Homonyms in Modern English

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back v, drive n - drive v, the above mentioned after and before and the like, were all treated as one word functioning as different parts of speech. Later on this point of view was severely criticized. It was argued that one and the same word could not belong to different parts of speech simultaneously because this would contradict the definition of the word as a system of forms. This viewpoint is not faultless either: if one follows it consistently one should regard as separate words all cases when words are countable nouns in one meaning and uncountable in another, when verbs can be used transitively and intransitively, etc. In this case hair all the hair that grows on a persons head will be one word, an uncountable noun; whereas a single thread of hair will be denoted by another word (hair2) which, being countable, and thus different in paradigm, cannot be considered the same word. It would be tedious to enumerate all the absurdities that will result from choosing this path. A dictionary arranged on these lines would require very much space in printing and could occasion much wasted time in use. The conclusion therefore is that efficiency in lexicographic work is secured by a rigorous application of etymological criteria combined with formalized procedures of establishing a lexical invariant suggested by synchronic linguistic methods.to those concerned with teaching of English as a foreign language, they are also keenly interested in patterned homonymy. The most frequently used words constitute the greatest amount of difficulty, as may be summed up by the following example: I think that this "that" is a conjunction but that that" man that used was a pronoun.correct understanding of this peculiarity of contemporary English should be instilled in the pupils from the very beginning, and they should be taught to find their way in sentences where several words have their homonyms in other parts of speech, as in Jespersens example: Will change of air cure-love? To show the scope of the problem for the elementary stage a list of homonyms that should be classified as patterned is given below: Above - divp., adv., adj.; act- n., v.; after - divp., adv., conj.; age - n., v.; back - n., adv., v.; ball - n., v.; bank. We may give the other examples: by, can, case, close, country, course, cross, direct, draw, drive, even, faint, flat, fly, for, game, general, hard, hide, hold, home, just, kind, last, leave, left, lie, light, like, little, lot, major, march, match, may, mean, might, mind, miss, part, plain, plane, plate, right, round, sharp, sound, spare, spell, spring, square, stage, stamp, try, type, volume, watch, well, will, etc.the most part all these words are cases of patterned lexico-grammatical homonymy taken from the minimum vocabulary of the elementary stage: the above homonyms mostly differ within each group grammatically but possess some lexical invariant. That is to say, act v follows the standard four-part system of forms with a base form act, an s-form (act-s), a Past Tense form (acted) and an -ing- form (acting) and takes up all syntactic functions of verbs, whereas act n can have two forms, act (singular.) and acts (plural). Semantically both contain the most generalized component rendering the notion of doing something.investigations have shown that it is quite possible to establish and to formalize the differences in environment, syntactical or lexical, serving to signal which of the several inherent values is to be ascribed to the variable in a given context.example of distributional analysis will help to make this point clear. The distribution of a lexico-semantic variant of a word may be redivsented as a list of structural patterns in which it occurs and the data on its combining power. Some of the most typical structural patterns for a verb are: N + V -f- N, N + V -f- Prep.; V- N, N-f-V-f-Adj., N + V + Adv., N + V + t o -f- V and some others. Patterns for nouns are far less studied, but for the dissent case one very typical example will suffice. This is the structure article for A + N. In the following extract from "A Taste of Honey" by Sheaththe morpheme laugh occurs three times:

. I cant stand people who laugh at other people.

. Theyd get a bigger laugh, if they laughed at themselves.attempting to give a more detailed analysis of these operations since they belong rather to grammar than to lexicology, we may sum up our discussion by pointing out that whereas distinction between polysemy and homonymy is relevant and important for lexicography it is not relevant for the practice of either human or machine translation. The reason for this is that different variants of a polysemantic word are not less conditioned by context than lexical homonyms. In both cases the identification of the necessary meaning is based on the corresponding .Distribution that can signal it and must be dissent in the memory either of the pupil or the machine. The distinction between patterned and non-patterned homonymy, greatly underrated until now, is of far greater importance. In non-patterned homonymy every unit is to be learned separately both from the lexical and grammatical points of view. In patterned homonymy when one knows the lexical meaning of a given word in one part of speech, one can accurately deduct the meaning when the same sound complex occurs in some other part of speech, provided, of course, that there is sufficient context to guide one.


2.4 Polysemy and Homonymy: Etymological and Semantic Criteria

Homonymy exists in many languages, but in English it is particularly frequent, especially among monosyllabic words. In the list of 2540 homonyms given in the Oxford English Dictionary 89% are monosyllabic words and only 9,1% are words of two syllables. From the viewpoint of their morphological structure, they are mostly one-morpheme words. Many words, especially those characterized by a high frequency rating, are not connected with meaning by a one-to-one relationship. On the contrary, one symbol as a rule serves to render several different meanings. The phenomenon may be said to be the reverse of synonymy where several symbols correspond to one meaning.borrowed from other languages may through phonetic convergence become homonymous. Old Norse has and French race are homonymous in Modern English (cf. race1 [reis]-running and race2 [reis] a distinct ethnical stock). There are four homonymic words in Modern English: sound -healthy was already in Old English homonymous with sound-a narrow passage of water, though etymologically they are unrelated. Then two more homonymous words appeared in the English language, one comes from Old French son (L. sonus) and denotes that which is or may be heard and the other from the French sunder the surgeons probe. One of the most debatable problems in semasiology is the demarcation line between homonymy and polysemy, i.e. between different meanings of one word and the meanings of two homonymous words. Synchronically the differentiation between homonymy and polysemy is wholly based on the semantic criterion. It is usually held that if a connection between the various meanings is apdivhended by the speaker, these are to be considered as making up the semantic structure of a polysemantic word, otherwise it is a case of homonymy, not polysemy.the semantic criterion implies that the difference between polysemy and homonymy is actually reduced to the differentiation between related and unrelated meanings. This traditional semantic criterion does not seem to be reliable, firstly, because various meanings of the same word and the meanings of two or more different words may be equally apdivhended by the speaker as synchronically unrelated/ For instance, the meaning a change in the form of a noun or pronoun which is usually listed in dictionaries as one of the meanings of case!-something that has happened, a question decided in a court of law seems to be just as unrelated to the meanings of this word as to the meaning of case 2 -a box, a container, etc.in the discussion of lexico-grammatical homonymy it was pointed out that some of the mean of homonyms arising from conversion (e.g. seal in-seal 3 v; paper n-paper v) are related, so this criterion cannot be applied to a large group of homonymous word-forms in Modern English. This criterion proves insufficient in the synchronic analysis of a number of other borderline cases, e.g. brother-brothers- sons of the same parent and brethren-fellow members of a religious society. The meanings may be apdivhended as related and then we can speak of polysemy pointing out that the difference in the morphological structure of the plural form reflects the difference of meaning. Otherwise we may regard this as a case of partial lexical homonymy. The same is true of such cases as hang-hung-hung-to support or be supported from above and hang-hanged-hanged-to put a person to death by hanging all of which are traditionally regarded as different meanings of one polysemantic word. It is sometimes argued that the difference between related and unrelated meanings may be observed in the manner in which the meanings of polysemantic words are as a rule relatable. It is observed that different meanings of one word have certain stable relationships which are not to be found between the meanings of two homonymous words. A clearly perceptible connection, e.g., can be seen in all metaphoric or metonymic meanings of one word (cf., e.g., foot of the man- foot of the mountain, loud voice-loud colors, etc., 1 cf. also deep well and deep knowledge, etc.).semantic relationships are commonly found in the meanings of one word and are considered to be indicative of polysemy. It is also suggested that the semantic connection may be descr