Němec, Igor: Vývojové postupy české slovní zásoby

Němec, Igor. Vývojové postupy české slovní zásoby. Praha, 1968.
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THE EVOLUTIONARY PROCESSES OF THE CZECH VOCABULARY

(Summary)

(35) The present study, resulting from the writer’s participation in compiling a historical dictionary of the Czech language (his part has been the investigation of the Old Czech period), claims to contribute to this long-termed, collective work of the Czech lexicography by throwing light on principles of lexical development (1.2). The method of establishing the chief principles of the Czech vocabulary considered as a whole draws upon the data concerning the development of its elements and is outlined by the postulate of the linguistic theory requiring to study elements in groups, upon which is based the system of language: they are “groups of language units characterized by a certain combination (complex, set) of features acting as centres of gravitation around which are grouped, at various distances, units which have some features common with those in the centre”. (F. Daneš, JA 1965/II–III, 6; cf. TLP 2,16). Thus, the goal of historical lexicology is to be seen in studying the changes to which are subjected such groups of lexical units. These changes will be called lexical evolutionary processes. In order to discover them, it is inevitable to clearly define lexical units (35.1) and the features of classification, connecting them into systematically related groups (35.2) and making them subject to common changes (35.3). Only after explaining these fundamental concepts, the writer can express his views on the character of the lexical system of the Czech language (35.4) and summarize his observations concerning the factors of its evolutionary processes (35.5–35.7).

(35.1) The word is a basic lexical unit also in the diachronic analysis of the vocabulary (2). But a word is not a symmetrical unit in such a sense that there would be a one-to-one correspondence between a ‘signifier’ (lexical form) and a ‘signified’ element (lexical meaning); polysemic words contradict such symmetry. If we take into consideration the asymmetric dualism of the linguistic sign, viz. the tendency to ‘signify’ more ‘signified’ elements by means of one ‘signifier’ and, vice versa, one ‘signified’ element by means of more ‘signifiers’ (see S. Karcevskij, Prague School, 86), we come to the conclusion that the component which is more essential for classification is not the ‘signifier’ (i. e. a lexical form), but the ‘signified’ element (lexical meaning): both the difference between various meanings of the same form (polysemy) and the difference between words having the same form (homonymy) lies on the level of lexical meaning (2.1). A word can originate or cease to exist even without any change of lexical form, only owing to some change of lexical meaning (see 2.11, the split of a polysemic word into homonyms, and the merger of homonyms into one polysemic word, 2.12); on the contrary, as a result of a change of lexical form only, without a change of lexical meaning, no word originates or ceases to exist. For this reason, the expression of lexical meaning is considered as the elementary lexical unit (3). The lexical meaning is, of course, constituted not only by the denoted reality (3.1) and its psychic adaptation (3.2, 3.6), but also by its due formation in language, i. e. by the form of the given expression (3.3) and the paradigmatic (in a broad sense) and syntagmatic relations of the latter (3.4–5). The lexical meaning may be expressed, then, not only by one word (a simple lexeme), but also by a fixed group of words (a compound lexeme) (5).

(35.2) The existence and change of elementary lexical units is thus the consequence of the above-mentioned factors constituting their meaning. They can be grouped into three fundamental levels: the linguistic level (the level of their formation in language), the psychic level and the extra-linguistic level. (6). In these levels (I–III) are rooted, essentially, the classificatory features of elementary lexical units; by means of these features the vocabulary is organized into a system and the changes of these features participate in evolutionary processes of that system. This fact of participation must be particularly stressed: just as any group representing an element of the vocabulary system is defined in terms of the set of lexical units of some

 
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