The denotational aspect

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1. Denotational Aspect.
2. Connotational Aspect.
3. Pragmatic Aspect.
In the general framework of lexical meaning several aspects can be singled
out. They are: the denotational aspect, the connotational aspect and the pragmatic
The denotational aspect of lexical meaning is the part of lexical meaning
which establishes correlation between the name and the object, phenomenon,
process or characteristic feature of concrete reality (or thought as such), which is
denoted by the given word. The term ‘denotational’ is derived from the English
word to denote which means ‘be a sign of’ or ‘stand as a name or symbol for’. For
instance, the denotational meaning of booklet is ‘a small thin book that gives
information about something’.
It is through the denotational aspect of meaning that the bulk of information
is conveyed in the process of communication. The denotational aspect of lexical
meaning expresses the notional content of a word. The denotational aspect is the
component of the lexical meaning that makes communication possible.
The connotational aspect of lexical meaning is the part of meaning which
reflects the attitude of the speaker towards what he speaks about. Connotation
conveys additional information in the process of communication.
Connotation includes:
the emotive charge is one of the objective semantic features proper to
words as linguistic units that forms part of the connotational component
of meaning, for example, daddy as compared to father.
evaluation, which may be positive or negative, for instance, clique (a
small group of people who seem unfriendly to other people) as compared
to group (a set of people);
imagery, for example, to wade – to walk with an effort (through mud,
water or anything that makes progress difficult). The figurative use of
the word gives rise to another meaning, which is based on the same
image as the first – to wade through a book;
intensity / expressiveness, for instance, to adore – to love;
The correlation of denotational and connotational components of some
words is shown in Table 2.
Table 2. The correlation of denotational and connotational components
Word+part of
lonely, adj.
notorious, adj.
alone, without
widely known
widely known
to glare, adj.
to look
to glance, v.
to look
to stare, v.
to look
to gaze, v.
to look
to shiver, v.
to tremble
melancholy, sad
for criminal act or bad
traits of character
for special
achievement in
science, art, etc.
1. steadily, lastingly
Type of connotation
emotive connotation
connotation, negative
connotation of
2. in anger, rage, etc
emotive connotation;
connotation of cause
briefly, passingly
connotation of
steadily, lastingly in
emotive connotation;
surprise, curiosity, etc. connotation of cause
steadily, lastingly in
emotive connotation
tenderness, admiration
1. lastingly
connotation of
to shudder, v.
to tremble
2. usu with the cold
1. briefly
2.with horror, disgust,
connotation of cause
connotation of
connotation of cause;
emotive connotation
The above examples show how by singling out denotational and
connotational components we can get a sufficiently clear picture of what the word
really means. The schemes presenting the correlation of two components of the
words also show that a meaning can have two or more connotational components.
The given examples do not exhaust all the types of connotations but present
only a few: emotive, evaluative connotations, and also connotations of duration,
cause, etc.
The pragmatic aspect is the part of lexical meaning that conveys
information on the situation of communication. Like the connotational aspect, the
pragmatic aspect falls into four closely linked together subsections.
1) Information on the ‘time and space’ relationship of the participants.
Some information which specifies different parameters of communication may be
conveyed not only with the help of grammatical means (tense forms, personal
pronouns, etc), but through the meaning of the word. For example, the words come
and go can indicate the location of the speaker who is usually taken as the zero
point in the description of the situation of communication.
The time element when related through the pragmatic aspect of meaning is
fixed indirectly. Indirect reference to time implies that the frequency of occurrence
of words may change with time and in extreme cases words may be out of use or
become obsolete. Thus, the word behold – ‘take notice, see (smth. unusual)’ as
well as the noun beholder – ‘spectator’ are out of use now but were widely used in
the 17th century.
2) Information on the participants and the given language community.
The language used may be indicative of the social status of a person, his education,
profession, etc. The pragmatic aspect of the word also may convey information
about the social system of the given language community, its ideology, religion,
system of norms and customs. Let us consider the following sentences:
a) They chucked a stone at the cops, and then did a bunk with the loot.
b) After casting a stone at the police, they absconded with the money.
Sentence A could be said by two criminals talking casually about the crime
afterwards. Sentence B might be said by the chief inspector in making his official
3) Information on the tenor of discourse. The tenors of discourse reflect
how the addresser (the speaker or the writer) interacts with the addressee (the
listener or reader). Tenors are based on social or family role of the participants of
communication. There may be situation of a mother talking to her small child, or
about her children, or a teacher talking to students, or friends talking to each other.
4) Information on the register of communication. The conditions of
communication form another important group of factors. The register defines the
general type of the situation of communication grading the situations in formality.
Three main types of the situations of communication are usually singled out:
formal, neutral and informal. Thus, the pragmatic aspect of meaning refers words
like cordial, fraternal, anticipate, aid to formal register while units like cut it out,
to be kidding, stuff, hi are to be used in the informal register.
The structure of lexical meaning see in diagram 3.
Diagram 3. Structure of the lexical meaning
Denotational aspect
Connotational aspect
Emotive charge
Pragmatic aspect
Information on the ‘time and space’
Relationship of the participants
Information on the participants and
the given language community
Information on the tenor of discourse
Information on the register of communication
1. Зыкова И.В. Практический курс английской лексикологии. М.:
Академия, 2006. – С.- 18-21.
2. Гинзбург Р.З. Лексикология английского языка. М.: Высшая школа,
1979. – С.- 20-22.
3. Бабич Н.Г. Лексикология английского языка. Екатеринбург-Москва.
2006. – С.- 61- 62.
4. Антрушина Г.Б., Афанасьева О.В., Морозова Н.Н. Лексикология
английского языка. М.; Дрофа, 2006. С. - 136-142.

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