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现代英语词汇学概论chapter9


Chapter IX
CHANGES IN WORD MEANING

? Overview ? Causes of changes in word meaning ? Tendencies in semantic change

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? An overview of semantic changes
? Vocabulary is the most unstable element of a language as it is undergoing constant changes both in form and content. Comparatively speaking, the content is even more unstable than the form. ? Changing in word meaning has never ceased since the language came into being and will continue in the future. ? The change of word-meaning is fundamental in a living language.
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Causes of Change in word meaning
Linguistic causes
? ? ? ?

Extra-linguistic causes
– – –

Ellipsis Borrowing Analogy Figurative use of words ? Metaphor ? Metonymy

Historical reason Social reason Psychological reason

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Linguistic causes
? Ellipsis
– The meaning of a word may change when a phrase is shortened to one word which retains the meaning of the whole. This is called ellipsis.

gold: gold medal daily: daily newspaper

The meaning of the word “gold” has changed from material to refer to the whole phrase “gold medal”. This kind of change often occurs in habitual collocations.

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? Borrowing
– The influx (流入) of borrowings has caused some words to change in meaning. ? deer
(original) a wild animal of any sort from a lion to a mouse. In Middle Ages, the French word beste (=beast) became the general word. In 16th century, the Latin word animal was also adopted into the English vocabulary. Today deer can only refer to a particular kind of animal.

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? Analogy
– If an adjective develops a new meaning, the derived noun from the adjective will have a corresponding new meaning by analogy. The process can be applied to a word of any word class.

Diplomatic: Diplomacy
Diplomatic (original) skillful in dealing with international relations Analogy (present) skillful in dealing with any kind of relations Diplomacy (original) the art of dealing with international relations (present) ??? art of or skill in dealing with people

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? Figurative use of words

–The figurative use refers to the expression of saying something is another thing thereby making the speech or article vivid and stimulating the readers’ imagination. The original thing is called tenor while thing compared to is called vehicle. –Metaphor & metonymy

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? Metaphor
– Metaphor is a figure of speech containing an implied comparison based on similarity. in which a word or a phrase ordinarily and primarily used for one thing is applied to another, a process which often results in semantic change or figurative extension of meaning.
? A beautiful woman may be described as a vision. ? A cunning person is often referred to as a fox.

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Metaphor
This is also a horse, but a metaphorical horse.

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Example: foot
1. Lowest part of the leg, below the ankle, on which a person or animal stands. 2. The lowest part; the bottom.

the foot of a mountain the foot of a page

This meaning is derived through the metaphor “The last line on this page is the foot of the page.”

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?


Metonymy
Metonymy is a figure of speech by which an object or an idea is described by the name of something else closely related to it. That is to say, a transfer of names occurs between two things associated by actual contiguity, either by physical contact, or contact through various though associations. Seat Please take a seat. (a piece of furniture) He lost his seat in House of Commons.
The word “seat” has acquired the meaning of “the right to sit as a member” through metonymy.
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– –

Example: Cradle

These meanings are derived through the following metonyms.

1. A small low bed for an infant, often furnished with rockers 2. The earliest period of life; infancy from the cradle to the grave 3. A place of origin; a birthplace the cradle of civilization.

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Extra-linguistic causes
? Historical cause
– A word has retained its original form, though its meaning has changed because the referent has changed, i.e., the historical cause of semantic change.

pen

car

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? Social cause
– Language records the speech and attitude of different social classes, so different social varieties of language have come into being. – The attitude of classes have penetrated into lexical meaning, particularly in the case of elevation and degradation.
? Churl, hussy, villain which were originally neutral have been downgraded as “ill-manned or bad people”. ? Hot and cold have changed their meaning in the field of politics, as in “cold war”,” hot war” and “hot line”

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? Psychological cause
– The associated transfer of meaning and euphemistic use of words, etc. are often due to psychological factors.
? Euphemism(委婉词) ? Grandiloquence(夸张) ? Cynicism(挖苦语)

– People change word meaning owing to various psychological motives: ? love, respect, courtesy, suspicion, pessimism, sarcasm, irony, hatred, contempt, avoidance of embarrassment, etc.

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Types/tendencies in semantic change
? Specialization / Restriction of meaning ? Generalization / Extension of meaning ? Degradation (pejoration) / Degeneration of meaning ? Amelioration / Elevation of meaning

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Specialization: Restriction of Meaning

It is a process by which a word of wide meaning acquires a narrower or specialized sense. In other words, a word which used to have a more general sense becomes restricted in its application and conveys a special concept in present-day English.

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“生丈夫,二壶酒,一犬” 《勾践灭吴》

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Generalization: Extension of Meaning

It is also called widening of meaning or generalization. It’s a process by which a word which originally had a specialized meaning has now become generalized.

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“河内凶,则移其民于河东” 《寡人之于国也》

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Degradation/pejoration: Degeneration of Meaning
词义的降格

It is a process by which words with appreciatory or neutral affective meaning fall into ill reputation or come to be used in a derogatory sense.

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Villain a farmer a man guilty of evil deeds

君子之道,辟如行远,必自迩; 辟如登高,必自卑。——《中庸》

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Amelioration: Elevation of Meaning
词义的升格

It is the process by which words rise from humble beginnings to positions of importance.
Some words early in their history signify something quite low or humble, but change as time goes by to designate something agreeable or pleasant.

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marshal
Originally: A horse tender

Present: Officer of highest rank

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? Definition of changes of word meaning ? Types of changes 1.Specialization 2.Extension 3.Degeneration 4.Elevation 5.Transference ? Causes of changes 1.Historical reason 2.Social reason 3.Psychological reason 4.Linguistic reason
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Summary


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