1. What are the usual directions of semantic change and why do you think that is the case?
semantic change = alteration in the lexical meaning of words and morphemes; it is the most susceptible to change because of the arbitrary connection between the signifier and the signified
- directions of the semantic change usually come in pairs, one of them is usually more frequent
- widening in scope of a word's meaning - word denotes a greater variety of referrents
- more frequent than specialization
- examples: holiday - originally only religious significance, now a general break from work; business - originally the state of being busy
- narrowing of the meaning - lower number of referrents
- sometimes occurs together with borrowing: a native word is specialized, the borrowing has a general meaning (lust vs. desire)
- examples: meat - originally "food"
- acquisition of a less favourable meaning
- more frequent than amelioration
- examples: "hussy" originally refered to a housewife; names of animals used as derogatory terms
- acquisition of a more favourable meaning
- examples: "nice" originally meant "silly, simple", "success" orginally "result"
- for topics that we find difificult to talk about (bodily functions, sex, death) - linguistic taboo - we use euphemisms
- euphemisms are in continual need of renewal - it may come to be considered too strong after some time
- examples: condition instead of disease (generalization), pass away (figure of speech), STD (acronyms), darn (phonetic distortion),...
- hyperbole, common with intensifiers ("terribly sorry", "awfully good")
- they undergo a continual process of weakening - must be replaced by stronger words
7. Figurative Shifts
- transfer of meaning from one referrent to another
- Metaphor: semantic change takes place when a metaphor dies (it is no longer perceived as a metaphor) - eye of a storm, mouth of a river, the days to come
- Synecdoche: part for a whole - pretty faces (beautiful people), a rhyme (a poem)
- Metonymy: contiguity of meaning - the White House (the president etc.)
- Synesthesia: a word referring to one sense is transferred to another/to a non-sensual domain - a quiet colour