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Re: Polysemy

From:caeruleancentaur <caeruleancentaur@...>
Date:Wednesday, June 13, 2007, 15:31
>Adam Walker <carrajena@...> wrote:
>I've heard that "set" is the most polysemous word in English with >something like 64 definitions listed in the most complete >dictionaries. Of course some of those would have to be fairly >closely related defs, but still you have
David Crystal says, "The theoretical problem for the linguist is how to distinguish polysemy...from homonymy.... Several criteria have been suggested, such as etymology...,and the closeness of the relationship between the meanings in question....But all such criteria involve analytic problems, and the distinction betwen polysemy and homonymy thus remains a source of theoretical discussion in linguistics." ("A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics, p.267) I find the polysemes with distinct etymologies the more interesting. I have taken the list given by Adam and rearranged it according to etymology: A set of china Turn the set on. Game, set, match < PIE sekw-1, follow Set this on the table. The gelatine set in 10 mins. She set her hair. We were set to go. < PIE sed-, sit The word relating to scenery is interesting. The verb, as in "to set the stage," comes from sed-, while the noun, as in "the set was ready for the play," comes from sekw-.
>Then through confusion between _sit_ and _set_ you get things like >Come over and set awhile. or He set himself down on the couch.
I believe the first expression is from the confusion of "sit" and "set," but not the second. "Set" is basically a transitive verb and is the correct choice when used reflexively. One would not say correctly (prescriptively) "he sat himself down." lay = to place < PIE legh-. lay = pertaining to the laity < Greek laos, people. lay = ballad, akin to Provencal lais, of unknown origin. leave = to go out < PIE leip-. leave = permission < PIE leubh-. leave = to put forth leaves < PIE leup-. pine = tree < PIE peyë. pine = to long for < PIE kwei-. ream = a quantity of paper < Arabic rizmah, bundle ream = to form with a reamer < PIE rewë rocket = weapon, etc. < PIE ruk- rocket = a plant (Eruca sativa) < PIE ghers- see = to perceive < PIE sekw-2 see = diocese < PIE sed- etc., etc., etc. There are a few polysemes in the basic Senjecas vocabulary, but eventually I will eliminate them. Charlie