Linguist Forum

Specializations => Semantics and Pragmatics => Topic started by: DavidShan on April 09, 2016, 01:52:03 AM

Title: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: DavidShan on April 09, 2016, 01:52:03 AM
Hi there,

The word 'deadly' has the meanings of 'very dangerous (likely to cause death)'/'like death in appearance'/'complete'/'boring'.

I feel like the word 'deadly' is polysemous because the meanings of 'very dangerous' and 'like death in appearance' has similar sense in meaning. But how could I argue about 'complete' and 'boring'? It feels like the word is homonymous when it comes to this...

Can anyone tell me whether this word is homonymous or polysemous?

Thanks,
David
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: freknu on April 09, 2016, 02:37:03 AM
Homonyms are etymologically separate words that are pronounced and spelled identically (strict), or just either one (loose) — but with different meanings.

If "deadly" is in fact homonymous, what would be the two or more homonyms?
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: DavidShan on April 09, 2016, 08:20:06 PM
Are you talk about the meanings that 'deadly' has?

Should I say 'likely to cause death', 'like death in appearance', 'complete' and 'boring' are homonyms because they have different sense?

Can I argue that they have the same truth-conditional meaning? But the sentence will be ambiguous depending on the sense the reader has assumed?

I'm getting so confused here... sorry and thank you so much!
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: freknu on April 09, 2016, 11:28:33 PM
If "deadly" is homonymous, what are the two or more etymologically separate words behind it?

"Left" (past tense of leave) is homonymous with "left" (opposite of right). They are homonyms.

What are the homonyms of "deadly"?
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: DavidShan on April 09, 2016, 11:45:35 PM
If 'deadly' is homonymous...

'Deadly' (likely to cause death) is homonymous with 'deadly' (extremely boring), 'deadly' (complete), 'deadly' (terrible/awful) and 'deadly' (great/wonderful).

Is that what you are meaning? The etymologically separate words behind it show they have no related sense... so they are homonymous?

But can I say 'deadly' is also polysemous because 'deadly' (likely to cause death) and 'deadly' (like death in appearance) is related?
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: freknu on April 09, 2016, 11:57:44 PM
No, "deadly" is just one word (no homonyms) with several meanings. It is not homonymous. It is, however, polysemous.

That, or I'm using a different standard for homonym.
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: DavidShan on April 10, 2016, 12:22:50 AM
How can I prove that it is polysemous though? To show the sense of the several meanings are related? But I'm not sure how to show 'complete', 'extremely boring' and 'awful/terrible' to be related... I'm also inclined to think that the word is polysemous but I don't know how to show it.
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: freknu on April 10, 2016, 02:12:59 AM
I'm beginning to think there's some conflict in our use of the terms homonymous and polysemous.

A polysemous word is one with multiple meanings. "Day" can mean the 24-hour period of the calendar, or the 12-hour period of light. That is polysemous, having multiple meanings.

deadly

Showing that "deadly" is polysemous is showing that "deadly" has multiple meanings.

I'm not an academic, so maybe this is different from how it's done in strictly academic circles. I don't know.
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: Audiendus on May 08, 2016, 07:39:12 AM
Homonyms are etymologically separate words that are pronounced and spelled identically (strict), or just either one (loose) — but with different meanings.
I wonder whether there are any homonyms or near-homonyms (etymologically separate words) with the same or roughly the same meanings.

The nearest I can think of in English is prodigal and prodigious, which in some contexts have fairly similar meanings (e.g. prodigal supplies, prodigious supplies).
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: freknu on May 08, 2016, 07:51:17 AM
This is a list of homonyms or near homonyms (depending on what definition of homonym you use) in English.

http://www.cooper.com/alan/homonym_list.html

I may actually be somewhat (unorthodoxly) strict with accepting only etymologically separate forms.
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: Daniel on May 08, 2016, 02:56:33 PM
I think that is an especially strict approach but one that is appropriate in the case of distinguishing polysemy from homophony. Most people don't.
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: Audiendus on May 09, 2016, 05:25:05 AM
This is a list of homonyms or near homonyms (depending on what definition of homonym you use) in English.

http://www.cooper.com/alan/homonym_list.html

I would call these homophones rather than homonyms.

I was thinking more of the 'strict' definition of homonym. Are there any examples of etymologically unrelated words that have similar (or partly similar) forms and coincidentally similar (or related) meanings?

What about "Passover" and "Paschal"?
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: freknu on May 10, 2016, 07:33:54 AM
Homonyms, but with similar meanings? That's a tough one! I really don't know.

Greek "pascha" (from Ancient Hebrew pesah) literally means "passover, passing over". If you want to accept "pascha" as a partial homophone/homograph with "passover".

Finding forms that are written the same and pronounced the same, yet etymologically distinct and with similar meanings is going to be quite the task! Losen the conditions to only being partial, and you'll still have to word hard to find any.

I don't know, perhaps generally languages do not tend to create such things, or maybe it is simply impossible to tell.
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: Daniel on May 10, 2016, 02:38:38 PM
It would just depend on what you mean by "similar meaning". For example, "right" (as in human right) and "rite" (as in rite of passage) have always seemed pretty similar to me in some sense. Close enough? They're certainly not equivalent, but few words are, regardless of origin. Something else to consider would be various folk etymologies for words that seem related but are not. For example, "duck" as a verb and noun is thought to be related to the action that the animal does, but there's no historical connection. Those aren't quite close enough, but maybe you'd find something. There is also more discussion of false cognates across languages-- consider Japanese namae vs English name (same meaning). And other disputed cases like arigatō (thank you) in Japanese potentially being from Portuguese obrigado. Probably something like this could exist in a language, but it would be rare as freknu says. The other problem is that words don't have singular origins. They are the result of complex generations of usage, where the very fact that they sound alike might start to make them blend. It would be interesting to find cases where unrelated words have actually blended together.

The only other thing that comes to mind (sort of an inverse of what you're talking about) is when two cognate words are borrowed into a language. English bank and bench are from the same source, borrowed very differently. Originally it referred to a tilted surface. Similarly things like shirt and skirt. They mean different things but have the same ultimate origin with different paths of borrowing/inheritance.
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: Audiendus on May 11, 2016, 07:10:07 AM
It would just depend on what you mean by "similar meaning". For example, "right" (as in human right) and "rite" (as in rite of passage) have always seemed pretty similar to me in some sense. Close enough?
Not quite...

Quote
For example, "duck" as a verb and noun is thought to be related to the action that the animal does, but there's no historical connection.
They are certainly close. Probably etymologically related, I would think.

"Strait" and "straight" can be close. (If you stretch a rubber band, it becomes both straighter and narrower.)

I have also found the obsolete English noun aver (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/aver#Etymology_1), meaning 'possessions', 'property', 'belongings', 'wealth' (from Old French aveir and Latin habere) which is etymologically unrelated to English have.
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: Daniel on May 11, 2016, 12:43:53 PM
Duck (noun/verb) comes from two different sources. The assumed connection is merely a folk etymology. But obviously, like aver/have, the meaning is related but not in any sense "the same" because the parts of speech differ. Same with straight!
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: Audiendus on May 11, 2016, 05:21:07 PM
Duck (noun/verb) comes from two different sources. The assumed connection is merely a folk etymology.
Can you please elaborate on this? Several dictionaries give the impression that the connection is real – including Wiktionary here (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/duck#Etymology_2). What source did 'duck' (the bird) actually come from?

Perhaps it might be better to start a new thread on this point.
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: Daniel on May 12, 2016, 11:06:25 AM
Strange! I clearly remember reading this as an example of an (incorrect) folk etymology, but apparently that source was wrong, or the myth has spread to various sources, including:
http://etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=duck

My impression was that the name for the animal was older and that the action was not named after it. Perhaps that was the folk etymology, where in reality the animal was named after the action centuries earlier. But at best that's a confusing example of 'folk etymology' because there's still some truth to it if this is correct.
Title: Re: 'Deadly' - homonymous or polysemous?
Post by: Daniel on May 12, 2016, 11:13:18 AM
Coincidentally, this brings up another, better example:

The original term was "duck tape", which was later thought to be "duct tape" because of its usage. Given that /dUk/ is the pronunciation either way (in normal fast speech) this is sort of a coincidental homophony with the same meaning...

(I've done some searching online to mind for discussion of this as folk etymology and didn't come across anything. I do remember reading or hearing this somewhere, but it looks like the original source was wrong about it.)