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Chapter Five Meaning and Motivation

Meaning and Motivation

Motivation accounts for the connection between the linguistic symbol and its meaning.语言符号与意义之间的联系

As we know, the relationship between word form and meaning is conventional and arbitrary, and most words can be said to be non-motivated. That is the connection between the sign and meaning does not have logical explanation. But English does have words whose meanings can be explained to a certain extent.

Onomatopoeic (phonetic) Motivation

Primary onomatopoeia

Primary onomatopoeia means the imitation of sounds by sounds.

Bow-wow, says the dog, Mew, mew, says the cat, Grunt, grunt, says the hog,

And squeak goes the bat,
Caw,caw, says the crow, Quack, quack,says the duck,

Apes gibber. Bears growl Bulls bellow

Cats mew ( purr)
Eagles scream.

Frogs croak.
Goats bleat.

Asses bray. Beetles drone. Camels grunt.

Ducks quack.
Flies buzz.

Geese cackle (gabble).
Horses neigh ( snort).

Hens cluck. Lions roar Mice squeak

Larks warble Magpies chatter. Owls hoot (screech)

pigeons coo.
Snakes hiss. Turkeys gobble.

Pigs squeal ( grunt).
Wolves howl.

模仿金属的声音: clash, clank, ting, tinkle, clang, jangle, ding-dong, tick-tack

模仿水等液体声: splash, bubble, splish-splosh, dripdrop

Secondary onomatopoeia It means that certain sounds and sound sequences are associated with certain senses in an expressive relationship



Flare, glare, stare, blare


1) breath-noise: sniff, snuff, snore,

2)quick separation or movement: snip, snap, snatch
3)creeping: snake, snail, sneak, snoop


1) slippery: slide, slip, slither, slush, sluice, sludge

2) pejorative sense: slattern, slut, slang, sly, sloppy, slovenly

Sk-: 与表面接触:

skate, skim, skin, skid, skimp

-ump: 表示圆形体:
plump, chump, rump, hump, stump, dump, mump

/h/表示猛烈使劲时的气喘声: heavy, haste, hurry, hit, heave, hoarse, hurl等


wham, whang, whap, whop, wheeze, whicker, whinny, whomp, whoop

2. Grammatical motivation

Words which were formed by means of grammatical structure belong to the category of motivation by grammar. It is also called morphological motivation


teacher: a person who teaches

Airmail? mail by air hopeless? without hope

Motivation by meaning (semantic Motivation) It refers to the mental associations suggested by the conceptual meaning of a word. It explains the connection between the literal sense and figurative sense of the word.

1)use a person’s name to refer to the

things related;
He read Shakespeare.

2)use a container to refer to what is

The kettle is boiling He is addicted to the bottle.

Please drink a cup

3. use part of body organs to

refer to their functions:
an ear for music

Don’t let your heart rule your head.

4) use the place name to refer to the product produced there. I could do with a cup of canary.

Canary is a place where this kind of grape wine is produce.

5. Use prominent features to refer to

the person concerned

The blue eyes walked into the room.

Synecdoche (提喻) Use the part for the whole, or the whole for the part or the material for the thing; smiling year:


Motivation by analogy Words are created in imitation of other words: telethon, talkathon: from marathon

Colour Analogy

black list (黑名单)
white list

(白名单:指准予上演的短剧等名 单) gray list
( 灰名单)指非明文查禁但仍然属 于不合法的人或物。

blue-collar workers, white collar workers,

gray-collar workers

The Black Panther(黑豹党) the Gray Panther (灰豹党:指反对年龄歧视的老年退休 职工组织) the Green Panther

(绿豹党:指要求保护环境的激进分 子)

Number Analogy

first lady

First family


First Mother (指国家元首的母亲)

The three p’s (peace,petroleum,Palestine)指有中东局势所 引起的三大问题 The three I’s (inflation, interest rate, impeachment 弹劾) The three R’s ( reading, writing, arithmetic)读写算三种基 本技能

First Strike Capability:

Second Strike Capability: 第二次打击能力,指受敌人先发制 人的第一次核打击后的核还击能力 the Fourth world 指西方资产阶级所谓的最贫国集团

Place and space analogy

landscape: moonscape
(月球表面;月面景色); marscape (火星的表面) surnrise: earthrise (月平线上看到 的地球的升起) earthquake: starquake (星球地震)

Antonymous analogy

moonlight( 白天工作,晚上兼职)
?daylight (主要工作在晚上,白 天兼职) with-it入时的?without-it过时,守 旧的

High-rise(高层建筑)? low-rise( 低层建筑) Hot-line(热线) ? cold line(冷线 ) Phase out (分阶段撤出或减少)? phase in (逐步采用)

Flash-back(倒叙)?flash-forward (提前叙述未来事件)

Overproduce ? underproduce

Synonymous Analogy

Missile gap 产生于美国1960大选期间,指美国与苏联 在导弹发展上的差异 production gap development gap 经济发展方面的差距

Environmental pollution visual/eye pollution cultural pollution graffiti pollution 指公共场合乱涂乱画的涂写污染


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