Words in English public website
Ling 216 course information
Rice University
Prof. S. Kemmer

Study Guide: Midterm 2 Review

Fall 2016

Midterm 2 will cover Chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10, and the material on etymology and dictionaries talked about in class. Covered material includes class lectures, comments and discussion, as well as web pages linked to the course schedule during the dates since we started this material after Midterm 1.

The focus will be on these topics:

Questions on the midterm will assume some knowledge of concepts introduced in the previous chapters, but these will not be tested specifically. By now you should know all these concepts on the Definitions page introduced earlier in the course, and how to use them, even if you could not write a definition of them yourself without help.

Skills tested:

There is also a little on parsing and word formation types/neologism types, since as mentioned before these are topics that continue throughout the course. See earlier review pages and linked pages to review these. See also the Course objectives and skills recap which describe some of the knowledge and abilities you should have with respect to Indo-European, language variation, and the other topics of the course.

1. Polysemy, Semantic change, etymology (incl. word stories)

The notes below the terms in this section are provided to clarify the differences betweeen some of the terms.

polysemy (words having different, related senses; contrast with homonymy)
synechdoche (= part for whole)
amelioration (= melioration)
pejoration (= degeneration)
widening (= broadening, generalization)
narrowing (= specialization)
cycle of euphemism (former euphemism for a taboo word itself becomes taboo)
technological change as factor in semantic change
[hypernym (more general word; a type)
hyponym (more specific example of its type)]
relation of etymology and parsing
folk etymology (false etymologies. Sometimes these involve reanalysis; but sometimes they are just (false) urban legends about etymology, often spread by internet

Metaphor vs. metonymy

Metaphor is the use of a word for one concept to mean another, similar concept. Metaphor involves some perceived similarity between two things. ('Thing' is used in a very broad sense here.) Metonymy does not.

For example, the word fork can mean the place where a road or path splits into two roads. This meaning of fork is metaphorical: it is based on the shape similarity between instruments with prongs, like the forks you eat with or the barbecue tool for spearing meat, and the configuration of roads or paths on the ground: Two or more longish things emerging from a joined base.

Metaphor is sometimes called "domain shift" because we use it to think about concepts in one domain (area of experience) in terms of another domain. We use language of the domain we better understand to talk about the concepts we don't understand or don't know how to describe so well. For example, as discussed below, in English and many languages, we talk about time in the terminology we use for space, because time is not concrete, and is not at all easy to understand. Once we spatialize it, it becomes more understandable, to the point where we don't even have another way of understanding it.

The fork example, like the hippocampus example discussed in class (hippo 'horse' + campus 'monster' = 'seahorse' --> 'pair of roughly sea-horse-shaped brain parts important in memory storage'), involve shape similarity between two physical objects. But some similarities are not visual at all; they are more abstract (cognitive) similarities. The many metaphors involving spatial terms being used for temporal concepts show that we view time and space as similar in their basic configurations. Also, when we speak of loud colors, or a sharp taste, we are taking words from the domain of perception of various kinds, and using them to talk about another channel of perception. Loud is usually about sounds in English, but a color or pattern that is visually striking and jarring can also be said to be loud.

Metonymy is a change or process in which there are two things conceptually close together in time and space- they occur in the same situation - and we use the word for one to refer to the other. If we said I hear a piano, what we are actually hearing is music (or at least noise from the piano), but we use the word for the object producing it to refer to the sound. "The same situation" is often described as "the same place and time". I think that "situation" is a clearer formulation.

Another example is the case of visual properties and the objects with those properties. For example, the case of loud colors above is a case of metaphor; but when we talk about a loud tie we mean a tie with a loud pattern or color. The property of the color/pattern (loud) is applied to an object having that property. The color and the object occur to our visual perception at the same time and in the same place. The two things (the color and the shirt) are so related that we might have trouble even realizing that they are logically separate concepts.

Synechdoche and eponymy are specific types of metonymy. All involve situational "contiguity" (nearness in time and space).

Broadening/generalization vs. Metaphor and metonymy

The following distinction was discussed in class. Broadening, like narrowing, is specifically about types and subtypes: the word for a specific type of thing or action, a hyponym, comes to be used for the general type, a hypernym, that INCLUDES the original thing or action. So, the English word dog, originally a word for a particular breed of dog, now means 'dog' in general. The new meaning includes the old concept but is more general ('general' here MEANS inclusive); it is a more general TYPE of thing or action. Dog in Old English was a hyponym of the older English word for 'dog in general', hound. Now in Modern English dog Metaphors don't really involve inclusion or different levels of types. They are about similarity in two different domains of experience. So even though a metaphorical meaning might SEEM more general than the original meaning, it is not, in the sense that semanticists use the word general. Example: long< > meaning 'extended for a considerable period in time' is a metaphorical usage based on simlarity of spatial and temporal longness (based more fundamentally on the perception of time as being line-like). The word long did acquire a temporal sense, so it might seem that it is more general than if it just meant 'extended a considerable distance in space'. But that is not what we mean by general in terms of semantic change, or else all cases of increasing polysemy would be generalization. But they are not. Temporal longness is not a more general (inclusive) type of longness than spatial longness. It is just a DIFFERENT type of longness.

The same arguments apply to metonymy. A metonymic extension might, it is true, yield greater polysemy, like when the word money first came to mean 'coins; currency' in addition to its original meaning. But that does not mean it refers to a more general TYPE of thing. Coins are not a more general type of thing that also includes temples or the warning goddess. They are a kind of thing that happened to be in the same situations where those earlier kinds of things were mentioned.

So watch out for the difference between generalization vs. types of change that involve increasing polysemy; or a layperson's other potential interpretations of generality. Generalization/broadening in semantics always means 'process of coming to refer to a more general TYPE of thing/action, which includes the more specific types it used to refer to exclusively.

2. Dictionaries

first dictionaries of European languages
Samuel Johnson
Noah Webster
authoritative sources (necessity of)
senses of a word
standard sense, or basic sense, vs. extended senses
citations (quotations)
the OED (Oxford English Dictionary)
relation of definitions and semantic change in OED (first definition generally original sense; subsequent are extensions of various kinds

3. Latin and Greek morphology

Latin and Greek inflectional categories
base or stem (inflectional endings for the various categories are added to base or stem)
noun inflectional categories
case (endings in Latin, Greek marking sentence functions like subject, object etc.)
number: singular, plural
gender: masculine, feminine, neuter
difference betweeen semantic number or gender, vs. grammatical number or gender
(noun declension; not covered)
verb inflectional categories
person: 1st, 2nd, 3rd
verb conjugation classes (stem classes; stem vowels)
principal parts
voice: active, passive
past participle ( = perfect participle in book (-t-; sometimes shows up without participle meaning - just precedes certain suffixes, e.g. -t-or)
present participle morpheme (stem vowel + nt)
future participle morpheme (= gerundive in book) (stem vowel + nd)

4. Genetic relationship, Indo-European language family, the Indo-Europeans

genetic relationship
related languages VS. languages affected by culture contact (and therefore borrowing)
language family
family tree metaphor
parent language, mother language, ancestor language
sister language
daughter language
language breakup
(due to loss of contact + different changes in different places)
Grimm's law; language family it affected
sound change
reasons for persistence of evidence of relationship:
--regularity of sound change
--resistance to change of basic vocabulary
Reconstruction of aspects of Indo-European culture (linguistic archaeology): economic system, family system, technology
Proto-Indo-European (the prehistoric language):
Reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European words
The Indo-Europeans: origin, time of migration to Europe, Hypotheses on geographical origin
Germanic (West, North, East)
Celtic (Welsh, Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic)
Italic / Romance. Same linguistic family. But "Italic" refers to Latin and its sister and ancestor languages; "Romance" is name given to the modern descendents of Latin, French, Italian (and its various dialects), Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Provencal, Romanian, Corsican, and Sardinian
Hellenic (the family that includes Classical Greek, Demotic Greek (language of the New Testament), and modern Greek dialects
Baltic (Lithuanian, Latvian)
Slavic (East Slavic: Russian, Ukrainian; West Slavic: Polish, Czech, Slovakian; South Slavic: Bulgarian, Slovenian, Serbian, Croatian
Indo-Iranian - Indic (sometimes called "Aryan") subfamily: Sanskrit and its modern descendent dialects (Punjabi, Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu). Iranian subfamily: Persian languages, including Farsi, national language of Iran.
Hittite language (Anatolian family). Hittite and its speakers, the Hittites, were referred to in the old Testament, when they were powerful. Now all that's left of them is some texts found in clay jars.
Non-Indo-European languages of Europe: Finnish, Hungarian, Estonian (Finno-Ugric languages); Basque (isolate language, no known linguistic relatives)

5. Language Variation and Language in Society


dialect = a social variety or geographical variety; contrast popular meaning of term, infused with judgement of 'good'/'bad'. Linguists don't apply judgements like this; we look at varieties/dialects objectively so we can study them more accurately. Language attitudes are due to historical and cultural factors; they do not reflect instrinsic "goodness" or "badness" of linguistic forms or varieties. Language attitudes towards variants typically change over time as the relationships of the groups change through history. The prestige or high-power group can become the despised group if they get invaded and lose power. And then their language is seen as "bad" or "low class". Cf. the Anglo-Saxons under the Normans; or Tex-Mex speakers in Texas.

standardization and education
standard, nonstandard
correctness; relativity (better: context-dependence) of correctness
standard forms as shibboleths; role of education
prestige maintenance via linguistic shibboleths
formal, informal varieties (variation in register or style)
orthography; sound vs. spelling
spoken vs. written language (also considered a variation in register)
language as a marker of groups
in-group vs. outgroup
slang, characteristics of slang
jargon (words used by a professional or interest group)
language and power
language peeves
peevology: the study of people's pet peeves about language

Neologisms (and the word formation types used to create them)

Review Word formation types

conversion or zero-derivation
compounds, compounding: phrasal compounds, rhyming compounds
blends, blending
acronyms, initialisms
clipping, clippings
folk etymology
creative respelling
novel creation
nonce words (words coined once and used once for a specific purpose; not conventionalize, i.e. they have not spread to other speakers)
sound symbolism/onomotopeia


Review the Parsing page. There will be some multiple choice questions on parsing.

© Suzanne Kemmer
Last modified 29 Nov 2016