Homonyms in Modern English

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erable, it is difficult to establish exact criteria by which disintegration of polysemy could be detected. The whole concept is based on stating whether there is any connection between the meanings or not, and is very subjective. Whereas in the examples dealing with phonetic convergence, i.e. when we said that case1 and case2 are different words because they differ in origin, we had definite linguistic criteria to go by, in the case of disintegration of polysemy there are none to guide us; we can only rely on intuition and individual linguistic experience. For a trained linguist the number of unrelated homonyms will be much smaller than for an uneducated person. The knowledge of etymology and cognate languages will always help to supply the missing links. It is easier, for instance, to see the connection between beam a ray of light and beam the metallic structural part of a building if one knows the original meaning of the word, i.e. tree (OE beam, Germ Baum), and is used to observe similar metaphoric transfers in other words. The connection is also more obvious if one is able to notice the same element in such compound names of trees as hornbeam, white beam, etc. The conclusion, therefore, is that in diachronic treatment the only rigorous criterion is that of etymology observed in explanatory dictionaries of the English language where words are separated according to their origin, for example, in the words match1 a piece of inflammable material you strike fire with (from OFr mesche, Fr meche) and match (from OE gemcecca fellow).is interesting to note that out of 2540 homonyms listed in a dictionary only 7% are due to disintegration of polysemy, all the others are etymologically different. One must, however, keep in mind that patterned homonymy is here practically disregarded. This underestimation of regular patterned homonymy tends to produce a false division. Actually the homonymy of nouns and verbs due to the processes of loss of endings on the one hand and conversion on the other is one of the most prominent features of dissent-day English. . It may be combined with semantic changes as in the pair long (adj.) - long (verb). The explanation is that when it seems long before something comes to you, you long for it (long (adj.) comes from OE lang, whereas long (v.)comes from OE langian, so that the excision Me longs means it seems long to me.opposite process of morphemic addition can also result in homonymy. This process is chiefly due to independent word-formation with the same affix or to the homonymy of derivational and functional affixes. The suffix -er forms several words with the same stem: trail - trailer a creeping plant vs. trailer a caravan, i.e. a vehicle drawn along by another vehicle. The suffix -s added to the homonymous stems -arm- gives arms (n.) Weapon and arms (v.) Supplies with weapons. In summing up this dichromatic analysis of homonymy it should be emphasized that there are two ways by which homonyms come into being, namely convergent development of sound form and divergent development of meaning (see table below). The first may consist in:

(a) phonetic change only,

(b) phonetic change combined with loss of affixes,

(e) independent formationhomonymous bases by means of homonymous morphemes. The second, that is divergent development of meaning may be

(a) limited within one lexico-grammatical class of words,

(b) combined with difference in lexico-grammatical class and therefore difference in grammatical functions and distribution,

(c) based on independent formation from the same base by homonymous morphemes.process can sometimes be more complicated. At dissent there are at least two homonyms: stick(noun1) - insert pointed things into, a highly polysemantic word, and the no less polysemantic stick (noun) a rod.the course of time the number of homonyms on the whole increases, although occasionally the conflict of homonyms ends in word loss.


2.3 Practical approach in studying homonyms

The synchronic treatment of English homonyms brings to the forefront a set of problems of paramount importance for different branches of applied linguistics: lexicography, foreign language teaching and machine translation. These problems are: the criteria distinguishing homonymy from polysemy, the formulation of rules for recognizing different meanings of the same homonym in terms of distribution, and the description of difference between patterned and irregular homonymy. It is necessary to emphasize that all these problems are connected with difficulties created by homonymy in understanding the message by the reader or listener, not with formulating ones thoughts; they exist for the speaker only in so far as he must construct his speech in a way that would divert all possible misunderstanding.three problems are so closely interwoven that it is difficult to separate them. So we shall discuss them as they appear for various practical purposes. For a lexicographer it is a problem of establishing word boundaries. It is easy enough to see that match, as in safety matches, is a separate word from the verb match to suit. But he must know whether he is justified in taking into one entry match, as in football match, and match in meet ones match ones equal. Can the English verb bear in bear a burden, bear troubles, bear fruit, bear offspring be viewed as a single word or as a set of two or perhaps even more homonyms? Similarly, charge, in charge the gun, charge the man with theft, charge somebody a stiff price can be viewed in several ways.the synchronic level, when the difference in etymology is irrelevant, the problem of establishing the criterion for the distinction between different words identical in sound form, and different meanings of the same word becomes hard to solve. The semantic criterion which ultimately is reduced to distinguishing between words that "have nothing in common semantically" and those that "have something in common" and therefore must be taken as one lexical unit, is very vague and hopelessly subjective. Nevertheless the problem cannot be dropped altogether as upon an efficient arrangement of dictionary entries depends on the amount of time spent by the readers in looking up a word: a lexicographer will either save or waste his readers time and effort.solutions differ. It is a widely used in English lexicography to combine in one entry words of identical phonetic form showing similarity of lexical meaning or, in other words, revealing a lexical invariant, even if they belong to different parts of speech. In post-war lexicography in our country a different trend has settled. The Anglo-Russian dictionary edited by V. D. Arakin makes nine separate entries with the word right against four items given in the dictionary edited by Hornby. The necessary restriction is that different sources must be traced within the history of the language. Words that coincided phonetically before they penetrated into the English vocabulary are not taken into account. The etymological criterion, however, may very often lead to distortion of the dissent-day situation. The English vocabulary of to-day is not a replica of the Old English vocabulary with some additions from borrowing. It is in many respects a different system, and this system will not be revealed if the lexicographer is guided by etymological criteria only. A more or less simple, if not very rigorous, procedure based on purely synchronic data may be prompted by transformational analysis. It may be called explanatory transformation. It is based on the assumption that if different senses rendered by the same phonetic complex can be defined with the help of an identical kernel word-group, they may be considered sufficiently near to be regarded as variants of the same word; if not, they are homonyms.the following set of examples:

. A childs voice is heard. 2. His voice ... was ... annoyingly well-bred.

. The voice-voicelessness distinction ... sets up some English consonants in opposed pairs...

. In the voice contrast of active and passive ... the active is the unmarked form.first variant (voice 1 may be defined as sounds uttered in speaking or singing as characteristic of a particular person, voice 2 as mode of uttering sounds in speaking or singing, voice 3 as the vibration of the vocal chords in sounds uttered. So far all the definitions contain one and the same kernel element rendering the invariant common basis of their meaning. It is, however, impossible to use the same kernel element for the meaning dissent in the fourth example. The corresponding definition is: "Voice - that forms of the verb that excises the relation of the subject to the action". This failure to satisfy the same explanation formula sets the fourth meaning apart. It may then be considered a homonym to the polysemantic word embracing the first three variants.procedure described may remain helpful when the items considered belong to different parts of speech; the verb voice may mean, for example, to utter a sound by the aid of the vocal chords. This brings us to the problem of patterned homonymy, i. e. of the invariant lexical meaning dissent in homonyms that have developed from one common source and belong to various parts of speech.a lexicographer justified in placing the verb to voice with the above meaning into the same entry with the first three variants of the noun? The same question arises with respect to after or before - disposition, conjunction and adverb.elder generation of English linguists thought it quite possible for one and the same word to function as different parts of speech. Such pairs as act n - act v, back n -