his lessons were light. (O’Henry)
    2. in case of different/ unequal meanings of the units the speaker combines within an utterance or text units which denote different but close notions – E.g.: She dropped a tear and her handkerchief. (Dickens)

Thus, these figures of speech are classified by Yu.Screbnev and A.Morokhovsky into three groups:

    1. Figures of identity / equivalence
    2. Figures of opposition/ contrast
    3. Figures of inequality / inequivalence

Figures of identity are created by combination of similar, synonymous, equivalent units, which refer to the same object  (simile, substituting and specifying synonyms).

Figures of opposition are based on the combination of units with opposite, contrasting, antonymous meanings (antithesis, oxymoron).

Figures of inequality are based on combination of the meanings of units, which differ in their emotive or logical intensity (climax, anticlimax, pun, and zeugma).

Figures of quantity

Figures of quantity demonstrate the most primitive type of renaming. Their basis is inexactitude of measurement, disproportion of the object and its verbal evaluation.

Hyperbole is created in case one common quantitative feature characterises an object in a greater degree. It is a deliberate overstatement, exaggeration that is used to intensify one of the features of the object. It is an expression of emotional evaluation of reality by a speaker who is either unrestrained by ethical conventions or knows that exaggeration would be welcome.

E.g. The coffee shop smell was strong enough to build a garage on. (R. Chandler)

His grey face was so long that he could wind it twice round his neck     (R. Chandler)

It is an exaggerated or extravagant statement, used to express strong feelings or produce a strong impression, and is not intended to be understood literally.

Hyperbole soars high, or creeps too low;

Exceeds the Truth, Things wonderful to show.

There are two kinds of hyperbole: trite and genuine.

Trite hyperbole is stale or stereotype. It has lost its quality as a stylistic device through frequent repetition and has become a unit of the language-as-a-system, reproduced in speech in its unaltered form:

E.g. I could see my mother going in Spaulding’s and asking the salesman a million dopey questions. (J. Salinger)

Quite naturally, the main sphere of use of hyperbole is colloquial speech, in which the form is hardly ever controlled and the emotion expressed directly, without any particular reserve.

He was scared to death

I’ve told you fifty times

I beg a thousand pardons

In colloquial speech, expressions of this kind are the natural outcome of uncontrolled emotions or just habit. In any case, the listener is seldom affected by a stale/ trite hyperbole: nether the listener, nor sometimes even the speaker notice the exaggerations; no one takes the words at their face value.

But it is the other way round in works of poetry or fiction, where exaggerations serve expressive purposes and achieve their aim: they are noticed and appreciated by the reader.

Genuine hyperbole is original and fresh.

“Marlowe? We’d like to see you here, in the office.”

“Right away””

“Or sooner.”        (R. Chandler)

He was one of those guys that think they’re being pansy of they don’t break around 40 of your fingers when they shake hands with you.  (J. Salinger)

It is evident that paradoxical, illogical hyperboles are employed for humoristic purposes.

Linguistic means of expressing exaggeration are varied.

Hyperbole differs from mere exaggeration in that it is intended to be understood as an exaggeration. It is intended to sharpen the reader’s ability to make a logical assessment of the utterance.

Functions and stylistic effects

    • to express the intensity of strong feelings
    • to show an overflow of emotions
    • to intensify one of the features of an object
    • to suggest the presence of the opposite quality
    • to create a humorous effect


Meiosis is a figure logically and psychologically opposite of hyperbole. It is a deliberate understatement, the underestimating/diminishing of the features of the object in order to emphasise its insignificance. It is lessening, weakening, reducing the real characteristics of the object of speech.

E.g. He was a skinny little guy with wrists as big as pencils. (J.Salinger)

Meiosis has no definite formal expression; various linguistic means serve to express it:

I was half-afraid you had forgotten me.

I kind of liked it.

I am not quite too late.

A humorous effect is observed when meiotic devices (words and phrases called “downtoners” – maybe, please, would you mind, etc.) co-occur with rough, offensive words in the same utterance:

It isn’t any of your business maybe.

Would you mind getting the hell out of my way?

It is widely known that understatement / meiosis is typical of the British manner of speech, in opposition to American English in which hyperbole seems to prevail.

You have amazed me = Really?

A lavish praise = Not so bad? Not at all so bad!


A type of understatement, a specific form of meiosis is litotes. It presents an affirmative statement in the form of negation.

It is realised with the help of the negative particle not before a word with the negative meaning.

E.g:  Love overcomes no small things.

It is an ironical understatement, especially expressing the affirmative by the negative of its contrary: not small = great; no coward = a brave man. The face wasn’t a bad one; it had what they called charm. (J. Galsworthy)

Thus two negatives make a positive meaning. E.g. He is not uncultured (J. Aldridge)

The result is double negation, and from mathematics we know that two minuses make a plus. The result is indeed affirmative, but the meaning obtained is weakened. That is why litotes produces a meiotic effect.

E.g. Cramer and I regarded him not without pity. (R.Stout)

Litotes does more Sense than Words include,

And often by two Negatives hath stood.

Litotes may be regarded as a transposition of the syntactical construction like the rhetorical questions. The stylistic effect is based on the interplay of negative and affirmative meanings.

Functions and stylistic effects

    • to weaken positive characteristics of an object
    • to express doubt/uncertainty as to the value or significance of the object described
    • to create an ironic attitude to the phenomenon described


Figures of quality

The transfer of meaning of the figures of quality is based either on the contiguity of two objects or likeness of two objects, or contrast of two meanings. The key figures are metonymy and its variants (metonymical group), metaphor and its variants (metaphorical group), and irony.
























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  2. Galperin I.R. Stylistics. – M.: Higher School Publ. House, 1981. – P. 136-153, 157-177. 
  3. Скребнев Ю.М. Основы стилистики английского языка. Учебник для институтов и факультетов иностранных языков. – М.: ООО «Издательство Астрель», 2003. – С. 20-36.

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