1. Set expressions

Causes for Semantic Changes
The English Word by Arnold
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

2. Characteristic features

3. Different classifications

4. Narrowing and widening of meaning

A. 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’.

B. 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 EnglishShall in I shall comeShall 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.

5. Elevation and degradation of meaning

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’;

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