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Образование IV. Polysemy. Lexical Meaning in Diachronic and Synchronic Aspects
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The bulk of English words are polysemantic, they possess more than one meaning. Monosemantic words, i.e. words having only one meaning are comparatively few in number, are mainly scientific terms, such -as hydrogen, moleculeand the like. In Russian linguistic tradition it is common to call separate meanings of a polysemantic word lexico-semantic variants (LSV).

Polysemy in diachronic terms implies that a word may retain its previous meaning or meanings and at the same time acquire one or several new ones. In the course of a diachronic semantic analysis of the polysemantic word tablewe find that of all the meanings it has in Modern English, the primary meaning is ‘a flat slab of stone or wood’, which is proper to the word in the OE period (OE. tabule from L. tabula);all other meanings are secondary as they are derived from the primary meaning of the word and appeared later than the primary meaning. The terms secondary and derived meaning are sometimes used as synonymous, but not always.

Synchronicallywe understand polysemy as the coexistence and interrelation of various meanings of the same word at a certain historical period of the development of the English language.

The relationship between the diachronic and synchronic evaluation of individual meanings may be different in different periods of the historical development of language because the structure of lexical meaning is constantly changing.

E.g.: monitor 1546, "senior pupil at a school charged with keeping order, etc.," from monitor "one who reminds, admonishes, or checks

The principal opposition in the semantic structure of a word as viewed synchronically is that of the central meaning and peripheral meanings. But synchronically there is no totally objective criterion to single out the central meaning, and we may find it difficult in some cases. Sometimes two or more meanings of the word may be felt as equally “central” in its semantic structure. E.g., the verb to get, which of the two meanings ‘to obtain’ (get a letter, knowledge, some sleep) or ‘to arrive’ (get to London, to get into bed).

The minimal stretch of speech which determines each individual meaning of a polysemantic word is the context. The context always eliminates polysemy. It may be verbal context (словесный) or situational context.

Almost all linguists recognize the fact that it can be further divided into smaller meaningful components. These get different names in works by different scientists but the most widely used term is seme. There exist different classifications of semes. According to V.G. Gak, lexical meaning comprises generic semes (архисемы, или семы родового значения), differential semes (дифференцирующие, или семы видового значения) and potential semes (потенциальные семы) that reflect potential, non-essential characteristics of the denotatum.