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Развитие словарного состава английского языка. Причины развития лексикона

As has been already mentioned, no vocabulary of any living language is ever stable but is constantly changing, growing and decaying. The changes occurring in the vocabulary are due both to linguistic and non-linguistic causes, but in most cases to the combination of both. Words may drop out altogether as a result of the disappearance of the actual objects they denote, e.g. the OE. wunden-stefna — 'a curved-stemmed ship'; зãг-spear, dart; some words were ousted as a result of the influence of Scandinavian and French borrowings, e.g. the Scandinavian take and die ousted the OE: niman and sweltan, the French army andplace replaced the OE hēre and staÞs. Sometimes words do not actually drop out but become obsolete, sinking to the level of vocabulary units used in narrow, specialised fields of human intercourse making a group of archaisms: e g. billow — ‘wave’; welkin — ’sky’; steed — ‘horse’; slay — ‘kill’ are practically never used except in poetry; words like halberd, visor, gauntlet are used only as historical terms.

Yet the number of new words that appear in the language is so much greater than those that drop out or become obsolete, that the development of vocabularies may be described as a process of never-ending growth. The appearance of a great number of new words and the development of new meanings in the words already available in the language may be largely accounted for by the rapid flow of events, the progress of science and technology and emergence of new concepts in different fields of human activity. The influx of new words has never been more rapid than in the last few decades of this century. Estimates suggest that during the past twenty-five years advances in technology and communications media have produced a greater change in our language than in any similar period in history. The specialised vocabularies of aviation, radio, television, medical and atomic research, new vocabulary items created by recent development in social history — all are part of this unusual influx. Thus war has brought into English such vocabulary items as blackout, fifth-columnist, paratroops, A-bomb, V-Day, etc.; the development of science gave such words as hydroponics, psycholinguistics, polystyrene, radar, cyclotron, meson, positron; antibiotic, etc.; the conquest and research of cosmic space by the Soviet people gave birth to sputnik, lunnik, babymoon, space-rocket, space-ship, space-suit, moonship, moon crawler, Lunokhod, etc.

The growth of the vocabulary reflects not only the general progress made by mankind but also the peculiarities of the way of life of the speech community in which the new words appear, the way its science and culture tend to develop. The peculiar developments of the American way of life for example find expression in the vocabulary items like taxi-dancer — ‘a girl employed by a dance hall, cafe, cabaret to dance with patrons who pay for each dance’; to job-hunt— ‘to search assiduously for a job’; the political life of America of to-day gave items like witchhunt — ‘the screening and subsequent persecution of political opponents’; ghostwriter — ‘a person engaged to write the speeches or articles of an eminent personality’; brinkmanship — ‘a political course of keeping the world on the brink of war’; sitdowner — ‘a participant of a sit-down strike’; to sit in — ‘to remain sitting in available places in a cafe, unserved in protest of Jim Crow Law’; a sitter-in; a lie-in or a lie-down — ‘a lying down of a group of people in a public place to disrupt traffic as a form of protest or demonstration’; to nuclearise — ‘to equip conventional armies with nuclear weapons’; nuclearisation; nuclearism — ‘emphasis on nuclear weapons as a deterrent to war or as a means of attaining political and social goals’.

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