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Homonymy. Classification of homonyms




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Diachronic approach to polysemy.

If polysemy is viewed diachronically, it is understood as the growth and development of or, in general, as a change in the semantic structure of the word.

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 Old English period (OE. tabulefrom 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 to a certain extent synonymous. When we describe the meaning of the word as “secondary” we imply that it could not have appeared before the primary meaning was in existence. When we refer to the meaning as “derived” we imply not only that, but also that it is dependent on the primary meaning and somehow subordinate to it. In the case of the word table,e.g., we may say that the meaning ‘the food put on the table’ is a secondary meaning as it is derived from the meaning ‘a piece of furniture (on which meals are laid out)’.

It follows that the main source of polysemy is a change in the semantic structure of the word.

Polysemy may also arise from homonymy. When two words become identical in sound-form, the meanings of the two words are felt as making up one semantic structure. Thus, the human earand the earof corn are from the diachronic point of view two homonyms. One is etymologically related to L. auris, the other to L. acus, aceris. Synchronically, however, they are perceived as two meanings of one and the same word. The earof cornis felt to be a metaphor of the usual type (cf. the eye of the needle, the foot of the mountain) and consequently as one of the derived or, synchronically, minor meanings of the polysemantic word ear.1

Homonyms – words identical in their spelling or/and sound form but different in their meaning. When analyzing homonymy, we see that some words are homonyms in all their forms, i.e. we observe full homonymy of the paradigms of two or more different words, e.g., in seal1 — ‘a sea animal’ and seal2 — ‘a design printed on paper by means of a stamp’. The paradigm “seal, seal’s, seals, seals’ ” is identical for both of them and gives no indication of whether it is seal1 or seal2, that we are analysing. In other cases, e.g. seal1 — ‘a sea animal’ and (to) seal, — ‘to close tightly’, we see that although some individual word - forms are homonymous, the whole of the paradigm is not identical.



It is easily observed that only some of the word-forms (e.g. seal, seals, etc.) are homonymous, whereas others (e.g. sealed, sealing) are not. In such cases we cannot speak of homonymous words but only of homonymy of individual word-forms or of partial homonymy. This is true of a number of other cases, e.g. compare find[faind], found [faund], found[faund], and found[faund], founded['faundid], founded['faundid]; know[nou], knows[nouz], knew[nju:], and no[nou]; nose[nouz], noses ['nouzis]; new[nju:] in which partial homonymy is observed.

Walter Skeat classified homonyms into: 1) perfect homonyms (they have different meaning, but the same sound form & spelling: school - school); 2) homographs (Homographs are words identical in spelling, but different both in their sound-form and meaning, e.g. tearn [tia] — ‘a drop of water that comes from the eye’ and tearv [tea] — ‘to pull apart by force’.3) homophones are words identical in sound-form but different both in spelling and in meaning, e.g. sean and seev; son n and sunn.

Smirnitsky classified perfect homonyms into: 1) full homonyms (identical in spelling, sound form, grammatical meaning but different in lexical meaning: spring); 2) homoforms (the same sound form & spelling but different lexical and grammatical meaning: “reading” – gerund, particle 1, verbal noun).

Arnold classified perfect homonyms by 4 criteria (lexical meaning, grammatical meaning, basic forms, paradigms) into 4 groups: 1) different only in lexical meaning (board - board); 2) different in lexical meaning & paradigms (to lie/lied/lied – lie/lay/lain); 3) identical only in basic forms (light /adj./- light /noun/); 4) identical only in one of their paradigms (a bit – bit /to bite/).

 





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