Our language is multifaceted and rich. Sometimes, using a particular word, we do not think about the boundaries of its meaning. We know that the Earth is the name of our planet, and the earth is part of its surface, land, soil. Also, everyone knows that the world is the whole system surrounding us and at the same time the world is the absence of enmity, life without war. We express some interpretations that are different in meaning by the same lexical units, which are words with several meanings. Let's find out why this is happening.
Why are there words in the language that have multiple meanings?
Another linguist A. A. Potebnya, who lived in the 19th century, in his monograph "Thought and Language" wrote that the development of human speech is in the direction of greater abstractization.
When our distant ancestorslearned to express their desires and emotions with the help of sounds, they did not yet know what geometry and the periodic table were, did not distinguish between the concepts of “bad” and “terrible”, “good” and “excellent”. The first words called objects, phenomena and feelings, the ability to designate and express which was necessary in everyday life. In the same way, children who are just learning to speak first use simple words such as “mom”, “dad”, “home”, “table”, and only then understand what kindness, joy, hatred, anger mean.
In the course of the development of the ancient man's ability for figurative and analytical thinking, it became necessary to come up with new designations for newly appeared concepts. Sometimes, as such designations, words already existing in the language were used, which, however, were given a new meaning. But at the same time, the original meaning of these words was preserved. This is how many words with several meanings appeared.
How to correctly name tokens with multiple meanings
In linguistics, a word that has several meanings is called polysemantic. This is a term of Russian linguistics, and in foreign science such words are called polysemic (from the Greek polis - "a lot", and semanticos - "denoting").
Russian academician VV Vinogradov called polysemy the ability of one word to convey various information about objects and phenomena of extralinguistic reality. At the same time, it should be said that the meaning inherent in the word, its material-semantic shell is called lexicalvalue. Above are examples of the interpretation of words that have several lexical meanings. However, few people know that the word "peace" has not two, but seven meanings! You can check this using Ozhegov's explanatory dictionary.
Polysemy and homonymy
In linguistics, as in any other science, there are concepts that are debatable. So, for example, A. A. Potebnya and R. Yakobson believed that words with several meanings do not exist, because if a lexeme under some circumstances began to denote another object or phenomenon, then it completely changed its semantic core.
However, in traditional grammar, the concepts of polysemy and homonymy still differ, although they are often confused in Internet resources.
It is believed that words that have several meanings still retain their semantic center in each interpretation, a certain representation that lies at the very root of the structure of a lexical unit. It is assumed that polysemic words have continuity of meanings, while homonyms do not. For example, a crane and a faucet in the kitchen, the note "s alt" and kitchen s alt are homonyms, not polysemantic words, because there is no semantic connection between them.
How polysemy of words arises
It is believed that polysemy occurs in three main ways:
- With the help of metaphorical transfer. A metaphor is a shift in the meaning of a word based on the similarity of several objects. For example: a grain of wheat is a grain of truth.
- Whenhelp of metonymy. Metonymy is understood as the transfer of the meaning of one word to another according to the principle of the presence of semantic connections between two concepts. For example: a dish made of expensive porcelain is a delicious dish of French cuisine.
- With the help of synecdoche. Many linguists believe that synecdoche is a special case of metonymy. This term refers to the transfer of the name of the part to the whole. For example: “native hearth” instead of “native home” and “return home from America” instead of “return to Russia” (if it means coming to your own country, and not specifically to your home from someone else’s home).
Examples of polysemantic words
It can be assumed that the name of our planet - Earth - appeared a second time from the name of land, soil. After all, people and mammals exist on land, it is it that is their real habitat. And the name of our planet was formed with the help of metonymic transfer, that is, the designation of a part of the surface was transferred to the whole. We also say, for example, that the class listens attentively to the teacher, meaning by this not the room, but the students in it.
Raspberry is what we call the berries, as well as the bush on which they grow. Polysemy here has developed according to the principle of synecdoche. But the colloquial meaning of the word "raspberry" - "thieves' den" is rather a homonym for the other two examples of its use.
What does the word "prefix" mean?
Can you immediately tell if the word "prefix" has one or more meanings? Fromof the school course of the Russian language, everyone knows that this is the name of the part of the word that precedes the root and serves to change the meaning of the lexical unit. This noun is derived from the verb "stick" and actually names everything that is "attached", that stands next to something.
In the explanatory dictionary of the Russian language, two meanings of this word are noted:
- cassette deck that amplifies sound power;
- morpheme, prefix;
- also called a prefix 10-15 years ago a special installation for virtual games.
Language puns based on polysemy and homonymy
In every developed language there are words that are identical in form but different in meaning. The combination of such lexical units in one text is used to create a comic effect, a play on words - a pun. Try to explain what the comic effect of the following phrases is based on:
- Mowed oblique oblique oblique.
- He stoked the stove all night. By morning she drowned.
- Parrot us, parrot.
- He learned a verse and a verse.
In these phrases, the comic effect is based on the homonymy of certain forms of words. But at the same time, the dictionary forms of these lexical units differ. So, in the first example, the words "mow", "oblique", "spit" are used. "Slanting" as an adjective means "uneven", "crooked", and "oblique" as a noun is a colloquial name for a hare. In the second example, the polysemy of the word "drown" is used: to kindle a fire, to immerse deep inwater. In the third example, homonyms are used: parrot as a noun is the name of a bird, parrot as an imperative from the verb “to scare”. And finally, in the fourth example, the pun is based on the coincidence of the past tense of the verb "to subside" and the noun in the nominative case "verse" (a line in poetry).
It's not always easy to tell if one or more of the meanings of a word. The root of lexemes and analysis of the contexts of use can help determine whether the units in question are polysemantic or homonymous.
An exercise in the interpretation of the meanings of polysemantic words
Task: look at the list below and try to determine for yourself if one or more of the words have the meanings of the highlighted words: wardrobe, fox, car, path, hand, core. Explain your choice. How many meanings could you identify for each word?
All the listed words have several lexical meanings:
- Wardrobe refers to items of clothing, as well as the room where they are stored.
- A fox is an animal and at the same time a cunning person. The ambiguity developed due to the fact that in ancient times (and in the villages - and now) foxes at night, when no one sees them, penetrated people's dwellings and barns to steal food.
- A car is both a vehicle and technical equipment.
- The path is both the road on earth, and air communication, and metaphorically human life.
- Hand - part of the body and handwriting.
- The core is both the central part of something and the basis of anymovements, such as the army.
Several tasks for logic
Look at the phrases below. Can you guess what they have in common:
- post diplomat and pickles;
- radiation of the sun and the class of aristocrats;
- marital relations and poorly made products;
- a strip of land in the sea and the pride of a Russian beauty;
- river fish and dishwashing brush.
Answers: ambassador; light; marriage; braid; ruff.
What do you think, which of these examples are related to homonymy, and which - to ambiguity? Words with several meanings differ from homonyms by the presence of some logical-semantic connection between different concepts. In example No. 2, the connection is based on a metaphor: as the sun illuminates the earth, so the aristocrats, due to their education and development, were an adornment of society. And in example No. 5, the connection between the fish and the brush is based on metonymy, because the external shape of the brush resembles a fish. Examples 1, 3, 4 are based on homonymy.
Thus, we found out that a word that has several meanings is called polysemantic, or polysemic. But at the same time, it is desirable to be able to distinguish polysemy from homonymy. If there is any semantic connection between words with several meanings, then there is none between homonyms.