Research article
Issue: № 1 (139), 2024


The following paper is devoted to the semantic aspects of English verbs with the meaning of ‘human behavior’. The relevance of the study is attributed to the diversity of semantics and connotations, as well as the active use of verbal lexicon in oral and literary texts. The authors analyzed various lexicographic sources and material of artistic discourse. Illustrations of the contextual examples from E. Hemingway’s novel “A Farewell to Arms!” contributed to the understanding of the new nuances of an American writer’s linguistic world-image. The use of field theory methods made it possible to present the selected verbs as a lexical-semantic group, in which, in addition to the nuclear lexemes, were comprised the words with a general semantics and those with the meaning of the individual author’s interpretation.

1. Introduction

Since the verbs describing human behavior have a vivid semantic diversity, a wide range of connotations and are also distinguished by the active word usage both in everyday speech and in the language of fiction, they are regarded as quite relevant material for the analysis within the framework of the anthropocentric paradigm. Research devoted to a detailed description of verbal vocabulary with the meaning of ‘human behaviour’ is represented by a number of works of different authors such as L.M. Vasiliev

, O.P. Zhdanova
, O.V.Isachenko
, A.M. Aidarova
etc. The purpose of the following study is to analyze the features of the lexical-semantic group of the verbs denoting behavior both on the material of English lexicographic sources and on the examples of contextual functioning of the latter in the text of E. Hemingway’s novel “A Farewell to Arms!” and the text of its translation into Russian. Within the framework of the following study, it is also important to regard the verbs of behavior under the aspect of contextual comparing of two differently structured languages (English and Russian), since this makes it possible to reconstruct the fragment of an individual linguistic world-image of an American writer.

2. Research methods and principles

The article is based on the works of the foreign and national researchers who considered the issues and problems of studying lexical-semantic fields. Hence, in the context of the presented analysis our task was not just only to study the semantic characteristics of the behavioral verbs, but also to apply to them a field methodology. On a theory of L.M. Vasiliev, who proposed to classify a lexical-semantic group as a variety of semantic fields

, it was decided to include in the group under discussion the verbs with the semantic component ‘human behaviour’ due to their availability of part-verbal and denotative features as well as other correlations.

When collecting the material for the analysis, it was important to rely both on the dictionary entries of lexicographic sources and on statistical data. The first ones provided material for a more precise determination of the content of the verbal group, and the latter made it possible to characterize the usage frequency of verbal lexicon with the stated meaning in the context of E. Hemingway’s novel.

The contextual analysis was aimed at determining the syntagmatic features of the elements of the verbal group under study. Appealing to the translated text of the novel “A Farewell to Arms!” allowed us to compare lexical and grammatical nuances of the verbs’ verbalization in a Russian language.

3. Main results

All the verbs denoting behavior can be combined into a group with the integral seme “behave / behave in some way”. Hence the archiseme of the lexical-semantic group of behavior is an English lexeme behave which is capable of verbalizing the general meaning of the group under study. In Russian such a universal lexeme is the verb вести себя, which is a translation equivalent of the English dominant lexeme.

The analysis of the English and Russian lexicographic sources made it possible to identify a number of verbs that have a usual meaning and to compare the definitions of the concept behave / вести себя”. Both in English and in Russian the verbs behave and вести себя have in their semantic structure a common meaning “to act in a certain way”, but the semantic structure of an English lexeme is presented in dictionary entries more comprehensively than its Russian equivalent and has such important semantic features as “to be polite” and “to act properly”

. At the same time, it was found out that the semantic descriptions given in explanatory dictionaries are distinguished by positive associations.

We also defined both the antonymic and synonymic chains of the English lexeme behave. It has 4 antonyms (misbehave, carry on, act up, misconduct)

and 21 synonyms синоним (act, conduct oneself, acquit oneself, bear oneself, carry oneself, be polite, show good manners, act correctly, deport oneself, comport oneself, operate, perform, react, run, take, demean, quit, impersonate, conduct, acquit, bear)

The verbs of human behavior identified with the help of the lexicographic sources served as a guide when selecting and analyzing practical material in the context of literary-artistic discourse. An evaluative point for selecting from the novel the verb examples with an author’s individual semantic characteristics became the main theme of E. Hemingway’s work: war and its meaningless.

While studying the text of E. Hemingway’s novel “A Farewell to Arms!” we began with the selecting of those linguistic units that verbalize the semantic feature “to act in a certain way”. This feature is a semantic attribute of the entire lexical-semantic group under study. Among them, the only verbs found out in the text of the novel were the lexemes act (3 word usages) and operate (10 word usages). The translation of the contextual syntagmas of the latter didn’t always demonstrate their lexicographic equivalents:

1. “A mercurial product,” Rinaldi said. He acted very elated now

. – «Ртутный препарат», – сказал Ринальди. Он говорил теперь очень приподнятым тоном

2. “If I go back they’ll make me get operated on and then they’ll put me in the line all the time

.”– Если я вернусь, мне сделают операцию, а потом все время будут держать на передовой

3. “All summer and all fall I’ve operated. <...> By God, baby, I am becoming a lovely surgeon.”

. – Все лето и всю осень я оперировал. <...> Честное слово, бэби, я становлюсь отличным хирургом

In the first example, the translator chooses the lexeme говорить as an equivalent to the verb act. The suggested word meaning is not stated in the dictionary entries of English-Russian lexicographic sources, and thus the choice of a Russian lexeme is contingent on its syntagmatic relations with an adverbial-substantive phrase приподнятым тоном. In the second and the third examples, the verb operate is used in one of its connotative meanings «to treat an illness or injury by cutting someone’s body and removing or repairing part of it»

. The translator’s reference to lexical units сделать операцию and оперировать is explained by the very storyline of the novel, according to which there are episodes of communication between the main character Frederick Henry and the surgeon.

As next, we identified and analyzed the verbs that intend to describe human behavior at war. The main guideline in selecting of the designated verbal lexicon was their denotation of conducting combat operations. We identified the following number of verbal lexemes with the stated connotation: fight (34 word usages), march (10 word usages), bombard (1 word usage), attack (24 word usages), defeat (1 word usage), beat (11 word usages). The verbs add up to a synonymous chain with the key lexeme fight, the semantic structure of which has a denotative attribute "to use physical force to try to defeat another person or group of people"

. When regarding its contextual translation, we established the active use of a semantic loan translation method.

4. “It would not finish it if one side stopped fighting. It would only be worse if we stopped fighting."

. -- Война не кончится, если одна сторона перестанет драться. Будет только хуже, если мы перестанем драться»

5. "Priest wants us never to attack. Don’t you want us never to attack?"

. -- «Священник не хочет, чтоб мы наступали. Правда, вы не хотите, чтоб мы наступали

In the text of the novel, the verb march forms quite often a syntagma with the substantives troops and soldiers (the troops marching along the road; the soldiers marching; the troops marching under the rain etc.). The translator uses a whole chain of synonymous verbs like идти, шагать, проходить (идут по дороге войска; шагают солдаты; проходили под дождем войска etc.) to verbalize the regarded English lexeme in Russian. The translator’s choice in favour of a semantic shades variety in the translated text is dictated by the traditional stable combinability of the nouns солдаты and войска in line with the verbs шагать and идти/пройти.

The verbs defeat и beat are dominant synonyms

, which in the context of a Russian translation receive their dictionary equivalents быть побитым and потерпеть поражение:

6. "They were beaten when they took them from their farms and put them in the army. That is why the peasant has wisdom, because he is defeated from the start."

. -- «Они были побиты тогда, когда их оторвали от земли и надели на них солдатскую форму. Вот почему крестьянин мудр – потому что он с самого начала потерпел поражение»

If in the above mentioned example we also stated the usage of a semantic loan translation, then in the case of the Russian contextual verbalization of the verb bombard we observed a slightly different translation feature:

7. ... and I was very glad the Austrians seemed to want to come back to the town some time, if the war should end, because they did not bombard it to destroy it but only a little in a military way

. – … и я был очень рад, что австрийцы, как видно, собирались вернуться в город когда-нибудь, если окончится война, потому что они бомбардировали его не так, чтобы разрушить, а только слегка, для порядка

The verbal lexeme bombard was translated with the help of concatenation of loan translation and transcription methods.

4. Discussion

Declared as a key lexeme the verb behave was not found in the original text of the novel “A Farewell to Arms!”, but it still can be characterized as a nuclear lexeme of the lexical-semantic group under study, since it expresses its total meaning, i.e “human behaviour”.

The rest of the behavioral verbs identified from lexicographic sources were not found out in the context of the novel under study. We also didn’t find the lexemes with the opposite semantics, i.e. the verbs misbehave, carry on, act up, misconduct. This can be explained by the fact that the lexicographic sources do not demonstrate a rich range of antonyms for the analyzed verbal group. The absence of the same antonyms in the context of E. Hemingway’s work shows that the author tries to avoid giving any assessment of human behavior, in particular a negative assessment. This idea is also confirmed by the fact that all the antonymic verbs established in the dictionary entries have in their semantic structure only a connotation of a negative assessment of human behaviour.

Of more concern, among other things, is the quantitative correlations of the verbs of human behaviour identified in the context of E. Hemingway’s novel “A Farewell to Arms!”. The verbs associated with human military activity are the most commonly used (see Fig.1), which is explained primarily by the theme of the work itself. This nuance also contributes to a better understanding of E. Hemingway’s linguistic world-image. The writer places a high emphasis on an active behaviour of a person who experiences both a feeling of combat excitement and a feeling of fatality and panic, which is realized from the author’s standpoint precisely in a terrible, destructive time called “war”.
Quantitative correlation of the verbs with the semantics of human behaviour in the text of E.Hemingway’s novel “A Farewell to Arms!”

Figure 1 - Quantitative correlation of the verbs with the semantics of human behaviour in the text of E.Hemingway’s novel “A Farewell to Arms!”

5. Conclusion

The lexicographic interpretation of the behavioural verbs as well as their analysis within the framework of the novel “A Farewell to Arms!” made it possible to outline the boundaries of the studied lexical-semantic group and define the verbs behave, act and operate as nuclear lexical units. In addition to the lexemes of a usual nature, we included in the analyzed group the verbs that name actions that have in their semantic structure the meaning of human behavioural actions at war. The writer’s contextual presentation allows us to interpret human actions as devoid of a romantic aura; they portray a man as an instrument tasked with carrying out the orders of his superiors, and also deprived of the right to choose between “killing and not taking the lives of other people”.

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