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Old English plant names with component -wyrt and their modern names: structural and semantic aspect

Liberal Arts in Russia. 2020. Vol. 9. No. 4. Pp. 246-255.
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Prosyannikova O. I.
Pushkin Leningrad State University
10 Peterburgskoe Highway, 1966605 Pushkin, Saint Petersburg, Russia


The article deals with the study of Old English plant names and corresponding contemporary names, as well as structural and semantic changes that took place in botanic vocabulary. The study of phytonymic vocabulary attracts linguists and ethnolinguists because it embodies the way the Anglo-Saxon and the English perceived and experienced the natural world. Therefore, the names of plants represent a special thematic layer of vocabulary. The author of the article uses the results of a study on the identification of Anglo-Saxon plants in terms of compliance with their modern names. The problem of identification lies in multivariability and duplexity of Old English plant names. The compound names of plants with -wyrt component were chosen for the analysis in order to narrow down the content of the material and to examine the words identical in structure. The plant names studied in the article represent a two-component structure with the generalizing component - wyrt and major component that defines the semantics of the whole word. The study describes the semantics of the major component in the Anglo-Saxon plant name and semantics of its modern name. Consideration of the semantics of the Anglo-Saxon and modern names allows establishing the motivational feature on the basis of which the nomination took place and tracing the changes in the semantics of the nomination. Structural changes have primarily affected the generalizing component -wyrt, which remained in the modified form in only a few names. The compound names of plants are prevailing among the modern ones.


  • • Old English plant names
  • • nomination
  • • motivation
  • • semantics
  • • compound plant names


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