(1) The inner form of a word is usually defined as the idea of the fundamental feature underlying the concept that has been retained in the word. The inner form of a word would be more precisely defined as the semantic or structural correlation of the lexical or grammatical morpheme of a word with other morphemes of the particular language that may occur in the mind of a speaker when analyzing the structure of that word. This correlation may be caused objectively by the retention of the original etymon in the word structure (Russian snegir’ [bullfinch] and sneg [snow]), but it may also be the result of so-called folk or false etymology (Russian blizorukii [nearsighted]; from the form blizo-[near] -zorkii [sighted], influenced by ruka [hand]). The inner form is understood differently in semantics and stylistics, in which the term is associated with the notion of the inner figurativeness of the word (word combination)—that is, of the connotations that arise when it is used in context because of the different denotative and systemic correlations of the word (word combination) as a whole and in its separate parts. The Russian-Ukrainian scholar A. A. Potebnia and his students understood inner form in terms of the literary work as a whole, as well as in terms of the individual word.
(2) Inner form of language. The German scholar W. von Humboldt distinguished in language the outer form (“the expression that language creates for thinking”) and the inner form—that is, the system of concepts that reflects the particular features of the Weltanschauung of the speakers of a given language and which is reinforced by the outer form of language. Taken together, the inner and outer forms constitute the form of language, which Humboldt contrasted with content. As understood by the German scholar H. Steinthal, inner form is a means of expressing the psychic content of language; it is opposed to phonic material (the “outer phonetic form”) and to psychic content. Thus, Steinthal’s inner form corresponds more readily to the Humboldtian form and not to the inner form. On the other hand, the German scholar W. Wundt returns to Humboldt’s conception, differentiating the “outer linguistic form” as the structure of language and inner form as the complex of latent psychic processes that are manifested by the outer linguistic form.
In modern science the problem of inner form is primarily examined from various neo-Humboldtian points of view (L. Weisgerber, E. Sapir, and B. Whorf). Marxist scholars lean toward a sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic interpretation of the concept of inner form.
REFERENCESHumboldt, W. von. O razlichii organizmov chelovecheskogo iazyka …. Translated by P. Biliarskii. St. Petersburg, 1859.
Shpet, G. G. Vnutrenniaia forma. Moscow, 1927.
Potebnia, A. A. Mysl’ i iazyk, 5th ed. Kharkov, 1926.
Zvegintsev, V. A. Semasiologiia. Moscow, 1957. Chapter 7.
Budagov, R. A. Vvedenie v nauku o iazyke. Moscow, 1958.