词汇学(12)Sense Relation Ⅲ Synonymy

词汇学(12)Sense Relation Ⅲ Synonymy

Definiton of Synonyms

Synonyms can be defined as words different in sound and spelling but most nearly alike or exactly the same in meaning. Reasonable as it sounds, this definition is subject to disagreement. The focal point is what is meant by meaning.

Therefore, a better definiton might be “one of two or more words in the English language which have the same or very nearly the same essential meaning”. In other words, synonyms share a likeness in denotion as well as aprt of speech, for a verb cannot have an adjective as its synonym. Similarly, an adverb cannot take a noun as its synonym.

Types of Synonyms

Absolute Synonyms

Also known as complete synonym, are words which are identical in meaning in all its aspects, both in grammatical meaning and lexical meaning including conceptual and associative meanings. Synonyms of this type are interchangeable in every way. It is recognized that absolute synonyms are rare in natural languages and some people even hold that such synonyms are non-existent.
E.g. caecitis-typhlitis in medicine, composition-compounding in lexicology.

Relative Synonyms

Relative synonyms are also called near-synonyms, which are similar or meanrly the same in denotation, but embrace different shades of meaning or different degrees of a given quality.
E.g.

changeput another thing in its place
altermake it different from what it was before
varyto alter it in different manner an at different times

Sources of Synonyms

Borrowing

NativeFrenchLatin
askquestioninterrogate
fireflameconflagration
holysacredconsecrated
timeageepoch
fearterrortrepidition
goodnessvirtueprobity

Dialects and Regional English

railway (BrE)rairoad (AmE)
lift (BrE)elevator (AmE)
charm (BrE)glamour (Scot)

Figurative and Euphemistic Use of Words

occupation/professionwalk of life (fig)
drunkelevated (euph)
liedistort the fact (euph)

Single Words Coincided with Idiomatic Expression

wingain the upper hand
decidemake up one’s mind
hesitatebe in two minds

Discrimination of Synonyms

Generally speaking, there are nine principles for distinguishing apparent synonyms.
1. One term is more general than another: refuse-reject
2. One term is more tense than another: repudiate-refuse
3. One term is more emotive than another: reject-decline
4. One term may imply approbation or censure where another is nuetral: thrifty-economical
5. One term is more professional than another: decease-death
6. One term is more literary than another: passing-death
7. One term is more colloquial than another: turn down-refuse
8. One term is more local or dialective than another: fresher(Scot)-butcher
9. One of the syninyms belongs to child-talk: daddy-father

To sum up, the difference between synonyms may boil down to three aspects: denotion, connotation, application.

Denotion

Range of meaning

Although words of some pairs are synonyms, one words may have a wider range of meaning than the other.
E.g. timid, timorous
The former applied to both the state of mind in which a person may happen to be at the moment and to habitual disposition, and the latter only to disposition. Therefore, timid is more extensive than timorous.

Intensity of meaning

E.g. rich, wealthy
A rich man and a wealthy lady are both rich, but the wealthy lady is felt to posses more money and property than a rich man.

Difference in Connotation

Stylistic meaning

Among ralative synonyms, there are words which share the same denotation but differ in their stylistic appropriateness. For example, words borrowed from other languages, French and Latin in particular, are generally more formal than native words. Apart from these, mention should be made of archiac and poetic terms, which are self-suggestive with reference.
E.g. ire-anger, bliss-hapiness, dire-dreadful, enow-enough

Emotive meaning

Many words are synonymous in conceptual menaing but different in emotive values.
E.g. result, consequence
The former is affectively neutral, niether appreciative nor derogatory, and can be used with good to convey a positiveattitude and with bad to express a nagative meaning. The latter always has a nagetive implication.

Difference in Appilication

Many words are synonyms in meaning but different in collocations or distribution in sentences.
E.g. empty box/street/room vacant seat/chair/apartment
a lump of sugar, a slice of meat, a chunk of wood, a sheet of paper, a cake of soap

 

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