Language semantics, syntax and use 2020

Hanna Tymoshenko

Kamianets-Podilsky Ivan Ohiienko National University

                                                 Scientific supervisor: PhD, Kryshtaliuk H.A.


The epithet communicates additional information. There is semantic information and aesthetic information. An epithet is a stylistic device that transmits information about any characteristic of a described object or phenomenon in addition to its object-logical meaning.

Keywords: epithet, metaphorical epithet, stylistic device, object-logical meaning, aesthetic information.

Epithet is considered to be a means of conveying a personal, subjective-evaluative attitude to the phenomenon that is described. The use of adjectives in this function is determined by their semantic and functional characteristics, that is the predicativity inherent in their stylistic meaning and the actualization of emotionally-evaluative meanings.

The structural types of epithets are diverse. They can be represented by nouns, adjectives, object, word combinations in syntactic function etc. [1, p. 104-109]

Of great interest is the metaphorical epithet, which is a bright mean of creating the imagery of a fiction text and the realization of conceptual meaning.

Metaphorical epithet, like any metaphor, is based on the interaction of the object-logical and contextual meaning of the word. Depending on the newness and frequency of the use of the epithet, contextual or object-logical meaning may prevail in the epithet. For example, in epithets such as “moon face” (round like the moon face), “pig eyes” (eyes like pigs have), “butterfly word” (an easy, carefree word) in the sentence: “The little yes, gone on a breath! Why should one be pinned down by that butterfly word?” [3, p. 53].

Those who read the novel by Alan Sillitoe “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” realize that it is about how the reckless strain of all the resources of the body, aimed at achieving records at all costs undermines the health of a professional runner and lead to his exhausted lungs to look like a “lace veil” up to thirty two years: “…and retiring through old age at thirty-two because of lace – curtain lungs” [5, p. 28]

Semantic processes occurring in metaphorical epithets enter into the semantic structure of the word and become a new vocabulary meaning. For example, the word “starry” in the combination of “starry eyes” became meaning “radiant eyes”, the word “silvery” in the combination of “silvery laughter” – the meaning of loud, melodious laughter, the word “honeyed” in the combination of “honeyed tongue” – the meaning of flattering talk.

An interesting kind of metaphorical epithet is an epithet based on the giving to inanimate objects to the properties and attributes of the living ones. Such epithets are called embodying or personifying. The adjective, which by its semantics must define a living being is combined with a noun that means an inanimate object. For example: “I am trotting up the path out of the gates and turning by that bare – faced, big – bellied oak tree at the lane” [5, p. 10].

In this example, the attributes are expressed by adjectives that combine with the names of living things and mean either their narrow (“bare-faced”, “big-bellied”). Their inherent diseases or their intrinsic properties also can be expressed. Violation of typical combinability causes the effect of “personification” of described objects, they appear to the reader as living beings.

Another kind of metaphorical epithet is the zoosemic epithet based on giving a person signs or qualities of animals. Usually the zoosemic epithet is expressed by the noun-the name of the animal and defines any part of the human body that seems ridiculous or ugly to the author, for example: “tortoise eyes”. Thus, the meaning of the word “tortoise” comes to the fore – small, round, with heavy, wrinkled eyelids that highlight the characteristic external features of the turtle’s eyes. [2, p. 145-149]

It was strange that this little bald – headed man with his monkey face should have aroused in the alien woman so devastating a passion” [4, p. 115].In the semantic structure of the word “monkey”, meaning is small, wrinkled, exaggeratedlymobile, with a grimacing facial expression, called the characteristic features of a monkey’s face.

So we may conclude that various kinds of metaphorical epithet can be distinguished and used for giving a work of fiction more expressiveness, brightness and imagery.


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  2. Еремина В. И. Метафорический эпитет. Известия Академии Наук СССР. Издательство ОЛЯ, 1967.Т.26, выпуск.2, страницы144-152.
  3. Lawrence, David Herbert.Lady Chatterleyʼs Lover. Taylor & Francis, 2001.
  4. Maugham, W. Somerset, etal. The Painted Veil. Mutarchim, 2011.
  5. Sillitoe, Alan, and Susanne Lenz. The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner. Open Road Media, 2016.