Saturday, October 3, 2009

A study of Lexical Relations

The branch of semantics that deals with the word meaning is called lexical semantics. It is the study of systematic, meaning related structures of words. Lexical field or semantic field is the organization of related words and expressions in to a system, which shows their relationship with one another. e.g. .set 1 angry, sad, happy, depressed, afraid.
This set of word is a lexical field all its words refer to emotional states.

Lexical semantics examines relationships among word meanings. It is the study of how the lexicon is organized and how the lexical meanings of lexical items are interrelated, and it’s principle goal is to build a model for the structure of the lexicon by categorizing the types of relationships between words.

There are different types of lexical relations-
Antonymy and


Hyponymy is a relationship between two words in which the meaning of one of the words includes the meaning of the other word.
The lexical relation corresponding to the inclusion of one class in another is hyponymy.

A hyponym is a subordinate, specific term whose referent is included in the referent of super ordinate term.
e.g. Blue, green are kinds of color they are specific colors and color is the general term for them. Therefore color is called the super ordinate term and blue, red, green, yellow, etc. are called hyponyms.
A super ordinate can have many hyponyms.

Hyponymy is the relationship between each lower term and the higher term(super ordinate).It is sense relation. Hyponymy is defined in terms of the inclusion of the sense of one item in the sense of another. e.g. The sense of animal is included in the sense of lion.
Hyponymy is not restricted to objects, abstract concepts, or nouns. It can be identified in many other areas of the lexicon. e.g. the verb cook has many hyponyms.

In a lexical field, hyponymy may exist at more than one level. A word may have both a hyponym and a super ordinate term.

We thus have Sparrow, hawk, crow , fowl as hyponyms of bird and bird in turn is a hyponym of living beings .So there is a hierarchy of terms related to each other through hyponymic relations. Two or more terms which share the same super ordinate terms are co-hyponyms.
Hyponymy involves the logical relationship of entailment. e.g. ‘There is a horse’ entails that ‘There is an animal’ Hyponymy often functions in discourse as a means of lexical cohesion by establishing referential equivalence to avoid repetition.


Homonymy is ambiguous words whose different senses are far apart from each other and not obviously related to each other in any way. Words like tale and tail are homonyms. There is no conceptual connection between its two meanings.
The word ‘homonym’ has been derived from Greek term Homoios which means identical and onoma means means name.Homonyms are the words that have same phonetoc form (homophones) or orthographic form(homographs) but different unrelated meanings.
e.g. Thev word bear as a verb means to carry and as a noun it means a large animal.
An example of homonym, which is both homophone and homograph, is fluke. Fluke is a fish as well as a flatworm. Other examples-bank, an anchor,etc.


Homophony is the case where two words are pronounced identically but they have different written forms. They sound alike but are written differently and often have different meanings. e.g. no, know and led, lead and would, wood.etc.


Homograph is a word which is spelled the same as another word and might be pronounced the same or differently but which has a different meanings. E.g.bear,to bear. when homonyms are spelled the same they are homographs but not all homonyms are homographs.


When a word has several very closely related senses or meanings .Polysemous word is a word having two or more meanings.
e.g.foot in :He hurt his foot
She stood at the foot of the stairs.
A well-known problem in semantics is how to decide whether we are dealing with a single polysemous word or with two or more homonyms.
F.R.Palmer concluded saying that finally multiplicity of meaning is a very general characteristic of language.
Polysemy is used in semantics and lexical analysis to describe the word with multiple meanings.Crystal and Dick Hebdige (1979) also defined polysemy.

Lexical ambiguity depends upon homonymy and polysemy.


Synonymy is used to mean sameness of meaning. Synonym is a word, which has the same or nearly the same meaning as another word. There are several ways in which they differ
1.Some set of synonyms belong to different dialects of language, e.g. Fall - used in united states, Autumn-used in some western countries.
2.There is a similar situation but are more problematic one with words that are used in different styles or registers.
3.Some words may be said to differ only in their emotive or evaluative meanings.
4.Words are collocationally restricted they occur only in conjunction with other words.
5.Synonyms are often said to differ only in their connotation.
Examples-hid, conceal,
It is very hard to list absolute synonyms: words, which are identical both in denotation and connotation.


The word antonymy derives from the greek root anti(opposite) and denotes opposition in meaning.
Antonymy or oppositeness of meaning has long been recognized as one of the most important semantic relations .e.g. quick-slow, big-small, long-short, rich-poor, etc.
Antonyms are divided in to several types-1.gradable antonyms/pairs, 2.nongradable antonyms/complementaries, and 3.reversives 4.converse pairs
1.gradable antonyms/pairs-They can be used in comparative constructions like bigger than or smaller than, etc. Also the negative of one member of the gradable pair does not necessarily imply the opposite. e.g.not hot does not mean cold.
2.nongradable antonyms/complementaries- The relation of oppositeness is that which holds between the pairs as single:married, man:woman,etc.
The denial of one implies the assertion of the other and the assertion of one implies the denial of the other. It is the characteristic of complimentaries.
3. reversives-It is important to avoid most antonym pairs as one word meaning the negative of another.e.g.tie-untie.
4.converse pairs –Another kind of antonymy is forming converse pairs. e.g. Converseness is used to refer to the relationship between buy and sell.


A metonym substitutes for the object that is meant the name of an attribute or concept associated with the object. The use of ‘crown’ for ‘king’ is an e.g. of metonymy. This term has been derived from Greek word meta means after and onoma means substitution for name.
e.g. gray hair can be used for old age.
The distinction between metonymy and metaphor is made in linguistics. For instance, the phrase ‘to fish pearls’ metonymy is used and in the phrase ‘fishing for information’ metaphor is used. In cognitive linguistics, the word metonymy stands for the use of one basic characteristic to identify a more complex entity. Metonymy according to American Linguist Bloomfield is nearness in pace and time.
More precisely it focuses on specific aspects of objects having direct physical association to what is being referred to.

References (Bibliography):

1.Lexical Semantics-D.A.Cruse (Cambridge university press)
2.Semantics – a course book-James R..Hurford, Brendan Heasley (Cambridge university press)
3.Semantics –a new outline-F.R. Palmer-(Cambridge university press)
4.Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics-John Lyons- (Cambridge university press)
5.LANGUAGE Its structure and use- Edward Finegan -(Harcourt Brace Publishers)
6.Longman dictionary of applied linguistics-Jack Richards,John Platt,Heidi Weber-(Longman)

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