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THE COMMUNICATIVE ASPECT OF THE ENGLISH LEXICON




15.1. Word meaning and types of information.

15.2. Word meaning and the communicative act.

15.3. Registers.

 

15.1. Human society is inconceivable without communication. Communicationis conveying information from one person to another. This information may be of different types.

1) factual information, i.e. direct information, literal meaning of the utterance, which is expressed through the denotative component of word meaning,

e.g. It’s getting cold in here. Shut the door.

2) the speaker’s attitude to the facts. This type of information depends both on the denotative and the connotative components of word meaning,

e.g. These cars are crap!

3) information about the speaker, the addressee and the speech situation, which is "hidden" between words,

e.g. a) Women are almost exclusively in charge of certain adjectives: delightful, precious, lovely, etc. (gender information);

b) The use of fun as a prenominal attribute has become ordinary for those below a certain age, to older speakers it sounds ungrammatical: It was a fun party. She is a fun girl. We had a fun time. (student slang);

c) Social class in English affects vocabulary choice as certain words are held to be either common or posh. Luncheon, for example, is an upper-class version of lunch; toilet is considered by some people to be a more lower-class way of referring to lavatory. Addressing parents as Mother or Father rather than Mum or Dad also suggests that the speaker is likely to be upper-class. (social background).

15.2. The communicative act has the following components:

(1) the speaker and the hearer (social class, status, role, sex, age, education, psychological state, etc.);

(2) relations between the participants;

(3) the aim of communication;

(4) the nature of exchange (conversation, debate, interview, etc.);

(5) the situation, i.e. extralinguistic setting.

Pragmatic factors always influence our selection of sounds, grammatical constructions, and vocabulary from the resources of the language; there are pragmatic distinctions of formality, politeness and intimicy.

Firstly, the form and content of the utterance depend on the characteristics of the speaker, for example, their job,

e.g. there is an example of the use of technical/specialized language:

Police Dispatcher: Car Six. An oh-three-one (=armed robbery with shots being fired) in progress at 16th and M. Respond Code Three (=indicate whether you can go there at once).

Officer: Ten-four. (=I hear you) En route.

Secondly, our speech is always addressee-oriented. If we do not take the listener into account, a pragmatic error is made, a cultural shock may be created,

e.g. How’s tricks, your majesty? is not permissible from a pragmatic viewpoint.

Finally, the speaker should use language means which are appropriate in the given communicative situation. Communicative situations are roughly divided into formal and informal: we don’t speak the same language talking to family , strangers, employers, at home, in a restaurant, etc.

 

15.3. Perhaps the most subtle factor of language alteration (variation) has to do with our immediate surroundings and relations to other speakers. We’ll refer to this kind of language variation as register, by which we mean the relative degree of formality of a speaker’s language as influenced by the location, occasion, relationship, etc.

The term register is often regarded as based on a narrower concept than the term "functional style". The latter refers to major varieties within language, e.g. the functional style of fiction, academic discourse, everyday speech. "Register" is defined as "a variety related to a particular use of the language", "the convention that a certain kind of language is appropriate to a certain use". "Register" may be used to refer to situationally distinct uses and varieties of language.

The situation thus becomes an important factor in choosing lexical items in speech. Even if the item is acceptable semantically or referentially, this may not be always satisfactory because register features impose new limits on the choice of items. Semantically or in terms of the word’s meaning there may be a number of ways of referring to a thing or event, but in communication the options are often reduced to a single variety depending on extralinguistic situational factors.

The right choice of words depends not only on their meanings, but also, to a great extent, on their communicative appropriateness in a given context. Words are associated with a particular type of situations, which determines the register. The relationship between the meaning of words and discourse is two-way: every register has its own vocabulary; characteristics of register are part of word’s semantic content. The referential meaning of a word becomes enriched by the knowledge of how one can use it effectively.

Sometimes five registers are identified, which are used to categorize English from the very formal to the very informal:

1) frozen, “stiff”, i.e. the most careful and elegant variety reserved for very important or symbolic moments,

e.g. Visitors should make their way to the upper floor by way of staircase.

2) formal, i.e. generally serious level of language use,

e.g. Visitors should go upstairs at once.

3) consultative, the plain everyday level,

e.g. Would you mind going upstairs right away?

4) casual, normal, relaxed, appropriate to conversations with friends and family,

e.g. Time you all went upstairs now.

5) intimate, used exclusively with closest friends and family

e.g. Up you go, chaps!

Of course, there are no sharp boundaries between the registers.

Some linguists give two registers for teaching purposes: formal and informal (roughly a division between what we have called the formal and the upper reaches of the consultative and the casual and most of the consultative),

e.g. We regret to inform you that your application has not been successful. (formal)

They went and appointed someone else. (informal)

Formal English is used with strangers and acquaintances in formal surroundings, e.g. at an expensive hotel, department store, restaurant, etc., with people you respect and feel a certain social distance from, e.g. your teacher, employer, your friend’s parents, etc., and also when speaking to a group of people.

Informal English is used when talking to family and close friends; to acquaintances or even strangers in informal situations, e.g. on the beach, at a casual get-together, etc.

Informal English is characterized by a wide use of:

(1) slang, e.g. Drop dead! ("go away; don’t bother me; no"), brill, wicked (1980s), fuzz ("police"), loot ("money");

(2) emotionally coloured words, e.g. awfully, terribly, fantastic, etc.;

(3) words of "general" meaning, e.g. thing, business, affair, get, nice, etc.;

(4) shortenings, e.g. specs, mo < moment, delish < deliciously, hubby;

(5) phrasal verbs, e.g. to catch out, to turn down, to set off,etc.;

(6) words with such suffixes as -ish and -like, e.g. largish, sevenish, photo-like, bat-like, etc.;

(7) phrases of the type "and things like that", "and the like", "and so on", "and everything", "or something";

(8) phrases "bags of", "tons of", "heaps of", "ocean of";

Besides imprecision and lexical vagueness, informal speech is characterized by ellipsis, i.e. omission from a sentence of words needed to complete the construction or sense,

e.g. Seen Tom? Me, too. Sure, why not? What, now?


 

 
 







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