Words in English public website
Ling/Engl 215 course information
Rice University
Prof. S. Kemmer

Types of Semantic Change


Causes of Change

'External'--changes in technology, institutions, scientific concepts, etc. (see also Technological change and Semantic change God
car electricity
pen atom
humor
satellite parliament torpedo
(Germ) taufen, literally 'dip', now also 'baptize'
town ( < enclosure; ), cognate with Germ. Zaun 'fence'

'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)

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)  
'bear', 'weasel' 
words for 'left' 
Death taboos in Australia, New Guinea 
crippled -  handicapped -  disabled  
privy - toilet - bathroom  - restroom
'tongue'??  

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
bitter disappointment

synaesthesia --transfers from one physical sense domain to another

touch -->  sound
warm, cold voice
sound --> sight
loud colors
taste --> sound, odor
sweet voices, smells
sight --> sound
clear tones, Germ. hell 'clear, bright' < hall- 'to resound'

physical appearance --> moral evaluation
fair

capability  --> physical appearance
handsome < 'handy, skilful'
pretty <  'skilful, ingenious'

physical straightness --> moral rectitude
right, righteousness

Metonymy  (contiguity of senses)
bead
clock
boon
Fr. grC(ve
mass (Ite missa est...)

Fr. cuisse 'thigh' < Lat. coxa 'hip'
Sp. boca < Lat. bucca 'cheek'

synechdoche (= part for the whole, pars pro toto)
hands (workers)
wheels (car)

eponymy
silhouette, sadism, masochism, ohm, sandwich, cardigan.

Related:  trade names that become ordinary nouns:
kleenex, xerox

Clipping and contagion as a kind of language-internal metonymy?

Broadening  (Semantic extension, generalization)

pantry  
arrive
ship (v.)
embark
Lat. causa > Sp. cosa
Gmc. *    ing  > Eng. 'thing'
grow
uncle (Eng., Fr., Germ.) < Lat. avunculus  'maternal uncle'
(vs. patruus)

Narrowing (semantic restriction, specialization)

deer (cf. Gm. Tier)
hound  (Hund)
fowl  (Vogel)
meat, corn
Fr. herbe 'grass'
starve;  Fr. nover 'drown' < Lat. necare  'kill'
voyage < 'journey'
poison, potion


Amelioration  

marshal
minister
chancellor
queen  (Cl. Greek gyn   'woman')  
knight
nice  (Lat. nescius 'ignorant' > wanton, lascivious
                                     thin, unimportant, trivial  >
				     fastidious, delicate  >
                                     fine (distinctions) > 'agreeable,
				     delicate > kind,
                                     pleasant to others)

Pejoration 
sinister
crafty
words for women
silly, cretin (likely through euphemism)
villain, knave
boor


'Middle terms' (may undergo amelioration or pejoration, by contagion)
luck (lucky)
fortune  (fortunate)
O. French heur < Lat. augurium 'good or bad augury' (heureux)
chance  < L. cadentia 'falling' (of the dice)
accident
hazard
fate (fatal)

Some directional tendencies in semantic change

'now' to 'before/after now'
soon (formerly 'at once')
presently
anon
just
Germ. gleich


concrete  --->  abstract  ('Kronasser's law)
(Operates over and above broadening, narrowing, amelioration,
pejoration, metaphor; subsumes space --> time below)

investigate
comprehend
eliminate
involve 
develop
reveal
also: boor, bright  bead

spatial  --->  temporal
prepositions, motion verbs (Eng. and many lgs.)

before, after
the years ahead
come, go

'aspectual satellites' --on, up, down
case relations --'to' Fr. 'de', 'a'


© 2011  Suzanne Kemmer
Last modified 11 Oct 11

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