The problem of polysemy in the English language

Theoretical problems of linguistic form Language. Progressive development of language. Polysemy as the Source of Ambiguities in a Language. Polysemy and its Connection with the Context. Polysemy in Teaching English on Intermediate and Advanced Level.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
Вид дипломная работа
Язык английский
Дата добавления 06.06.2011
Размер файла 45,3 K

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New -- era, generation, government, home, idea, job, law, legislation, life, member, owner, product, school, system, technology, town, version, world, year.

Old -- age, boy, brother, child, daughter, day, friend, generation, day, lady, man, people, school, sister, son, woman.

Round -- face, figure, head, neck, robin, table, trip.

Thick -- carpet, cloud, fog, forest, glass, hair, skin, skull, smoke, soup, wall.

Thin -- air, cotton, face, finger, forest, ice, line, lip, mist, sheet, skin, slice, paper, thread, veneer, voice.

Exercise 2

Paraphrase the italicized words and phrases by those given below the sentences:

1. From the tower, you can see for miles.

2. Having a child makes you see things differently.

3. He could see a great future for her in music.

4. I don't know. We'll just have to see how it goes on Sunday.

5. I have to see my teacher about my grades.

6. I just can't get her to see reason!

7. I'll be seeing her tomorrow night.

8. I'll call him and see how the job interview went.

9. I saw Jane while I was out.

10. I see what you mean.

11. It will be interesting to see if he makes it into the team.

12. Leave the papers with me and I'll see what I can do.

13. More money must be invested if we are to see an improvement in services.

14. Mr. Thomas is seeing a client at 2:30.

15. Please see that the lights are switched off before you leave.

16. See press for details.

17. See you Friday - your place at 8:30.

18. The moment we saw the house, we knew we wanted to buy it.

19. The results are shown in Table 7a (see below).

20. We're going to see 'Romeo and Juliet' tonight.

to notice or examine someone or something, using your eyes; to notice that something is happening or that something is true; to be able to see; to find out information or a fact; to find out about something in the future; to see how things go; used to tell you where you can find information; see above/below; to understand something; to see reason/sense; to watch a television programme, film; to consider something; used to say that you will try to help someone; used to say goodbye; to visit or meet someone; to meet someone by chance; to have an arranged meeting with someone; to see someone to discuss something; to imagine that something may happen in the future; to make sure.

Exercise 3

Supply the missing words by using those given at the end:

1. She didn't want to get……. .

2. More and more people are getting ………to e-banking.

3. I don't want to get………… in some lengthy argument about who is to blame.

4. He was the last person I would expect to get …….. ….. in something like this.

5. Most teenagers would rather get ….. and ……. with their friends.

6. I hate summer vacation. The children get ……… my feet all day long.

7. I do the dishes every day, so I'm …… ….. it.

8. The parcel must have got ……… in the post.

9. Why doesn't she ….. a …….? They even don't speak.

10. He only took the job to get ……… in the pension fund.

11. We got ……….. to working together.

12. Don't ………..-- I like Jenny.

13. Paul always ……… ……….. whenever he has to give a presentation.

14. We get in ………. by e-mail.

15. I was still in New York trying to ……. a ……. to Paris.

16. Take an umbrella or you will ……. …….. .

17. I ...... ……. Because he hadn't told me his plans.

Fired; hip; involved; lost; mixed up; out … about; under; used to; contact; vested; accustomed; get me wrong; gets nervous; get wet; get a divorce; get a visa; got angry.

Exercise 4

Match the following definitions of the word make by the phrases given below:

1. to make encouraging noises;

2. a match made in heaven;

3. to make a fortune;

4. to make a living;

5. to make believe;

6. to make or break;

7. to make a comparison;

8. to be of your own making;

9. to be made of stone;

10. to make a booking.

a) to earn a lot of money;

b) to earn money one's need to live on;

c) to imagine that something is true when it is not so;

d) to be very successful or to fail completely;

e) to say things which suggest what your attitude is;

f) to show similarities between two persons or things;

g) a marriage between two people who are exactly right for each other;

h) not to show any emotions or pity for somebody;

i) problems that are of your own making have been caused by you and no one else;

j) to make an arrangement to travel by train, use a hotel room etc at a particular time in future.

Exercise 5

Define the meaning of the word table in the sentences below. How many meanings did you find?

1. A single bed sheet makes a good-sized tablecloth for an average rectangular table and you can choose exactly the colour you want.

2. All of it was sold from commercial operations so compact that they frequently fitted on a two-foot-square folding television table.

3. He led them, a procession of six, to a table right next to a platform.

4. He puts it flat on the table and opens the cover and shows me the copyright.

5. Helium, the next element in the periodic table, contains two electrons encircling a nucleus containing two protons.

6. I hurried back to the table and sat down.

7. She looked down at the kitchen table.

8. Table 2 shows how prices and earnings have increased over the last 20 years.

9. The tables were turned in the second half, when Leeds United scored from the penalty spot.

10. The offer on the table is a 10% wage increase.

Exercise 6

Discuss the meanings of the phrases given below. Make up sentences with them:

by hand -- done or made by a person rather than a machine;

hand in glove -- closely connected with someone, especially in an illegal activity;

to give a hand -- to help with something;

to have a hand in something -- to influence or be involved in something;

good with your hands -- skilful at making things;

on hand -- close by and ready when needed;

a bird in the hand -- used to say that it's better to keep what you have than to risk losing it by trying to get more;

a safe pair of hands -- someone you can trust because they are sensible;

a hand grenade -- a small bomb that you throw;

to know something like the back of one's hand -- to know something very well;

to live from hand to mouth -- to have only just enough money to buy food;

to overplay one's hands -- to behave too confidently because you think you are in a stronger position than you actually are;

second hand -- the long thin piece of metal that points to the seconds on a clock or watch;

the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing--used to say that one part of a group or organization doesn't know what the other parts are doing;

to wash your hands of something -- to refuse to be responsible for something any more.

Exercise 7

Match the definitions of the word back with the sentences given below:

1) part of the body;

2) less important side;

3) part of seat;

4) book/newspaper;

5) a defending player.

1. Keep your head up and your back straight.

2. To avoid back problems, always bend your knees when you lift heavy objects.

3. Their best player was flat on his back in hospital.

4. He kissed her on the back of her head.

5. Her window faced the backs of the houses.

6. He rested his arm on the back of the sofa.

7. Paul scribbled his address on the back of an envelope.

8. The sports pages are usually at the back.

9. Two men were sitting in the back of the car.

10. Anna stood with her back to the window.

2.3 Lesson plan

Form 9-B

Topic “The verb to get and the range of its meanings”

T.: You know that a lot of words in English language are polysemantic. It means that one and the same word may have a lot of meanings. So, we should be attentive as to translating the text, writing, speaking. It is obvious that we should take into account the significance of the context. Now I shall present you a variety of meanings of the verb to get.

I. Phonetic warm up.

T.: Now we shall practice tongue twister with sounds [g] and [k]: cap-gap; cow-go; come-gum; crown-groan; class-glass; coat-goat; curl-girl. Then we shall pronounce each word separately and after that you will read this tongue twister one after another:

Gertie's great-grandma grew aghast at Gertie's grammar.

II. Lexical warm up.

T.: What is the primary meaning of the word to get? What other meanings of the word to get do you know? Make up several sentences with this word.

III. Warming up activity.

T.: Let's guess the answer to the riddles which include the word to get:

1) What gets wetter as it dries? (A towel)

2) What's black when you get it, red when you use it, and white when you're all through with it? (Charcoal -- вугільний олівець)

3) I give you a group of three. One is sitting down, and will never get up. The second eats as much as is given to him, yet is always hungry. The third goes away and never returns. ( Stove -- піч, fire, smoke)

4) I live in a busy place in the city,

I'll let you stay with me for awhile,

If you don't feed me, I can get you into trouble.

What am I? (A parking meter)

IV. Speaking activity.

T.: And now, let's discuss proverbs and sayings with the verb to get which are worth learning or at least mentioning:

Get a name to rise early, and you may lie all day. -- Створи собі репутацію людини, що рано встає і потім хоч цілими днями валяйся у ліжку.

Get what you can and keep what you have; that's the way to get rich. -- Вмій втримати те, що маєш -- ось запорука багатства.

Get anything given -- run being beaten. -- Дають щось -- бери, а б'ють -- тікай.

V. Reading activity.

Pre-reading. T.: Before you will read this text tell me what meanings of the verb to get do you remember?

While-reading. T.: Now you will read a letter including word to get. Fill in the gaps with the suitable preposions:

I don't recommend it as it can get you ….. an embarrassing situation if you're not careful but then I was persuaded by a good friend of mine. I am referring to the time I returned to my old school some fifteen years after I had left. The friend had been invited to speak as the guest of honour at some function or other at the school. He had been so insistent on my going that I couldn't really get ….. of it. Mind you, I had got ….. quite well at school but I wasn't really looking forward to coming face to face again with certain of the teachers. There was one in particular who must have been getting ….. because he'd seemed pretty ancient when I was there.

Post-reading.T.: What is this letter about? Who is narrator? What doesn't he recommend? What is his attitude to teachers?

VI. Vocabulary practicing.

T.: A lot of words in English language are polysemantic. It means that one and the same word may have more than one meaning. For example, the word take has fifty one meanings. You should guess the meaning from the context. You must have noticed it while translating different sentences. The bright example of polysemantic word is the verb to get. So let's study its meaning.

The first meaning is “діставати”. For example:

Can you get this book for me?

2) “брати, одержувати”. For example:

Olena gets private Math lessons two times a week.

3) “заробляти”. For example:

Sonya gets a living working a nurse at the hospital.

4) “доставляти, приносити”. For example:

Would you be so kind to get me a chair?

5) “примушувати, переконувати”. For example:

I got him to speak at last.

6) “розуміти, збагнути”. For example:

I don't get you. You are talking too quickly.

7)“діставатися, добиратися; досягати, потрапляти”. For example:

He got home early after the night shift.

8) “мати, володіти”. For example:

I have got a big cottage that was gifted by my father.

9) “бути змушеним, мусити”. For example:

I have got to go immediately.

10) (з герундієм означає початок дії або її одноразовість). For example:

They got talking about the latest changes in the climate.

T.: The verb to get can also be combined with prepositions and get quite a different meanings which you just can't guess from the context. You should learn it by heart. For example:

to get about -- поширюватися (про чутки);

to get at -- досягти, добратися до;

to get away -- піти геть, утікати;

to get in -- входити, потрапити;

to get up -- вставати, підводитися.

VII. Writing.

T.: In this exercise you should match the sentences with their meanings:

1) “Alan is really intelligent but sometimes he has problems getting his ideas across.

2) “Why can't you and your sister get along? Everyone else gets along with her just fine!”

3) She soon found that it wasn't easy to get ahead in the movie business.

4) We had to use public transport to get around.

5) Why is he always getting at me?

6) The three men got away in a stolen car.

7) I'll talk to you when I get back.

8) I don't earn a huge salary, but we get by.

9) He was followed by a group of reporters trying to get down every word he said.

10) The theatre was already full, and we couldn't get in.

to get across; to get along; to get down; to get ahead; to get around; to get in; to get at; to get away; to get back; to get by.

VIII. Summing up

T.: To sum up, let's repeat what we have learnt during our lesson.

P1: We have learnt different meanings of the word get.

P2: We discussed interesting proverbs and sayings.


Language tends to change in time and space. These universal characteristics of language are permanent interest of scholarship. The most important function of any language is to carry the meaning. But as we know not only the sound-form but also the meaning of the word is changed in the course of historical development of a language. It happened under the influence of many factors. Change of meaning is affected through association between the existing meaning and the new one. This association is generally based on the similarity or the contiguity of meanings. Due to numeral changes of meaning such a phenomenon as multiplicity of word meanings or polysemy appeared.

In my investigation I touched upon the problem of polysemy in diachronic and synchronic dimensions. Diachronic approach considers polysemy as historical change in the semantic structure of the word resulting in new meanings being added to the ones already existing and in the rearrangement of these meanings in its semantic structure. While synchronic one understands it as a co-existence of the various meanings of the same word at a certain historical period and the arrangement of these meanings in the semantic structure of the word. As the semantic structure is never static the relationship between the diachronic and synchronic evaluation of individual meanings of the same word may be different in different periods of the historical development of language. Diachronic and synchronic ties are closely interconnected as the new meanings are understood thanks to their motivation by the older meanings.

Polysemy is characteristic of most words in many languages. All the lexical and lexico-grammatical variants of the word taken together form its semantic structure or semantic paradigm. The phenomenon of polysemy was broadly investigated in the historical development of the language. The word “polysemy” comes from Latin, but the roots of the concept of polysemy lie in Greek philosophy.

Polysemy is inherent in the very nature of words and concepts as every object and every notion has many features and a concept reflected in a word always contains a generalisation of several traits of the object. Some of these traits or components of meaning are common with other objects. Hence the possibility of using the same name in secondary nomination for objects possessing common features which are sometimes only implied in the original meaning. A word when acquiring new meaning or meanings may also retain, and most often retains the previous meaning.

Although only in the nineteenth century Breмal turned to polysemy as a phenomenon of language use, language acquisition and language change. The linguist wanted to establish semantics as a new branch of general linguistics, independent of etymology and lexicography. Breмal stated that new meanings of words eliminate old ones or exist with them in parallel. It means that the main source of the polysemy is the semantic innovation. Many other famous linguists were engaged in the studies of meaning and polysemy.

This research also highlights the significance of polysemy in grammar. Most grammatical forms are polysemantic. It is sometimes maintained that the case of grammatical polysemy can be observed in various structural meanings inherent in the given form, one of them being always invariable, found in any context of the use of the form. The semantic structure of polysemantic words is not homogeneous as far as the status of individual meaning is concerned. Some meanings are representatives of the word in isolation, others are perceived only in certain contexts. Context is a minimal stretch of speech necessary to determine individual meanings.

In the conclusion, I can say that the problem of polysemy may cause difficulties during the translation or communication. To overcome them pupils need to see and practice words in context, since it is the context that allows them to understand the meaning of the word.

The problem of polysemy is mainly the problem of interrelation and interdependence of various meanings of the same word. Though it is the object of confusion and one of the most controversial problems in linguistics. It is of great importance in studying English as it presents the diverse meanings of expressive layer.

List of References

1. Дацько Ю.М, Бабенко Т.В. Методика навчання англійської мови -- Л.: ЛНУ, 2000. -- 118с.

2. Мостовий М.І. Лексикологія англійської мови. -- Х.: Основа, 1993. -- 256с.

3. Arnold I.V. The English word. -- M.: High School, 1979. -- 302p.

4. Barskaya D.J. Words and how to use them. A text reference book of word meaning and combinations. -- L.: Lviv University Press, 1972. -- 256p.

5. Bunskuy D. I. Common difficulties for students of English. -- M.: High School, 1976. -- 224p.

6. Deyeva I.M. Lexico-grammatical difficulties of English. -- L.: Lviv University Press, 1976. -- 278p.

7. Fedorenko O.I., Sukhorolsko S.M. English grammar theory. -- L.: Lviv University Press, 2008. -- 360p.

8. Grinberg L.E., Kusnets M.D. Exercise in modern English lexicology. -- M.: Foreign language publishing house, 1960. -- 258p.

9. Ginzburg E.S., Khidekel S.S. A course in modern English lexicology. -- M.: High school, 1979. -- 269p.

10. Kashcheyeva M.A., Potapova I.A. Practical lexicology. -- L.: Lviv University Press, 1974. -- 235p.

11. Kveselevich D.I., Sasina V.P. Modern English lexicology in practice. -- V.: Nova Knyha, 2003. -- 136p.

12. Kuznietsova V.D. notes of English lexicology. -- K.: Radyanska Schkola, 1966. -- 135p.

13. Lyons J. Linguistic Semantics. -- Cambridge University Press, 1995. -- 376p.

14. Nerlich B., Todd Z. Trends in modern linguistics. Polysemy. -- Berlin, 2003 -- 272p.

15. Mednicova E.M. Seminars in modern English lexicology. -- M.: High school, 1978. -- 140p.

16. Minayeva L.V. English lexicology and lexicography. -- M.: High school, 2003. -- 224p.

17. Palmer F.R. Semantics: A new outline. -- M.: High school, 1982. -- 110p.

18. Ravin Y. Leacock C. Polysemy: Theoretical and computational approaches. -- Oxford University Press, 2000. -- 105p.

19. Rayevska N.O. English lexicology. -- K.: Radyanska Shkola, 1961. -- 201p.

20. Summers D. Longman dictionary of contemporary English. -- British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data, 2006. -- 1950p.

21. Shread J.A. The words we use. -- London, 2001 -- 344p.

22. Soloshenko A.M. Lecture notes on English lexicology. -- L.: Lviv University Press, 1998. -- 226p.

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