Word-groups vs. phraseological units
1. WORD-GROUPS Lecture 12
2. Word-groups vs. phraseological unitsWords put together to form lexical units make phrases or
The largest two-facet lexical unit comprising more than one
word is the word-group observed on the syntagmatic
level of analysis. The degree of structural and semantic
cohesion of word-groups may vary.
Functionally and semantically inseparable word-groups like
at least, point of view, by means of, take place are
Semantically and structurally more independent wordgroups a week ago, man of wisdom, take lessons, kind
to people are defined as free or variable word-groups
3. Valency of wordsThe two main linguistic factors to be
considered in uniting words into wordgroups are:
1) the lexical valency of words
2) the syntactic valency of words.
4. Lexical valencyWords are used in certain lexical contexts, i.e. in
combination with other words.
The noun question is often combined with such
adjectives as vital, pressing, urgent, disputable,
This noun is a component of a number of other wordgroups, e.g. to raise a question, a question of great
importance, a question of the agenda, a question of
the day, and many others.
Lexical valency is the possibility of lexical-semantic
connections of a word with other words.
Lexical collocability is the realisation in speech of the
potential connections of a word with other words.
Lexical valency acquires special importance in
case of polysemy as through the lexical valency
different meanings of a polysemantic word can
be distinguished, e.g.
heavy weight (safe, table, etc.),
heavy snow (storm, rain, etc.),
heavy drinker (eater, etc.),
heavy sleep (disappointment, sorrow, etc.),
heavy industry (tanks, etc.), and so on.
These word-groups are called collocations or
such combinations of words which condition the
realization of a certain meaning
linguistically restricted by the inner structure
of the English word-stock.
Though the verbs lift and raise are treated as
synonyms, only raise is collocated with the
The verb take may be interpreted as ‘grasp’,
’seize’, ‘catch’, etc. but
only take is found in collocations with the
nouns examination, measures, precautions,
only catch in catch smb. napping
and grasp in grasp the truth.
may manifest themselves in the lexical
meanings of the polysemantic members of
The adjective heavy, e.g., is combined with the
words food, meals, supper, etc. in the meaning
‘rich and difficult to digest’.
But not all the words with the same component of
meaning can be combined with this adjective
*heavy cheese or *heave sausage.
The lexical valence of correlated words in
different languages is different: pot flowers –
8. Syntactic valency -Syntactic valency the aptness of a word to appear in different
The minimal syntactic context in which words are
used when brought together to form wordgroups is described as the pattern of the wordgroups.
E.g., the verb to offer can be followed by the
infinitive (to offer to do smth) and the noun (to
offer a cup of tea).
The verb to suggest can be followed by the
gerund (to suggest doing smth) and the noun
(to suggest an idea). The syntactic valency of
these verbs is different.
seen to possess different syntactic valency
as clever can be used in word-groups
having the pattern:
Adjective-Preposition at+Noun: clever at
mathematics, whereas intelligent can never
be found in exactly the same word-group
The syntactic valency of correlated words in
different languages is not identical, cf.: in
English to influence a person, a decision, a
choice (verb +noun) - in Russian влиять
на человека, на решение, на выбор
word may be described through its
Keen + N: keen sight, hearing, etc.
Keen + on + N: keen on sports, tennis, etc.
Keen + V(inf): keen to know, to find out, etc.
Thus word-groups may be regarded as
minimal syntactic (or syntagmatic)
structures that operate as distinguishing
clues for different meanings of a
11. INTERDEPENDENCE OF STRUCTURE AND MEANING IN WORD-GROUPSSyntactic structure and pattern of word-groups is
the description of the order and arrangement of
member-words in word-groups as parts of speech.
The syntactic structure of the word-group an old
woman, a blue dress, clever man, red flower is an
adjective and a noun, i.e. A+N;
The syntactic structure of the word-groups wash a car,
read books, take books, build houses – as a verb and
a noun, i.e. V+N.
The syntactic structure of the word-groups a touch of
the sun, a matter of importance - as a preposition
and a noun, i.e. N+prp+N.
12. Structural formulas:1. V+N: (to build houses),
2. V+prp+N: (to rely on somebody),
3. V+N+prp+N: (to hold something against
4. V+N+V(inf.): (to make somebody work),
5. V+ V(inf.): (to get to know), and so on.
13. Syntactic structure of word-groupsWord-groups may be described through
the order and arrangement of the
To see sth – verbal-nominal group;
To see to sth – (If you see to something that
needs attention, you deal with it) verbalprepositional-nominal, etc.
their headwords into:
1. Nominal: red flower;
2. Adjectival: kind to people;
3. Verbal: to speak well, etc.
The head is not necessarily the component that
occurs first in the word-group: very great
bravery, bravery in the struggle the noun
bravery is the head whether followed or
preceded by other words.
be described in relation to the head-word.
In this case it is usual to speak of the pattern
but not of formulas.
E.g., the patterns of the verbal groups to
read a book, to wash a car are to read +
N, to wash + N; to rely on somebody – to
Syntactic pattern implies the description of
the structure of the word-group in which a
given word is used as its head.
16. The interdependence of the pattern and meaning of head-words can be easily perceived by comparing word-groups of different patterns in which the same head-word is used.The interdependence of the pattern and
meaning of head-words can be easily
perceived by comparing word-groups of
different patterns in which the same headword is used.
Three patterns with the verb ‘get’ as the head-word
represent three different meanings of this verb:
1. get+N (get a letter, information, money, etc.);
2. get+ +to +N (get to Moscow, to the Institute,
3. get+N+V(inf.) (get somebody to come, to do the
represented in conventional symbols
whereas prepositions and other form-words
are given in their usual graphic form. This is
accounted for by the fact that individual formwords may modify or change the meaning of
the word with which it is combined, as in,
1. anxious+for+ N (anxious for news),
2. anxious+about+N (anxious about his
the difference in the meaning of the head-word
is conditioned by a difference in the pattern
of the word-group in which this word is used
1. predicative word-groups have a syntactic
structure similar to that of a sentence, they
comprise the subject and the predicate,
e.g. he went, John works.
2. non-predicative word-groups do not
comprise the subject and the predicate
and may be subdivided into
a) subordinative (e.g. red flower, a man
b) coordinative (e.g. women and children,
do or die).
19. Classification of word-groups1.
have one central member functionally
equivalent to the whole word-group.
In the word-group blue dress, friendly to
people, the head-words are the noun dress
and the adjective friendly correspondingly.
According to their central members
word-groups may be classified into:
a) nominal groups or phrases (blue dress),
b) adjectival groups (friendly to people),
c) verbal groups (to sing well), etc.
have no central component and the
distribution of the whole word-group is
different from either of its members.
For instance, the distribution of the wordgroups side by side, at first, grow smaller
is not identical with the distribution of their
component-members, i.e. the componentmembers are not syntactically
substitutable for the whole word-group.
21. TYPES OF MEANING OF WORD-GROUPSThe lexical meaning –
the combined lexical meaning of the component words,
e.g. a blind man may be described denotationally as the
combined meaning of the words blind and man.
In most cases the lexical meanings of the word-group
predominates over the lexical meanings of its
components, e.g. blind alley, blind date.
Polysemantic words are used in word-groups only in one
of their meanings. These meanings of the component
words in such word-groups are mutually interdependent
and inseparable. Semantic inseparability of wordgroups treats them as self-contained lexical units.
of the word-group is the meaning conveyed
mainly by the pattern of arrangement of its
components, e.g., such word-groups as
school grammar and grammar school are
semantically different because of the
difference in the pattern of arrangement of
the component words.
The structural meaning is the meaning
expressed by the pattern of the word-group.
meaning in word-groups
The lexical and structural components of meaning in
word-groups are interdependent and inseparable. The
structural pattern in all the day long, all the night long,
all the week long in ordinary usage and the wordgroup all the sun long is identical. The generalised
meaning of the pattern ‘a unit of time’.
Replacing day, night, week by another noun the sun
structural meaning of the pattern does not change.
The group all the sun long functions semantically as a
unit of time. But the noun sun included in the group
continues to carry the semantic value or the lexical
meaning that it has in word-groups of other structural
patterns (cf. the sun rays, African sun, etc.).
derived from the combined lexical meanings of its
constituents and is inseparable from the meaning
of the pattern of their arrangement.
a factory hand − ‘a factory worker’
a hand bag − ‘a bag carried in the hand’.
Though the word hand makes part of both its lexical
meaning and the role it plays in the structure of
word-groups is different which accounts for the
difference in the lexical and structural meaning of
the word-groups under discussion.
Thus, the meaning of the word-group is derived
from the combined lexical meanings of its
constituents and is inseparable from the meaning
of the pattern of their arrangement.
25. Polysemantic and monosemantic patternsWord-groups represented by different structural
formulas are as a rule semantically different
because of the difference in the grammatical
component of meaning.
Structurally identical patterns, e.g. heavy+N, may
be representative of different meanings of the
adjective heavy which is perceived in the wordgroups heavy rain (snow, storm), cf. heavy
smoker (drinker), heavy weight (table), etc. all of
which have the same pattern — heavy+N.
polysemantic, i.e. representative of several
meanings of a polysemantic head-word,
whereas structurally complex patterns are
monosemantic and condition just one meaning
of the head-member.
The simplest verbal structure V+N and the
corresponding pattern are as a rule
polysemantic (compare, e.g. take+N (take tea,
coffee); take the bus, the tram, take measures,
precautions, etc.), whereas a more complex
pattern, e.g. take+to+N is monosemantic (e.g.
take to sports, to somebody).
27. MOTIVATION IN WORD-GROUPSA word-group is lexically-motivated if
the combined lexical meaning of the
group is deducible from the meaning of
its components, e.g. red flower, heavy
weight, take lessons.
If the combined lexical meaning of a
word-group is not deducible from the
lexical meanings of its constituent
components, such a word-group is
lexically non-motivated, e.g. red tape
(official bureaucratic methods) take
different. Between the extremes of
complete motivation and lack of
motivation there are innumerable
E.g., the degree of lexical motivation in
the nominal group black market is higher
than in black death, but lower than in
black dress, though none of the groups
can be considered completely nonmotivated.
correlated with certain structural types of
Verbal groups having the structure V+N,
e.g. to read books, to love music, etc.,
are habitually correlated with the
compounds of the pattern N+(V+er)
adjectival groups such as A + +prp+N (e.g.
rich in oil, shy before girls) are correlated
with the compounds of the pattern N+A,
e.g. oil-rich, girl-shy.
sometimes found to be motivated or nonmotivated depending on their semantic
interrelation. Thus, apple sauce is
lexically motivated when it means ‘a
sauce made of apples’ but when used to
denote ‘nonsense’ it is clearly nonmotivated.
Completely non-motivated or partially
motivated word-groups are called
phraseological units or idioms.
31. Summary and Conclusions1. Words put together to form lexical
units make up phrases or wordgroups. The main factors active in
bringing words together are lexical
and syntactic valency of the
components of word-groups.
word to appear in various
collocations. All the words of the
language possess a certain norm of
lexical valency. Restrictions of
lexical valency are to be accounted
for by the inner structure of the
vocabulary of the English language.
words is observed in various
collocations in which these words are
used. Different meanings of a
polysemantic word may be described
through its lexical valency.
word to appear in various syntactic
structures. All words possess a certain
norm of syntactic valency. Restrictions of
syntactic valency are to be accounted for
by the grammatical structure of the
language. The range of syntactic valency
of each individual word is essentially
delimited by the part of speech the word
belongs to and also by the specific norm
of syntactic valency peculiar to individual
words of Modern English.
polysemantic word may be
observed in the different structures
in which the word is used.
Individual meanings of a
polysemantic word may be
described through its syntactic
classified by the criterion of
distribution into endocentric and
Endocentric word-groups can be
classified according to the headword into nominal, adjectival,
verbal and adverbial groups or
be classified into motivated and
word-groups are usually described
as phraseological units.
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