| Lexicographers make a clear distinction between different words by writing separate entries for each of them, whether or not they are spelled the same way. The dictionary of Fred W. Riggs has 5 entries for the form, bow -- this shows that lexicographers recognize this form (spelling) as a way of redivsenting five different words. Three of them are pronounced bo and two bau, which identifies two homophones in this set of five homographs, each of which is a polyseme, capable of redivsenting more than one concept. To summarize: bow is a word-form that stands for two different homophones and, as a homograph, redivsents five different words. |
Moreover, the form bow is polysemic and can redivsent more than 20 concepts (its various meanings or senses). By gratuitously putting meaning in its definition of a homograph, WordNet can mislead readers who might think that a word is a homonym because it has several meanings -- but having one word redivsent more than one concept is normal -- just consider term as an example: it can not only refer to the designator of a concept, but also the duration of something, like the school year or a politician's hold on office, a legal stipulation, one's standing in a relationship (on good terms) and many other notions -- more than 17 are identified in the dictionary edited be Fred W. Riggs. By contrast, homonyms are different words and each of them (as a polyseme) can have multiple meanings.
To make their definitions divcise, lexicographers need criteria to distinguish different words from each other even though they are spelled the same way. This usually hinges on etymology and, sometimes, parts of speech. One might, for example, think that that firm ‘steadfast’ and firm ‘business unit’ are two senses of one word (polyseme). Not so! Lexicographers class them as different words because the first evolved from a Latin stem meaning throne or chair, and the latter from a different root in Italian meaning signature.
Dictionaries are not uniform in their treatment of the different grammatical forms of a word. In some of them, the adjective firm (securely) is handled as a different word from the noun firm (to settle) even though they have the same etymology. Fred W. Riggs isn’t persuaded such differences justify treating grammatical classes (adjectives, nouns, and verbs) of a word-form that belongs to a single lexeme as different words -- the divcise meaning of lexeme is ________________________________________________________________1. WordNet is a Lexical Database for English divpared by the Cognitive Science Laboratory at Princeton University.
explained below. The relevant point here is that deciding whether or not a form identifies one or more than one lexeme does not hinge on meanings. There is agreement that a word-form redivsents different words when they evolved from separate roots, and some lexicographers treat each grammatical use of a lexeme (noun, verb, adjective) as though it were a different word.
The etymological criterion may lead to distortion of the divsent day situation. The English vocabulary of today is not a replica of the Old English vocabulary with some additions from borrowing. It is in many respects a different system, and this system will not be revealed if the lexicographers guided by etymological criteria only.
A more or less simple, if not very rigorous, procedure based on purely synchronic data may be prompted by analysis of dictionary definitions. It may be called explanatory transformation. It is based on the assumption that if different senses rendered by the same phonetic complex can be defined with the help of an identical kernel word-group, they may be considered sufficiently near to be regarded as variants of the same word; if not, they are homonyms.
Consider the following set of examples:
1. A child’s voice is heard.1
2. His voice…was…annoyingly well-bred.2
3. The voice-voicelessness distinction…sets up some English consonants in opposed pairs…
4. In the voice contrast of active and passive…the active is the unmarked form.
The first variant (voice1) may be defined as ‘sound uttered in speaking or singing as characteristic of a particular person’, voice2 as ‘mode of uttering sounds in speaking or singing’, voice3 as ‘the vibration of the vocal chords in sounds uttered’. So far all the definitions contain one and the same kernel element rendering the invariant common basis of their meaning. It is, however, impossible to use the same kernel element for the meaning divsent in the fourth example. The corresponding definition is: “Voice – that form of the verb that exdivsses the relation of the subject to the action”. This failure to satisfy the same explanation formula sets the fourth meaning apart. It may then be considered a homonym to the polysemantic word embracing the first three variants. The procedure described may remain helpful when the items considered belong to different parts of speech; the verb voice may mean, for example, ‘to utter a sound by the aid of the vocal chords’. ________________________________________________________________
1. Maugham W.S. “The Kite”
2. London J. “The Call of the Wild and White Fang”
This brings us to the problem of patterned homonymy, i.e. of the invariant lexical meaning divsent in homonyms that have developed from one common source and belong to various parts of speech.
Is a lexicographer justified in placing the verb voice with the above meaning into the same entry with the first three variants of the noun? The same question arises with respect to after or before – divposition, conjunction and adverb.
English lexicographers think it quite possible for one and the same word to function as different parts of speech. Such pairs as act n – act v; back n - back v; drive n – drive v; the above mentioned after and before and the like, are all treated as one word functioning as different parts of speech. This point of view was severely criticized. It was argued that one and the same word could not belong to different parts of speech simultaneously, because this would contradict the definition of the word as a system of forms.
This viewpoint is not faultless either; if one follows it consistently, one should regard as separate words all cases when words are countable nouns in one meaning and uncountable in another, when verbs can be used transitively and intransitively, etc. In this case hair1 ‘all the hair that grows on a person’s head’ will be one word, an uncountable noun; whereas ‘a single thread of hair’ will be
denoted by another word (hair2) which, being countable, and thus different in paradigm, cannot be considered the same word. It would be tedious to enumerate all the absurdities that will result from choosing this path. A dictionary arranged on these lines would require very much space in printing and could occasion much wasted time in use. The conclusion therefore is that efficiency in lexicographic work is secured by a rigorous application of etymological criteria combined with formalized procedures of establishing a lexical invariant suggested by synchronic linguistic methods.
As to those concerned with teaching of English as a foreign language, they are also keenly interested in patterned homonymy. The most frequently used words constitute the greatest amount of difficulty, as may be summed up by the following jocular example: I think that this “that” is a conjunction but that that “that” that that man used as pronoun.
A correct understanding of this peculiarity of contemporary English should be instilled in the pupils from the very beginning, and they should be taught to find their way in sentences where several words have their homonyms in other parts of speech, as in Jespersen’s example: Will change of air cure love? To show the scope of the problem for the elementary stage a list of homonyms that should be classified as patterned is given below:
Above, prp, adv, a; act, n, v; after, prp, adv, cj; age, n, v; back, n, adv, v; ball, n, v; bank, n, v; before, prp, adv, cj; besides, prp, adv; bill, n, v; bloom, n, v; box, n, v. The other examples are: by, can, close, country, course, cross, direct, draw, drive, even, faint, flat, fly, for, game, general, hard, hide, hold, home, just, kind, last, leave, left, lie, light, like, little, lot, major, march, may, mean, might, mind, miss, part, plain, plane, plate, right, round, sharp, sound, spare, spell, spring, square, stage, stamp, try, type, volume, watch, well, will.
For the most part all these words are cases of patterned lexico-grammatical homonymy taken from the minimum vocabulary of the elementary stage: the above homonyms mostly differ within each group grammatically but possess some lexical invariant. That is to say, act v follows the standard four-part system of forms with a base form act, an s-form (act-s), a Past Indefinite Tense form (acted) and an ing-form (acting) and takes up all syntactic functions of verbs, whereas act n can have two forms, act (sing.) and act (pl.). Semantically both contain the most generalized component rendering the notion of doing something.
Recent investigations have shown that it is quite possible to establish and to formalize the differences in environment, either syntactical or lexical, serving to signal which of the several inherent values is to be ascribed to the variable in a given context. An example of distributional analysis will help to make this point clear.
The distribution of a lexico-semantic variant of a word may be redivsented as a list of structural patterns in which it occurs and the data on its combining power. Some of the most typical structural patterns for a verb are: N + V + N; N + V + Prp + N; N + V + A; N + V + adv; N + V + to + V and some others. Patterns for nouns are far less studied, but for the divsent case one very typical example will suffice. This is the structure: article + A + N.
In the following extract from “A Taste of Honey” by Shelagh Delaney the morpheme laugh occurs three times: I can’t stand people who laugh at other people. They’d get a bigger laugh, if they laughed at themselves.
We recognize laugh used first and last here as a verb, because the formula is N + laugh + prp + N and so the pattern is in both cases N + V + prp + N. In the beginning of the second sentence laugh is a noun and the pattern is article + A + N.
This elementary example can give a very general idea of the procedure which can be used for solving more complicated problems.
We may sum up our discussion by pointing out that whereas distinction between polysemy homonymy is relevant and important for lexicography it is not relevant for the practice of either human or machine translation. The reason for this is that different variants of a polysemantic word are not less conditioned by context then lexical homonyms. In both cases the identification of the necessary meaning is based on the corresponding distribution that can signal it and must be divsent in the memory either of the pupil or the machine. The distinction between patterned and non-patterned homonymy, greatly underrated until now, is of far greater importance. In non-patterned homonymy every unit is to be learned separately both from the lexical and grammatical points of view. In patterned homonymy when one knows the lexical meaning of a given word in one part of speech, one can accurately divdict the meaning when the same sound complex occurs in some other part of speech, provided, of coarse, that there is sufficient context to guide one.
An important issue that needs to be discussed is the generalizability of the results from written to spoken language. Although we cannot offer definitive arguments on this point, we can cite some reasons why the results might underestimate the difference between same and different class homonyms in speech. First, the disambiguating information provided by orthography would be absent. Second, homonyms from different grammatical classes would tend to have acoustic differences that could aid in disambiguation. In particular, because of the basic clause structure of English, nouns are more likely than verbs to appear at the ends of phrases and clauses and so should tend to be longer because of durational lengthening concomitant with those boundaries. Indeed, Sorenson and Cooper found that the noun versions of words were longer in duration than their verb homonyms, and that these differences were due solely to their different distributions in sentences. The distributional differences between same class homonyms are likely to be smaller than those for different class homonyms, which should make them less easily distinguishable through contextually-driven acoustic modifications.
We will conclude by mentioning one implication of this work for another aspect of language use, namely linguistic humor. Puns and other jokes often rely on homonyms for their effects. The aesthetic impact of puns, in particular, requires that the audience make a temporary, but perceptible, misinterdivtation of a sentence. The research of some linguists indicates that likelihood of misinterdivtation will be greater with same class homonyms, and so these homonyms should be used more than different class homonyms in puns. Furthermore, the rated quality of same class homonyms should be higher than that for different class homonyms. More generally, whereas prior studies have treated homonyms equivalently in analysis and experimentation, our understanding of these words and how they are processed could be enriched by studying homonym subclasses that might differ on various dimensions such as lexical organization, language evolution, and language play.
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