'External'--changes in technology, institutions, scientific concepts,
etc. (see also Technological change and
contagion --associations contracted in habitual context
Fr. ne...pas> pas 'not'
ne....personne > personne 'nobody'
Engl. budge, accident
clipping-- part of a complex element takes on meaning of the whole
Causes of Change
satellite parliament torpedo
(Germ) taufen, literally 'dip', now also 'baptize'
town ( < enclosure; ), cognate with Germ. Zaun 'fence'
private soldier > private
rifle gun > rifle
bugle horn > bugle (from buculus < bos 'bovine animal')
porter's ale > porter
Lat. singularis porcus 'solitary pig' > Fr. sanglier 'wild boar'
taximeter cabriolet > taxicab > taxi or cab; phone, TV, etc.
sleeping car > sleeper (-er suffix somewhat productive as clipping device In Brit. English--footer, soccer, brekker)
Mechanisms/results of change
taboo-euphemism (often iterative process)
words for 'left'
Death taboos in Australia, New Guinea
crippled - handicapped - disabled
privy - toilet - bathroom - restroom
Metaphor (similarity of senses)
= 'Domain shift'
---the body as major domain of metaphorical extension--
body parts --> parts of objects
brow of a hill
mouth of a river
heart of the matter
leg of a table
sight, hearing --> understanding
wit, Gm. wissen, cognate with Lat. videre 'see'
light, brightness: enlighten, illuminating, brilliant
taste --> emotion
synaesthesia --transfers from one physical sense domain to another
touch --> sound
warm, cold voice
sound --> sight
taste --> sound, odor
sweet voices, smells
sight --> sound
clear tones, Germ. hell 'clear, bright' < hall- 'to resound'
physical appearance --> moral evaluation
capability --> physical appearance
handsome < 'handy, skilful'
pretty < 'skilful, ingenious'
physical straightness --> moral rectitude
Metonymy (contiguity of senses)
mass (Ite missa est...)
Fr. cuisse 'thigh' < Lat. coxa 'hip'
Sp. boca < Lat. bucca 'cheek'
synechdoche (= part for the whole, pars pro toto)
silhouette, sadism, masochism, ohm, sandwich, cardigan.
Related: trade names that become ordinary nouns:
Clipping and contagion as a kind of language-internal metonymy?
Broadening (Semantic extension, generalization)
Lat. causa > Sp. cosa
Gmc. * ing > Eng. 'thing'
uncle (Eng., Fr., Germ.) < Lat. avunculus 'maternal uncle'
Narrowing (semantic restriction, specialization)
deer (cf. Gm. Tier)
Fr. herbe 'grass'
starve; Fr. nover 'drown' < Lat. necare 'kill'
voyage < 'journey'
queen (Cl. Greek gyn 'woman')
nice (Lat. nescius 'ignorant' > wanton, lascivious
thin, unimportant, trivial >
fastidious, delicate >
fine (distinctions) > 'agreeable,
delicate > kind,
pleasant to others)
words for women
silly, cretin (likely through euphemism)
'Middle terms' (may undergo amelioration or pejoration, by contagion)
O. French heur < Lat. augurium 'good or bad augury' (heureux)
chance < L. cadentia 'falling' (of the dice)
Some directional tendencies in semantic change
'now' to 'before/after now'
soon (formerly 'at once')
concrete ---> abstract ('Kronasser's law)
(Operates over and above broadening, narrowing, amelioration,
pejoration, metaphor; subsumes space --> time below)
also: boor, bright bead
spatial ---> temporal
prepositions, motion verbs (Eng. and many lgs.)
the years ahead
'aspectual satellites' --on, up, down
case relations --'to' Fr. 'de', 'a'
© Suzanne Kemmer
Last modified August 2017
'External'--changes in technology, institutions, scientific concepts, etc. (see also Technological change and Semantic change
'Internal' contagion --associations contracted in habitual context Fr. ne...pas> pas 'not' ne....personne > personne 'nobody' Engl. budge, accident
clipping-- part of a complex element takes on meaning of the whole (economic motivation)