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Abstract. The article is devoted to tracing semantic changes in some syntactic structures and lexical fields. The purpose of the research is to establish what factors contribute to semantic changes and whether these semantic changes are systemic or accidental. The methods included semantic, contextual and pragmatic analysis. The research focused on three groups of words – verbs governing the infinitive, verbs governing an object clause and evaluative lexemes. The research made it possible to conclude that verbs governing the infinitive lose their lexical meanings and acquire modal, quasi modal or phasal meanings of wish, intention, graduality or negation, which they don’t have in other contexts. Some words undergo full grammaticalization and become auxiliaries. This transition from lexical to more abstract grammatical meaning can be explained by syntactical context. Whereas the modal seme is regularly reinforced by the infinitive, the lexical seme is only occasionally reinforced and is gradually suppressed. The lexeme displays a semantic shift from concrete to abstract meaning. Verbs governing an object clause have their initial meanings of physical perception or speech weakened and become links between the bearer of information and information itself. Verbs with other meanings used within this construction also lose their initial semantics and acquire meanings of receiving, storing and
discharging information. The influence of the context is analogous to that of the previous group of verbs – the lexical seme is rarely reinforced and is therefore suppressed. The same evolution from concrete meaning to abstract takes place. Evaluative lexemes appear in the language as neutral nominations. They have different origins – geographical, zoological or social-, but in the process of usage, the evaluative meaning suppresses the initial denotative element, the lexeme becoming purely evaluative and the denotative motivating seme often forgotten. The evaluative element, initially pragmatic and context-dependent, becomes contextually independent. Evaluative lexeme display the same semantic tendency as those described above – an evolution from concrete to abstract meaning. The three groups of lexemes, despite their semantic and structural differences manifest the same semantic evolution from concrete to abstract.

Keywords: semantic evolution, grammaticalization, evaluative lexemes

Tatiana Sallier

Saint-Petersburg State University
Saint-Petersburg, Russia
ORCID id: 0000-0002-2637-8867

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