Polysemy and Homonymy

Topics: Meaning of life, Lexical semantics, Homograph Pages: 5 (1999 words) Published: October 8, 2011
Polysemy and homonymy
--the language phenomenon I’m interested in linguistic study The word polysemy is defined as “having or characterized by many meanings; the existence of several meanings for a single word or phrase.” Thus, the coexistence of several meanings in one, which is quite common, is found in polysemy. Some words develop an entire gamut of meanings, each new meaning forming another point of departure. Several dictionaries treat multiple meanings of one word either as polysemy or as used in homonyms, and sometimes, in fact, differ in their decisions whether certain words should be stated as homonyms or used as polysemy. I think it is generally agreed that in polysemy only one word is being discussed and the name homonym refers to two words that happen to have the same form, i.e. bank, crane. Since there is an extensive area of doubt between the concepts of polysemy and homonymy, being able to distinguish between polysemy words and homonymy words is not an easy task. In the following writings, however, the word polysemy will be utilized as the more inclusive term. It is, therefore, completely appropriate for us to determine that some of the terms or phrases treated as polysemy may really be homonyms. UP is a two letter English word that can be used as several distinct parts of speech. A desk dictionary lists at least thirty different meanings. The following writings are attempts to use some of these numerous meanings in a variety of settings. If I am not used up or burned up before my time is up to give up the ghost or decide it is time to hang it up, I will continue to be up by four each morning to see if I am up to do more writing before I boot up the computer and dress up. If I happen to get up on the wrong side of bed I might turn up to be annoying to others who wake up and sit up and pipe up that they are fed up with flare ups and will not put up with blow ups. They may even suggest that I wise up and cheer up and face up to the fact that I have to shape up my getting up before I soap up. They could even prefer that I clam up or in a bit of sarcasm suggest that I dry up. 1. The difference between polysemy and homonymy

It’s quite difficult for us to recognize the difference between polysemy and homonymy. A lot of books or pamphlets just make the simple explanation and cannot make it clear in detail. So, these two words are often intertwined with each other. Despite of this, they are two different definitions. While different words may have the same or similar meaning, the same one word may have more than one meaning. This is what we call polysemy, and such a word is called a polysemic word. There are many polysemic words in English. The fact is the more commonly used a word is, the more likely it has acquired more than on meaning. When we research the polysemy’s root, we can easily understand the connection with different meaning. Just like “hand”, its general meaning is “part of the human arm”. But, gradually, this meaning derives a lot of meaning that have internal connection with each other. For example: “influence or tangency”, ”skill”, “employee who works with his hands”, “pointer on a watch or clock”, “hand writing” and etc. Take also the word “table” for example. It is a very common word in English. If we look it up in any dictionary, we will find that it has at least the following seven meanings: 1) a piece of furniture

2) all the people seated at a table
3) the food that is put on a table
4) a thin flat piece of stone, metal, wood, etc
5) orderly arrangement of facts, figures, etc
6) part of a machine-tool on which the work is put to be operated on 7) a level area, a plateau
Historically speaking, polysemy can be understood as the growth and development of or change in the meaning of words. We assume that at first the form “table” had only one meaning; very likely it referred to a thin piece of stone, or wood. This is called its primary meaning. Later on it gradually...
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