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17. Polysemy in English

Polysemy is the ability of the word to have more than one meaning. It’s widely spread in English à the greater number of monosyllabic words + conversion / the changes of the semantic structure of the words.

Monosemantic words are mostly names of birds, fish, animals, special terms, etc,

The bulk of Enlish words of polysemantic

The number of meanings of commonly used words ranges from 5 to 100.

The first 1’000 of most frequently used words expressed 25’000 meanings

Polysemy exists only in the language but not in the speech.

Smirnizkiy distinguished meaning and lexico-semantic variants à a word used in one of it eaning.

Semantic structure of the word made up by LSVs.

The semantic structure of a polysemantic word presents a set of interrelated and interdependent LSVs.

In a plolysemantic word all LSVs coexist at a certain historical period of the development of the language (diachronic).


Types of LSVs.


On the synchronic level we usually distinguish basic or major vs. minor LSVs.

There are also direct – indirect (transferred), historical or diachronical.

LSVs can be distinguish as primary vs. secondary.

Major or primary are not the same.


Lexico-Semantic Analyses – analyses of the number and types of LSVs.

There is one more type of the analyses of LSVs.

Componental analyses – the semes presented in the LSVs. 

14.01.2014; 23:44
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