Monday, 18 March 2013

Semantic Change

 Semantic Change

Weakening - words losing over time some of their original strength - soon now means in the near future but used to mean immediately

Metaphorical extension - often acquire new meanings because they begin to be usedmetaphorically - hawks and doves now just birds but also politicians favouring war and peace - onion bag refers to the net of a goal as well as a bag containing onions

Idioms - always formed from previously existing words - in the doghouse - under the weather - over the moon - wake up and smell the coffee is a more recent example meaning get in touch with the real world

Euphemisms - mild or inoffensive way of describing something distasteful or unpleasant - in the world of business a lack of money can be described as a cashflow problem and the sacking of employees can be referred to as downsizing - bombing raids are surgical strikes and for civilian casualties - collateral damage

Broadening - meaning of a word broadens - retains its old meaning but also takes on new meanings - Holiday used to mean holy day but now it means any day of the week when people don’t have to work - dog used to mean a breed of dog and now means all breeds

Narrowing - a word becomes more specific in its meaning - meat originally meant food in general not just animal flesh - girl used to mean all young people not only females

Amelioration - change gives the word a more positive meaning - pretty used to mean sly or cunning but now means attractive - wicked still has its older meaning of evil but now used in slang which can mean superb/brilliant

Pejoration - change gives the word a more negative meaning - cowboy now often used to indicate incompetence or dishonesty 'cowboy builders' - impertinent once mean irrelevant and now means rude

Political correctness - some semantic change has arisen from the desire for political correctness - drive to replace words and expressions that are considered offensive or demeaning to disadvantaged or minority groups - people with learning difficulties instead of mentally handicapped or backward - mixed race replacing halfcast - words such as actor and sculptor which now refer to females as well as males

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