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Образование Differentiation of polysemy and homonymy
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Converging sound development

Diverging meaning development

Sources of homonymy

Classification of homonyms by the sound-form, graphic form and meaning

According to the three aspects of homonyms – sound-form, graphic form and meaning homonyms may be subdivided into homophones, homographs and homonyms proper or perfect homonyms.

Homophones are words identical in their sound-form, but different both in their spelling and meaning. E.g. air :: heir; knight :: night; or :: ore :: oar.

Homographs are words identical in their spelling, but different both in their sound-form and meaning. E.g. lead1 [lÖd] :: lead2 [led]; row1[rou] :: row2[rau]; tear1 [tI@] ::tear2 [tE@].

Homonyms proper or perfect homonyms are words identical both in their sound-form and spelling, but different in their meaning. E.g. case1 ‘something happened’ :: case ‘a box’.

The two main sources of homonymy are: (1) divergent meaning development of a polysemantic word and (2) convergent sound development of two or more different words.

The process of divergent meaning development can be observed when different meanings of the same word move so far away that they come to be regarded as two separate units. This happened, for example, in the case of MnE flower and flourwhich originally were one word < MdE < Ofr flour, flor meaning ‘the flower’ and ‘the finest part of wheat’ < L. flōs, flōris‘the flower’. In this case we observe disintegration or split of polysemy. The difference in spelling underlines the fact that from the synchronic point of view they are two distinct words though historically they have a common origin.

The majority of homonyms arise as a result of convergent sound development which leads to the coincidence of two or more words which were phonetically distinct at an earlier stage. E.g. OE ic and eaZe have become identical in pronunciation in MnE I and eye; OE sēōn and sæ$> MnE see and sea; OEsonne and sunu > sunand son.

A number of lexico-grammatical homonyms appeared as a result of convergent sound development of the verb and the noun; cf. MnE love :: (to) love > OE lufuandlufian.

Words borrowed from foreign languages may also become homonyms through phonetic convergence; e.g. ON ras and Fr race are homonyms in MnE > race1‘running’ :: race2 ‘an ethnic stock’.

One of the most debatable problems in semasiology is the demarcation line between homonymy and polysemy, that is between different meanings of one word and the meanings of two homonymous words.

If homonymy is viewed diachronically then all cases of sound convergence of two or more words may be regarded as cases of homonymy as these homonyms can be traced back to two etymologically different words; cf. sea :: see.

The cases of semantic divergence are more doubtful, because the transition from polysemy to homonymy is a gradual process and it is difficult to point out the precise stage at which the divergent semantic development in the semantic structure of one word results in the appearance of two separate words.

The criteria used in the synchronic differentiation between homonymy and polysemy are: (1) the semantic criterion of related or unrelated meanings, (2) the criterion of spelling and (3) the criterion of distribution.


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  • - Differentiation of polysemy and homonymy

    Converging sound development Diverging meaning development Sources of homonymy Classification of homonyms by the sound-form, graphic form and meaning According to the three aspects of homonyms – sound-form, graphic form and meaning homonyms may be subdivided into homophones, homographs and homonyms proper or perfect homonyms. Homophones are words identical in their sound-form, but different both in their spelling and meaning. E.g. air ::... [читать подробенее]


  • - Differentiation of polysemy and homonymy

    Converging sound development Diverging meaning development Sources of homonymy Classification of homonyms by the sound-form, graphic form and meaning According to the three aspects of homonyms – sound-form, graphic form and meaning homonyms may be subdivided into homophones, homographs and homonyms proper or perfect homonyms. Homophones are words identical in their sound-form, but different both in their spelling and meaning. E.g. air ::... [читать подробенее]