5 - SEMANTICS AND VOCABULARY Volume 1: The Beginnings to 1066 Cambridge Histories Online - Cambridge University Press

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5 - SEMANTICS AND VOCABULARY Volume 1: The Beginnings to 1066

pp. 290-408

  • The Cambridge History of the English Language Volume 1: The Beginnings to 1066
  • Edited by:
  • Publisher:

  • Online Publication Date:
  • March 2008
  • Print Publication Year:
  • 1992

  • Hardback ISBN:
  • 9780521264747
  • Online ISBN:
  • 9781139055529


5.1.1 One linguistic concept, although fundamental and constantly referred to, is often taken for granted: the concept of ‘word’. The word is the domain of many phonological statements; it is the implicit ordering principle in morphology; and the word is a central, though again implicit concept of syntax in so far as the latter describes the patterns or rules according to which words are combined into larger linguistic structures. It is therefore necessary to be somewhat more explicit about this linguistic category, not only because words – more precisely, the aggregate of words making up the vocabulary (= dictionary = lexicon) of a language – are the topic of this chapter, but also because the term is familiar from non-technical, everyday language, where it is often employed in a variety of senses, while as a technical term it ought to be unambiguous. Thus, when talking about inflectional paradigms, the term ‘word’ might be used to refer both to each individual member of the paradigm, and to the global entity each member of the paradigm is a form of, as well as to the entity that is bounded by spaces to its left and right in a text. This, then, might lead to a seemingly contradictory statement such as

(1) The word heah steap is written as two words.

In actual fact, there is a sequence heah steap reced ‘very high house’ (lit. ‘high lofty house’) in Gen. 2840 (Sauer 1985:270), where heah steap is normally interpreted as an adjectival compound, which, however, is written in the manuscript as two separate words.

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