Semantic change – changes of both synchronic and diachronic nature, which concerns the semantic content of the word. New meanings would appear by means of semantic shift (q.v.) and semantic transference (q.v.), which lead to the growth of polysemy. Causes for s.ch. can be both extralinguistic and linguistic.
There are many causes of semantic change:
- 1) Historical causes.
According to historical principle, everything develops changes, social institutions change in the course of time, the words also change.
Ex.: “car” which goes back to Latin “carfus” which meant a four wheeled (vehicle) wagon, despite of the lack of resemblance.
- 2) Psychological causes.
Taboos of various kinds.
Words are replaced by other words, sometimes people do not realize that they use euphemisms.
Ex.: “lady’s room” instead of the “lavatory”
- 3) Linguistic causes
Tendency of a language to borrow a particular metaphorical development of a word from another language.
The nature of semantic change.
Metaphor accounts for a very considerable proportions of semantic changes.
Language is full of so-called fossilized (trite-банальный, избитый, неоригинальный) metaphors, which no longer call up the image of an object from which they were borrowed.
Ex.: the leaf of a book; hands of a clock; a clock face; hands of a cabbage.
Metonymy is the tendency of certain words to occur in near proximity & mutually influence one another.
He drinks 2 cups (tea, coffee) every morning.
He has eaten 2 plates (porridge) today.
“Bureau” (French origin)
When it appeared in the language, meant “thick green cloth” usually tables were covered with it, it became associated with a writing table. (BrE)
AmE: 2 further stages
- an office furnished with writing tables
- an office
1) The substitution of cause, form effect
- sleeping sickness is diseases which causes sleep & vice versa.
2) Catachresis is a gradual planting of one sense for another for a large or short period of time.
Ex.: - sermon (early) – any conversation
(now) – religious conversation
One of the chief consequences of semantic change is the change in the area meaning.
Each word has an area of meaning, it has certain limits.
As a result of semantic change this area of meaning can be restricted (ограниченный, узкий) or expended (тратить, расходовать (на что-л. - for, on, in)).
1. Restriction of meaning:
- names for classes of animals
“deer” – earlier included all wild animals
now only deer
“fowl” – earlier - birds in general
now – poultry & wild fowl (дичь)
- a number of Anglo-Saxon words shrunk under the influence of Norman words
“pond” – from Latin “pontus” (sea or large stretch of water).
Due to its confrontation with word “lake” “pond” changed its meaning to “пруд”.
2. Expansion of meaning.
It happens as a result of chance situations.
The word “вокзал’ came to Russian from English word “Vauxhall” as the general name of all main railway stations. Now – автовокзал, ж/д вокзал, м/р вокзал.
The same thing happens very often with loan words (заимствованное слово).
Прислала Алена Жильцова