Semantic Changes

"Specialization" and "generalization" are thus identified on the evid-' ence of comparing logical notions expressed by the meaning of words.

Semantic Changes



Другие рефераты по предмету


Сдать работу со 100% гаранией
ompetition with the borrowed word sign it became restricted in use to a few cases of fixed context (a love token, a token of respect, a token vote, a token payment) and consequently restricted in meaning. In present-day English token means something small, unimportant or cheap which represents something big, important or valuable. Other examples of specialization are room, which alongside the new meaning keeps the old one of 'space'; corn originally meaning 'grain', 'the seed of any cereal plant': locally the word becomes specialized and is understood to denote the leading crop of the district; hence in England corn means 'wheat', in Scotland 'oats', whereas in the USA, as an ellipsis for Indian corn, it came to mean 'maize'.



As a special group belonging to the same type one can mention the formation of proper nouns from common nouns chiefly in toponymies, i.e. place names. For instance, the City, the business part of London; the Highlands the mountainous part of Scotland; Oxford University town in England from ox+ford, i.e. a place where oxen could ford the river; the Tower (of London) originally a fortress and palace, later a state prison, now a museum.

In the above examples the change of meaning occurred without change of sound form and without any intervention of morphological processes. In many cases, however, the two processes, semantic and morphological, go hand in hand. For instance, when considering the effect of the agent suffix -ist added to the noun stem art- we might expect the whole to mean any person occupied in art, a representative of any kind of art, but usage specializes the meaning of the word artist and restricts it to a synonym of painter.

The process reverse to specialisation is termed generalisation
and widening of meaning. In that case the scope of the new
notion is wider than that of the original one (hence widening), whereas
the content of the notion is poorer. In most cases generalisation is combined with a higher order of abstraction than in the notion expressed by
the earlier meaning. The transition from a concrete meaning to an abstract one is a most frequent feature in the semantic history of words. The
change may be explained as occasioned by situations in which not all
the features of the notions rendered are of equal importance for the

Thus, ready <OE ræde (a derivative of the verb rīdan 'to ride') meant 'prepared for a ride'. Fly originally meant 'to move through the air with wings'; now it denotes any kind of movement in the air or outer space and also very quick movement in any medium.

The process went very far in the word thing with its original meanings 'cause', 'object', 'decision', 'meeting', and 'the decision of the meeting', 'that which was decided upon'. (Cf. Norwegian storting 'parliament'.) At present, as a result of this process of generalisation, the word can substitute nearly any noun, and receives an almost pronominal force. In fact all the words belonging to the group of generic terms fall into this category of generalization. By generic terms we shall mean non-specific, non-distributive terms applicable to a great number ; of individual members of a big class of words. The grammatical meaning of this class of words becomes predominant in their semantic components. Notice the very general, character of the word business in the following: "Donald hasn't a very good manner of interviews.""All this good-manner business," Clun said, "they take far too much notice of it now in my opinion" (A. WILSON) ,

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the instances of generalization proper from generalization combined with a fa-ding of lexical meaning ousted by the grammatical or emotional meaning that take its place. These phenomena are closely connected with the peculiar characteristics of grammatical structure typical of each individual language. One observes them, for instance, studying the semantic history of the English auxiliary and semi-auxiliary verbs, especially have, do, shall, will, turn, go, and that of some English prepositions and adverbs which in the course of time have come to express grammatical relations. The weakening of lexical meaning due to the influence of emotional force is revealed in such words as awfully, terribly, terrific, smashing.





2. Metaphor.

"Specialization" and "generalization" are thus identified on the evid-' ence of comparing logical notions expressed by the meaning of words. If, on the other hand, the linguist is guided by psychological considerations and has to go by the type of association at work in the transfer of the name of one object to another and different one, he will observe that the most frequent transfers are based on associations of similarity or of contiguity. As these types of transfer are well known in rhetoric as ; figures of speech called metaphor (Gr meta 'change' and phero 'bear') and metonymy (Gr metonymia from meta and onoma 'name') and the same terms are adopted here. A metaphor is a transfer of name based on the association of similarity and thus is actually a hidden comparison. It presents a method of description which likens one thing to another by referring to it as if it were some other one. A cunning person, for instance, is referred to as a fox. A woman may be called a peach, a lemon, a cat, a goose, etc. In a metonymy, this referring to one thing as if it were some other one is based on association of contiguity. Sean O'Casey in his one-act play "The Hall of Healing" metonymically names his personages according to the things they are wearing: Red Muffler, Grey Shawl, etc. Metaphor and metonymy differ from the two first types of semantic change, i.e. generalization and specialization, inasmuch .as they do not originate as a result of gradual almost imperceptible change in many contexts, but come of a purposeful momentary transfer of a name from one object to another belonging to a different sphere of reality.

In all discussion of linguistic metaphor and metonymy it must be borne in mind that they are different from metaphor and metonymy as literary devices. When the latter are offered and accepted both the author and the reader are to a greater or lesser degree aware that this reference is figurative, that the object has another name. The relationship of the direct denotative meaning of the word and the meaning it has in the literary context in question is based on similarity of some features in the objects compared. The poetic metaphor is the fruit of the author's creative imagination, as for example when England is called by Shakespeare (in "King Richard II") this precious stone set in the silver sea, or when A. Tennyson writes: What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow?/ To view each loved one blotted from life's page.

In a linguistic metaphor, especially when it is dead as a result of long usage, the thing named often has no other name. In a dead metaphor the comparison is completely forgotten, as for instance in the words gather, source and shady in the following example dealing with some information: / gathered that one or two of their sources were shady, and some not so much shady as irregular in a most unexpected way. (SNOW)

The meaning of such expressions as a sun beam or a beam of light are not explained by-allusions to a tree, although the word is actually derived from OE beam 'tree' || Germ Baum, whence the meaning beam a long piece of squared timber supported at both ends' has also developed. The metaphor is dead. There are no associations with hens in the verb' brood 'to meditate' (often sullenly),'though the direct meaning is 'to sit on eggs'.

There may be transitory stages: a bottleneck 'any thing obstructing an even flow of work", for instance, is not a neck and does not belong to a bottle. The transfer is possibly due to the fact that there are some common features in the narrow top part of the bottle, a narrow outlet for road traffic, and obstacles interfering with the smooth working of administrative machinery.

Metaphors, H. Paul points out, may be based upon very different types of similarity, for instance, similarity of shape: head of a cabbage, the teeth of a saw. This similarity may be based on a similarity of function. The transferred meaning is easily recognized from the context: the head of the school, the key to a mystery. The similarity may be supported also by position: foot of a page, of a mountain, or behaviour and function: bookworm, wirepuller. The word whip a lash used to urge horses on' is metaphorically transferred to an official in the British Parliament appointed by a political party to see that members are present at debates, especially when a vote is taken, to check the voting and also to advise the members on the policy of the respective party, etc.

In the kg of the table the metaphor is motivated by the similarity of the lower part of the table and the human limb in position and partly jn shape and function. Anthropomorphic metaphors are among the most frequent. The way in which the words denoting

Похожие работы

< 1 2 3 4 5 > >>