Homonymy and its sources
Characteristics and sources of homonyms and homographs. Classification of homonyms. Subgroups of homonyms, simple lexico-grammatical partial homonyms. The contribution of word-building to the growth of homonymy. Shortening as a type of word-building.
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Homonymy and its Sources
Homonyms are words which are identical in sound and spelling (or, at least, in one of these aspect), but different in their meaning.
For example, bank, n - a shore; bank, n - an institution for receiving, lending, exchanging money.
If groups of synonyms and pairs of antonyms are created by the vocabulary system and can be regarded as the treasury of the language's expressive resources, homonyms are accidental creations, and therefore purposeless. In the process of communication they are more of an encumbrance, leading sometimes to confusion and misunderstanding. Yet it is this very characteristic which makes them one of the most important sources of popular humor.
The pun is a joke based upon the play upon words of similar form but different meaning (i. e. on homonyms) as in the following:
A Scotchman was going on an excursion to New York. He handed the agent a ten-dollar bill as the agent call “Change at Jersey City”. “no jokes now - I want my change right away!” said the frightened Scotchman.
“My grandfather lived to be nearly ninety and never used glasses”.
“Well, lot of people prefer to drink from the bottle”.
Policeman: Did you see the sign “Fine for Parking?
Driver: Yes, I agree with it. It's really a good place.
The traditional classification of homonyms
The most widely accepted classification is that recognising homonyms proper, homophones and homographs.
Homonyms proper are words identical in pronunciation and spelling, but differet in meaning.
For example: back ,n - part of the body; back, adv - away from the front; back, v - go back; ball, n - a round object used in games; ball, n - a gathering of people for dancing; bark, n - the noise made by a dog; bark, v - to utter sharp explosive cries; bark, n - the skin of a tree; bark, n - a sailing ship; base, n - bottom; base ,v - build or place upon. The important point is that homonyms are distinct words: not different meanings within one word.
Homophones are words of the same sound but of different spelling and meaning.
For example: air - heir; arms - alms; buy - by; him - hymn; knight - night; not - knot; or - oar; piece - peace; rain - reign; scent - cent; steel - steal; storey - story; write - right and many others.
The difference may be confined to the use of a capital letter as in bill and Bill, in the following example: “How much is my milk bill? “Excuse me, Madam, but my name is John. On the other hand, whole sentences may be homophonic: The sons raise meat - The sun's rays meet. To understand these one needs a wider context.
Homographs аrе words different in sound and in meaning but accidentally identical in spelling.
For example: bow [bou] - bow [bau]; lead [li:d] - lead [led]; row [rou] - row [rau]; sewer ['souэ] - sewer [sjuэ]; tear [tiэ] - tear [tea]; wind [wind] - wind [waind] and many more.
The classification of homonyms suggested by Professor A. I. Smirnitsky.
Professor A. I. Smirnitsky classified homonyms into two large groups: 1) Full lexical homonyms, 2) Partial homonyms.
Full lexical homonyms are words which represent the same category of parts of speech and have the same paradigm, e.g. match, n - a game, a contest; match, n - a shot piece of wood used for producing fire.
Partial homonyms are subdivided into three subgroups:
A. Simple lexico-grammatical partial homonyms are words which belong to the same category of parts of speech. Their paradigms have one identical form, but it is never the same form, as will be seen from the examples: (to) found, v - found, v (Past Simple, Past Participle of to find)
B. Complex lexico-grammatical partial homonyms are words of different categories of parts of speech which have one identical form in their paradigms. E.g. rose, n - rose, v (Past Simple of to rise)
C. Partial lexical homonyms are words of the same category of parts of speech which identical only in their corresponding form. E.g. to lie (lay, lain), v - to lie (lied, lied), v - лгать.
Sources of homonyms
One source of homonyms has already been mentioned: phonetic changes which words undergo in the course of their historical development. As a result of such changes, two or more words which were formerly pronounced differently may develop identical sound forms and thus become homonyms.
Night and knight, for instance, were not homonyms in Old English as the initial k in the second word was pronounced, and not dropped as it is in its modern sound: O. E. kniht (cf. O.E. niht).
In Old English the verb to write had the form written, and the adjective right had the form reht, riht. The noun work and the verb to work also had different forms in Old English: wyrkean and weork respectively.
Borrowing is another source of homonyms. A borrowed word may, in the final stage of its phonetic adaptation, duplicate in form either a native word or another borrowing. homonym lexical grammatical shortening
For example, in the group of homonyms rite, n. - to write, v. - right, adj. the second and third words are of native origin whereas rite is a Latin borrowing (Lat. ritus). In the pair piece, n - peace, n., the first originates from Old French pais, and the second from O.F. pettia. Bank, n (“shore”) is an native word, and bank, n ( “a financial institution”) is an Italian borrowing. Match, n (“a game; a contest of skill; strength”) is a native, and match, n (“a slender short piece of wood used fo producing fire”) is a French borrowing.
Word-building also contributes significantly to the growth of homonymy, and the most important type in this respect is undoubtedly conversion. Such pairs of words as comb, n - to comb, v are numerous in the vocabulary. Homonyms of this type, which are the same in sound and spelling but refer to different categories os parts of speech are called lexico-grammatical homonyms.
Shortening is a further type of word-building which increase the number of homonyms. For example, fan, n. in the sense of “an enthusiastic admirer of some kind of sport or of an actor, singer and etc.” is a shortening produced from fanatic. Its homonym is a Latin borrowing fan, n. which denotes an implement for waving lightly to produce a cool current of air. The noun rep, n. denoting a kind of fabric has three homonyms made by shortening: rep, n (repertory), rep, n (representative), rep, n (reputation), all the three are informal words.
Split polysemy. Two or more homonyms can originate from different meanings of the same word when, for some reason, the semantic structure of the word breaks into several parts. This type of formation of homonyms is called split polysemy.
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