1. Semantic changes

2. Causes for semantic change

Causes for Semantic Changes
Linguistic and extralinguistic causes
Meaning of words are relatively stable. If they changed too often, communication would be impossible. Semantic changes are slow and we speak of semantic change form a diachronic point of view. But semantic changes are initiated in context, on the synchronic level. On the synchronic level we speak of deviation of meaning only.
Linguistic factors leading to semantic change: differentiation of synonymy, ellipsis and fixed contexts
Semantic change due to the differentiation of synonyms is a gradual process observed in the course of language history
For example, time and tide used to be synonyms. Then tide took on a more limited use, denoting the periodical shifting of water and time alone is used in the general sense.
Fixed context
token and sign Sign is a borrowing from French and it affected the meaning of token. A token of love, a token of respect
Ellipsis – a syntactic phenomenon, omission of syntactic elements
John came into the room and went to the window.
Mary was reading a book and Peter a magazine.
From cut-price sale to sale - qualifying words may be dropped
From to propose marriage to propose
From to be expecting a baby to to be expecting
to starve originally meant to die (Germ. sterben). It substituted the whole phrase to die of hunger which also began to mean suffer from lack of food and then it acquired the colloquial meaning to feel hungry
Extralinguistic causes for semantic change – cognitive, historic, economic, political, social, cultural ones.
earth and heaven
wealth – originally meant well-being, happiness. This meaning is still preserved in the compound word commonwealth
Mod. E. fee – originally meant both cattle and money
Lat. pecu meant cattle and pecunia meant money
Historic causes. Why are there so many words in English of French origin?
The name of the animal of native origin, but the word for the meat of French origin - pig, lamb, sheep, calf, cow, deer;
castle and fortress, soil and earth, sign and token, finish and end

Narrowing and widening of meaning
Narrowing (specialization) of meaning
OE for ModE deer – ‘wild beast’, ModE – a more specific meaning – ‘wild ruminant of a particular species’;
OE for ModE meat – ‘food’, ModE – a particular kind of food;
OE for ModE fowl – ‘bird’, ModE ‘domestic bird’ (G. der Vogel);
The OE more general meaning is still preserved in some set expressions and compound words in ModE, e.g. ‘the fowls of the air’, ‘fowling piece’;
undertaker, newspaper, operation – now have a more specific meaning;
OE for foe – its meaning was restricted due to the influence of enemy from Fr.
OE for stool – any kind of seat for one person;
Scand. sky restricted the meaning of heaven which is of Germanic origin;
OE for starve – meant to ‘die’, in ModE it means to ‘die of hunger’, (G. sterben);
OE for voyage, as in French, now it means ‘journey on the sea’;
OE for dole – ‘part’, ‘portion’, in ModE it means ‘money given to the unemployed’;
harvest changed its meaning under the influence of autumn borrowed from French (G. Herbst). In ModE harvest doesn’t mean the season, it means the agricultural work done during the season.
More examples of narrowing: interest, duty, business.
token and sign;
corn originally meant ‘grain’, the word became specialized locally – in England corn means ‘wheat’, in Scotland it means ‘oats’, in the US it means ‘maize’.

Widening (generalization) of meaning
ModE space from Gr. stadion, spadion – the ground where races with chariots took place, in Lat. stadium – ‘a place for athletic events’. In English it was borrowed from French with the following two meaning: 1) ‘a period or interval of time’, 2) linear distance’.
ModE place from Gr. plateia, meaning ‘a broad way and a courtyard’, in Fr. ‘a courtyard’ and after that ‘a square’;
MoE town in OE it meant ‘a fence, ‘an enclosure’;
ModE arrive from L. arribare, adripare – ‘to bring or come to shore or into port, ‘to land’;
broadcast – originally referred solely to sowing seeds;
Lat. panarium – ‘bread basket’, in Fr. panier – ‘basket’
Widening of meaning has to be kept distinct from what is called grammaticalization of lexical meaning
Do in Do you speak English? Shall in I shall come. Shall and will were full notional verbs in OE. Have in Have you been to London?
Verbs of motion as in to ‘turn red’, to ‘go green’.
Weakening of lexical meaning in awfully, terribly, terrific, smashing.

Elevation and degradation of meaning
Amelioration and pejoration of meaning
Elevation of meaning
ModE queen in OE meant a ‘woman’;
ModE knight in OE meant a ‘young servant’;
ModE steward in OE meant ‘the keeper of the sty’ (OE stigo for ModE sty and OE weard for ModE ward)
ModE lord meant in OE ‘the keeper of the bread’ and ModE lady in OE meant “the kneader of the bread’
More examples of elevation of meaning:
annoy from Lat. – ‘to make loathsome’;
to regret from Fr. – ‘to lament over the dead’;
sophisticated – meant ‘artificial’, now ‘wordly-wise, intellectually appealing, cultured’.
Degradation of meaning
silly in OE meant ‘blessed’;
cretin in Fr. meant “Christian’, now ‘stupid’;
mistress, originally in Fr. it meant ‘a bride’;
The rest of the examples of pejoration are all terms of abuse and scorn:
boor, from Du. Meant ‘a farmer’;
churl, in OE it meant ‘man, free man of the lowest rank’;
clown, probably from Scand.
villain in OFr. it meant ‘feudal serf’;

3. Types of Semantic change (narrowing and widening of meaning, elevation and degradation of meaning - Arnold, Molchova)

4. Metaphor as a semantic change

5. Traditional and modern views on metaphor (Black, Searle, Ricoeur, Mack)

6. Metonymy

Metaphor and methonymy – exemplify non-literal use of language
Metaphor - traditional and modern views. We shall discuss metaphor not as an embellishment of language in literature and poetry but as something we can’t do without in everyday speech.
The traditional view of metaphor
Metaphor is the result of the similarity between two objects
metaphor is analyzed on the word level;
it is transformed into a simile
simile is literal paraphrase of metaphor
Aristotle’s view – metaphor is a transfer of name: from genus to species, from species to genus, from species to species or as a result of analogy.
Isaac Passy on metaphor - Метафората
How we define or explain something might also depend on the terminology that is used. In English a distinction is made between simile and comparison that we don’t find with Passy.
“Всяка метафора е съкратено сравнение и всяко сравнение преформирана метафора.

Modern views on metaphor
Max Black, 1962, Models and Metaphors
The interaction view of metaphor. Sentence metaphors but not word metaphors
Man is a wolf. The word used metaphorically he calls the focus and the rest of the words in the sentence that are not used metaphorically he calls the frame. The word used in the focus, wolf, is not used in its literal sense but as a “system of associated commonplaces” which is added to the literal sense of wolf , forming a system of implications that are then transferred to the frame. This system of implications reorganizes our view of man. Context suggests many meanings; there is a special case of polysemy but not ambiguity. Metaphor is not the result of similarity, in fact, it creates similarity.
Andrew Ortony, 1979, Metaphor and Thought

Similes are not always a literal paraphrase of metaphors for two reasons:
only nominal metaphors can be transformed into a simile, e.g. Man is a wolf, but if we have a predicative metaphor, e.g. Mrs. Gandhi steamed through the crowd, such metaphors can’t be transformed into a simile;
similes are of two types: literal and non-literal
Dictionaries are like encyclopedias.
Dictionaries are like gold mine.
Man is a wolf.

Metaphor explained in terms of semantic features
How do we get from the literal meaning of bear to the metaphorical meaning of the same word? A peripheral semantic feature of the literal meaning of bear, e.g. clumsy, becomes a central feature in the metaphorical meaning of bear.
Criticism: this approach can explain only trite or conventional metaphors that are registered in the dictionary, but not novel metaphors that are not in the dictionary.
Paul Ricoeur, 1978, The Rule of metaphor: Multidisciplinary Studies of the Creation of meaning in language

Metaphor as a speech act
Dorothy Mack, 1975, Metaphoring as speech act: some happiness conditions for implicit similes and simple metaphors
Metaphors, implicit and explicit similes have a common underlying structure – an assertion is made on the basis of a meta-linguistic presupposition.
She is a gazelle.
She is like a gazelle.
She is quick like a gazelle.
She is quick the way gazelles are quick.

Metonymy – based on the general relation of contiguity between/among things. Based on spatial, temporal, causal, symbolic, instrumental, functional and other relations
cash from Fr. caisse (box)
the chair – may mean the chairman; the barthe lawyers; the pulpit – the priests;
the town – the inhabitants of the town, the House – members of the House of Commons or of Lords; cello, violin, saxophone – used to denote the musician playing them;
symbol for the thing symbolizedthe crown for the monarchy – synecdoche;
instrument for the producthand for handwriting;
receptacle for contentThe kettle is boiling. He drank a bottle;
the material for the product – glass, iron, copper, nickel;
functional relation – pen from Lat. penna (feather)
physical and technical units named after the scientist – volt, ohm, ampere, watt;
locative relationThe White House, the Pentagon, Wall Street, Downing Street, Fleet Street;
geographical names tuned into common nouns – china, astrakhan, bikini, boston, cardigan;
proper names for the garment the referent brought into fashion – mackintosh, raglan, wellingtons.

Narrowing and widening of meaning
We discuss narrowing and widening from a diachronic point of view. We compare the OE form of the word and its modern equivalent. In the case of narrowing of meaning, the meaning of the same word form in OE had a wider meaning than its modern meaning. In the case of widening, the meaning of a given word had a narrower meaning in OE than its modern equivalent.
Two more terms are used for narrowing and widening: specialization of meaning and generalization of meaning.

Narrowing of meaning
Examples: deer in OE meant ‘a wild beast’;
meat in OE meant food; fowl meant a bird, now it means a domestic bird;
The OE more general meaning is preserved in some set expressions in ModE: e.g. fowls of the air, a fowling piece;
ModE fee used to mean cattle in OE, now it means payment for professional services done;
undertaker, operation, newspaper;
ModE foe restricted its use due to the influence of enemy from Fr.
OE meaning of stool – any kind of seat for one person;
OE meaning of starve – to die;
OE meaning of voyage – ‘journey’, as in Fr., now journey by sea;
OE meaning of dole – ‘part, portion’, now money given to the unemployed, to be on the dole;
OE meaning of harvestautumn, a borrowing from Fr. G. Herbst, under the influence of autumn harvest came to mean the agricultural work done at that time;
token and sign;
corn originally meant ‘grain’, the seed of any cereal plant. We used locally, the meaning gets specialized and means ‘the leading crop of the region’: corn in England means ‘wheat’, in Scotland it means ‘oats’ and in the US as an elliptic form for Indian corn it means ‘maize’.
interest, duty, business –have narrower financial senses along side their more general meaning.

Widening of meaning
ModE space come from Gr ‘spadion’ – the ground where races with chariots took place; when borrowed in Lat. – stadium - it came to mean a place for athletic events;
ModE place, origin Gr., meant a broad way and a courtyard; in Fr. it came to mean a courtyard and after that a square;
ModE town meant in OE ‘a fence, an enclosure’;
ModE arrive from Lat. arribare – to bring or come to shore or into port; to land;
Lat. panarium – ‘bread basket’, Fr. panier – ‘basket’
Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between generalization proper from generalization combined with a fading of lexical meaning as a result of grammaticalization of lexical meaning. For example, shall and will in OE were full notional verbs and in ModE they are only auxiliaries. In the case of do and have they have two meanings – as full notional verbs and as auxiliaries:
Do you speak English?
What are you doing?
Similarly, go in to go red and turn in to turn red.
Denotational meaning might be weakened by expressive meaning, as in awfully, terribly, terrific and smashing.

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