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of L'viv Polytechnic National University

"Problems of Ukrainian Terminology"

№ 817

Dutsiak I. Justification of the method to avoid circular definitions in explanatory dictionaries //  Website of TC STTS: Herald of L'viv Polynechnic National University "Problems of Ukrainian Terminology". – 2015. – # 817.


Ihor Dutsiak

Lviv Polytechnic National University




© Dutsiak I. Z., 2015


Ways to avoid circular definitions in the dictionaries are searched. Such decision is offered. For a parts of words which are names of simple features, should be formulated by means of definitions visual or operating meanings. By these words it is necessary to formulate definitions of complex features. By means of names of simple and complex features it is necessary to formulate abstract meanings of object names by means of a definitions.

Keywords: meaning of word, explanatory dictionary, circular definition, types of definitions.


The object of the study is a phenomenon of circular definitions in the explanatory dictionaries. It is about a phenomenon according to which there is a process of defining some words through the other ones, the second through the third ones, and so on, we run out of words stock that can be used for defining to avoid circular definitions. Therefore defining the last ones in the sequence the words are no longer words. Since it is advisable to formulate explanatory dictionary definitions for the whole vocabulary of language, the definition of the latter's part of the body of vocabulary words will inevitably create a circle in the definition. To investigate this phenomenon it is necessary to perform a comparative analysis of the definitions of words belonging to different parts of speech, as well as to explore the system relationship between the definitions in their totality in an explanatory dictionary.

The definitions contained in an explanatory dictionary can be divided into definitions of objects and definitions of features. Based on the analysis of hierarchically related (generic-specific relationships) definitions of objects such conclusion was made: all object names (you can not hesitate to include all concrete nouns) can be defined by aligning the pronoun (something, someone) and the names of features as aligning the names of the general concepts and specific characters. In the final case (the definition located on the top of the hierarchy, i.e. for the category, which therefore does not have the generic concept, and represents only one feature), the procedure of defining is reduced to the combination of a pronoun (something, someone) and a name of one feature. Since the formulation of hierarchically related definitions in each of them one more general concept is used as a generic concept, in the range of objects defining the circular definition cannot occur. So look for the source of circular definitions, and therefore the ways to overcome them, in definition of features.

Names of complex features can be defined using the names of simple features (names of features - for adjectives, participles, gerunds, verbs, adverbs, prepositions). For example, the adjective "square" ("having the characteristics of a square") will mean the set of all attributes that has a square with equal sides, direct catch, parallel sides, the four catches and the like. Also, a compound adjective "rectilinear" is decomposed in the definition into a qualitative adjective "erect" and the name of the object (line). So, in the defining of complex traits the circular definitions also cannot occur.

It turned out that the circular definitions may occur when we try simple features defining, for example, when we define a feature "Red." In this case during defining we use names of object that have this feature (poppy petals, ripe tomato, flesh ripe watermelon), that is the name of the objects that we define by using the names of features. However, in reality it is an imaginary circle in the definition (this is a quasi circular definition), as the definition of features (in this example, the feature "red") differs significantly from the definitions of object names. When we define the names of objects, we call the list of features of these objects (if the object has certain features, it should have the appropriate name). When we qualify the adjective "red", that is a feature, and then we do not list its features as in the previous example, but name the conditions in which the consumer of this definition may perceive this feature by using sensations. Thus, we define the names of features by the other quality definitions. They could be called verbally ostensive – by means of words we mean how you can perceive a feature called with the defining words. Words that are names of features that we do not define in a meaningful way, can be considered as an undefinable part of the vocabulary (these words can be attributed to the primitive concepts of the dictionary). However, in this case, it is necessary to explicitly inform the reader that this particular word is determined by the specific definitions, that is, by reference of the reader to the actions of the sensor reflection or imagination.

So the circular definitions in the explanatory dictionary can be avoided in this way: 1) for the words that are the names of simple features, one should formulate visual or operating meanings by means of definitions; 2) using words that are the names of simple features one should formulate meanings of complex features by means of definitions; 3) by means of words, which are the names of simple and complex features one should formulate abstract values of the object names by means of definitions.



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