HomonymyA case of homonymy – a case of an ambiguous word whose different senses are apart from each other and not obviously related to each other in any way with respect to native speaker’s intuitionBank is a very clear case of homonymy – it has two meanings:(1)financial institution(2)the side of a river or streamThere is no obvious conceptual connection between the two meanings.
PolysemyA case of polysemy – a case where a word has several very closely connected senses, i.e. a native speaker of the language has clear intuitions that the different senses are related to each other in some way.mouth is a clear case of polysemy:(1)mouth of a river(2)mouth of an animalThe two senses are clearly related by the concepts of an opening from the interior of some solid mass to the outside, and of a place of issue at the end of some long narrow channel.
Polysemy of fixed expressionsPolysemous FEIs – those that have two or more non- compositional meanings, in addition to any literary ones.Most of the polysemous FEIs have two meanings.The most typical cases – where one meaning is an anomalous collocation and the other a metaphor:abandon ship:(1)leave a ship that is sinking(2)give up on an enterprise
Polysemy of fixed expressionsout of one’s depth:(1)in water insufficiently shallow for standing(2)in a difficult situationtread water:(1)stay upright while floating in water(2)do nothing
Polysemy of fixed expressionsPolysemous FEIs – often associated with different collocations or realizations of subject or object. These different collocations or realizations of subject or object are very effective in disambiguating polysemous FEIs:(1)X catches the sun = tan(2)PLACE catches the sun = be sunny, be in an open position, be exposed to sunlight(3)SOMETHING catches the sun = flash, scintillate
Polysemy of fixed expressions(1) X clears the air = resolve a misunderstandingSTORM clears the air = make things feel fresher(1) BUILDING/PLACE goes up in smoke = catch fire, burn downPLAN/ASPIRATION goes up in smoke = be destroyed(1) X has a go (at SOMETHING) = tryX has a go (at Y) = attack, nag
Polysemy of fixed expressions(1) on the rocks = (of drinks) served with ice = (of relationships, enterprises, etc.) in trouble, shaky(1) X puts ANIMAL out its misery = kill, for humane reasonsX puts Y out of Y’s misery = give someone the information they have been waiting for
Polysemy of fixed expressions(1) X turns SOMETHING/Y upside down = change completelyX turns SOMEWHERE upside down = ransack, search thoroughly
MetonymyMetonymy – a kind of non-literal language in which one entity is used to refer to another entity that is associated with it in some way(1)The ham sandwich in the next booth is waiting for his bill. (The person who ordered the ham sandwich is waiting for his bill. Here, we refer to the person by what he ordered)(2)We enjoy watching Hitchcock more than Spielberg.(3)The White House refused to answer the question.(4)Hollywood keeps putting out mediocre movies.
MetonymyMost FEIs involving metonyms – relate to parts of the body. The particular body part represents the whole person, as well as foregrounding the physical sense or ability which constitutes the central part of the meaning of a FEI.For example, lend an ear – ear indicates both the person and his attention; hard on someone’s heels – heels indicate a person and the part most visible in running; get one’s head round something – head indicates a person and his mind or understanding
Further examples of FEIs involvingmetonyms relating to body partsAbsence makes the heart grow fonderFight tooth and nailHave a nose for somethingHave one’s eye on somethingLend a handLong in the toothNot lay a finger on someoneTwo heads are better than one
Other metonymic FEIs Other metonymic FEIs involve objects and places thatrepresent actions, activities, or results, or involve otherpart and whole relationships:At the wheelDaily breadFrom the cradle to the graveHearth and homeTake the floorThe pen is mightier than the sword
PersonificationA few FEIs involve personification, and these are also culturally determinedIn the following examples, subjects are given in cases where their animacy or inanimacy would be inappropriate in literal contexts:dice with deathlook SOMETHING in the eyelike death warmed upnecessity is the mother of inventiontime flies
Animal metaphorsMany FEIs contain metaphors which refer to animals, denoting and connoting supposed characteristics or qualities which are then applied to people and human situations:FEI CONNOTED CHARACTERISTICas blind as a bat – weak eyesightlike a bear with a sore head – irritabilityas busy as a bee, a busy bee – industrya red rag to a bull – rageshed crocodile tears - insincerity
Animal metaphorsdead as a dodo – obsolescencetreat someone like a dog, a dog’s life – ill-treatmenteat like a horse – appetitea leopard does not change its spots – immutability of bad qualitiesas stubborn as a mule – obstinacyeat like a pig – greedinessplay possum – pretencelike sheep – slavish obedience, lack of individualitya snake in the grass – deceitfulness, despicability
Animal metaphorsAnimal metaphors generally refer to undesirable traits, reflecting human views on animals as lower forms of life.
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