1. Introduction
G. Leech, a famous linguist proposes three types of meaning in his Semantics, first published in 1974, as followings: lexical meaning, grammatical meaning and contextual meaning. Leech says that lexical meaning is the meaning of an isolated word in a dictionary, and this component of meaning is identical in all forms of the word. Here is an example for illustration: The word forms begin, begins, began, begun, beginning possess different grammatical meaning of tenses, persons and so on. In each of these forms one finds the same lexical meaning expressing the process of movement. Grammatical meaning is the component of meaning identical in individual forms of different words. For instance, the tense meaning in the word-forms worked, studied, taught, or the plural meaning girl, girls or the case meaning boy's, word's and so on. Except for lexical meaning and grammatical meaning, contextual meaning depends upon context. Different contexts give words different meanings. Therefore, one should pay close attention to the types of context. Generally speaking, there are four types of contexts: figures of speech, culture, technical area and humor. Figure of speech refers to metonymy, metaphor, allusion and so on. That is to say, the contextual meaning ,which out of all the possible meanings that the original related or suggested, including the characters of the original and enlightenments from the original, is the acceptable meaning to the word. The News World Encyclopedia defines culture as "it is the totality of the spiritual, intellectual, and artistic attitudes shared by a group, including its tradition, habits, social customs, morals, laws and social relations. Sociologically, every society, on every level, has its culture." (Guo & Li, 2003:
  11) Consequently, English word meaning, to some extent depends on the English culture. It is natural that in the course of the development of society a number of new words are needed to describe new ideas. So there has been a tendency that many common words are used in technical area to put across a technical term. Humor is an art of all language. Many words, polysemants in particular are used to give rise to amusement and relaxation, and the meanings of those words are often related to the humor context. In English language, the context generally shows in what sense, which includes primary sense and figurative sense the word is used. When used literally, words have
1
their original meaning; when used figuratively, words have symbolic meaning. The meanings of these words are determined by the context. In another word, the context determines which meaning out of all possible meaning is to be attached to the word. Therefore only in the context of social life and activities are English words significant.

  2. Factors Influencing Contextual Meaning of English Words

  2.1 Contextual Meaning in Figures of Speech It is known to all that language is the means of communication. In communication, figurative language is often employed by writers or speakers to make his idea concrete and vivid. A fresh, proper figure of speech can appeal to the imagination, create mental pictures and make the speech or writing vivid, impressive and interesting. English, as a communication device, are full of figures of speech. Most of figures of speech are based on resemblance in image. They may be direct or implied comparison, likening inanimate objects to people or addressing them as such. Some figures of speech are based on the association between the things and people, between the part and the whole, or between opposite things, etc. Others come into being through usage, proverbial relationship or exaggeration. To English learners, what matters after all is not exactly how many kinds of figures of speech there are in English language, but how well one can learn to understand and even make use of them. Words to an essay are bricks to a building, or molecules to a substance, small as they are, unimportant they are not, to some extent, the figures of speech can be treated as the contexts of English words. Therefore, in order to study the contextual meaning of English words, it is necessary to analyze the meaning of English words which used figuratively. So the author in this paper analyzes some common figures of speech context in English language.

  2.
  1.1 Metonymy As we know the name of an object or concept are often replaced with some other words related to or suggested by the original, so the original of course has its contextual meaning. Here is an example for illustration: The Cross, the Crown, the Scales may all As well have bee the SwordRobert Frast
2
In this sentence, the Cross does not mean a shape like an upright post with a bar cross it, but stand for the Christian religion; the Crown is not a circular decoration usually made of gold with jewels in it, which a king or queen wears on their head, but represent power; the Scales is not a machine for weighing things, but stand for trade. Another example as followings may be much clearer. Whenever you come into a DIY restaurant, you can see an advertisement mark Beware of the Bottle. Does it mean that you should be careful with the glass or plastic container for liquids? In fact, the word bottle presents a definite picture of the wine container, and this sentence may remind you beware of drinking wine. It is a common phenomenon that metonymy is used in social communication. It is difficult to list all the examples that metonymy is used in our life, but we can clearly understand the meaning of the word which used in metonymy through this conclusion: In metonymy, since the name of an object or concept is often replaced with some other words related to or suggested by the original, so the contextual meaning of the words refers to the meaning which the original related to or suggested.

  2.
  1.2 Metaphor Metaphors are found in all languages. They can make language vivid; what is more, they can bring so much life to language. English is rich in metaphors and one often finds expressions such as following: She has a heart of stoneshe is callous, iron-hearted. He is a foxhe is sly, cunning, crafty, and tricky. In those examples above, it can be found that stone and fox are used to make striking comparison; one can image how dull the statement would be without the metaphors. But metaphors in English language may not be easily understood by English language learners, they may have come across sentences like Tom have done. Tom saw his friend John was bullied on his way home, but did not help John. "You chicken", John said, looking at Tom with contempt. Students may have been puzzled, unless they know that chicken here means a coward, a person without courage. From the examples cited above, it is clear that people often associate certain qualities with certain creatures or objects. These qualities often arouse reactions or emotion. Similarly, metaphorical expressions are very common in speech and text. They serve the purpose of relating something that is difficult or abstract to something that is more concrete or imaginable. Besides embodying the overall meaning of
3
something in more concrete terms, they also help us describe and convey our feelings and attitude about people and situations. In contrast, there is often a background for such association to the speaker, but the qualities that are associated, or the emotions that are aroused, may not always be understood by the language learners. As a result, one thing can be concluded is that the contextual meaning of words used in metaphor often refers to the characters of the original.

  2.
  1.3 Allusion It is well-know that in most languages people are likely to embellish their speech or writing in reference to characters or events that has dramatic and vivid connotation. English has a tremendous amount of allusions which result from mythology, fables, historical figures or events, fairy tales, the Bible, famous literary works and so on. Such referencesallusions not only make the language richer, but also make people who use it much more relaxed and easier. But occasionally because allusion is a reflection of the rich culture heritage of the people who use it, such allusions are not always easy to understand, especially for foreign language learner. It is impossible for applying a language without understanding word's meaning, for example: This is the Cadillac of Chinese tea. That project, which seemed so promising, turned out to be a Pandora's Box. In the former example, people may be puzzled by the Cadillac, but the background information may help you. In the 20th century, hi-tech gives birth to hi-tech products, then hi-tech products lead to brand-name products, after it brand-name products become allusions which go beyond their original meaning of their own. Cadillac is a famous car, usually refers to things of high quality. So the former sentence means this is the first-rate Chinese tea. Similarly, people often say Cadillac of German beer. In the latter example, language learners may be puzzled because Pandora's Box here is an allusion. In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman sent to the earth by the God as a form of punishment. Jupiter gave her a box which she was to give to the man who married her. When the box was finally opened, all the evils that were in it flew out, and since then have caused trouble to mankind. So Pandora's Box usually means a present or thing which may seem valuable, but brings trouble and misfortune. As analyzed above, every allusion may have its origin and accepted meaning; usually the meaning of English words used in allusion can not be taken literally. For
4
example, the old man of the sea does not mean the old man who lives on the sea but a boring heavy burden or a nuisance. So in a word, in allusion, the contextual meaning of words refers to the enlightenments form the allusion. It seems clear that during comprehension, both figurative and literal information are available, but figurative language has the effect of making the abstract more concrete. Figurative language also provides the emotional and attitudes about the speaker. Although occasionally words used in figures of speech bring out misunderstanding to them, one can make close acquaintance with them and make good use of them through above analysis. Consequently, the analysis on contextual meaning of English words caused by figures of speech helps us not only understand what we read and hear, but also appreciate more fully the art of the English language.

  2.2 Contextual Meaning in Culture As it is known to all, the culture refers to the total pattern of beliefs, customs, institutions, and techniques that characterize the life of a human community. So language cannot be separated from culture. Language reflects the culture of a nation on the one hand and is greatly influenced by that particular culture of a nation on the other hand. As a result, words, as the basic component of a language, are influenced and shaped by culture. It is just as a linguist Lado has said "the meanings of words are usually culturally determined or modified. They represent an analysis of the universe as grasped in a culture."(Ogden, 1923:
  68) It is interesting that different language might use different color terms to describe the same object or phenomenon. In fact, black tea is not black, but red in color. English words are often interpreted literally and misunderstood by English language learners for lacking of culture information. The title First Lady for the wife of the U.S president may cause misunderstanding when some people have an assumption that "there is a first lady, there must be a second lady, and may even a third, or even more, polygamy in the White House!" To get rid of analogous misunderstanding, it is necessary to take culture information into account to understand the meaning of English culture words accurately.Comparatively speaking, idioms and culture of different nations are more difficult to English language learners.
  2.
  2.1 Idioms Nida once pointed out culture has a great effect on the meaning of idioms;
5
consequently, it is difficult to comprehend words with regardless of culture context. Idioms in broad sense may include set phrases, proverbs, sayings, epigrams, slang expressions, colloquialisms, and quotations and so on. (Guo&Li, 2003:
  91)Idiom is an important part of the language and culture of society, they are often hard to understand, but people may get some enlightenment from the following story. There is a story: A foreign student in the U.S sitting by a window, reading a book, she heard someone yelling "Look out!" so she stuck her head out the window, just then a board hurtled down from above, narrowly missing her, she looked up, half in anger, half in fright. There was a man on the roof doing repairs. "Didn't you hear me call 'look out'?" he demanded. "Yes, and that's what I did" she replied. Whether it is true or not, the story illustrates the problem with idioms. They are almost impossible to understand from the meaning of the individual words, idioms can be taken as the combination of English words which take culture as background; it can be known that the meaning of an idiom must be seen as a whole. A simple definition of idiom would be the use of common word in a special sense. To spill the beans, for instance, is not at all connected with beans; it means to tell something that is secret. As for th
 

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