polysemy

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POLYSEMY
Lecture 5
POLYSEMY
1.
2.
3.
4.
POLYSEMY
DIACHRONIC APPROACH TO POLYSEMY
SYNCHRONIC APPROACH TO POLYSEMY
HISTORICAL CHANGEABILITY OF SEMANTIC
STRUCTURE
5. POLYSEMY AND CONTEXT. TYPES OF
CONTEXT.
1. POLYSEMY
 Polysemy – is the ability of a word to
possess several meanings or lexicosemantic variants (LSV), e.g. bright
means “shining” and “intelligent”.
 Monosemantic word - a word having
only one meaning;
 Polysemantic word - a word having
several meanings is called
The meanings of the word table in Modern English.
стол
table
1. a piece of furniture
1. предмет обстановки (сидеть за
столом)
2. the persons seated at a table
2. Ср. арх. застолица
3. the food put on a table, meals;
cooking
3. пища (подаваемая на стол), еда
4. a flat slab of stone or board
4. Ср. плита
5. slabs of stone (with words written
on them or cut into them)
5. Ср. скрижали
6. Bibl. Words cut into slabs of stone
(the ten tables).
6. Ср. заповеди
7. an orderly arrangement of facts,
figures, etc.
7. Ср. таблица
8. part of a machine-tool
8. Ср. планшайба
9. a level area, plateau ['pl1tq4]
9. Ср. плато
10. Адресный стол
11. Стол заказов
Prof. V.V. Vinogradov
 Meanings are fixed and common to all
people, who know the language system.
 The usage is only possible application of
one of the meanings of a polysemantic
word, sometimes very individual, more or
less familiar.
Meaning is not identical with usage.
Prof. A.I. Smirnitsky
 All the meanings of the word form identity
supported by the form of the word.
 A lexico-semantic variant (LSV) - a twofacet unit.
 Words with one meaning are represented
in the language system by one LSV,
polysemantic words – by a number of
LSV.
 They are united together by a certain
meaning – the semantic centre of the
word.
2. DIACHRONIC APPROACH
TO POLYSEMY

Polysemy in diachronic term implies
that a word may retain its previous
meaning or meanings and at the same
time acquire one or several new ones.
 According to the approach there are
two types of meaning can be singled
out:
1. the primary meaning;
2. the secondary meaning (derived)
3. SYNCHRONIC APPROACH
TO POLYSEMY

Synchronically polysemy is understood
as the coexistence of various meanings of
the same word at a certain historical
period of the development of the English
language.
 According to the approach there are two
types of meaning can be singled out:
1. the central (basic) meaning – the most
frequent;
2. marginal (minor) meanings – all other
meanings.
4. HISTORICAL CHANGEABILITY OF
SEMANTIC STRUCTURE
 The semantic structure is never static,
the relationship between the diachronic
and synchronic evaluation of individual
meanings may be different in different
periods of the historical development of
language.
 The primary meaning of the word may
become synchronically one of its
marginal meanings and diachronically a
secondary meaning may become the
central meaning of the word.
‘significant
appearance,
token’
‘information
tending to
establish fact’
Middle English
diachronically
synchronically
primary
central
secondary
marginal
Modern English
diachronically
synchronically
primary
marginal
secondary
central
Evidence
5. POLYSEMY AND CONTEXT
 Context is the minimum stretch of
speech determining each individual
meaning of the word.
 Context can be linguistic (verbal) or
extra-linguistic (non-verbal). Linguistic
context can be subdivided into lexical
and grammatical.
TYPES OF CONTEXT
Linguistic contexts:

In the lexical context of primary importance
are the groups of lexical items combined with
the polysemantic word under consideration,
e.g.
heave table (of great weigh);
heavy rain (abundant, falling with force);
heavy industry (the larger kind of smth).

In the grammatical context it is the
grammatical (syntactic) structure of the
context that serves to determine various
individual meanings of a polysemantic word.
 The meaning of the verb to make – ‘to force,
to induce’ is found only in the grammatical
context possessing the syntactic structure
‘to make+pronoun+verb (to make sb laugh,
work, dance).
Another meaning of this verb – ‘to become’ is
observed in the context of a different
syntactic structure –
to make+adj+noun (to make a good wife,
good teacher).
Extra-linguistic context
 When the meaning of a word is ultimately
determined by the actual speech situation in
which the word is used, i.e. by the extralinguistic context (or context of situation),
e.g. John was looking for the glasses, the meaning of word glasses has two readings
‘spectacles’ or to ‘drinking vessels’ .
It is possible to state the meaning of the word
glasses only through the extended context or
situation
References:
1. Зыкова И.В. Практический курс английской
лексикологии. М.: Академия, 2006. – С.2932.
2. Бабич Н.Г. Лексикология английского
языка. Екатеринбург – Москва, 2006. – С.
62-63.
3. Гинзбург Р.З. Лексикология английского
языка. М.: Высшая школа, 1979. – С. 33-38.
4. Антрушина Г.Б., Афанасьева О.В.,
Морозова Н.Н. Лексикология английского
языка. М.: Дрофа, 2006. – С. – 131-136.
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