Polysemy

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Dictionary Meaning and Definition on 'Polysemy'

Polysemy Meaning and Definition from WordNet (r) 2.0
    polysemy n : the ambiguity of an individual word or phrase that can be used (in different contexts) to express two or more different meanings [syn: lexical ambiguity] [ant: monosemy]

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Wikipedia Meaning and Definition on 'Polysemy'


Polysemy (pronounced /pəˈlɪsɨmi/ or /ˈpɒlɨsiːmi/) (from the Greek: πολυ-, poly-, "many" and σήμα, sêma, "sign") is the capacity for a sign (e.g., a word, phrase, etc.) or signs to have multiple meanings (sememes), i.e., a large semantic field.

Charles Fillmore and Beryl Atkins’ definition stipulates three elements: (i) the various senses of a polysemous word have a central origin, (ii) the links between these senses form a network, and (iii) understanding the ‘inner’ one contributes to understanding of the ‘outer’ one.

Polysemy is a pivotal concept within social sciences, such as media studies and linguistics.

A polyseme is a word or phrase with different, but related senses. Since the test for polysemy is the vague concept of relatedness, judgments of polysemy can be difficult to make. Because applying pre-existing words to new situations is a natural process of language change, looking at words' etymology is helpful in determining polysemy but not the only solution; as words become lost in etymology, what once was a useful distinction of meaning may no longer be so. Some apparently unrelated words share a common historical origin, however, so etymology is not an infallible test for polysemy, and dictionary writers also often defer to speakers' intuitions to judge polysemy in cases where it contradicts etymology. English has many words which are polysemous. For example the verb "to get" can mean "procure" (I'll get the drinks), "become" (she got scared), "have" (I've got three dollars), "understand" (I get it) etc.

[See more about Polysemy at Dictionary 3.0 Encyclopedia]

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