Synonyms, antonyms, homonyms and their types

Synonyms are words different in their outer aspects, but identical or similar in their inner aspects. In English there are a lot of synonyms, because there are many borrowings. There are some absolute synonyms in the language, which have exactly the same meaning and belong to the same style, e.g. to moan, to groan; homeland, motherland etc.

Sometimes one of the absolute synonyms is specialized in its usage and we get stylistic synonyms, e.g. «to begin»/ native/, «to commence» /borrowing/.

Among stylistic synonyms we can point out a special group of words which are called euphemisms. These are words used to substitute some unpleasant or offensive words, e.g «the late» instead of «dead», «to perspire» instead of «to sweat» etc.

There are also phraseological synonyms, these words are identical in their meanings and styles but different in their combining with other words in the sentence, e.g. «to be late for a lecture

Antonyms are words belonging to the same part of speech, identical in style, expressing contrary or contradictory notions.

V.N. Comissarov in his dictionary of antonyms classified them into two groups : absolute or root antonyms Absolute antonyms have different roots and derivational antonyms  have the same roots but different affixes. In most cases negative prefixes form antonyms / un-, dis-, non-/. Sometimes they are formed by means of suffixes -ful and -less.

Not every word in a language can have antonyms. This type of opposition can be met in qualitative adjectives and their derivatives, e.g. beautiful- ugly, to beautify — to uglify, beauty — ugliness.  It can be also met in words denoting feelings and states, e.g. to live — to die, alive — dead, life — death.

If a word is polysemantic it can have several antonyms, e.g. the word «bright» has the antonyms «dim», «dull», «sad».

Homonyms are words different in meaning but identical in sound or spelling, or both in sound and spelling.

Homonyms can appear in the language not only as the result of the split of polysemy, but also as the result of levelling of grammar inflexions, when different parts of speech become identical in their outer aspect, e.g. «care» from «caru» and «care» from «carian».

Classifications of homonyms

Walter Skeat classified homonyms according to their spelling and sound forms and he pointed out three groups: perfect homonyms that is words identical in sound and spelling, such as : «school» — «косяк рыбы» and  «школа» ; homographs, that is words with the same spelling but pronounced differently, e.g. «bow» -/bau/ — «поклон» and /bou/ — «лук»; homophones that is words pronounced identically but spelled differently, e.g. «night» — «ночь» and «knight» — «рыцарь».

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