Perception vocabulary in a cross-linguistic perspective

Analysis of perceptual nomination in the comparative-typological perspective. Establishing the degree of onomasiological congruence of fastening in English, German, Polish and Ukrainian languages. Development of linguistics and translation practices.

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UDC 81'373 : 159.93-115


O. Demenchuk

Contemporary linguistic semantics advocates the priority of cognitive and functional approaches towards the study of the linguistic unit semantics. Positing the dynamic conceptualization of a certain situation or its fragment), such approaches declare a new conception of the linguistic unit semantics modeling.

The topicality of the subject is determined by general anthropocentric trends of contemporary linguistic theories, tendencies to profound studies of the ways the semantics of linguistic units encodes information on how a person comprehends and interprets the reality. The informational approach towards the study of the linguistic unit semantics provides for the elaboration of models of designation that are supposed to mark a conceptual entity, verbalized in a linguistic sign.

It is efficient to elaborate the models of designation based on a cross- linguistic comparison. This may provide for natural and universal notions that are supposed to be found in many (if not in all) languages of the world, irrespective of their genetic and cultural differences [25]. Another point, which is crucial for cross-linguistic investigations, is the use of a metalanguage, which is supposed to record all features (common and peculiar) of the contrasted systems [14, p. 372].

The reasoning for the models of designation to be elaborated in a cross- linguistic perspective provides for the analysis of those segments of a vocabulary stock that reveal non-discrete, continuant features of designation, a vivid asymmetry of a linguistic sign, thematically extended polysemy. It is those characteristics that perception vocabulary shares, the latter being defined as a class of words that denote various aspects of a human being worldview.

The linguistic studies of perception vocabulary are diverse and multiple. The subjects of the analyses were: perception vocabulary lingua mentalis [24], typological characteristics of perception vocabulary [6; 9], semantic derivational models of perception vocabulary [7; 12]. Within a functional linguistics approach, perception vocabulary was considered to encode the information about properties and relations of perception situation participants. The studies revealed the role and taxonomic characteristics of perception actants [5; 13], perception vocabulary diathetic alternations [8; 20], functional characteristics of perception constructions [21; 22]. Pursuing to reconstruct a set of universal cognitive categories [4], contemporary studies of perception vocabulary advocate expediency and necessity of its onomasiological analysis. Within a contrastive linguistics approach, the onomasiological studies aim to establish the formal and structural correspondence (congruence) of lexical units.

We assume that a cross-linguistic comparison of perception vocabulary provides for establishing correspondences (similarities and differences) in the conceptualization of a reality situation, encoded in the semantics of the linguistic units of closely and distantly related languages. Such an approach is supposed to reveal those elements of language cognition that represent the properties of a national-linguistic worldview, specificities of ethnic mentality, peculiarities of physical and cognitive activities of people, belonging to a certain language community.

From this perspective, the purpose of the article is to determine the degree of the perception vocabulary congruence and to reveal the onomasiological strategies of perception lexical units in the English, German, Polish, and Ukrainian languages. The object of the analysis is the naming of a complex structure (compound words), containing a percept-related (mainly colour) constituent.

The analysis is supposed to establish the degree of congruence of lexical units by their onomasiological structures. The onomasiological structure consists of an onomasiological base (it denotes a class, gender, species, etc., to which the object belongs) and onomasiological mark (it specifies the base) [17, p. 82]. As a criterion of comparison, the onomasiological structure determines the differentiation of perception lexical units by degrees of their total congruence, partial congruence and total incongruence. Besides, the subject could be nonequivalent lexical units, they forming the so-called onomasiological lacunas [15, p. 215].

Totally congruous perception lexical units reveal the complete identification of their components and the identity of their onomasiological structures, cf.: whitehaired having white hair or covered with white hair [23], weifihaarig weiBes Haar habend [3], biatowtosy maj^cy biale wlosy [16] and [2]; sour-sweat sweet with an admixture or aftertaste of sourness [11], sauerstifi sauerlich und suB zugleich [3], kwasnostodki slodki z kwasnym posmakiem [19] and - ; [2]; cold-blooded without emotion or excitement, unimpassioned, cool [11], zimnokrwisty przen. o czlowieku: nieokazuj^cy emocji; spokojny, opanowany, flegmatyczny [19] and . , ( ) [2]. It is worth mentioning that the equivalents may reveal the total congruence in the perspective of a single meaning within the semantic (polysemous) structure of a lexical unit, cf.: the German kalt- bltitig (emotional abwertend) sich nicht durch irgendwelche Skrupel oder etwaiges Mitgefuhl beirren oder zuruckhalten lassend [3] with its reference to the English naming cold-blooded without sensibility, unfeeling, callous; deliberately cruel (of a person): It is the cold-blooded and sagacious wrestler who takes the prize [11].

Partially congruous perception lexical units reveal correspondences based on: a) non-identity of onomasiological structures in the couples: compound - derivative, cf.: loud-speaker, Lautsprecher, vs. gtosnik; compound - word combination, cf.: hot-blooded, heifibltitig vs. gorqca krew, ; b) non-identity of onomasiological marks, cf.: greenhorn vs. Grtin- schnabel vs. zottodziob vs. ; c) inversion of onomasiological marks, cf.: snow-white, schneeweifi, snieznobiaty vs. .

The cognitive premises of this type of congruence is in the selection of different motivators, that ensuing from different worldviews (construals) a designator reveals in his / her conceptualizing the outer world, cf.: buttercup (yellow-cup) a name popularly applied to species of Ranunculus bearing yellow cup-shaped flowers [11], Hahnenfufi Pflanze mit kleinen gelben oder seltener weiBen Bluten und hahnenfuBahnlich geformten Blattern [3] vs. ' , [2] vs. jaskier bot. Ranunculus, roslina o jasnozoltych, rzadziej bialych lub czerwonych kwiatach, cz^sto truj^ca [19] - different Geschtalts (in English and German) vs. generalization (in Ukrainian) vs. specification (in Polish). One should bear in mind that different types of motivation may also be the case of a (folk etymology) loan-translation, cf.: red- short [Sw rodskort, fr. rod red + skor brittle] of iron: brittle while in a red-hot condition, owing to excess of sulphur in the metal [11] vs. rotbrtichig bricht in Rotglut leicht [3]; czerwonokruchy ogniokruchy [16]; [2].

The most conspicuous case of partial congruence is observed in the couple of compound - word combination equivalents. There we deal with a partitioned construction that contrasts the integral structure of a compound word. The analysis makes it possible to single out three types of compound - word combination equivalence.

The first type includes the equivalents, in which the onomasiological marks of a compound word totally coincide with the components of a corresponding word combination. The equivalents of this type form two groups. To the first group there belong equivalents that correlate with each other and one another at the level of a percept-related constituent (the one that refers to a perception phenomenon such as colour, sound, smell etc.), cf.: Schwarzerde, czarnoziem, vs. black earth. The second group includes the equivalents with an ethnopercept-related constituent (the one that correlates a perception phenomenon with a certain cultural event), cf.: Weifigardist, bialogwardzista, vs. White Guardist. The relevance of each group is determined by a certain variety of motivation. The equivalents of the first group reveal the features of the integrative motivation, whilst the equivalents of the second group are likely to be the case of the mixed variety of motivation [see 15, p. 175].

The second type includes equivalents with the motivators coinciding alternately: the congruence is observed either with a percept-related constituent, cf.: Grungurtel vs. green belt, pas zieleni, , or with a non-percept- related one, cf.: blue-steel vs. brunierter Stahl, stal czerniona, . The equivalents of this type reveal: a) hyper-hyponymic relations, cf.: redfish vs. Rotbarsch vs. okoh czerwony, ; b) partitive-generalizer relations, cf.: blackwood vs. schwarzes Ebenholz, drzewo hebanowe, ; c) equonymic relations, cf.: green-peak, Grunspecht vs. dziciol zielony, ; d) mixed relations, cf.: green-bottle (figurative) vs. Goldfliege, mucha niebieska, (generalizer), plujka pospolita (specializer).

The third type includes equivalents that coincide with each other and one another at the level of their percept-related constituents. One may single out the equivalents that correlate with: a) attributive compounds, cf.: blackface vs. , blackmouth vs. ; b) attributive word combinations, cf.: vs. weifier Emigrant, white emigre, bialy emigrant; c) adverbial word combinations, cf.: to blacklist vs. auf die schwarze Liste setzen, wciqgac na czarnq list, ; d) attribute clauses, cf.: whitewood vs. , .

The status of total incongruence is ascribed to those equivalents that reveal completely different onomasiological marks or components in the couples: compound - compound, cf.: blacksnake vs. -; whitlow vs. Fingerwurm vs. ; vs. cabinetmaker, Kunsttischler; compound - derivative, cf.: brown-nose vs. lizus, ; vs. gluhend, rozzarzony, incandescent; compound - word combination, cf.: yellow- boy vs. ; whitebeam vs. ; , Samtblume (Studentenblume) vs. French merigold.

Totally incongruous equivalents in the compound - compound couple may be divided into those that reveal contiguous relations between the onomasiological marks, cf.: redstart A small European and North African bird so named from its red tail, which it has a habit of moving quickly from side to side (start > from Old English steort tail) [11] vs. [2], and those that do not reveal such relations, cf.: yellow-bottle vs. .

In the compound - derivative couple one may also single out a group of equivalents with contiguous onomasiological marks, cf.: greensickness an anaemic disease which mostly affects young women about the age of puberty and gives a pale or greenish tinge to the complexion [18] vs. Chlorose [Gr. chloros gran] Bleichsucht bei Menschen infolge Verminderung des Blutfarbstoffes, - ', ' ; [2], chloroza postac ci^zkiej niedokrwistosd dziewcz^t w wieku pokwitania [19], and those that do not reveal such relations, cf.: bluebonnet vs. ; Schwarzseher, czarnowidz vs. pessimist, .

In the compound - word combination couple the equivalents reveal synonymous relations. These types of relations are established between a compound word percept-related constituent and a word combination non-percept- related component, cf.: blackband the mineral siderite when occurring mixed with clay, sand, and considerable carbonaceous matter and frequently being associated with coal [23] vs. .

In addition, some equivalents may reveal enantiosemantic relations between their constituents. The selection of a motivator in this case represents different positions (vantage points) taken by a designator relative to the denoted object, cf.: red-baiting harassment of those of known or suspected communist sympathies vs. Kommunistenhetze Kesseltreiben gegen Kommunisten [3]. The percept- related constituent red esp. disapproving having left wing political opinions [1] reveals a negative connotation that describes the corresponding attitude of Americans towards their ideological counteragents. Compare the same naming in Polish and Ukrainian czerwony rewolucyjny, o przekonaniach socjalistycznych, lewicowych; komunistyczny [16] and [2]. Those lexical units are definitely positive in their connotations what concerns their ideological preferences (or rather coercions), cf.: W owym czasie Gurowski zabawial si w rewolucj i patriotyzm, wyglaszal czerwone mowy [16] and , , , ! [2]. A diverse situation is also observed in German, cf.: lieber rot als tot es ist besser, kommunistisch, sozialistisch regiert zu werden, als im Kampf gegen den Kommunismus, Sozialismus zu sterben [3].

Not less numerous is a group of non-equivalent compounds in the compared languages. Their non-equivalence is determined by the peculiarities of: a) historical events (evidence), cf.: bluecoat a soldier esp. of the U.S. during the Civil War [23]; Schwarzrotgold Farben der deutschen Fahne von 1919 bis 1933, der Fahne der DDR von 1949 bis 1990 und der Bundesrepublik Deutschland [3]; bialo- czerwony sportowiec reprezentuj^cy Polsk^ [19]; , ⳻ [2]; b) social practices or their results, cf.: greenmail the practice of purchasing enough shares in a firm or trading company to threaten a take-over, thereby forcing the owners to buy them back at a premium in order to retain control of the business [11], schwarzhoren ohne Immatrikulation und ohne die falligen Gebuhren zu entrichten, eine Vorlesung an der Universitat besuchen [3]; zielonoswiqtkowcy wspolnota religijna wierz^ca w nieomylnosc Biblii, powtorne przyjscie Chrystusa i bliski koniec swiata oraz w znaki (dary) zsyfane na jej czfonkow przez Ducha Swi<?tego [19]; . , [2]. perceptual nomination language translation

The contrastive onomasiological analysis of perception vocabulary (mainly colour compound words) reveals heterogeneous congruence of the equivalents in the English, German, Polish, and Ukrainian languages. The partial congruence is prevailing. It employs a strategy based on the selection of identical motivators. A large number of partially congruous equivalents correlate with each other at the level of percept-related constituent semantics. The constituent serves a kind of a universal semantic aligner that provides congruence, even though the other equivalent might be a non-percept-related one. The evidence is the case of total incongruence, which is determined not only by the selection of different percept- related motivators, but also of those that are beyond the scope of the perception worldview. Total congruence is the least numerous. It is largely determined either by cross-linguistic contacts (loan words, loan-translation etc.), or by a designator's vantage point relative to the denoted object.

To reveal the entire gamut of perception vocabulary and to establish the way it encodes the information on designation strategies and techniques in related and non-related languages makes it expedient to carry out further research on perception vocabulary within a comparative-historical perspective.


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The article focuses on perception vocabulary in a cross-linguistic perspective. The object of investigation is perception compound words. The analysis is carried out within an onomasiological approach. It reveals the peculiarities of perception lexical units and ascertains the degree of their congruence in the English, German, Polish and Ukrainian languages. The propositions and obtained results may be useful in elaborating theoretical and special courses in Contrastive and Typological Linguistics, Lexicology (Word- formation), Theory and Practice of Translation.

Key words: perception, derivative, compound word, onomasiological structure, onomasiological mark, onomasiological base, equivalent, congruous.

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