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Re: Polysemy

From:Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>
Date:Wednesday, June 13, 2007, 18:10
On 6/12/07, Sai Emrys <sai@...> wrote:
> A couplethree* questions for you all:
I think most of us Anglophones interpret that as more than one word ("a couple/three"). It's short for something like "a couple or three".
> 1. What are the most polysemous** words in English?
Can I just ask how you pronounce "polysemy" and "polysemous"? The usual English emphatic pattern would put the stress on the "y" in "poly", which feels way wrong, but the other option is putting it on "sem", which sounds like a little kid sounding out the word... Anyway, as might be obvious from that question, I wasn't familiar with the term. But OK, polysemy is a subset of homophony/homonymy, confined to words which have diverged in meaning from a single original concept, versus merely having evolved to sound/be spelled like a totally unrelated word. Got it. Let's see. I second the nomination of "up", but prepositions in general are probably among the most polysemous words, starting out in reference to relative physical location and expanding metaphorically into what seems to be an infinite cloud of meanings. Especially ones like "around", "about", "to", . . . As for verbs, as others have suggested, I'm sure "go" wins. My favorite non-obvious meaning is "to say", used (along with other less obvious phrasings) when relating a conversation. "So then he goes, 'No way!", and I'm all like, 'Yes, way!'" It's a hard thing to quantify, since so much of it revolves around metaphor. At what point does a metaphor stop being colorful imagery and become just another meaning for the word in question? I suspect that "gateway" in phrases like "gateway drug" is just a commonplace meaning of the word now, for instance..
> 2. Where can I find a list of the average polysemy per word of the > most common (i.e. non technical/jargon) words across many languages? > 3. What is the average polysemy in YOUR languages? Any comments on why > etc etc open question? > > Thanks! > > - Sai > > * Silly word ain't it? But I've heard it used 'in the wild' (SF Bay > Area, CA) more than once. > ** E.g.: spirit, bank, mole, fine - no pedantry on 'polysemy' vs > 'homonym' vs whatever please. And I would prefer words that are > divergently polysemous, like 'spirit', rather than just meaning > multiple closely related things. >
-- Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>


Sai Emrys <sai@...>