Session V: Interlingual Equivalence between Words


English scissors

French poil


German Schere / German Haar


French cheveu

English shears


The conceptual difference between (e.g.) French poil and French cheveu can be expressed both in German (Kopfhaar vs. Körperhaar) and in French (cheveu vs. poil), but unlike German, French must express the difference => whereas the world knowledge of German and French speakers is the same, they may express conceptual divergences differently, with the result that there are different semantic structures (or ‘sememes’); the seme [COVERS HEAD] is a distinctive intralingual feature in French, but not in German; of course, Germans also know about the difference between hair growing on the head and hair growing on the body, but for them this is world knowledge => semes are abstracted from world knowledge, but not substantially different from it


Exercise I: Use Leisi’s notion of conditions of use (Gebrauchsbedingungen) to detect similarities and differences of meaning between the following sets of words.


a)         haze, mist, fog vs. Dunst, Nebel



                  1                   haze   hazes  (thick; faint, thin)

                      Haze is light mist, caused by particles of water or dust in the air, which prevents you from seeing distant objects clearly.  Haze often forms in hot weather; (Webster) fine dust, salt particles, smoke or particles of water finer and more scattered than those of fog causing lack of transparency of the air and making distant objects indistinct or invisible

                                    They vanished into the haze near the horizon.

                                    The sun smouldered through a thin summer haze.

                                    ...the  shimmering heat haze.


                  1                   mist   mists  (collocates: dense, heavy, thick; faint, fine, light, slight, thin; dark, grey, red, white; dawn, evening, morning; a curtain/veil of ~)

                      Mist consists of a large number of tiny drops of water in the air, which make it difficult to see very far; (Webster) water in the form of particles suspended in the atmosphere at or near the surface of the earth; small water droplets floating or falling, approaching the form of rain, and sometimes distinguished from fog as being more transparent or as having particles perceptibly moving downward

                                    Thick mist made flying impossible.

                                    A bluish mist hung in the air.

                                    Mists and fog swirled about the road.


                  1                   fog   fogs  (collocates: dense, heavy, thick; patchy; freezing; a bank/blanket/patch of ~)

                      When there is fog, there are tiny drops of water in the air which form a thick cloud and make it difficult to see things; (Webster) vapor condensed to fine particles of water suspended in the lower atmosphere that differs from cloud only in being near the ground and is sometimes distinguished from mist in being less transparent

                                    The crash happened in thick fog.

                                    These ocean fogs can last for days.


Dunst: neblige Luft, getrübte Atmosphäre

ein feiner Dunst liegt über der Stadt; von dem Graben herauf schlug ihnen der Dunst des stehenden Wassers entgegen; die Berge liegen im Dunst, sind in Dunst gehüllt

Nebel: dichter, weißer Dunst über dem Erdboden; für das Auge undurchdringliche Trübung der Luft (durch Konzentration kleinster Wassertröpfchen)

dicker, dichter, wallender Nebel; ziehende Nebel; es kommt Nebel auf; der Nebel fällt, lichtet sich, liegt über den Wiesen, hängt in den Bergen; die Berge sind in Nebel gehüllt


b) stutzen vs. trim, prune, lop off, clip


                      When you prune a tree or bush, you cut off some of the branches so that it will grow better the next year.

                                    You have to prune a bush if you want fruit.

                                    There is no best way to prune, apart from making sure tools are sharp and every cut is clean.

                  +                  prune back   prunes back; pruning back; pruned back

                      Prune back means the same as prune.

                                    Apples, pears and cherries can be pruned back when they've lost their leaves.


                      If you trim something, for example someone's hair, you cut off small amounts of it in order to make it look neater and tidier.

                                    My friend trims my hair every eight weeks.

                                    He had the hairdresser trim his beard.

                                    Grass shears are specially made to trim grass growing in awkward places.


lop off                                   

                  1                   lop off   lops off; lopping off; lopped off

                      If you lop something off, you cut it away from what it was attached to, usually with a quick, strong stroke.

                                    Somebody lopped the heads off our tulips.

                            with axes, lopping off branches...

                                    His ponytail had been lopped off.

                  4                   clip   clips   clipping   clipped 

                      If you clip something, you cut small pieces from it, especially in order to shape it.

                                    I saw an old man out clipping his hedge.

                                    He had already clipped his hair close to the skull.
                                    ... why he has to clip the geese’s wings.