YflK 81'37:811. 111


O. Pervashova, senior lecturer, KhNAHU

Abstract. New linguistic environments of the adjective «green» and factors conditioned their occurrence have been analyzed. New components in the semantic structure of the adjective «green» have been identified.

Key words: denotative meaning, connotative meaning, collocation, contextual meaning, extra-linguistic context, linguistic context, grammatical meaning, lexical meaning, primary meaning, loss of meaning, secondary meaning, development of a word-meaning.


The adjective green has now come to be used in new and often unusual linguistic environments. Such combinations as green designs, green driving, green technology, green power, which are widely used in present-day texts, would have been considered semantically incompatible and meaningless several years ago. These collocations usually occur in texts relating to energy problems, economic and environmental issues, advanced automotive technologies, and advertising. Students often misinterpret these expressions because they focus on the denotative meaning of the adjective green and are unaware of recent changes in its semantic structure.

The object of our studies was the adjective green in new linguistic environments.

The aim of our studies was to analyze the present-day semantic development of the adjective green, to identify the factors that contributed to this event, and determine new components in the semantic structure of the adjective green.

The material for the studies was drawn from texts of such periodicals as «Newsweek» (2007) and «Scientific American» (2006-2007). We also used the ABBYY Lingvo 11 dictionary (2005) and the Encarta World English Dictionary (2003).

The methods employed included lexicographic, structural, semantic, and contextual analysis.

The results of the studies could be used in teaching English-Ukrainian translation, in lectures on English lexicology, and in the English language teaching in technical institutions of higher education.

Word-meaning and its structure

There exist several concepts of a word-meaning structure, neither of which, however, can fully describe it, and the problem remains the subject of debate in present-day linguistics [8]. Nevertheless, according to universally accepted semantic theory, a word-meaning structure can be analyzed at two levels.

At the first level, it is possible to identify the lexical and the grammatical component in the structure of a word-meaning [6]. The grammatical component is the meaning of the formal membership of the word expressed by its grammatical forms. For example, nouns possess the grammatical meaning of substantivity, adjectives have the grammatical meaning of quality, and verbs possess the grammatical meaning of action, process or state. In English, grammatical meaning if often revealed through context. The lexical component of a word-meaning reflects the concept the given word expresses and the basic properties of the entity this word refers to. The correlation between the

lexical and grammatical meaning in a word is usually revealed at the syntactic level. Word-meaning in English is more syntactically conditioned than it is in Ukrainian or Russian due to the analytical character of the English language. The examples below illustrate changes of the meaning of the verb mean when it is followed by an infinitive and gerund.

1. To mean + Vinf. > I didn’t mean to offend you. - Я не хотел вас обидеть.

2. To mean + Ving. > That meant changing our plans for summer. - Это означало изменение наших планов на лето.

At the second level, it is possible to identify two components within the lexical meaning: the denotative meaning and the connotative meaning. The denotative meaning provides a criterion for the correct use of the word. For instance, the denotative meaning of the word bird is ‘feathered creature with two legs and two wings, usually able to fly’. The denotative meaning is associated with its referent. Referent is an object or phenomenon, which the given word names. The denotative meaning may have one or several constant referents. It should be mentioned that the denotative meaning has a diffusive character in many adjectives and adverbs, such as, for instance, good, bad, cheap, expensive, slowly, quickly.

The connotative meaning is an additional component in the lexical meaning of a word. It conveys expressiveness, evaluativeness, emotiveness, specific cultural peculiarities of a community, and stylistic coloring. The connotative meaning is relatively unstable and is apt to vary according to culture, world-outlook, historic period, and experience of people. Connotative meaning is very flexible. It may be inherent when it is a constant part of the lexical meaning, and adherent when it appears only in a particular context and expresses personal emotions. In some cases (for instance, in propaganda), the denotative meaning is

subordinated to the connotative component and is manipulated in its interests. For instance, in the Soviet period, people who were engaged in private business were often called частники, irrespective of their personal qualities or the quality of their business. The denotative meaning of this word was overshadowed by the negative connotation referring to selfishness and avarice.

The structure of a polysemantic word

Polysemy is more developed in English as compared with Ukrainian and Russian due to monosyllabic character of English words and predominance of root words. The more frequently the word is used in speech, the more meanings it can acquire in the process of the evolution of a language.

The analysis of the semantic structure of a polysemantic word reveals two basic types of relationships between its elements. The example in Fig. 1 illustrates the first type [2].

In this structure, meaning 1 holds dominance over meanings 2, 3, 4, and 5 because it conveys the concept in a most general way. This meaning is called the primary meaning. Meanings 2-5 are called secondary meanings because they are derived from meaning 1. The primary meaning is the first meaning listed in a dictionary under the entry of a given word. The primary meaning has the most generalized character, the highest combine-ability and valency, is more frequently used in speech and is less dependent on context than derived meanings. Derived meanings are transferred meanings conditioned by various linguistic and extra-linguistic factors. They occur in speech less frequently and are more dependent on context.

The second type of a word polysemantic structure is arranged on a different principle. The example in Fig. 2 illustrates this type [2].

____________Fire, n.__________

1. conditioning of burning

Ar 2. an instant of 3. a fireplace, a stove: ▼ 4. the shooting of a 5. a strong feeling, passion,

destructive There is a fire in the gun: enthusiasm: a speech

burning: next room. to open fire lacking fire

a forest fire

Fig. 1. The first type of a polysemantic word structure

Dull, adj.

deficient in some quality

deficient in interest or excitement: a dull book deficient in intellect: a dull person deficient in light or colour: dull weather deficient in sound: a dull sound deficient in sharpness: a dull knife deficient in joy: a dull horse deficient in activity: a dull season

Fig. 2. The second type of a polysemantic word structure

The semantic structure of the adjective dull is represented as a set of meanings having a common component, which denotes the deficiency of some quality.

Contextual meaning and types of contexts

Every meaning in a language is signaled either by the form of the word or by the context in which it occurs. In our studies we have used the definition according to which context is the minimal stretch of speech necessary to signal an individual meaning of a word [3]. It is important to distinguish between linguistic and extra-linguistic contexts. Linguistic context includes lexical and grammatical contexts. In lexical context, a particular meaning of a polysemantic word is determined by its lexical environment. The examples below illustrate changes of the meaning of the noun “case” depending on its lexical context.

It’s a rare case. - Это редкий случай.

I think it a chronic case. - Я думаю, что это хроническое заболевание.

The court will not hear this case. - Суд не будет заслушивать это дело.

Grammatical context can also reveal a particular lexical meaning of a polysemantic word. Compare, for instance, the sentences He stopped smoking. - Он бросил курить. and He stopped to smoke. - Он остановился, чтобы закурить. In these sentences, the grammatical form of the verb smoke conditions a particular meaning of the verb stop.

Lexical and grammatical contexts are usually interdependent. For instance, in the collocations deadly pale and deadly tongue, the adjective pale and the noun tongue condition not only the lexical meaning of the word deadly, but also its grammatical category. In English, the meaning

of a word often depends on the position of this word in a sentence. The examples below illustrate changes of the meaning of the word well as conditioned by its position in a sentence:

Well, he speaks English. - Ну, он говорит по-английски.

He speaks English well. - Он хорошо говорит по-английски.

A particular meaning of a word can also be determined by extra-linguistic context. For instance, if you say on a rainy and stormy day “What a wonderful day!” everyone will understand that you have used the word wonderful in the meaning of ‘nasty’, ‘bad’. Extra-linguistic context is conditioned by the following factors:

1. the subject matter of communication;

2. the purpose of communication;

3. the situation of communication (working, teaching, learning, chatting, playing a game, etc.);

4. the status of the participants (their age, sex, mentality, cultural background, education, social status, occupation, etc.);

5. the speakers’ attitude to the situation of communication;

6. the speakers’ emotional state at the moment of communication.

The development of meaning

The development of a word-meaning includes such processes as extension of meaning, narrowing of meaning, elevation of meaning, degradation of meaning, and loss of meaning. The causes of changes in a word-meaning may be linguistic (split of polysemy, influence of borrowings) and extra-linguistic (changes in people’s life, discovery and invention of new objects, phenomena, ideas, emergence of new things).

In the process of extension of meaning, a word comes to denote more objects, phenomena, qualities or actions than it did earlier. As a result, the word-meaning acquires either a higher degree of abstraction or a more generalized character.

Table 1 Examples of extension of meaning

In the process of narrowing of meaning, a word comes to denote fewer objects, phenomena, qualities or actions than it did earlier. As a result, the word-meaning acquires a more specialized character.

Table 2 Examples of narrowing of meaning

In the process of elevation, the meaning acquires a greater importance than it used to have.

Table 3 Examples of elevation of meaning

Continuation of table 3

1 2 3

4. a federal law enforcement officer who carries out court orders in a given federal judicial district and whose duties are similar to those of a local sheriff.

fond fool 1. feeling love, affection, or a strong liking for somebody or something; 2. liking something, or finding enjoyment in doing it; 3. showing or characterized by affection, love, or pleasant feelings; 4. unrealistic, though often dearly wished for.

nice foolish, shy pleasant

In the process of degradation, the meaning loses its “respectability”, drops its “status”. Words, once respectable, may become less respectable.

Table 4 Examples of elevation of meaning

Word The origin al meani ng The present-day meaning

gossip godparent 1. conversation about personal or intimate rumors or facts, especially when malicious; 2. informal and chatty conversation or writing about recent and often personal events; 3. somebody given to spreading personal or intimate information about other people.

silly happy 1. lacking common sense; 2. unworthy of serious concern; 3. dazed or helpless.

The main semantic causes of the loss of meaning are split of polysemy, borrowings, and homonymy. Highly polysemantic words may develop meanings, which in the course of time deviate far from the central one and start their

Word The original meaning The present-day meaning

1 2 3

marshal a horse servant 1. an officer of the highest rank in some armies and air forces; 2. somebody in charge of or controlling an event or gathering such as a parade, ceremony, or sports competition; 3. somebody who is the honoree in a parade, and who usually rides in a vehicle at the head of the lines of marchers and floats;

Word The original meaning The present-day meaning

manuscript something handwritten any copy either written by hand or printed

utopia imaginary island something ideal and perfect, but unrealizable

Word The original meaning The present-day meaning

corpse a human or animal body, living or dead a dead body, especially of a human being

deer a mammal distinguished by the branched antlers on males a particular animal species

independent linguistic life. A good example that illustrates the process of the loss of meaning under the influence of borrowings and split of polysemy is the noun board. In Old English, the word board conveyed the meaning ‘table’. It was derived from the meaning ‘a piece of timber’ by the association of contiguity between an object and the material, from which it is made. The meanings ‘a daily meals especially as provided for pay’ and ‘an official group of persons who direct or supervise some activity’ were derived through metonymical transference as well, because meals are easily associated with a table on which they are served, and European people usually discuss their problems at table. When the Norman-French word table was introduced into English, the word board lost its first meaning, and in the course of time the semantic structure of the word board disintegrated into independent lexical units.

Analysis of the present-day semantic structure of the adjective green

According to ABBYY Lingvo 11 dictionary [1] and the Encarta World English Dictionary [5] the meaning of the adjective green includes the following components:

1. of a color in the spectrum between yellow and blue, like the color of grass;

2. pale and sickly-looking;

3. consisting of, covered with, or containing green grass, plants, foliage, leaves;

4. mild, temperate (refers to climate);

5. made of vegetables having green color (refers to food);

6. relating to protection of the environment;

7. produced in an environmentally friendly


8. unripe or not mature;

9. nonhealing, persistent (refers to wound);

10. new, recent, or fresh;

11. young and lacking in experience;

12. naive;

13. unbacked, unbroken (refers to horses);

14. prancing merrily (refers to horses);

15. youthful, vigorous;

16. envious or jealous;

17. not yet tanned (refers to leather);

18. not yet fired (refers to metallurgy).

These components can be arranged into a structure, in which meaning 1 is the primary meaning and meanings 2 - 18 are secondary

meanings derived from the primary meaning through metaphoric and metonymic transfer.

Our analysis has revealed numerous collocations, in which the adjective green conveys meanings that have not yet been registered in dictionaries available in Ukraine. These collocations are often used in texts relating to energy problems, economic and environmental issues, advanced transportation and automotive technologies, and advertising. Examples of collocations where the adjective green means ‘pro-environmental’ or ‘meeting environmental requirements’ are given below.


1. As public interest in the threat of climate change grows in the U. S., a large number of companies are announcing that they are going green. ... Vetrix isn’t the only bikemaker going green. (Newsweek, March 5, 2007. - P. 38.).

2. Of course, almost all companies will be more careful to comply with the law, and the smart ones will design sophisticated public-relations strategies to showcase their green creds. (Newsweek, March 5, 2007. - P. 38.).

3. But now, many of the same banks that grew rich financing companies’ strip mines, oil rigs and SUV plants are advising clients that the way to get the green is to go green. (Newsweek, March 12, 2007. - P. 73.).

4. Several major firms have formal green policies. (Newsweek, March 12, 2007. - P. 73.).

5. Vastly more important, it’s the hottest hybrid on the market and provides a halo for Toyota, making it appear to be the world’s greenest carmaker even as it places new emphasis on huge gas-guzzling trucks. (Newsweek, March

12, 2007. - P. 31.).

6. Green business means good business. (Scientific American, Dec., 2006. - P. 19.).

7. Meanwhile, industry insiders say that green consultants are begging up to $ 1,000 an hour at large firms. (Newsweek, April 16/ 23, 2007. -

P. 56).

8. Schwarzenegger traces his green sensitivities to his childhood in postwar Austria, where he

grew up with rationed food and electricity - and had to haul bath water from a well. (Newsweek, April 16/ 23, 2007. - P. 83).

9. To the green crowd Toyota is a turncoat. ... Several environmental groups have launched a “How green is Toyota?” ... Is Toyota really committed to being green, or are they just green scamming?” ... The 48 mpg Pruis remains the green standard. ... But as friends turn into foes, Toyota is discovering it isn ’t easy being green while going for green. (Newsweek, November 26, 2007. - P. 56).

In the following examples the adjective green means ‘nonpolluting, pollution-free’ or ‘ecologically clean’.


1. These cars are where muscle cars meet green cars. (Newsweek, December 25, 2006. / January

1. 2007. - P. 73).

2. Green driving. A quarter of the world’s energy - including two thirds of the annual production of oil - is used for transportation. (Newsweek, January 29, 2007. - P. 43).

3. Among its (General Electric’s) targets: to expand research on green technology from $700 million in 2005 to $1.5 billion by 2010. (Newsweek, March 5, 2007. - P. 38).

4. Toyota: The Lean, Green, Profit Machine. (Newsweek, March 12, 2007. - P. 66).

5. This time Honda won’t make the mistake of wrapping its hybrid in the sheet metal of its everyday cars: instead, analysts expect the new Honda will have the larva styling the Pruis pioneered - which now embodies the green-car look. (Newsweek, September 3, 2007. - P. 46).

6. Will tire kickers ever swoon over Honda’s hybrid? Only if it sends a clear message that it’s the greenest car on the planet. (Newsweek, September 3, 2007. - P. 47).

7. The Green-car Domino Effect. (Newsweek, September 24, 2007. - P. 69).

8. Green power: The Lexus LS600h L hybrid promises low emissions - and high style. (Newsweek, October 8, 2007. - P. 71).

9. Panasonic, for example, has formed the Panasonic Home and Environment Co., a new US group that focuses on green technology to improve energy efficiency in homes and the health of the home dwellers, that latter concern being a fairly new wrinkle in corporate energy-saving, carbon-cutting approaches. (Scientific American, December, 2006. - P. 19).

As seen from the examples, texts in which the adjective green appears in new lexical contexts relate to environmental issues, the energy crisis, and new technological advances in automotive industry.

The meanings of such collocations as green design, green technology, green driving, green power, green credentials, green carmaker, being once identified usually do not need wider contexts for their interpreting. Other collocations need wider contexts to be correctly interpreted. For instance, the expression green car does not always mean ‘a pollution-free car’; it may refer to a car green in color.


The semantic structure of the adjective green is undergoing changes through the extension of its meaning.

The adjective green is now widely used in new lexical environments. Collocations like green design, green driving, green technology, green power regularly appear in present-day texts and cannot be called occasional occurrences.

The new components found in the semantic structure of the adjective green include such meanings as ‘pro-environmental’, ‘meeting environmental requirements’, ‘using environmentally safe technologies’, ‘pollutionfree’, ‘ecologically clean’.

These meanings have appeared as a result of secondary derivation. They were derived from meanings 6, 7 (see the semantic structure of the adjective green above).

The appearance of these components was conditioned by extra-linguistic factors, such as social concerns in environmental issues, the threat of climate change, the global energy crisis, and new technological advances in automotive and transportation industry.

6. As a result of these changes, the adjective green has increased its valency and distributional potential.


1. ABBYY Lingvo 11 dictionary / ABBYY

Software, Canada, 2005.

2. Antrushina G. B. English Lexicology /

G.B. Antrushina, O.V. Afanasieva, N.N. Morozova. - М.: Изд. Дом «Дрофа». -2001. - P. 129 - 166.

3. Arnold I. V. The English Word. / I.V. Arnold.

- M.-Л.: Просвещение, 1966. - P. 15; 153-176.

4. Crystal D. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of

the English Language / D. Crystal. -Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.

5. Encarta World English Dictionary -Microsoft Corporation, U.S.A., 2003.

6. Ginzburg R. S. A Course in Modern English

Lexicology. / R.S. Ginzburg, S.S. Khidekel, G.G. Knyazeva, A.A. Sankin. -M: Высш. шк., 1979. - С. 18-19;166-176.

7. Rayevskaya N.M. English Lexicology /

N.M. Rayevskaya. - K.: Вища шк., 1979.

- P. 86 - 96.

8. Ншоленко А.Г. Лексиколопя англшсько!

мови / А.Г. Ншоленко. - Теорiя i практика. - Вшниця: Нова Книга, 2007.

Рецензент: С.А. Федорец, доцент, к. филол. н., НТУ «ХПИ».

Статья поступила в редакцию 6 декабря 2007 г.