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fall winter
2011 - 2012
Approaches to the Study of Word Meaning
The Legacy of Historical Semantics
Lecture 1
(1) Semiotics - the general theory of signs
Syntax - the study of sign-sign relations (distribution)
Semantics - the study of sign-object relations (reference)
Pragmatics - the study of sign- user relations

object form (word)

(2) Proper names denote / refer to individuals.
VPs denote/ refer to eventualities/events
Sentences refer to states of affairs and they can be true
or false.

(3) He managed to kiss Mary He kissed Mary.
He wished to kiss Mary. > He kissed Mary.
Since my arms are full, will you open the door for me?
My arms are full.

(4) a. (Waiter to his friend) Hurry up, The roast-beef is
getting nervous
b. The baby ate the bottle and then broke it.
c. Our university, which ranks third in the IVY LEAGUE
was moved here and rebuilt after the fire
d. Dickens enjoyed reading himself in public
(5) a. The plane is flying over the hill. (trajectory, land-mark
b. Sam walked over the hill. (Contact of T and LM)
c. The bird flew over the yard. (extended LM)
d. The bird flew over the wall. (vertical LM)
e. Sam lives over the hill.(focus on end point of LM)
f. Harry still hasn't gotten over his divorce.
g. The painting is over the mantel. (no path, stative, no
h. She spread the tablecloth over the table. (contact, covering,
optional path for movement of trajectory over the landmark).
i. The board is over the hole. (contact, covering).
j. The city clouded over.
k. The guards were posted all over the hill.

(6) common ground
/ \
tenor vehicle
(new, fig. sense) (literal sense)
(7) Life is a walking shadow
common ground: upper part
/ \
tenor vehicle
top of a hill brow of a hill
Sally is a block of ice
common ground: cold
/ \
tenor vehicle
frigid block of ice
a. antropomorphic metaphors are based the features of
body parts:
a.1 they extend the human body to the realm of animals
and plants:

(8) brow of a hill, ribs of a vault, mouth of a river, head of a
bed / head of a table, the heart of matter, etc.

a.2 the opposite tendency is shown in metaphors where
the body parts are named after plants, objects, animals:
(9) muscle [ Lat. mus, mouse]; apple of the eye, ear-drum
Categories of Metaphors (Ullman 1931)
b. animal metaphors are based features properties of
familiar animals.
b1. similarities between animals and plants, the latter
being named after the former:
(10) dogs tails pipetnri
cocks foot golomoz, nuduroasa
goats beard barba caprei, creua
b2. perceived similarities between animals and objects:
(11) cock of a gun cocosul armei
cat-o nine tails
cat-head mosor fix, tambuchi

b3. perceived similarities between animals and humans
(12) a fox ( a sly person); a bear ( a morose person); a
book worm; a cat (a spiteful woman), a calf ( a
beginner), a chicken (a young woman), a monkey (a
naughty child), an oyster ( a silent person).

c. synaestehtic metaphors:
(13) loud colors, sweet noise,
a. part used for the whole or whole used for the part (synaechdochy)
(14) a hand ( a factory hand)
a skirt ( a woman)
a pair of pants ( a man)
the foot (the infantry)
b. an instrument for the agent:
(15) to be a good sword
the horse (the cavalry)
the crown (the King)
c. the holder for the thing held, the container for the contained
(16) the pulpit ( the pulpit and the clergy)
the church ( the church, the clergy)
the Court
(the) galley galera
person made to work like a slave

(17) boon (AS) 1. prayer
2. a blessing, something to be grateful for;
the second meaning developed under the influence of
the homonymous French adjectives boon (bon, good)

(18) a daily / weekly/ quarterly (paper, magazine)
the main the main sea
(19) He bought a Picasso.

(Is it ellipsis, i.e. contiguity of names, or metonymy, i.e.
contiguity of senses?)

(20) wan (AS dark, now, pale)
fast (AS fixed, firmly) to bind fast, now rapidly, to run fast)
botch (AS repair, now to damage ( The actor botched his lines)
(21) You, flaming idiot!
bloody/ blooming waste of time/ nonsense.
(22) mother fucker common in AE (street argot of blacks,
friendly tone) is unheard of in BE
cock common in BE is edited out in AE; it does however
appear in compounds like, cock-teaser, cock sucker
social euphemism
industrial action strike
recession depression
explosive device bomb
liquidation murder
strategic weapon nuclear missile
Politically correct terms
(23) educationally subnormal
certically challemged
(24) to push up the daisies (die)
(25) BOX
AS a container made of box-wood, normally safe-
keeping of something precious, such as ointment, jewelry
(currently, casket, chest)
A box at the opera is a facetious extension of the basic
gear box technological extensions


BIRD AS young bird bird
Latin PLANTA meant sprout, cutting plant
HYSTERIA a diseases considered to be affecting only
women, since hysteria is derived from a Greek term for
womb; ever since Freud, the term is equally applicable to
medieval sense: mechanical contrivance often for war or
torture cotton gin
mechanical source of power steam engine

FUGOL OE 1. bird
Mod E 2. fowl

Mod E 2. starve, die/suffer from hunger

DEOR OE 1. beast
Mod E 2. a certain beast, the deer

(27) minister 1. a servant
2. a very high executive

comrade 1. room-mate (Spanish: camarada)
2. friend

pest 1. plague (the bubonic plague
2. garden pests (insects, animals R daunatori)
3. annoying person

blame 1 blasphemy
2. blame
(28) SILLY (OE saellig)
900 OE saelig happy
1200 ME seely happy, blessed
1500 ModE deserving of compassion
weak, feeble
simple, ignorant
800 OE ceorl a male human being
1000 a man without rank
1225 ME a serf
ModE a base fellow

KNAVE a boy (Ger. Der Knabe)
a servant
a person with rude manners

(30) The Latin Legacy

Basic street, mile, butter, cheese, wine, inch,
(continental ounce, pound, kitchen, plum, cup, dish,
borrowings) mint (both senses)
Religious mass, monk, nun, bishop, abbot, minister,
apostle, pope, altar, hymn, angel, devil;

Literary democratic, juvenile, sophisticated,
(Renaissance) aberration, enthusiasm, pernicious,
imaginary, allusion, anachronism, dexterity
Scientific nucleus, formula, vertebra, corpuscle, atomic,
(17-18th centuries) carnivorous, incubate, aqueous, molecule.
International allophatic, otorhinolaryngology, zomotherapy
(19-20th centuries)
(31) The Anglo Saxon terms
Of the original Anglo-Saxon word-hoard, one third has survived,
some of them have shifted their denotation as shown above) or
connotation. Notice thus that the updating of forms and
meanings of major terms from AS heroic poetry produces some
strange results. By such means it might be said that Beowulf
took lust (AS lust pleasure, joy) in dreary (A-S drearig,
bloodstained) battle, was moody (AS, modig, brave,
spirited), rode a mare (AS mare, steed), yelped ( gielpan, to
boast or challenge), fazed his enemies (AS fesian, to put to
flight), and then cringed (AS cringan, to die, fall in battle).
What are the current meanings of these terms?

(32) Examples of AS terms
lexical words: man, wife, child, house, bench, meat, grass, leaf,
fowl, bird; good, high, strong; eat, drink, sleep, live, fight,
functional words: be, have; back; that; ic, thou, he, we, etc.
(32) The Norse/Scandinavian legacy
Scandinavian borrowings are part of the everyday vocabulary.
Whether the AS or the Scandinavian term survived is a matter
of chance.

sky, skin, skill, scrape, scrub (Compare shirt (AS) / skirt
(Scandinavian)) bloom, gift, bank, birth, crook, dirt, egg, fellow
kid, leg, sister, skill, root, reindeer, slaughter, snare; old, sly;
take, thrive, thrust
(33) The Norman Legacy
government majesty, govern, government, treaty,
and administration administer, state, empire, royal, tyrant
ecclesiastical sermon, sacrament, baptism, saint,
words communion, confession, prayer, orison,
passion, miravle, temptation, damnation
law judge, advocate, attorney, prison, pillory,
law, jury petition, felon, evidence, fine,
verdict, sentence, decree, punishment,
army and navy army, navy, peace, enemy, battle, spy,
ambush, siege, soldier, retreat, guard,
garrison, captain, lieutenant, sergeant
fashion, meals, apparel, attire, habit, gown, robe, garment,
social life lace, embroidery, button, buckle, mitten,
garter, galoshes, boots; blue, vermillion,
emerald, pearl, diamond.
art, learning, music, beauty, figure image, tone; cathedral, tower,
medicine choir, cloister, column; medicine, malady, anatomy,
contagion; poet, romance, volume, preface, treatise
(34) AS Norman
calf veal to roast, boil, broil, fry
cow beef
sheep mutton
deer, venison
boar brawn
pig pork, ham, gammon
(35) Synonymic patterns
AS Norman Latin, Greek
ask question interrogate
rise mount ascend
leech doctor physician
AS Latin
catty feline
piggish porcine
horsy equine
Doubletsdandelion (dent de lion) pissabed (diuretic properties)

(36) trek (Boer Dutch), anorak (Eskimo), cork (Spanish),
dekko,(Hindustani), manifesto (Italian), molasses
(Portuguese), yacht (Dutch), mumps (Icelandic),
cravat (Slavonic), gimmick (German), schmaltz
(Yddish), bazzar (Persian), pundit (Sanskrit), cherubic
(Hebrew), charismatic (Greek), paradise (Avestic),
nark (Romany), sherbet (Arabic), kamikaze
(Japanese) and juggernaut (Hindi).

(37) Warm, rich and full of golden-goodness will give your
furry friend health, strength and get-up and go;

(38) The patient is experiencing a potentially fatal
hemorrhage situation(the patient is bleeding to death)

ME physiognomy becoming phiz (1688), subsequently fizz;
ME lunatic, becoming vulgar loony (1872);
fanatic becoming fan (US)(1889);
Renaissance obstreperous becoming stroppy (1951) and so on.
literary academic technical

archaism or neologism
neutral word

slang colloquialism
(40) insane
of unsound mind
not in full possession of ones faculty
possessed neurotic

demented maladjusted
unhinged MAD
bereft of reason bananas
non compos mentis bonkers
mental crackers
barmy round thee bend
cuckoo off ones chump
loony nuts
daft, crazy
(41) Bottom heavy fields: drunkenness
High registers:
intoxicated, inebriated
Low registers:
sloshed, slammed, smashed, slewed,
stewed, screwed, etc.

(42) Top heavy fields: poverty
High registers (elevated euphemisms):
indigent, impecunious, destitute,
distressed, financially underprivileged, of
modest income,
Low registers:
The semantic field of economic terms (I)
Original capitalist sense Date of Earliest Specialized
or Dominant Capitalist Sense
900 fee, buy
950 yield, rich
1000 fellow, guild
1200 tally, tithe
1250 pay, wealth (common wealth)
1300 account, control, thrift sell, price, rent
usury, debt, exchequer
1350 money, bargain, salary wage, customs
tax, exchange
1400 broker, magnate, redeem, company, save (up), bill
Mercenary, expense, levy
1450 staple, commodity, loan, charge
1500 farm, excise, duty bribe, market, cheap
The semantic field of economic terms
Original capitalist sense Date of Earliest Specialized
or Dominant Capitalist Sense
1550 monopoly, trade mark bank, chattel, interest (usuary), purchase (n),
trade, traffic, credit, finance, goodwill, dues
1600 capitalist, cash, tariff embezzle, fortune, profit, dividend, share
commerce, pre-emption income, invest, corporation, industry
1650 jobber concession, workhouse, factory
1700 cheque consumption, demand economy, fund, note,
interest, bull, bear, luxury, security, concern
1760 capitalist budget, business, currency, draft
scab stock exchange
1800 exploitation exploit, speculate, firm, strike,
trade union crash
1850 entrepreneur inflation, blackleg, limited (liability)
1900 boom cartel, dole, welfare, slump (n)
devaluation recession
1950 reschedule depression