Research article
Issue: № 2 (2), 2015


The paper reveals the correlations between the model of semantic derivation, the word-formation structure of the input meaning of polysemantic derivative and the principles of conceptual integration. Conceptual integration is considered as a cognitive mechanism at the basis of frame structures interaction which determine the derivative development.

The article deals with the word formation issues in the dynamic aspect. The dynamic word-formation is understood as the process of polysemy development of derivatives. The correlation of world-building components undergoes changes during this process which results in the re-grouping of semantic components fixed by a word-formation base and a word-formation element [an appropriate affix – see 1]. Such transformations are based on the principals of conceptual integration which attracts a lot of researchers attention nowadays [2, 3, 4, 5, 6 etc.].

The theory of conceptual blending is based on the notion that the construction of a new meaning is based on the integration of two or more input conceptual structures as a result of which a new integrated structure, called blend, appears. The blend includes both common and specific features of input structures. However, blend is not a simple combination of their elements, it can include the elements which are not typical for input structures but emerge in the process of integration [2, 42]. Conceptual blending is a basic mental operation which is at the basis of a wide range of language phenomena (phraseological units, comparison, conditionals etc.). In the course of this study we consider the process of conceptual derivation a particular type of conceptual integration the result of which (blend) is verbalized by a derivative.

The process of de-etymologization does not take place as soon as the word starts developing its polysemantic meanings and becomes idiomatic to some extent. While studying several derived sememes we can analyze the “trace” of word-formation meaning (WM). So, we consider compositional semantics of derivatives, which develop polysemy, the interaction of certain cognitive structures behind word-formating elements (affixes) and base [7]. This enables us to regard a derivative as a complex sign (CS) that is a sign composed of two other completed signs [8, 12]. According to this, while studying CS we are trying to solve a number of problems: the problem of semantic modeling; correlation of language meaning types (the change of word-formation meaning and lexical meaning correlation in the process of semantic modification of the CS; the search of cognitive reasons at the basis of semantic development of the word and many others).

The theory of regular word-formation has been well developed during the last decades by such scientists as P. Gilbert, G. O. Vinokur, Ye. S. Kubryakova, M. Doculil, O.V. Rayevskaya, N. N. Lopatnikova and others. In their works a lot of attention was paid to the regular word-formation meanings of monosemantic derivatives. However, the study of polysemantic derivatives arouses a certain interest. Polysemantic derivatives occupy a special place in the word-formation theory and demonstrate specific patterns of functioning of such parameters as word-formation motivation, word-formation dividedness, correlation of word-formation (WM) and lexical meaning (LM). There exist different points of view on the place of polysemantic derivatives in the system of synchronous word-formation. Polysemantic derivatives (as well as simple, i.e. non-derived words) undoubtedly demonstrate the appearance of new semantic units which are the result of the change in the meaning of the word. Nevertheless, it is difficult to agree that LM is only a derivational sphere which is beyond word-formation. Many linguists consider a certain amount of idiomaticity of a derivative as a sufficient reason for excluding it from the range of the words being able to be divided. That is why derived meanings of polysemantic derivatives and compound words have not been properly analyzed in many cases. However, as the research shows, we cannot but register the trace of word-formation meaning in lexicalized derivatives, the degrees of its presence enable us to create a certain system, which represents regular correlations between word-formation and lexical meanings. The empiric material of the research includes French and English word-formation means with the semantics of denial, namely French derivatives with the prefix dé and English derivatives with the suffix less.

The purpose of the research is to reveal the regular correlations between the model of semantic derivation, word-formation structure of input polysemantic word meaning and principles of conceptual integration which are at the bases of frame structures restructuring, which determine the development of CS. These correlations are based on the fact that when the polysemy of CS is developed, not only the LM of the derived sememe is changed but also its word-formation parameters: word-formation meaning, word-formation motivation, dividedness according to word-formation model, degree of idiomaticity.

Speaking about prospective course of research of dynamic aspect of word-formation, we have to underline the role of cognitive approach to derivatives. This approach helps to reveal clearly and positively the reasons and types of relations between LM and WM, rules of word-formation structure elements composition and prototype models, which characterize combination of word-formation and lexical aspects of research. Cognitive approach is especially essential because a complex sign has a special structure of representing knowledge in which the new knowledge is based on the meaning of the input unit. Complex sign represents the whole range of human knowledge and experience in the form of word-formation models and word-formation meanings, CS is a special cognitive structure since there is a certain amount of knowledge behind each of its components (word formation-base and word-formation element). These components have specific relations between each other which determine further semantic development of CS. That is why derivatologists believe that since there is a certain amount of knowledge behind word formation-base and affix, they can consider derivatives as a special cognitive structure [9, 12]. According to Ye.S. Kubryakova, using cognitive methods helps to understand the word-formation mechanism deeper, to identify cognitive peculiarities of word-formation, to describe derivatives semantics and to study the process of emerging of such new meanings, “understanding of which makes us go beyond the borders of signs as they are and, therefore, implement the mechanism of “inferention” [8, 17]. The study of word-formation dynamic aspect, especially of different word-formation changes and semantic features of CS in the process of “ageing” of a word (when developing polysemy), is also of a current interest.

 In this respect it is important to clarify the following problems:

1. Semantic and structural relations which exist between a motivating word and a derivative as well as regularities of word-formation base and affix combinability.

2. Semantic differences between motivating and derived meanings of a CS. It would be advantageous to find objective reasons for these differences and criteria for their identification. The polysemic derivatives reveal such differences most apparently.

3. The ways and means of gaining new meanings and loosing old ones by CS.

4. The ability of a derivative to evaluate semantically and influence of these processes on the structural and semantic peculiarities of the sememes developed on its base.

All these problems can be solved with the help of both traditional methods of word-formation analyses and cognitive approach, especially compositional semantics. Ye. M. Pozdnyakova offers some principals of cognitive research concerning word-formation. First of all, it is an importance of representing human experience by means of human activity which means that the conceptual structure of CS also represents those elements of action situation which are not apparently explicit.

Secondly, there takes place a comparison of two conceptual structures, one of which categorizes while the other identifies the object of nomination.

Thirdly, we need to recognize the importance of taking into account principals of perception psychology, which are revealed in the language by explication of some elements and implication of others by a language unit. Fourthly, such instruments of man`s cognitive activity as a metaphor and a metonymy take an active part in word-formation [10, 135].

It is commonly known that cognitive linguistics insists, first of all, on the importance of binding the meaning of the word with the knowledge structure it represents [7,  30]. In connection with that, according to Ye.S. Kubryakova, despite all existing research of derivative elements combinability it is still essential to study the rules of sense composition as the result of which new senses appear [8].

Taking all this into account, we have made an attempt to analyze a range of derivative French verbs with prefixes and English adjectives with suffixes which develop polysemy. As a result, we have found out the following correlations:

1. The model of conceptual integration has a core influence on the coming into focus of a conceptual element which correlates with either an affix or motivating base, or is the result of their rethinking.

2. The type of concept feature actualization (semantic derivation model) determines word-formation parameters of CS as well as peculiarities of its compositionality in derived sememe (LSV 2, i.e. lexico-semantic variant 2), especially:

- if a concept feature activated during semantic derivation based on CS is correlated with the motivating base of input meaning of these CS, then the derived sememe retains such word-formation parameters as partial motivation and presence of word-formation meaning in a modified form. CS demonstrates partial compositionality (i.e. its idiomaticity is partial).

- if a concept feature activated during semantic derivation is the result of rethinking of the information, fixed by both components of the word-formation structure of the input meaning, the derived sememe is characterized by obscure word-formation motivation, relative word-formation dividedness and implicitness of word-formation meaning. In this case the degree of CS integrity is heightened. These theses have been verified by means of conceptual analysis, component analysis and by presenting semantic structure of derivative through unfolded syntactic structure [11].

The above mentioned assumptions can be illustrated by the analyses of CS with partial and obscure motivation (French verbs with the prefix dé and English adjectives with the suffix less).

As a rule, partially motivated verbs are derived LCV of polysemic CS, developed due to semantic derivation (in our case – by means of metaphorization). The process of rethinking involves motivating base only, semantics of denial, which belongs to the prefix, remains unalterable, WM of such derivatives undergoes changes.

For example, the verb découronner has the following meanings:

1. Priver de la couronnedeprive of the crown;

 2. fig .Dépouiller de ce qui couronne −  enlever le sommet – to remove the top.

Two concepts are verbalized in the input meaning: “denial” (“deprivation”) and “power” (a crown is a symbol of power). In the model of conceptual blending, which determines the process of polysemy development, the focus is on the feature of the second concept which correlates with the motivating base, i.e. concept “power”: it is feature “location” (a crown as a symbol of power is located above). This feature is activated during semantic derivation and determines the change of word-formation and semantic parameters of derived sememe: if the input sememe is characterized by full motivation, clear dividedness according to a word-formation model, explicitness of word-formation meaning (“deprive of what is signified by the motivating base”), then the derived sememe has only partial word-formation motivation, partial idiomaticity and dividedness of the first degree [12, 180], WM is represented in its changed form – “deprive of something which is similar to what is signified by the motivating base” (the top, as well as the crown, is located above). As for the prefix semantics, it remains unaltered.

The English adjective painless has the following meanings:

1. not causing physical pain (painless operation);

2. not causing much effort or stress (painless solution).

The input meaning of painless verbalizes the result of two concepts  integration (“physical  feelings” and “denial”) represented by the motivating base and the suffix.

Scheme 1

The process of conceptual blending at the basis of creating the  English adjective painless direct meaning

concept «physical feelings»

  • pain


concept “denial”

  • absence of something


blend, verbalized by LSV 1 painless

  • absence of pain


The term “blend” is used to identify the result of input conceptual structures integration which is to be verbalized by CS “painless” in its direct meaning. When forming the derived meaning of the adjective in question this blend functions as an input conceptual structure and interacts with the concept “difficult situation”.

Scheme 2

The process of conceptual blending at the bases of creating the English adjective painless derived meaning

blend, verbalized by LSV 1 painless

  • absence of pain


concept “difficult situation”

  • obstacle, trouble

blend, verbalized by LSV 2 painless

  • absence of obstacles, trouble


In the process of conceptual blending the conceptual feature “obstacle, trouble” comes into focus (pain is an unpleasant feeling, a trouble, which does not let the body function well). Activation of this feature in the process of semantic derivation determines alteration in word-formation and semantic parameters of derived meaning, WM is represented in the modified form: “an absence of something which is similar to what is designated by a motivating base”, semantics of the suffix remains unaltered.

Processes of conceptual derivation at the basis of creation of French verbs with the prefix dé proceed in the similar way.

Scheme 3

The process of conceptual blending at the basis of creating the French verb découronner direct meaning

concept «denial»

  • denial, deprivation


concept «power»

  • symbol of power (a crown)

blend, verbalized by LSV 1 découronner

  • deprivation of the symbol of power (crown)


Scheme 4

The process of conceptual blending at the bases of creating the French verb découronner derived meaning

blend, verbalized by LSV 1 découronner

  • deprivation of a crown


concept “space”

  • location (above)

blend, verbalized by LSV  2 découronner  

  • deprivation of something, which is above (a top)


So, according to the rules of compositionability of this type, which are determined by specific character of restructuring the sememe (the place of the core seme in the model of semantic derivation in compliance with the elements of word-formation structure of the input meaning), the derived LSV of analyzed CSs retains a certain degree of dividedness, i.e. low degree of integrity of its components which represent low degree of integrity of concepts represented by them. We consider such signs in their own meaning in two aspects: on the one hand, they are the results of word-formation derivation, on the other hand, they can function as input signs for semantic derivation.

We have also found out a different model of developing polysemy, which is connected with obscure motivation of derived CS meaning. The correlation between obscure CS word-formation motivation and model of semantic derivation has been revealed. The model of semantic derivation is determined by the model of conceptual blending, as in the previous case.

As the research shows, the peculiarity of the semantic derivation model in this case is the fact that its core seme does not correlate with any of the word-formation elements, but appears thanks to rethinking the input semantics of the derivative. For example, the verb débroussailler has the following meanings:

1. Arracher, couper les broussailles de (un terrain) – make the surface free from bushes, i.e., remove the bushes;

2. fig. Eclaircir ce qui est confus – make an obscure question clear, i.e., make it more understandable.

The derived sememe is completely rethought. If we compare the derived meaning with the input meaning it becomes clear that the core seme represents the result of the action “make free from the bushes” (i.e. “make the space clear, so that it’s easy to see something there”). Such rethinking is clear because of conceptual blending model, which is connected with prototypical metaphorical model “action → result of action” in which the conceptual feature “result” is in focus.

WM is not explicit in derived sememes of this types, word-formation motivation is obscure, idiomaticity is considerable, semantics of prefix or suffix is present only as the component of LM which proves the change in WM/LM correlation: WM is implicit, LM, on the contrary, gains new semantic components.

The derived English adjective shapeless demonstrates similar characteristics. The adjective has the following meanings:

1. without a definite shape – (shapeless dress);

2. hard to describe, i.e., of obscure nature (shapeless fear).

The direct meaning of the adjective is formed according to the principles of its elements composition.

Scheme 5

The process of conceptual blending at the basis of creating the English adjective shapeless direct meaning

concept «physical parameters of an object»

  • shape


concept “denial”

  • absence of something

blend, verbalized by LSV1 shapeless

  • absence of shape


Conceptualization of an object according to its shape (LSV 1) or nature (origin) (LSV 2) is at the basis of semantic derivation forming derived meaning of the adjective shapeless. Rethinking of a feature, designated by the adjective takes place according to the metaphoric model “physical feature → mental feature”. Due to the cognitive mechanism “elaboration”, the feature “absence of shape” transforms into the feature “of obscure nature” which raises the degree of integrity of the derivative. Similar to the French verb débroussailler, activisation of the concept feature «result» takes place: as a result of shape absence the object is difficult to understand and describe.

Interaction of blend (the result of integration of initial concepts brepresented by the motivating base and the suffix) and concept “parameters of abstract object” takes place at the conceptual level.

Scheme 6

A process of conceptual blending at the basis of creating a derived meaning of an English adjective shapeless

blend, verbalized by LSV 1 shapeless

  • absence of shape→obscure nature


concept «parameters of abstract object»

  • nature, origin

blend, verbalized by LSV 2 shapeless

  • of obscure nature, origin


Similar processes of conceptual derivation are at the basis of polysemic French verbs with prefix “dé” formation.

Scheme 7

The process of conceptual blending at the basis of creating the French verb débroussailler direct meaning

concept “denial”

  • denial, removal of something


concept “physical objects”

  • bushes

blend, verbalized by LSV 1 débroussailler

  • removal of bushes


Scheme 8

The process of conceptual blending at the basis of creating the French verb débroussailler derived meaning

blend, verbalized by LSV 1 débroussailler

  • removal of the bushes which makes it difficult to see

concept “understanding”

  • elements which make it difficult to understand

blend, verbalized by LSV 2 débroussailler

  • making the unclear clear


So, we can see that the two ways of polysemic French verbs with the prefix and English adjectives with the suffix less formation are based on two types of input concepts interaction in the process of conceptual blending:

1. Each of the input concepts contains its own frame, one of the frames structures the blend;

2. Input concepts include different frames, in this case the blend is structured by its own emergent frame, which includes the elements of input structures.

As a result of activation of these two types of input concepts interaction, analyzed complex signs in their derived meanings demonstrate, on the one hand, different degrees of word formation parameters explicity (higher degree of explicity in the first case and higher degree of idiomaticity in the second) and, on the other hand, different models of semantic derivation according to which complex signs develop their derived meanings. All this proves once again the close connection between mental categories and verbal ones in the language and the regular character of such connections.

In conclusion we have to underline that the rules of compositionality of CS, developing polysemy, are systemized and determined by peculiarities of prototype modeling which is at the basis of semantics development. Cognitive features, revealing in the dynamics of complex sign, have their impact on the correlation of word-formation and lexical parameters when developing CS polysemy; influence compositional properties and the degree of integrity. By carrying out a research in this field we can identify cognitive reasons for choosing a particular way of developing polysemy by CS and try to answer the question why this or that component of word-formation structure of initial LSV becomes the core seme of semantic derivation. Such correlation enables the forecast of semantic development of monosemic CS. We also have to note that the results of research based on the material from different languages which belong to different groups prove the hypothesis that the processes of conceptual blending are universal.


  • Полянчук О.Б. Композиционная семантика многозначного производного слова / О.Б. Полянчук. - Воронеж: Изд-во ВГУ, 2013. – 187 с.

  • Fauconnier, G. The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities / G. Fauconnier, Turner M. - New York: Basic Books, 2002. – 440 p.

  • Бабина Л.В. Вторичная репрезентация концептов в языке: Автореф. дис. . д-ра филол. наук: 10.02.04, 10.02.19 / Л.В. Бабина. - Тамбов, 2003. - 39 с.

  • Залевская А.А. Концептуальная интеграция как базовая ментальная операция. [Текст] / А.А. Залевская // Слово и текст: Психолингвистический подход: Сб. науч. тр. - Тверь: Изд-во Твер. гос. ун-та, 2004. - Вып. 2. - С.56-71

  • Ирисханова O.K. О лингвокреативной деятельности человека: отглагольные имена / О.К. Ирисханова. - М.: Изд-во ВТИИ, 2004. - 352 c.

  • Лаенко Л.В. Чувственное восприятие мира и лингвокреативная деятельность человека / Л.В. Лаенко // Филология и культура: Мат-лы VI Междунар. науч. конф. 17-19 октября 2007 года. – Тамбов: Изд-во ТГУ, 2007. - С.136-139

  • Болдырев Н.Н. Концепт и значение слова / Н.Н. Болдырев // Методологические проблемы когнитивной лингвистики. – Тамбов: Изд-во ТГУ, 2001. – С. 27-31.

  • Кубрякова Е. С. Когнитивная лингвистика и проблемы композиционной семантики в сфере словообразования / Е.С. Кубрякова // Изв. РАН. Сер. литературы и языка. - Т. 61. – М. : Наука, 2002. – С. 13-24.

  • Тропина О. А. Производное слово как особая когнитивная структура / О.А. Тропина // Когнитивная лингвистика: современное состояние и перспективы развития. - Ч. 2. – Тамбов: Изд-во ТГУ, 1998. – С. 146-147.

  • Позднякова Е. М. Концептуальные основания определения границ словообразовательной категории имен деятеля / Е.М. Позднякова // Проблемы семантического описания единиц языка и речи. - Ч. 1.– Минск: Изд-во БГУ, 1998. – С. 176-179.

  • Кубрякова Е. С. Типы языковых значений. Семантика производного слова / Е.С. Кубрякова. - М.: Наука, 1981. – 200 с.

  • Кубрякова Е.С. Основы морфологического анализа / Е.С. Кубрякова. - М.: Наука, 1974. - 150 с.