Homonyms in Modern English

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Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of


Kazakh University of International Relations and World Languages named after Ablai Khan

Term paper

Homonyms in Modern English

Izmukhanova A.K. (209 group)

Specialty: 50 207-Translation Studies

Discipline: The Essential of the English language Department Scientific Supervisor: Zhaparova A.A., MA

Almaty, 2011


I. Introduction.

Chapter 1. The theoretical aspects of the research

1.1 Phonetic coincidence and semantic differences of homonyms

1.2 Classification of homonyms

1.3 Diachronically approach to homonyms

1.4 Synchronically approach in studying homonymy

1.5 Lexical, grammatical and lexico-grammatical distinctions of homonyms

Chapter 2. The interrelations between homonymy and polysemantic words

2.1 Comparative typological analysis of linguistic phenomena in English and Russia

2.2 Modern methods of investigating homonyms

2.3 Practical approach in studying homonyms

2.4 Polysemy and Homonymy: Etymological and Semantic Criteria

III. Conclusion.

IV. Bibliography.


The theme of this term paper sounds as following: «Homonyms in Modern English». Generally, it can be characterized by the following:

The actuality of this term paper caused by several important points. It must be said that the appearance of new, homonymic meanings is one of the main trends in development of Modern English, especially in its colloquial layer, which, in its turn at a high degree is supported by development of modern informational technologies and simplification of alive speech. So the theoretical value of this paper can be proved by the following reasons:

a) Studying of homonyms is one of the developing branches in lexicology nowadays.

b) Homonyms reflect the general trend of simplification of a language.

c) Homonymic meanings of words are closely connected with the development of modern informational technologies.

d) Being a developing branch of linguistics it requires a special attention of teachers to be adequated to their specialization in English.

e) The investigation of homonyms and their differentiation with polysemantic words is not being still investigated in the sufficient degree and this problem is still waiting for its investigator. This term paper is one another attempt to investigate this problem.

Although this theme has been investigating for a long time, the aim of this term paper is to fully investigate the sphere of homonyms, to define them by their classifications, sources, origins and so on. Because there are lots of homonyms that are sure to make most people stop and proofread their work.

Having based upon the actuality and the aim of the theme we are able to formulate the main tasks of the term paper:

a) To study, analyze, and sum up all the possible changes happened in the studied branch of linguistics for the past fifty years.

b) To teach the problem of homonyms to young English learners.

c) To demonstrate the significance of the problem for those who want to brush up their English.

d) To mention all the major linguists' opinions concerning the subject studied.

If we say about the new information used within our work we may note that the work studies the problem from the modern positions and analyzes the modern trends appeared in this subject for the last ten years. In particular, the new meanings of the old habitual words were mentioned in this term paper.

The practical value of this term paper can be concluded in the following items:

a) The work could serve as a good source of learning English by young teachers at schools and colleges.

b) The lexicologists could find a lot of interesting information for themselves.

c) Those who would like to communicate with the English-speaking people through the Internet will find new causing homonymic terms in this term paper. Having said about the linguists studied the material before we can mention that this term paper was based upon the investigations, materials made by a number of well known English, Russian lexicologists as A.I. Smirnitsky, B.A. Ilyish, V.V. Vinogradov, O. Jespersen and others.

If we say about the methods of scientific approaches used in this term paper we can mention that the method of typological analyses was used.

The novelty (newness) of this term paper is concluded in including the new homonymic meanings of words appeared during for the last ten years by means of development and applying of the internet technologies.

The general structure of this term paper looks as follows: It is composed into three major parts: introduction, main part and conclusion. Each part has its subdivision into the specific thematically items. There are two points in the introductory part: the first item tells about the general content of the term paper while the other gives us the general explanation of the lexicological phenomenon of homonymy in language. The main part bears two chapters itself which, in their turn, are subdivided into several specific items. The first chapter explains the common analysis of homonyms in Modern English. Here we analyzed phonetic coincidence and semantic differentiation of homonyms in Modern English (the first item), accepted classification of the homonymic units of a language (the second item), diachronic and synchronic research to the problem studied (third and fourth items subsequently). The second chapter shows the interrelations between homonyms and polysemantic words. In the first item we made the etymological and semantic criteria of distinguishing of homonyms and polysemantic words in the English language. The second item of the term paper shows the typological analysis of the two linguistic phenomena in the two languages compared: English and Russian. The third and the fourth items summarize the ideas concerning the modern methods and practical approaches in investigating the linguistic phenomenon of homonyms and polysemantic words.

The conclusion of this term paper sums up the ideas discussed in the main part (the first item) and shows the ways of implying of the term paper (in the second item).

The object of this term paper is word which is identical in sound-form but different in meaning. It is traditionally termed like homonymous. Modern English is exceptionally rich in homonymous words and word-forms. It is held that languages where short words abound have more homonyms than those where longer words are divalent. Therefore it is sometimes suggested that abundance of homonyms in Modern English is to be accounted for by the monosyllabic structure of the commonly used English words.

Not only words but other linguistic units may be homonymous. Here, however, we are concerned with the homonymy of words and word-forms only, so we shall not touch upon the problem of homonymous affixes or homonymous phrases. When analyzing different cases of homonymy we find that some words are homonymous in all their forms, i.e. homonymy of the paradigms of two or more different words as, e.g., in seal!--'a sea animal' and seal2--'a design printed on paper by means of a stamp'. The paradigm «seal, seal’s, seals, seals'» is identical for both of them and gives no indication of whether it is sea or seal that we are analyzing. In other cases, e.g. seal--'a sea animal' and (to) seal--'to close tightly', we see that although some individual word-forms are homonymous, the whole of the paradigm is not identical. Compare, for instance, the paradigms:

seal (to)seal3

seal seal

seal’s seals

seals sealed

seals' sealing, etc

The subject of this term paper is homonyms, their individual and partial forms. It is easily observed that only some of the word-forms (e.g. seal, seals, etc.) are homonymous, whereas others (e.g. sealed, sealing) are not. In such cases we cannot speak of homonymous words but only of homonymy of individual word-forms or of partial homonymy. This is true of a number of other cases, e.g. compare find [famdj, found [faund], found [faund] and found [faundj, founded ['faundidj, founded [faundid]; know [nou], knows [nouz], knew [nju: ], and no [nou]; nose [nouz], noses [nouzizj; new [nju:] in which partial homonymy is observed. Consequently all cases of homonymy may be classified into full and partial homonymy, homonymy of words and homonymy of individual word-forms. Exactly, Professor 0. Jespersen calculated that there are roughly four times as many monosyllabic as polysyllabic homonyms.


Chapter 1. The theoretical aspects of the research

1.1 Phonetic coincidence and semantic differences of homonyms

Words identical in sound-form but different in meaning are traditionally termed homonymous. Modern English is exceptionally rich in homonymous words and word-forms. It is held that languages where short words abound have more homonyms than those where longer words are divalent. Therefore it is sometimes suggested that abundance of homonyms in Modern English is to be accounted for by the monosyllabic structure of the commonly used English words.

Not only words but other linguistic units may be homonymous. Here, however, we are concerned with the homonymy of words and word-forms only, so we shall not touch upon the problem of homonymous affixes or homonymous phrases When analyzing different cases of homonymy we find that some words are homonymous in all their forms, i.e. we observe full homonymy of the paradigms of two or more different words as, e.g., in seal a sea animal and seal--a design printed on paper by means of a stamp'. The paradigm «seal, seal’s, seals, seals'» is identical for both of them and gives no indication of whether it is seal (1) or seal (2) that we are analyzing. In other cases, e.g. seal--a sea animal' and (to) seal (3)--'to close tightly, we see that although some individual word-forms are homonymous, the whole of the paradigm is not identical. Compare, for instance, the-paradigms:

1. (to) seal-seal-seal's-seals-seals'

2. seal-seals-sealed-sealing, etc.

1. Professor O. Jespersen calculated that there are roughly four times as many monosyllabic as polysyllabic homonyms. It is easily observed that only some of the word-forms (e.g. seal, seals, etc.) are homonymous, whereas others (e.g. sealed, sealing) are not. In such cases we cannot speak of homonymous words but only of homonymy of individual word-forms or of partial homonymy. This is true of a number of other cases, e.g. compare find [faind], found [faund], found [faund] and found [faund], founded ['faundidj, founded [faundid]; know [nou], knows [nouz], knew [nju: ], and no [nou]; nose [nouz], noses [nouziz]; new [nju:] in which partial homonymy is observed.

From the examples of homonymy discussed above it follows that the bulk of full homonyms are to be found within the same parts of speech (e.g. seal (1) n--seal (2) n), partial homonymy as a rule is observed in word-forms belonging to different parts of speech (e.g. seal n--seal v). This is not to say that partial homonymy is impossible within one part of speech. For instance, in the case of the two verbs Me [lai]--'to be in a horizontal or resting position'--lies [laiz]--lay [lei]--lain [lein] and lie [lai]--'to make an untrue statement'--lies [laiz]--lied [laid]--lied [laid] we also find partial homonymy as only two word-forms [lai], [laiz] are homonymous, all other forms of the two verbs are different. Cases of full homonymy may be found in different parts of speech as, e.g., for [for]--divposition, for [fo: ]--conjunction and four [fo:] --numeral, as these parts of speech have no other word-forms.

1.2 Classification of homonyms

Modern English has a very extensive vocabulary; the number of words according to the dictionary data is no less than 400, 000. A question naturally arises whether this enormous word-stock is composed of separate independent lexical units, or may it perhaps be regarded as a certain structured system made up of numerous interdependent and interrelated sub-systems or groups of words. This problem may be viewed in terms of the possible ways of classifying vocabulary items. Words can be classified in various ways. Here, however, we are concerned only with the semantic classification of words which gives us a better insight into some aspects of the Modern English word-stock. Attempts to study the inner structure of the vocabulary revealed that in spite of its heterogeneity the English word-stock may be analyzed into numerous sub-systems the members of which have some features in common, thus distinguishing them from the members of other lexical sub-systems. Classification into monosynaptic and polysemantic words is based on the number of meanings the word possesses. More detailed semantic classifications are generally based on the semantic similarity (or polarity) of words or their component morphemes. Below we give a brief survey of some of these lexical groups of current use both in theoretical investigation and practical class-room teaching. The following venn diagram shows the relationships between homonyms (between blue and yellow) and related linguistic concepts. Several similar linguistic concepts are related to homonymy. These include:

* Homographs (literally «same writing») are usually defined as words that share the same spelling, regardless of how they are pronounced. note 1] If they are pronounced the same then they are also homophones (and homonyms) — for example, bark (the sound of a dog) and bark (the skin of a tree). If they are pronounced differently then they are also heteronyms — for example, bow (the front of a ship) and bow (a type of knot).

* Homophones (literally «same sound») are usually defined as words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of how they are spelled. note 2] If they are spelled the same then they are also homographs (and homonyms); if they are spelled differently then they are also heterographs (literally «different writing»). Homographic examples include rose (flower) and rose (past tense of rise). Heterographic examples include to, too, two, and there, their, they’re.

* Heteronyms (literally «different name») are the subset of homographs (words that share the same spelling) that have different pronunciations (and meanings). note 3] That is, they are homographs which are not homophones. Such words include desert (to abandon) and desert (arid region); row (to argue or an argument) and row (as in to row a boat or a row of seats — a pair of homophones). Heteronyms are also sometimes called heterophones (literally «different sound»).

* Polysemes are words with the same spelling and distinct but related meanings. The distinction between polysemy and homonymy is often subtle and subjective, and not all sources consider polysemous words to be homonyms. Words such as mouth, meaning either the orifice on one’s face, or the opening of a cave or river, are polysemous and may or may not be considered homonyms.

* Capitonyms are words that share the same spelling but have different meanings when capitalized (and may or may not have different pronunciations). Such words include polish (to make shiny) and Polish (from Poland); march (organized, uniformed, steady and rhythmic walking forward) and March (the third month of the year in the Gregorian Calendar). However, both polish or march at the beginning of sentences still need to be capitalized.

1.3 Diachronically approach of homonyms

Now let us analyze the semantic similarity of morphemes. Lexical groups composed of words with semantically and phonemically identical root-morphemes are usually described as word-families or word-clusters. The term itself implies close links between the members of the group. Such are word-families of the type: lead, leader, leadership; dark, darken, darkness; form, formal, formality, and others. It should be noted that members of a word-family as a rule belong to different parts of speech and are joined together only by the identity of root-morphemes. In the word-families discussed above the root-morphemes are identical not only in meaning but also in sound-form. [1] There are cases, however, when the sound-form of root-morphemes may be different, as for example in sun, sunny, solar; mouth, oral, orally; brother, brotherly, fraternal, etc.; their semantic similarity however, makes it possible to include them in a word-family. In such cases it is usual to speak of lexical supplementation, i.e. formation of related words of a word-family from phonemically different roots. As a rule in the word-families of this type we are likely to encounter etymologically different words, e.g. the words brother and mouth are of Germanic origin, whereas fraternal and oral can be easily traced back to Latin. We frequently find synonymic pairs of the type fatherly -- paternal, brotherly--fraternal. Semantic and phonemic identity of affixation morphemes can be observed in the lexical groups of the type darkness, cleverness, calmness, etc.; teacher, reader, writer, etc. In such word-groups as, e.g. teacher, doctor, musician, etc., only semantic similarity of derivational affixes is observed. As derivational affixes impart to the words a certain generalized meaning, we may single out lexical groups denoting the agent, the doer of the action (Nomina Agenti)--teacher, reader, doctor, etc. or lexical groups denoting actions [Nomina Acti] -- movement, transformation, and others. Now we shall study the semantic similarities and polarities of words. Semantic similarity or polarity of words may be observed in the similarity of their denotational or connotation meaning. Similarity or polarity of the denotational component of lexical meaning is to be found in lexical groups of synonyms and antonyms. Similarity or polarity of the connotation components serves as the basis for stylistic stratification of vocabulary units. Stylistic features of words and problems of stylistic stratification in general were discussed in connection with different types of meaning. So here let us confine ourselves mainly to the discussion of the problems of the main word phenomena containing the English word stock: i.e. we mean synonyms and antonyms.

1.4 Synchronically approach in studying homonyms

Synonymy, polysemy and homonymy in the language hierarchy are usually felt to be correlative notions: firstly because the criterion of synonymy is semantic similarity which is in exact opposition to the criterion of antonym--semantic polarity. Secondly, because synonyms and polysemantic words seem to overlap in a number of cases. For instance, when we speak of the words «daddy» and «parent» as synonyms, we do so because of the similarity of their denotational meaning and polarity of their stylistic reference (cf. daddy--colloquial, parent--bookish).

The problem of synonymy is treated similarity differently by different linguists. The most debatable problem is the definition of synonyms. Synonyms are traditionally described as words different in sound-form but identical or similar in meaning. This definition has been severely criticized on many points. Firstly it seems impossible to speak of identical or similar meaning of words as such, as this part of the definition cannot be applied to polysemantic words. It is inconceivable that polysemantic words could be synonymous in all their meanings. The verb «look», for instance, is usually treated as a synonym of the following words: «see», «watch», «observe», etc., but in another of its meanings it is not synonymous with this group of words but rather with the verbs seems, appear (cf. to look at smb. and to look pale). The number of synonymic sets of a polysemantism word tends as a rule to be equal to the number of individual meanings the word possesses.

1.5 Lexical, grammatical and lexico-grammatical distinctions of homonymy

In the discussion of polysemy and context we have seen that one of the ways of discriminating between different meanings of a word is the interdivitation of these meanings in terms of their synonyms, e.g. the two meanings of the adjective handsome are synonymously interdivted as handsome--'beautiful' (usually about men) and handsome--'considerable, ample' (about sums, sizes, etc.).

Secondly it seems impossible to" speak of identity or similarity of lexical meaning as a whole as it is only the denotation component that may be described as identical or similar. If we analyse words that are usually considered synonymous, e.g. to die, to pass away; to begin, to commence, etc., we find that the connotation component or, to be more exact, the stylistic reference of these words is entirely different and it is only the similarity of the denotation meaning that makes them synonymous. The words, e.g. to die, to walk, to smile, etc., may be considered identical as to their stylistic reference or emotive charge, but as there is no similarity of denotation meaning they are never felt as synonymous words.

Thirdly it does not seem possible to speak of identity of meaning as a criterion of synonymy as identity of meaning is very rare even among monosynaptic words. In fact, cases of complete synonymy are very few and are, as a rule, confined to technical nomenclatures where we can find monosynaptic terms completely identical in meanings as, for example, spirant and fricative in phonetics. Words in synonymic sets are in general differentiated because of some element of opposition in each member of the set. The word handsome, e.g., is distinguished from its synonym beautiful mainly because the former implies the beauty of a male person or broadly speaking only of human beings, whereas beautiful is opposed to it as having no such restrictions in its semantic structure. [2] Thus it seems necessary to modify the traditional definition and to word it as follows: synonyms are words different in sound-form but similar in their denotational meaning or meanings. Synonymous relationship is observed only between similar denotational meanings of phonemically different words. Differentiation of synonyms may be observed in different semantic components--denotational or connotation.

It should be noted, however, that the difference in denotation meaning cannot exceed certain limits and is found only as a variation of some common denotational component. The verbs look, seem, appear, e.g., are viewed as members of one synonymic set as all three of them possess a common denotational semantic component «to be in one’s view». Semantic similarity of affixation morphemes is treated in more detail in the chapter about Word-Formation in Prof. Ginsburg’s textbook on lexicology, judgment, but not necessarily in fact" and come into comparison in this meaning (cf. he seems (looks) (appears) tired). A more detailed analysis shows that there is a certain difference in the meaning of each verb: seem suggests a personal opinion based on evidence (e.g. nothing seems right when one is out of sorts); look implies that opinion is based on a visual division (e.g. the city looks its worst in March), appear sometimes suggests a distorted division (e.g. the setting sun made the spires appear ablaze). Thus similarity of denotational meaning of all members of the synonymic series is combined with a certain difference in the meaning of each member. [3]

It follows that relationship of synonymy implies certain differences in the denotational meaning of synonyms. In this connection a few words should be said about the traditional classification of vocabulary units into ideographic and stylistic synonyms. This classification proceeds from the assumption that synonyms may differ either in the denotational meaning (ideographic synonyms) or the connotation meaning, i.e. stylistic reference (stylistic synonyms). This assumption cannot be accepted as synonymous words always differ in the denotational component irrespective of the identity or difference of stylistic reference. The stylistic reference in the synonymous verbs seem, appear, look may be regarded as identical though we observe some difference in their denotational component. Difference in the denotational semantic component is also found in synonymous words possessing different connotational components. The verbs see and behold, e.g., are usually treated as stylistic synonyms; see is stylistically neutral and behold is described as bookish or poetic. It can be readily observed, however, that the difference between the two verbs is not confined solely to stylistic reference. Though they have a common denotational component 'to take cognizance of something by physical (or mental) vision', there is a marked difference in their comparable meanings. The verb behold suggests only 'looking at that which is seen', e.g. «behold them sitting in their glory» (Shelley), The verb see denotes 'have or use power of sight' (e.g. the blind cannot see), 'understand' (e.g. don’t you see my meaning?), have knowledge or experience of (e.g. he has seen a good deal in his long life) and others.

Consequently, the interrelation of the denotational and the connotational meaning of synonyms is rather complex. Difference or rather variation of the denotational component does not imply difference in either the stylistic reference or the emotive charge of members of synonymic series. Difference of the connotational semantic component is invariably accompanied by some variation of the denotational meaning of synonyms. Therefore it would be more consistent to subdivide synonymous words into purely ideographic (denotational) and ideographic-stylistic synonyms. It should be pointed out that neither criterion the traditional definition of synonyms modified version suggested here provide for any objective criterion of similarity of meaning. Judgment as to semantic similarity is based solely on the linguistic intuition of the analyst. [4]

It is sometimes argued that the meaning of two words is identical if they can denote the same referent, in other words, if an object or a certain class of objects can always be denoted by either of the two words. For example in the sentence «Washington is the capital of the United States"--«Washington» and «the capital of the United States» have obviously the same referent, but there is no linguistic relationship of synonymy between the two lexical units.

Recently attempts have been made to introduce into the definition of synonymy the criterion of interchangeability in linguistic contexts. It is argued that for the linguistic similarity of meaning implies that the words are synonymous if either of them can occur in the same context. In this case the relationship of synonymy is defined as follows: «If A and B have almost identical environment except chiefly for sentences which contain both, we say they are synonyms» (cf. eye-doctor, oculist).

Another well-known definition also proceeding from the contextual approach is the definition of synonyms as words which can replace each other in any given context without the slightest alteration either in the denotational or connotational meaning.

The contextual approach also invites criticism as words interchangeable in any given context are rarely found. This fact may be explained as follows: firstly, words synonymous in some lexical contexts may display no synonymy in others. As one of the English scholars aptly remarks, the comparison of the sentences «the rainfall in April was abnormal» and «the rainfall in April was exceptional» may give us grounds for assuming that exceptional and abnormal are synonymous. The same adjectives in a different context are by no means synonymous, as we may see by comparing «my son is exceptional» and «my son is abnormal». [5]

Secondly, it is evident that interchangeability alone cannot serve as a criterion of synonymy. Werner safely assumes that synonyms are words interchangeable in some contexts. But the reverse is certainly not true as semantically different words of the same part of speech are, as a rule, interchangeable in quite a number of contexts. For example, in the sentence «I saw a little girl playing in the garden» the adjective little may be formally replaced by a number of semantically different adjectives, e.g. ditty, tall, English, etc.

Thus a more acceptable definition of synonyms seems to be the following: Synonyms are words different in their sound-form, but similar in their denotational meaning or meanings and interchangeable at least in some contexts.

Theoretically, the degree of synonymy of words may be calculated by the number of contexts in which these words are interchangeable. The simplest technique of such semantic analysis is substitution in various contexts. It is argued that two synonymous adjectives, e.g. deep and profound, could be analyzed in relation to each other by ascertaining how far they are interchangeable in different contexts, say, in combination with water, voice, remark, relief; what changes of denotational meaning and emotive charge occur when they are interchanged (cf. deep relief--profound relief); what is their proper antonym in each of these combinations (shallow, high, superficial); in how many of the possible contexts they are interchangeable without any considerable alteration of the denotational meaning, etc.

The English word-stock is extremely rich. Synonymic accounted for by abundant borrowing. '" English Quite a number of words in a synonymic set are usually of Latin or French origin. For instance, out of thirteen words making up the set see, behold, descry, espy, view, survey, contemplate, observe, notice, remark, note, discern, perceive only see and behold can be traced back to Old English (OE. seen and beheading), all others are either French or Latin borrowings. [6]

Thus, a characteristic pattern of English synonymic sets is the pattern including the native and the borrowed words. Among the best investigated are the so called double-scale patterns: native versus Latin (e.g. bodily--corporal, brotherly-- fraternal); native versus Greek or French (e.g. answer-- reply, fiddle--violin). In most cases the synonyms differ in their stylistic reference, too. The native word is usually colloquial (e.g. bodily, brotherly), whereas the borrowed word may as a rule be described as bookish or highly literary (e.g. corporal, fraternal).

Side by side with this pattern there exists in English a subsidiary one based on a triple-scale of synonyms: native-- French and Latin or Greek [e.g. begin (start)--commence (Fr.)--initiate (/.); rise--mount (Fr.)--ascend (/,)]. In most of these sets the native synonym is felt as more colloquial, the Latin or Greek one is characterized by bookish stylistic reference, whereas the French stands between the two extremes. There are some minor points of interest that should be discussed in connection with the problem of synonymy. It has often been found that subjects prominent in the interests of a community tend to attract a large number of synonyms. It is common knowledge that in Beowulf there are 37 synonyms for hero or prince and at least a dozen for battle and fight. In Modern American English there are at least twenty words used to denote money: beans, bucks, the chips, do-re-mi, the needful, wherewithal, etc. This linguistic phenomenon is usually described as the law of synonymic attraction, it has also been observed that when a particular word is given a transferred meaning its synonyms tend to develop along parallel lines. We know that in early New English the verb overlook was employed in the meaning of 'look with an evil eye upon, cast a spell over' from which there developed the meaning 'deceive' first recorded in 1596. Exactly half a century later we find oversee a synonym of overlook employed in the meaning of 'deceive'. This form of analogy active in the semantic development of synonyms is referred to as «radiation of synonyms».

Chapter 2. The interrelations between homonymy and polysemantic words

2.1 Comparative typological analysis of linguistic phenomena in English and Russian

As it was mentioned before, two or more words identical in sound and spelling but different in meaning, distribution and (in many cases) origin are called homonyms. The term is derived from Greek (homos 'similar' and onoma 'name') and thus excises very well the sameness of name combined with the difference in meaning. The most widely accepted classification is that recognizing homonyms proper, homophones and homographs. Homonyms proper are words identical in pronunciation and spelling, like/as if and liver above or like scale 'one of the thin plates that form the outer covering of most fishes and reptiles' and scale, 'a basis for a system of measuring'. Homophones are words of the same sound but of different spelling and meaning: air: heir; arms: alms; buy: bye: by; him: hymn; knight: night; not: knot; or: ore: oar; piece; peace; rain: reign; scent: cent: sent; steel: steal; storey ;: story write: right: rite and many others.

For example, in the sentence «The millwright on my right thinks it right that some conventional rite should symbolize the right of every man to write as he pleases.» the sound complex [rait] is noun, adjective, adverb and verb, has four different spellings and six different meanings. [7]

The difference may be confined to the use of a capital letter as in bill and Bill, in the following example: «How much is my milk bill?» «Excuse me, Madam, but my name is John.» Homographs are words different in sound and in meaning but accidentally identical in spelling: bow [bou]: bow Ibau]; lead [li: d]: lead [led]; row [rouj: row [rau]; sewer I’soua]: sewer [sjual; tear [tea]: tear [tia]; wind [wind]: wind [wand] and many more.

It has been often argued that homographs constitute a phenomenon that should be kept apart from homonymy as the object of linguistics is sound language. This viewpoint cans hardly be accepted. Because of the effects of education and culture written English is a generalized national form of division. An average speaker does not separate the written and oral form. On the contrary he is more likely to analyze the words in Terries of letters than in terms of phonemes with which he is less familiar. That is why a linguist must take into consideration both the spelling and the pronunciation of words when analyzing cases of identity of form and diversity of content. 8]

Various types of classification for homonyms proper have been suggested. The one most often used in dissent-day Annalistic in Russia it is that suggested by Prof. A. I. Smirnitsky. It has been criticized for failing to bring out the main characteristic features of homonyms.

A more comdivhensive system may be worked out on the same basis if we are guided by the theory of oppositions and in classifying the homonyms take into consideration the difference or sameness in their lexical and grammatical meaning, paradigm and basic form. The distinctive features shown in the table on lexical meaning (different denoted by A, or nearly same denoted by A) grammatical meaning (different denoted by B, or same denoted by B) paradigm (different denoted by C or same denoted by C), and basic form (different D and same D).

The term «nearly same lexical meaning» must not he taken too literally. It means only that the corresponding members of the opposition have some important invariant components in common. «Same grammatical meaning» implies that both members belong to the same part of speech.

Same paradigm comprises also cases when there is only one word form, i.e. when the words are unchangeable. Inconsistent combinations of features are crossed out in the table. It is, for instance, impossible for two words to be identical in all word forms and different in basic forms, or for two homonyms to show no difference either in lexical or grammatical meaning, because in this case they are not homonyms. That leaves seven possible classes.

2.2 Modern methods of investigating homonyms

The intense development of homonymy in the English language is obviously due not to one single factor but to several interrelated causes, such as the monosyllabic character of English and its analytic structure. Inflections have almost disappeared in dissent-day English and have been superseded by separate words of abstract character (dispositions, auxiliaries, etc.) stating the relations that once excised by terminations. [9]

The abundance of homonyms is also closely connected with a characteristic feature of the English language as the phonetic unity of word and stem or, in other words, the dominance of forms among the most frequent roots. It is very obvious that the frequency of words stands in some inverse relationship to length, the monosyllabic words will be the most frequent moreover, as the most frequent words are also highly polysemantic. It is only natural that they develop meanings which in the course of time may deviate very far from the central one. When the inter-mediate links fall out, some of these new meanings lose all with the rest of the structure and start a separate existence. Phenomenon is known as disintegration or split of polysemy, Different causes by which homonymy may be brought about subdivided into two main groups:

1) Homonymy through convergent sound development, when or three words of different origin accidentally coincide in sound;

2) Homonymy developed from polysemy through divergent development. Both may be combined with loss of endings and 0tJier morphological processes.

In Old English the words «gesund" — 'healthy' and «sund" — 'swimming' were separate words both in form and in meaning. In the course of time they have changed their meaning and phonetic form, and for latter accidentally coincided: OE «sund» in ME «sound» 'strait'. The group was joined also accidentally by the noun sound 'what is or may be heard' with the corresponding verb that developed from French and ultimately the Latin word «sonus», and the verb sound 'to measure the depth' of dubious etymology. The coincidence is purely accidental. Unlike the homonyms case and sound all the homonyms of the box group due to disintegration or split of polysemy are etymologically connected. The sameness of form is not accidental but based on genetic relationship. They are all derived from one another and are all ultimately traced to the Latin «buxus». The Concise Oxford Dictionary has five separate entries for box: 1. box n. — 'a kind of small evergreen shrub';

2. box n. 'receptacle made of wood, cardboard, metal, etc. and usually provided with a lid';

3. box v. 'to put into a box';

4. box n. 'slap with the hand on the ear';

5. boxt v. `a sport term meaning 'to fight with fists in padded gloves'. [10]

Such homonyms may be partly derived from one another but their common point of origin lies beyond the limits of the English language. In these with the appearance of a new meaning, very different from the devious one, the semantic structure of the parent word splits. The new meaning receives a separate existence and starts a new semantic structure of its own. It must be noted, however, that though the number of examples in which a process of this sort could be observed is considerable, 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').

It 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'.

The 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 formation

from homonymous 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,

© based on independent formation from the same base by homonymous morphemes.

The 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'.

In 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 one’s 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.

All 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 one’s match 'one's 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.

On 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.

Actual 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.

Consider the following set of examples:

1. A child’s voice is heard. 2. His voice … was … annoyingly well-bred.

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

4. In the voice contrast of active and passive … the active is the unmarked form.

The 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.

The 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.

Is 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.

The 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 -- 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 person’s 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.

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