Lexis, Morphology & Semantics
for English Language Teaching
Exploration of semantic operations 2:
Homonymy &
Polysemy
Exploration of semantic operations
x 4 lectures
Interrelationship between denotation,
connotation & collocation
Analysis of lexical sets, semantic fields & sense
relations
Synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy & meronymy
Common conceptions of English semantic
operations among Chinese-speaking learners
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Homonymy & polysemy
- diachronic vs synchronic criteria
Homonyms
- homophones & homographs
- “syllabic-stress” homographs
- absolute homonymy
Homonymic / Polysemic ambiguity
- the bank problem
- slang / taboo
- the novel problem
- the funny problem
- zeugma
Construing homonymy / polysemy
Exploration of semantic operations 2
A homonym is (I):
– a spelling / sound that has two or more
different meanings
[  common sense / “folk linguistics” ]
(or)
– an orthographic / phonological word that can
be used to represent two or more distinct lexical
words
[  morphology ]
(or)
– a written / spoken (word) form that can be
used to express two or more distinct (word)
senses
[  lexical semantics ]
Exploration of semantic operations 2
A homonym is (II):
– a result of two or more originally distinct words
having come, by accident, to be written /
spoken in the same way,
i.e. historically, the distinct words:
a) originated from separate lexical sources,
possibly different languages;
b) used to be differently spelt / pronounced;
c) lost, some time ago, the distinctions in
spelling / pronunciation.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
SYNCHRONIC
–
DIACHRONIC
present
past  present
A homonym is (I):
A homonym is (II):
a spelling / sound that has
two or more different
meanings
(or)
–
an orthographic /
phonological word that can
be used to represent two or
more distinct lexical words
(or)
–
a written / spoken form that
can be used to express two
or more distinct senses
–
a result of two or more
originally distinct words having
come, by accident, to be
written / spoken in the same
way,
i.e. historically, the distinct
words:
a) originated from separate
lexical sources,
possibly different languages;
b) used to be differently spelt /
pronounced;
c) lost, some time ago, the
distinctions in
spelling / pronunciation.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
H
O
M
O
N
Y
M
S
Jackson & Ze Amvela (2000:61)
“… two or more words with the same shape.
Although they have the same shape,
homonyms are considered distinct
lexemes, mainly because they have
unrelated meanings and different
etymologies.”
 Same spelling: homograph
e.g. lead (metal), lead
 Same sound: homophone
e.g. right, rite, write
Exploration of semantic operations 2
 past
present 
diachronic

 synchronic
paradigmatic
invisible

syntagmatic
visible 
==========
CONSTRUAL
==========
Conduct a paradigmatic analysis of
the synchronic system below
Source: http://www.city-data.com/forum/general-u-s/717183-u-s-traffic-lights-3-way.html (accessed 22 June 12)
Next, conduct a syntagmatic analysis of the system.
Finally, analyse the system in terms of collocation.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Homonymic ambiguity / clash
Homophones
know
knows
knew
knight
no
nose
new
night
(
wrap
wring
write
wrote
rap
ring
right
rote
the silent “k” / “w” )
[ Greenwich
Chiswick ]
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Homonymic ambiguity / clash
Homophones
A: Why does the pony cough?
B: Because he’s a little hoarse.
C: You said “my son”. Do you mean this new doll?
D: No, (pointing at the sky) that’s my sun.
E: Why don’t you give her a ring?
F: What? You want me to propose marriage to her?
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Homophon-ish
ambiguity / clash
a parent
a hundred an’ eighty
ice cream
apparent
a hundred an’ ninety
I scream
(HK Cantonese learners of English)
three / free / fee
One, two, f(r)ee
Three for free, and three for a fee
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Homophonic ambiguity / clash
Wordplay
The knight in the night …
Hear it here. Write it right.
The bare bear ate eight hare’s hairs.
(More words to play with (accessed 21 June 12):
http://www.fun-with-words.com/nym_homonyms.html
http://www.michellehenry.fr/homonym.htm
http://a4esl.org/q/h/homonyms.html )
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Homonymic ambiguity / clash
Homographs
lead (metal)
lead (leader)
wind (air)
wind (twist)
wound (injury)
wound (wind)
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Homonymic ambiguity / clash
“Syllabic-stress” Homographs
content (contain)
content (happy)
entrance (entry)
entrance (trance)
process (operation)
process (operate)
process (walk)
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Absolute Homonymy
Lyons, J. (1995) Linguistics Semantics. Cambridge University Press. p.55
Three conditions:
– unrelated in meaning
– identical in all forms
(shape / sound /
grammatical forms)
– grammatical equivalence between
identical forms
( any one of the conditions not satisfied

Partial Homonymy )
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Absolute Homonymy
Three conditions:
– unrelated in meaning
• bat (ball game)
• bank (money)
bat (animal)
bank (river)
– identical in all forms
• shape / sound / grammatical forms
– grammatical equivalence between
identical forms
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Partially homonymous
(identical in shape/sound; grammatically equivalent)
Related in meaning?
• violet (colour; noun)
• orange (colour; noun)
violet (flower; noun)
orange (fruit; noun)
• yellow (colour; adj)
• purple (colour; noun)
yellow (cowardly; adj)
purple (status/rank; noun)
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Lexical productivity
•violet (colour; noun)
•orange (colour; noun)
violet (flower; noun)
orange (fruit; noun)
? violetish / orangish ?
vs
yellowish / purplish
•yellow (colour; adj)
yellow (cowardly; adj)
•purple (colour; adj/noun) purple (status/rank; adj/noun)
Exploration of semantic operations 2
A polyseme is (I):
– a spelling / sound that has two or more different
meanings
[  common sense ]
(or)
– an orthographic / phonological word that can be
used to represent two or more different
meanings
[  morphology ]
(or)
– a written / spoken (word) form that can be used
to express two or more different (word) senses
[  lexical semantics ]
Exploration of semantic operations 2
A polyseme is (II):
– a result of a lexical word having come to
acquire one or more additional meanings/
senses,
i.e. historically, the lexical word with the (now)
different meanings/senses:
a) originated from one lexical source;
b) used to have one meaning/sense;
c) came to acquire, some time ago, additional
meanings/senses by semantic extension.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
SYNCHRONIC
DIACHRONIC
present
pastpresent
A polyseme is (I):
A polyseme is (II):
–
a spelling / sound that has
two or more different
meanings
(or)
–
an orthographic /
phonological word that can
be used to represent two or
more different meanings
(or)
–
a written / spoken form that
can be used to express two
or more different senses
–
a result of a lexical word
having come to acquire one
or more additional meanings
or senses,
i.e. historically, the lexical
word with its different
meanings / senses:
a) originated from one
lexical source;
b) used to have one
meaning / sense;
c) came to acquire, some
time ago, additional
meanings / senses by
semantic extension.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
A homonym is (I):
–
a spelling / sound that has
two or more different
meanings
(or)
–
an orthographic /
phonological word that can
be used to represent two or
more distinct lexical words
(or)
–
a written / spoken form that
can be used to express two
or more distinct senses
A polyseme is (I):
–
a spelling / sound that has
two or more different
meanings
(or)
– an orthographic /
phonological word that can
be used to represent two or
more different meanings
(or)
– a written / spoken form that
can be used to express two
or more different senses
How do you decide whether a word
• has different meanings?
• expresses distinct meanings / senses?
• is a homonym or a polyseme?
Exploration of semantic operations 2
In what way can we
be certain whether a
word has just one,
or more than one,
distinct sense?
In what way can we
be certain that one
sense of a word is,
or is not, a semantic
extension of another
sense of the word?
How do you decide whether a word
• has different meanings?
• expresses distinct meanings / senses?
• is a homonym or a polyseme?
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Homonymy (same-name)
- seemingly one (orthographic / phonological) word
- but in fact more than one (lexical) word
Polysemy (multi-sense)
- (by definition) one lexical word
- but in fact more than one sense
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Homonymic / Polysemic ambiguity
The Bank Problem
A: My house is on the bank.
B: Do you get a good view of the river, or
the bankers’ goodwill?
C: This bank is very valuable.
D: I would rather have money than blood.
E: Bank with us to get the best returns.
F: I won’t bank on you.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Homonymic / Polysemic ambiguity
Slang / Taboo
cock
ass
rubber
piss off
rooster
donkey
eraser
kiss off
(flea
flee)
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Homonymic / Polysemic ambiguity
The identity test: “but”
(given:)
Siu-ming’s coat is light, but Tai-ming’s is dark.
Ray’s coat is light, but Roy’s is heavy.
(then:)
? Siu-ming’s coat is light in colour, but Roy’s is heavy.
? Ray’s coat is light in weight, but Tai-ming’s is dark.
?(?) Siu-ming’s coat is light in colour, but not Roy’s.
?(?) Ray’s coat is light in weight, but not Tai-ming’s.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Homonymic / Polysemic ambiguity
The identity test: “so”
(given:)
Siu-ming’s coat is light, but Tai-ming’s is dark.
Ray’s coat is light, but Roy’s is heavy.
(then:)
? Siu-ming’s coat is light, so is Ray’s.
?(?) Tai-ming’s coat is dark, so is Roy’s.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Polysemic ambiguity
The Novel Problem
the red book
?the red novel
the Little Red Book
the red novel
the dirty book
the dirty novel
the two books
the two novels
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Polysemic ambiguity
The Funny Problem
This banknote looks a bit funny. It’s not like what we
usually have.
I felt a bit funny after drinking the bottle of wine.
He went a bit funny after his wife passed away.
I don’t want to get involved in your funny business.
Do you mean
funny ha-ha or funny peculiar?
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Ways of seeing word meanings
Zeugma
Mary was wearing a pair of sunglasses and a smile.
Jane opened the door and her heart to Peter.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Ways of seeing word meanings
Zeugma
Mary was wearing a pair of sunglasses and a smile.
Jane opened the door and her heart to Peter.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Ways of seeing word meanings
Zeugma
Mary was wearing a pair of sunglasses and a smile.
Jane opened the door and her heart to Peter.
The policeman caught the thief and a flu.
She smoked the salmon and the cigar.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Ways of seeing word meanings
Zeugma
Mary was wearing a pair of sunglasses and a smile.
Jane opened the door and her heart to Peter.
The policeman caught the thief and a flu.
She smoked the salmon and the cigar.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Ways of seeing word meanings
Zeugma
Mary was wearing a pair of sunglasses and a smile.
Jane opened the door and her heart to Peter.
The policeman caught the thief and a flu.
She smoked the salmon and the cigar.
The trader and his trading licence expired yesterday.
Let’s hang together or we’ll hang separately.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Ways of seeing word meanings
Zeugma
Mary was wearing a pair of sunglasses and a smile.
Jane opened the door and her heart to Peter.
The policeman caught the thief and a flu.
She smoked the salmon and the cigar.
The trader and his trading licence expired yesterday.
Let’s hang together or we’ll hang separately.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Ways of seeing word meanings
Zeugma
Mary was wearing a pair of sunglasses and a smile.
Jane opened the door and her heart to Peter.
The policeman caught the thief and a flu.
She smoked the salmon and the cigar.
The trader and his trading licence expired yesterday.
Let’s hang together or we’ll hang separately.
We’ll have friends for tea and chicken for dinner.
Time flies, but I don’t.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Ways of seeing word meanings
Zeugma
Mary was wearing a pair of sunglasses and a smile.
Jane opened the door and her heart to Peter.
The policeman caught the thief and a flu.
She smoked the salmon and the cigar.
The trader and his trading licence expired yesterday.
Let’s hang together or we’ll hang separately.
We’ll have friends for tea and chicken for dinner.
Time flies, but I don’t.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Construing meaning / Making sense / Building identity
homonyms
polysemes
(same name / word-forms;
different lexical words)
(multi meanings;
but one lexical word)
synonyms
antonyms
(together/same names)
(anti/counter names)
< construing similarity > <construing difference >
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Partially homonymous?
(identical in shape/sound; not grammatically equivalent)
Related in meaning?
• willing (adj)
willing (verb+ing)
Partially homonym-ish?
(Not identical in shape/sound; nor grammatically equivalent)
Related in meaning?
herself
her self
(reflex / emph pron)
(poss. pron + noun)
Exploration of semantic operations 2
will (v.)
– O.E. *willan, wyllan "to wish, desire, want" (past tense
wolde), from PIE *wel-/*wol- "be pleasing." The unusual
use as a future auxiliary was already developing in O.E.
The implication of intention or volition distinguishes it
from shall, which expresses or implies obligation or
necessity. Contracted forms, especially after pronouns,
began to appear 16c., as in sheele for "she will." The
form with an apostrophe is from 17c.; won't for will not is
first recorded mid-15c. as wynnot, later wonnot (1584)
before the modern form emerged 1667. Willing is O.E.
willendliche.
will (n.)
– O.E. will, willa, related to *willan "to wish" (see will (v.)),
from P.Gmc. *weljon. The meaning "written document
expressing a person's wishes about disposition of
property after death" is first recorded c.1380.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=will&searchmode=none
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Partially homonymous?
(identical in shape/sound; not grammatically equivalent)
Related in meaning?
• willing (adj)
willing (verb+ing)
The crowd is willing Joan to win the fight.
Joan is willing / wills herself to win the fight.
Joan will win the fight tomorrow.
Joan is willing to win the fight tomorrow.
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Partially homonymous?
(identical in shape/sound; not grammatically equivalent)
Related in meaning?
• willing (adj)
willing (verb+ing)
The crowd is willing Joan to win the fight.
Joan is willing / wills herself to win the fight.
Joan will win the fight tomorrow.
Joan is willing to win the fight tomorrow.
boring (adj)
boring (verb+ing)
Exploration of semantic operations 2
[ Bauer, L. (1983) English Word-formation. CUP. P.212: ]
Compounds of other form classes are … rare and of
extremely low productivity. Compound … pronouns
are the -self forms and somebody, anyone, etc.
compound conjunctions include … even and/or.
Partially homonym-ish?
(Not identical in shape/sound; nor grammatically equivalent)
Related in meaning?
herself
her self
(reflex / emph pron)
(poss. pron + noun)
Exploration of semantic operations 2
[ Bauer, L. (1983) English Word-formation. CUP. P.212: ]
Compounds of other form classes are … rare and of
extremely low productivity. Compound … pronouns
are the -self forms and somebody, anyone, etc.
compound conjunctions include … even and/or.
A previous e810 participant asked:
“Did you say function words do not form new words?”
Partially homonym-ish?
(Not identical in shape/sound; nor grammatically equivalent)
Related in meaning?
herself
her self
(reflex / emph pron)
(poss. pron + noun)
Exploration of semantic operations 2
PRONOUNS (function words)
I, you, she, he, it, we, you, they
me, you, her, him, it, us, you, them
myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, yourselves, themselves
(poss pron):
(poss det):
mine, yours, hers, his, yours, theirs
my, your, her, his, its, our, your, their
New words? Where?
Partially homonym-ish?
(Not identical in shape/sound; nor grammatically equivalent)
Related in meaning?
herself
her self
(reflex / emph pron)
(poss. pron + noun)
Exploration of semantic operations 2
“heir sylfa”
“heir sylfa/selfes”
“herself”


“selfes”
“the self”
Which one was the new word (i.e. newly formed
lexical word): “herself” or “self”?
Partially homonym-ish?
(Not identical in shape/sound; nor grammatically equivalent)
Related in meaning?
herself
her self
(reflex / emph pron)
(poss. pron + noun)
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Ways of seeing word meanings
To construe or not to construe
Homonymy / Polysemy
piggy bank
High Street bank
bank(ing) hours
small bank
friendly bank
bank holiday
tall bank
data bank
blood bank
sperm bank
river bank
steep bank
snow bank
dark bank (of clouds)
fog bank
bank with
bank on
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Ways of seeing word meanings
To construe or not to construe cross-cultural Homonymy / Polysemy
Semantic / lexical field Semantic / lexical field
red
orange
yellow
green
blue
indigo
violet
hung
chaang
wong
luk
ching
laam
zi
Cognitive
frames / domain
Cognitive
frames / domain
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Ways of seeing word meanings
To construe or not to construe
Homonymy / Polysemy (of “ish”)
blue
blue
blue
bluish
(adjective)
(noun)
(verb)
(adjective): tending towards blue
purplish (adjective): rather purple in colour
green (adjective)
greenish (adjective): somewhat green
green (noun)
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Ways of seeing word meanings
To construe or not to construe
Homonymy / Polysemy
blue (adj): colour of clear sky/sea; sad/depressed
blue (noun):
blue (verb):
bluish (adjective): tending towards blue
purplish (adjective): rather purple in colour
green (adj): colour of growing grass; immature
greenish (adj): somewhat green
green (noun):
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Ways of seeing word meanings
To construe or not to construe
Cross-cultural Homonymy / Polysemy
blue in Chinese & Japanese
http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/blue
green in Chinese & Japanese
http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/green
blue, green & qing in Chinese & English
http://www.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Lindict/
Exploration of semantic operations 2
Homonymy & polysemy
- diachronic vs synchronic criteria
Homonyms
- homophones & homographs
- “syllabic-stress” homographs
- absolute homonymy
Homonymic / Polysemic ambiguity
- the bank problem
- slang / taboo
- the novel problem
- the funny problem
- zeugma
Construing homonymy / polysemy
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