Semantic peculiarities of the category of “time” in the novel “the collector” by j. fowles

Olexandra Mahdiy (Олександра Магдій)

Kamyanets-Podilsky Ivan Ohienko National University

Scientific Supervisor.  Аssociate professor Matkovska M.V.




Time is the category, which have never left people indifferent as it never stops influencing our lives. There are different ways of encoding this category, the main principle of which will be shown in our article. We will also try to outline the main principles and characteristics of this domain. At last we will make an attempt to follow their usage in the British consciousness, working with the novel “The Collector” by J. Fowles.

Key words: Time, category of “Time”, lexical concept, semantic peculiarities, word sense, duration, instance, moment, event.

 The linguistic form time serve as the name for the concept, because it actualizes the central points of the given concept. After having been named it was enlisted to the number of lexical concepts, those concepts which have their pairing in language [1]. Words time are simplex and has a great number of phrases and idiomatic expressions:

For a long time; from time to time; in good time; over time; time frame; out of time; time pressure; kill time; lost time.

The shape of the word-forming naming this concept was changing slightly with the time. Let us trace the development and analyze some specifications.

The word Time is originated from O.E. tima ‘limited space of time’, from P.Gmc. ‘timon’ (time). Abstracted sense of “time as an indefinite continuous duration” is recorded from 1388 [5].

To see how this concept is fixed in language and find out what aspects of its meaning are stated we will consider the definitions given in the Oxford English Dictionary [8] for the lexical concept “Time”:

  • The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future, regarded as whole;
  • A point of time as measured in hours and minutes past midnight or noon. The favorable or appropriate moment to do something: it was time to go.

(a time) as indefinite period;

(also times) a period characterized by particular events or circumstances: Victorian times;

(one’s time) a period regarded as characteristic of a particular stage of one’s life;

The length of time taken to run a race or complete an acivity;

Informal a prison sentence;

An apprenticeship;

  • Time as allotted, available, or used: a waste of time;
  • An instance of something happening or being done: the nurse came in four times a day;
  • The normal rate of pay for time spent working: they are paid time and a half;
  • The moment at which the opening hours of a pub end;
  • The rhythmic pattern ot tempo of a piece of music;
  • (times) (following a number) expressing multiplication.

All the meanings described here constitute lexicographical meaning of the concept.  But psychologically real meaning is much wider and includes many specific factors and not usually directly reflected in language as do not have their linguistic forms. They may be encoded in language with the help of different grammatical constructions or syntax. For instance the concept of “Time” in all the languages has its specific tense systems, which help in representing its peculiar states and placing different actions in particular periods or moments [3]. To prove this we give a few examples:

In the end she grew calm, she lay there with her eyes shut for a while and then when I moved she said: “Will you do something for me?”[4; p. 104]

In this example the concept of “Time” is appealed not with concrete linguistic forms, but with the help of the particular grammatical constructions called implicit forms and represented by the verbs in their second forms. That is one of the way to appeal to the concept very vividly shown in the English language.

The concept of “Time” may be appealed with the help of many word-forms, which are treated as ’points of access’. We will see it in following examples:

Yesterday evening he wanted to take a photograph of me. I let him tale several. i think he may be careless, someone may see me lying around[4; p. 115].

Do you know I’ve given up hours and hours of my time to distribute leaflets and address envelopes and argue with miserable people like you who don’t believe anything? [4; p. 119]

But now I sometimes forget he’s here. He sits by the door and I read in me chair, and we’re like two people who’ve been married years. [4; p. 126]

It wasn’t a nice ten minutes, all the consoling thoughts I’d scraped together during the night tan away and I was left alone. [4; p. 118]

Here such words and phrases as evening, hour, for years, once upon a time, ten minutes, every day, spring, during the night, Monday show particular facets of the concept “Time”. That gives us an opportunity to encode different states and aspects of this concept more precisely and express our feelings and attitude as well as understand others better. In the given samples either periods or precise moments or instances of the Time as DURATION are verbalized.  Judging about some peculiarities and characteristics of Time we may say that they appear as entrances to vast repositories of knowledge relating to the concept “Time”.

Despite this the meanings conventionally associated in our mind with these linguistic forms are more concrete. It results from the fact that semantic value of these expressions differs from that of the simple word time. Each lexical concept possesses its semantic value. And its main function to provide informational characterization of the concept.

The next example show one of the variants of the concept of “Time” in this meaning, which Evans calls protracted duration [3]. Here the time is experienced as such which flows too slowly. It is caused by the high awareness to one’s activities, because this interval of time is empty.

I cant sleep. I’m going mad. Have to have the light on. Wild dreams. I think people are here. D. Minny.[4; p. 257]

Temporal compression is the second variation in experiencing of this concept by the human being. It takes place when a person does something automatically paying least attention to it. Here we can see how the author managed to put this state into words:

I didn’t need the alarm, I was up before. I went down, locking the cellar door behind me. I knocked on her door and shouted: ‘Please, get up”, and waited ten minutes and then drew the bolts and went in. I had her bag with me which I had searched, of course. There was nothing she could use except a nail-file and a razor-blade cutter which I removed [4; p. 27].

The text of the novel have a lot of samples of the linguistic unit Time in the meaning  INSTANCE:

I still don’t know how she knew. She saw me a few times in the town, I suppose, perhaps she saw me out of the windows of their house sometimes, I hadn’t thought of that, my mind was all in a whirl [4; p. 29].

She was lying with her head to one side and it looked awful, her mouth was open and her eyes were staring white like she’d tried to see out of the window one last time [4; p. 269].

In this meaning Time is represented in language as such which can be enumerated, it has its countable number and is experienced by the human being as a sum of particular moments or its examples.

MOMENT sense is another important aspect in conceptualization of the concept “Time”. This gives us the ability to access time in discrete moments. In each of such cases the linguistic unit Time may be substituted by the word Moment:

I don’t know why but I see that more clearly now than I ever did at the time [4; p.180].

When the time was up (I had to pull her) we went in through the kitchen and dining-room and into the hall and up the stairs to the bathroom [4; p. 48].

EVENT sense presuppose that some particular events can be put in particular  ‘slot’ or ‘windows’ in the duration of  time:

I knew that was the way and held it over her mouth but there was no mist. She was dead [4; p. 269].

TIME as MATRIX is the meaning, which has the greatest influence on human lives, but nevertheless psychologically it is taken into consideration relatively rarely:

I’ve been thinking today of the time I took Piers and Antoinette to meet him. The black side of him [4; p. 163].

MEASUREMENT-SYSTEM sense of the concept “Time” may be acknowledged as one of the most actual and urgent in the novel reflecting the same situation in the life of the society nowadays:

After a moment I heard the music again. I went up the stairs and very slowly opened the door. Perhaps he heard, I don’t know, but he didn’t look up and I sat on a stool near the door it was finished [4; p. 166].




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  3. Evans V. The structure of time: Language, Meaning and temporal Cognition./ V. Evans – Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2004 – 298p.
  4. Fowles J. The Collector. /J. Fowles. – London: Jonathan Cape, 1963. – 283p.
  5. Great Etymological English Dictionary [Website]. – Available from:
  6. Jackendoff, Ray Semantics and cognition./ Ray Jackendoff. – Cambridge: MIT Press, 1983. – 283p.
  7. Jackendoff, Ray Sense and reference in a psychologically based semantics/ Ray Jackendoff// Talking minds. – Cambridge (Mass.), 1987. – 103p.
  8. Oxford English Dictionary [Website]. – Available from: