The forthcoming chapter is going to be one of the longest and most important in this book, for it is devoted to a linguistic unit of major significance - the word, which'names, qualifies and evaluates the micro-and marcrocosm of the surrounding world. The most essential feature of a word is that it expresses the concept of a thing, process, phenomenon, naming (denoting) them. Concept is a logical category, its linguistic counterpart is meaning. Meaning, as the outstanding scholar L. Vygotsky put it, is the unity of generalization, communication and thinking. An entity of extreme complexity, the meaning of a word is liable to historical changes, of which you know from the course of lexicology and which are responsible for the formation of an expanded semantic structure of a word. This structure is constituted of various types of lexical meanings, the major one being denotational, which informs of the subject of communication; and also including connotational, which informs about the participants and conditions of communication.
The list and specifications of connotational meanings vary with different linguistic schools and individual scholars and include such entries as pragmatic (directed at the perlocutionary effect of utterance), associative (connected, through individual psychological or linguistic associations, with related and nonrelated notions), ideological, or conceptual (revealing political, social, ideological preferences of the user), evaluative (stating the value of the indicated notion), emotive (revealing the emotional layer of cognition and perception), expressive (aiming at creating the image of the object in question), stylistic (indicating "the register", or the situation of the communication).
The above-mentioned meanings are classified as connotational not only because they supply additional (and not the logical/denotational) information, but also because, for the most part, they are observed not all at once and not in all words either. Some of them are more important for the act of communication than the others. Very often they qverlap.
So, all words possessing an emotive meaning are also evaluative (e.g. "rascal", "ducky"), though this rule is not reversed, as we can find non-emotive, intellectual evaiuation (e.g. "good", "bad"). Again, all emotive words (or practically all, for that matter) are also expressive, while there are hundreds of expressive words which cannot be treated as emotive (take, for example the so-called expressive verbs, which not only denote some action or process but also create their image, as in "to gulp" = to swallow in big lumps, in a hurry; or "to sprint" = to run fast).
The number, importance and the overlapping character of connotational meanings incorporated into the semantic structure of a word, are brought forth by the context, i.e. a concrete speech act that identifies and actualizes each one. More than that: each context does not only specify the existing semantic (both denotational and connotational) possibilities of a word, but also is capable of adding new ones, or deviating rather considerably from what is registered in the dictionary. Because of that all contextual meanings of a word can never be exhausted or comprehensively enumerated. Compare the following cases of contextual use of the verb "to pop" in Stan Barstow's novel "Ask Me Tomorrow":
1. His face is red at first and then it goes white and his eyes stare as if they'll pop out of his head.
2. "Just pop into the scullery and get me something to stand this on."
3. "There is a fish and chip shop up on the main road. I thought you might show your gratitude by popping up for some."
4. "I've no need to change or anything then." "No, just pop your coat on and you're fine."
5. "Actually Mrs. Swallow is out. But she won't be long. She's popped up the road to the shops."
6. "Would you like me to pop downstairs and make you a cup of cocoa?"
In the semantic actualization of a word the context plays a dual role: on one hand, it cuts off all meanings irrelevant for the given communicative situation. On the other, it foregrounds one of the meaningful options of a word, focusing the communicators' attention on one of the denotational or connonational components of its semantic structure.
The significance of the context is comparatively small in the field of stylistic connotations, because the word is labelled stylistically before it enters some context, i.e. in the dictionary: recollect the well-known contractions -vulg., arch., si., etc., which make an indispensable part of a dictionary entry. So there is sense to start the survey of connotational meanings with the stylistic differentiation of the vocabulary.
Stylistic Differentiation of the Vocabulary:
Literary Stratum of Words. Colloquial Words
The word-stock of any given language can be roughly divided into three uneven groups, differing from each other by the sphere of its possible use. The biggest division is made up of neutral words, possessing no stylistic connotation and suitable for any communicative situation; two smaller ones are literary and colloquial strata respectively.
Literary words serve to satisfy communicative demands of official, scientific, poetic messages, while the colloquial ones are employed in non-official everyday communication. Though there is no immediate correlation between the written and the oral forms of speech on one hand, and the literary and colloquial words, on the other, yet, for the most part, the first ones are mainly observed in the written form, as most literary messages appear in writing. And vice versa: though there are many examples of colloquialisms in writing (informal letters, diaries, certain passages of memoirs, etc.), their usage is associated with the oral form of communication.
Consequently, taking for analysis printed materials we shall find literary words in authorial speech, descriptions, considerations, while colloquialisms will be observed in the types of discourse, simulating (copying) everyday oral communication - i.e., in the dialogue (or interior monologue) pf a prose work.
When we classify some speech (text) fragment as literary or colloquial it does not mean that all the words constituting it have a corresponding stylistic meaning. More than that: words with a pronounced stylistic connotation are few in any type of discourse, the overwhelming majority of its lexis being neutral. As our famous philologist L.V. Shcherba once said - a stylistically coloured word is like a, drop of paint added to a glass of pure water and colouring the whole of it.
Neither of the two named groups of words, possessing a stylistic meaning, is homogeneous as to the quality of the meaning, frequency of use, sphere of application, or the number and character of potential users. This is why each one is further divided into the general,i.e. known to and used by most native speakers in generalized literary (formal) or colloquial (informal) communication, and special bulks. The latter ones, in their turn, are subdivided into subgroups, each one serving a rather narrow; specified communicative purpose.
So, among special literary words, as a rale, at least two major subgroups are mentioned. They are:
1. Terms, i.e. words denoting objects, processes, phenomena of science, humanities, technique.
2. Archaisms, i.e. words, a) denoting historical phenomena which are no more in use (such as "yeoman", "vassal", "falconet"). These are historical words.
b) used in poetry in the XVII-XIX cc. (such as "steed" for "horse"; "quoth" for "said"; "woe" for "sorrow"). These are poetic words.
c) in the course of language history ousted by newer synonymic words (such as "whereof = of which; "to deem" = to think; "repast" = meal; "nay" = no) or forms ("maketh" = makes; "thou wilt" = you will; "brethren" = brothers). These are called archaic words (archaic forms) proper.
Literary words, both general (also called learned, bookish, high-flown) and special, contribute to the message the tone of solemnity, sophistication, seriousness, gravity, learnedness. They are used in official papers and documents, in scientific communication, in high poetry, in authorial speech of creative prose.
Colloquial words, on the contrary, mark the message as informal, non-official, conversational. Apart from general colloquial words, widely used by all speakers of the language in their everyday communication (e.g. "dad", "kid", "crony", "fan", "to pop", "folks"), such special subgroups may be mentioned: