Homonyms in Modern English

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or instance, out of thirteen words making up the set see, behold, descry, espy, view, survey, contemplate, observe, notice, remark, note, discern, perceive only see and behold can be traced back to Old English (OE. seen and beheading), all others are either French or Latin borrowings. [6], a characteristic pattern of English synonymic sets is the pattern including the native and the borrowed words. Among the best investigated are the so called double-scale patterns: native versus Latin (e.g. bodily-corporal, brotherly- fraternal); native versus Greek or French (e.g. answer- reply, fiddle-violin). In most cases the synonyms differ in their stylistic reference, too. The native word is usually colloquial (e.g. bodily, brotherly), whereas the borrowed word may as a rule be described as bookish or highly literary (e.g. corporal, fraternal).by side with this pattern there exists in English a subsidiary one based on a triple-scale of synonyms: native- French and Latin or Greek [e.g. begin (start)-commence (Fr.)-initiate (/.); rise-mount (Fr.)-ascend (/,)]. In most of these sets the native synonym is felt as more colloquial, the Latin or Greek one is characterized by bookish stylistic reference, whereas the French stands between the two extremes. There are some minor points of interest that should be discussed in connection with the problem of synonymy. It has often been found that subjects prominent in the interests of a community tend to attract a large number of synonyms. It is common knowledge that in Beowulf there are 37 synonyms for hero or prince and at least a dozen for battle and fight. In Modern American English there are at least twenty words used to denote money: beans, bucks, the chips, do-re-mi, the needful, wherewithal, etc. This linguistic phenomenon is usually described as the law of synonymic attraction , it has also been observed that when a particular word is given a transferred meaning its synonyms tend to develop along parallel lines. We know that in early New English the verb overlook was employed in the meaning of look with an evil eye upon, cast a spell over from which there developed the meaning deceive first recorded in 1596. Exactly half a century later we find oversee a synonym of overlook employed in the meaning of deceive. This form of analogy active in the semantic development of synonyms is referred to as "radiation of synonyms".


Chapter 2. The interrelations between homonymy and polysemantic words


.1 Comparative typological analysis of linguistic phenomena in English and Russian

As it was mentioned before, two or more words identical in sound and spelling but different in meaning, distribution and (in many cases) origin are called homonyms. The term is derived from Greek (homos similar and onoma name) and thus excises very well the sameness of name combined with the difference in meaning.The most widely accepted classification is that recognizing homonyms proper, homophones and homographs. Homonyms proper are words identical in pronunciation and spelling, like/as if and liver above or like scale one of the thin plates that form the outer covering of most fishes and reptiles and scale, a basis for a system of measuring. Homophones are words of the same sound but of different spelling and meaning: air :: heir; arms :: alms; buy :: bye : by; him :: hymn; knight :: night; not :: knot; or :: ore :: oar; piece ; peace; rain :: reign; scent :: cent :: sent; steel :: steal; storey ;: story write :: right :: rite and many others.example, in the sentence The millwright on my right thinks it right that some conventional rite should symbolize the right of every man to write as he pleases. the sound complex [rait] is noun, adjective, adverb and verb, has four different spellings and six different meanings. [7]difference may be confined to the use of a capital letter as in bill and Bill, in the following example: "How much is my milk bill?" "Excuse me, Madam, but my name is John." Homographs are words different in sound and in meaning but accidentally identical in spelling: bow [bou] :: bow Ibau]; lead [li:d] :: lead [led]; row [rouj :: row [rau]; sewer Isoua] :: sewer [sjual; tear [tea] :: tear [tia]; wind [wind] :: wind [wand] and many more.has been often argued that homographs constitute a phenomenon that should be kept apart from homonymy as the object of linguistics is sound language. This viewpoint cans hardly be accepted. Because of the effects of education and culture written English is a generalized national form of division. An average speaker does not separate the written and oral form. On the contrary he is more likely to analyze the words in Terries of letters than in terms of phonemes with which he is less familiar. That is why a linguist must take into consideration both the spelling and the pronunciation of words when analyzing cases of identity of form and diversity of content.[8]types of classification for homonyms proper have been suggested. The one most often used in dissent-day Annalistic in Russia it is that suggested by Prof. A. I. Smirnitsky. It has been criticized for failing to bring out the main characteristic features of homonyms.more comdivhensive system may be worked out on the same basis if we are guided by the theory of oppositions and in classifying the homonyms take into consideration the difference or sameness in their lexical and grammatical meaning, paradigm and basic form. The distinctive features shown in the table on lexical meaning (different denoted by A, or nearly same denoted by A) grammatical meaning (different denoted by B, or same denoted by B) paradigm (different denoted by C or same denoted by C), and basic form (different D and same D).term "nearly same lexical meaning" must not he taken too literally. It means only that the corresponding members of the opposition have some important invariant components in common. "Same grammatical meaning" implies that both members belong to the same part of speech.paradigm comprises also cases when there is only one word form, i.e. when the words are unchangeable. Inconsistent combinations of features are crossed out in the table. It is, for instance, impossible for two words to be identical in all word forms and different in basic forms, or for two homonyms to show no difference either in lexical or grammatical meaning, because in this case they are not homonyms. That leaves seven possible classes.


2.2 Modern methods of investigating homonyms

The intense development of homonymy in the English language is obviously due not to one single factor but to several interrelated causes, such as the monosyllabic character of English and its analytic structure. Inflections have almost disappeared in dissent-day English and have been superseded by separate words of abstract character (dispositions, auxiliaries, etc.) stating the relations that once excised by terminations. [9]abundance of homonyms is also closely connected with a characteristic feature of the English language as the phonetic unity of word and stem or, in other words, the dominance of forms among the most frequent roots. It is very obvious that the frequency of words stands in some inverse relationship to length, the monosyllabic words will be the most frequent moreover, as the most frequent words are also highly polysemantic. It is only natural that they develop meanings which in the course of time may deviate very far from the central one. When the inter-mediate links fall out, some of these new meanings lose all with the rest of the structure and start a separate existence. Phenomenon is known as disintegration or split of polysemy, Different causes by which homonymy may be brought about subdivided into two main groups:

) Homonymy through convergent sound development, when or three words of different origin accidentally coincide in sound;

) Homonymy developed from polysemy through divergent development. Both may be combined with loss of endings and 0tJier morphological processes.Old English the words gesund- healthy and sund- swimming were separate words both in form and in meaning. In the course of time they have changed their meaning and phonetic form, and for latter accidentally coincided: OE sund in ME sound strait. The group was joined also accidentally by the noun sound what is or may be heard with the corresponding verb that developed from French and ultimately the Latin word sonus, and the verb sound to measure the depth of dubious etymology. The coincidence is purely accidental. Unlike the homonyms case and sound all the homonyms of the box group due to disintegration or split of polysemy are etymologically connected. The sameness of form is not accidental but based on genetic relationship. They are all derived from one another and are all ultimately traced to the Latin buxus. The Concise Oxford Dictionary has five separate entries for box: 1.box n. - a kind of small evergreen shrub;

. box n. receptacle made of wood, cardboard, metal, etc. and usually provided with a lid;

. box v. to put into a box;

. box n. slap with the hand on the ear;

. boxt v. a sport term meaning to fight with fists in padded gloves. [10]homonyms may be partly derived from one another but their common point of origin lies beyond the limits of the English language. In these with the appearance of a new meaning, very different from the devious one, the semantic structure of the parent word splits. The new meaning receives a separate existence and starts a new semantic structure of its own. It must be noted, however, that though the number of examples in which a process of this sort could be observed is consid