Homonymy: Arabic Language and Words

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Babylon University

Homonymy in English and Arabic: A
Contrastive Study

By:
Lecturer Ahmed Mohammed Ali Abdul Ameer (ME in Methods
of Teaching English as a Foreign Language)
Department of English
College of Education (Safi yil Deen Al-Hilli)
University of Babylon

Asst. Lecturer Areej As’ad Ja’far Altaie (MA in English
Language and Linguistics)
Department of English
College of Education (Safi yil Deen Al-Hilli)
University of Babylon

2010

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Introduction
In fact, although homonymy is defined differently in English, yet in general, a word is similar in form with another word either in pronunciation (i.e. homophone) or in spelling (homograph), or both, but differs from it in meaning. On the other hand, in Arabic, there is a general agreement that the homonym is an expression with one enunciation (or form) and more than one meaning. Actually, this phenomenon creates lexical and syntactic ambiguity in both languages. Thus, it should be studied and examined. In addition, homonymy has its own features, specifications and forms in each language. Hence, this research aims at:

1- investigating homonymy in English and Arabic.
2- making a comparison between the two languages to show the similarities and differences between them.
Homonymy in English
Definitions of Homonymy
Originally, the word "homonym" comes from the conjunction of the Greek prefix homo-, meaning "same", and suffix -ṓnymos, meaning "name". Thus, it refers to two or more distinct concepts sharing the "same name" or signifier (Wikipedia 2010: 1).

Lyons (1982: 72; Oxford Wordpower 2000:366; Richards and Schmidt 2002:241; and
for
lexical items that are identical in spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings. Examples of homonyms are lie as in you have to lie down and lie in Don’t lie, tell the truth. The above definition does not involve anything about homophones and homographs; in addition, it creates a problem with polysemy. Hartmann and Stork (1976:105

al. 2003:

may or may not be identical in spelling. Thus, they give them a definition that is

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partially similar to that of homophones. On the other hand, Watkins et al. (2001:269) define it just like defining homophones, i.e., “words that sound exactly like other words but have different spellings” in spite of the fact of not naming them ‘homophones’

Gramley and Pätzold (1992:13) and Wikipedia (2010: 2), on the other hand, define homonymy as “the existence of different lexemes that sound the same (homophones, e.g. days/daze) or are spelt the same (homographs, e.g lead (guide)/lead (metal)) but have different meanings.” In this way, they divide them into homophones and homographs. This is the definition that is adopted in this research.

On a larger scope, homonymy is defined as a word that is identical in form with another word, either in sound (as a homophone) or in spelling (as a homograph), or both, but differs from it in meaning. For example, sale (an act or of selling something) and sail (to travel on water); bark (the skin of a tree) and bark (the sound of a dog); or pitch (throw)/pitch (tar).

Types of Homonyms
1- Complete (full, absolute)
Those are homonyms that have the same pronunciation and the same spelling i.e. the identity covers spoken and written forms. Classic examples are bank (embankment) and bank (place where money is kept) (Lyons 1982:72 and Allan 1986:150).

2- Partial homonyms
They are those where the identity covers a single medium, as in homophony and homography. Thus, homophones and homographs are considered partial homonyms (Crystal 2003:220). Watkins et al.
homonyms and what they call ‘near homonyms’. According to them homonyms are words that are “exactly” alike in pronunciation but differ in spelling and meaning, e.g. morning and mourning; there and their, while near homonyms do not sound exactly alike, e.g. except and accept; loose and lose.

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3- Word homonyms
These are homonyms where all the forms of a paradigm...
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