Historical Development of Word Meaning – Semantic Change

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broad street, but its meaning grew broader than the street, to include a particular city, a business office, an area dedicated to a specific purpose before broadening even wider to mean area. In the process, the word place displaced (!) the Old English word stow and became used instead of the Old English word stede (which survives instead, steadfast, steady and - of course - instead).is a natural process, especially in situations of language on a shoestring, where the speaker has a limited vocabulary at her disposal, either because she is young and just acquiring language or because she is not fluent in a second language. A first-year Spanish student on her first vacation in Spain might find herself using the word coche, car, for cars, trucks, jeeps, buses, and so on. When my son Alexander was two, he used the word oinju (from orange juice) to refer to any type of juice, including grape juice and apple juice; wawa (from water) referred to water and hoses, among other things.examples of general English words that have undergone generalization include:Old Meaningmens wide breeches extending from waist to anklebroad streetopposite of generalization, specialization is the narrowing of a word to refer to what previously would have been but one example of what it referred to. For instance, the word meat originally referred to any type of food, but came to mean the flesh of animals as opposed to the flesh of fish. The original sense of meat survives in terms like mincemeat, chopped apples and spices used as a pie filling; sweetmeat, candy; and nutmeat, the edible portion of a nut. When developing your model language, it is meet to leave compounds untouched, even if one of their morphemes has undergone specialization (or any other meaning change).an example from another language, the Japanese word koto originally referred to any type of stringed instrument but came to be used to refer only a specific instrument with 13 strings, which was played horizontally and was popular in the Edo Period.examples of specialization, from the development of English, include:Old Meaningemotionanimalcountrysidea young personto dietaxonomy of semantic changeother semantic change can be discussed in either terms of generalization or specialization. The following diagram shows different subtypes of meaning change., or extensionextensionor narrowingspecializationreversalshift in meaning results from the subsequent action of generalization and specialization over time: a word that has extended into a new area then undergoes narrowing to exclude its original meaning. In the unlikely event that all the senses of place except for a business office faded away, then place would be said to have undergone a shift.is a figure of speech where one word is substituted for a related word; the relationship might be that of cause and effect, container and contained, part and whole. For instance, Shakespeares comment Is it not strange that sheeps guts should hale souls out of mens bodies? (from Much Ado About Nothing) uses sheeps guts to refer to the music produced by harpstrings. Had guts come to mean music, then the meaning would have shifted due to metonymy.

The Greek word dma originally meant roof. In the same way English speakers will metonymically use roof to mean house (as in Now we have a roof over our heads), the Greeks frequently used dma to refer to house, so that that is now the standard meaning of the word. A Russian word will provide a similar example: vinograd, vineyard, was so frequently used to refer to grapes, as in Lets have a taste of the vineyard that it has come to mean grapes.extensionMurray Hopper, the late Admiral and computer pioneer, told a story of an early computer that kept calculating incorrectly. When technicians opened up its case to examine the wiring, which physically represented the machines logic, a huge dead moth was found, shorting out one of the circuits and causing the faulty logic. That moth was the first of its kind to achieve immortality. Because of it, software is now frequently plagued with bugs.use of bug to refer to an error in computer logic was a metaphorical extension that became so popular that it is now part of the regular meaning of bug. The computer industry has a host of words whose meaning has been extended through such metaphors, including mouse for that now ubiquitous computer input device (so named because the cord connecting it to the computer made it resemble that cutest of rodents).extension is the extension of meaning in a new direction through popular adoption of an originally metaphorical meaning. The crane at a construction site was given its name by comparison to the long-necked bird of the same name. When the meaning of the word daughter was first extended from that of ones female child to a female descendant (as in daughter of Eve), the listener might not have even noticed that the meaning had been extended.extension is almost a natural process undergone by every word. We dont even think of it as meaning change. In its less obvious instances, we dont even see it as extending the meaning of a word. For example, the word illuminate originally meant to light up, but has broadened to mean to clarify, to edify. These meanings seem so natural as to be integral parts of the words, where senses such as to celebrate and to adorn a page with designs seem like more obvious additions.few specific metaphors are common to many different languages, and words can be shown to have undergone similar, if independent, developments. Thus the Welsh word haul and the Gaelic word sil, both meaning sun, have both come to mean eye. Nor is this metaphor a stranger to English, where the daisy was in Old English originally a compound meaning days eye, from its yellow similarity to the sun.often, languages will differ in the precise correspondences between words, so that some languages have broad words with many meanings, which must be translated into multiple words in another language. A word like paternoster, discussed earlier, with senses ranging from the Lords Prayer to a magic spell to a large bead to a weighted fishing line will have to be translated into four different words in another language (though I challenge you to find an English-to-language-of-your - choice dictionary that indicates the four meanings of paternoster).Old Meaningto light upis metaphorical extension on a grander scale, with new meanings radiating from a central semantic core to embrace many related ideas. The word head originally referred to that part of the human body above the rest. Since the top of a nail, pin or screw is, like the human head, the top of a slim outline, that sense has become included in the meaning of head. Since the bulb of a cabbage or lettuce is round like the human head, that sense has become included in the meaning of head. Know where Im headed with this? The meaning of the word head has radiated out to include the head of a coin (the side picturing the human head), the head of the list (the top item in the list), the head of a table, the head of the family, a head of cattle, $50 a head. But Ill stop while Im ahead.words that have similarly radiated meanings outward from a central core include the words heart, root and sun.only specific subtype of specialization that I have identified is contextual specialization.specializationword undertaker originally meant one who undertakes a task, especially one who is an entrepreneur. This illustrates contextual specialization, where the meaning of a word is reshaped under pressure from another word that had frequently co-occured with it: thus undertaker acquired its meaning from constant use of the phrase funeral undertaker; eventually, under the pressure towards euphemism, the word funeral was dropped.example of contextual specialization is doctor, which originally meant a teacher and then later an expert, where it came to be used in the phrase medical doctor; now of course this is redundant and medical is omitted, with the primary sense of doctor having become more specialized.Old Meaningentrepreneurteacherheard an American student at Cambridge University telling some English friends how he climbed over a locked gate to get into his college and tore his pants, and one of them asked, But, how could you tear your pants and not your trousers?Moss, British/American Language Dictionaryoccur when the sense of a word expands and contracts, with the final focus of the meaning different from the original. For some reason, words describing clothing tend to shift meanings more frequently than other words, perhaps because fashion trends come and go, leaving words to seem as old fashioned as the clothing they describe. Who today wants to wear bloomers, knickers or pantaloons?word pants has an interesting history. Its ultimate etymon is Old Italian Pantalone. In the 1600s, Italy developed commedia dellarte, a style of comedy based on improvisation using stock characters. Pantalone was a stock character who was portrayed as a foolish old man wearing slippers and tight trousers. Through regular metyonmy, speakers of Old French borrowed his name to describe his Italian trousers. Their word was then borrowed into English as pantaloo