An Introduction to Contrastive Lexicology


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Chapter 1 Contrastive Lexicology: its Subject and Objectives
  1.1. Recent trends in 'new' contrastive lexical studies
  1.2. Lexis as an object of contrastive analysis
  1.3. Corpus Linguistics in a contrastive study of languages
  Follow up tasks
Chapter 2 Cross-Linguistic Equivalence at the Lexical Level: Methodology and Current Approaches
  2.1. Tertium comparationis: system-related distinctions
  2.2. Tertium comparationis: context-related distinctions
  2.3. Types of cross-linguistic lexical correspondences
  Follow up tasks
Chapter 3 Structural Types and Peculiarities of Usage in Searching for English-Russian Cross-Linguistic Correspondences
  3.1. Aspects of typology in a contrastive analysis of languages
  3.2. The structure and prosody of noun phrases in the compared languages
  3.3. Phrasal verbs as an object of contrastive analysis and translation
  3.4. Functional typology: lexical morphological categories
  3.5. Functional typology: types of nomination
  Follow up tasks
Chapter 4 Lexical Semantics as an Object of Contrastive Studies
  4.1. Conceptual and functional-communicative division of the lexicon. Types of the word's lexical meaning
  4.2. The word's denotative meaning in lexical confrontation
  4.3. The word's connotative meaning in lexical confrontation
  4.4. Idiomatic and non-idiomatic phraseology in lexical confrontation
  Follow up tasks
Contrastive lexicology is a new type of studies aimed at establishing differences and similarities between languages in the course of their systematic description. It is concerned with the analysis of language vocabularies and lexical items in respect of their structural, semantic, and functional features. The focus of this investigation has been on cross-linguistic correspondences between languages at the lexical level. As part of contrastive linguistics, contrastive lexicology rests on the general principles of the universal device of comparison, on the one hand, and on the other -- looks into the nature of lexical correlations, i.e. examines the `matches' and `mismatches' discoverable at the level of structured lexicons.

To proceed with the definition of contrastive linguistics, it is necessary to point out that "the principle of contrast is considered fundamental to linguistic analysis" (Crystal, 1985: 73). It can be illustrated with reference to different levels of linguistic study (e.g., distinctive features in phonology and morpho-logy are commonly regarded as `contrastive units' in defining the notions of Phoneme and Morpheme). As a general approach to the investigation of language, contrastive analysis is used "in certain areas of Applied linguistics, such as foreign language teaching and translation" (Crystal, 1985: 74). In teaching and learning practice it is crucial to spot points of difference between the native and the foreign languages in order that potential problems and difficulties could be identified.

The question of types of languages or language `families' that are being compared has also become most important in establishing the ontology (or variety) of contrastive studies. As is well-known, the fundamental principles of describing sets of languages that derive from a common `ancestor' had been devised by comparative philologists in the nineteenth century. Thus, the Indo-European `family' tree represents the relationships between cognate (related) languages such as German, Dutch, English, Flemish (West Germanic languages) or Polish, Russian, Czech (Balto-Slavic languages), etc. (see Figure 1).

In the English metalanguage this type of studies became known as comparative philology. Its primary purpose especially in the early stages was to investigate the relationships between cognate (related) languages leading to the formation of language families (Sanskrit, Latin, Germanic, Romance languages, etc.). Contrastive analyses, conversely, are for the most part synchronic; they go beyond the genetic-etymological kinship of languages to embrace both related and unrelated languages (e.g., Russian and English). Their aim is to target cross-linguistic correspondences between the living languages along the lines of typology, i.e. their structure and functioning. At the same time analogous studies "of two states in the history of a language would be grouped under a different heading, such as Comparative or Historical Linguistics" (Crystal, 1985: 74).