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As distinct from syntagmatic semasiology investigating the stylistic

value of nomination and renaming, syntagmatic semasiology deals with

stylistic functions of relationship of names in texts. It studies types of

linear arrangement of meanings, singling out, classifying, and describing

what is called here 'figures of co-occurrence', by which term combined,

Joint appearance of sense units is understood (compare with the term

•figures of replacement' in Paradigmatic Semasiology, Fig. 7).

The interrelation of semantic units is unique in any individual text.

Yet stylistics, like any other branch of science, aims at generalizations.

The most general types of semantic relationships can be reduced to

three. Meanings can be either identical, or different, or else opposite. Let

us have a more detailed interpretation.

1. Identical meanings. Linguistic units co-occurring in the text either

have the same meanings, or are used as names of the same object (thing,

phenomenon, process, property, etc).

2. Different meanings. The correlative linguistic units in the text are

lerceived as denoting different objects (phenomena, processes, properties).

3. Opposite meanings. Two correlative units are semantically polar;

The meaning of one of them is incompatible with the meaning of the

second: the one excludes the other.

It must be underlined here that the first and the third types do not

necessarily imply strictly logical, objective identity or, say, contrast, of

co-occurrent meanings. More often than not, both the speaker and the

listener, under the influence of circumstances, single out only one relation

(identity or contrast) from a whole complex of relations. To put it another

way, the correlative (co-occurrent) meanings are subjectively thought of

as identical, coincident, or as opposed, contrastive. Similarity is treated as

identity; identity is ascribed to not quite identical units. Thus the words

child, kid, infant, not being "absolute" synonyms and certainly different

stylistically, could, under some circumstances, be used alternately in the

same text with reference to one and the same object. The identity between

the units is relative: much depends on our treatment of the matter, on what

we prefer to underline or to neglect, What we regard as identical must be

accepted as such (and usually is) by our interlocutor or reader; whenever

the speaker (writer) treats synonyms as different from one another, the

listener (reader) is usually cognizant of that (see below).

To illustrate the possibility of contrasting notions which stand in no

logical opposition to each other (as do antonyms long — short, young —

old, up — down, etc) we may resort to O. Henry's famous story A Service

of Love in which he mentions a master painter, saying: "His fees are high;

his lessons are light — his highlights have brought him renown." Clearly

the words high and light are not antonyms, yet charging high fees for his

lessons is in obvious contrast with a careless, irresponsible, light manner

of teaching (the humour of the sentence attains its culmination in the

last clause comprising the compound word highlights that means both

'bright spots in a picture' and 'masterpieces'.

As for the second item discussed (difference, inequality of co-occur-

ring meanings), it must be specially underlined that we are dealing here

not with any kind of distinction or disparity, but only with cases when

carriers of meanings are syntactically and/or semantically correlative.

What is meant here is the difference manifest in units with homogeneous

functions, e.g. by two or more units characterizing the same referent

(object, phenomenon of reality). Thus, in J ask, I beg, I beseech you the

semantic differentiation of the verbs is obviously quantitative (the

growing intensity of 'imploring', or, to be more explicit, not the intensity

of action or state shows growth, but rather the degree of emotional

expression encoded and emotional impression decoded.

To sum up, sometimes two or more units are viewed by both the speaker

and the hearer — according to varying aims of communication — as

identical, different, or even opposite.

The three types of semantic interrelations are matched by three groups

of figures, which are the subject-matter of syntagmatic semasiology. They

are: figures of identity, figures of inequality, and figures of contrast.


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