This article is devoted to the study of the mythological component in the English-language worldview. In recent years, much attention has been paid by linguists to the problems of the language and culture of a particular ethnic group. The article pays attention to such concepts as a conceptual and linguistic worldview and their relationship. The purpose of this work is to determine the mythological language worldview, which acts as the basis of modern word usage. Mythopoetic mentality is considered as the basis of the language worldview. The ways of expressing mythological concepts, their changes and impact on modern English usage are the subject of this study. The lexical units of the English language that we selected for analysis are studied in terms of their origin, the presence of semantic change and its type. Classical mythology and national mythological ideas form the core of the mythological language worldview, reflected in modern English. Thus, classical mythology is represented by a large number of distinguished units and affects the English language more than any other mythological system. A significant part of all analyzed lexical units does not have semantic changes recorded in the dictionary. However, most of the studied words and phrases have undergone semantic changes that are represented differently in the English language: either by an additional meaning within the main meaning, or by a separate word or phrase without a fixed connection with the original mythology.
Keywords: Mythologemelexical units with a mythological component of meaningsemantic changessecondary nomination
The problems of the relationship between language and culture remain one of the most urgent problems of modern linguistics. One of these problems is the use of lexical units of the English language in a mythological and religious cultural context. The first form of thinking by which the model of peace was formed was mythopoetic mentality.
The Concept of Myth and Mythological Thinking
Myths are seen as specific narratives of gods or superhuman beings involved in emergencies or circumstances at indefinite times. The form in the myth is identical to the content. Makovskiy ( 2014) defines two main patterns characteristic of primitive thinking: lack of causality and relationship of past and present. Myth as a conceptual worldview includes a set of individual and ethnic knowledge about the objects of reality and represents one or another at the level of national knowledge about the world. Perceiving and structuring the world with the help of mythological thinking, a person tried to determine some laws and bring the incomprehensible world to a certain norm and system ( Aidarkhan, 2018; Khayrullina & Berger, 2018; Makovskiy, 2014; Mechkovskaya, 1998; Stavitskiy, 2019; Syamili & Rekha, 2018). Nominalism is crucial for the mythical mentality: names (nouns, noun phrases) that represent the core of the mythological worldview and reflect archetypal images are realizations of mythological images, that are usually called mythologemes. Mythological thinking is an integral part of thinking, and its implementation is carried out in myths and mythologemes that make up the mythological conceptual sphere of the national-cultural worldview.
Mythologeme as the Central Unit of the Mythological Worldview
There is no consensus among scholars on the term mythologeme. Makovskiy ( 2014) defines mythologemes as the unity of several concepts that are inseparable from each other in terms of magical thought about primitive man. Bykova and Rakitina ( 1999) consider the mythologeme as an actualized meaning of the mytheme. The significant structure of the mythologeme contains signs of denotative and connotative aspects. Its actualization is based on the transition of the denotative or connotative characteristics pass from the signifier to the signified, so the connotation penetrates into the denotative meaning of the mytheme. According to Pitina ( 2002), a mythologeme is a discrete unit of collective consciousness, a concept that reflects the objects of possible worlds, which is verbally represented in the national memory of native speakers. The verbal way of representing the mythologeme is carried out using dictionary units, lexemes and word combinations used in the direct and figurative meaning. In cases of secondary nomination, various external and internal characteristics of the mythologeme appear, giving reality to the initially ideal images. Krutalevich ( 2016) defines a mythologeme as a concrete interpretation of the universal model of the collective unconscious possessing such features as retrospectivity, and regional and ethnic special character. A mythologeme is a meaningful unit, stored in the ethnic memory, which reflects the cultural features in the particular language worldview ( Ivanov, 2019; Kayumova, 2019; Kleymenova, 2019; Stoyanova, 2018).
Mythologemes can belong to a culture in general and reflect the general features of mythological thinking that have been preserved in modern society (e. g: giant, fairy, dwarf) due to the mutual influence of cultures and stereotypical reflection of the unreal in all peoples ( Rettig, 2017; Rubert, 2015; Sushiy, 2016; Vorob’eva, 2018). Such universal, understandable mythologemes are called international. International mythologemes represent only a part of the mythological conceptual sphere. In a specific mythological worldview, international mythologemes acquire specific characteristics and vary depending on the specific linguistic and cultural situation.
In order to determine the mythological language worldview as the basis of modern word usage in English, we analysed the English vocabulary. Since the mythologeme is the main linguistic unit of mythological representations, the objects of research were units that contain some element that can refer the unit to mythology. Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture (1999) is subject to continuous sampling. Out of 80,000 lexical entries, 374 lexical units were selected that contain a mythological element. Geographical names and some other proper names (for example, entries marked as trademarks) are excluded from the analysis because their origin is not clear and is not specified. However, derivatives (for example,
The main aspects of the analysis are:
To determine the origin of the mythological component of the modern English language.
To consider the types of English mythological lexical units with semantic changes.
To define the semantic changes of the mythologemes in contemporary English.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of our research is to analyse the mythological and linguistic worldview in order to determine the cases of modern word usage in the English language. The object of the study is modern English lexical units, which in some way represent elements of the mythological English-language worldview.
The research material is presented by words and phrases extracted from
Most of the modern lexical units in question contain proper names taken from myths. One of the main aspects of the analysis is to determine the origin of the selected lexical units.
The origin of the mythological component of the modern English language
The results concerning the origin of units that reflect the mythological worldview are presented in the Table
The largest share (59.63%) belongs to Roman and Greek mythological ideas, which are traditionally united as
Сlassical mythology. This fact can be explained by the popularity of Greek and Roman myths in the world as a result of the great attention paid in recent centuries to the study of classical languages. This group consists mainly of:
different gods (Aphrodite, Apollo, Zeus, Mercury, Juno, Jupiter, etc.);
heroes (Achilles, Hector, Hercules, Jason, etc.);
their exploits (Androcles and the Lion, golden fleece, the Augean stables, etc.);
various derivatives (Amazonian, narcissism, nymphet, Saturday, etc.) and
various derived concepts as in the form of separate words (
fury 1 very great anger 2 wildly excited state 3 old-fashion fml a fierce angry woman or girl; grace a fine and attractive quality in movement or form; volcano a mountain with a crater at the top, and often others on the sides, through which lava, steam, gases etc, sometimes escape with explosive force) and phrases ( Achilles' tendon, the Midas touch, Oedipus complexetc).
2. The second in number (28.34%) is the group of
Indo-European mythological ideas, referred to as native with a variety of fairy creatures both good and evil ( banshee, gnome, hobgoblin, kelpie, sylph, etc.) which is but natural, since these ideas are national and deeply penetrated into the language. There are many derivatives in this group: a single word can give rise to up to 4 derivatives (e. g., demonhas the following derivatives: demoniacal, demoniac, demoniacally, demonic, demonically) or up to several derivatives and derivative concepts (e. g., fairy – fairyland, fairytale adj, fairy godmother, fairy lights, fairy tale (story)).
3. Next is
Scandinavian mythology(3.48%), i.e. ancient Scandinavian legends ( Asgard, Odin, Loki, Kraken, basilisk, Valhalla, etc.). Much of this mythology of Indo-European origin took shape in Germanic Europe between 1000 BC and our era. The Vikings were northern neighbours of the British and their mythology consequently influenced the worldview of the British and penetrated into English.
4. A small number of mythological concepts reflected in the English dictionary stock include the elements of:
Oriental mythology(2.93% are heroes and stories from Arab Nights: Ali Baba, Sinbad, the Roc, the Old Man of the Sea, open sesame, etc.);
Hinduism(2.14% – Vishnu, avatar, Kali, Krishna, Brahma, etc.);
some others mentioned as miscellaneous (
golem, Lilith – Jewish, Isis, Osiris – Egyptian, Quetzalcoatl– Native American; Moloch, zombie, Mithras).
To sum up, Classical mythology is the main source of the mythological component, it constitutes the greater part and in terms of mythology affects English more than any other mythological system. The Indo-European element is also of great importance, while other groups are less significant and may be considered minor.
Types of English mythological lexical units with semantic changes
Within a mythological text, mythologemes function in their primary meaning. In non-mythological texts, they appear as the result of “poetic thought”, as a unit of secondary nomination – a symbol, an image, a metaphor. In this case, an image is used as a means of explanation, and only some features are used (as compared with the mythological way of perception, when the image is completely transferred into the meaning).
In a neo-mythological text, the mythologeme loses those characteristics that are due to the originality of mythological thought – verity and genuineness. It is no longer a form of knowledge storage, since there is no denotatum in the environment. A mythologeme retains such features as locality, ethnic connotation, sign characteristics, and affectiveness, and acquires some new ones, i.e., symbolism and figurativeness.
Naturally, this change occurs in the course of time. We are interested, first of all, in studying the change of meaning within mythologemes. Therefore, it is necessary to dwell on the semantic changes in the vocabulary.
There is no unanimity between the scholars about the types and number of semantic changes. We use the classification of semantic changes, namely: widening of meaning, narrowing of meaning, shift of meaning, deterioration and degeneration of meaning, reclamation or improvement of meaning, hyperbole, euphemism, metonymy, metaphor.
First of all, all selected lexical units were classified based on the presence of any semantic change registered in the dictionary. As a result of this analysis, a significant part of all units do not appear to have semantic changes registered in
As can be seen from Table
Derived concepts with semantic changes registered: 1) after explanation (as a secondary meaning); 2) before explanation (as the primary meaning); 3) within the major meaning; 4) without explanation.
Semantic change registered in the mythologeme: 1) after explanation (as a secondary meaning); 2) within the major meaning; 3) before explanation (as the primary meaning); 4) within the major meaning.
All types of the above mentioned lexical units with semantic change can be found within the origin of groups of Classical and Indo-European mythology. These mythological systems demonstrate greater parts of the units within these groups have some semantic change registered in the dictionary. Therefore, these mythologemes have deeply penetrated into the English language, got assimilated into it and given rise to a number of new lexical units.
This is evidenced by the fact that in the group of classical mythology, most of the units with semantic changes belong to derivatives (59 units):
Quantity-wise semantic changes fixed within entries describing mythologemes (42 entry) follow the derivatives. The change is recorded in different ways, indicating the degree of frequency in speech and assimilation in English:
Semantic change registered after interpretation as a secondary value (20 units):
Semantic change registered after explanation within major meaning (7 units):
Semantic change registered before explanation as a primary meaning (10 units):
Semantic change registered before explanation within major meaning (5 units):
Then there is a group of derived concepts (21 entries) when the semantic change is not interpreted (12 units) in the dictionary entry:
when the meaning with a semantic change is placed as a separate primary meaning or before explanation:
There is one example of a derived concept registered as a separate secondary meaning:
The group of Indo-European mythologemes is characterised by units which have become an integral part of the English language. It is in this group that we find the largest proportion of units with semantic change in various forms. Among them there are many derivatives (e. g., fiend – fiendish, fiendishly, fiendishness; ghoul – ghoulish, ghoulishness, etc.), mythologemes with semantic changes fixed in the dictionary entry either as separate primary or secondary meaning (1), or before / after explanation (2):
sylph n 1 a graceful slender woman or girl 2 according to old stories, a spirit of the air; corn dolly n a figure made from straw, used for decoration. Corn dollies were originally made in many societies to give thanks for the harvest and to wish luck for the next year's crop.
As for other groups of origin, they are characterised by a small number of words with semantic changes. Therefore, the lexical units of these groups were only slightly assimilated in English.
Two derivatives of the Scandinavian group have penetrated very deeply into the English language, so that nowadays the connection between derivatives and their sources is poorly perceived:
Semantic changes in other minor groups are represented by derived concepts (1), additional meanings in dictionary entries (2), and derivatives (3):
Aladdin's Cave n a place that contains a large variety of interesting, valuable, or exciting things; avatar n 1 the appearance of a Hindu god, especially Vishnu, in human or animal form: Krishna was an avatar of the god Vishnu 2 a person who represents (an idea etc) completely; embodiment; shamanism n any system of belief in shamans and the world of spirits.
Summing up, we can say that semantic changes are expressed in English in different ways from an additional meaning within the major one to a separate word or phrase without any fixed connection with the original mythologeme. At the same time, this diversity is typical only of the two most numerous groups of origin: Classical mythology and Indo-European mythology. In addition, semantic changes are usually registered as derivatives (99 words) or as a secondary meaning within a dictionary entry (45 words). Thus, the English language is more influenced by mythologemes from classical and native English myths, and these words and phrases have become an integral and productive part of the language.
Semantic Changes in Mythologemes in Modern English
The secondary nomination of the mythologeme is defined as metaphor, although in fact different types of semantic changes are registered within a mythologeme. However, metaphor remains the main form of expression of the secondary nomination, i.e. the most frequent type of semantic change in mythologemes is metaphor. The detailed results of the analysis regarding the types of semantic changes are illustrated in Table
Metaphorical change of the meaning occurred in 153 words and phrases, which proves that the secondary nomination of a mythologeme is primarily metaphorical. Myths have always produced strong influence on people; nowadays this effect can be partially preserved in resorting to a stylistic device as metaphor, which is one of the favorite and easily understandable to be used in everyday speech, which as a result is fixed in the dictionary. Usually a mythologeme acquires more abstract meaning:
In many cases the metaphor emphasises a particular characteristic and attributes it to a person:
An ordinary situation, which is similar to some events in myths, can be described with the help of a phrase borrowed from the myth, and the expression itself, in turn, becomes more abstract:
As for the metaphorical meanings of words and phrases from the Indo-European group, they mostly refer to a different notion or a human being; there are no mythologemes in this group by origin based on the plot of a myth and, therefore, there are no new meanings describing the situation:
The dominance of the metaphorical changes in the meanings of mythologemes is also supported by the fact that this type of semantic change occurs in almost all minor groups:
The transfer of the word from the usage in dealing with the gods to everyday events and phenomena has resulted in metaphorical change with some degree of pejoration:
Metaphoric change in the semantics often refers to a word outside the basic dictionary, making it either formal or informal. These lexical units become linguistic cultural markers that reflect the mythological worldview in modern English. Therefore, the stock of
Rhadamanthine – (adj) similar or referring to Radamantus (judge of the underground kingdom from Greek mythology), strict and impartial; Stygian - (adj) stygian, referring to the Stix River, gloomy-minded.
This is because
As can be seen from Table
Semantic change (16 words) which is based on the stylistic device of metonymy can be traced in mythologemes selected from
To one of the significant semantic changes within mythologemes belongs the shift of meaning (30 words). In the course of time the word has acquired a completely new meaning, which is in some way related to the initial one:
Among minor types of semantic changes that have occurred in mythologemes there are widening of meaning (5 cases), narrowing of meaning (2 cases), euphemism (3 cases), and hyperbole (2 cases). These types demonstrate that mythologemes can develop new meanings and give rise to new words and phrases based on relations other than metaphoric ones, although the latter remains the dominant type of semantic change:
Widening of meaning (3rd meaning):
Narrowing of meaning (2 nd meaning):
Change within the semantics of a single word is a complicated process that takes place over a long period of time. There may be several semantic changes of different types between the original and new meanings. This has happened to some mythologemes that have generated new units as a result of the shift through widening of meaning (1), through metonymy (2), or through metaphor (3):
eroticism n [U] the quality of being erotic meaning appeared from the extended meaning of the word Eros 1,2 <...> 3 n [U] sexual love; siren n 1 an apparatus for making a loud long warning sound, as used on ships, police cars, and fire engines and for attack-warnings 2a (in ancient Greek literature) any of a group of woman-like creatures whose sweet singing caused sailors to sail towards them and caused the wreck of their ships; phantom pregnancy also hysterical pregnancy AmE – n a condition in which a woman seems to be pregnant but in fact is not from the metaphorical meaning of phantom n 1 <…> 2 something that exists only in one's imagination.
Thus, many mythologemes are characterised by the secondary nomination, which is often fixed in a dictionary, and which retains some of the qualities of the primary meaning. In most cases, the secondary nomination is expressed by an additional meaning that appeared as a result of a metaphorical semantic change, other types of semantic changes being present within the mythological component of the English language.
The constituent units of a myth, considered as a linguistic phenomenon, are called morphemes. A mythologeme is an actualised meaning of a morpheme. Myth as a semiotic system is characterised by relations between three elements: the denotation, the denotatum, and the sign. However, the peculiarity of the myth is that it has two semiotic systems, one of which is partially embedded in the other, and the final result – the sign of the first system becomes the form for the content of the second system, the sign of which is considered as the meaning of the myth.
In order to determine the mythological language worldview as the basis of modern English word use the English vocabulary is subject to analysis. A total of 374 words and phrases were selected from 80,000 entries in Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture. Classical mythology constitutes the majority of the selected units and, in terms of mythology, affects the English language more than any other mythological system. The Indo-European element is also important, while other groups are less important and may be considered minor.
A significant part of all units appear to have no semantic changes registered in the dictionary (167 entries). Semantic changes in English lexical units are expressed in different ways: from an additional meaning within the major one to a separate word or phrase without any fixed connection to the source mythologeme. The English language is heavily influenced by mythologemes from Classical and Native myths, and these words and phrases have become an integral and productive part of the language.
Many mythologemes are characterised by the secondary nomination, which is expressed by an additional meaning that arose as a result of a metaphorical semantic change, other types of semantic change have an insignificant importance.
Language is a purely human phenomenon. This is the only way to express and store systematic knowledge about the world. Different languages in terms of their semantics, grammar and phonetics reflect the way of thinking of different nations. A peculiar worldview, expressed by language means, is characteristic of any ethnic group, though it is a combination (and not presence or absence) of prevailing components that makes it different from other worldviews.
The mythological worldview was the initial one and provided the basis for the creation of the first semiotic system. As the first way of thinking expressed in the language it is characterised by a number of features, such as the authenticity of the myth at the time of its creation, its cognitive function, the accumulation of knowledge about the world, ethnic connotation, and high emotiveness.
Vocabulary is one of the most obvious ways to express a peculiar worldview. Thus, lexical units containing some mythological component clearly demonstrate the influence of the mythological worldview on the modern word usage. The analysis is based on the material of words and phrases of the English language selected from
Those are grouped by their origin, and it can be concluded that Classical mythology and native mythological ideas form the core of the mythological worldview reflected in the modern English language.
A considerable part of all lexical units appear to have no semantic changes registered in the dictionary (167 entries). However, most of the words and phrases selected have undergone some semantic changes. Semantic changes are expressed in English in different ways from an additional meaning within the major one to a separate word or phrase without any fixed connection to the source mythologeme.
Due to the development of the language, mythologemes have acquired a new meaning on the basis of their primary ones. The secondary nomination is primarily (72.5% of all words with semantic change) of metaphorical nature, since some peculiar feature of the initial nomination is preserved and transferred to a new characteristic of a human being, some extralinguistic phenomenon or the formation of a new expression describing a new phenomenon.
Consequently, mythologemes as lexical units that represent the mythological worldview in modern English demonstrate not only the mythological ideas proper, but also deeply assimilated in the language and, therefore, serve as the basis for the formation of new units and derivatives of a metaphoric character.
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03 August 2020
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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation
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Damman, E. A. (2020). Mythological Language Worldview As The Ethnic Basis Of Modern English Word Use. In & N. L. Amiryanovna (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 86. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 319-331). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.08.38