The meaning of a word can change in the course of time. Changes of lexical meanings can be proved by comparing contexts of different times. Transfer of the meaning is called lexico-semantic word-building. In such cases the outer aspect of a word does not change.
The causes of semantic changes can be extra-linguistic and linguistic, e.g. the change of the lexical meaning of the noun «pen» was due to extra-linguistic causes. Primarily « pen» comes back to the Latin word «penna» (a feather of a bird). As people wrote with goose pens the name was transferred to steel pens which were later on used for writing. Still later any instrument for writing was called « a pen».
On the other hand causes can be linguistic, e.g. the conflict of synonyms when a perfect synonym of a native word is borrowed from some other language one of them may specialize in its meaning, e.g. the noun «tide» in Old English was polisemantic and denoted «time», «season», «hour». When the French words «time», «season», «hour» were borrowed into English they ousted the word «tide» in these meanings. It was specialized and now means «regular rise and fall of the sea caused by attraction of the moon». The meaning of a word can also change due to ellipsis, e.g. the word-group «a train of carriages» had the meaning of «a row of carriages», later on «of carriages» was dropped and the noun «train» changed its meaning, it is used now in the function and with the meaning of the whole word-group.
Semantic changes have been classified by different scientists. The most complete classification was suggested by a German scientist Herman Paul in his work «Prinzipien des Sprachgeschichte». It is based on the logical principle. He distiguishes two main ways where the semantic change is gradual ( specialization and generalization), two momentary conscious semantic changes (metaphor and metonymy) and also secondary ways: gradual (elevation and degradation), momentary (hyperbole and litote).
Date: 2015-01-12; view: 905